The art within Stardew Valley
Do you consider video games as a type of art?
Video games are different from all forms of art because they are an amalgam of all the art forms. They exist out of illustration, narration, music, and so much more.
By combining multiple art forms together, they create a platform that allows the audience to not only view the artist’s creation but to understand the deeper meaning embedded within the artwork through experiencing it.
What is Stardew Valley?
At first, Stardew Valley might seem like an average mundane game, but there are so many interesting story elements, beautifully composed music, visually pleasing graphics, and magical elements woven into the game. It all contributes to the beautiful mystical life found within the gaming world.
I love all the different art-form layers the creator used in developing the game. I especially enjoy the little Easter eggs, little cut scenes of characters and events, hidden within the game. It is like building a puzzle, but I dread finding all the pieces – because I don’t want the magic to end.
The Story Plot
As an open-ended country-life role-playing game (RPG), Stardew Valley is based on the story plot of the protagonist (the player) leaving their urban desk job at a big corporation (JoJo Mart) to start a new life as a farmer on their deceased grandfather’s farm.
The game encourages players to make this decision through an old letter their grandfather gave them on his deathbed. In his letter, he explains he has left them his family farm. He also shares his wisdom about life; which entails a slow-paced meaningful life where you live off of nature, nurture it, and build a community. These are some of the key themes that get reinforced throughout the course of the game.
How do you start the game?
Starting a new life as a newbie farmer, players take the bus to Pelican Town in Stardew Valley, where the town’s carpenter, Robin, meets them. Robin takes the players to the family farm, showing them around the overgrown land and the farmhouse she recently fixed up. This is also where they meet Mayor Lewis, who provides you with advice on what to start with.
One of the first tasks players receive is to revitalize their grandfather’s farm by turning the overgrown fields into lively and beautiful rows of crops. Apart from farming, you can also spend your days foraging, fishing and mining to gain the resources and skills to improve your farm.
The more time you spend playing the game – the more your avatar becomes embedded in the local community of Pelican Town. Another quest you’ll receive early in the game is to go around the town and greet all locals. Even though the game has more than 30 characters, you are only expected to greet the main towns folks at the start of the game.
Greeting all 30 residents can take some time as the characters walk around and follow a weekly schedule. They will therefore be in different locations depending on the current date and time in the game. As players befriend the villagers, they will start giving gifts like materials, food, or recipes to craft or cook things.
At some point, the game will ask the player to make a choice; to either support the local businesses of Pelican Town and restore the community centre or to support JoJoMart – A big retail store that threatens to ruin the smaller merchants out of business.
However, since Stardew Valley is an open-ended game with lots of freedom, you can pursue the main storyline at your own pace or simply explore the gaming world.
Creating Stardew Valley
Who created Stardew Valley?
Video game designer Eric Barone solely created Stardew Valley under the alias of Concerned Ape.
Originally, Barone didn’t want to pursue a career as a video game designer because of the overworked and underpaid job culture associated with this career path. Instead, he went to study Computer Science at the University of Washington, Tacoma.
However, since he struggled to find a job after graduating in 2011, he embarked on the Stardew Valley project to showcase his abilities and to learn more about programming.
What was Eric Barone’s source of inspiration?
Eric Barone wanted to create a farm simulation game that invites players to tend to a farm and start a life in a small town. Similar to his inspiration and childhood game, Harvest Moon, created by Japanese video game developer, Yasuhiro Wada.
There was something different about it. It was quieter, simpler and I was hoping to bring back the magic of the earlier games.Eric Barone
Other than most violent games he grew up with, Harvest Moon avoided violence and favoured the domestic normality of actual life. This made the game more realistic and relatable to Barone.
He also wanted to create a world where players could explore, learn new things, craft items and build relationships with other characters.
I wanted the game world to feel like a living place. I wanted you to forget that it was a game and feel like these people have a life of their own.Eric Barone
The art within Stardew Valley
To do this, Barone not only had to learn how to program, but he had to plan and create all the different art-form-layers that would ultimately contribute to the platform he needed. Allowing players to understand what he had intended them to experience when they played the game.
To give you an idea of all the different layers, here is a list of some of-the-art forms he had to create:
- Designing the layout of the game.
- Creating 30 plus characters with a backstory and planning their daily routines.
- Writing hundreds of lines of dialogue for the townsfolk.
- Create and edit individual cut scene moments with the characters.
- Composing the music for the game and so much more.
The art platform Eric Barone created allows players to experience what it would feel like to quit their job and start anew in a little town where no one knows them.
Where they can come to understand what it would feel like to take a break from the monetising corporate rat race and to take a moment to marvel at nature, to be creative, to start honest conversations and connecting with people around you.
Apart from this, Stardew Valley also focuses on a lot of social and environmental issues each of us might experience daily. By playing a game that identifies and explores these themes, players can experience and work through these social issues in a controlled and safe space.
Thank you so much, Eric Barone, for creating the wondrous magical world of Stardew Valley and for allowing us to experience the art which you’ve created.
Follow-up: Why I enjoy playing Stardew Valley
In my follow-up article on Stardew Valley, I take a deep dive into why I love playing the game and some of my favourite elements.
- ConcernedApe LLC (2016 – 2021). Stardew Valley [Online]. Available at: https://www.stardewvalley.net/ (Accessed: 2 July 2021).
- Stardew Valley wiki [Online]. Available at : https://stardewvalleywiki.com/Stardew_Valley_Wiki (Accessed: 2 July 2021).
- White, S. (2018). GQ [Online]. Valley Forged: How One Man Made the Indie Video Game Sensation Stardew Valley. Available at: https://www.gq.com/story/stardew-valley-eric-barone-profile (Accessed: 2 July 2021).