At the beginning of April I was pretty much certain that I was going to need an intervention. The things is, it wasn’t gelato, caramel creams, or even prosecco that I potentially needed to be forcibly removed from. It was the video game Stardew Valley. Do you know about this phenomena? Stardew Valley is this amazing RPG that was completely produced by one guy in Seattle. Eric Barone programmed the whole thing, made all of the graphics, the dialogue, storyline, and even the music. Talk about an overachiever… It’s been selling like crazy and since purchasing the game on March 1st I’ve played for 140 hours. I haven’t been this addicted to a game in years!
The premise of Stardew Valley is that you’ve left your corporate drone job to turn a rundown farm you inherited from your grandfather into a thriving business. Along the way you get to know the townspeople, fish, mine, decorate your house, and even get married. I never played Harvest Moon but everyone says it’s a lot like that so if you were a fan back in the day you’ll love this too. As I was playing though it dawned on me that 80% of the game was all about food in some form or another. This fact, in addition to the adorable pixel graphics, made me think that people who claim to not like video games might be able to push that anti-attitude aside and give this unique adventure a try. I’ll now do my best to convince all of my food loving friends that Stardew Valley is your next favorite time killer.
1 – Stardew Valley is all about farm to table dining and seasonal food. Not only do you get to design your farm however you’d like you also have seasons and that means seasonal food (fruit, vegetables, fish, and foraged items) that are only available for part of each year. This gets pretty tricky if you’re trying to complete certain achievements. So pay attention or you may end up having to wait an entire cycle before you can make fiddlehead risotto. True story.
2 – When you get tired of farming, fishing, and trying to make townspeople fall in love with you there’s always interior design to fall back on. A local carpenter provides you with a daily rotating array of home furnishings so you’ll be able to outfit your “dream kitchen” — just as long as your dream kitchen has magenta and mismatched chairs, a pastel rug, and strange houseplants.
3 – You can finally satisfy your curiosity about what it was like to be a 19th century milkmaid with your own herd of goats and cows. You can even name them. All of my goats are named after fairytale characters, and the cows are Jem and the Holograms inspired. Just like in the cartoon, Kimber the cow is a real pain in the you-know-what.
4 – Speaking of animals, interestingly enough you never turn your barnyard friends into any kind of meat. The game’s creator is actually a vegetarian so instead of Wilbur the pig becoming Sunday bacon (of course I had to have an homage to Charlotte’s Web in game) he will actually hunt valuable truffles for you and drop them off outside the barn. You can then turn the truffles into truffle oil and make oodles of money. How convenient!
5 – If you’re a practicing freegan there’s even a chance that you’ll find discarded baguettes in trash cans around town. Trash bread actually shows up a lot. It’s equal parts disgusting yet helpful as eating bread, and foodstuffs in general, are what give you the energy to make it through your arduous day.
6 – Everyone wants to buy local these days and in Stardew Valley Pierre’s General Store is the place to frequent if you want to support your local economy. At the beginning of the game though he’s always closed on Wednesdays and without fail you run out of something you need ASAP every single Wednesday so make sure to plan ahead.
7 – Do you love watching cooking shows? People in Stardew Valley do too! The Queen of Sauce regularly airs on your home TV several times each week to teach you new recipes.
8 – Speaking of recipes, just this week I learned how to make Pink Cake. How perfect is that? I’m hot on the trail of completing the Gourmet Chef achievement. Just a few more to go…One thing I don’t entirely understand is why your reward for finishing this task is a green archer’s cap. Shouldn’t it be a chef’s hat?
9 – Once you learn how to make all of these scrumptious recipes you can eat them for energy and other powers or you can give them as gifts. There’s some really tasty sounding dishes too like artichoke dip, poppyseed muffins, lobster bisque, and even plum pudding. Each villager has favorite foods and you can increase your relationships with them by providing a steady stream of food bribery. Essentially my husband married me because I stuffed him with homemade maki rolls and crab cakes. Don’t let anyone ever try to tell you that food isn’t the way to someone’s heart.
10 – Do you love the show Cheers and wish that you had a local watering hole where everyone knows your name? Then the town saloon is the place for you. There’s even a misanthrope (Shane) and a resident alcoholic (Pam) who you can chat with after a long day of watering plants. Shane actually made me super sad and I developed a bizarre need to try to “fix him.” A lot of other players did too so in an upcoming release of the game he’s going to now be a marriageable bachelor.
11 – Once you’ve made yourself at home in your new favorite bar you can fulfill another fantasy by buying everyone a round.
12 – Fishing in this game is a very heated topic. I’ll admit that when I first started playing I couldn’t catch a fish to save my life and I had more than a few hissy fits, but eventually I got the hang of it. So when you see people posting on message boards that it’s impossible just remember that if I could figure it out (the person who has singlehandedly ruined more World of Warcraft raids by falling into ravines and other weird places) anyone can.
13 – I almost forgot about the chickens and ducks! You get to have your very own flock. My chickens are all named after Muppets so there’s a Miss Piggy, a Kermit, a Fozzy, and (of course) a Camilla. The ducks are even more unimaginatively named after the characters from Duck Takes (wooo-oooo). The eggs you collect from your hens and ducks can be turned into gallons and gallons of valuable high dollar mayo which, if this were the real world, you could sell at the local farmer’s market for $9 a jar.
14 – As mentioned earlier, the game is season based so at times there are items that you can’t find, grow, or harvest. However, there is a magical traveling merchant that appears in the forest on Fridays and Sundays. Her wagon is pulled by a purple pig sporting glasses and a fez and sometimes she offers “black market” goods. They are usually really marked up though so unless you’re flush with cash or desperate it’s probably best to just wait until the proper time period to collect what you need.
15 – Finally, when you get tired of gathering honey, foraging for mushrooms, picking berries, making wine, planting potatoes, and baking cookies you can always just kick back and eat a triple decker ice cream cone.