Freedom of Gender Expression Leads to a Fashionable Self-Exploration

When you start up a video game and design your character, most games will ask you to choose your character’s gender: male or female. Many of these games will lock certain clothing items to certain genders; for example, a female character may not be able to wear a suit or a male character may not be able to wear a dress.

Basic:Creating a Character - Wizard101 Wiki
Part of the character creation process in Wizard101. Photo courtesy of Wizard101 Wiki.

Animal Crossing, however, has subverted this binary. The option to wear clothing that didn’t “match” your gender became available in New Leaf, though villagers would remark on your clothing choice if you did so. New Horizons, however, does away with gendered clothing altogether. The gender you choose at the beginning of the game does not impact gameplay, and you can change your gender in a mirror at any time. In the English game, where there are gender-neutral pronouns, it is unclear what the gender choice does, though I’ve seen it more as a presentation thing.

This complete removal of gender binary means you can dress your character up in any way you wish. Want to wear a full beard and a maid costume? Sure! Want to wear a muscle suit and a princess crown? Absolutely! The possibilities for outfits are endless, and thus the ways you can present yourself are endless.

I started out my New Horizons experience dressing my character similarly to how I dress in real life, with a similar hairstyle and face mask. Over time, however, I’ve found it fun to experiment with different outfits and presentations. In one outfit I may dress like a hipster, in another I may be a cowboy, in yet another I may be a princess. I am large, I contain multitudes. If an outfit sparks joy, it sparks joy.

Dressing up my Animal Crossing character has begun to influence how I perceive myself and dress in real life. In the last year or so I’ve started going by she/they pronouns (meaning you can refer to me with she/her or they/them). I’ve also started challenging myself to create an outfit in Animal Crossing and then dress in a similar manner in real life, using what I have in my closet already.

I don’t think the clothing options in New Horizons made me present myself differently. (In other words, if you’re anti-LGBT you shouldn’t be worried that New Horizons will make your kids gay or trans. Let your kids play Animal Crossing.) But I do think they gave me room to express myself that my admittedly pretty bland closet can’t. I can change my hair length and style in two seconds in New Horizons, rather than waiting for months for my hair to grow out in real life. I can wear whatever crazy outfit my goofy heart desires.

If you’ve been playing New Horizons and haven’t taken full advantage of the clothing options, I implore you to do so. Wear something absolutely ridiculous. Wear what you would want to wear in real life if you could. You may wind up discovering something about yourself, even if it’s just your fashion sense.

Above: A slideshow of some of my favorite recent outfits, and one real-life outfit inspired by my New Horizons style.

Categories: Opinion

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