Ace/Aro/AroAce Spectrum Representation

Made a topic a few years back asking how others felt about the quality of friendship/non-romantic paths for love interests and other NPCs in Cogs/HGs, as well as another small thread on Asexual and Aromantic representation. I figured I’d ask again now that some time has passed and combine the two: as an Ace, Aro, or AroAce individual how well do you think the independent writers here have been representing you in their games? Any games stick out in your mind as catering to your specific wants as a reader? Have you had issues with certain games in particular? What would you like to see added/changed to the games you loved that would make you feel more accepted as a reader demographic? Are the Aromantic/Asexual options available in recent games up to snuff for you?

And, even if you’re not Asexual or Aromantic, what do you think about the quality of platonic options/relationships in games? Do they add to your gaming experience or detract from it? This stuff can really affect anyone’s gameplay, so the topic isn’t limited to strictly people who don’t feel certain attractions.

I, personally, feel that things have gotten quite a bit better since I last posted my topics. There’s definitely been a handful games since then that allowed for more varied and stag-friendly gameplay (Fallen Hero) and others that have at least started to put solid warnings that there is less content available for non-romantic readers in their games’ descriptions or even in-game choices (Wayhaven) instead of just railroading the reader into romantic content. You can tell that there’s more emphasis being put on having an appealing cast of characters than just having appealing love interests.

I still tend to avoid the games that use romantic relationships as an required plot point that you can’t avoid, but some games can and have pulled it off in a way that still made me feel welcome as an aromantic reader (Grim and I) either by letting me tailor the relationship to be more of a bromance or letting it take sideline to the main plot.

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At first I thought that this thread about games with good representation (like, A+, you did a good job) and how they did so. While not necessarily a bad thing, I was a bit confused, so you might want to change the title to Ace/Aro/AroAce Spectrum Representation or something like that. Despite my initial misconception about this thread’s purpose, I happen to be ace, so it works out.

Examples of Good/Great Representation:

Crème de la Crème lets you be asexual, aromantic, both or demi/gray in a way that felt natural to me (and didn’t feel like it was shaming me for being so). I romanced Rosario, and you have the option of kissing him, just talking, or sleeping with him at various points (all separate choices you aren’t forced to go through with!) It was refreshing, to me at least.

Sometimes games assume asexual means “I don’t want to hug, I don’t want to hold hands, I don’t want to touch anyone, even if we’re friends rather than partners” which is just not super realistic (or at least, doesn’t apply to many aces). And particularly, as a touchy ace, this just doesn’t sit right with me. More of a me thing, but I also like to be able to kiss my ROs. It’s an intimacy thing for me. That said, I don’t think a game should ever force such a thing on an ace MC, of course. Just have the option there. I’m sure false assumptions about orientation are also common to aromantic paths.

There’s also an AceAro character (Gonzalez) who you can bond with. If you become friends with them, they’ll confess they’re not interested in the marriage you and your classmates are being primed for. If you’re on the ace and/or aro spectrum, you can say you understand. That simple moment, just being able to say “I feel you” let alone having the character in the first place, meant the world to me.
The friendship paths for the game were just as satisfying as the non-romantic ones as well. I just loved the characters. When you took interest in becoming friends, you spent time with them and helped them, and they did the same for you. Everything friendship is in real life.

Shepherds of Haven:

Again, you can chose your orientation in a natural way, and make friends with the shepherds by spending time with them, learning about them, and helping them on personal missions. The game hasn’t gotten far enough along yet for starting a romance, but so far it feels sweet and comfortable. I think the key to this WIP’s success is the personal missions; they really help to flesh out the character.

Heroes of Myth:
Another game with similar separate choices and fleshed out characters. I wasn’t as satisfied with the friendship paths in it, though. It seemed mostly centered around spending time with your RO(s), which is a problem for a lot of games, and I do mean a lot.

Examples of Decent(ish) Representation:

Choice of Rebels: Much as I love this game (agh, the worldbuilding), this is one game where the ace path can lead to heartbreak…which doesn’t occur playing as an allosexual, or even someone on the ace spectrum. One of the main characters and ROs (1/3 for the first game), Breden, will enter a relationship with an ace character, but give the MC ultimatum(s, depending on how you play) until they either agree to have sex with them or break up. They’ll even reject an ace MC’s marriage proposal who won’t do so.

The reason? Their relationship, without sex, is not enough. Not only is that just generally not a great feeling for ace players, but could actually possibly be triggering for people with similar past relationship issues. I feel like the breakup should either be quick or Breden decides the relationship isn’t for them since the MC (through all paths I can see) always ends up letting Breden know they’re ace before it starts.

Another issue is that the game, while it allows you to play as a romantic asexual, it doesn’t allow you play as aromantic sexual. (Though it does have an AroAce option).
BUT it also has one of the sweetest ace romances ever with Simon/Susanne de Firiac. Though it is a potential issue that Breden, Simon/Susanne, and the other RO, Kalt/Kala will always have to be let down by the player, no matter orientation. An issue for aro MCs, and anyone who doesn’t like them, really. Really it can be quite stressful.

Bad Representation (not naming specific games but bad things/tropes):

Stereotypes/false assumptions (see above): Being ace doesn’t mean you don’t ever want to touch people; not all touch is sexual. Some ace people enjoy kissing.

Conflating asexual and aromantic: They are not the same thing, and people who want to play one path might not interested in another. I know I’ve passed up on playing as ace before to still be romantic. Of course, I’m glad such paths are common place for AceAro people.

Less content for people who aren’t romancing/romancing differently. Sure, it’s be to expected in romance games that there’s less content for aromantics (and sometimes asexuals, to a lesser extent) I suppose. Yet friendship and characters are still deeply important to the game. Not everyone will want sex, not everyone will want romance, but everyone will want relationships of some sort with the characters.

The MC is the only one who’s on the ace/aro spectrum: I want to be able to meet people who are ace, people who aro, people who are both. It’s just so important. Makes us feel seen, you know?

As you said above, being forced into romance, and also being forced into sex: It’s jarring for me in a romance than playing the game and somehow finding that being romantically interested in a character means we’re being the horizontal tango without my character’s consent (is it the same way for aromantics who find that being sexually interested in a character means their MC has romantic feelings for them?)

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I edited the title as suggested.

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So I have a question about writing ace characters and ace romancing that I’d like your perspective (and others’!) on: if an ace MC is romancing an RO that isn’t satisfied with a relationship without sex or a relationship without intimate contact (for aces who aren’t ‘touchy’ as you put it), what do you think might be some appropriate ways of writing that? Both from the perspective of not being off-putting to ace readers but still being true to how such a conflict could play out?

I think if a writer is truly being inclusive of ace players and protagonists, they wouldn’t have every or even most of the ROs react to this? But if someone wants to write characters with nuance, I think finding ways to have ROs express their feelings and needs in a relationship is necessary. So how does one (or I, really, since I am definitely also asking for my own reference while writing my game) address this dynamic in a way that is both sensitive to readers that share the MCs asexuality while also staying true to the ROs personality and behavior?

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(As someone who is asexual but not aro, I am mostly going to focus on that side of things.)
Something I want to see more games do is have the fact that asexual people exist/the mc is asexual be something that comes up. Don’t leave it up to the reader to imagine the RO and MC talked it over one night, have that conversation in there! Choosing that your MC is asexual shouldn’t just be a switch that keeps the more sexual scenes from being shown.

@rinari’s Shepherds of Haven does this well: if your MC is ace, (or aro, or both) at one point you can be playing that world’s equivalent of Fuck, Marry, Kill, and you can let the person you are playing with know that “Hey I don’t actually do that.” Its just a nice way to have the game acknowledge that, yep, your MC is ace and that’s a thing that exists!.

I think I said this same thing in the last thread on the topic, but have more characters who are actually ace in games as well. ROs, non-ROs, important characters, side characters. There aren’t a lot of us but we do exist lol! Having ROs who are cool with an Ace MC is well and good, but sometimes you don’t want your MC’s preferred relationship to just be something an RO is “cool with,” you want it to be the RO’s preferred relationship too!

From what I remember about its original thread, one of the ROs in Tale of Two Cranes is planned to be asexual and prefer a sexless romantic relationship, and that’s great that more representation is starting to slip in there!

For my own game that I am working on, one of the ROs is ace, and I want to try to have nuanced options for both ace MCs and allo MCs when it comes to spending time with their ROs. Allo doesn’t mean you are in the mood all the time, after all!

A game that really impressed me with a nuanced take on things is @peaches Roots, where you can not only choose to be ace, later you can still choose to be physically attracted to someone, and the game actually has the MC acknowledge that they don’t normally react that way. It’s a little thing, but the fact the game takes that stuff into account is appreciated!

Have the MC and the RO have a conversation before the romance starts/before it’s locked in. “Oh, by the way, I am ace,” “Oh damn that’s not going to work for me,” is generally speaking a conversation that happens at the beginning of a relationship, not deep into it. Having characters who aren’t fine with a sexless romantic relationship is a-okay, just don’t punish an ace MC for not knowing that ROs preference before its too late.

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Thanks btw. I don’t really do forums much, so that’s my bad if the labeling/title were off. :sweat_smile: I didn’t think it’d matter, so it was just me making a slight pun on LGBT(A+).

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Well,this is my first post on this forum and english is not my first language (and I’m on my phone),but I will try!

So I don’t think I have really huge problems.(except the usual that have already been say before,less content if you don’t romance anyone,friendship being less fulfilling etc)

But there’s still small things that bothers me.
I am Aro/Ace but also aegosexual/romantic.
(not sure you could even implement aegosexuality)
So that’s why I see my characters as me (or try to make them as close to me as I can),totally inexperienced in romantic/physical relationship.

And so I chose the romantic sexual option.(if I chose the Aro/Ace the majority of games simply stop you from choosing the romantic/sexual option) But what I notice is that many games then assume that I have some experienced.Or they try to stay ambiguous/leave it to the player but the way they write the MC heavily imply (or just totally make it obvious) that the MC had relationship before.

For example in The Magician’s Burden during the sex scene.MC know exactly what to do and even say that it was the best they ever had.Or in Evertree Inn I remember that during a romantic moment there this pasage where MC think that sure they didn’t live a life of chastity but are still looking for true love.And I remark the exact same thing in Heart’s Choice.In a Pirate’s Pleasure,your MC have thoughts/say things like,that person isn’t worthy to share my bed,I want to romance another kind of person,things like that.

There all small details.But when I read them it always create a sort of wall between me and my MC I’m like "Wait,I have experience? But with who?! Hey? That’s…not me.
I have no problems with defined MC but I would love to be,you know,warned a little before so I don’t imagine them as me.

Yeah my problem is basically the games not letting me decide and assuming what my MC will do during intimate scene.
And it’s easily fixable.Make the choice explicit.
For example right after choosing which gender you are attracted to add the option to chose how much experience you have,combine the two,something like that.So after you can leave it vague or change the scene.

Other things that would be appreciated :

  • Allow MC to tell their RO about their inexperienced and have the possibility to let Ro take the lead/guide MC

  • Have option to be insure about what to do or say.

  • Unless it’s a somewhat define MC let the player chose if they have dating experience or have

I feel that all those problems can be fixed if you just keep in mind that being attracted to a gender doesn’t mean automatically having any kind of experience.

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As has been mentioned previously, games tend to assume that asexual is a synonym for aromantic, or that you can’t be ace without also being aro. I’ve honestly run into so many games that say you can be asexual in their summary, only to find out it’s just shorthand for “no romance path”, that I’ve lost count. As someone who’s asexual but not aromantic, it’s extremely disheartening to get excited and then disappointed that many times - I imagine it’s a similar experience for people want to play as aro but not ace. Granted, lately I’ve seen a trend of at least a few games mentioning both aromantic and asexual in their summaries to specify both/either, so I hope that catches on. But even with games that do let you have asexual romantic relationships, all of them that I’ve played except for one have automatically locked the player out of kissing their RO, which has been so jarringly different to my preferences/RL romantic experiences that I end up not playing as ace anyway.

Crème de la Crème was the first (hopefully of many!) that really changed that, plus I know you can also play as aro without being ace. I loved finally being able to be ace AND still kiss the ROs, though I remember some of the flavor text saying something along the lines of “you didn’t think you’d ever want to” re: kissing, which was a bit strange and immersion breaking but honestly not that big a deal; the fact that I could do it at all made me so happy I teared up a little. And there were always choices - you were never forced into having a certain level of physical contact.

Honestly that’s the only game that immediately comes to mind aside from Fallen Hero that’s made me really happy with my ability to customize the MC to reflect my own experiences without feeling like I’m being locked out of/getting less thoughtful content. But I don’t play every game, and it’s possible one is slipping my mind. I have noticed a trend of the quality of ace representation in games slowly getting better, so here’s hoping that continues into 2020 :slightly_smiling_face:

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I want to add that not author has to find themselves forced to add anything that goes against their ideas and plotting. Lately, I have noticed a worrying tendency to try to encourage very aggressively to authors to include stuff that is not what they want to do at all, to point to callef out not inclusive or anti stuff if they don’t fulfil all the demands of fans.

Not all had to include all options in the spectrum. I hope more games will be made to address minorities. I am demisexual so chances of being included are zero; even If I don’t normally care as I roleplay.

Now, I am working for a contest in a story about a totally Aro Ace character so there won’t be romance or attraction or any other stuff even if NPCs will feel attracted. I don’t use CS for that game as the contest. is in IS but I think that a game like that would be impossible on Cog nowadays, to be honest. Too many trying to limit writers creativity and ideas trying to increase plot in a way not wanted by the author.

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I agree a lot with what is said here, as someone on the aro/ace spectrum, I’ve noticed more games coming out in the last few years with options for people like me, which I am delighted by.

There is one game I want to highlight that I thought did a wonderful job with aro/ace representation that I havent seen mentioned yet. It was Heart of House. I’m going to specifically talk about Dev’s romance here, though I know it is also an option with the other characters as well.

What I liked about Heart of House was you could choose several different ways to take the romance: platonically, romantically, asexual, aromantic, and there was a specific point in the game where you got to choose exactly which way you wanted the romance/friendship to go, because Dev asked you. The author posed the question to the reader to decide. Dev felt like a real character, because he reacted to your decision depending on the decision, for example, choosing asexual confused Dev but they accepted it and asked for time to think about it, which I thought was something good to see. Later they come back to you and give you there answer (happily accepting, of course) and you can choose whether you enjoy touch or if you do not as well (they ask if you are comfortable cuddling/hugging, for example.) I really enjoyed the way Heart of House did these options, I recommend trying it out, not just for the relationships but for the story as well!

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Yeah, I completely agree on not forcing a writer to write/include content they’re uncomfortable/unfamiliar with. I do think eventually creators should try to branch out and write outside their comfort zones, but that’s a personal journey you can’t pressure them into. (As an AroAce who’s clueless at writing any romance, I’ve been having to practice the reverse of what prompted this thread :sweat_smile:)

I just know that a lot of creators around here are trying out all kinds of inclusivity and getting readers immersed in their in-game choices, so there’s always room to improve at providing that when you want to.

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That is true, But It all depends on the plot of the story. If Your story is about romance in the typical sense of romance and sexual affection that is what the game is. Same goes with romance options, sometimes authors don’t want to include NPCs as romances. Or make characters switch based on orientation.
And I understand that people want to have more options but sometimes people are too adamant in that pressure on authors. I know people who stopped projects because the pressure of add stuff they don’t want to include.

For example, This character I writing is a male and is aro ace, and I don’t care what people are going to say because he is aro and ace and a male regardless. That is the story I want to told and is the story I am writing. Sometimes people here forgot that detail. Writers have to write their stories; fans only can guide the way, not forcing they path.

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You’ll probably like my next story I’m working on Mara, the protagonist just happens to be asexual and the plot line has nothing to do with any of that, since it’s a vengeance/justice based story and she’s focused on hunting her opponent down.

Added bonus for you, the protagonist is evil.

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Great, that sounds really interesting. There are few stories where characters are just aro ace but that is just something they are and not the main focus. I use the aro ace as something my character is and not the main focus either, even if affect the life of a teenager.

I noticed in many games that if you choose platonic options, it’s a lot harder to raise relationship stats. So if you don’t romance anyone, the characters are going to be lukewarm to you in contrast to choosing flirty options where there’s usually a bonus.

It happens so often even in games that aren’t romance-centric. I get that some people feel as if romantic relationships are the most important relationships in life but I feel like it sends a message that no matter how close a friendship is with someone, the bond will always be inferior to a romantic one. It’s fine if some feel that way but I’d like a bit more balance with games that acknowledge a different view.

For characters written specifically to be non-Aro/Ace ROs, it makes sense that there would obviously be more development for romance routes. However, I‘d really appreciate to see greater inclusion of more characters with content that develops platonic relationships with as much depth as romance paths. I know that’s additional work for writers so when I see games that give you that option, I especially appreciate the effort.

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