I started playing Stardew Valley over two years ago. At the time, I had no desire to meet any of the villagers. I just wanted to plant my crops, harvest them, get my horse, and live my life as a farmer hermit. My plans didn’t work out that way because I got to know my favorite emo, Sebastian. I gave him tons of gifts, mainly quartz and frozen tears, and before I knew it, we were married. And then I had a kid and he would leave the house to go out for a ride on his motorcycle. It was marital bliss.
I took a couple of years off so when Update 1.4 was released, I decided it was time to put the overalls back on and head back to my farm. This time around, I had one goal: I was going to befriend everyone. And I do mean everyone: the single people, the married people, Linus, the Dwarf, Krobus. EVERYONE.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You can only give two gifts a week to a person and I wasn’t very good about keeping track of who liked what items. Luckily the Stardew Valley Wiki had me covered, but then the challenge was foraging, mining, crafting, and brewing everything that people liked. Some villagers are easy to get gifts for as mostly everyone likes quartz, but some have more refined tastes (Elliot, what’s with you and the duck feathers?).
The first person I befriended was Shane. Easily the rudest villager in the entire Valley, he would often tell me to not talk to him. His disheveled look and permanent “contempt face” made me stay away from him during my first playthrough, but this time, I was going to tear down those walls and become his best friend.
It took a lot of beer and pizza, but I finally got my first cutscene with him and it was…heartbreaking. Standing on a pier at The Pond having a beer with Shane sounds like a good time, until he asks me, “You ever feel like… no matter what you do, you’re going to fail? Like you’re stuck in some miserable abyss and you’re so deep you can’t even see the light of day?”
That’s when everything about Shane clicked. Instead of viewing him as one of the rudest villagers, he became one of the most empathetic. He was struggling to find his place, with being Jas’ Godfather, with making Marnie happy, but he had his own inner demons and addictions. It was crazy to find that kind of backstory to a character in a farming sim.
And that’s the level of depth to the characters in Stardew Valley. Developer ConcernedApe could have easily made these characters stereotypical village folks, with two or three lines that they cycle through when you interact with them, but these villagers are anything but stereotypical. They all have hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties. I’m almost at max hearts with most of the villagers, and each one of them has something that I can connect with on a personal level.
I may be a little late to finding this all out, but I’m happy that I put in the time to get to know these characters. They are, of course, going to be very mad at me when they find out that I’m dating half the townsfolk. Such is life in Pelican Town.