While everyone I know has succumbed to an Animal Crossing frenzy, my quarantine game of choice involves spending a never-ending cycle of four seasons discovering the secrets to farm life success. My virtual character gave up their corporate job in a cubicle farm to live the quiet country life on an actual farm.
Stardew Valley is the 8-bit trip down memory lane I didn’t know I needed. It’s a fusion of my Game Boy favorites, including the Mineral Town vibes from Harvest Moon with a dash of adventure from literally any Pokémon game. It’s undeniably addicting, and I’ve been hooked since I saw it rising in the app store charts last year.
I’ve spent a good number of in-game years on various save files trying out everything the game had to offer. Sometimes I’d realize my little farmer had been more productive in a single day than I’ve been. I’d have a meta moment, watching my character water giant pumpkins as I lounge on the couch on a weekend afternoon, still in my pajamas.
This game brought out the perfectionist in me as I obsessed over my farm’s aesthetics, but it also taught me a couple of other things―maintaining friendships, taking care of your well-being and mastering the art of productivity.
The game touches down on that last item in particular for the most part since you’ll be running a farm, which takes a lot of work, time and energy. Maybe you’re not a farmer IRL, but the general mechanics of running an in-game farm can translate to real life.
These aren’t sage advice―they’re probably even stuff that you already know, but often forget.
1. The day is in your hands.
You’ll read this exact line when you watch the Fortune Teller TV channel on a neutral day. Each day is different in this little countryside town, depending on the weather and your daily luck. Based on experience, it’s best to go mining or fishing if the spirits are in good humor, and play it safe on low-luck days by tending to your farming duties.
In reality, every day is in your hands, whether you’re lucky or otherwise. A daily routine is okay, but sometimes you don’t have to plan everything to a tee. Break out of the routine if you need to. Sometimes I just let my little farmer sleep through a whole day when there’s a thunderstorm, and that’s perfectly fine too IRL.
2. Lots of coin, a pleasant-looking farm or an exciting social life―one has to go.
Unless you’ve come up with a foolproof daily routine that satisfies all three aspects, it’s quite difficult to achieve it. Choose to focus on making bank and improving your farm, and you’ll soon realize why no one would want to pair up with you at the Flower Dance. Make friends with everyone and get rich, but your dingy ass farm won’t be the sole reflection of your hard work. Spruce up your farm and get chummy with the locals, all with an empty wallet. How do you win?
We always preach about striking some sort of balance in our everyday lives, but it’s hard to squeeze in everything you want to do in a day without pushing yourself to exhaustion. Just like in the Triangle of College Life that consists of sleep, good grades and social life, you can’t quite have it all―at least, not in the beginning. There will be a lot of adjustments for you to accommodate new things in your life.
3. Time and energy don’t always go hand in hand, but you can learn to manage both.
My favorite part of the game is going down the mines. It’s easy to get so deep into gathering gems and slaying slimes that soon my energy bar is depleting and the in-game clock is turning red. I’d scramble out of the mines like Cinderella bouncing out of the ball, just so my character won’t pass out on the side of the road again.
We always talk about time management, but we’ve also got to manage our energy too. It all boils down to how you grow, not how fast you grow. Working hard is good, but you’ve got to learn how to work smart, too. Your little farm won’t grow from a measly patch of parsnips to a complete, functioning business from manually watering all of your crops daily.
Productivity, IRL and in-game, is not a requirement. There are things we should focus on now, and there are those we can save for later so we don’t overwork ourselves. The seasons go on and on for as long as you play, so you won’t be missing out on anything that you can catch tomorrow, or next season, or even next year. Allow yourself to work at a manageable pace, and give yourself a break when you need to.
Stills from Stardew Valley