I’m In Love With Leah From ‘Stardew Valley’
Notes from my attempts to woo a video game character.
A month or so ago I bought the Playstation 4 game “Stardew Valley,” an indie farming simulation RPG, because I’m a freelance writer with too much free time now, and I heard it was fun and easy. (I don’t like games that require me to, like, learn and memorize button combinations. When I played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 as a teen, all I ever did was mash the keys.) All I really knew about the game going in was that it involved farming, which is mostly all it’s about — you can accumulate little task-oriented missions (and bigger ones, though I’m not there yet), but mostly you just walk around, running errands and talking to people and tending to your crops.
But what nobody warned me about was that my piece of shit farm would fall further to ruins because I’d become more concerned with pursuing its most beautiful character: Leah.
OK, fine, two of its characters. When I first moved to Pelican Town, I was shown to my rundown farm by Robin, the town’s carpenter, and a total babe. Unfortunately, I soon learned that Robin was married — to a man. But I wasn’t upset for long, because soon after I was walking around the forest looking for the mayor’s shorts (don’t ask) and I ran right into Leah. When I introduced myself, she said something like, “You picked a good time to move here…The spring is lovely.” But I wasn’t listening. I was looking at her gorgeous red braided princess hair.
I learned Leah was single because she was listed among my townspeople friends as “Leah (single).” I decided to try to make her my farm girlfriend, a goal that has carried me through spring, summer, and most of the fall thus far. I don’t care about the other things you’re supposed to do in this game, like exploring the abandoned mine, or using my sword. All I do is pick up wild blackberries and flirt with Leah.
Sometimes it does not go very well. In Stardew Valley, as in real life, you can win people over by giving them presents. The first gift I gave Leah was an ice cream cone. She made a face and said “I guess everyone has different tastes.” I found that very hurtful. I was too embarrassed to talk to her for three days after that.
Eventually, though, Leah and I became good enough friends that she let me into her house. When she invites me in, she asks me to watch her sculpt, as if I am the Bette to her Jodi on “The L Word.” It’s extremely sensual. She also says something about how the layers of wood reveal the art’s true essence. Of the available replies given to me, I choose, “People are like that too.” Smooth. I do not choose “May I have a kiss? (creepy),” though it is very tempting.
Part of the problem with Leah is that I can never fucking find her. This isn’t a big town. I can’t visit Pierre’s for a packet of potato seeds without running into Gus and Abigail and Marnie and Shane at the least. Yet Leah eludes me. A (real-life) friend tells me her schedule is available online, but that feels intrusive. I do not want her to know I am that into her. So I wait.
The next time I see her is at the end of summer, when all the town gathers at the beach to watch the jellyfish come in. It is the most moving and romantic event I have ever seen depicted in pixelated 16-bit graphics. I’m not actually standing by Leah when it happens, but it definitely feels like we each know the other is there.
The next day is even better. When I walk into Leah’s house (which she likes me enough to let me do now), she’s on the phone with her ex-girlfriend Kel. Apparently Kel wanted Leah to become a doctor and live with her in the city, but she can’t and she won’t, because she is an artist. I love how principled she is. And she’s confiding in me about her ex. Things are starting to come together. We are at 6 hearts of a possible 10. It’s almost winter and I would really like to win her over by next spring.
The next time I run into Leah, she says, “There’s a lot of really good places to walk around here.” Is that a hint? I feel like that’s a hint.