I've recently moved into Pelican Town on my grandfather's old farm. A quiet place, nestled in the valley surrounded by wildlife. The man-made constraints of the city have become too heavy to bear. I wonder if farm life is truly a freedom?
As a deep-rooted fan of the Harvest Moon series and with Stardew Valley basically incorporating those same mechanics, I was sold. I don't know why they appeal so much to me exactly, but the closest answer I have is that it gives me a relaxing piece of life, separate from my own. I've never farmed in my life, but I grew up with my mother's garden on a side of a hill and the British Columbia Interior's woods. Of all the natural landscapes, forests have always been my favourite — a place of healing. A type of healing that's never far, especially here in B.C., yet I never know when I can reach it. I suppose that's the draw of this game for me.
I wonder if it's selfish to wish for a life like this. Not that it's necessarily an easier life: an hour of weeding alone can work up a sweat. But our problems don't always disappear with our setting. Watching a recent Pelican Town local, Shane, drink his life away shows we sometimes trade one cage for another.
The town itself feels like a mini paradise on first glance. The townspeople all know each other and help one another. There's a deep respect for nature and all her blessings. The only pain that seems to plague this place is the newly erected Joja Mart nearby.
There is a hatred of corporations in our real world reflected in Stardew Valley. The narrative of one moving in and destroying what was once an admirable life in the name of convenience is a common tale. I'm a little skeptical of this happening in the valley when speaking with the villagers. The economy is next to nothing but people still need to eat. Thus, the Joja Mart provides a place for the poorer inhabitants to buy a lot more food than they normally could afford. The more well-off townsfolk claim it isn't as healthy, but provide no proof for this. Pierre, the local grocer, has to get his produce from somewhere here. Was it from my farm, Pierre? I know for a fact my veggies weren't top notch in the first year.
On the flip side, I know of the damage a mega mart can do. The townsfolk have a local economy, fragile and reliant on everyone there. These local shops can't compete with the selection and price of a mega mart and who can fault people wanting a more affordable option. But when this happens, the community becomes a slave to the corporation, eventually being sucked into it, like I was.
Not that we shouldn't try leaving or being in a new place, or in this case, a familiar one. I think of the gardens my mom had when I was a kid that I would help dig and weed. Perhaps the allure of working with the earth is tied to that memory.
Despite my questions of how this can be sustainable and whether or not clinging to old traditions may be causing more harm in the long run, I continue to etch out a little life for myself here. Learning the lay of the land, listening to local legends and solving the puzzles of the mysterious Master Qi. Every now and then I dig through the mines to find a frozen tear to romance a man who lives in his parent's basement.
Surely, this is paradise.