Diversity: what's happening behind the scenes?

I know this is a delicate subject and I’m not here to ruffle feathers or start a debate on what should be done (I’m a minority myself). I’m just wondering in practice what’s actually happening to implement the diversity and inclusion values that CoG promotes.

I’ve heard so many takes on what should be done in this regard. Some say you shouldn’t write minorities you have no personal connection with, out of respect for the group, leaving space for people to tell their own stories without risk of misrepresenting. Others advocate for realism and only including characters that make sense for the story (e.g., depending on geographic location). Others believe in including as much diversity as possible, whether or not you’re part of the group or if it would technically be realistic.

What I’m wondering is: does CoG take an active role in working with writers to promote diversity and inclusion, and if so, how does this play out in the developmental process? Or do they leave this largely up to the writer’s discretion so long as the writer is respectful about whatever path they choose?

EDIT: here’s one example. I’m a woman and as a writer I think largely in terms of female protagonists. I notice most games include the option to choose between a few genders, but is that something that’s just encouraged or actively enforced? If a writer has a specific gender in mind for the player, is that a problem? I know romance games are often gender locked, but does that happen much with other games?

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I think the main steps take are in their main label, since on Hosted Games, they remain hands off in terms of content (unless its morally objectionable).

From what I remember, CoG are required to have a gender variable protagonist (I believe with at least pronouns that include he/him, she/her, they/them, although additional options are often included).

On Hearts Choice, they greenlight games that explore a variety of sexualities; there are multiple that are male readers with all male ROs or female readers and all female ROs, but nothing is required. The gender identities of the MC and romances are up to the writer.

Hosted Games is a free for all, as long as your story does not actively promote discriminatory views. Some games cover any gender identity of protagonist with the ROs being gender selectable (including non binary). Other games have gender locked protagonists with gender locked ROs. Its up to the writer what they want to include.

There is probably more, but that’s what immediately comes to mind

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Diversity and inclusion are values that CoG actively promotes in their games, to the point that there’s a section on it in the instructions they give their writers.

It’s a rule for CoG games that, if the character’s gender is mentioned in the story, the player be able to choose to play as a man, a woman, or nonbinary. No CoG game is genderlocked. HC does allow genderlocked games, which is one of the reasons for it to exist as a separate label. HG games have no content restrictions (besides no “grossly offensive” content), and CoG doesn’t have any involvement at all in what authors decide to include.

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I know that CoG has contracted sensitivity readers on occasion; when being edited as a CoG author, I’ve had suggestions about phrasing changes.

There is some info here about the CoG house style and how it relates to inclusion which may be of interest. There is also some requirements in the house style about not using lazy/offensive stereotypes. While Choice of Games projects require the ability to play as varied genders, Heart’s Choice and Hosted Games don’t. Choice of Games and Heart’s Choice have editorial oversight whereas Hosted Games does not in the same way.

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Not a position CoG takes, and neither does anyone remotely reasonable. There’s nothing “respectful” about writing a story where everyone is exactly like you in every way. I can put as many characters from as many minority groups as I want, and not a single person in the universe will be banned from “telling their own stories” because of that.

Others advocate for realism and only including characters that make sense for the story (e.g., depending on geographic location).

If I recall, that’s one of the exceptions for diversity quotas CoG allows. The guideline states that you won’t be forced to, for example, include black characters in a story set in 14th century Japan. And good on them, because to me it’s simply common sense.

Others believe in including as much diversity as possible, whether or not you’re part of the group or if it would technically be realistic.

A story that includes “as much diversity as possible” would just be a mess where no two characters share a single trait and the author is too busy adding new characters to actually write a story. Nobody I ever met is that extreme about wanting diversity in a game.

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Hello @hellanikthi

Regarding the protagonist’s (MC’s) gender, the following stickied thread might be of use:

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A rule you should an anyone respect is not put a character in a situation because of the gender it is.

One thing I hate is when a game master or write put a character (female presenting) in a situation where they will be hopeless and clearly pointing out or imply they will be abused just to put a cis male to save that character.

I was recommended a supposed be progressive book and I was not even 20 pages in and a alpha werewolf saved me to just bite me off and declared me her virgin maiden… Not question about my consent.

I let the ebook there. But what all the diversity and racial inclusion matters if first they do is sistematically force female presenting individuals to a situation or abuse or abuse.

Diversity is nothing if doesnt include a sane and anti machism dynamic.

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But like most women are attracted to men. A woman wrote 50 shades of grey, a book about being dominated by a man. Why does it matter if a man saves a woman? Unless it is egregiously made out that the woman is useless or something, the content can still have diversity. If we make rules for what diversity is then there is no point to having diversity. Everyone not having the same mindset is just as important or actually more important than skin color or sex to the actual intent of having diversity.

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The problem is not a man saving a woman. The problem is when it’s always a man saving a woman, when women are always damsels in distress and men are always the heroes - and especially when the woman being rescued is treated as some kind of prize for the man doing the rescuing.

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I am going to assume you are genuinely curious.

One issue I’ve seen in books, films, etc is when only one story (or a small handful) is all that gets told. Nothing is wrong if a man saves a woman or if a woman enjoys being dominated. The issue is when that is the only story told. And many groups who aren’t white, male, cis, middle class or higher, etc only get a few stories. So the frustration at seeing more media with the same old stories, even if they are diverse in other ways, is very frustrating.

Another issue, especially in interactive media, is when a narrative is forced on the reader, especially if the summary does not make it clear that book/game/etc is that kind of story.

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That sounds like a rule!

Diversity doesn’t mean abolishing rules, it means respecting people’s differences and allowing people to do what they want and be who they want unless it’s hurting someone else

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If you’re writing for HG and your game gets a steam release, your game will get copyedited, and that includes a review of sensitivity issues (basically what you’re talking about above). However, you will be fully entitled to do whatever you wish with the sensitivity notes (including rejecting them entirely), and HG will inform you of this right during the process.

With that being said, it is always good to consider all feedback before deciding whether to accept or reject it.

The only exception would be if you write something grossly offensive, but I think the threshold for that is pretty high.

It might be a problem. As in, HG won’t refuse a genderlocked game, but it would reduce the size of your potential audience. For the record, I’m currently working on a gender-locked-female game as a male writer.

This crowd really loves customization, so if that’s what you go with, I suggest allowing players to customize the MC’s name, as gender-locking is already one layer of customization that you’re removing.

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That’s not quite accurate. All games submitted to HG are reviewed for sensitive content, whether published on Steam or not. It’s not related to the copyediting process.

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I’m not sure what the extent of the sensitivity review is if your game doesn’t get copyedited - I assumed it was just a sweep for anything not grossly offensive… I’m not sure. Maybe another published author could shed some light on this?

For the record, I received the sensitivity notes alongside the other copyedit notes. Edit: the sensitivity notes are done by the copyeditor, but I’m not sure how the process really looks like if the game does not receive copyediting.

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Fun fact: there were black people in feudal Japan (although admittedly that’s a little later than the 14th century).

Personally, I do always try to make my games and writing as inclusive as possible. I don’t think that results in an impossible mess but in a game that’s much more interesting and reflective of the world we live in.

In fact, if I absolutely have to pick between “realism” and “inclusion” I will always go for the latter. For me, it’s more important to allow the people who might play my games or read my fiction to see themselves in it than it is to be as accurate as possible. History is almost always more varied and diverse than we think it is, anyway, and what we perceive of as “accurate” is almost always built on modern biases in one way or another.

Fortunately, I’ve never had a situation where an editor told me to pick one or the other. In fact, usually when I have heard of that happening it’s from a Big 5(?) publishing house and done to people who are neither male nor white, who were also writing characters that were neither male nor white.

Aaaaaanyway, all this is to say that there are a wide range of personal approaches for how folks writing a choicescript game approach the questions of diversity and inclusion. :slight_smile:

To speak to “what Choice of Games requires,” I have finished one Choice of Games game and started on another, and I don’t remember seeing specific requirements about diversity or inclusion in the documents I received. (@AletheiaKnights is more likely to be right here than me, though–I have a terrible memory and she has a lot more experience with the company than I do!) Regardless, I am sure there are no “diversity quotas.” Writers are at the center of these decisions, as far as I’m aware.

ETA: here is what’s on the “write for us” page:

Our games, their design, and our company values are inclusive and egalitarian. We encourage applications from writers who are women and other marginalized genders, LGTBQ, disabled, and persons of color.

I couldn’t find anything more specific than that in the “how to write” google docs I was sent after signing a contract, but I might just be missing it! I do feel it’s an accurate statement, for whatever that’s worth, even if there aren’t more specific rules about it or policies in place to implement it.

We did get some questions and comments about choices we made with The Bread Must Rise from our beta testers and copy editor, but again it was really up to us to implement those suggestions or decline them (within reason).

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To paraphrase the requirements for CoG games:

  • Players must be able to play as male, female, or nonbinary
  • Games should have an equally fulfilling story regardless of the player character’s gender, race, orientation etc (discrimination can be depicted and can affect a PC, but a female PC in a male-dominated setting shouldn’t be excluded from participating at all in a war, for example, by virtue of gender, where a male PC could participate)
  • Games shouldn’t endorse real-world bigotry (again, this doesn’t mean it can’t be shown onscreen, but if it is, it should be explored thoughtfully)

This is very similar to the inclusivity requirements for Heart’s Choice, but as mentioned upthread, HC games can have player characters with restricted genders.

Something perhaps worth noting is that in Choice of Games and Heart’s Choice, scenarios where a PC was subjected to abuse (like the book Mara mentioned) would not be allowed, regardless of the gender of the PC.

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It matters when is always the case, and the plot is made only to catter one group without warning and even after false advertisment.

The ebook it was sell as a thrilling romance where we are a independent women that doesnt catter to the oppresive werewolf mating culture.

Then I found that we basically were forced against character will to be virgin because blah blah our father wanted make us a slave to a big alpha male and force us to go to a mating season ball.

We hide and be clever but still even after avoid all shitty guys that were basically grabbing and capturing women we were force bite for this Andrew tate guy.

The book was racial diverse and there were lgtbq characters.

But if you put all in the most machist garbage no consent situation it doesnt matter, it is not diverse or positive.

Dominance dynamics are correct always are consensual. CONSENSUAL

I have seen a worrisome tendency at least in spanish teen romance story of force young women characters against their express consent and then faling in love with the people who going against them. It is very dangerous that tendency to force female presenting people into submission when they clearly not want that

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I do agree with you! This is happening elsewhere. A quick search of several YA online book sites will give you titles such as trapped, forced, prisoner, etc, and the enemies to lovers theme is a constant. Most of these books get unreal ratings on sites that rate these stories, regardless of whether they are about fae, shifters, aliens, or older partners, and involve a degree of coercion that would be considered unacceptable in real life. Mutual consent and respect simply does not come into it. Its worrying if any of those young adults who thrive on those tales believe thats the way things should be, and its just as worrying that their are well-known companies that help promote this point of view and do not have an acceptable code of content for the books they promote and/or sell.

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Okay but have you considered the intended audience and the popularity of these spanish novellas and the like amongst women. I can basically tell you right now that that stuff is written for women and women do like it since it obviously makes money. So I really do not see a problem. If the women didnt like this stuff then it obviously would not sell and more stuff like it wouldn’t get made.

The viewpoint may not be popular here but i really do think the diversity requirements of COG games prevent them from being as good as Hosted Games since most COG stories have your gender and orientation having no impact other than maybe in RO choice. This is obviously very unrealistic and breaks the immersion especially if you have a historical setting. Authors also can not be expected to write a character whose orientation or gender is different to them and have that character actually match the experiences that it would have if that setting were real. To add to my earlier point, most rom coms or spanish novellas are also written by women for women which is why they are so attractive to women since they can relate with the character. Also obviously, most content for men is also written by men for men so men can also relate more to the character.

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Voice of reason :point_up_2:

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