Steam notification of the successful download and installation of Stardew Valley pops up in the bottom right corner of my screen.
Click the Play button.
Those are the last things I remember before 9pm Monday at the tail end of a 3 day weekend.
There are precious few games that I can play this way. I love Overwatch. It is easily the game in my library with the most hours logged. But even there, I play for an hour or two at a time. Maximum three hours. In that time I have satisfied the itch, filled out the time remaining before bed, some TV show or movie I want to watch, maybe I need to cook dinner.
Despite having finished three full playthroughs of Stardew Valley, each time I start it over feels mostly new and fresh.
Sure, I skip the story beats, but I am full blown ready to get straight to work clearing out a small area to lay down my first small plots of parsnips and chop down nearby trees until it’s time for my 16 bit avatar to go to bed. I completely forget about all of the endgame details and tasks to complete until the game reminds me.
Stardew Valley has one of the best “one more turn” gameplay loops to exist. Wake up and get to chorin’ (This time around my farm is Letterkenny themed). Water / harvest the crops. Check in on my chickens. Check the cave for mushrooms. Then there’s the choice of what to do with the rest of the day. I could go exploring through the dungeon, collecting minerals and fighting monsters. I could go fishing in a number of locations, trying to make money and gather the fish that are needed to complete the community center. Or just could just dilly dally around foraging for stuff to build the next structure on my farm and socializing with the townsfolk. Regardless, Puppers will still be waiting at home for me. And when I do get home and go to sleep, the thought of ending the game after Daryl wakes up just plain never occurs to me. Or if it does, it is accompanied by a modifier of “once I collect that fire quartz” or “once I harvest those melons” or “once Winter arrives.” Only for a new goal to arise once that one has been met.
I could totally reload one of my old saves. Thanks to Steam’s cloud save I could pick back up where I left off with any of them, and I don’t think I would have the same problem. All the tasks are done. There’s probably some relationships to finish or some of the really extravagant post game purchases. But those do not hold the same sense of progress. I suppose I could use that to scratch the desire to play without having the weekend vanish like the Men in Black popped in.
There are two other games that can do this to me and I purposely avoid them for it. The Sims and Minecraft. Why Stardew gets a pass and they don’t is beyond me. But they do share that one more night gameplay loop that’ll keep you hooked. How about you, dear reader? What games can eradicate a weekend in a blink for you?