I played a LOT of Stardew Valley last year. I got into playing it on the Switch with a friend of mine, but I’d bounced off the game a few times on the PC previously so I expected to only enjoy playing it as a means of socializing with a friend who lived far away. After all, I hadn’t disliked the game, I’d just gotten distracted and busy with other things. Playing with someone made it a lot more enjoyable, thanks to the potential for splitting up the daily tasks, but I’ll admit I struggled with how quickly the days pass when you can’t stop the clock during dialogues, cutscenes, or even the moments of transition between screens. Fishing also becomes nearly impossible because of how quickly the clock moves when you’re catching a single fish.
Eventually, I got tired of asking my friend questions about the game, of always feeling behind and uncertain of what I should be doing or preparing for in the coming days of the game. I decided to try playing solo again, in order to figure out how the game works, improve my farming efficiency, and really dig into the systems of the game on a deeper level than I could during multiplayer. Which is a great way to play the game if you understand the systems or are willing to let yourself be carried by your other player(s), but it’s not great for learning how the game works at any kind of speed since it doesn’t let you stop and think without the day passing you by. I figured I’d get maybe a year into my singleplayer game’s calendar and then fall off again. Instead, I wound up doing an entire year in the two weeks before I played with my friend again and then turned our fun, relaxed farm into an efficient, artisanal-goods-producing machine. Which was, you know, still fun. Just also incredibly profitable in a snowballing kind of way.
After getting into year three of my solo file, I fell off the game. There was still stuff to do, but I was working on increasing my understanding, efficiency, and planning. I was still experimenting with how to automate things, how to get enough of the resources I needed for stuff, and finding new things to explore in the wider world of Stardew Valley. I didn’t really get bored so much as the easy work was finished and I decided I needed a break because my nights were filled with hazy dreams about watering cans, tile selection for tool usage, and the constant grind of swapping out things being processed as they finished. If I ever go back to the game for solo play (which I probably will do, thanks to the expansive nature of the game and the creator’s penchant for continuing to release new content), I’ll probably start over and use what I’ve learned from my solo game to get optimal efficiency in my first year so I can knock out all the achievement type stuff right away and focus on the exploration, fighting, and end-game aspects. And the island. I never quite made it there, though I was right on the cusp when I fell off.
My friend and I don’t play much anymore. A mixture of increasingly busy schedules, her recent homeownership, our stress levels, and just a level of distraction with other things means we haven’t played in more months than I can easily recall. I’ve talked with other people about getting a multiplayer Stardew Vallet game set up, but it never seems to pan out. It seems like it has been difficult to find time to do such things with people lately, as everyone tries to fill out their schedules to either take advantage of the looser restrictions or fill up their evenings with entertainment as they continue to isolate from the on-going pandemic.
Which is too bad, because I could really use the escape the game offers. After all, the idea of leaving an office job behind in order to go live in a quiet little town full of interesting people who all seem receptive to newcomers (with a couple exceptions) and live off the land is incredibly appealing to me. I’d love to just check out of capitalism entirely, but the game is actually pretty reliant on capitalism since you gotta sell all your farm goods for money if you want to make any kind of advancements in the game. There’s no real bartering or community supply options.
Which, honestly, is pretty good for a video game, you know? That its only major failing is that you can’t destroy capitalism. You can destroy an effigy of capitalism though, so that’s neat. I ALWAYS pick that option. I couldn’t stand to play the game knowing I’d sold out a local community to a faceless, shitty corportation if I somehow went that route. Too real.