The Arcana, from Nix Hydra Games, may not be a new game (though updates are still being added), but it's an excellent example of a game that works to be inclusive to all players. A mystery/romance game, The Arcana tasks you with uncovering the answer to a murder, and at the same time gives you the chance to win the heart of the character of your choice.

What sets The Arcana apart, however, is its commitment to making a storytelling experience that is meaningful to a wide variety of identities.

While many games will give you a choice of avatar, or perhaps let you choose between being a male or female character, The Arcana looks to open up the player's possibilities with various options not only for the player's pronouns, but the identity of the person they ultimately seek to romance as well.

From the beginning of the game, you have the options to set whatever pronouns you happen to prefer for the game, either he/him, her/she, or they/them. It's a fairly small thing, especially considering the multitude of choices made throughout the game. But it's particularly meaningful amongst a multitude of games that simply assume the identity of the person playing them.

It's also an excellent example of an easy feature that helps enhance the player's experience. Allowing the player their choice of pronouns is as easy as including a few different checkboxes, and doing so can help the game feel more personal – and in some cases, more validating – to the person playing it, giving them one more way to feel invested in the story.

The Arcana's inclusivity doesn't stop at player pronouns, either. Players have the opportunity to choose from three different characters to woo as their romantic partner throughout the game. Without getting into any spoilers, the player is free to pursue any character in any relationship, and some of the characters canonically define as non-heteronormative themselves.

Here, too, it's clear the game has focused on giving the player choices, and the story – like any good romance tale – is focused on the player experience as much as it is on an enchanting plotline. This commitment extends into the storytelling itself, where even minor in-game characters are referred to as "they" unless the player is informed of (or previously knew) what pronouns should be used.

It's also a game that seeks to offer an equal playing field for paid and free players alike. Story sections are unlocked with keys, and there are some "bonus" story choices that can be unlocked with coins. However, both of these are earned without having to spend any money, and choosing a non-bonus section of the story has no effect on the outcome.

Overall, The Arcana is a lovely and straightforward example of how a romance game – or any game – can approach player inclusivity. If you like visual novels, romance games, or are simply tempted by the beautiful, tarot-themed illustrations, it's likely you'll find something here to enjoy.

Posted in: News, Opinion
Tagged With: diversity, The Arcana, Nix Hydra Games
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