December 6, 2022

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New Square Enix Farming Game Lets Players Be Gender-Neutral

3 min read

Harvestella characters stand in front of the game's gender selection screen.

Male, female, and cool hat. All the genders are accounted for. Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

It shouldn’t be a big ask from gamers to have more gender-inclusive pronoun options in a video game, especially in RPGs. One producer at Square Enix thinks helping gamers feel welcome by including non-binary pronouns is such a small ask that it was a no-brainer to have it be a part of his new game.

The game in question is the cutesy farming simulator Harvestella, which RPG giant Square Enix just released yesterday on PC and Switch. Similar to Stardew Valley, characters in Harvestella are charged with tending to crops, befriending their neighbors, and overcoming calamity in the form of environmental disasters. Harvestella, Eurogamer pointed out today, features a character creator that offers players the option to choose male, female, or non-binary pronouns.

In an interview with Eurogamer, producer Daisuke Taka said he thinks it is “completely normal” for games to include a non-binary option for players. While having gender-neutral pronouns feels like a small part of the farming sim as a whole, Taka said it was important to let players choose their gender identity because the game is meant to be “for everyone.”

“The protagonist of Harvestella is the player,” Taka told Eurogamer. “We thought it was important to have the player create their own character, selecting different elements, including gender, appearance, voice and name. We felt this was important so players aren’t limited, and feel free to express themselves however they want and as a result are much more attached to their character.”

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Read More: Trans Inclusion Means More Than Just Adding Potential Gender Options To Hogwarts Legacy

Recently, characters in video games that’ve come out as gender-neutral have been met with ire amongst the bigoted peanut gallery of the gaming community. Look no further than the vocal minority within the Guilty Gear Strive fighting came community that had conniptions when Bridget and Testament came out as transgender and nonbinary, respectively. Fee fees got so hurt, one troglodyte took it upon themselves to impersonate a customer service representative and fake emails about Bridget’s gender.

In recent times Square Enix has been making strides in making sure some of its games are more inclusive. In a July 2021 interview with The Gamer, Final Fantasy VII Remake co-director Motomu Toriyama said LGBTQ+ inclusion is an important issue for both gamers and developers.

“In Final Fantasy VII Remake, we rebuilt the original game using the latest technology, but we felt that it should not stop at the technical side and we needed to update the story content being shown in line with modern sensibilities,” Toriyama told The Gamer. That same month, the company debuted a non-binary character mascot, Mina, for that year’s Pride.

However, the JRPG giant doesn’t always get it right. For example, someone might wanna remind Final Fantasy XVI producer Naoki Yoshida that, contrary to his centrist view that people of color walking about ye old Final Fantasy would violate the “narrative boundaries” of the upcoming game’s medieval European setting, Black and brown folk aren’t a “new game plus” feature on planet Earth.

I’m much more into the vibe I’m feeling from the Harvestella guy. “The visibility of gender non-conforming people has become much more commonplace, so we thought it was important to reflect this within the game and show that all players are welcome to Harvestella,” Taka said.

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