Farmer Uses Stardew Valley As An Escape

Tim takes his Switch out with him in the tractor to help pass the time during the planting season.
Tim takes his Switch out with him in the tractor to help pass the time during the planting season.
Photo: Tim (Imgur)

Tim is a farmer in Northern California who spends a lot of time on tractors. Thanks to auto-steering, that means he also has plenty of time to check in on his other farm, the one on his Switch port of Stardew Valley.

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Tim posted the picture of his setup to the Stardew Valley subreddit yesterday and has been answering questions about it ever since. Farming is hard work that involves long hours, but there’s also downtime. “My average speed in the field is less than 6 miles per hour,” he said in the comments of his post. “Literally every farmer with autosteer brings at least a book with them to kill the boredom.” That’s because during the planting season, like right now, his work mostly revolves around doing long passes in the field on a GPS-guided tractor. This leaves plenty of time to study, browse Reddit, and play his Switch.

“I beat Breath of the Wild entirely in the tractor when it first came out,” Tim said in an email to Kotaku. More recently he’s taken to things like Minecraft and Stardew Valley. “To me Stardew Valley is more like relaxing and tinkering in my backyard garden than actual work, so it still has that escapism factor to me that something like Farming Simulator doesn’t have,” Tim said. Between the PC and Switch versions, he’s put about 200 hours in Stardew and is still playing.

While the game doesn’t capture the feel of working on a larger farm (Tim, along with his father and one other employee, manage 2,000 acres), he said it parallels the feel of rural life pretty accurately. “I live pretty far out of my local town with my wife and dogs just like in game,” Tim said. “My town has a lot of crumbling buildings like the community center, and unfortunately we don’t have any junimos capable of magically making everyone happier and fixing everything.”

One thing about farm life Stardew Valley doesn’t stay true to, although Tim said he doesn’t blame it, is how volatile produce markets can be. His family’s farm deals mainly in almonds, rice, and occasionally cotton and corn. “Imagine if you went into Pierre’s shop to sell rice and he says he’s dropping his farmers, so you’ve got all this produce you’ve spent all year growing and dumping money and time into and now nowhere to sell it,” said Tim. “It’s happened more than once to us and we’re left scrambling.”

Illustration for article titled Farmer Uses Stardew Valley As An Escape
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He elaborated even further in the comments of his Reddit post. “Farming is a casino and the mob bosses are mother nature and the world market. Some years you break the bank, some years they break your knee caps.” As fun as it might seem spending 10 hours in a tractor playing your Switch all day, it’s far from an easy life.

I asked Tim if he had a favorite character. “Shane,” he said. “Because I connect to him on a pretty personal level with alcohol and depression, especially after I got out of the military I was pretty much exactly like him.” More recently, he says farm life has started to click for him as he’s gotten a better grip on its annual rhythms and also gotten more involved in his community and the local fire department.

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One commenter on Tim’s post asked whether farming is more fun in real life or in Stardew Valley. “When its 115 degrees and I haven’t had a day off in a month and a half, Stardew takes the cake,” Tim said. “But nothing beats the feeling of harvesting the last field of rice and taking that big deep breath of ‘phew, another year over’ and then going home to your wife, pups and a glass of dark red wine.”

Tim wrote, “There’s really nothing quite like farming. It is hard, frustrating, and overwhelming at times, and it took me nearly 20 years to truly enjoy it, but there’s nothing else I’d rather do.” Although he admits it’s certainly better with a Switch on hand to keep him company on those long, slow drives.

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

DISCUSSION

It’s an odd thing, but sometimes doing the thing you do professionally in a more relaxed capacity can be just as invigorating/entertaining as doing something entirely separate for entertainment purposes.

I generally prefer to play games that do not remind me of my work (and there really aren’t all that many games that allow for application of the principles of formal rhetoric—though a great many invite literary criticism, especially in recent years)—but I’ll definitely spend an inordinate amount of my downtime getting into casual arguments on topics I may or may not hold a distinct position on.

I don’t have to be as careful as I am in my classroom—and I needn’t be quite as logically rigid, either (though this has sometimes led to my sticking my foot in my mouth; I chalk it up to a learning experience). I view such interactions as an opportunity to stretch muscles I refuse to use in the classroom—and, yes, to sometimes give in to the urge to use some of the tricks years studying logical composition has taught me.

Like I said, it’s an odd thing. I don’t hold myself to be any more intelligent than anyone else (I really don’t)—I just happen to be good at one or two things, and enjoy the opportunity to keep my skills relatively sharp while not having to hold myself to the same level of academic rigor the classroom—and my obligations to my students—require.

So, yeah: TL;DR: sometimes we really do wind up doing what we love as a job, and we’re just as happy to do it in our downtime. Glad Tim’s found a way to meld his love of farming with a form of entertainment that helps to eat up hours he’d otherwise spend staring through a windshield!