It’s been over seven years since the release of Stardew Valley, and its fan base is as active as ever. This time, Stardew Valley fans have organized to ask for more inclusive pronoun options in the beloved farming sim. On Sept. 29, Canadian content creator Atmos Fierce started an online petition asking the game’s creator, Eric Barone, to add additional pronoun options as part of the upcoming 1.6 update. Since then, the petition has received over 3,000 signatures and revived a long-running conversation around how the game interacts with its queer fan base.
Barone, also known online by his alias ConcernedApe, released Stardew Valley in 2016. The once-small indie game went on to become a hit and a defining title of the farming sim genre, with over 20 million copies sold across a wide variety of platforms. In the game, you play as a disaffected office worker who moves to their grandfather’s rundown farm in a rural town. When you start the game, you’re able to design your character, choosing between “male” and “female” symbols denoting two gender options — which automatically set your character’s pronouns as “he/him” or “she/her,” respectively. Unlike in other recent games, there’s no option to select pronouns separately from body type, and there’s no nonbinary option, either.
Atmos Fierce first got the idea to ask for more pronoun options after another streamer, MomoMisfortune, started a similar campaign asking for nonbinary and customizable pronouns in The Sims 4, which resulted in the developers adding more pronoun options to the game. Fierce told Polygon via email that although he does not identify as nonbinary, he aims to create a safe space for other queer gamers like himself.
“I hope that Eric Barone will see this movement, and realize just how important this change is for the game. While new content like more dialogue and festivals is all fun and great, before we can have any of that we first NEED to address this issue in the game,” Fierce said.
Since Stardew Valley launched, Barone has continued to release significant updates to the game. At the end of September, he said that the 1.6 update would add features like additional in-game festivals and over 100 new lines of dialogue. Now fans like Fierce are asking that Barone add additional pronoun options as part of the update.
For some queer Stardew Valley players, having more pronoun options isn’t just a matter of text; it will change how they experience the game. Mika, one of Fierce's viewers and a nonbinary Stardew Valley fan who supports the proposed change, spoke to Polygon about why the current gender options impact their experience.
“Stardew using the wrong pronouns for me feels very alienating and distant. I tend to make characters that resemble me in many things, so when NPCs use she/her pronouns while referring to my character it makes me feel extremely dysphoric and drains all of the joy of playing the game, but he/him pronouns don’t feel right either, like they are talking about a completely different person. I still tend to lean in towards the second option, but I feel like everyone should be able to make a choice that represents them and makes them feel at home, not the ‘less wrong’ option,” Mika said.
Polygon reached out to Barone for comment and will update the article when we hear back.
Queer fans have long favored Stardew Valley for its inclusion of gay romance and marriage in the base game. Although the original game doesn’t contain any alternate options for pronouns and gender expression, modders have stepped in to create add-ons to the game that give players the option to select pronouns separately from their body type and expand representation in other areas, like the overall diversity of the game. So as Barone slows down on Stardew Valley to finish his next game, Haunted Chocolatier, fans hope to make one last bid to make the change official.
Fierce told Polygon, “To the wider Stardew Valley and queer gaming community what I want to say is that you are not alone. I hope you can read every single comment on the petition and see that there are so many other people out there who are struggling. [...] Your identity is valid, and your pronouns are so wonderful.”