I have something difficult to confess. I… am addicted to Stardew Valley. It’s a “country life simulator” in the vein of Harvest Moon. But somehow, that doesn’t quite capture everything that makes it so appealing and special. And with over a million copies sold on Steam in a little over a month, it’s obvious that I’m not the only one who’s invested in this game.

I know you were dying and all, Grandpa, but would it have hurt to bust out the lawnmower once in a while?

After you create a character, you get thrown right into the story. As a child, your beloved grandfather died and left you a mysterious envelope. An envelope that you weren’t supposed to open until you were an adult; until you were so positively sick of modern life that you needed to get back to basics. Some decades later, your character opens that envelope and finds Grandpa’s present was the deed to his old farm! So off you go to Stardew Valley, where a simpler life awaits you.

Or perhaps, not so simple after all, as the farm is absolutely overrun with plants and debris, many of nearby Pelican Town’s amenities have broken down, and your old employer, Joja Corporation, is threatening to ruin the rustic peace of your new home. An uphill battle that awaits you, especially with your initially limited set of tools and funds. But that’s part of what makes the game so exciting. Every day, you have a chance to make a new impact on Stardew Valley. Every day is a small step towards a big accomplishment, and when you finally make it there, you can’t help but happily gloat at how far you’ve come.

Abigail has the kind of wit you can cut yourself on, so of course she’s my favorite bachelorette.

And believe me, there’s an incredible variety of accomplishments to pursue. You can go mining for precious gems and battle the monsters deep in Stardew Valley’s underground caverns. You can become a master fisher, catching legendary sea creatures and pulling in hauls from massive amounts of crab pots. You can build a beautiful relationship with one of the town’s residents and start a family. Even your farm has many possible avenues of profit–from ranching and farming to artisanal crafting and raising slime monsters (that counts as ranching, right?), each requires a different type of investment and yields unique products.

Honestly, I’m trying to do it all, because that’s just part of the fun. And if you still crave variety, the diverse seasons, festivals, and natural developments in Pelican Town shake things up every once in a while. There’s also a secret pursuit that I won’t spoil, but once you come across it, you’ll be able to unlock completely new areas and amenities. I know I’m biased as a hopeless junkie, but I’m continually struck by the game’s low price considering its size and depth.

You know you’re playing a fantasy life game when the music in the bar is quiet enough to hear other people.

If you want to join me in my endless quest for the perfect farm, I do have a few tips that can help the Stardew Valley newcomer land on their feet:

  • You have to spend money to make money. This is a familiar platitude to longtime Harvest Moon players, but it’s absolutely true. If you want to expand your cashflow quickly, the best way is to clear out a sizeable part of your farm and then plant as many seeds as you can afford. While I personally don’t think min-maxing your crops is fun or necessary, you’ll definitely have more options to upgrade your farm if you start farming from day one.
  • Friday is the best day to socialize. Every Friday night at the Stardrop Saloon, a huge portion of the townsfolk show up to chat and hang out. Chances are, your favorite villager will filter in at some point, and if they don’t, they actually never come to the Saloon. So at least you learned where they don’t like to hang out!
  • There’s an early festival where you can ask your crush to dance. They will say no (because Friendship Math). Prepare your tear ducts. And prepare a good chunk of cash too, because that same festival has unique decorations for sale that day only.
  • There will come a time when you badly want to upgrade your watering can, so be aware it takes 2 game days. Do it as close to the 27th of the season as possible, since you don’t have to water on the 28th anyway.
It takes skill to make a game where dangerous manual labor becomes fun.

It’s comforting to know I can blame my horrible Stardew Valley dependency on one man: the developer known as ConcernedApe. He took care of virtually every aspect of Stardew Valley entirely on his own, from the programming to the music to the art, while balancing it with just enough part-time work to stay afloat. It’s an inspirational story for any artist; to know that with time and hard work you can create something truly memorable (not to mention hugely successful!). He’s even been committed to making the game even better, staying hard at work on patches and planning major content updates like more marriage candidates and multiplayer! The guy has earned a vacation, and put some AAA development teams to shame.

For those who want a simpler streak to their life, for those who like to build, and for those that like to beautify, Stardew Valley is a big breath of fresh air. I wholly recommend buying it. Just make sure you quit your job, first.