Consolidated Gender Lock Discussion Thread

Personally I don’t buy games that are gender locked to male where I know in advance that they are. It is my opinion that gender locking games these days is sign of lazy writing.

Having said that. With the sheer quantity of games that are male MC only, I don’t mind games that are gender locked to female. I still do think its lazy game writing but I play female characters almost exclusively where possible so it would still get my money.

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I actually like that we don’t take gender-locked protagonist as a standard here, that people will ask for a character of a different gender as a protagonist.

Of course it’s not great to keep pushing it once the author’s said no for the third time, but I do think just asking is important. And I also think it’s important that the author thinks it out instead if just taking a set gender protagonist for granted…

I loved how both Choice of Broadsides and Choice of Romance hit the gender-switch from different sides. I liked being able to play a female naval officer and a male Anne Boleyn.

I’m not sure if I’d call it lazy writing as such. Certainly all those big games where you have identical grizzled men as the protagonist and no option to play a woman, then it strikes me as laziness.

But, the short game I wrote, for instance, wouldn’t have worked with a male protagonist. Having a male protagonist would have ruined the joke of it as well as the fun. And writing a gender-switched Julius Caesar was pretty much the point of the game.

The above example of the Dwarf Princess could do what Broadsides did and just do a complete gender flip. In a game with a male protagonist, it would be women that rule, men who experience a great deal of sexism and discrimination, who’re looked down upon, forced to shave their beards, etc, etc. But that sort of writing doesn’t work for everybody. I liked it in Broadsides and am rather disappointed that we’ve not really seen that sort of game again. Which just flips things on their head and leaves it at that.

Choice of Romance did. Choice of Romance replaced the conflict of being female in a male dominated society, with our youth and social status being our areas of powerlessness. Additional conflict was caused due to the light vs dark mages. And the desire for a male heir was replaced with the desire for a light mage heir. Even then people criticised the gender flip as unrealistic.


Yes I was thinking of games like Assassins Creed and Grand Theft Auto when making that observation. Though even here the male gender hosted games I haven’t bought. Gender locking to male is not something I will support. I will accept that it is required for historical accuracy if that is what the author is going for, but I won’t support it with my purchase nor will I recommend such games to friends & family.

As the years have progressed I have grown to have gender and ideally orientation flexibility as a requirement for games I purchase. Indeed I have been pleasantly surprised with some of the wips here to be male/female/whatever-you-want. I can’t quite wrap my head around genders outside of the male/female binary but it is nice to see growing acceptance of those positions. Those that see completion to a point that I can buy them will certainly see my financial and vocal support.

Hmm I am not necessarily put off by a genderlocked protagonist. I tend to focus more on the kinds of choices allowed through the course of the entire game. For example, I’d rather have a well-written story in which I am, say, forced to be a female protagonist but I get to choose many different things about MCs life/future throughout the game - than a game in which I get to choose my gender but there aren’t any meaningful and significant choices later on. :slight_smile:


Please don’t equate video games like Grand Theft Auto with the work people do here, especially if you haven’t played the games and, thus, don’t technically know anything about them. You of course have every right to your opinion and don’t need me (or anyone else) to validate it for you. At the same time, and for the same reason, I would respectfully request that you refrain from ascribing certain motives, such as “lazy writing,” to the authors of those games which you don’t support.

I have played most of the official CoG and hosted games here as well as a good number of the WIP’s with working demos.

At any rate, opinions were asked for, I gave mine and further expanded on my viewpoint. I’m not trying to persuade anyone that they should share my view point. I’m not trying to claim to be right or wrong.

Still I believe that writing for a game, be it a AAA blockbust like GTA or a $5 interactive fiction as can be found here is largely one and the same. Both require a writer, only one needs the rest of the dev team to handle fancy 3d graphics and audio.

Outside of certain setting choices, which at present I personally limit to “historically accurate”, I do feel it is lazy to gender lock a story. So far I’ve yet to see a game of any type that has persuaded me to believe otherwise. If such a game arises, I will adjust my opinions accordingly.

Finally I found your response to be somewhat aggressive. I’m not sure that was needed.


@LordOfLA Just to remind you, that firstly we do have authors on the forums. @DistractedDad for instance has written two Hosted Games. So when you say that certain writers are lazy for not doing something, even if you didn’t mean it to be personal, it can be taken as such. So, just keep that in mind.

Actually, you’re wrong there. The process for creating both types of games is completely different. Plus the role of writer is also different. You just can’t compare them. Writers for the big studios won’t always get a say in what they’re actually writing. They just write what they’re told to, within the parameters they’re told.


@FairyGodfeather hits the nail on the head, @LordOfLA . To be clear, it was the mention of Assassins Creed and GTA that prompted me to respond. Like I said, you’ve every right to think what you want about Choicescript games. If in your informed opinion a gender-locked game is evidence of writer laziness then more power to you. Since you specifically exempt historically accurate games you may explictly be avoiding my work. (Or you may not have known either I or my games exist.) I neither meant nor take offense at any of that.

However, please don’t think that writing GTA is just like writing a Choicescript game only with images. I consider the games on here to be serious works created by, and enjoyed by, thoughtful people.


Ah, I see where you’re coming from. My opinion stated here isn’t just directed at Choicescript games. I run every game I come across against this opinion of mine. If I’m given advance notice that a game is worth setting aside my opinions of gender lock-in and giving a fair shake I will do so. I’m not likely to find a game that will make me alter my views if I don’t.

As to whether I’ve looked at your games, I’m not sure. You’d have to run some titles by me.

I was largely referring to GTA, etc as games with gender lock-in and as examples of lazy writing. I have played a number of games here (hosted and otherwise) that I would say give Bioware or Ragnar Tornquist of Longest Journey fame a run for their money. Examples of which include the Hero Rise/Project/Fall trilogy, Choice of Romance and the works in progress of Eight Thrones, Choice of Rebels, Guenevere and Magikiras, all of which have soaked up numerous days of my life and which I look forward to purchasing in the case of the works in progress.

Guenevere is however, an example of a story gender locked to female, which I don’t have much of an issue with in that it isn’t locked to male. I took a look because I could play as a female character as I prefer to do, and found inside some incredible writing.

The few male gender-locked games I’ve look at here have been rather dull and uninteresting by comparison and I’ve not moved beyond the first chapter or two depending on what was available as either a wip demo or free preview on the main site.

So while I consider gender locking to be lazy writing, I will look past that design decision if the writing is subsequently good enough to entertain me. By “good enough” here I mean “Am I having fun with this yet?”.

Maybe I should say that gender locking is a missed opportunity, rather than lazy? Either way, it is definitely a primary influencer of whether or not I will try or buy a game blind.

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That’s certainly the language I’d be inclined to use. (:


I’m torn.

On one hand, I’m all for including, nay targeting, readers regardless of gender or sexual orientation and as a straight white guy I’m sure I don’t understand how frustrating it is for other folks who don’t see many/any protagonists who resemble them.

On the other hand, I sometimes feel that allowing a MC to be any gender or orientation can make the MC rather bland. Many writers, including myself, can’t spend the time coding unique reactions, motivations or dialogue based on the reader’s chosen gender and orientation so those choices are reduced to window dressing, although perhaps window dressing that allows the reader to feel more immersed in the story.

Men and women can approach problems and obstacles quite differently and if a writer wanted to focus on a more gender specific story that seems perfectly appropriate.


I suppose for certain stories, requiring a preset hero/heroine might be necessary. Personally, though, I find games far more enjoyable when I define the hero.

In most games, there will be no reason to lock a gender one way or the other. In a Standard Fantasy Setting (viz. Life of a Wizard), or anything set in the 21st century West or further in the future, the genders are equal enough to ignore it. However, adherence to some specific settings (historical Earth, fantasy more along the lines of A Song Of Ice And Fire) means either adhering to the unequal gender dynamics of the setting or ignoring them (Tin Star, for example, took advantage of the relative egalitarianism of the Old West and simply ignored the fact that a woman could probably not be legally appointed as a US Marshal). Furthermore (as with Guenevere) some stories need a character of a particular gender to work.

Choice of Broadsides and Affairs of the Court are settings where there was a reason to genderlock the PC, but because of CoG’s philosophy, they instead came up with workarounds. Well done in Broadsides, where they flipped the entire world and it worked out okay, but unfortunately causing a bit of whiplash in AotC because they failed to come up with a coherent replacement for the fact that Jane Austen’s books were in fact a commentary on gender dynamics. Meanwhile, Choice of the Vampire accepted (if downplaying) the misogyny of antebellum America while still allowing you to play a character of either gender; as vampire society is itself egalitarian, that worked out fine.

Sabres of Infinity is a setting with misogyny, as Cataphrak pointed out. Women are firmly restricted from military roles and expected to be wives and mothers, and while it’s possible to have a woman do other things and even be in the hero role in some stories in the Infinite Sea (for example, Lady Katarina), a cavalry officer has to have the right equipment between his legs, and some plot elements in the future are going to revolve around this (for example, the distinction between romance and marriage). Guenevere, meanwhile, is a tale about a specific character; it could not be anything but genderlocked.

With all that said, I freely admit that if I were to make a game that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while (a magical girl pastiche), I would probably genderlock it to female out of adherence to genre conventions. Simply put, while you can have a girl as a prince nowadays (even without going with how Utena did that, as part of its extensive fucking with concepts of gender, sexuality and power), I wouldn’t consider myself up to writing a guy as a princess. I’ll leave that to Hanako Games to pull off :smiley:


I think it really depends on the type of title you are doing. For me, I prefer gender locked in the future because my style is really a game novel, where the quality of the story comes first, and game play comes second. Just like reading a novel, but it’s interactive. Many other people here have a different RPG style, where game play and game choices are priority, I would say in those kind of games, gender choice is a must.


I’ve only part-quoted this… because I’d suggest there’s a blandness of protagonist in virtually all second-person choose-your-own-adventure games, regardless of whether they put in a choice of gender. Many readers want to have an Everyperson MC, the better to imagine “themselves” in the role; and authors are drawn to it because it’s so much easier to write that, rather than putting a lot of work into coding a defined personality (let alone a choice of personalities) driving/reacting to all the different changes that are possible in the story.

Two exceptions are Choice of Robots and Guenevere, and both of them are massive, ambitious pieces of work. I thought the former did a good job of offering a range of well-sketched MC personalities (all some flavor of geek) that more or less hold together throughout the game, and Guen is a standout character – but not, I’d venture, because she’s genderlocked, but rather because Jean has put a huge, totally extraordinary amount of work into coding unique reactions, motivations, and dialogue.

By contrast, I didn’t find the MC of Sabres much of a presence, despite being genderlocked. Elson and (above all) Cazarosta are the characters who stand out; your MC has lots of interesting choices, but not a personality as such. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sabres… but if one advantage of genderlocking is that it makes it easier to write a non-bland MC, the only example I’ve read to date is Guenevere.

tl;dr MC blandness is almost entirely down to the genre we’re working in, not the choice of gender.

Not sure why that’s a key reference point here – AotC is a fantasy retelling of Henry VIII/ Anne Boleyn, which (as I’m sure you know) is a few centuries earlier than Austen. :slight_smile: Course, you may still find the commentary on power dynamics AotC offers to be an unconvincing substitute for the gendered power dynamics of the historical Henry. That’s a different conversation, one we’ve had a lot already.


Whether a protagonist is bland or not is on the writer not the genre. Nothing wrong with the genre, it’s up to the writer to make a protagonist not bland.

Of course whether that protagonist “connects” with the reader is another story and that’s going to be random which is again ultimately why a writer should just follow their own vision rather than trying to cater to everyone. Unless that IS one of their goals which then leads to writing that as was already mentioned risks “blandness.” because the writer is trying to be things to all people.

Obviously I’m probably not going to connect with a female protagonist quite as much as say a female reader might, but I’d rather see a writer gender lock the protagonist as a female and focus on their personality, plot line, etc. than just waste time writing out gender flipped choices just so I’ll somehow feel more “comfortable” playing as a guy.


If it’s genderlocked for the story you want to tell I think that’s fine. I don’t think you should have to give up what you want to produce to make everyone happy.

That being said, gender locked justification is a bit of a landmine from what I’ve seen. But seeing as your MC is female and you’re going with the"I’m a female living in a man’s world." spring board I don’t think you’ll need to worry about people raking you over the coals for it.


You do what you want. Don’t force yourself to include something you don’t ‘feel’.

I mean, sure there are people that won’t be interested in your game because they can’t choose their gender/play a guy (I myself am a very adamant defender of gender choice in games), but there are still tons of people who don’t give a damn about that.

I don’t think there is a universally acceptable way to create a game (there are SO many things people might flay you alive for, I don’t think there is a point in worrying [uh, not in your plot specifically, just in general]), so I say go for it.

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This new “gender sensitivity” ideology is a pretty interesting recent phenomenon. Where I am from, in the Netherlands, it’s not really relevant but apparantly it’s a big thing in the United States.

From an ideological perspective, I think it´s kind of silly and I don´t really feel it. But from a gameplay perspective, I think games should aim to give players as much freedom and choice as possible, and therefore they SHOULD include male/female/heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual options, where appropriate within the games lore/universe.

For my current game, 1542: Rise of the Witchhunter it was a bit of an issue though. The game is set in the 16th century, and women simply weren’t witchhunters in that time. Since the game aims for historical accuracy, I couldn’t really allow the player to be a full-blown woman. By the suggestion of a commenter, I decided to allow the option to be a secret woman, pretending to be a man, as a sort of funny compromise.

That said I do think the title of this thread is somewhat subjectively loaded: by framing having a forced pre-determined sex as something with degrees of acceptibility, the issue is automatically steered into assuming this is somehow a bad thing. If the games’ setting or lore or in-universe simply call for having a pre-determined sex, be it man or woman or “complicated”, I don’t think this ideology of “gender sensitivity” should tamper with artistic integrity.


Affairs of the Court as a whole, yes. Choice of Romance in particular, however, is an Austen pastiche.