The Debate Over A Stardew Valley Mod That Lets You Marry A Child

The Debate Over A Stardew Valley Mod That Lets You Marry A Child

A mod that lets you marry a child in popular farming game Stardew Valley started as a joke, according to its creator, but it's now spurring a familiar debate about what it means to depict morally reprehensible behaviours virtually.

The mod was created last month and has already been scrubbed from the popular mod hub Mod Nexus, where its creator has been banned. The mod, called Jas' Marriage Mod, is instead listed on Stardew Valley Mods, where it is emblazoned with red text that signals the limits of its outrageousness: "This is not a sex mod," the note reads. "It will NEVER be a sex mod."

The mod expands wedding options in the single-player farming and dating game to include Jas, a girl who seems to be about 10 or 11. It includes events as you progress through the relationship, custom dialogue, and a marriage schedule. There's an entire story arc that involves Jas, who likes to play with dolls and isn't allowed to leave her house after 6pm becoming less shy and afraid of people. The player's character takes on a sort of foundational role for her, almost like a mother/father. It's weirdly sweet. ...And then you get married.

Most mods for Stardew Valley are less transgressive. One modder unironically devised an in-game tax system. Others went to great lengths to mod more (or less) diversity into the game's cast. There are also the requisite sexy mods and references to games like Final Fantasy and Pokemon.

But envelope-pushing mods are common in video games, which themselves depict a heap of murder without much controversy. For years, the modding communities surrounding games like Fallout and Skyrim have added the ability to kill kids to those games. They cast it not as a deviant desire but as a barometer for realism in the game world. There's a reason those two games' creators at Bethesda disallow child murder by default: it's messed up. Still, some people argue, it's just a game. Why not go all the way with it? After all, it's a cutthroat post-apocalypse. You can kill everybody else.

The Debate Over A Stardew Valley Mod That Lets You Marry A Child

The Stardew Valley kid-marriage mod has provoked similar argument about whether what is too far in real life is also too far in video games. A Reddit thread about the mod garnered a whole host of negative reactions, though some anything-goes cavaliers rode to its defence. One user said people should "stop being crybabies and let people mod whatever they want in the game. If you don't like [it], just don't use it." Another shot back: "People who mod shit like this are vile & should feel bad."

The mod initially comes off as something of a joke. "Ever wanted to marry Jas?" its description asks. "You've got problems mate, but you've come to the right place."

Watching a Let's Play of it (TW: child abuse), that part made me sick to the stomach. The kiss and the connotations arising from it were just too much, even with tiny virtual sprite characters and a big ol' NO SEX sign in the window.

"My original intention was to create an entirely new marriageable [non-player character] for the game," the mod's creator, who goes by randomAnon123, told me over DMs. They had been hanging out in 4chan's /vg/ board and noticed people complaining about the blandness of the marriage candidates in the game. Someone had replied speculating about when someone would make a Jas marriage mod. "So I thought it'd be funny to create a mock-up heart event for Jas. I then posted a webm file of the event on the general, and people asked me to make an actual marriage mod for her."

It's no surprise that this was born on 4chan. 4chan is a place where you get noticed by doing things that are over-the-top. Otherwise, you sink beneath a sea of fellow anonymous posters. So people test limits, joke about anything they can think of, even if it's taboo for good reason. Especially if it's taboo for good reason. It's a game of winding people up, of maintaining purposeful distance from earnestness or serious feelings.

The Debate Over A Stardew Valley Mod That Lets You Marry A Child

At first, randomAnon123 only posted the mod there, because they knew they were playing with fire. "I get it," they said. "After all it is a mod that lets you marry a child." They added, however, that "I find some people's reactions a bit funny, because she's, you know, not real."

For the most part, randomAnon123 is ready to wash their hands of the mod. They are considering a "sort of Yandere rewrite of this mod" that would explore the idea of Jas becoming clingy, possibly violent as a result of her less-than-stellar upbringing. It's an extremely dark take, randomAnon123 admitted, one inspired by anime and horror. "I admit that I was also rewatching [psychological thriller anime] Mirai Nikki at the time this idea popped into my head," they said, "I really think there should be more dangerous love interests in this game."

They're also looking into the more obvious solution to the mod's biggest, ickiest problem: making Jas into an older character. "Obviously that would take a lot of fiddling, from making entirely new sprites and portraits for her, to writing new dialogue and events," they said. "I would probably also need to age up [other child character] Vincent to keep things consistent, but I really like the idea of making this mod, so hopefully I won't lose interest in the game until I'm done with it."

The Debate Over A Stardew Valley Mod That Lets You Marry A Child

For now, the mod remains one about marrying a child. 4chan and places like it often subscribe to the notion that, as long as something's not directly hurting anybody and it's not real, it's fair game. Some even go so far as to say that these sorts of things are good outlets for people who might otherwise harm real children. But this mod skirts awfully close to something that is frowned upon in our culture, something that's frowned upon for a damn good reason.

I was conflicted about even running this article. Tame as the mod is compared to, well, a lot of other things out there, it still twisted my guts into a misery pretzel. I found the idea of marrying a child off-putting, sickening. I appreciated that the mod depicts Jas getting over some difficulties with parental neglect, but the innocence of those scenes feels, intentionally or not, like a normalization of the actions of an adult romancing a child. The mod didn't even begin to dig the fact that no child can reasonably consent on the same level as an adult, or the manipulation that often precedes these situations. It failed to consider or respect the experiences of victims of extremely harmful, traumatising situations.

Art can address difficult topics. Vladimir Nabokov's renowned and controversial novel Lolita tackled this very thing. It's now taught, dissected, and debated in universities across the world. But the Jas' Marriage Mod feels too light, too flip, too uninterested in exploring the scope of its subject matter to feel worth playing through, let alone championing.


Comments

    And here I thought the mod was going to revert your character into to a child, so you'd grow up and do one of those Marry Your Childhood Friend Because Of Some Promise tropes.

    Yeah, I'm creeped out enough by the fact that none of the allegedly adult, romanceable women look like they're old enough to drink.

    Yeah there's not an actual argument to be had here... this mods just for sick fucks. No other kind of person.

    http://hunterofjustice.com/2009/05/interrogating-child-pornography-laws.html

    People are going to have to be very careful here. While this is not child pornography as per se, it is infact endorsing facets of child abuse that the original case if it went this far in Australia (as far as people using it happened to be arrested (highly, highly unlikely)), could potentially be twisted as a precedent.

    The mod didn’t even begin to dig the fact that no child can reasonably consent on the same level as an adult, or the manipulation that often precedes these situations.

    Now, by giving gifts, by engaging in conversation and eventually, eventually romancing the child, you are infact directly engaging in the act of 'grooming' in this mod to a direct degree and that itself is sickening and in that context, should be enough reason for reasonable hosting sites to take the mod down on moral levels. Just vehemently sickening. People can try to argue it's not real, but then, is that how we *really* want to go about this? Only being against these actions *after* they affect someone?

    This sort of shit sickens me, if you're using it, you really, really need help because god knows what other urges you have deep, deep down inside you...

    Last edited 07/05/16 12:12 pm

      Considering their are games released and approved by the classification board which can easily be seen in a similar light on your grooming argument(some jrpgs etc), its a hard sell to say that it could be potentially be twisted as a precedent.

      As far as the whole simpsons debacle goes, its more than obvious that the picture was downloaded as sexual gratification, which the courts deemed child abuse regardless of a lack of victim.

      However if the Government wanted to pick up their war on pedophilia this would most likely be the next step.

        Different situation, this is a mod that allows them to do this. This part isn't in the primary game itself. So it's not up for the government to review. But in terms of utilising something like that, the image representation can be utilised to show someone has a clear understanding it was a representation of a minor etc etc.

        Last edited 07/05/16 2:44 pm

      Having now read that article you linked (which was a very good read)... I'm kind of confused as to why you did. It seems to argue the opposite points that you're making.

        Because it's not about the article itself but an example of how that law can be utilised. The article does espouse logic and forethought rather than overreaction of course and this is common sense, however it would not protect something like this, which endorses the ideals of child marriage and a relationship with a child.

        Last edited 07/05/16 3:26 pm

    I myself find this wrong but why is this such an issue?

    There are mods out there where you get to murder and kill children (Skyrim), have sex with animals/beasts (Skyrim) or even play as a child yourself and go about murdering and killing (Skyrim), yet noone seems to be up in arms, Why? Because it's just a video game.

    We have games where you get to go on a mass killing spree, killing/murdering hundreds of people (GTA and others like it) but it's fine because it's just a video game or how about the game where you go around murdering and killing school girls (Yandere Simulator). What about all those Japanese Hentai games where you get to create your own characters and make them look like they're still in school. Where is the outrage for all those?

    Sure, mods like these could be an outlet for people but what game, mod, movie, show, book or comic isn't an outlet for someone? Just because a mod lets you marry a child doesn't mean you're going to go out and try it yourself.

    At the end of the day it's a mod for a game just like how GTA, Yandere Simulator and the H-Games are just that, games.

    Now, by giving gifts, by engaging in conversation and eventually, eventually romancing the child, you are infact directly engaging in the act of 'grooming' in this mod to a direct degree and that itself is sickening and in that context, should be enough reason for reasonable hosting sites to take the mod down on moral levels.I haven't played the game, is this mechanic any different to how you would go about marrying any of the other characters?

    I have a hard time seeing what the problem is when as far as I can tell from the article, if you just switched out the sprite for one of an 18 year old then no one would have any problems with it. As it said, we commit all sorts of unspeakable murders, vandalism, thievery and more in our games, but for years upon years have been arguing that none of that bears any reflection on the individual performing those virtual actions and how they might behave in the real world, so I can't get behind arguing the exact opposite of that in this case.

      I haven't played the game, is this mechanic any different to how you would go about marrying any of the other characters?

      The mechanic isn't different but it's the context that counts entirely.

      If you go out, give gifts to an 18 year old, talk to them, romantically flirt with them, date them, then marry them that's socially and legally acceptable.

      Do that to a six year old or a ten year old, and it's a creepy, sick grooming process where one is a minor and one is an adult taking advantage of the other. The context 100% counts here where two people are adults in the first part and the next, one is an adult, one is a minor of an exceedingly young age.

      Bearing in mind you can only do this in the mod, you cannot do this in the main game to this young child though.

      Last edited 07/05/16 2:10 pm

        Except the whole concept of an adult in this situation is, as opposed to minors who cannot do so, someone who has agency over their actions and can make informed decisions for themselves... which describes none of the game characters at all, regardless of their age. They are just like kids, give them the nice gift and they'll like you, give them the bad gift and they won't. The player is the only "adult", so in effect you're taking advantage of everyone you romance.

          No not at all, people in Stardew valley still don't like you if you don't give them the appropriate gift etc. This isn't really a debate, there's a clearcut line between what is a pedophillic action and what isn't. I'm not going to debate the actions over a sick mod that allows you to romance a child. People who are ok with this sort of mod, that's just not right.

            No need to get so wound up over a mod even if it's wrong.

            This mod is disgusting but shouldn't be made illegal doing so would be stupid as hell no matter how disgusting or wrong it is.

            That being said this is a dumbass government that made lolicon hentai illegal because they can't tell the difference between reality and fiction.

            If someone wants to mod there game and date a child in a game a "FICTIONAL" game that's for them to do they should not get sent to jail for that you may as well just arrest them for there thoughts next.

              There's so much wrong with this post I don't know where to begin...

                and you are entitled to your opinion.

                I think there is so much wrong with your post and the fact that people are getting all up in arms over a videogame mod regardless if it's disgusting or not.

                There is a difference between reality and fiction but i guess not everyone can see that.

                But for shits and giggles name what's wrong with my post and i will give you good reasons why you are incorrect.

                If you are hurt and disgusted over someone making a fictional modification involving children and marriage/sex etc then you are taking it way to seriously it's fiction as long as they don't do that shit irl who gives a shit.

                Last edited 08/05/16 2:10 am

                You live in a country where sick fucks go to Indonesia and pick up young slaves groomed into prostitution, I'd start at home not in a game. Hell there's even separate jail's for them here where they learn off other scumbags at tax payers expense. Meanwhile they're lowering the tax threshold for fat rich people so the can live even more self absorbed lives feeding off everyone.

                  Strawman. Not just a character in the wizard of Oz...

            I would actually be interested in your take on the exact same scenario on Harvest Moon years ago?

            When Natsume ported over the original GC game A Wonderful Life to the PS2 version AWL: SE one of the most significant changes was adding Lumina as a romance option. She was the sheltered little girl in the rich mansion.

            Granted you don't marry her on the first part of the game when she is still underaged but she moves in after the small time skip for the next part of the game when she is older. Regardless by your definition you would technically be "grooming" her as well.

              I cannot speak for Harvest Moon as I never played that and can't speak for that scenario. I watched the "Lets Play" of this though before casting judgement and saw exactly how this scenario played out rather than rushing in with no knowledge.

        There are plenty of cultures and religions where TODAY it is still acceptable for their members to marry children, so please let me know when the war starts to force them to change their values to match Western / your ideals?

        I would be more interested if the mod pursued what happens when you marry the child - how the other residents in the valley treat you; how the child treats you as she matures; whether she runs away or has an affair with someone her own age when you're too old etc.

        OTHERWISE IT'S JUST A SODDING MOD, if you don't like it - DON'T INSTALL IT. Do I install all the (unrealistic) glamour girl models and skins in games like Fallout 4 and Skyrim? No, because in my opinion they objectify women and I'm mature enough that they don't interest me at all. Am I going to round up the torches and pitchforks to ''ban'' those mods? No, BECAUSE IT'S NOT REAL and the people who want the naked models in their games are going to do so regardless, until they mature and realise what a crock it is.

    Anyone here play the latest Fire Emblem games?

      It's not out in Australia till 21st of May.

    Wow, child predator alert. It's a creepy mod for Rolf Harris wannabes.

      Oh won't someone please think of the children...

        Oh won't someone please think of the children...

        Well... Just not in THAT way...

    Well that's scary but funny at the same time that there is so much drama.

    Ok this is gross and wrong on SO many levels but lets chill for a second it's a fucking mod for a game it's virtual no one is being hurt lets show our disgust but no need to go to the "This needs to be illegal" part.

    As soon as we make this illegal we might aswell make anything that offends people in a virtual game illegal.

    Though people are not so smart especially Australia where the government and people don't know fiction from reality and have banned anything offensive from violence to Lolicon Hentai (not that, that stops me or anyone else from viewing).

    Seriously this mod is just sick but it's not reality can we all just move on to real problems or is that to hard?

    Play any Harvest Moon game instead if you're serious about exploration farming.

      Except funnily enough HM did the exact same thing years ago =P

        Did it? Well even more reason then...

          Yup... the PS2 port of the GC game - A Wonderful Life added the option to romance Lumina.

          She's the girl living in the mansion. She doesn't really move in until she's an adult when you get to the 2nd part of the game.. but for all intents and purposes your technically "romancing" an underaged girl =P

    I think extreme reactions to stuff like this are pretty funny.

    It's a video game. It's not real.

    The content's pretty offensive. No denying that. But if you're going to actually freak out over this and call anyone doing it sick or whatever, then I fully expect you to do the same thing when somebody kills random people in GTA. Because if you're not going to draw the line at serial murder, why draw the line here?

    And don't for a second start telling me about how murdering people isn't as bad - you can't make calls like that. Both things create tremendous suffering in people's lives, it's insane to try and talk about which is 'worse'.

    We're more used to seeing violence in fiction. We're good at understanding it's not real. That may not always be a good thing. But if you're going to decide that it's acceptable, don't be a hypocrite when it comes to other life-destroying acts of cruelty.

    If you don't like it, don't install it. I don't and won't. But as @troubletcat points out, it's hypocritical to argue that this mod influences people to take real world actions while also arguing that violence in video games doesn't do the same thing. There is no causal link between violent games/movies and increased likelihood of real world violence. There is no causal link between mods like this or various JRPG games with similar content and increased likelihood of predatory behaviour. In fact, Japan (the origin of many other games of similar type as this mod) has the third lowest crime rate in the world.

    At the end of the day, I'd rather a pedophile played a video game that involved dating a kid instead of going out and abusing a real one, much as I'd rather some disgruntled office worker took their aggression out playing Hatred instead of going on a shooting spree in a shopping centre.

    i always love the hypocrisy of how sex > violence as far as offence is concerned.

    I think it'd be cool if the mod was adjusted slightly to make it into an adoption mod instead of a marriage mod. Instead of have romanticised dialogue, have some kind of more caring as an adult wanting to help have a child have a better life. Not that Jas is currently in said bad situation in the game, but still.

    Or, maybe have her (and Vince) actually get older as the years pass, then in maybe year 10 or something when she is in her 20s she then becomes a marriage candidate if you're that dedicated.

    Personally it would even feel weird in those particular situations to me, but at least that would make it better in some way?

    I do find it interesting is that Natsume practically did the same thing a while back when they ported the GC Harvest Moon - A Wonderful Life to the PS2 version AWL: SE. where they made Lumina a romanceable option..

    You don't marry her until the first part of the game finishes and you get that time skip when she's older but nevertheless you are still technically "romancing" her during her younger years.

    Practically the same debates popped up online as well back in the day =P

    The only way this would work is if the people in the game aged, with the sprites following suit etc, so that if you played the game long enough, they'd become an adult.. but then you'd be some creepy old guy marrying a 20 year old or whatever..

    ..nope! Doesn't work!

    As long as your farm is in the right country and you have enough money, this should be fine.

    U know, just like in real life.

    People are concerned about this as a proxy for being concerned about the real child marriages that happen many times an hour.

    i myself am going through puberty right now, so this is kind of new to me. BUT, i can say that it's ironic that people are fine with violence in video-games and not sex. it's just... URGH! i can't understand why people are like this! like Skyrim gets a blood stain/kill everybody mod and nobody gives a *inhales deeply* S**T about it, suddenly games like Cave Story get a sex mod and everybody who knows what Cave Story is gets F**KING PEVED!!! URGH! I'M SO MAD RIGHT NOW! but still, i can agree that making h-games and sex mods is wrong. but i hate it people get hypocritical about it. just STOP IT!!! ugh, i'm probably making no sense right now...

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