Monday, December 5, 2011

Harvest Moon, the Birds and the Bees

Harvest Moon: Magical Melody
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Developer: Marvelous Interactive
N.A. Release: March 2006

It has been a long time since I've thought about it, but suddenly I've been pondering a return to one of the great--and some would say taboo--experiments in gaming: playing a Harvest Moon game as a girl.

Of course this may not seem like such a sensational endeavor nowadays, when you can engineer a space captain of either gender in Mass Effect and have him or her knock matter with a choice of galactic inhabitants, but the simplified, real-world(ish) setting of Harvest Moon titles lend a certain wistfulness to the way your character finds and courts a spouse. Guys, do you want to have to constantly search for, analyze and properly respond to every single little signal your potential love interest may or may not send out to you, hoping to God you are responding in a way she will perceive as strong, yet caring and romantic? Or do you want to give her a piece of cake every single day for a year? 

Strive for the shaky green lines of happiness, my friend.
We know which choice sounds more convenient, but life just doesn't work that way. And it's ethically dubious to say it should, as it's merely reducing one's emotional and spiritual satisfaction to a game of Santa Claus. The Harves Moon social system is a rather objectifying way of treating people when you get down to it, but younger Tim wasn't thinking about that back then. Younger Tim was going onto GameFAQs to cheat and find out what the token bookish girl liked best.

But that's why I've always had a strange interest in turning the roles around. How has the system been set up to work with a woman courting guys? Are their responses to gifts and actions similar, or are they keyed differently? Each Harvest Moon game I've played--the last being Magical Melody--I vowed I would start a game as a girl and find out. But wait! First I had to play through as a guy because I just had to find out which virtual lady matched my personality best; and by the time I did that, well, Harvest Moon is a long game and I had moved on to something else.

But now that I'm older and more well-versed in the real-world ways of love (or at least the explosively disastrous aspects of it), it may be time to finally conduct this experiment. And if I can find a copy of
Magical Melody or another reasonably decent title, I shall. There's one question I've always had about the female side of the game, though...

One of the "goals" of life in the game after marriage is having a child. When I played as a guy, my wife and I found out we were expecting when she
collapsed one day. So, well, guess having a kid in this world is pretty taxing.

You missed your "Whoops!" moment by about 9 months, Mr. Smooth.
But how does having a child work out when you play as a girl? If/when you become pregnant, are you just supposed to keep laboring on your farm day in and day out until it's time, or do they place some realistic limits to prevent the expecting mother from becoming sick or working to exhaustion? Do any of the other characters care at all? What were the production meetings like for this consideration in the game?

They're weird questions, sure, but someone has to think about them. And as long as there isn't a delivery mini-game, I'm willing to look for the answers. 


  1. You could just read the GameFAQs about playing as a girl. I played Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness and courting didn't seem to be much different. I don't recall how they handled pregnancy.

  2. A FAQ would likely inform me of the, uh, mechanics of it all (there's no way to get around this without feeling awkward), but I'm also interested in the dialog and implications surrounding all of it.