Stardew Valley creator: 'I certainly don't want my game to cause harm to any guinea pigs'

You might think Stardew Valley is a cute game about raising and caring for farm animals—but not every animal in the valley is living a peaceful existence. At this very moment, countless guinea pigs across every save file of Stardew Valley are suffering in silence. And this week, one rodent rabble-rouser decided enough was enough. If no one else was going to stand up for the defenseless furballs, they would.

The perpetrator of this unspeakable injustice is Abigail, the purple-haired bachelorette whose parents own Pierre's General Store. She's a sweet girl—ignoring all the animal abuse, that is.

"I am hoping Chucklefish and ConcernedApe may make this change to teach people how guinea pigs should be treated."

— Buffy_B

If you've played Stardew Valley, you've visited her parents' store dozens of times. But did you know just beyond the shelves of seeds and groceries, animal rights are being abused on a daily basis? Near the back of Abigail's bedroom a small pixels-wide cage is the source of so much consternation for one player that they've decided to formally request that Eric Barone, the sole developer of Stardew Valley, make a series of changes to rectify the problem.

"This time around on my new farm, I decided to woo Abigail," explains Buffy_B on Reddit. "To my disappointment, Abigail is practicing some very irresponsible pet ownership." She begins her treatise by explaining that, contrary to what many think, guinea pigs are not "starter pets" and that they are "very time consuming and finicky."

But when it comes to Abigail's guinea pig, David Jr., it's obvious she doesn't have the first idea of how to take care of the poor critter. As Buffy_B lays out, Abigail is making three critical errors in caring for David Jr.

Guinea guinea never gets

David Jr. is in that tiny cage next to Abigail's dresser.

The first is that guinea pigs are herd animals and should never be alone. "In fact, in some countries it's considered so cruel to have a lone guinea pig that it's illegal to buy just one without having a friend for it. Having a lone guinea pig will decrease its lifespan," Buffy_B explains.

"Guinea pigs should never, ever have a wheel in its cage," Buffy_B adds. "Wheels can damage their spines and kill them. They are not like hamsters. Instead, they should have large cages that they can run around and also get supervised floor time so they can run and play with each other."

And finally: "Piggies should have [cubes and coroplast] cages, not aquariums. There isn't proper ventilation for them to breathe."

It's a damning series of infractions that Abigail has committed, so Buffy_B is asking Barone to issue an update that fixes these abuses so that David Jr. can live a happier life. "I am hoping Chucklefish and ConcernedApe may make this change to teach people how guinea pigs should be treated," Buffy_B says. "I ask you to please reconsider these three things in your game."

It's an interesting request, one that piggybacks on Mojang updating Minecraft so that players no longer feed parrots chocolate chip cookies to tame or breed them. Unbeknownst to the developers, chocolate is toxic to parrots, and members of the community were concerned that young children might mimic Minecraft and feed chocolate to real-life parrots. It was such a huge issue that the Reddit post calling for the change is the most upvoted thread of all time on the Minecraft subreddit. 

Buffy_B's plea, however, has largely been met with "are you kidding?" After all, I can't imagine many people are looking to Stardew Valley to learn proper guinea pig care. David Jr. is about a pixel wide and you can't interact with him. In fact, the only reason players know what's in Abigail's cage is through dialogue.

"This is such a minor thing that I don't think it would be worth the 20 minutes it would take to change the assets for it," argues ThimonTheLuff. "Stardew is hardly a realistic game, and I'd argue that none of the farm animals, nor your own pets in the game, are treated responsibly. Like at all. If you want to you can decide to simply not feed them, leave them outside forever, let them freeze in the winter etc. The only real consequence of not taking care of your animals is that you wont profit from them. Hell, even when you get kids you don't have to actually dedicate any time to them."

Still, that didn't stop Buffy_B's post from being one of the most popular on the Stardew Valley subreddit, as players argued back and forth between the merits of whether or not a tiny guinea pig in a room could inspire real-life acts of animal negligence.

"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."

— Eric Barone

But, despite all the bickering, there's plenty of questions I had for Stardew Valley's creator. Abigail might be an animal abuser, but Barone was the one who programmed her.

"I was a bit surprised when I first saw it, because it's not something that had ever crossed my mind before," Barone writes in an email. "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.'"

But Barone's fatal mistake was not considering that guinea pigs have different needs than their furry cousins. "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."

Whether he's actually going to make the change, however, is still up in the air. "I haven't decided what to do about it 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," he writes. "I'll have to think about it some more."

For now, despite all the rage David Jr. is still just a rat in a cage. If you happen to see Abigail, do PETA a favor and give her a handful of clay. She hates clay. 

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.