When you think of online dramas, Stardew Valley may not be the first thing to pop into your head, granted, but an argument about animal welfare has seemingly split the game's community.
If you’ve played Stardew Valley, you’ve no doubt visited Pierre’s General Store, where purple-haired Abigail lives and works with her parents. Secreted away in the girl’s bedroom is an animal welfare issue of such concern to player Buffy_B, they contacted the game’s creator, Eric Barone, to demand change.
The issue? “I have three rescue guinea pigs and there are three things Abigail is doing very wrong with her pet [guinea pig], David,” Buffy_B says on Reddit. “Since there are so many people playing you [sic] game, I was hoping you could correct this to better educate people about guinea pigs.”
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“Guinea pigs are wonderful, adorable, and smart pets,” they add. “They are not 'starter' pets, they are actually very time consuming and finicky. They need fresh hay, water, and vegetables daily -- but only specific vegetables.”
They then detail the three things Abigail is doing incorrectly: having lone guinea pigs when they’re “herd animals,” housing them in an incorrect cage, and putting a wheel in its habitat.
"I am hoping Chucklefish and ConcernedApe may make this change to teach people how guinea pigs should be treated," they add.
If you didn’t know, Mojang recently received a similar request to stop players feeding in-game parrots chocolate chip cookies in Minecraft. The developers hadn’t known chocolate is poisonous to parrots, and some players were concerned that kids playing the game would mistakenly think it’s okay to feed real parrots choc chip cookies, too.
But whereas that thread was celebrated, Buffy_B’s request hasn’t been met with such positivity, despite hundreds of upvotes.
“I would agree to changing it IF it was actually important to the game play or had any impact whatsoever,” username5550123 replies. “There are a bunch of unrealistic things about this game that are way more prominent then [sic] [Abigail’s] pet that I think it's unfair to go ask ConcernedApe to do extra work for something that adds no real value to the game.”
In an email to PC Gamer, creator Eric Barone admitted he hadn’t thought much about it when putting David the guinea pig into the game.
"I was a bit surprised when I first saw it, because it's not something that had ever crossed my mind before," Barone writes. "Originally, I was going to have Abigail own a hamster, but then I thought to myself, 'hamsters seem kind of trendy right now, maybe I should do something different like a guinea pig.'
"I don't remember looking into it that deeply, and I was certainly unaware that the design of the cage would be harmful to a guinea pig in real life."
As for whether or not Barone will make the change? Well, he hasn’t decided yet.
"I certainly don't want my game to cause harm to any guinea pigs, but I'm also not sure if the mistake would actually result in that. I'll have to think about it some more."