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My Choice for Most Creative Game of the Year: Stardew Valley

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2016 has now finally concluded. Many consider 2016 to be the worst year in recent memory. Not many good things came out of it. That’s why, to me, the video game Stardew Valley was a breath of fresh air when I discovered it Christmas week.

Stardew Valley is a video game. To be specific, it is a farming simulator video game. That may sound very boring at first, however, if you take a minute to review the game’s visuals or a video of the game, you will see the game world is full of beautifully vibrant pixel graphic charm and serene music. Stardew Valley looks like it was made for the Super Nintendo with its cute character and adorable animal sprites, however it’s a very recent game made for PC and Mac. As the player, you inherit a farm from your recently deceased grandfather. You get sick of your life working in a cubicle in the city and move to the old farm located in Stardew Valley. Once there, you turn an old dilapidated farm into a fully functioning farm that produces crops, animals, wine and other artisanal goods. While you do this, you can become friends with the other local residents of Stardew Valley. You can even get married and have kids. Stardew Valley also houses many secrets for you, the player, to uncover.

What makes Stardew Valley such a breath of fresh air today is the fact that is it nothing like current modern video games. The trend of games these days can be counted on one hand, from modern military shooters, to mobas, to bland RPG’s…Stardew is like none of these. What makes it so different is there is almost zero pressure on the player to accomplish much of anything in the game, yet the game is incredibly addictive (I have already clocked in over 96 hours of gameplay as of writing this). The possibilities in Stardew are almost endless. You can go fishing for hours, go mining in the caves, plant new crops, feed your animals, socialize, design your home and more. There is also a hint of mystery as you play through the game. There are many, many secrets to unlock in the game, which is a brand new concept to many gamers these days as most “unlockables” are purchased using microtransactions, and not discovered by accident as a secret easter egg in the game.

The key development concept of Stardew was to build a Harvest Moon clone (Harvest Moon is a Japanese farming simulator RPG game that was popular over a decade ago), but it morphed into its own game where the developer tried to address the issues he had with past Harvest Moon games. What astounded me the most about the Stardew’s history is that the entire game was built by one person. Eric Barone is the sole game developer responsible for gameplay development, music creation, graphics and more. The game started out as a personal project to help him learn to code more efficiently, but turned into a full game. He actually rebuilt the game four times during the development cycle (four years) as he learned more.

The year 2016 was very depressing for many reasons, but I was incredibly happy to have ended it playing an amazing game like Stardew Valley, and that’s why I give it the lofty title of my game of the year for 2016. I hope you’ll give it a try!

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