Soapbox: How Stardew Valley Kept My Long-Distance Relationship Alive
Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, Kevin remembers how Stardew Valley kept the spark alive and prepped him for living with his partner...

Relationships can be hard. And when you add in long distance, that difficulty curve can ramp up even higher.

My girlfriend Lima and I used to be in a long-distance relationship. Now we live together and are in a no-distance relationship. But up until that point, we would only be able to see each other for scheduled chunks of time every one or two months. Still, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. What really helped us though, was having something in common. And for us, we developed a mutual ritual of playing Stardew Valley together.

I tried playing Stardew Valley by myself around the time when it first came out on Switch in 2017. I grew up with Animal Crossing, and wanted to give this life sim a try – but it just didn’t click. I don’t know why, either. My friends seemed to love it, and the art style and gameplay seemed right up my alley. But after sitting down with it for various sessions, I eventually dropped it and moved on.

Stardew we have to?

Fast forward several years. One thing I am thankful for in my relationship is that video games are a bonding experience for both me and my partner. We grew up with games, love games, and often play games together. What’s particularly nice is that we didn’t play all the same games– so we frequently introduce each other to new ones. I got her to finally play through all of Super Mario Galaxy, and she gave me the courage to pick up Dark Souls again. Eventually, we beat Cuphead together during one of our extended visits, but when she flew back home, we needed something new to fill the void.

Lima had suggested that we start a farm together in Stardew Valley. I was open to the idea, but quickly remembered how that experience went when I tried it on my own. While somewhat hesitant, I agreed, but was pleasantly surprised to see that two players could play online together on the same farm at the same time. Thanks, ConcernedApe! You very well may have saved my relationship with that move.

And so began our life together on Texacago — a not-so-clever portmanteau of our separate locations of Texas and Chicago. But in wonderful Texacago, we lived together along with the likes of Shane, Linus, Harvey, and the gang.

Slowly but surely, the game took a hold on me. I figured out how to better farm crops, saw how much there was to explore in the caves, and got to experience the various backstories of Pelican Town’s residents. I was hooked. And it was the perfect substitution for distance when we could not be together physically.

Joint account

Soapbox: How Stardew Valley Kept My Long-Distance Relationship Alive
Image: Nintendo Life

Still though, farming together prepared me for living together in ways I quite frankly did not expect.

In Stardew Valley, you have the option to share finances with other players on your farm. I thought this would be smart, as we would one day live together 'IRL' and have to budget things accordingly. In general, it's sound advice not to hide big purchases from your partner, so when one of us would see the money counter suddenly click down, the other one would take note. “Hey, what was that?” Uh-oh, I forgot to tell her I was buying an extra pig. Well, I better catch some fish and make it up to her.

We divided up our chores and responsibilities equally on the farm. Some days she would focus on collecting items to fill out the community center, while I would be busy trying to catch a gold star super cucumber. Obviously this also helped us work together beyond our gaming sessions. Some days it’s laundry day and dishes day at the same time, but as we had learned, it helps to divide and conquer. Hey it’s not as glamorous as taking over your grandpa’s farm but it’s a living okay? It’s the little things that keep the spark alive.

We played through multiple year-cycles while living and farming together in Texacago, easily clocking in over 150 hours in co-op. Once we started to run out of content, it was hard not to feel a little bit sad, seeing the game that had helped maintain and strengthen our bond across the country start to dwindle in available experiences. We’d maximized our farm, made more money than we knew how to spend, and completed the extra content on Ginger Island.

Soapbox: How Stardew Valley Kept My Long-Distance Relationship Alive
Image: Nintendo Life

It’s nice to know it’s still there though, and that we can always visit back there together to look back on simpler times.

Overdew reunion

Not long after getting our fill of the game, we were finally able to close the physical distance.

Lima came to live with me in Chicago, and while our real-life shared-living experience may include far less mining for iridium ore, selling pumpkins at the Stardew Valley Fair, or making sure we’re home and in bed by 2am or else, we already had some level of experience maintaining a digital living place together, and sustaining a life in wonderful Stardew Valley.

Plus, we even got to cosplay as Emily and Shane at the local farmers market for Halloween, which is an awful lot like the Stardew Valley Fair when you think about it. So while the game may have ended, the experience lives on.

And hey, now we’re more than ready for some couch co-op in Haunted Chocolatier.

Soapbox: How Stardew Valley Kept My Long-Distance Relationship Alive
Image: Kevin Podas / Nintendo Life

Have you ever had a gaming experience turn into a memorable moment of a long-term romance? Let us know in the comments and share your stories!

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