Does sexual orientation/sexual preference need to be defined at the beginning of the game?


#1

Every CoG game that I’ve played has included that choice in the very beginning: You’ve always found yourself attracted to… (whatever)

And I’ve always found this a little unnatural and constraining. While I understand the need to define/choose things like the character’s gender (for pronoun use throughout the story as well as behaviors, etc.), I’ve been wondering if it’s more natural to just skip the sexual preference definer and just let the player play how they’ll play. For example, if the player wants to play as a gay male, let them romance men if they want (though not all of the male NPCs will be gay). If they want to play as asexual, then they’re given the option to not romance anyone at all.

Does that make sense? Does it need to be starkly defined and stated outright (unless NPC genders hinge on that choice)? To be clear, I am not trying to invalidate or marginalize anyone, I’m genuinely curious about people’s thoughts and preferences on this. :slight_smile:

Another reason I ask this is because the character customization in my WIP is in the form of a job application of sorts, and I don’t think there’s any natural way for an employer’s form to ask who you’re attracted to or not. :joy:


#2

I have a game that I don’t asking preferences however, If a certain pc only flirt or look for guys. Someone will asking Sorry but Are you only interest in boys or I could try to fliet with you? And so on for all . I think is more organic. and is easy to do. Definition of what you found attractive is important for not making other gender trying to flirt with you continuously.

Pronouns is something you have to establish early on to make every gender find comfortable and attached to their respective pc.


#3

There are various ways of introducing the romance aspects and some include delaying the details until later. From a writing point of view, it is often easier to get the details sooner so the customization makes your work deeper and broader sooner in the story then later.

In your particular case, after the job interview, you can write a scene where the MC is replying to a dating service or some-such “interview” for relationships… lol I’ve seen that happen in a few titles.


#4

One of CoG’s prime selling points was the fact they would have a variety of romances, and one reason to make it so starkly defined is so that there isn’t someone saying “You promised Z and we got X”

I do know I have said I think some games could certainly incorporate such a choice better. I actually didn’t mind ZE: Safe Haven’s dating screen…and I felt @Sashira’s WIP Monsters of New Haven High actually handles this well.

And from another perspective, it might make the player feel much more engaged with their MC.


#5

There are already some games that don’t ask the player sexual preferences at all, it’s fine. I also think that sometimes the way it’s asked can be kind of weird. Most of the time it’s something in the lines of “Are you looking at the boys or at the girls, or at everyone?” or they’ll ask you “You used to date a… guy / girl / I’ve dated both boys and girls”.

But when it’s asked directly, it can get really weird. I won’t say which games, but there were a few in which I wanted an option saying “Hey, that’s private”. In fact, some of them were kind of self-aware of this and had some fun with it. Which is another option, if you want to try humor.

Anyway, if you don’t find a way in which asking orientation feels natural, and it wouldn’t serve any other purpose than limit the number of romance options, you can skip it.

The only problem that I can think of is that… well, I’ve seen games in which the player had always the option to romance any character of any gender, and then I’ve seen some of the players complaining that the game was “forcing” X gender onto them. But most of that type of comments were kind of… homophobic, and I would not make a design decision based on what might offend that kind of people.


#6

Not necessarily. NPC gender is the main reason for these questions, I’ve seen (and I’m not a fan of flip-flopping genders in the first place. I get the point, but it’s not a mechanic I enjoy).

The only other reason it’d be necessary is flavor text-- so you don’t drool all over a guy when you’re into girls, for instance. Or to set up an ace/aro character who isn’t attracted to anyone.

Again, unnecessary (I’m not especially interested in how “hot” these characters are, given they’re blocks of text and as such, as attractive as I want them to be within the bounds of description).

If you can get it to come up organically, go for it. If characters come onto yours, (like @poison_mara mentions), have an option to say “Sorry, don’t swing that way.” It can be interesting character development. But if you can’t, or if things come more naturally if you just let the player decide “oh you’re cool let me date you”, don’t force it.


#7

No, and I always find it odd personally when a game asks you outright at the start. I’d prefer it to come up as more of a veiled choice later like some people have suggested, or just don’t ask at all and leave all RO open if the player gives the right responses. I think one of the reason some games ask outright is when they have gender flipped characters from the beginning they need to set.


#8

Thanks for your feedback, everyone! :slight_smile: I never considered that that question usually appears in stories that gender-flip the characters based on the response! I think I will stick to not asking at all in the beginning and letting the readers decide through their own romantic pursuits or through conversations they may have throughout the story, organically.

This brings me to another, somewhat related question–how do you feel about keeping characters gender-locked, and more specifically, of a certain sexual orientation themselves? I find myself torn. In my head my characters are canonically straight, gay, bi, or asexual, and while readers may want to pursue them, it may just not work out. The object of their attractions may not swing that way, and spending time with them may open up a completely separate path that leads to friendship, but not romance. I find this to be the most “realistic” approach.

However, I’m also aware that this does limit player choice in a franchise that’s all about, well, choice. It might be frustrating for someone to really like a character but be denied the chance to romance them if their player character isn’t a particular gender or orientation. Though this does happen in real life, maybe I should be leaving all RO open if the player gives the right responses, as you say, @Jacic. This would definitely be the easiest to code and gives the player the most freedom… However, I remember Dragon Age 2 being criticized for making all of its characters indiscriminately bisexual, which just doesn’t feel plausible.

Does anyone have thoughts about this?


#9

Just speaking for myself, I’m fine with characters (not the MC) being gender-locked, and having a specified orientation. The key thing here is to try and have equal number of romances available, then, if you are trying to appeal to a large crowd.

I mean, it is a bit of a running joke in the visual novel community how many otome games (GxB) will have one GxG relationship thrown in so those who prefer yuri will buy it.

Of course, by making specific characters this way, you also greatly increase the number of NPCs you make for romances as well. Ease of coding is one reason CoGs usually just go with the ‘gender-flip pronoun’ option, or go with everyone being bi.

This will depend somewhat on what your target demographic is. If you are essentially making a dating simulator (as just an example), then making it as wide open as possible for romances is recommended.

However, I do like realistic stories as well…and I know I have often said sigh, I wish that person was romanceable…that is just a minor thing in the scheme of things and rolled with it since it was a good story.

So a lot of your own choices will be down to what you think your market wants, how much work you want to put into the game/romances, etc.


#10

I’m sure you can find something useful here

https://forum.choiceofgames.com/t/gender-locking-ros-and-importance-of-gender-in-relationships/23002


#11

Give them defined preferences, just make sure everyone has equal options. Having characters have their own identities is always awesome (including bisexuality–characters that have a gender preference aren’t automatically more solid characters than ones that don’t), and you should stay true to what genders your characters are attracted to. But make sure that everyone has roughly the same about of options–if one identity gets two options, the others should also get two options.

That said, if you feel like multiple characters are bi, make them bi. I understand the frustration of bisexuality being used more for convenience than character identity (as it was in DA2) but I also call bullshit on people who think it’s unrealistic for there to be a lot of bi options all together. It happens in real life all the time, it can happen in games


#12

I personally prefer gender-locked characters and orientations as, for me, it makes them more realistic. Even if I really like a character who can’t like my character back because they are only attracted to females, I can just replay the game afterwards if I really liked the game. To be honest I’ll probably look past the pronoun usage for the main character anyway because I usually skin read my subsequent playthroughs.

I don’t know, in the end it’s up to you. Coming from a group of friends who vary in sexual orientation and gender, I know how many bisexuals you can fit in one room, but they’re always mixed in with heterosexuals, homosexuals, asexuals, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group where everyone was all the same sexual orientation.


#13

I think sometimes I can even find those particular examples a bit offputting… I wouldn’t want to assume that every character who isn’t asexual must therefore be checking people out, or that they must have exes, too… I guess I just don’t like it when those questions assume more than they really have to :thinking:

On a job application, yeah, I think asking that would be pretty inappropriate unless you’re applying to a dating show or something :stuck_out_tongue:

Agreed… I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a guy* complain about a male character “hitting on” his character when it was just a mild flirtation or even the faintest hint of a crush :angry: this is the same attitude that creates danger for gay people in real life.

(*No, I’ve never seen a woman complain about this :thinking:)

This is the way it works in Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, which has been mentioned :thinking: it gives more detailed and rather, ah, steamier descriptions for characters based on orientation… stuff like muscles… :grin:

That sounds perfectly reasonable. Honestly, I don’t mind either way, as long as the game won’t make assumptions either way… y’know, describing someone as being attractive to my character (which, you really shouldn’t assume anyway), etc.

You mention coming up in conversations in the story, and I do think that can be nice, depending on the dynamic of the story :slight_smile: just in terms of character interaction, since sometimes you might see a scene where someone’s giving a wink-nudge "aw, you’d be cute together, aw, is he your boyfriend, aw, you lucky guy ;)"
Or, in terms of characters hitting on people, being able to say “sorry, I’m not into women” would be natural… and I think it could even be rather cute to have some bit of dialogue where a character’s trying to find out if you have compatible orientations :blush: I’ve never seen that in an interactive fiction before.

I usually like having defined characters, as long as that doesn’t mean you’re giving gay guys and/or lesbians a rougher deal… I have seen pieces, not in ChoiceScript, but elsewhere, where there’ll be some plethora of hetero options, and then one gay option, and that just really feels unfair. As long as the orientations are balanced, I have no complaints. (I might be disappointed, but, well, that’s how it goes.)

A corollary of this is that, if you only have a few romance options, best for them to be bi. If you have enough that everybody gets at least a little choice, that’s all the better.

It’s not just a realism issue… representation is key as well. It’s nice to have gay characters around who are acknowledged as such. (Granted, you can also do this by having gay characters who aren’t romances. Or both. Both is good :stuck_out_tongue:) This is also worth noting for bisexual romance options as well… it’s nice for them to be acknowledged as bi. It’s… not uncommon for bisexual romance options to only ever express heterosexual interests and backstory, apart from the main character, which… is fine for any individual character, but, when you take these characters as a pattern, it tends to make it seem like they’re be written as essentially hetero, with the gay option being tacked on.

There’s also the option, if you want your romance options to be available regardless of gender, but still have some individuality in orientation, to just represent them as having a preference. As long as you avoid the pitfall of making it seem like a gay character can be “cured,” just showing a character who’s mostly been into same-gender relationships but could potentially fall for the right opposite-gender person is the way some people are (and the other way around, too).

I’d also like to double-like everything @HomingPidgeon just said. All important points, and well-said.

While we’re linking threads, this one has a lot of good content about gay representation in choicescript games, including the issue of romance options. :smile:


#14

The game logic reason for asking is so they you can then set a variable. If you want to have one potential romance partner, they will be Daniel if you select male-preference and Danielle if you select female-preference for example.

Some games have one defined romance option, others let you romance a range of characters and you can pick which to romance.

Both have pros and cons, one gives you a chance to give the relationship more depth, the other lets you give the player more agency.


#15

Actually, setting a variable early-on is no much different than setting the variable later.

I’ve rewritten the intro of my WIP, and somehow I managed to tackle the first-half of the chapter with the MC being a “blank slate.” And that’s quite a record for me… so, hurray. :confetti_ball:

The only issue of not having those orientation/preference not set up early on, is that all NPC must use “gender neutral” ways in regarding you, and that makes my first-half of the intro kinda bland.


#16

In XoR, I set things at the pace of the story – your assigned gender isn’t chosen til toward the end of a (generally longish) prologue, your attractions early in Chapter 1, your name a bit after that, and what you’re good at toward the middle of the chapter.

Might you be bi? We won’t know until halfway through the game when the ROs from the opposite gender to the one you originally picked show up.

As a reader, I much prefer this style to the “char-gen” section all packed into the first few pages of the game, which is why I’ve also written my game that way.


#17

Yes, your approach is what has influenced me - I was making things way too complicated until I rethought my way forward in the same manner as you. It also allows the story to unfold more organically - a word I’m using a lot today.


#18

And I also liked how you incorporated your attraction. The first two options you did say “attractive” for Breden, then at the other, rather than going for physical attraction, you used “confident”.


#19

Definitely! Thanks for your advice–I’m going to have the characters stick with the preferences they have in my head because they feel like real people to me, so I hope that comes through and appeals to the reader as well! I’m also making sure that every player has the same amount of options (2 each), though some characters are much harder to romance (by dint of their specific personality, not their orientation). Hopefully that will still be fair!

And yeah, I think DA2’s problem was not necessarily the apparent prevalence of bisexuality, but just that it was a convenient ‘prop’ that didn’t affect the characters’ personalities/experiences in any way, as you say. I think people recognized that corners were cut when the romantic cutscenes stayed just generic enough that they could be exactly the same, whether or not the player was male or female. XD Which I’m trying to avoid too!


#20

Thanks for your great response! And about this ^, you’ve basically described how those conversations go haha! It’s not this big momentous question the game asks you, it just may come up when a character maybe flirts with you a little or asks your opinion on some random stranger they’re checking out! :grin: I’m glad this is something you would like to see!