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Millennial Adventures: Finding peace in virtual farming

Working from home has certainly had its share of ups and downs. I never expected to get a splinter from my own workstation or to have to wear a fleece dragon costume to a virtual newsroom meeting because it’s too cold in my office-away-from-office.

At the same time, though, the view from here is a lot greener since I have a yard and The Day doesn’t, and I’m still employed full-time and able to stay home when many are not.

But the wear and tear of the 24-hour newscycle is still there, if not worse than ever as situations change by the hour. As I sit here at the beginning of week three of working from home, I’m glad that when I’m done with my work day, I can unwind by checking in on my livestock, watering my crops and maybe mining for an hour or two.

I have neither a farm nor a quarry at my house in Ledyard, but I do have Stardew Valley. My boyfriend bought the video game for me at the end of December so we could have something fun to play together while 300-plus miles apart, since every other game I own is either single-player or something he consistently destroys me in.

Joke’s on him, though. I’ve played it so much since then that my character is levels ahead of his.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, the premise of the game is that your character got tired of working for some corporate monolith and decides to run away to a rural village called Pelican Town to farm an overgrown property their late grandfather left them in his will. Is it an overdone trope? Maybe, but haven’t we all wanted to run away and farm at some point?

There are five different skill areas: farming, which in itself includes plant and animal products, foraging, mining, combat and fishing. There’s also the social aspect, where you can earn friendship hearts with your neighbors for completing tasks for them or giving them gifts. The year is divided into four 28-day seasons, with special festivals and fairs distributed throughout.

I think I took to it so quickly because you can be “bad” at it and still have fun. Sure, there are things that are a lot easier if you’re a higher level, but you don’t have to have a hyper-optimized farm that spits out millions of gold coins worth of products a day.

Even after finding the Reddit page with all the souped-up farm setups, I still prefer a more modest layout with one vegetable plot, a reasonable number of livestock — cows and chickens have friendship hearts to maintain, too — and enough fruit trees to be able to make jelly to sell in the winter when nothing is growing. You know, something like what I would have in real life if I had the time and capital.

I’m sure some of you are thinking the same thing my dentist told me at my appointment last month, that I need to plant some actual seeds in my head before it rots from all the screen time. We have a garden, and I have seeds and some seedlings already started, but it’s only April and I’d kill them all if I put them outside now.

I do go outside, too. I’ve been filling my bird feeders, which are within view of my spot at the kitchen table, and as a UConn Master Gardener in training, I’ve been taking walks around the yard to check out how the various trees and blooms around the property are progressing. I’m also lucky enough to have finished an axe throwing target with my grampa before things got bad so I can get in some throwing time outside of the renaissance faires.

But in the grand scheme of things, is a farming video game really so bad a hobby? I’m not killing anything other than monsters in the mines or the occasional crop I forget to water. I’m not going out to bars (not that I’d be doing that anyway) or otherwise getting into social distancing trouble. And so far I’ve held off on buying any Stardew merch.

So until we get to Memorial Day and/or past this pandemic, you can find me in Pelican Town.

Amanda Hutchinson is the assistant community editor.

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