Harvestella Producer Daisuke Taka has stated the game’s inclusion of non-binary options in the character creator was to “include everyone.”
As previously reported, life sim and action JRPG Harvestella allows players to create a non-binary character. Whether players picked male, female, or non-binary; they could choose from four male and four female player models. They could then pick a male or female voice, with all customization combinations permissible. NPCs refer to the player as they/them if non-binary.
Producer Daisuke Taka recently spoke to Eurogamer about the inclusion. “I think it’s completely normal these days for non-binary to be included in gender selection,” the producer explained. “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.”
“Using gender-neutral pronouns takes a relatively small amount of effort, yet the positive impact is huge, as it means you are making the effort to include everyone – and our game is for everyone,” Taka reiterated. “There’s no major impact on the game other than pronouns changing, but we hope that this means everyone feels included.”
“The protagonist of Harvestella is the player. 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,” the Square Enix producer further justified.
Taka’s comments seemingly had the full-throated support of Square Enix, who shared the interview on Twitter. Along with showing the gender selection part of the character creator. Square Enix focused on two key quotes; “Using gender-neutral pronouns takes a relatively small amount of effort, yet the positive impact is huge,” and “Our game is for everyone.”
Final Fantasy VII Remake Co-Director and Scenario Design Motomu Toriyama previously stated in an interview that the game’s Honeybee Inn scenes was designed “from a gender free perspective.” The scene had been reworked to be a cabaret/burlesque dance number around (as one NPCs says) “True beauty is an expression of the heart. A thing without shame, to which notions of gender don’t apply.”
While one could assume this is a result of the Square Enix’ “ethics department” seeking to avoid content deemed “discriminatory, prejudicial, or offensive” (or rather, lack of that content) the matter may not be so cut and dry.
Recently, Final Fantasy XVI Producer Naoki Yoshida stated in an interview the game’s lack of black characters was due to how the developers “simply want the focus to be less on the outward appearance of our characters and more on who they are as people — people who are complex and diverse in their natures, backgrounds, beliefs, personalities, and motivations.”
He also stated the game’s setting being inspired by medieval Europe meant that due to “underlying geographical, technological, and geopolitical constraints of this setting, Valisthea was never going to realistically be as diverse as say a modern-day Earth […] The story we are telling is fantasy, yes, but it is also rooted in reality.”
Square Enix seems to be interested in including everyone and avoiding offense, and Harvestella would appear to be an example of that. Yet, there are signs of developers having more freedom with other projects. As such, it brings into question, who involved in the game’s development and production wanted non-binary character creator options included, and why?