I Hope Haunted Chocolatier Is Even Gayer Than Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a very queer game, and has long since become a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to explore their identity in a world that is free from the prejudices of modern life, yet it also isn’t afraid to explore the depth of relationships and hardships that come with growing into who you want to be. Farm life isn’t always a walk in the park you see.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours with ConcernedApe’s masterpiece, playing it long before I came out as a trans woman as I stepped into the shoes of a lesbian farmer who was eager to raise chickens, make money, and smooch all of the cute girls in Pelican Town. She succeeded and now has far too much money to spend and cows to sell.

Despite allowing us to pursue queer relationships and even have children as a same-sex couple, the narrative arcs and character storylines of Stardew Valley seldom delved further into what it means to be a queer, or making it a part of the experience that enriches the world beyond something relatively heteronormative. I love the game so much, but you’d need to rely on mods and your own imagination to make things truly fruity, injecting the world with your own personal subtext. Characters would marry anyone, abiding by playersexual whims instead of having a preference that was baked into their very design.

The studio’s next game – Haunted Chocolatier – already feels destined to expand upon everything Stardew Valley managed to achieve in the realm of inclusivity. While we don’t know a huge amount about the game right now beyond the fact you’ll be selling spooky chocolates, fighting monsters, and existing across an idyllic town; that’s more than enough to speculate that meeting characters and forming relationships with them will be a fundamental part of how the game operates. It wouldn’t be the same without such a thing.

You will play as a character of your own making, a chocolatier who runs a shop selling confectionery to the townsfolk while also dealing with a bunch of spooky happenings. Ghosts and other such spectres appear to be a major component of the game’s aesthetic, so perhaps we’ll also be spending time talking with the deceased and understanding their stories from beyond the grave. It will be lovely having people to talk with both in the shop and across your home before developing close relationships with townsfolk, something that took several hours to emerge in Stardew Valley before you made friends or fell in love.

Maybe we’ll see some gay ghosts? Who knows! The town we call home will likely be populated by a variety of characters we can befriend and interact with, learning about their daily lives while growing closer to them through the receiving of gifts and regular conversations. It doesn’t appear that Haunted Chocolatier is replicating the formula of Stardew Valley completely, but the foundations are there and I imagine establishing a personal stake in this world will remain.

But instead of forming queer relationships through our own making, why not include personalities that themselves are inherently so, willing to share stories with our avatar and form relationships that delve further into the reality of living as a queer person or perhaps even dealing with certain tribulations across town. Stardew Valley was filled with teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, boomers who owned property, and elders who were somewhat out of touch with modern times.

Exploring LGBTQ+ stories from all of these perspectives would be so fascinating, whether we’re helping a young character come to terms with their identity or dealing with an unusual family, or establishing a romance with a character who identities as gay and makes that abundantly clear in her dialogue. Chances are we’ll be picking pronouns and be offered an even greater level of customisation for our character too, so why not transfer such progress over to everything else?

The storytelling in Stardew Valley is spectacular, but it could be taken one step further by giving its roster a deeper level of agency beyond predictable daily routines. Make them feel alive, like a living, breathing part of the game’s world instead of a small cog in a wider machine. Let me live my cottagecore lesbian fantasies while making chocolate for the local populace, complete with pride flag designs and decorations that cement who I want to be whenever I play games like this. More like Haunted Chocolaqueer amirite?

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