I had only been married seven days before my wife was flirting with strangers and engaged to a woman I had never met. Fortunately for me, this was within the pixelated haven of Stardew Valley, and I was perfectly fine with it – I had my eyes set on a different villager myself. All I needed was a tonne of amethyst and she’d be married to me in no time.
While running among the sprouting cornfields, tending to our growing flock of livestock, and fighting a never-ending stream of dragon-esque creatures in abandoned mines, I realised that videogames such as Stardew Valley are a prime example of how beautiful gaming as a couple can be. I looked at my wife as we sat on the sofa playing co-op on our Xbox and smiled as a new chapter of our lives started by building a farm together.
For as long as videogames have been around there have been negative connotations with them but this could not be further from the truth, and I want my marriage to be a beacon of hope for those who love the whimsy and escapism of videogames.
Gaming can be intense, but the softer, slower, quieter side harbours so much beauty, love, and interpersonal connection and I demand the light be shone upon it. So often the mainstream advertising for games is on the latest shooter, sports game, or live service behemoth, but what about the cute, cuddly (often childish) corner of gaming? Was it not Animal Crossing that absolutely exploded in popularity during the pandemic as people sought comfort and escapism? Well, for me and my now-wife, that escapism has come from Stardew Valley.
To play a co-op game requires…cooperation. Obviously. But there’s a stunning new dimension that can be added when you are playing with your partner that you don’t easily get in real life. I never knew my wife was better at fishing than I was, and she never knew that I was so adept at being a lumberjack. But here we are. It gives us new ways to work with each other outside of the normal life admin of sleep, eat, work, clean, repeat – all while making a stupid amount of money before spending it on hats we bought from a mouse.
Furthermore, I think that we both agreed we wanted something different to the lives we were living. We both have 9-5 jobs with aspirations of making a living from our creative endeavours, so it seems perfectly natural that we both found ourselves thriving at the thought of leaving the rat race (the Joja Corporation) behind and giving ourselves over to self-reliance, community, and nature. This is the escapism we need! Each of us goes out, performs our own little quests and aspirations – for me, that is to make every dish in the game, for her it is to discover all the hidden secrets – and then we come home, relax in bed, and share the benefits of each other’s day. And all in the shadow of a giant wooden bear statue, a blue cuddly toy, and far too many chickens.
What we love about the co-op update to Stardew is that it allows us to create a little world just for us. No one else. As selfish as that may seem, but what is love if not selfish? There is a whole aspect of gaming that is specifically geared towards couples being couples and it needs to be celebrated, expanded, and experienced by everyone.
And no, I did not arrange for us to start this farm purely to ensure I had a dance partner at the Flower Dance. Stop asking.