My partner doesn’t play that many games. She’s probably got more hours logged into Bubble Shooter than I’ve put into Rocket League, but besides that, nada. So the opportunities to tempt her into watching a YouTube Let’s Play with me back when we first starting living together at university were quite few and far between. But one of the very few successes was when I began watching one of my favourite YouTubers play through the first few days of the newly released Stardew Valley. She was hooked. She wanted to watch the whole playthrough from start to finish with me.
But I had a better idea.
My better idea had a couple of issues, however. The first was that she didn’t have a Steam account. The second was that her hardware of choice was a Macbook, and Stardew Valley at the time wasn’t released on Mac. So I trawled through the inter-webs seeing if it was even possible to play Stardew Valley on a Mac using some special techno-cadabra. The process described was a little more involved than I’d have liked for a spur-of-the-moment idea that might not have gone down well anyway, but at length I decided: “Fuck it, let’s give it a shot.”
I procured her Macbook while she was sleeping, spent a couple of hours doing whatever it was that I did (I honestly can’t remember now), created a Steam account for her (profile picture and all), and got it all ready for the morning. I even put the little chicken icon on her dock with some hover-over text that said “surprise!” or “happy late birthday!” or something. All the while I was fully expecting the whole “I mean, it’s sweet and all, but I don’t wanna play it, I just wanted to watch”.
Over the next week, she tended to her farm for hours every day. Her face was absolutely aglow at every moment. Unless she was fishing, and I knew whenever this was the case from the way she’d start swearing like a sailor out of nowhere. Stardew Valley became a balm at the end of a tough day, or simply a happy place to go to and wind down before heading to bed. Since then, she’s logged 325 hours into the game, and even though she now knows pretty much everything there is to know about it, she still gets that positively serene and joyful look on her face whenever that main menu music starts up. So while I’ve never really played much Stardew Valley myself, it still holds a very special place in my heart for that.