Maybe I’m playing it wrong.
Maybe the problem is the mindset that I’m bringing to it.
Maybe it’s just that I don’t ‘get’ this type of game – I never really got into the Harvest Moon games previously anyway.
But playing Stardew Valley makes me anxious.
Stardew Valley is a great game that has released on pretty much every major platform now (2018 - Year of the Vita). However, its first go around in February 2016 passed me by, and it wasn’t until my partner recently picked it up for her Nintendo Switch that I finally sat down to play it.
Over the past week I’ve been farming, exploring and having a lot of fun! There’s a surprisingly varied amount of options available to you. The aesthetic is quaint and charming, and I love talking to many of the various townsfolk milling around.
But I can’t help feeling that I should always be doing more.
Instead of pottering about, tending to my farm without a care in the world, I feel like there are responsibilities and chores that I have to fulfil as soon as possible. I check the post to find a stream of new possibilities opening up; the cave has just been cleared for exploration, I’ve been requested to go see the local fisherman, and if I have 2000 coins then I can give my small hut a kitchen.
I’m new to town too, so I need to go and chat to every other village member. What would they think of me otherwise!?
I keep feeling that I’m the stereotypical Joja employee. I constantly worry about optimisation – maximising my energy and minimising any ‘wasted’ time. No wonder I had such a cushy job at the beginning of the game – I must have earnt it.
‘Okay, today it’s raining all day so I don’t have to water my crops. That saves me 2 hours, which I can either use to forage for berries, or fish down by the beach. At Midday I need to go find Leah (that’s when she leaves her house) and gift her this Daffodil. But supposedly she doesn’t like daffodils; she prefers salad. Where can I get salad from? *pauses the game to search the wiki*.’
I don’t want to have this mindset. I want to be taken in by the game, but it’s a slow process. I want to bumble along my way, making mistakes, learning from them - gradually building a farm at my own pace. But there are a multitude of in-game timers that I feel restrict me finding that pace.
The days fly by, with one full cycle being roughly 13 minutes in game. Considering that it’s easy to get lost at times, you can often spend up to 3 in-game hours just exploring the local general store. (It’s a big store, okay.)
On the outside of that store is a notice board and calendar too. A quick peruse will show you that there are a number of different events coming up over the season. The Egg Festival is only 2 weeks away, and I still haven’t introduced myself to everyone in the town! They must think I’m a real recluse…
As mentioned, Stardew Valley is a broad game. There are a lot of options available to the player at any one time. The problem I’ve found is that I want to do all of it, as quickly as possible. And the game won’t let you do that.
The shortness of the day cycle means that you have to work fast to feel significant progress at any one point. And the seasons are constantly ticking across. Winter is coming, and you better be ready.
The passage of time is an unforgiving beast, and I feel its weight constantly.
That being said, Stardew Valley can be fantastic for those with previous anxiety problems. As has been documented on various internet forums, and other articles, the Valley is often a soothing, stress-free experience. It offers players a chance to escape into an idyllic little dale where nothing is expected of you, apart from what you expect of yourself.
I understand it. And for those people for which it helps, I am thoroughly pleased to see a game have this ability.
But, for me, when it hits 9:00pm in the evening, I’m stuck in the caves and my energy is running low, I can’t help but panic that I’ve forgotten to woo Leah in time for the Flower Festival tomorrow.
She’s going to think I’m such a loser…
Follow Cleon on Twitter because he’s on fire right now and it burns someone please help.
Next up on my play list: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I can’t wait to take my time with a good long, slow burning RPG. Oh wait.