GoldVision On Killing Weeds in Stardew Valley

In a 2018 wrap up video, peace seeking, video game playing shaman GoldVision, opens by referencing an interesting problem he had while playing Stardew Valley.

Is destroying weeds in Stardew Valley an act of violence?

There are a couple of things to get out of the way here. First, GoldVision’s goal as he states in the beginning of the video is to “not hurt anyone in a video game”. Clearly weeds, as represented in the game Stardew Valley, are not meant to be perceived as people. They hold only the most basic trait with the Non Player Characters (NPCs), they both take up space within a section of the map. Weeds cannot be conversed with, they do not move in real time, they not have measurable relationship with the character, and they can only be interacted with by the player character by being cut. This places them in a separate category not only from animals (which do have a relationship with the player, move, and usually have a renewable harvestable material associated with them), but also the other cultivated plants in the game, which must be maintained by the player via seeding, watering, and harvesting.

Of course, this defines weeds by the interactions possible by the player. Which may not be an all encompassing view of the game world. This is what GoldVision refers to being unsure of, when he asks “because they disappeared out of existence, the action was causing permanent damage to the world… ”? Even if the player has a relatively fewer number of actions to engage with an entity in the world, that doesn’t mean that damage to the entity is insignificant, especially in regards to the entirety of the game world.

Later on in the video GoldVision excuses destroying the projectiles in the game Audio Shield as “probably not having a nervous system” and “exploding into a multitude of other projectiles, which seems like a projectiles dream come true”. Presumably in the game Audio Shield, the multitude of projectiles do eventually disappear from the world, and do not clump in a pile at the player’s feet. But the nervous system in plants may still present an issue.

Cuting Weeds Footage from Seri! Pixel Biologist

In a study done by the University of Warsaw Life Sciences, plants do have a method of “thinking” and “remembering” information. Lights shined onto the plants caused electro-chemical responses in the plants that could be identified by light type (red/blue/white light). While this is not the same as a human method of thinking, electro-chemical signals being distributed throughout an organism’s body does allow some sense of awareness of the world surrounding it.

However, weeds in Stardew Valley are only a facsimile of plants in the physical world, they do not actually posses the same attributes. Sensing light and distributing a response to the light throughout the sprite does not actually occur. Additional weeds growing on the player’s farm is determined by the location and number of weeds present, but this is not determined by the individual weed. Rather it’s determined by the Farm class within the game’s code.

In a more recent video on the game Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, GoldVision meditates on his accidental knockout of another player:

“This counted as a knockout which isn’t ideal but definitely not murder, in that I didn't kill him as much as I pushed him outside of our shared space. I believe this is beautifully reflective of our shared reality. In that it’s not being pummeled too hard, or being laser blasted, or running out of ink, do we lose our chance to play. It is when we are completely removed from the playing field do we cease to exist.”

This may lead to the conclusion that removing a weed from Stardew Valley, removing it from the game world, causes it to cease to exist. And at least 50% of the time that may be true. According to the Stardew Valley Wiki: “ Weeds have a 50% chance to drop 1 Fiber when cut with a Scythe, Axe, Pickaxe, or Sword.” GoldVision refers to the destruction of rocks and ore in Stardew Valley as being OK as the materials can be picked up in one’s inventory and therefore, not being removed from the shared play space.

Line 667 of the Decompiled Stardew Valley source code in Object.cs indicates that whether or not a particular weed provides a Fiber material is determined when the player actually interacts with the weed, as apposed to when the weed is spawned in the world. This, as GoldVision frequently points out, allows us to recognize that we and the game world are intrinsically linked. GoldVision wonders whether in destroying the weed, “the action was causing permanent damage to world and subsequently my psyche”.

private void cutWeed(Farmer who)
{
Color color = Color.Green;
string cueName = "cut";
int rowInAnimationTexture = 50;
this.fragility = 2;
int parentSheetIndex = -1;
if (Game1.random.NextDouble() < 0.5)
parentSheetIndex = 771;
else if (Game1.random.NextDouble() < 0.05)
parentSheetIndex = 770;
switch (this.parentSheetIndex)
...

Permanent is the key adjective there. While there is a 50% chance to removing an individual weed from the game world, you actually can’t cause permanent damage to the weeds as population. Weeds will continue to spawn each day (especially during season changes), into perpetuity. If you removed all weeds present in the game world, they would still eventually return. Weeds are actually one of the permanent fixtures in the world.

So to come back to the original question, is destroying weeds in Stardew Valley an act of violence? I’d say no, for the following reasons:

  • Weeds in Stardew Valley do not have sentience
  • Weeds as individuals have a 50% chance of being turned into material
  • Weeds as a population can never be completely removed from the game world

The only exceptions to this are several weeds within Pelican Town and Cindersap Forest, which according to the wiki do not respawn after the first several days of the game. These weeds, you may want to avoid if you are attempting a completely pacifist run of Stardew Valley.

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Taylor Nodell

Taylor Nodell

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Developer. Musician. Naturalist. Traveler. In any order. @tayloredtotaylor