Stardew Valley’s Diversity Problem and the Mod I Used to Fix it

Early on in Stardew Valley’s development, longtime fans of farming simulators such as, Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, had a few hopes for the Western take on a genre, long dominated by the hyper heteronormative, mono-racial series that is, Harvest Moon. One of those hopes was that Stardew Valley would be racially diverse. And to Eric Barone’s credit, I do think that racial diversity crossed his mind but, that doesn’t change the fact that Stardew Valley is a strikingly white game; and that was a missed opportunity. Luckily, we have mods.

Maru and Demetrius were a great Start

I don’t want to write this article without taking a minute to point out that Maru and Demetrius, Stardew Valley’s only people of color, are quality characters. Demetrius is an accomplished natural scientist in an interracial relationship, who has books like, “Maximizing your Second Marriage” and “Practical Tips For First-Time Step Dads” in his bookshelf. He’s a good dad. On the other hand, you have Maru, an engineer. Both are a far cry from the typical hyper-violent depictions of Black people in media. This type of representation is significant when it happens, particularly in games, but that isn’t to say that it’s anywhere near enough.

2/38 Does not a Diverse Game Make

Of the human characters, only two are people of color. That is not how the world looks. Stardew Valley’s attempt at diversity stops way short of any meaningful attempt at depicting diversity. What’s worse, when people of color are included in stories as oppressively white as Stardew Valley’s they run the risk of being viewed as tokens, regardless of whether it was intended or not. Furthermore, both characters are Black and racial diversity shouldn’t ever be simply including Black people in the first place. A piece of entertainment can only be considered racially diverse when it makes room for the spectrum of racial diversity that we have in the real world.

Filling the Diversity Gap

In case you were thinking it, I was not the only one to feel a bit disappointed in the lack of diversity in Stardew Valley. In the months following the game’s release, eventually, a user named, notsnufffie on the Stardew Valley forums began the process of redrawing the villagers, in order to account for diversity. Though Diverse Stardew Valley is on indefinite hiatus, it still manages to make Stardew Valley a much more inclusive game. It’s well worth a look.

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Nicole is a video game and pop-culture critic with a lifelong relationship with video games and the strange tenderness that can be found within them. She is an avid collector of DS games and a reluctant collector of Amiibos. She has a strong belief that the gaming community, with some work, can become an inclusive and nurturing environment to all who seek to belong to it.

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2 responses to “Stardew Valley’s Diversity Problem and the Mod I Used to Fix it”

  1. I just read your comment policy, so I will try to stay in your site parameter to comment.

    First, the mod won’t be developed for some time since the author is taking a break ( source: the link in the article ).

    Second, I live in a farming community, not in a big city with a lot of diverse people. As a legacy culture from the 19th century, I understand how minority feel. A farm-to-table restaurant is a cultural appropriation in my opinion since in my culture we literally eat from farm to table.

    When a mod replace a race for another race, the first thing that come to my mind is the contrary of the statement: “This mod is inclusive”. Is someone else in accord with my opinion? How should it be constructively modified so that we are all a better human race familly? In my opinion, removing a race in a cultural piece ( an artist painted in his mind a game and this game end up being Stardew Valley ) is the opposite of diversity. This is not a hard fact, but a thread for a fruitful discussion.

    How is your opinion different from yours. What is your life perspective that warrant such opinion and how can it be constructively modified so that I’m feeling more included in your community as a member of a minority group? That’s what I would like to know. Thanks all for reading my message and I hope it follow the newnormative guideline for posting comments.

  2. Nic Reuben Avatar
    Nic Reuben

    Hey. I think you make some really great points, and I can’t speak for Nicole, but as a white male, I feel the issue is that white characters are so ubiquitous as to have become completely apolitical and stripped of unique identity, so their inclusion or removal isn’t necessarily a statement on a particular culture, more like the default ‘normal’ setting for representing people in any form . Again, I can’t speak for the developers intention, but it seems to me that white characters are not representatives of their race or culture, but more just the go-to for artists in the majority, so modifying the game to include more diversity doesn’t necessarily take away anything, only adds, only improves. Just my take.

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