I Was A Teenage Exocolonist has been jokingly referred to as the game with ‘blue hair and pronouns’, a teasing statement that’s often wielded by irate gamers who believe that somehow the inclusion of pronouns – something which we all use – is the true signifier of ‘SJW propaganda’.
Northway Games epic sci-fi adventure is a game with blue hair and pronouns – and it’s a much better experience for it.
As of the early 2020’s, video games have been steadily improving in the way they address pronouns. TemTem, a creature-collecting MMO from Crema Games, not only allowed players to pick their pronouns but adapted gender-neutral language outside of the English language so all players could feel included. Indie games like Moonglow Bay, a cutesy fishing RPG, also allows you to pick your pronouns with very little ceremony outside of making players feel comfortable in their own skin. While there have been a variety of positive examples, there have also been some real stinkers too. Cyberpunk 2077 springs to mind, with the pronouns of V changing depending on which voice you picked which was certainly a choice that CD Projekt Red made.
Yet with all this in mind, we’ve yet to find a video game that features a pronouns system that is as in-depth and respectful as the one present in I Was A Teenage Exocolonist.
We know it might look a little overwhelming at first, but the way pronouns and other gendered terms included in the game are able to be adapted by the player is nothing short of incredible. What I Was A Teenage Exocolonist does is take every word that indicates the player character and their relationships and puts them in the player’s hands. Do you want character Marz to call you her girlfriend or boyfriend, or perhaps lover is more apt? Would you rather have your parents address you as their son or daughter or child? No matter what, you’ve got the control.
Why this matters, and why I Was A Teenage Exocolonist should be applauded for this, goes beyond just representation. By giving players control of how they are addressed, you guarantee that they are able to be comfortable in their own skin in a way that they may be unable to receive anywhere else. A small comfort in the grand scheme of a thing called life, but certainly one that should be recognized as a step that other video game developers should consider when thinking about how to make their game more inclusive.
More importantly, I Was A Teenage Exocolonist’s inclusion of a system like this helps normalize the process of pronouns, gender identity, as well as gender expression. It also poses very little risk by allowing gamers, cisgender or not, to explore how language can have such a vital effect in how others present themselves. What’s not to love about that?
It may have been a lot of hard work, and it’s true that this feature from I Was A Teenage Exocolonist is only available in the English language, but it’s still a system that other developers should look to in the future.