I got married the other day. It was everything I could have dreamed of. The ceremony took place in the town square surrounded by flowers and everyone turned up to celebrate. My groom, a shy but loving doctor, wore a dashing suit and I wore what I wear everyday – an orange T-shirt with purple moonboots that I found in a mine.
The ceremony was done by 6am so I still had time to do all my chores. Suddenly my blissful day was rudely interrupted by the washing machine finishing its spin cycle. I paused Stardew Valley, and the most romantic day of my life, and went back to my much less idyllic reality.
It was alarming how quickly the honeymoon period of my marriage was over. Issues were starting to appear between us and the hearts that signified his love for me were quickly disappearing.
Our conversations were becoming more stilted and there's only so much weather you can talk about before you both start decaying from boredom.
One day, while I was out hitting some monsters with a sword, I collapsed. I woke up in hospital, my loving husband by my bed comforting me in my time of need. Then he said the words no wife wants to hear. "You collapsed. I've charged you £1,000 for the medical care."
No "how are you darling?" or "I was so worried about you honey!" Yes, this is because the game had not prepared any dialogue for when you faint, if you're also married to the doctor of the town. But it seemed to be a signal that something in this marriage needed to be fixed.
Later that night he asked me if I wanted to have a baby, and after a quick Google to find out whether it would require any effort on my part (it does not) I said yes. The memories of my faultless wedding seemed long ago, and were fading fast. But I soon discovered something that kept my husband happy, and revitalised our marriage: blueberries. My husband loves blueberries. So every morning, we now chat about the weather, I walk over to the fridge, get a single blueberry, neatly place it in his hand and watch his little face light up. He now offers me massages, waters the crops every now and again and makes me breakfast – all for a tiny blue fruit. Our first child will be born into a functional marriage rich in vitamin C.
Before you think I've completely lost the plot, and will soon be pelting my non-fictional boyfriend with a wheelbarrow load of blueberries, this rollercoaster of a slightly unusual marriage is a brilliant example of why I love Stardew Valley. It's a game that starts with a goal achieved, then a problem emerges, which leads to finding a solution and getting into the rhythm of things before something else develops – whether that's a new barn to be built, bus to repair, or a difficult husband.
I felt like I was living domestic pastoral bliss as I watered my crops and provided my partner with fruit, when in reality I was lying on my sofa, resting my second chin on my chest as I broke off another piece of half-price Easter egg and aimed for my mouth. I've always found solace in bucolic farming games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley.
While I maintain that Stardew doesn't quite live up to the monolith that is Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, it's quick enough to satisfy that pastoral itch. I say 'quick' but it still took me thirty hours to romance my husband and build up a thriving farm. In comparison to a Harvest Moon game though, that's pretty speedy. In Friends of Mineral Town thirty hours would get you a shack and a half-blind chicken.
This is what makes Stardew Valley perfect for those not familiar with this type of game, as the payoff for your time is wonderfully balanced. The joy is found in discovering your daily routine. When something comes along that slightly messes up your day-to-day system, you find a way of integrating it into your rhythm and you feel like a farming god. Planning ahead, collecting timber and mining on rainy days is probably far less satisfying in real life.
When I needed to get a load of cash quick for a new silo, I turned my eggs into mayonnaise and sold them for twice the price. When I needed to get to the bottom of the mine I created a load of sprinklers which would water my crops while I was away. When my husband began to get bored of me and the romance was dying, I gave him blueberries. I can then continue with my comfy routine without too much energy or time wasted. Every time I play Stardew Valley I achieve something, I am faced with a new challenge, and I overcome it. So find your routine, relax into the enjoyment of conquering small issues, and give your husband some blueberries.