Video games that let you build up a life and a personality for a character typically call on you to make moral choices. Some people purposefully tread down the path of utter jerkdom—kicking up dirt as they travel)—and resolve to be as mean and hurtful as possible. Meanwhile, the thought of being mean to a video game character sends me spiralling into a mild panic attack.
Yeah, video game characters aren't real. Yeah, they're constructs of code and pixels. But I guess I have a surplus of empathy that's not going anywhere, so I may as well pour some of it out for the ladies and gentlemen of Stardew Valley. Who, by the way, can have their hearts utterly shattered by you in the new beta update. Yes, the same beta update that adds multiplayer in addition to the possibility of getting busted for fooling around on your potential girlfriends and boyfriends. Friendship runs hot and cold in this valley.
Stardew Valley's new relationship disaster scenario was posted on the game's subreddit by "irrelephante." An Imgur album set up by irrelephante offers a screen-by-screen breakdown of what happens when all your "boyfriends" corner you after you work your way up to a serious ten-heart relationship with each one (there's a scorned girlfriend variant, too). Alex, Sam, Seth, and Elliott (who still needs to be smacked around with a sock full of soap bars) are understandably pissed, but Harvey and Shane's reactions are saddening. Harvey, who was hoping to settle down and raise a family with the player, wants to know where he went wrong. And Shane, whose bond with the player up until that point involves overcoming a struggle with alcoholism, slides back into bad habits.
Once you've endured the Persona-style public shaming (at least the beatdown is only verbal, unlike what happens if you're caught dating all the girls in Persona 5), all your "loves" break up with you at once, and they won't talk to you for some time. But as another Imgur album from irrelephante demonstrates, forgiveness is possible after 11 days or so. But it's currently unclear when or if you can reach "Boyfriend" or "Girlfriend" status again with Stardew Valley's bachelors / bachelorettes.
A few players on the Stardew Valley subreddit and beyond are disappointed to learn the update effectively seals off any potential for a "polyamorous" romance. Much as I'd like to see that option come to fruition in a future update, cheating on six people at once isn't the most romantic activity in the world. Polyamorous romances are built on consent and trust, not by sneaking behind the backs of a bunch of lovers who never consented to be anything but monogamous.
Be good to the people you love, both inside the digital realm of Stardew Valley and in real-world meatspace. When you're not sure what it takes to be a decent person, let this credo be your guide: "Don't give anyone a reason to wade hip-deep into the morass of '90s break-up songs."