Originally written as feedback to the podcast Watch Out For Fireballs.
When I initially played Stardew, I dated the washed-up football player Alex with my male farmer. There’s a touching moment at the end of his romance arc where he admits he never expected himself to fall in love with a guy–but he’s glad it happened. Those themes are barely explored beyond that one line, but the implication that Alex has been struggling with his sexuality always stuck with me. His grandfather also expresses prejudice against your (same-gender) marriage, so you can imagine there’s a deeper story about this family left untold.
The second time I played, I dated the fan-favourite Shane. There’s a memorable moment where you go on a date with him to see a football game, and when your team scores, Shane gets so excited that he spontaneously kisses you. I’m sure it’s a cute scene regardless of your gender, but for two men to kiss in a traditionally hyper-masculine setting, it feels risky and subversive.
That said, I’m getting tired of games portraying all romance options as player-sexual. If you befriend these characters, there’s no hint that they might be gay or bisexual; you have to “opt-in” by initiating a same-gender romance. By siloing all queer content, it reinforces the idea that everyone is straight by default, and wholly-optional queer moments only exist to placate queer audiences. It’s a bummer.
Here’s hoping for more from Haunted Chocolatier.