Bad writing is bad

i think you’re misunderstanding what’s at the core of my gripe with this? i’m not saying that every variation of MC gender should have different routes or special/additional flavor text. i’m saying that ROs, perhaps specifically cisgender ones, do not feel, or are not being written, like actual bisexual and queer people. characters are falling flat because the only way they are bi is in the context of the MC not being the opposite sex and cisgender. that’s my issue with the pronoun swap. not every game or writer needs to be attempting to make The Perfect LGBT Romance game, and I especially don’t take issue with games that are not mainly about romance doing pronoun swaps.

@malinryden same???

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That makes sense, and it’s a lot less writing than a bespoke path or storyline. I’d be really interested to talk about specific games and relationships, because it’s hard for me to talk about writing like this out of context. So much of this seems genre dependent to me.

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I’m not sure I could write a straight person even if I tried.

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You could try asking others to see if they read okay? I prefer to do that whenever I write a character who isn’t white and straight and male like me.

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From my understanding you raise two broader issues in your post. First, you state there is a lack of struggle in games that fail to reflect real life. And secondly, that characters seem to be superficial. I cannot say much for the latter without examples - do share them, I’d be happy to discuss it more :slight_smile:

But because of that, I’ll only add something to the first part, particularly about romance:

I’ve seen it come up a lot how romance and sexuality should be dealt with in stories. I always feel like, in the end, the vague answer is “Every author can decide for themself”. Like @hotmess.exe explained, this forum (and many games) are very open-minded and inclusive which is why there’s a tendency to ignore issues that people might face in real life, or rather, a world is created where these issues don’t exist. Which is why, as you point out, games lack conflict in regarding to their gender, race, class etc.

And, to be honest, I see a lot of value in that.

People who have little contact with LGBT+ people might make their first experience on this forum or through these games. Seeing it as something normal that doesn’t need to be questioned helps a lot, in my opinion. This applies to many, including people who might come to terms with their sexuality through a story, as well as people who are comfortable with their gender, but have simply never encountered non-binary people in real life. To give you more context: there aren’t even any non-binary pronouns in my language, so I first learned about other gender pronouns in the game VERSUS.

So, yes, all this might be described as escapism. Or: fiction influences the world around us and it can make it better. By presenting a world without these struggles, we can take a step towards them by familiarizing ourselves with those concepts.

Naturally, romance was just a little part of your original post. But I think my example can be expanded to your statements about class and race.

Also, this post doesn’t reflect my full opinion. However: it’s an important aspect to be considered when saying games lack struggles.

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For that conversation, may I humbly request that those interested go here: https://forum.choiceofgames.com/t/discrimination-and-escapism-in-interactive-fiction/25323/10

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But, on a more serious note about the first post, it all depends on what the focus of the book is. Sure, I’d love to have a lot more discussions and relationship drama since I like reading that if it’s written well, but I’m not sure that would be very interesting in a let’s say, James Bond type agent book focused on a dangerous mission.

Regardless of tastes, I think the thing I sometimes see in the stories here is the need to include things just because it’s expected. For example, add a romance even though it doesn’t really get any time to grow, or feel like it matters. And sometimes when I encounter things like that, I also get annoyed and feel ‘I wish they had focused on this, it would have been a really cool dynamic if they took X into account’. And yes, yes it would, but would it have fitted into the story?

I’m trying to do a lot of these things myself because I’m interested in them, but that also means I now have a story with 12x as much or more words than the text the player gets to read because things snowball. If my story hadn’t focused around identity, it would have been ridiculous to go that extra length.

There’s a place for soft, uncomplicated escapism, and for dark, messy and real. They’re just different stories.

That being said, I have two things to add:

1, pronoun swaps are NOT lazy, this is a hill I will die on. Demanding that people should be written to some arbitrary gender binary in the name of realism is. Individuals vary a lot more than genders, same text with a pronoun swap will give two very different impressions of a character because of the reader’s preconceptions.

2, the idea that somehow people can see who’s straight or cis is ridiculous. That’s got nothing to do with reality, that’s just the the straight reader assuming that everyone is like them. I mean for me, the basic assumption is that every character is bisexual to some degree, because that’s me and my friends. For me, the notion to force some of them to be straight is weird. Just sitting here and trying to figure out what traits a character should have to be considered straight is… head scratching.

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I think a problem with the OP, as others have pointed out, is that the author seems to be presenting their own preferences for story types as objectively “better” than other people’s preferences. I actually like games which do attempt to tackle real-world issues and forms of discrimination - but I also like pure escapism too. We can all see that choice games can be a “broad church”, which can accommodate both types of story, as well as stories which aim to do a bit of both.

What I would be interested in hearing, however, are the reasons why Sandro thinks that recent COG games are getting less “realistic” and more “escapist”, because I myself don’t see any evidence of this trend. Just look at recently-released games out there. The Aegis Saga deals with hostility to out-groups which can easily find analogues in the “real world”; Ironheart tackles religious hatred; Journey into Darkness represents European colonialism (admittedly not in a very gritty way); it’s hard to think of a game that could be any more current and real-world relevant than Mask of the Plague Doctor! Maybe gritty real-world issues and themes of discrimination and its consequences aren’t coming through so much in the romances on offer, but that’s not the only way that authors can engage with these sorts of issues.

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If I may, I would like to add something.

While yes, I would agree with most of your points here (wasted potential, lack of depth, superficial motivation), I would also, at the same time, disagree with you on one point, that it is NOT bad writing that a story does not contain these.

As @will said, a high-level concept does not make the story interesting all alone. There needs to be a good implementation of it too, otherwise it’s gonna fall flat and even worse, may risk offending someone.

Second of all, as @hotmess.exe said, drama does NOT equal to good writing, there needs to be, again, a good implementation. In fact, I would argue that unnecessary drama will cause your story to be more, well to put it in layman’s term, cringy and bad. Drama for drama’s sake is NOT GOOD. While yes, I would agree that some of these things does not get much representation here, it depends upon what the author wants to achieve with their story.

Which brings me to my third point, escapism. A lot of the readers here are here to escape our sometimes shitty and unfair reality. While many of us would enjoy a story with all the whistles and bells of RL, including me, sometimes, it’s just better for us to forget all of that and just indulge in our fantasies. Which many of the stories here offer.

Last of all, a story is an author’s creative property. We cannot cross into their property and tell them to change the content, just because it’s “not real”. That is the author’s decision. We are just here for the ride. If someone doesn’t enjoy it, they might as well just get off. It’s not like somebody’s forcing them to read it.

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Should theese points be bad writting? Thoose are either suspension of disbelif beacuse the nature of a CYOA, or lazy writing at worst. Belive me the real bad writing problems are others. Like:

  1. Incohirence:
  • Changing things like names, places etc. without reason

  • Double standards and/or morality center protagonist (if the villain crash a bug he’s a monster, if the hero kills hundreds of unnamed characters everything is fine)

  • Characters who sudden act out of character or change side/ideas because “reasons” (or worst no reason at all), especially if it involves someone acting like an idiot because plot reason (malus points if it’s a “too dumb to live” case)

  • Favouritism (or branch favouritism in CYOA): no matter how much the hero is an idiot and the villain is a genius, the hero will always win becuase the plot says so.

  • Anticlimax: a major threath who/wich defeated a character easily is beaten by the same character with a snap of fingers

  1. Inconsistence:
  • Characters: a character has much focus but plot wise is a minor one, a major character has just 3 lines of dialogue, a character just disappear from the plot without reason or a new one comes out of nowhere.

  • Plot and subplot: a subplot seems relevant but it’s just a background event, unresolved subplots, plot twist for the saking of having a plot twist

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I mean… people can be superficial, even IRL. Not every character is going to be some deep flawed character with a tragic backstory.

Personally, I don’t really care if a character has a tragic backstory. I just file it away as something I’ve read about but on its own merit I don’t find it note worthy, especially if it’s hamming up the tragedy for the sake of having tragedy.

It’s overused and I find myself more attracted to static characters nowadays. It’s my personal opinion that you can oversaturate your writing with too much tragedy/negativity/drama to the point where your audience loses interest.

And I myself have lost interest quite a few times reading stuff that has drama for the sake of drama. Or negativity for the sake of negativity. Or tragedy for the sake of tragedy.

Can’t remember who, so forgive me. I think it’s Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit who comes to mind? He doesn’t want to go on adventure. He wants his mundane life where everything’s the same.

Unless I’m misremembering something (which please correct me if I’m wrong), Bilbo’s backstory is the everyday joe. His motivation is that he wants to keep his normal life versus going on an adventure.

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I find this incredibly perplexing. I’m no sure how one could find a character interesting if there is no conflict; without conflict, generally originating from a character’s backstory, what motivation do they have to do anything?

Bad writing is NOT choosing not to force players to possibly re live their experiences with oppression and discrimination in a fictional world. Bad writing IS having characters with superficial flaws, lack of description, poor dialogue, and story inconsistencies. Drama can be created in ways that don’t involve race, gender, or sexuality.

It is not lazy to create a fictional world where people do not experience the same discrimination and oppression as in the real world. Know your audience, and write something that you want to write and they want to read. Many people, myself included, do not want to read about a world rife with sexism, racism, or homophobia, as many of us experience these things in the real world and do not want to have to experience them in fiction as well.

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You are asking about taste. You could also ask, why do people like good or evil characters. It is personal taste.

I have been reading here and really asked myself, If a different social status is really a drama thing? Such things may differ a lot in other places but here thats just no big thing. The Mixed relationship Thing, also nö biggie Herr, I see that everyday. So if I write a story both would not matter, does that make my writing bad? Only because something does not fit the personal experience that does not make things bad.
I am not young anymore, so much of the drama from some games feels weird for me, mostly teenage fears and such, they just do not play any role in my life. So why would I need drama for the sake of drama? But that would not cause me to call that writing bad. It might just not be my cup of tea.

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Depend GREATLY what part of the world you are. If you are in Europe, there is no difference whatsoever I am talking about it for proper experience.

Then PLEASE maintain in the topic and not direct your post to other people with negative charged words please

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There is no difference between a blue-blooded Oxford graduate and a Northern English coal miner?

No, and inter-class relationships are a common thing in Europe. Then this is NOT the topic of this thread at all

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I don’t think it’s particularly productive to compare our experiences with oppression and discrimination in this thread. All of us have faced some sort of difficulty in our life. This does not make one person more qualified than another to speak on what they think is bad writing.

Edit: I’m growing a little bit concerned with the direction the thread is taking, I really think we should keep this on the topic of bad writing if we want it to stay open.

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Seconded Tornam’s penultimate point here. If Mara has never experienced class prejudice in Europe, then I’m happy for them, but to claim that there is no such thing as class prejudice in Europe is absurd, and perhaps disrespectful to the many people who have experienced it. I live in Europe and I can tell you, from personal experience, that class prejudice is a thing here, although it may vary substantially from region to region.

To return to the topic, none of this, of course, is to say that COG authors must include class prejudice as part of their fictional universes, or that not to include it is “bad writing”. Different books and different authors do different things.

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Locking this because it’s spiraling badly off-topic. It seems a thread like this will just inspire arguing based on personal preferences and biases, not constructive conversation.