I don’t think there’s any real barrier that blocks women from enjoying gaming aside from the early cultural brigade that is the remnants of 1990s advertising. Between my love/hate relationship with League of Legends and the love/love relationship with all of the other games I play, including Stardew Valley, there isn’t a single personality trait that could attach itself to my passion for video games that women don’t also have. Call me a baffoon, but I really think the canyon that segregates the sexes in the video gaming community could be as simple as early exposure and expectations. After all, boys game, and girls don’t really like to, right? So get your son a console and your daughter a fuckin’ thingy that’s not a video game. And that kind of logic is probably as pervasive as it is seemingly innocuous.
In any case, I can sit here all day long and theorize the could-be’s for why things are the way that they are, but instead, I’ll stick my neck out and provide a solution: Stardew Valley. For years this game has been my go-to recommendation for a specific type of person: She who does not play video games. Not He who does not play video games, not They who play video games already, but, specifically, she, and a she who hasn’t touched games in any real sense throughout life. Don’t ask me for a peer-reviewed study on why, but Stardew Valley always comes through and manages to hit right on target with women who don’t usually like video games. And that’s objectively a good thing.
But Why Should Anyone Want to Play Videogames?
Video gaming, for all of you out of touch so-and-so’s, isn’t the largely portrayed teenage boy sucking down Mountain Dew at 4 in the morning (although it can be that.) It’s a storytelling medium, a book, a movie, a puzzle, a competition, a cooperative project, and a way for developers to connect with their audience and for said audience to connect to each other. Stardew Valley, in particular, proves to be an aid to relaxation and helps with compartmentalization on top of all of the aforementioned dimensions. The game revolves around socializing, and activates that part of the brain that makes you want to get up and meet someone. The aspects of Stardew Valley that make it fun are the same aspects that make it feel like a mature, well developed creation that doesn’t relish in having an endgame, but, rather, enjoys having each moment at any point in its stages be a reward in it of itself.
I’d wager the hardest part of socializing is moving beyond the fact that any one encounter is unlikely. The hardest part of work is moving beyond the fact that any one day of hard work is but a small percentage of what now needs, and will need, to be done. The hardest part of anything is wrapping one’s head around the small nature of everything we do. It can be demotivating, and it can rob us of our day-to-day experiences that provide life with a sense of punch. It can numb us.
Playing Stardew Valley is like taking a lesson in observing the exact opposite effects. The small things you do are incredibly meaningful for your own self and the people you surround yourself with in the long term. And not only do they make great changes that lead to greater outcomes, but said outcomes won’t even be that important, since the act of making that change, and with whom, is of a grander meaning than whatever they could lead to, even if what they lead to is what we think we ultimately want.
Of course, Stardew Valley is, indeed, just a video game. It isn’t required to understand any of this or to live in a way that incorporates its timeless lessons into its makeup. That said, the necessities that make up the great part of a whole person, and their life, are so often discarded or otherwise undervalued in the modern world that playing something simple (but of quality) like Stardew Valley is an easy way to fall back in love with the days, people, and work we fill our lives with. Find a woman you know (or don’t know) and tell her to play Stardew Valley.