Stardew Valley is a charming game–a farming simulator à la Harvest Moon, with friends to make, people to marry, and agricultural endeavours to optimize.
And like Harvest Moon, it limits progression with an energy system. This mechanical choice has an interesting narrative result: you have to take good care of yourself, or you won’t be able to get much done. As FemHype’s Jay explains, this makes for an excellent model of self-care.
Every day in Stardew is full of opportunity. There is far more to do in a day than can ever get done, but time is not the limiting factor; your energy levels are. You’re only given a certain amount to get you through the in-game day, and each action uses up some of that energy. If you use up too much energy, you’ll become sluggish and have less to use the next day. As in real life, rest and recuperation is vital.
Energy can be regained in Stardew through eating, drinking, and sleeping. Taking care of the basics is vital, but greater rewards come from greater effort. For example, you can get by on basic foodstuffs, but if you can combine them for fuller meals, more of your energy (and health, if you’ve lost some of that through fighting monsters) will be restored. And, just as in real life, sleeping enough and eating well is often easier said than done, but equally putting effort into these essentials will give you a strong foundation to move forward.
Stardew Valley encourages a healthy balance between work, socialization and relaxation–at least for your character in-game. It’s a great game to take self-care cues from, so long as you don’t wind up spending too much time on your virtual farm to remember to take care of yourself in the real world, too.
Given its cheerful day-in, day-out rhythm, that might just be an easy trap to sink into.