Thanks for the farm, Grandpa. You miserable bastard
Stardew Valley seemed like an easy addition to my Top 10 of 2016 list, but the game didn’t end up making the cut for me in the end. I can still easily recommend it for its pleasant aesthetic, the variety of activities, and that feeling like you’re constantly building something great. Unfortunately, some other games pulled me away and I just never had any drive to return to Bad News Farm. My project. My home.
My hell on earth.
Now it’s 2017, and I’ve returned to my peaceful horror show just the way I left it. To figure out why exactly it was so easy for me to leave the first time. This is a game I supposedly liked, after all.
What I have learned is that while Stardew Valley is a great game, it’s really only a rewarding one if you have a strong understanding of how to prioritize work. To be successful at the basic concepts of Stardew Valley, you have to be somewhat good at the basic concepts of life. I am not.
So the game starts with your farm, right? It’s a real shit-show of weeds, rocks, and trees. Fortunately, you are mostly equipped to deal with the mess. Just clear out some stuff and start planting some basic crops. Keep up with your watering, and continue clearing stuff out as the days go on and gradually your small little farm can be a smooth operation. In no time, I was sure Bad News Farm would serve as a good front for a drug lab and my produce shipments would cover the distribution costs all on its own.
As I work, I would dream of my inevitable Gus Fring ending once a rival found out I was often going to the abandoned community center alone. However, before that dream could happen, I needed green beans.
Then the mayor starts bothering me. “Go get to know everyone around town! They might even ask you to do their damn jobs!”
This bumbling old asshole doesn’t understand how dangerous it is to talk to a future kingpin like that. Still, I can’t turn this place into my empire if I can’t blend in with polite society. I drop my current projects around the farm and head into town.
It takes days for me to find everyone. They’re going about their business as I’m completely losing track of mine back on the farm. Speaking of “mine”, there’s a mine full of monsters and useful resources. I should go in there and get stuff.
Crap! Now my crops are getting eaten by birds. I need scarecrows.
Just as I’m putting a scarecrow up and considering it might be time to detach from this awful community and focus back on my farm rebuild, I get a letter from the shifty, dumb mayor. It turns out that a town dance is tomorrow. If I don’t go, it could jeopardize the whole operation.
So I go and nobody wants to dance with the weird farmer. Why does everyone hate me already? I just got here! Some of these girls they won’t even talk to me because I don’t know off the top of my head what kind of berries they like. I somehow managed to piss off everyone for not memorizing everybody’s god damn birthday, so I’m giving everyone last-second halibut. I’m trying to build an empire out of your shitty town, and the length of that fish was a personal record for me!
After the dance humiliation, I start taking time to get to know people. I like some of the people in this town, but I can never reveal my true goal for Bad News Farm and the town as a whole. It involves me at the top of a giant tower with the word “Benelux” on it as I stare down at the shithole I dragged into the toxic, doomed 21st century.
I don’t think any of the villagers would see the beauty that I do in such an image.
Oh, but my farm is still a disaster. I need seeds, and I really need to buckle down and start adding some structure to this crop layout and figure where to put the drug lab.
Then some asshole villager comes over and wants to overcharge me to add to my farm. “You need a coop, and I’m the only one who can build it! 4000 dollars!”
Now I’m pretty sure anything actually growing on my farm is a miracle of god or the dark work of the devil at this point, but I’m somehow supposed to add chickens and other farm animals to my daily responsibilities. Maybe that would be doable if my “friends” didn’t need me to find the shit they left out in the middle of the woods when they were on a bender.
If my farm is going to get anywhere, I need better tools. So I need to craft a furnace, and then I need to go to the blacksmith for him to actually craft my tools with the materials I make. So I need to go to the mine again to get those resources! I also need to be making money because he doesn’t work for free, and he only works in an extremely tight window during the day. So I need to have the money up front.
I need money. I need food. I need friends. I need resources. I need progress. I need nice things. I need to fall in love. I need adventure. I need success. I need some god damn help!
Why did Grandpa do this to me?
Stardew Valley is a game of distractions for me. Juggling so much that you ultimately can’t help but drop everything. I go to bed each day feeling like I didn’t get anything important done, with only the hope that what little progress I made in any single area lasts. That one day these little steps will culminate in the fine-tuned machine I dream of. A day where I’ve turned this shithole farm into a vehicle for professional and social success.
Until that day, it’s nice to know I can grab my fishing rod and get away from all this crap whenever I want.