Beyond the Valley: How Mods Affect Games like Stardew Valley

Beyond the Valley: How Mods Affect Games like Stardew Valley


The world of gaming has evolved significantly over the years, offering players increasingly immersive and engaging experiences. One crucial factor that contributes to the longevity and enduring popularity of many games is the presence of game modifications, known as “mods.” These player-created modifications introduce new content, gameplay mechanics, and alterations to existing games. One case that exemplifies the transformative power of game mods is the indie farming simulation game, Stardew Valley. The game’s robust modding community has breathed a new life into the pixelated world of Pelican Town, greatly extended its lifespan and continued relevance. In this essay, I will explore how the effects that modding has to games and the overall gaming industry.


The value of games often undergoes a significant diminishment once they are completed. The “first-time” magic of games through immersive experiences, challenges, and discoveries gradually loses their impact when played-through again. An example of this from Read, Write, Play is the narration-based game, What Remains of Edith Finch. Once we find out about the fate of each family member there is really no incentive or value in replaying the game. Video game mods add replay value to the game. Mods allow players to introduce new elements, mechanics, or even entirely new game modes into an existing game. Imagine a mod or new content where we can play as Edith’s child and avoid or break the family curse. These extensions add a new life to the game and players who were attached or captivated by the original vanilla version of the game can interact with it more or play it in a different way.

The Good

There are several ways that mods add new features to a game. Some of the more common ones are adding new challenges and game play mechanics that enhance the complexity and depth of the game. By introducing a unique enemy, puzzles, or gameplay system, mods create fresh challenges for players to overcome. Additionally, mods often introduce new playable characters, bosses, and NPCs. Personal interaction and characters are important in a game’s overall design. By adding new characters, players are offered a new fresh perspective, unique abilities, and engaging storylines. Well-designed characters can create emotional connections and investment into the game’s universe. Additionally, mods that change the interaction of NPCs or adds new ones makes the game more dynamic and immersion. NPCs contribute to the game’s atmosphere and provide opportunities for role-playing or decision making. Overall, these mods add a sense of novelty back into the game that the original game has already exhausted. The design of mods takes in similar considerations that traditional process of game design does. Successful mods contribute to the game’s world building, emotional engagement, and overall player agency in the game.

Prior to the Ginger Island patch, players tend to lose drive and motivation for the game after building the community center and receiving an evaluation of their performance on year 3. The community center served as a central goal and a driving force for players during the early stages of the game. There is a lack of expansion once the center is completed. The creators added Ginger Island to revive and counter this. The Ginger Island patch introduced an entirely new location to the game and provided players with a fresh area to explore and discover. The patch reignited a sense of discovery, exploration, and progression within the game that rewarded players with a renewed passion. This sense of “new” is what makes mods so successful for Stardew Valley. Patches take a while to develop and is at the digression of the creators of the game. By adapting mods, players have more agency in what they want to be “new”, and they do not have to wait. Creators also may want to move away from a game and work on something new. Mods is a way for games to retain interest even when content is no longer released. Some of my favorite mods and fan-favorite mods are the “Stardew Valley Expanded” pack that adds new locations, extra NPCs, and more character events. It also adds new soundtracks for players who are tired of the original tunes. Another beloved mod is the tractors mod that introduces more modern technology to the game. The price of this tractor is 150000g and requires several materials which creates additional goals for the player to work towards.

In addition to novelty and writing new content, sometimes the motivation for mods is to introduce elements that enrich existing mechanics and add convenience. Players can adjust the visuals of the game to their liking with mods making the game more of a tailored experience. Customization mods provide players with the opportunity to express their unique preferences and creativity within the game. By allowing players to adjust the appearance and aesthetics of their characters or the game world, mods enable individuals to project their personal identity and style onto their in-game representation. This expression enhances the sense of ownership and attachment the player has to the game. Mods that enhance visual aspects of the game can also contribute to the immersion and role-playing experience of the game. Furthermore, mods like auto-fishing and NPC mapping in Stardew, allow for players to take out or add features to the game to make it more convenient for them. While there are some criticisms about how modding for convivence is a form of cheating and how accomplishments using the mods are unearned, I argue that it is entirely dependent on the type of game you are playing. In Stardew and other games where mods are accepted and allowed by the creators of the game, modding out of convenience allows for players to spend more time on elements that they actually enjoy in the game. In games that are more driven in competition, modding your game could be not as morally accepting and viewed dishonorable.

Another way that modding can improve a game is through accessibility. At the core, Stardew Valley despite being made by a single creator has a few accessibilities features out of the box. The players can change their key bindings, change the scale of the zoom, and you are able to disable flashing lights from the thunderstorm. To improve on this, there are several mods to change the color visuals, a look-up feature to make the game more cognitive accessible, and text-to-speech and speech recognition features. These added features open the game to a wider audience and highlights ways that new game developers can make their game more user friendly.

Mods play a crucial role in building and fostering communities within the gaming world. Mods bring together like-minded gamers who share a passion for a particular game. When players discover and engage with mods, they become more drawn to online fourms, websites and social media platforms that modding enthusiasts gather. An example of this is Nexus for Stardew. These platforms become a space where players can discuss experiences, ideas, and collaborate. Mods provide a platform for aspiring game developers and designers to showcase their talents and creativity. While starting a game and building recognition is difficult from the ground up working on games that are already established can help gain traction for a developer’s own personal project. There are other ways that modding helps form a community. Modders can help improve and report issues with other work and there is a shared ownership and investment to these communities.

The modding community is a very big aspect of Stardew Valley. The community provides a platform for their experiences and stories. There is wikis and forums built to help members of the community. The community surrounding Stardew Valley enhances the game by providing shared experiences, tips, events, and support and encouragement that would not be present without mods.

The Bad

Game developers have a specific vision and intent when creating their games. Mods can potentially diverge from this vision, introducing elements that the original creators did not intend or altering the intended gameplay experience. This can lead to a clash between modded version and the original direction of the game. Some creators may feel that mods dilute their creative vision or compromise the integrity of their work as they no longer have complete control over how players interact with the game. There are also concerns with the quality and stability of the mods. Poorly designed or implemented mods can introduce bugs, glitches, or compatibility issues to the game. This can cause players to feel frustration towards the game although it was not the fault of the creators. As mentioned earlier, modding for convenience may lead to unintended game imbalance as mods have the potential to alter the balance and difficulty of a game. While players may appreciate these adjustments, mods can disrupt the intended challenge or progression curve set by the developers. Mods that introduce overpowered weapons, unlimited resources, or other imbalances can diminish the sense of achievement and challenge that the original game aimed to provide. Mods can also pose challenges in online multiplayer environments since each player may have different mods install leading to compatibility issues or unfair advantages/disadvantages among players. It also complicates the matchmaking system to accommodate for these mods.

Another issue that arises is legal and intellectual property concerns since the use of modding can potentially involve the use of copyrighted materials such as game assets, textures, or sound files. There should be a level of caution as to not infringe on the intellectual property rights that game developers may hold. Sharing or distributing mods raise legal concerns especially when modders are profiting from the game without the proper authorization of the developer. Modifying the game’s code can also raise reverse engineering concerns, which could also get modders into some legal troubles.

It’s important to note that these negative aspects are not inherent to all mods and they can be addressed or mitigated through proper guidelines from the community and game creators. It is important for games to have a clear guideline on what is acceptable to mod and what is not.

The creators of Stardew have been supportive of modding within the game which has attributed to how expansive the mods are. Stardew Valley has an official modding API that allows modders to create mods using standardized tools and methods. The creators have also included documentations on how to mod and how to install them.


Overall, mods play an important role in incorporating newness to a game which promotes longevity and replayability. Mods also help incorporate missing elements to the game that enrich the overall user experience, such as changing existing elements and incorporating more accessibility features. Additionally, modding brings in a sense of self to the game through visual and sound alterations. It is important to note that mods can also be dangerous to a creator’s vision and there have been legal complications with it. It is important to mod in caution or follow a games guideline for it.

My Experience With Modding

One of the first mods that I installed for Stardew Valley was a multiplayer mod to support more than four players. I didn’t want to leave a friend out. I remember noting how easy it was to get it set up. While there was a bug in how I installed it (it was my fault I put the Mods folder in the wrong location), there was also a lot of documentation on ways to fix it. After installing this mod, I went through a rabbit hole. I was amazed by how expansive and cute some of the mods were.


What I really like about Stardew mods is that it is very easy to disable or remove them. You also have the option to run without mods all together. I like how the creators are so open with their modding guidelines and how modding addressed a long-term issue for Stardew players which is new content. I enjoy the agency that mods have as well. I can choose which ones I want which makes the game experience more personal for me when the game was designed for a general audience.


Works Cited

Akers, Josh. “How Modders Affect the Lifespan of Video Games.” The Fluco Beat, Accessed 16 June 2023.

Bostan, Barbaros, and Ugur Kaplancali. “Explorations in player motivations: game mods.” Proceedings of GAMEON-ASIA (2010).

Chan, Nic. Modding Stardew Valley for Accessibility, 18 Apr. 2022,

Cope, Beth. “10 Best Stardew Valley Mods, Ranked.” CBR, 13 Apr. 2023,

Dey, Tapajit, Jacob Logan Massengill, and Audris Mockus. “Analysis of popularity of game mods: A case study.” Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play Cmpanion Extended Abstracts. 2016.

Münch, Merlin. “Fooling the User? Modding in the Video Game Industry.” Internet Policy Review, 19 June 2013,

Postigo, Hector. “Of mods and modders: Chasing down the value of fan-based digital game modifications.” Games and culture 2.4 (2007): 300-313.

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