‘Stardew Valley’ Gamers Petition To Finally Expand Gender Options in Updates
Stardew Valley is one of the most successful indie games of all time that unfortunately fails trans people pretty hard. A few gamers have started a petition to hopefully expand gender options in future updates.
I have a complicated relationship with Stardew Valley. Like everyone else, I fell in love with the game the first year it came out. Having grown up with Harvest Moon, it was everything I wanted in a farming sim and more. But something was off.
I befriended the townsfolk and became a valuable member of their community, but I did not feel like I fully belonged. As time went on, I had to come to terms with a difficult truth that I tried to suppress: Stardew Valley‘s world was too white. Only two characters were ethnic like me: Maru and Demetrius.
This isn’t the result of the game’s creator being actively hostile against non-white people—racial bias is often not confrontational—but something far more insidious that many white game developers don’t realize themselves. Out of the game’s 45 characters, only having two POC (who are related) stings pretty bad in a game noted for its cozy vibes and progressiveness.
This uneasiness has also been felt by queer fans of Stardew Valley, albeit in a different way. A user by the name of Atmos Fierce created a petition asking Eric Barone, the creator of Stardew Valley who also goes by ConcernedApe, to add trans and non-binary pronoun options. As of now, there are only two genders in the game, which is a colossal misstep in an era where even AAA games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur’s Gate 3 have stepped up to deliver on this front. Hell, even trashy propaganda like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has they/them pronouns.
Some people will think this is unfair to ask of one developer of an indie game. But we’re really stretching that ‘indie’ label here. Stardew is indeed an indie project, but with over 20 million copies sold, Barone (a.k.a. ConcernedApe) has more money and influence than most of us ever will. The least he could do for the gamers who brought him that success is to add in some more inclusive options for people who love his game. He has both the artistic and financial freedom to do so.
This discussion around gender and race in Stardew Valley has been happening for a long time. The Diverse Stardew Valley Mod, created by users Minervamaga, Tenthousandcats, and Airyn, makes most of the Stardew NPCs non-white. There are even LGBTQ+ add-ons players can choose from for additional diversity.
Of course, implementing diversity takes time. As we’ve talked about before, a game like Baldur’s Gate 3 with its queer options was only possible because the dev team devoted time and money to creating them. The result is that now we have a golden example of LGBTQ+ diversity that other studios can copy. Stardew has a great opportunity here to help lead the charge in the indiesphere.
Adding transgender options may take extra effort, but we really shouldn’t excuse the lack thereof in today’s industry. I’m not saying Stardew Valley‘s dev is saying or doing this, but I’ve seen the argument too many times, especially from cis folk. These options need to be there from the beginning of development and onward.
Games are always going to be expensive, labor-intensive projects. We shouldn’t let the cost or labor required shut down the fact that this should be standard across the board. As web and game dev @Ifthencreate points out in a TikTok video on the topic, adding non-binary pronouns to Stardew would be easy, as that code already exists in mods like the Diverse Stardew Valley mod.
If it means projects take longer and cost a bit more, so be it. We have to stand our ground and demand representation. Don’t let anyone tell you that your existence isn’t worth the price tag that follows.
Hopefully, Barone listens to his trans fandom and incorporates these changes eventually. Until then, catch us tending to our farms.
(featured image: Nintendo)
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