inclusivity in toontown

i’ve mentioned toontown before, and have previously stated that i would likely be bringing it up mulitple times. this time, it’s because i discovered there was plenty to talk about when it comes to inclusivity in the game-

but for new people, let me begin with an introduction to the game.

Disney’s Toontown Online was an MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) that officially launched June 2, 2003. you would play as an anthropomorphic animal avatar based off of cartoon characters like mickey mouse, and the entire purpose of the game was to basically end capitalism and be funny.

a Toontown ad that would play on TV 2006-2009

unfortunately, Disney decided to shut the game down alongside its other MMOs (except for Club Penguin) on September 19, 2013. fans of the game, however, brought it back by creating several different new servers in order to keep the game alive.

a banner created for the largest current server for the game, Toontown Rewritten

with these newer renditions of the game came many complaints regarding inclusivity. i’ll begin with talking about the biggest issue many have had with the game in its current standing.

upon creating your toon, you are forced to choose between a boy and girl toon. this feature has made many players upset, especially those who struggle with their gender identity. once your toon’s gender has been chosen, they are unable to change it without having to restart the game. another issue with this is that clothing is gender locked- male toons are not able to wear skirts in the game.

this issue has been brought up by many fans of the game in hopes that the gender lock would be removed, however it has been brought up that gender is deeply embedded in the games code, and takes lots of work to remove the lock without breaking the game.

one version of toontown decided to rewrite the toon DNA code entirely, completely removing gender in the process.

toontown rewritten, however, is still working on a way to address this situation. in order to keep the game as similar to the original as possible, toontown rewritten does not want to remake toons in the same way as corporate clash has done. they have gone for a different solution, choosing to instead introduce a pronoun picker:

while the pronoun picker is not the same as removing the gender restrictions, it has helped with those who do not identify with the gender their toon is. before this update, toons with eyelashes would almost immediately be referred to as a “she”, and toons without would be a “he”.

the pronoun picker has brought up some interesting issues. one being with what pronouns to include. certain pronouns have brought up combinations that spell out messages, for example:

if i could propose a solution to this, it would be to allow players to type in their pronouns and have them approved, similar to how the naming system is done. however, i understand that staff for the game is very limited being that it is run entirely by volunteers.

there are other topics that have been brought up by players of the game, for example, an NPC had an inaccurate, almost joking about jamaican accents, and some players asked for it to be removed. this was addressed and removed from the game.

it’s very important to be inclusive in your game, and make sure you have ways for players to express themselves, especially for a game where communicating with others is important. i believe toontown has done a great job of addressing problems with the game that may have simply been as a result of its age and the hold Disney had on it. i hope they continue to address these issues in the future, taking all feedback that is sent into account.

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