Demon Mark: A Russian Saga demo discussion [SPOILERS]


#1

I played the demo part of this game and there’s something on my mind ever since then: Is it just me or does it really seem kind of unnecessary to have an agendered (hope this is the right term) sibling? So far it seems to me that it was only written that way just for the sake of having a non-binary character and not bc it would make more sense in the story actually that level of acceptence doesn’t even fit the era, like that level of acceptence seems okay in the Heroes Rise trilogy for example which is set in the future, but it seems kinda forced in a story set in the medieval Russia.

Now before there would be any misunderstandings I have no problem with non-binary people or non-binary characters if I think those characters fit the story.

But I might be overlooking something so if someone could enlighten me I would be grateful.


Author Interview: “Demon Mark: A Russian Saga”
#2

From the story perspective: I see your point about the consequences. Not having the full story, I do not know if there are future consequences of having a non-gendered sibling. Just like I do not know if there are consequences of being a girl a boy or a non-gendered MC.

My hope is that all of this has impact within the story as it progresses but just from the demo, nothing is certain either way.

From the characterization point of view, I know in general, historically, the self-expression was more tolerated in the lower classes then in the upper crusts of society. So, that a peasant village would be tolerant of a non-binary person in their midst seems believable, especially as we are dealing with kids still.

From a reader’s point of view, the very fact that the authors are attempting to represent a non-binary character as more then a token character I think is great - I hope more stories in the future will do so too.

Things like women being part of the local levy and such can be historical - Kiev had Norse roots, so I can see it as being possible - this isn’t 18th century Czarist Russia or even 20th century Czarist Russia where mpre Victorian ideals were imposed from the top down. Peter the Great didn’t turn Russia to the western ways until the 16th century.

I’m not a Russia/Kievian expert, so I can only go on what little I know from other sources like the ERE which did talk about Kievian women warriors - so I assume the authors have done their due diligence in research and development.


#3

I don’t think there’s any reason to get too worked up about things like that and whether they are exactly true to history or not in stories, especially in magical settings. What I think might have caused your reaction is the way the author has introduced it. It seems like there’s a fairly big deal made of it on the 2nd page, (I think it might be the first conversation you have with anyone) only to have him disappear right after with no more about it. You could just have him identify in some way as non binary without the discussion and I think it would have flowed better. But that’s just me, others might think it’s introduced fine. The impression I got was the author wanted to put something like this in but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it. Especially since they also put words into the MC’s mouth about not understanding, but then let you choose a non binary character which is kind of odd.


#4

First off, rude.

How would it sound, if instead someone said “Is it just me or does it really seem kind of unnecessary to have a femaled (yes, femaled) sibling?”

It’s not “agendered”, but “agender”; the -ed termination is not to be used for a lot of reasons, one of them because it seems to point out something that has been done to the sibling rather than it being their gender identity; it’s as if you say “a gayed man”. Not cool, right?

Also, the way you word it, really; how would it make you feel if someone points out that binary characters are unnecessary? Why bother with them, if there are evil witches and talking animals, why not just make everyone non binary?

You know, it looks like in the past there was fairly more tolerance than what we want to believe; back then not everyone was an homophobe or strict as hell with gender, it’s just that a lot of times they didn’t have a name for it or the knowledge about it.

Also, as @Eiwynn says, the lower classes had more freedom in a way; they more worried about their daily struggles and how to stay warm in the winter rather than someone’s gender identity (because it didn’t affect them in any way). The MC’s parents’ attitude regarding their non binary children would probably be “okay, now help us water the radishes.”

Again, we have evil witches, talking animals and demon marks; is it really so crazy to have an agender character? The “if I think those characters fit the story,” is entirely subjective, because as I mentioned earlier, someone else could say “well, guess what? I think that binary characters are unnecessary!”


#5

They already stated in their post that they were not sure if this was the correct term to use. If someone accidentally uses the wrong word to refer to something/someone, just politely correct them.

@cari-san
I don’t find the sibling being agender a problem, I’m just confused by the way it was introduced. What was the point of having the gender be assigned by which name the MC picked, when it was going to be set as agender later? They could have let the MC just pick the gender after picking the name, because it was going to be changed later.


#6

Oh, I meant that the whole post was rude, not just the use of said term; after all it strikes me as “why bother with non binary characters?” Kind of “why do you even exist?”, because if the sibling had been a girl/boy then no one would bat an eye and we wouldn’t be having this chat.

Although I did explain why “agendered” was incorrect ( and without insulting anyone); isn’t that polite?


#7

I’m sorry about the word “agendered” I admit that these non-binary terms are sometimes too confusing to me and also I’m not a native english speaker (if this wasn’t obvious when you’ve read my post then just turns out my english is better than I thoght), so once again I didn’t want to offend anyone with purposely using the wrong word here.

Now after reading other peoples opinions I guess I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about the siblings gender or lack of it if it would have been introduced differently. The game also kinde made a big deal of it at least to me it feels so… Not even sure how it coudn’t have been dealt better but it didn’t really had a natural feeling to it, if you guys get what I mean. Like it’s accepted but it isn’t normal not even in a world where witches and monsters etc. exist.


#8

I’m actually a big fan of if there’s no conflict in the story about something (as there isn’t in this case) then it should be accepted as normal. It allows your characters to be identified for the entirety of who they are, not as that boy who is agender or that girl who is bi which it kind of feels like in this story. It means that people who are accepting of it can see characters as they are meant to be and enjoy the story, and people who are not, are probably less likely to reject the concept by feeling they’re being preached to. Nichelle Nichols (the original Uhura from star trek) said she stayed on the show because she was convinced by Martin Luther King about how much of a positive impact she was having by being female and a person of colour in an equal role. I know everyone has different opinions, this is just mine. (Not trying to offend anyone).


#9

I’m pretty sure if we would want to be historically realistic then someone in the medieval era blurting out they are neither a boy nor a girl would have been at least chestised by their parents in fear that people would assume they are a witch or something… Uh, not sure how they dealt with males but I guess neither a male would get simply get away with it if they are too open about it (talking about male as in biological gender).
But since this is also a fairytale and a game and not a history book I guess there’s no need to be that realistic here.

…or maybe I’m wrong here after all I’m just making assumptions based on medieval Europe and I don’t know much about medieval Russia.


#10

@Cari-san oh, it’s alright; I’m nowhere near as offended as I might look like in my other posts, just a taaaad miffed (annoyed) for the wording (though since you aren’t a native English speaker and neither I am, maybe we had some miscommunication problems); maybe I should have added some emojis to seem friendlier :slight_smile:

So all good between us? :smile:

Aaah, yeah, that makes more sense :thinking: I guess that the authors should have worked on that scene to make it more organic/less clunky, yeah?


#11

@Lycoris
It’s cool. After all I’m talking about a sensitive subject here and also a subject in which I lack informations so I expected misunderstandings here.


#12

See, that is the thing - even in medieval “Europe” things were different at the village/peasant/whatever you call lower society levels then at court and in the cities/towns. When you say, medieval Europe, which society in particular are you referencing because I know of medieval “European” acceptances in Scotland/Welsh/Irish, Norse, and even some of the Germanic tribes located from the Steppes to Spain…

I think your criticism about the way it was written is a valid piece of feedback but I also know from my own efforts, expanding my story-telling abilities to include non-binary gender is a harder-then-it-seems-at-first-blush exercise. I think a lot of us are still learning how to write such characters in our stories in ways that are inclusive, not offensive and also fit within the story.

The major thing I am thankful for both of these authors is that they tried and that they kept after it. Maybe the rest of us can learn from their experiences.


#13

I’m refering to the era when witch huntings happened. And as far I know it happened almost in every european countries. And in that era people got killed or tortured for just simply stating a different opinion and if “educated” people acted like this than I highly doubt that peasants acted any differently just bc they were poorer. It’s a fact that humanity is commonly bad at tolerating those who are different than the majority.

I agree with you here. All I wanted to give is a feedback, but I didn’t find the right place to post it and that’s the only reason I created this thread.

Also I get that the authors are trying their best and in a way they are also still studying and trying to get better. But that’s also why they need feedback to know that what they could still work on, right?

And maybe this will change when the full game will be available and we get to read more about this sibling. So far it seems the most important thing about them is that they are non-binary, but this being their main characteristic hardly makes it look natural or normal.


#14

You are talking about the time after the religious wars - most of the “medieval” period was done then. I’m talking about the 1,000+ years worth of the medieval period you ignore. And in many things, the differences between the classes existed - from foods eaten daily to what was and wasn’t tolerated. `

Ya - feedback is good but it should be focused feedback and actionable - something I can’t yet provide mysellf due to only seeing the demo and not knowing better ways of writing things myself.


#15

I came to this thread expecting a playable demo, instead I got a bunch of spoilers about a game (that is currently in closed beta) without so much of a warning. :frowning:


#16

@IvoryOwl Sorry about that. : / @Cari-san—I added a spoilers tag to the title to avoid further confusion or problems.

Oh, the demo is up on the website, too; anyone can play it. The beta is finished, and the full game is releasing soon, on 1 June.

I really like that the demo is already available, actually. I think it’s a great way to generate excitement about an upcoming release.


#17

@Fiogan
Oh, that’s cool. The only other thread about this game is one about Json requesting beta testers so I thought that’s where it was at in terms of development.


#18

On the original topic:

Generally, it strikes me as a little strange when people suggest that a historical fantasy shouldn’t have nonbinary (or female, or gay) characters because of ‘realism’, when that fantasy also might have ghouls or giant twelve-headed monsters or fairies. None of those fantasy characters are real, but nonbinary (and female, and gay, and etc.) people are real and always have been.

I didn’t mind the way the explanation was handled. My PC was a child at that point, so it’s a stage in life where you’re learning all kinds of things about the world around you and explanations of basic social issues make a lot of sense. Also, I recognise a lot of the audience may not be familiar with the idea of nonbinary individuals yet, or not know those terms (especially when English is a second, or third, or fifth language), so an explanation could be helpful or even possibly necessary.

I also found choosing my sibling’s gender a little creepy for modern political reasons, so I was happy to see that we didn’t actually get to assign our sib’s gender at all. I like the subtext (at least, that I perceived) that we don’t get to make the decision on other people’s gender.

There’s also the question of cake. When people write very excellent worlds with a certain degree of historical continuity and then make the artistic choice to genderlock their very excellent games—say, @Cataphrak’s Infinity series or @heather’s Study in Steampunk (one of my favourite IFs), then people are bothered they can’t play as their preferred gender.

On the other hand, if an author (sometimes the same author, even, but with a different work) chooses to allow the PC to be the same gender as the player, whether that’s nonbinary or female or what-have-you, there are protests (reasonable or not) of historical inaccuracy. And if the PC is able to be nonbinary or female, but no-one else in an equivalent role is, that’s just odd—and even more inconsistent.

Both kinds of games are important, but they tell different types of narrative. It’s not so easy to have the cake and eat it too.

As for including nonbinary characters in general, I think it’s absolutely necessary. For one thing, a big part of CoG’s awesomeness is its inclusiveness. Also it’s exciting to me to play in worlds where I can model my character after myself, and feel welcome (or as welcome as my peers, at least, for games with more turmoil or a hostile environment). I hope to be able to extend that welcome feeling to my readers someday with published fiction and games.


#19

@Fiogan
I believe that when people ask for realism they are either refering to things that fit said theme or something that is a bit more conformist. Nonbinary individuals are rarely mentioned (or even acknowledged) outside of their circles and that is why people are quick to dismiss them as something “extracurricular”. Its also important to ask ourselves if such topics are being properly presented and not just thrown around as “peace offerings” to the modern masses.

I see that argument a lot - that it doesn’t make sense to ask for realism in a fantasy world - but I think its entirely possible to reach a happy medium between the two them. Given all fantastic worlds are based on our own its not unfathomable to imagine them having natural laws the same way we do. We defy gravity with airplanes and spaceships, they can use gravitational magic to levitate and fly. A game with no ounce of realism in them becomes completely alien and difficult to compare or even associate with… like a Escher painting with 4D staircases where we see with our ears, hear with our eyes and everything is constantly shifting between different realities.

(Except the fact I was able to draw a comparison kind of invalidates the whole argument but you get what I mean!)


#20

Yet, they are fantastical with “Laws of Nature” that differ then ours. Physics may not act the way it does in our reality and to ask that it does would be to limit speed to less then light-speed. This would destroy warp drives and worm-hole jumps and other means of traveling between the stars.

So, you have to allow differences to exhibit different results.

For about 1,000 years, prior to the Renaissance and Inquisition, it is reasonable to encounter a greater acceptance of gender differences then you see later.

And this is the crux of the entire thread - we only have the demo to go on right now, so it is not yet time to make this determination.