Stardew Valley is one of those sort of games that when you pick it up, it’s hard to put it down again. I could go on and on about how good this game is, but instead, I have decided to go for something a little different. In my experience with the community, I’ve noticed that quite a few players have come from stereotypical “hardcore” gaming backgrounds. Which begs the question: why Stardew Valley?
The accessibility of the game is one thing that attracts gamers from all walks of life, but when you’re a gamer used to cut throat competitive games like Overwatch, League of Legends and WoW, what keeps you coming back for more in Stardew? I asked the Reddit community on r/stardewvalley for help with this.
The first thing I was interested in was why people from these sort of gaming backgrounds were attracted to Stardew in the first place. Nostalgia was definitely a key factor here, with people citing Rune Factory and Harvest Moon especially as culprits. User darthreuental told me “any game that involves crafting and building is my personal kryptonite”, which is something that I can definitely agree with!
Other attractions were value for money, the music, and the general atmosphere of the game. But the main thing I saw linking the answers together was relaxation. Coming from a non competitive player, relaxation is something that keeps me coming back to Stardew Valley time and time again when I have issues with my own life. For people who play more competitive games, though, the relaxation means taking a break from what can sometimes be stressful as a hobby. One of the questions I also asked was “What are the parts of Stardew valley you enjoy compared to other games you play?” and the answers were very similar.
User egopoison told me “I wanted something with zero stress that I could just relax in. Something comfy. There’s no one telling me to save the world or anything. My biggest concern is making sure my parsnips are watered and even if they aren’t, its no big deal.” And dregsbrokenpromise said “Stardew is an extreme change of pace for me I usually play fps games like Battlefield and Titanfall 2. I can just sit down and enjoy food or watch a twitch stream while I feed my chickens.”
Sherithelovefool said “I am a bit of perfectionist, so I agonize over choices given to me, but at the same time I feel restricted, as if the game is railroading me into certain directions to be “best” or “goodie two shoes”. Compared to these games, Stardew Valley really offered me a sense of freedom. You can choose to do whatever without suffering too much penalty. A good example would be going Community centre vs Joja route. I tried both ways, and you do not get punished for picking one over the other – both have their advantages. It takes a lot longer to finish Community centre route but you get nice perks along the way. With Joja route, you can unlock things much quickly but without sense of achievement.”
Is that not the point? Stop worrying so much! Have this farm! This is one of the biggest reasons why Stardew Valley has become as big as it is. There’s no pressure, no strain, and you can do things at your own pace. In my first play through, I tore through the community center, but now in my second play, I am taking my time. And there are no repercussions for that. You can do what you want, when you want in this game. It’s almost as if the starting scene, with your player slogging through work was actually talking to us. As well as taking the time to do something relaxing in your reality, Stardew tells us to slow down when it comes too gaming. Follow Sam around with pizzas until he loves you, pet your imaginary cows, go into the mines without planting anything. The choice is yours. There is no punishment.
But there’s something more than value for money, nostalgia, or even relaxation. It’s how the the game makes us, as its players, feel.
Antereon summed it up perfectly.
“Every character in Pelican Town all have a story to tell, much like any individual would in real life. They’re not heroes or great companions ready to save the world, but just regular townfolks with sometimes a tragic story, just trying to live their lives. It is amazing how the game made care about Penny than some spoiler in Final Fantasy 15, and I realize it’s because it’s not just another story the game is telling me but it’s MY story and MY farm… and my Pelican Town.”
The game takes on a life of its own in ways other games do not. It doesn’t matter if you play competitive or casual, the valley is for everyone and it attracts people from all gaming backgrounds. While some casual games can have no impact on people who prefer competitive games, this one seems to have hit home for a lot of people. You can mold the game to your own wants for it, and the game will comply. A game like this doesn’t come along that often, and with the release on Xbox and Playstation, we will be getting even more new players from all sorts of gaming backgrounds. Our community is expanding all the time, and that’s a truly fantastic thing.