Video games may be a hobby that can appeal to everyone, but the stereotype remains firmly locked in place that the majority of gamers are teenage boys or young adult males. Even though it’s recently been proven that the biggest audience in gaming is in fact adult females, women still have a hard time being taken seriously in this industry. (I know this because I am one.) Minorities suffer from a similar, and often deeper, stigma.
All this is a big part of why Pumpkin Online is, to quote a certain film, kind of a big deal.
Pumpkin Online is a farming sim MMORPG, currently being developed as the debut project of Pumpkin Interactive. It’s being developed using the Hero Engine, and the basic plot bears strong resemblance to other farming sims like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, both of which the developer cites as inspirations. You create a character, select a profession, build your farm (and customize it, both inside and out), craft items, complete quests, and develop friendships and romances with NPCs. The game takes the farming/romance sim and the sword and sorcery MMO, mixes them up, and creates something huge and exciting.
What’s different about Pumpkin Online is the extreme freedom it provides. Monique Blaize, the team leader at Pumpkin Interactive, explains that as an African-American woman, “I’m a double minority in the game industry and I’m hoping to get involved in it.” Being aware of and sensitive to the need for minority representation in media, she has made every effort to make Pumpkin Online as inclusive as it can be.
The cast of NPCs is exceptionally diverse, meaning that there are several minorities among the characters. When creating your character, gender options include non-binary possibilities, and the choice of gender will not restrict any body features or clothing choices. Same-sex relationships are as present as opposite-sex relationships. The bottom line is, Pumpkin Interactive wants everyone to have the chance to play a character that represents themselves – something that the game industry does not always make possible.
Pumpkin Online is currently in the early pre-Alpha stage, and the developers have launched a Kickstarter in the hopes of earning enough money to enter a testable Beta stage. They are ambitiously hoping to raise $30,000 USD within a month, and they’re already on their way. If all goes well, they hope to launch in spring 2015.