Expressing your PC's Orientation


#1

I’m busily working on my CoG project, and have been discussing PC sexual orientation with @Mary_Duffy. I’m curious to hear your thoughts as writers and as players! There are two ways of dealing with orientation that I’m wavering between:

  1. Telling the game, whether through dialogue, the PC’s internal thoughts, or other events, that the PC is XYZ orientation. It seems this method is often used to select a romanceable NPC’s gender, eg for Wakefield in Choice of the Deathless. The assumption here is that if the PC says she’s gay, for instance, a romanceable NPC will not flirt with her, and there won’t be options for the PC to flirt with him either. For me, this does not feel entirely natural, and doesn’t allow for flexibility about who you want your PC to romance in-game (selecting the orientation often takes place before your PC has had a chance to meet romanceable NPCs).

  2. Leaving orientation open-ended, so the PC does not specify what gender(s) they are interested in, and responds to or initiates NPC flirtatiousness on an ad hoc basis (I’m thinking of something like the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games here). This feels more natural and flexible to me, and allows for orientation fluidity as the PC wishes. However, it might be frustrating for a PC whose player identifies her as gay, for instance, and has a male NPC flirting with her. It may also result in the PC feeling like more of a blank slate, as the player has not had the opportunity to take a moment to define their PC in more detail.

Currently my project uses 2), but I’m open to 1), or any other ideas if you can think of them! In my project, the PC’s orientation wouldn’t change the romanceable NPCs’ genders - their genders are fixed independent of the PC. All the romanceable NPCs are pansexual. There is also the option to be romantic and asexual with the romanceable NPCs.

What do you think? Do you have particular preferences? Which times have you played a CoG or HG and found the PC’s expression of their orientation really effective or immersive?


Romance options and preferences
#2

Both of them have their pros and cons. With option one, you can avoid akward situations for the MC, but make it feel less realistic (I mean, not everyone automatically knows everyones sexuality). With option 2 you could make the game feel more realistic, but you risk putting the MC in an awkward situation. I think you should just write how you want, and while it might not make everyone happy, at least you’ll be happy with the finished product.


#3

I think you’ve pretty much listed most of the arguments either way. :thinking: Honestly, I don’t really mind which way you do it, as long as the gay guys I end up romancing are cute. :blush:


#4

I personally go for the number 2 'cuz it feels easier to handle (both code-wise and narrative-wise). All you need to do is just “provide” a *choice #Do you romance this NPC? #Do you not? for every single RO, which is much more easier than having a scene where the PC must decide their orientation and coding-in its conditional checks on every ROs again.

Besides, I’m pretty ok with various awkward situation. Having dealt with all kinds of them IRL, at least I can imagine what the PC should do if ever they’ve gotten into one.


Doesn’t mean that I hate the option 1, tho.
Some ppl are not ok with said “awkward situation” and doesn’t want to get into one, even inside a book.

That being said, I think the best way to decide which option will you choose to approach this is the story you’re creating itself. Light-hearted stories are ok with option 1, while the realistic, grim, and dark stories doesn’t really fit with option 1, IMO.


#5

I personally don’t like setting it at the start. I romance whichever character I feel is the most interesting. So, if I choose heterosexual, but then think all the heterosexual options are boring, I feel like I was basically tricked.


#6

I personally prefer n 1. I mean, why would you say MC is gay if you want to romance girls? Just make him bi and have him flirting with everyone. I remember someone expressing their annoyance at having the option to flirt with a male RO popping up everytime they had a conversation, and althought that’s not my case, if you have a way to fix that, why wouldn’t you?

Maybe MC is just a serial flirt, but these games seem to all go pretty much like this: find RO you like >flirt>flirt>kiss>married. And that kind of works imo.


#7

Since @pimenita has a very valid point, Id like to offer a solution. Maybe the MC can talk about their sexuality to themselves, but everyone doesn’t automatically know it. This keeps the game realistic, while not giving the MC the option to flirt with every character they meet.


#8

I much prefer option 1. I feel like if I don’t get the chance to say what the MCs sexuality is, then they’re implicitly bisexual, and it makes me a little… uncomfortable, I guess is the only word I can use. Maybe it makes the game less realistic or whatever, but I’d rather sacrifice a little realism to make the game more enjoyable/nicer to play. But if you want some realism, you can still have characters with incompatible orientations flirt with each other. That’s what I have in my WIP.


#9

Option one seems better, since the people who prefer option two can select a sexuality that enables all the romances, keeping everyone happy. :blush:


#10

Would it be possible to maintain player engagement while doing both? That is to say, presenting a choice where one option is “I want to leave my orientation undefined” and the game simply continues, while the other option is “I want to define my orientation” and leads to a second choice where the player does exactly that.

If it’s not possible to keep the player engaged in the game with such a choice, I’m slightly leaning towards the first approach. Not because I’m opposed to NPCs flirting with my MC; but rather that I don’t want the narration trying to convince me, the player that the unattractive NPC my MC just met is “cute” or “hot”. Of course, inappropriately adding such value judgements to an NPCs introduction isn’t directly influenced by the presence or absence of an orientation choice. I feel such a choice may act as an explicit reminder to authors to avoid making such promotions on behalf of the NPC, however.

This is also true. If I’m telling a game my MC is only interested in women, or is interested in no-one at all, I want to see changes in the choices offered to my MC, and changes in the narration offered to me. I’m not necessarily looking for changes in the NPCs around my MC.


#11

This is one thing I was thinking of doing with my second WiP (once my first stops being a WiP). Basically, the choices would look something like:

I am interested in:

  • Men.
  • Women.
  • Both men and women.
  • Neither.
  • Skip question.

Choosing “Skip” would allow you to romance anyone (like “both”) but would avoid any discussion of how attractive NPCs are (like “neither”).


#12

Hmm… everyone got a pretty good point at this.
While at it, I’d like to ask a question to you guys.

Why would we implement such choice in the first place, and why wouldn’t we?


I’d like to quote, and assume, that one reason why would we implement such choice in the first place is to avoid things like @Minnow said.

But then, @Minnow, if I’m getting what you said, doesn’t that’ll makes the Orientation *choice a fake choice? Somewhat-ish?


#13

Agh, this so much.

Game: "You can’t help fawning all over this stranger."
Me: shut the f*ck up, game.


#14

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Whenever a game tells me what I should think of a character, I will always think the opposite, not matter what.


#15

Does that includes
"You can’t help but to not flirt with this stranger"?

:3


#16

I usually prefer option 2, mostly because it feels more natural. When games give me an option to choose orientation I usually choose bisexual anyway, since I don’t want to limit the number the ROs. Besides,I don’t feel particularly annoyed having options which allow me to flirt with a character that I don’t like, because well… they are just options, I don’t consider that my character is feeling attracted to another unless I choose that option.

I get the idea that being able to express a determinate orientation is also nice, it can lead to some interesting dialogues too, something that you can’t do if you do option 2.

I understand this, but I think that when games do that, they are trying to express beauty rather than attraction. Granted, that some might be failing at expressing it.

There was a game who did something different (kinda) and I’m not sure if I liked it or not but… well I guess it was harmless. It was A Study in Steampunk which allowed to choose an orientation but still maintained all the romance options, male and female, available. The narration and dialogues could change a bit depending on this. It was a little bit weird but it was an interesting approach.


#17

I guess my main concern is not accidentally starting a romance when I’m just trying to be nice to a character. I like games to be immersive and generally not have flirt labels on dialogue options, but I don’t want it to misinterpret my actions as romantic (a character misunderstanding makes sense, as long as it’s not the game itself – assuming I do get the option to gently explain otherwise). If I’ve told the game I’m not attracted to women, I know I’m free to give poor flustered Edith a big hug and not worry about getting stuck in a romantic relationship I’m not interested in.


#18

I’m option 1, if only for the fact that I like to control the variables and know what scenarios that I’m having to write. I feel like the story is weaker if I’m having to write “general” scenes to fit many possibilities.


#19

In effort to keep a natural flow there aught to be a third option.

A voiced preference as opposed to hard one or the other. This way fun relationships can ‘happen’ or hopeless romantic and unrequited love. Perhaps even changes of heart and self discovery.

Say you choose one orientation but find yourself drawn to someone outside that boundary. This method allows this change of heart.


#20

That’s a good point - I wouldn’t want players to feel locked into a romance when they feel they’ve just been friendly. If they’ve stated a preference, they can be confident that the NPC won’t misunderstand.

And I totally agree with what people have said about not wanting to shoehorn in attraction. I feel it’s reasonable to say something like “he is classically handsome” or “they dress very stylishly” or “her eyes are very striking” but “…and you totally find them hot/have a crush” isn’t quite right.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts, it’s really helpful to untangle my own ideas and work out where my preferences lie. I’m leaning more towards having a choice for self-definition now, perhaps with an “I’m not really sure” or a bicurious option to allow for PCs’ feelings changing if the player is interested in that romantic experience.