TemTem released this week, and oh boy, did it ever make the gamers angry. Decoupling pronoun selection from physical appearance? Letting people choose they/them pronouns? Clearly, the world is ending and games as a medium will crumble under the weight of this. In all seriousness, while the whole debacle has been mostly funny, there’s been a bit of a sentiment popping up that even the most well meaning people have been falling into, one that I can’t agree with. Mainly, this idea that the way TemTem handles pronouns is the ideal way a game can and it’s funny that gamers are upset at that. While yes it is funny, it’s not the ideal, and for yet another go, I want to talk about how to do pronouns better, even better.
So if you’re not up to date with a somewhat niche creature-catching MMO in early access (shocking), let’s go over character creation’s relevant parts. You do all the standard character making, with one main difference from most games: you get to choose from 3 pronoun sets (she/her, he/him, they/them) and can apply any of those to any kind of character type. So, nothing too radical, but obviously a far cry from the systems most games are stuck in, where you choose a socially conventional masculine or feminine body type with the corresponding pronouns. In that respect, it’s a system that breaks game norms in a good way, absolutely! Temtem’s way of handling pronouns and character creation should be the bare minimum in the medium, and we shouldn’t accept anything less. Appearance isn’t tied to pronouns, people don’t just use 2 binary sets, seriously, it’s just the right thing to do here. It’s not the final frontier of character creation, though.
I’m not here to insult the developers or claim they’re horrible for not doing pronoun creaton literally perfectly. They might not feel they have the knowledge to go further and didn’t want to make mistakes, there might be some weird technical backend, who knows! Point is, I’m here to tackle the opinion that a system like this is the best, not to take down the game itself. Because I don’t think the system on display here is the best we can do. Fact is, people use more than these 3 sets of pronouns at once. Neopronouns, multiple sets of pronouns, all of these are absolutely things that matter to people, expressions of their self, just as worthy of being implemented as the 2 most people on earth tend to use. And with the sheer variety out there, we can’t just implement a bunch of options and call it a day, that’d never ever capture all the ones out there or take into account new ones people put into use. We need pronoun fields.