Stardew Valley is a time sink and here’s why using… math

I’ve been playing Stardew Valley quite a bit lately and like almost everyone else I’m very surprised by how much time I’ve spent playing.

To date, I’ve been running around Pelican Town for about 17 hours, but that probably pales in comparison to a lot of other players.

I bring this up mostly because of how many times I’ve seen this brought up in reviews online. The sentence in the review typically reads, “I can’t believe I spent 17 hours playing Stardew Valley and I’ve loved every second of it.”

This comment is almost as consistent as going to the negative reviews on Steam and seeing the first one says, “Why are you looking at the negative reviews, buy the game blah, blah, blah”.

However, there’s a pretty good reason why we should look at time in Stardew Valley and looking into why the game is such a time sink.

If you quit Stardew Valley in the middle of the day, you are then forced to restart the day from the beginning. The only way to save the game is to go to sleep. Thus when you start a day, you enter into a kind of informal contract where you feel compelled to reach the end of the day.

Most people who play the game (and I’m going off my own experiences here) will also try to get a full day’s work in before going to sleep, typically at midnight or later. That means they’ll spend about 18 hours in game to ensure their estate flourishes.

Now let’s do a little math.

A typical day in Stardew Valley (from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.) lasts for about 12.6 minutes — every 7 seconds in real life accounts for about 10 minutes in the game. That means each hour lasts about 42 seconds, so you multiply that by 18 hours in a day and then divide that by 60 to get 12.6 minutes per day (or 14 minutes if you reach the 2 a.m. limit).

7 seconds x 6 (10 second blocks)
= 42 seconds x 18 hours
= 756 second / 60 minute in an hour
= 12.6 minutes per day

This means if there are 28 days in a month, you spend about 12.6 minutes x 28 days = 352.8 minutes / 60 = 5.88 hours per month, so about 23.52 hours playing per year not counting the festivals where there are no time limits or the amount of time you spend paused or sleeping early.

12.6 minutes x 28 days
= 352.8 minutes per month X 4 months / 60 minutes in an hour
= 23.52 hours per year

So if you spend 12.6 minutes playing each day in about an hour’s time you can complete about 5 days, which is quite a bit of time. According to How Long to Beat, Stardew Valley will take about 52 hours to complete or about 2.2 years of in-game time to “win”.

With saving locked to sleep, gameplay built around doing as much in a day as possible, and each day lasting around 12.6 minutes it’s no wonder that people end up sinking hours into the game.

An interesting comparison to bring up is that in Harvest Moon 64 (a game that Stardew Valley is often been compared to), each day (from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.) lasts only 3 minutes.

In that 3 minutes, you can go through your daily tasks, forage, meet people, and perhaps buy something, and that’s not counting the time you spend indoors or in menus where time is frozen. If each month has about 28 – 30 days it would take about 84 minutes or 1.4 hours to complete a month thus taking about 5.6 hours to a year.

The “end” of Harvest Moon 64 also occurs in your third year where you’re visited by your father who checks up on your progress, so it’ll take about 16.8 hours to complete the game. In some games in the series you also have to get married within the first year to stick around town, so there’s also that to consider.

There were time while playing Harvest Moon 64 that I really struggled to keep up with everything I had to accomplish in a day. Time management is a huge part of the game, so in comparison the rather long days of Stardew Valley make for a much more laid back experience.

The amount of time the player is given in Stardew Valley basically reflects the game’s complexity with its 10 eligible bachelors/bachelorettes to romance, enemies to combat, crafts to craft, fish to fish, vegetables to farm, buildings to build, recipes to cook, etc. There’s so much more to do, so it’s only natural that each day would last quite a bit longer.

***

Anyway, just an interesting observation.

If you ever find yourself wishing that the days in Stardew Valley were a bit longer be happy that you’ve never had to experience the chaotically fast days of Harvest Moon 64.

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