Thursday, July 18, 2024
Opinion

How Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life let me explore my gender identity

As time has continued to trek on, what interests me in video games has slowly, but surely, shifted. Character creators have always been my thing, but lately I’ve come to appreciate how they let us explore our identities on a lot more personal level. So you can imagine how stoked I was when I first started to mess around with my gender in Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life.

I live by the rule that my gender is nobody else’s business, and I was quite happy to take that into my world of play when starting my adventure in the sleepy, cosy town nestled inside the game’s Forgotten Valley. Here people are just living their lives one day at a time, and you, as the new farmer, are just a new, unusual but welcome blip in the townsfolk’s lives. Eventually, with time, you’ll not only become a friend to each and every one of these people, but a valuable member of the community who they respect and love.

What’s so important about that, that adoration and admiration, is you’re able to get it regardless of what you look like. During the game’s character creator, you’re given the option to choose your pronouns, body type, as well as other features like your face and eye shape, as well as your hair and its colour. I chose they/them pronouns, and picked the body with overalls and a nice, clean white shirt, then I went on to give myself short, wavy hair, named myself, and stepped forth towards my new adventure of farm life.

As expected, my pronouns were not only well-respected throughout the game, but my name was used often too. I can’t speak on whether Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life does that regardless of which pronouns you pick, but it felt extra special to be called by my name and to be seen as me, rather than what I presented myself as. Especially as the original game, before it got the remake treatment, was incredibly heteronormative. Not only were you not allowed to have a same-sex romance with characters like Molly, Matthew, Nami, etc, but you weren’t able to pick how you wanted to dress either. Everything was extremely gendered, and it’s mind-boggling to look at the difference between the original and this remake.

What was most important for me was the fact that the game’s character creator isn’t restricted to just the starting segment. As you continue to play, unlocking more outfits throughout the years, you’re free to change your appearance by heading on over to the mirror in your house. Some days I wore dresses with long hair, the next my hair was shaved clean off, and the day after I would jump back into my farmers overalls, hair tied-up in a bun and ready to start my day just a little more differently than the last.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life certainly isn’t unique in having a character creator that lets you mess around with your gender and appearance on the fly sure, but it’s the game that was there for me when I needed to explore gender presentation – and how little it affected the family unit that is so key to the game’s story. My in-game child with Nami doesn’t care what I look like, or how I’m presenting on a particular day, they still turn around and call me by my name, they still want to show me their picture, or be held. I found that more than important. I found it healing.

As I expressed in my review, “making A Wonderful Life more LGBTQ+ friendly ultimately expands the game from being a heteronormative tale about forming your own nuclear family to a rural, queer-inclusive haven,” and I feel nothing but gratitude towards the team at Marvelous at helping make me feel seen in a genre that I love.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is available to play on the Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

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