I’m what you call a foodie, in that I like to put food in my mouth, and then eat it. Simplistic definition aside, I do like to make a hobby of eating adventurously, and living in the hidden culinary haven of Seattle, WA makes it easy to do so. But recently, as I played Stardew Valley, reliving the many years spent on my family’s rural goat farm, it hit me. Despite my proximity to Pike Place Market, my extensive background in food preparation, and my dedicated years as a hobbyist cook in my own kitchen, I think my Stardew Valley character may actually be eating better than I am. Here are five reasons why.
While I live near one of the world’s greatest food markets, giving me a wide choice of delicacies grown within a 20 mile radius, there’s nothing like homegrown. Not only does my Stardew Valley character grow all her own fruits and vegetables, she also raises her own livestock! And in the magic realm of videogames, there are never any extra chores, no weeds to pull or poop to shovel. Occasionally she has to scythe the grass or axe a few tree seedlings, but most of the time, she gets to go to bed by 2 PM. My own experience living on a farm tells me this is a horribly unrealistic. I bet she’s never had to file four different kinds of animal waste out of her fingernails, or had an infected goat udder fall off in her hand. Such experiences tend to put a damper on the triumph and romantic charm of producing your own food. The green thumb in me sighs with envy.
As time goes on, upgrades are purchased and skill levels increase, my Stardew Valley farm has become less of a garden and more of an artisan food hub. There’s a bee house for honey, a preserves jar for fruit jams, a cheese press, a tree tapper for syrup, a brew keg, a gourmet truffle oil maker, and, something that doesn’t exist in real life and I would know because I checked, a mayonnaise machine. IS THIS A FARM OR MY NEW FAVORITE LUNCH BISTRO?
While at its heart, Stardew Valley is a Harvest Moon game, the game’s cooking system reminds me a lot of The Sims, where you can make new dishes as your skills increase, and recipes can either be purchased, or learned from TV or other characters. Items on the menu include bruschetta, crab cakes, escargot, fiddlehead risotto, lobster bisque, roasted hazelnuts, sashimi, and tom kha soup, basically a smorgasbord of hip culinary delights typically reserved for a hot Friday night out on the town. Anyone who gets to eat these on the regular is spoiled like a well-aged cheese.
I have never been to a luau. Hell, I’ve never even been invited to a luau, which makes sense, because if I had, I’d have told you about 18 different sick-ass luau stories by now. In the summer season in Stardew Valley, a luau is thrown to celebrate the visit of the local mayor in order to show him what the town has to offer. My character, lacking my talent for appreciating a free beachside meal, spent most of the time moping around and throwing peppers into the soup pot. Apparently when you’re eating fiddlehead risotto and lobster bisque on the regular, you can afford to turn your nose up at roast pig and tropical fruit punch. I’ve never been so disappointed in a videogame protagonist.
Being a pixel person means never getting fat. It means never having to count calories, or worry about beer bloat, cheese farts, or staggering cholesterol levels. Living in the virtual realm means no lasting consequences. And of all the things I envy about my Stardew Valley character, that one haunts me the most. Whereas I have only one life to live and one colon to ruin, my videogame gastropod can live on indefinitely, gorging on honey and roasted hazelnuts until her gut splits, waking up the next day to do it all over again. And for that I salute her.
Holly Green is a reporter, editor, and semiprofessional photographer living in Seattle, WA. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gameranx, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.