Diversity: what's happening behind the scenes?

While I absolutely agree with you in reality, books like that often don’t sell reality, but a kinky fantasy. And it’s not fair to kink-shame people about what fantasies they like to read about. (With some clear limitations, let’s not get into any slippery-slope arguments)

That said, there’s been a lot of shitty marketing happening, back from 50 shades and still ongoing, trying to sell those stories as something they absolutely are not, and spreading a lot of dangerous misinformation about what BDSM and power-dynamics are like.
And that is very much not okay.

17 Likes

I am not sure if you read my posts above about the requirements for CoG, but I’ll reiterate that gender or orientation “having no impact” on a game is not a requirement.

Unless by “has an impact” you mean “a marginalised PC has a consistently worse time and can engage with plots less than a non-marginalised one”, which I don’t think is much of a thing in HG either.

In these oft-repeated conversations on this subject, people often implicitly or explicitly use “realism” or “impact” as shorthand for marginalised PCs being miserable or absent. I find that interesting. I bang this drum a lot but I’d love, for example, to see more historical (or historically-flavoured) games where, if in a setting with bigotry, being gay “had an impact” by engaging realistically with some of the gay communities that existed during those time periods, or the joy of romance mingling with the joy of finding someone else like them. This would feel more engaging and authentic to me than the conclusion that’s often jumped to which is “it’s historical/historically inspired so to be realistic a gay PC should have a purely horrible, lonely, secretive life of constant threat, or maybe shouldn’t exist at all because I don’t want to write someone having a constantly bad time”.

17 Likes

As I said no problem with Kink but that was not was what sell in the advertisement. Most times the reason is if the kink is right and clear they have to present it as an adult book.

I also dont care who write the book or the gender of the writer. That doesnt matter to define what if is a good practice as company.

For instance The orange clock machine both book and film are master pieces that include a hardcore violent content. But they never try to spin off the content like a positive teen diverse plot. You know what do you get.

It is an adult book/film with deep meaning and a respect to victims of violence.

2 Likes

That is what I am saying. What I am saying is that since most authors cannot really write characters with a different sexuality or sex than them and it is also is a lot of work doing that since you would have to have variations for like 10-20 different combinations of sex, sexuality and race, they simply choose for these things to have no impact and I can not really blame them either. Writing one book is hard enough without also needing to have 20 variations of each interaction with any other character. Therefore if you play as any other than a character that the author clearly had in mind while writing, the interaction feels quite unimmersive. For example, imagine a choice of games set during the American civil war. Would it immersive if you played as a pansexual non binary black person with it having no impact on your interaction with any person let alone a Confederate? I just simply want diversity done right. It should have some impact on the story instead of everything being like some utopian society where all of this does not matter.

6 Likes

I disagree that authors can’t write characters with a different orientation or gender to them, since curiosity, imagination, and research are prerequisites for good creative writing.

Either way, this is drifting away from the original topic, which was asking:

To which the answer is “a combination of both, depending on the story in question”.

24 Likes

There’s a big difference between ‘writing characters of race/gender/sexuality different from your own’ and ‘writing a story centered on the deeply personal experience of a specific marginalized identity that you are not a part of’.

And the whole discussion about whether representation just for the sake of representation is okay, or diversity should only be included when it has an impact and is made “realistic”, has been had multiple times in different other threads on this forum, and opinions are always split on the issue.

12 Likes

My only push back here is that if the story itself revolves around a minority group or the minority group is central to the story, it probably shouldn’t be written by someone outside of that minority. I think back on lots of examples of people taking minority stories and fucking them up to the detriment of that minority group (Twilight for example, the Quileute tribe were not happy about the misrepresentation of their myths and legends).

15 Likes

I don’t agree that people outside of a minority group shouldn’t make that minority group a key component. The problem with twilight wasn’t that it was written by a white woman, it was that she either didn’t do the proper research, or didn’t just create a new group of people to be the werewolves.

If an author does some research, and has some people from that group give it a read, then what’s the problem?

10 Likes

There is a reason that I used qualifiers like “probably”. Can it be done? Sure, if an author is willing to put in the time and effort to both research and get feedback from members of the culture they are writing about. Is it often done? No. Most of the time people who aren’t a member of a minority group will think a google search can replace a lifetime of living in a culture and they end up doing nothing but writing stereotypes, and often get defensive when members of the minority point out how those stereotypes are both untrue and hurtful.

There is a reason the “men writing women” trope exists.

7 Likes

I’m still wondering what that great Swedish cabbage war I came across in some choice app was supposed to be.

1 Like

This assumes that “diversity done right” means specifically “realism” or adherence to what viewers think of as the most common experience at any rate, which as already discussed, is in of itself debatable and varies. And that’s perfectly acceptable to make stories that way. But remember, the purpose of stories themselves are as numerous and diverse as human experience is. Not everyone wants to write realism. Not everyone enjoys reading realism or perhaps they do, but also enjoy the “utopian” society where identity politics are unheard of or at least do not matter as much. It doesn’t automatically break immersion to write that way, it’s merely a difference in what a story’s purpose is. If it’s not written for the realism crowd or is not focused on those aspects, then why should it be realistic? Write the story you want and audiences will read the story they want. Simple as that.

I’ll give Baldur’s Gate III as an example. It recently won Game of the Year and has made millions in profit, so clearly, it is popular with its intended audience. Players are treated differently based on their fantasy race but not gender or sexuality. Not everyone appreciated the openness with those last two categories, I’ve seen plenty of criticism floating about. That’s fine, no one has to play what they don’t like. But instead of saying “let’s throw out that style of writing,” consider who else may have been the demographic.

15 Likes

That sounds so gross. I’d demand my money back if I had to subject my sensibilities to that trash. (I do love trash occasionally, but consensual trash, thank you very much.)

I, for one, am super happy that CoG books allow us to pick the genders of all the ROs. It makes the coding a lot more difficult for authors, but I really enjoy the brash, overprotective girl taking care of a sensitive and soft boy trope, like in Creme de la Creme, where I usually play with a female Max and male Delacroix. I also adore female Rory and male Frankincense, since Frankincense is a bit more “delicate” and poised and has the narrative role which was traditionally relegated to the overbearing women whom Bertie Wooster kept finding himself accidentally engaged to in PG Wodehouse’s books, which I know are the inspiration for Tally Ho and Jolly Good.

I also don’t mind authors who have particular genders in mind for ROs. But the MC should always, always be gender customisable.

I’m also so, so happy to see that there are trans playable characters in some of the games. Honor Bound and Fallen Hero stand out, but I do know that we can transition in Choice of the Vampire as well! 🩷

Now I can’t speak w.r.t. gender, but as a queer-identifying brown woman, I do appreciate the fact that CoG authors now let us play the first few chapters of their books as demos. If something seems off, we can talk about it and provide that feedback. So far, I haven’t been offended by anything, but I did find it sort of funny that I was playing as a brown woman in Heart of the House (I didn’t get the chance to choose, but that’s how I imagined her), but for some reason, my PC was fully accepted into society while Dev faced racism. It’s also why I was so obsessed with Choice of the Vampire for the longest time. The author seems to have spent such a long time researching everything and then tailoring our experiences in our game to our wealth, race and gender, that it pushed me to want to play other routes as well. I do enjoy books that treat gender as irrelevant but sometimes it’s nice to see these things reflected in the media we read.

9 Likes

I didnt it was a cheap ebook thankfully.

Both type of games are needed the ones that offers escapism and the ones that denounce the racism and machism.

And both have their place. Historical dramatic pieces have to respect and being sensitive with what happened. But more light themes can be fun without anyone remind you that your group had it very rough back then each five seconds.

As a cis woman one of my atractions for rp Vampire and D&D is in those universes they dont try to shove that you are less powerful because you arent a cis male. Cog have the same concept and expand it.

In real life I have argue with many cis men about how they believe in that hiper realism and how in many cases they do to feel superior to the rest-- But I understand that lost the privilege is hard, when you have lived all your live with everything cattered towards your group.

4 Likes

You’re welcome to pitch your game where the female MC doesn’t get to do anything, and instead gets all her worth and relevance from being somebody’s sister. Just don’t expect CoG to ever email you back.

Man, I’d love to play a game where male vampires are socially inept and unsubtle despite having lived for hundreds of years, whilst female vampires are wimps despite being supernatural creatures not subject to human biology. Why make sense when you can just turn everyone into a stereotype of their gender instead?

27 Likes

Not really on-topic or relevant to COG, but I think the “people shouldn’t write stories about people they aren’t” is in part due to traditional publishing houses being overwhelmingly white and the biases that introduces. (n.b. I am white)

When a white person is paid to write a grossly inaccurate book “explaining” or representing a culture they have little to no experience with, while people actually from that culture are rejected out of hand because “there are already books about that out there,” that’s obviously a problem tied to systemic racism, sexism, etcism. (Although I don’t agree with everything it says, this opinion piece makes a very pointed and cogent argument about the issue from a Black perspective.)

As the author puts it:

Now there’s nothing wrong with non-Mexican or non-Blacks writing about the plight of Blacks or Mexicans. What’s wrong is erasing authentic voices to sell an inaccurate cultural appropriation for millions.

I don’t think this is really a problem with Choice of Games, fortunately!

The company seems to genuinely care about representing and including people of all backgrounds—whether that’s as readers/players, as characters in games, or as authors. And sensitivity reads absolutely are an important part of that for folks from dominant cultures and demographics.

11 Likes

Thank you for the concise summary :slight_smile: this is all helpful when considering what kind of stories to work on. I suppose the differences in opinion is what makes HG is such a good option

1 Like

If diversity was forced then a ton of games would lack greatly in characterisation since in order for something to be interesting the creator must enjoy participating in it.

2 Likes

If in a normal story have a wide and varied cast feels forced. That writer has a serious lack of understanding and defining deep characters.

People for instance complaint Tolkien. But racen and gender is portrayed wonderfuly and it is woven in the worldbuilding.

If your npcs are all the same and have no distinct factor. Your work will suffer greatly

2 Likes