Jessi’s Corner: Animal Crossing and Gender

Jessi Siebert, Columnist

Now that it’s finally March, that means a lot of new things. New shows, new books and the most important to me as both a writer and fan, new games. One of the new games coming out this month is the very much anticipated “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” for the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, this won’t be a review of the game, as Nintendo did not answer my requests for a review copy (which I didn’t send, but still. C’mon Nintendo.) However, there is something important I wish to talk about in regards to this game franchise as a whole. 

 

For a bit of background, “Animal Crossing” is a video game series about you, the player, living in a town full of animals. You do chores, requests and other things in order to help the town and its people grow. It started off as a game on the N64 and GameCube back in 2001. Since then, it has gotten three other main series titles to date, with the fourth coming out March 20, 2020. The last game to come out was “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” for the Nintendo 3DS, back in 2012. There have also been a few spin-off titles since 2015, however, those aren’t considered main titles. This means it has been eight full years since the last true “Animal Crossing” game. Despite this large time difference, “Animal Crossing” has kept one thing majorly consistent: its views on gender, gender identity and gender roles.

 

Gender is, and has always been, an interesting and touchy subject, especially in the West. Many people see it as a very rigid, binary structure based on Western culture and ideals. There’s a large disparity between “boy’s” things and “girl’s” things, and being interested in anything other than what you’re told to be invites harassment. However, in the East, especially in Eastern Asia, especially Japan, the relationship with gender is more nuanced. Due to Western influence, they still hold many of the same gendered ideals as us, but they are much more lax when it comes to the breaking of gender roles. This is shown a lot in media, such as anime and even video games. You see many tomboyish girls and feminine boys, all without much, if any, teasing or scorn. In video games, and “Animal Crossing” specifically, the way gender is handled is interesting. 

 

In previous “Animal Crossing” games, the quiz at the beginning would determine your looks, and you got to choose a gender. However, this was purely cosmetic and pronoun based, as it didn’t stop you from wearing any of the clothing you wanted. The characters would comment on it, but usually in a positive way, commending male players for being who they are while wearing skirts or dresses. However, in “New Horizons,” they’ve shown gameplay of a character creator. They allow all options, even perceived feminine or masculine traits, and don’t ask about gender (unless that takes place after what we’ve seen, but the point still stands.) Nintendo, “Animal Crossing”, and even society to a larger degree, is moving its perspective on gender as a whole and choosing to disallow the prospect of gender to get in the way of what truly matters: your happiness.