Have you ever had one of those moments, where you’re reminded of something, not due to its content, but because of how it makes you feel? Like how Die Hard and The Lord of the Rings somehow feel like Christmas, or like Morgan Freeman makes you feel like things will be okay.
I have that with Stardew Valley. It’s a cute little farming simulator which focusses on a small community, where you, as player, leave the corporate world behind to build up a bountiful farm on the land your grandpa left you.
See? It’s already cute as hell! Stardew Valley was originally developed by one guy under the name ConcernedApe, with what I imagine is a very big heart and even bigger self-discipline, and it has conquered the world. But, in a good, cute way!
Now I’ve played Minecraft. I’ve played Terraria. I’ve played the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons. They’re all absolutely fun games with almost limitless opportunities, social interactions and very rewarding hard work. But it’s not like Stardew Valley; at least not for me.
How do I describe this? People who’ve also played it might know what I mean. I’m no poet, but I will try.
It’s this wholesome, satisfying feeling of contentment, of watching your little farm grow with its animals and its crops. The industrious feeling of wanting to expand, to go on adventures, to interact with Pelican Towns inhabitants and develop relationships with them. It’s… Like hot chocolate, except you can keep drinking it without getting sick or fat. So tea, but better, more enveloping. A warm fire, no, hot soup? Pumpkin pie, no, muffins, freshly baked bread, the smell of leaves in autumn, your cat on your lap when it rains outside?
Now that I think of it, all of these things actually exist in Stardew Valley…
Yes, by the way. This blog is just me, praising Stardew Valley until I pass out. It’s my blog, I get to talk about things I like as much as I want. Now strap in and enjoy this. Or, you know, go play Stardew Valley. I’d forgive you.
I’m not sure if it’s the cute art style (it probably is) or the steady progress you can make, all the happy characters you can meet, the whimsical, lightly magical world around it, the rewarding structure that encourages you to play…just…one…more…day…
It just doesn’t get boring, is what I’m saying. It doesn’t get tedious: the collecting of the things, the delivering of the things (okay, maybe the watering of the things does, but you can automate that), the upgrading of the things… It’s such a familiar, cozy experience if you’ve done it before that this repetition doesn’t have to get ‘old’.
So it’s like that ‘Hallmark feeling’, I guess. The way some people get that fond feeling when they watch old Hugh Grant movies. Funny, how specific feelings are elicited by certain people or things. Like that feeling of confusion when watching Nicholas Cage act. The confusing awkwardness of watching new Pokémon episodes.
Marcel Proust once had a whole theory about our sense of smell in relation to memory: he argued that there are certain smells which can make you relive core memories. Just by smelling a certain kind of cake, you can feel like you’re 8 years old and at your grandparents’ house, for example. Like the food critic at the end of Ratatouille had when he tastes the titular dish.
I am not really sure where I’m going with this, I guess for me Stardew Valley reminds me of smells and tastes, and of wholesome and cute and comfortable stuff? I guess it’s like apple pie with loads of cinnamon. Smelling apple pie with loads of cinnamon does not directly remind me of Stardew Valley, but it does work the other way around. It is the game that reminds me of the smell, which I in turn associate with wholesomeness. Sometimes, even the music can do it for me, make me feel just that little bit more cozy and nice.
It’s a great game. I wish for other people to enjoy it as much as I do. But I digress.
Why did I write this? I guess I wanted to take a moment to appreciate how much stories and experiences can do for us. How greatly they can impact our life in a positive way, as well as the negative. How certain books, movies, or games can help us when we need it, even when we don’t realize it.
With all the weird stuff going on in the world, and the days becoming shorter and darker again, I think it’s good to get a hold of these things. Revisit them, enjoy them, let them soothe and comfort us. It could be anything, no matter how weird or unexpected; media can be like cinnamon-y cake, too. They can help you shake a feeling, or recover a feeling, and for me, the feeling I’m yearning for right now is Stardew Valley.
Hope this did something for you; otherwise, go about your business.
Nevertheless, I’m off to plant some turnips and cuddle some ducks. See ya.