I love Stardew Valley. The breakout indie farming/life simulator from Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone caught me completely off guard, and I have been playing it on and off since it came to the Nintendo Switch back in the latter half of 2017.
There is just something so soothing about it, and although my farm still hasn’t achieved the fully mechanized crop-yields I have always dreamed of, I enjoy my time plodding around Pelican Town, hassling the town folk and gathering coral like some kind of agricultural hermit-man.
And so it went until two significant events occurred in the year 2018 BCE: Stardew Valley got a co-operative mode, and I married my high school sweetheart. Both events were momentous and intrinsically linked, I would soon find out.
My now-wife, but then-girlfriend, had curled up with my Switch the winter before and power-gamed her way through several in-game years of Stardew Valley and declared herself an unofficial expert on the matter.
Now that she has her own Switch, and Stardew has co-op, we have been coexisting on a small plot, learning to work the land, and I can’t help but compare and contrast the differences between our virtual life and our IRL marriage.
Sometimes they are significant, and sometimes they are so minor that the lines between the game and my real life start to blur.
My then-girlfriend and I started dating nearly 10 years after high school. She had traveled the world, and I was basically still playing video games. Our first date, we played through the entirety of Until Dawn in a single setting, which took an entire evening and most of a morning. I kissed her as she left, and then she crashed her car into mine as she was leaving. True story.
On the farm, such romance never existed. There was no courtship, she just immediately put me to work planting “snips” day after day (parsnips, for those out of the loop), while she ventured into the mines. If I was lucky, we would go to the beach and fish together on rainy days, but only because my main purpose as a living, breathing irrigation system was no longer required.