In the early-noughties the beloved proprietor of the only shop in my grandmother’s South Devon village died unexpectedly. While the villagers mourned, a question loomed: who would sell the eggs, order the newspapers, and chat with the lonely now that he was gone? Soon, a rumour spread: one of the major supermarkets planned to take over the vacated premises. A group of dismayed villagers rallied with an obstructive plan: they would pool their resources, run the shop as an independent business and, with a certain Blitz resolve, hold back the corporate invasion.
It’s the kind of sentimentally defiant local English story that dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench could whimsically play on the big screen with Oscar-baiting performances. And it’s also, broadly, the premise of Stardew Valley, 2016’s PC hit portrayal of agrarian life which has finally been ported to Nintendo’s Switch, hardware to which the game is joyously well-suited.
In Stardew Valley, the corporation threatening the rural life is Joja Mart, whose manager thinks nothing of walking into Pelican Town’s shop, run by a bespectacled man called Pierre, wielding a fistful of 50 per cent-off coupons to lure away faithful customers. The temptation to allow Joja, with its slick money, to take over the community is severe. The local railway line is in ruins, the town hall derelict and critter-infested. Pelican Town’s mayor admits that, the next time a villager signs up for a Joja loyalty card, he will hand over the once-proud premises to big business. Pelican Town’s community, in other words, is making its final stand against commercialisation, principally via a few well-kept herbaceous borders.
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