If you are anything like me, there was a time not too long ago when spending six to eight hours in front of a TV playing video games would seem commonplace. However, after having gotten married, bought a home, and settled into a steady 9–5, those days are somewhere in the rearview mirror. This doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wish I could engross myself in a virtual world the way every developer intends and instead means I simply have trouble finding that kind of time. This is where a game like Stardew Valley saves the day.
Before we get started let me give you a brief history of this incredible game. Stardew Valley is a farming simulator/RPG which was released on February 26, 2016, and was a labor of love, having been created by a single developer; Eric Barone, better known as ConcernedApe. The game immediately skyrocketed to the top of the Steam charts and has since been ported to every imaginable platform. Whether you want to play the game on your iPhone, or your Xbox, you should have no problems. With that out of the way, this leads me to the first reason this game is a perfect companion to your busy adult life.
The game feels like it was designed from the ground up to be incredibly accessible. This starts right from the introduction you receive. You are a city slicker who just inherited your Grandpa’s overgrown farm, and looking for a life of value you move out to the farm and begin your journey. The game gives you a quick overview of the incredibly simple controls, and for someone who doesn’t want to spend 15 minutes learning a complicated control scheme, this just feels right. Next, the game walks you through a tutorial without ever forcing you to play a tutorial. It holds your hand in learning the basic functions of the game, without making it feel like you are waiting to get to the game itself. Again, another small thing that adds value when you only have a few minutes to play. Finally, the game has very low graphic requirements, which means you don’t need a $2,000 gaming pc to enjoy it, and instead can enjoy it on your iPad while your kid is asleep, or your phone as you commute to and from work. With that in mind, let’s jump right into the next section.
Variable Time Investment
The game is conveniently chunked into playable pieces. Four seasons, each consisting of 28 days. Each of those days takes roughly 10–20 minutes depending on how you spend it. This means that the game is designed to be played for 10 minutes, just as well as 4 hours. While something like this might not be important to a kid with all the time in the world, it’s extremely important when your only time to play is right before dozing off, or a short commute into the office. The game saves automatically at the end of each day, or you can manually save by simply going to sleep. On top of this, in-game time stops when you pause, meaning those all too familiar interruptions won’t ruin the experience like it would playing an online multiplayer game. In all, the game is perfect for squeezing in a 10-minute session, or an all-day marathon just the same.
Depth and Replayability
Arguably the most important of all the characteristics this game has. While on the surface the game may seem shallow, the more you play it, the more you realize that it has layers upon layers of depth hidden just underneath. Whether you are working to reach the bottom level of the mines, complete the community center, or convince one of the townsfolk to marry you, there is always something left to be done. Best of all, even when you do manage to complete most of the game, a simple restart on a different map design can provide you with endless hours of additional interesting and novel gameplay. I have over 200 hours invested at this point, and I know that I could easily get another 200 more without it feeling stale. The game is deeper than the pixel art graphics and simple controls let on.
Overall, if you consider yourself a lover of games, and simply haven’t been able to find the right game or enough time to enjoy them recently, give Stardew Valley a look. The game will bring back those feelings you had of accomplishing something in a game, without feeling like your entire life needs to be devoted to it to get there (I am looking at you World of Warcraft). It strikes that perfect balance between playability and depth that so few games nowadays do.