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What is Stardew Valley, and why is everyone talking about it?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

If your TikTok For You page is anything like mine, it’s probably been flooded with talk of characters in a game called Stardew Valley. Online creators have been assigning theme songs to the 12 different bachelors and bachelorettes in the game (more on that later), drawing them in different scenarios, and showing off their gameplay and favorite moments. For a game that originally came out in 2016, the increase in the fanbase is a development that wasn’t expected by the creator and long-time players of the cozy game.

The cozy game genre has been around for ages. In simple terms, cozy games are a video game genre that focus on relaxation and non-violence, made for audiences to unwind and destress. We’ve seen several trends over the years when cozy games release or make a comeback, with prime examples being the first The Sims in 2000 and every installment afterwards and Animal Crossing in 2001 and all 5 installments after that. The genre saw a huge increase in the player base with the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in 2020 during the pandemic, when people found themselves with more than enough time on their hands to sit down and enjoy a slow-moving, stress-free game.

What is Stardew Valley?

Stardew Valley is a 2016 roleplaying game developed by Eric Barone (ConcernedApe). The game can be purchased and played across many different platforms, including PC/Mac, Nintendo Switch, XBOX and PlayStation, as well as on some mobile devices. The game starts with the player inheriting a farm and a large amount of land from their grandfather outside of a small town called Pelican Town. The game allows for the player to play solo, working by themselves to build their farm, or with up to three other players to work together to build their farm. Before starting the game, the player is prompted to choose what their pixelated avatar looks like throughout the game with hundreds of options for hair, colors, and clothes.

After creating your character and loading into the game, the player wakes up in a house on the first day of Spring. Stardew Valley has several unique mechanics when it comes to passing time during the game. Each day starts at 6:00AM and ends at 2:00AM, when your character passes out from exhaustion if not in bed before that. In real time, a full day cycle takes around 13 and a half minutes to complete. During each day, players have an almost endless amount of tasks to choose from. This includes fishing, foraging, farming, mining, exploring, and talking to residents around Pelican Town. After 28 days pass, the season changes and there are new crops available to grow, new fish to catch, and new items to forage. 

During your first playthrough, the game can be overwhelming and confusing. Do not let that discourage you! The more you play, the more you understand how the mechanics work, how to make more money, and what to spend your precious time during the day on. 

Why is it so popular?

Cozy games are no new phenomenon, especially Stardew Valley, a game just less than 2 years shy from being a decade old. So why this sudden trend on social media and the playerbase? It can all be traced back to the release of arguably one of the biggest and best updates to the game – the 1.6 update, released in late March of this year. This update offered a wide range of changes to the game, and tons of new content for both old and new players to enjoy. 

A new update as big as this one generated a lot of conversation on several different social media platforms. Players who enjoyed the game in its early stages came back to discuss their appreciation and love for the new update and all it offered, and new players were able to discuss their newly developed love for the game itself. In a world that is constantly moving and insanely stressful, every generation has been able to slow down and unwind with Stardew Valley. With its relaxing soundtrack, unique mechanics, endless tasks and loveable characters, it’s no surprise that the game has returned to the spotlight of cozy games once again.

One platform that saw this increase in conversation about Stardew Valley than any others was TikTok. Content creators have seen an increase in their fan bases from sharing clips of them playing the game, artists have been allowed to show off their creative ability with interpretations of the pixelated characters featured throughout the game, and some online creators even try to replicate the characters look in real life by dressing up and sharing their results on TikTok. This brings me to talk about a game mechanic that I haven’t explained, which is a highlight of the game that makes Stardew Valley unique.

Bachelors and Bachelorettes

Stardew Valley is most widely known for the 60 unique NPCs (non-playable characters) that are available for the player to converse with. Of these 60 options, there are 12 characters that the player is able to marry. Yes, you read that right – you can develop relationships with and marry characters within the game, and this is not an easy task! The game prioritizes the slow burn between the player and one of (or multiple, if you’re feeling risky) the 12 bachelors and bachelorettes, taking time, effort and energy to build up relationships with them. These relationships are built on a point system, displayed on a ten-heart meter. When you first start the game, you have no hearts with any characters. These are collected over time, a feature unique to Stardew Valley

Hearts can be earned by talking to NPCs, giving them gifts, completing tasks and requests for them, and reacting properly during cutscenes unique to each character. Each character is completely different from the others, making it important to get to know every NPC before you decide who to put a ring on. Marriage also has benefits for the game – a larger house, a partner who does chores for you around your farm, and gifts!

Recently, Stardew Valley players have taken to the internet to discuss their favorite bachelor and bachelorette. The large player base for the game has now started associating certain songs with the characters, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Even artists have taken over TikTok with drawings of characters and scenarios between the players and their favorite marriage candidates.

So… should you play this game?

Absolutely. Stardew Valley is the perfect option to deal with the stress that college brings to life and allows you prioritize the importance of being able to spend time to yourself to relax and unwind. My friends and I have found ourselves playing the game in the middle of studying for a much needed brain break, allowing us to take our minds off of the stress in our lives for even just a couple of hours. With the unique mechanics and lovable characters that the game has to offer, it is well worth the 15 dollars. Even if you have little to no experience with video games, Stardew Valley offers easy to understand controls and mechanics that allow players of any level to enjoy the game.

If you’re looking for something to occupy your time during the summer, look no further than Stardew Valley. When you play, the attention this game has drawn recently will make complete sense. Get it on Steam here.

Payton Rodgers is a new member of the Her Campus TAMU chapter. She loves to write and is extremely excited to be a part of a chapter that uplifts young women writers. She is currently a member of the Social Media committee, where she helps create content to draw new viewers into the website. Payton is currently in her second year at Texas A&M University studying Agriculture Communications & Journalism. She aspires to be involved in journalism in the future, specifically focusing on celebrity journalism and concert photography. At Texas A&M, she is also involved in Class Councils, where she helps plan and volunteer at class traditions for over 60,000 students. Beyond Her Campus, Payton enjoys spending her free time listening to 70s and 80s music and modern artists like Clairo and Laufey. She loves spending time with her friends and collecting cassette tapes to listen to on her Walkman. She ends her nights with a book and her cat Mocha.