Gender-locking ROs and importance of gender in relationships


#1

I read a post by @FairyGodfeather and it really resonated with me because I overthink things way too much and it was topic I’ve been ruminating on these last few days.

In order to like someone romantically do they have to conform to the gender you prefer in order to realise that love (in-game)? Are people okay with having a non-physical relationship (in-game)?
In reality you have to embrace people for who they are and you cannot change them. Then again, I fully respect the right of people to be able to choose RO gender because COG is a form of entertainment—a way to escape reality—and for most people gender attraction isn’t open.

With my ROs I was tossing up between choosing the gender of each character as you go or the standard ‘which gender are you attracted to’. But then I hit a block when I realised some of the non-romance characters had great chemistry with the PC but were coded as gender locked. Where I’m currently at is having a mix of ROs where you choose gender and the occasional where you can’t. If you like them enough you can have a platonic relationship or just go for it. If they match your preference then you’re lucky.

I thought the main idea behind having non-gender-locked ROs was so that people could appreciate the characters for who they were without having to worry about gender preferences and attraction. But then I looked around the forums and saw some people disliked the lack of innately gay or bi RO.

I hope I’m not being disrespectful but I do want to understand what others feel. I think I’m lacking perspective and understanding because gender isn’t important in relationships for me. Please educate this idiot.

So after a massive wall of text (thanks if you’re still reading) my main questions are;

Can you see yourself being interested in a gender-locked character that doesn’t match your gender preference if there are RO that conform to it? Do gender locked ROs annoy you? Are the best RO determined by personality, gender or a combination of gender and personality?

Thanks.


Love Interests and Gender
Does sexual orientation/sexual preference need to be defined at the beginning of the game?
A Thousand Miles of Sky (WIP)(demo updated June 4th, 2018)
#2

I think the general thing I’ve seen with RO’s in games is the importance of making them characters first and then their personality and gender aspects. Also whether you have a game where any main character can be romanced or not. Clearly doing so means that any preference can generally be catered to, but it’s clearly not believable that everyone is bisexual in a game universe, because people aren’t in reality. Should that matter in a game? Maybe, maybe not.

I was just thinking of a character like Garrus in Mass Effect who only a Female Shepard can romance - and it’s awesome - but also the fact he’s a really awesome character regardless. Gender Locks I think can be annoying, but I can also respect games to be trying to give players who want less conventional options to be covered, even if I happen to be a white straight male dude myself. I don’t play Overwatch but I assume some people are ticked they made Tracer a lesbian, but I also imagine there were a lot of people who were happy about it too.


#3

I love the person for who they are in life but in CoG/Hosted Games I usually choose the “not interested in romance” option. I really enjoy character development in stories and I like to see where the author takes the characters without my interference.

As an author, I am using characters as they are - and they are shaped by their individual development. I have a gay NPC in my current project but he won’t go beyond flirting unless he knows the MC is gay. Because the NPC and the MC spend time together outside of the scenes written that is how I justify him knowing if a guy MC is gay or not based on the answered question earlier.

I think changing a character’s development solely based on reader’s preference is doing the story a disservice, and in extension, the reader a disservice. Would my female hetero readers really want this complicated and flawed character to change his colors just so he will “romance” her if she chooses or will my female hetero reader appreciate that one of this character’s developmental characteristics is that he is gay and not interested in a romance with her?

I think the character being better developed with flaws and differences realized just as real people are is paramount to creating good memorable characters.

ymmv.


#4

Typically I like gender-locked RO’s because of exactly what @derekmetaltron said. I like the RO’s to be characters first, even if that means I can’t have em. I fully understand what you mean by CoG is a place to escape but I guess there some things about reality that I still like. This being one of them.

But then again, I feel like a gender changeable RO is okay, only if they are the main romance and you, as the writer, believe that character can be switchable. In my opinion, the best RO’s are personalities. If I don’t like your personality then it doesn’t matter what you look like, what gender you are, or what your name is. I won’t like you.


#5

The way I like to play CoGs is by putting myself in the game and going through the choices how I would realistically react in the situation. I’m a gay guy so, in terms of romance, I’d only be interested in male characters and possibly nonbinary characters, but as for characters themselves I’d find them interesting regardless of gender. After I finish a game for the first time though I like to replay again but using a character (whether it’s a preexisting oc or a new one I’ve created just for replaying) to go through choices that I personally didn’t take and will probably romance other characters just to see the story. They need to be characters first outside the romance for me to even be interested though

If that came out weird sounding in anyway (because I’m bad with words and made myself a little confused typing that), basically I could appreciate and can be interested in romance stories that aren’t exactly aligned with the gender I’m interested in but can only put myself in a romance with a character I’d be attracted to irl

For characters whose genders are determined by the gender that the player is attracted by, it makes talking about them on the forums a little confusing at first, but I really don’t care all that much

For genderlocked romances, it depends on whether it’s gay or straight really (I’m going using Dragon Age as an example since that’s what I’m most familiar with)

I’m always happy about seeing gay characters regardless of whether or not I personally get to romance the character (whether it’s a female character or a character who just isn’t a romance option) because it’s just important to have representation. In that situation, I really hate it when people want to romance them with a character of a different gender because that’s erasure and taking away representation. (I believe there’s a special place in hell for people who mod Dorian Pavus, who has an entire character arc that revolves around escaping his abusive father who tried to change his sexuality and make him attracted to women, to make him romanceable to their female character)

On the other hand, if a character is straight, I’d be a little annoyed. I don’t have any personal experience with this since I never liked Cullen and I don’t have any of the right consoles for Dragon Age: Origins :frowning: I do have quite a few female friends though who were upset that they couldn’t romance Morrigan or Cassandra. (Modding a straight character bi or pretending MC is the same gender as the romanced, unlike making a gay character attracted to another gender, isn’t erasure because straight people have plenty of representation already and reverse-homophobia isn’t a thing) (totally forgot to clarify what that sentence was about the first time, woops)

And as for “it’s not realistic for everyone to be bisexual,” well, you might be surprised. I’m gay and trans and, of my childhood friends, two turned out to be lesbian (and are now dating) and one is panromantic and gray-ace and none of us even had an idea of being anything other than cis and straight until high school. Of the friends I’ve met at college, one is nonbinary and ace, three are pansexual and genderfluid, another one (while not genderfluid) is pansexual, one trans and gay, one is questioning, and others but I can’t remember exactly enough to list but definitely not cis and straight. I didn’t meet any of these people at any sort of LGBT organization. We seem to kind of attract each other like magnets. We’re certainly more varied than ‘everyone is bi’ but I wouldn’t bat an eye at a group of people who were, whether it’s in real life or in fiction


#6

I would only consider dating or romancing a character of my preferred gender. However, I can be friends with anyone if they’re nice. Just don’t make it where if the MC is nice to a character, the character and MC are automatically dating and the only way to avoid this is for MC to be a butt hole to everyone.

I like (platonicly) gender locked characters more than gender flipped characters because I feel that locked characters are more fleshed out and deep. In Choice of the Dragon, you had about 5 ROs and you could choose their gender, but they were all flat. Choice of the Vampire had 2 ROs that were gender locked and they were very fleshed out even though the romance scene wasn’t that long. In the Guenevere Wip, there is no gender flipping (because that would completely change the story or cause some of the complaints from Choice of Romance) and I think all of the 3 major characters are fleshed out. Morgana is very female and while that means I wouldn’t romance her for my true playthrough, that makes her a great character and friend. P.S. What I mean by female is She is oppressed and was forced into marriage just like us. She shares our social situation and understands how we feel and supports us better than any of the other two idiots.

For the non-physical relationship question, if you simply don’t mention sex, I’m fine with that. If you explicitly state the RO is asexual, I wouldn’t want to date them.

The ROs I would date are a combination of personality, gender, beliefs, and other minor things, but it is better to at least have descent characters that can be friends even if they’re not someone I’d like to romance, than for eveyone to be bland things with gender. However, I do like for characters to magically know my sexuality because I just find it creepy for people to hit on me.


#7

I agree with what everyone else has said. Romances where the character can be any gender or orientation to me feel empty. They’re just like a generic blank slate, if the author doesn’t know these basic details it seriously compromises character development. I’m happily willing to give up 5-6 generic ROs in exchange for 1 or 2 well developed ROs of my preferred gender and orientation. I’ll take Quality > Quantity every time.


#8

I’m pansexual so those questions or statements don’t apply to me - just putting that out there so you know I’m not ignoring them.

If you mean no sexual activity - yes. If you mean no physical contact at all - also yes.

I actually assumed that ROs with a customizable gender who were always attracted/capable of attraction to the MC regardless of the MC’s gender must have been bi, pan or polysexual/romantic. Its very understandable that others feel differently though - I know a few straight people who would relish the chance to be able to select an RO’s gender and sexual orientation just so they could avoid anything being even a little bit gay in their gaming. And that’s something that a gender-locked RO who isn’t straight gets them to confront within themselves while also letting us know that there’s nothing wrong with us being explicitly as we are and that we don’t owe it to anyone to hide who we are and who we love.

Nope. If their sexual or romantic orientation is set on one gender only and I want to romance them (I always do, I love a love story) then I just play as the gender they’re attracted to. It gives me the excuse to flex my roleplaying muscles and try out different story paths, too, which is a coincidental bonus.

Again, gender doesn’t fuss me much in a romance (though when there’s a distinct lack of non-men in a game… that fusses me very much :unamused:) and my favourites are chosen by their personality. The thing about being able to choose an RO’s gender is that they seem almost too similar to each other? Being a man, or a woman, or a nonbinary person does affect who you are, personality-wise. It shapes how we see the world and ourselves, it guides our behaviours and beliefs, no matter how subtly because we experience everything differently to each other. I think that’s where being able to choose a character’s gender may lose out, it’s harder for me to believe that this person is distinct.

I’m not sure if any of that makes sense tbh… sorry if I sound like I’m talking in circles :flushed: and please let me know if I’ve missed something or if it needs clarifying. Articulating my thoughts and feelings by writing them down was never something I excelled at.


#9

I honestly liked Mecha Ace’s gender selector (option to choose or have it randomize, though I wish they had a default option)

I loved Hawkins. Proof that selective gender doesn’t waste a character.

I’d be, it doesn’t really matter to me unless I am for some reason playing a traditional family (wo)man… which would be never.

In COG games… not usually, I have one character on the site that I currently plan on definitely changing my gender for on a playthrough. I also did it for the bully in Unnatural. And I’m currently considering doing it for one more story.

Outside of that it happens but it’s rare. It wouldn’t even be mostly about the ro by that point for me either. The game would have to be replayable enough for me to go through it again and a different experience that I’m happy or ok with being a girl and then the ro would most likely be tacked on as an afterthought.

Not particularly, very slightly if at all.

And everyone being bi has only annoyed me in Dragon Age 2, just because of how radically it changed Anders from awakening to it, so that wasn’t even really a everyone is bi problem and more like “they changed an established character trait without a prior hint.”

Gender and personality for me. Me changing gender for characters is rare, me changing genders specifically for a guy is rarer. Then again I usually do a ro even if I don’t particularly like any of the characters, like in Inquisition.

Regarding mods, I don’t care, it’s their personal experience.


#10

I’ll never create characters that can switch which gender they are depending on what the reader wants them to be in order to romance them. My characters are characters first and if you don’t like them being male or female, gay or straight then you are out of luck. My babies are not meant for you to switch them around so that you can like them, you either like them or you don’t.

That being said, creating a wide variety of characters so that no gender or sexual orientation gets left out is very important to me. I want the reader to know that I know people with their gender and sexuality exist, so characters that fit what they like are a given.

I want to please the reader by making them feel like their voice is heard. But I’m not going to sacrifice the uniqueness that makes up my characters, who I have written into this world, who are a part of me because I created them, to make that happen.

In my current project I have a bunch of different sexualities and genders. (A gay male, a straight male, a bisexual male, a bisexual girl, an asexual but panromantic girl, a pansexual nonbinary.) Everyone has at least two people that they can romance (unless you date exclusively nonbinary people or happen to be a gay girl/straight man who doesn’t want to date asexual people, in which case you only have one option), so no one has to get the short end of the stick just because they happen to be gay or female etc. If your favourite character doesn’t happen to want to romance you though, then you just have to live with that.


#11
  1. This is an interesting question, if my MC is gender-locked as a different gender or orientation, i could make an excuse and force myself to let go of all my lust for the sake of my inner bookworm. I wouldn’t find myself attracted to any of the RO’s, nor would i romance them, but i’d still enjoy the story…

  2. What? No, in fact it’s better than choosing RO’s gender. I like thinking that gender/sexual orientation locked characters adds more to the immersion a book can give. I don’t want my character to romance a robot, even though i did it in Choice of Robots, i want him to romance whoever i feel is the most developed character there, and that’s where the writer come. Gender lock is just more writer interference.

  3. A combination of both. Gender matters to me, but the RO personality is what define which one of said gender my character is going to love (or want).

Am i missing too much roleplaying ignoring the male RO’s? I’ll probably never know.


#12

I answered this here in post number six. There’s also a longer thread with lots of opinions from various perspectives here, too, if anyone would like some further reading.

I confess to being a little sad when I see people say, “Characters aren’t really real unless they have a set gender and orientation!” I don’t think so…some of my favourite characters in ChoiceScript games haven’t had a pre-assigned gender or orientation. Some have. I know others love certain characters who can have various genders (Hawkins from @Cataphrak’s Mecha Ace comes to mind here: not a favourite of mine personally, but I hear loads of good things about the character).

I do agree that representation is important, and one of my works has characters with fixed genders and fixed sexualities so that I can have a gay character, and an ace character, and a pan character. In another one of my WiPs, the single RO can be any gender and sexuality the player chooses.

Context matters to me, particularly when looking at this issue in a text-based game. Why are the characters set to a specific gender and sexuality, if they are? And why aren’t they, if they’re not?


#13

I think it’s a hard question. In my mind as a writer, and honestly just as a person, spirit/personality are more important than gender identity and sexual orientation (or other characteristics) as far as RO go.

For example, it’s not the fact that Peter Parker is a cis-man (or trans man for that matter) that makes him Spiderman to me. Peter could just as easily be Patty or Peyton, Spiderwoman or just The Spider. Who PP romanced also wouldn’t bother me because it’s unlikely that his sexual orientation would impact the way his personality was created to be. As long as the spirit of the character shines through (intelligent, protective, sarcastic, etc.) I’m still going to be vested in the character.

That’s not to say that characteristics like gender identity, sexual orientation, racial/ethnic background, etc. can’t have tremendous impacts on a person’s perceptions of the world or their innate temperaments.

For example, In AHS season 3 Marie Laveau’s background as a woman of color in 19th century New Orleans witnessing the vast savagery of slavery explains her general hatred and disdain for white people. Add in the fact that modern witches of white descent in America seem to have gained access to magic from black witches and there’s even more reason to understand the magical animosity between witches and voodooist. Thus it is hard to declare Marie an evil character because her modern actions are guided by her past experiences.

Gender is something humans are very much socialized to notice. In fact, nowadays it seems as though people are being heavily reared to be attraction to gender expression (presentation) more than anything. Biological sex seems to have little in the ways of attraction. And masculinity and femininity aren’t exclusive to one gender identity over another.

I tend to like non-gender locked RO’s because then I can admire (or be left wanting) the overall character’s personality.

I feel gender locking or race locking or whatever should only be done if it’s necessary to some aspect of character development. Most characters could be any gender because again masculine and feminine traits are not gender exclusive.


#14

When I’m interested in playing an in-game romance out at all, I think I prefer the games that have a series of set (gender-locked, I guess) characters, some of whom I can choose from to romance if I wish.

I don’t need the game to ask me at the outset what my character’s orientation is and assign the RO to the appropriate orientation. Indeed, sometimes that can be confusing to me. (For instance, every time I see someone reference the fact that Black Magic from Hero Rises can be either gender, I am momentarily disoriented. It’s weird for me to think of Black Magic being different genders/orientations/appearances for different people.)

I’d rather the game fail to ask what my orientation is and just let me represent my orientation via gameplay. Sorta the Interactive Fiction version of “Show, not Tell.”


#15

Do gender locked ROs annoy you?

I prefer NPCs be gender-locked.

I haven’t played a lot of games with variable-gender NPCs, but one that really bothered me was Ashleigh Wakefield in Choice of the Deathless (who I’ll refer to as “she” since that’s how I was introduced to her). She’s the player character’s old love interest and frienemy from college, and her gender is determined by which gender the player says they were attracted to in college. Everything about her is identical whether she’s a she or a he, down to her physical description. The only thing that changes is her pronouns.

The lack of any difference between male Wakefield and female Wakefield was annoying, since it made it impossible for me to picture male Wakefield as anything but the woman I had pictured initially. Also, having an NPC who changes gender according to the player’s desires bothers me, especially in a setting where magical sex change is explicitly possible. Did Wakefield change sex in order to be more attractive to the protagonist? I don’t know, because the game doesn’t address it.

But the one thing that ruined Wakefield for me when I replayed the game was: If the player says they were attracted to both men and women, Wakefield’s gender will be selected completely at random. If I selected the bisexual option, I had to deal with the game randomly calling Wakefield “he” or “she” on each run.

Are the best RO determined by personality, gender or a combination of gender and personality?

I think a defined gender allows for more depth in how you describe a character, since you don’t have to carefully avoid talking about secondary sex characteristics (most of which play a role in sexual attraction, and would be sorely missed in a romantic option).

A defined personality is important for any NPC, but I’ve only ever seen one game (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories) that changed its NPCs’ personalities based on player input, and that was part of its gimmick. I’ve never seen a game try to fit every romantic option to whatever personality the player finds attractive.


#16

Yes, most characters could be any gender if you happen to start out with writing the story, in my opinion. But what gender and sexuality someone is - and I include fictional characters in here - changes what kind of life they lived and how they interact with their environment. The fact that I am a very feminine looking, asexual girl gives me an entirely different walk through my life than if I were a very feminine looking, gay man.

I vividly remember how confused I was whenever my peers at school would ask me which celebrity or classmate I found sexy or good looking. I had to come up with a go-to answer (Leonardo DiCaprio, mostly because I like the movies he played in) and would always name the male classmates that acted friendly towards me, because physical attraction isn’t something I can relate to in any way. If I find someone physically pretty then I want to draw them, I don’t want to do stuff with them. My confusion towards such answers led to people believing I was a lesbian of all things. :confused:

Similarly, if I write a gay male character, then his sexuality has a purpose. He will have a different mindset than his hetero best friend bro who went through his school years being a manly man, while the gay guy would have had to deal with figuring out that whoa, he’s not attracted to girls even though that is seen as the norm. And even if a character owns their sexuality and gender and it isn’t deeply explored throughout the story, then they are still my character with a set appearance, which leads to different first opinions of other characters and so on. If I happen to have a shy, anxious petite gay guy then people WILL think differently of him than if he were a petite hetero girl with the same characteristics.


#17

I disagree. Yes, Hawkins is a good example, but I believe they succeed despite the gender, and not because of it. It’s an indisputable fact that males and females are different. They think different, they behave different, they process information different, and it’s not just down to “gender roles” as some people might put it. There are fundamental differences in the way your brain works. You can’t have a gender swappable character without sacrificing some degree of depth, or otherwise making them seem inhuman.

If you want an example, just look at Choice of Romance. If you try to play as a male, you’ll notice that everything feels just a bit off. It’s almost like a form of uncanny valley. It’s clear that the game was written with a female protagonist in mind, and as a result the world doesn’t feel quite real when you play as male. This is just a worse version of the effect felt in other games, with the whole world feeling off rather than just a few characters thanks to the way it’s designed.


#18

Thanks for the replies everyone, I’ve certainly got a lot to think about.

Generic is something I definitely do not want my characters to be. Though I did think making characters flippable is so that you can chose someone who personality wise has the best chemistry/compatibility with your PC because there are more options. You are right though, quality is better than quantity.

Having said that…

While it’s true gender and orientation have an effect on who we are I like to believe that we’re all human and therefore it’s our spirit and personality that shows who we are the most, and is the most important aspect of how others see us.

This is true, and part of the reason why I didn’t want to make some of my characters flippable. I felt that their gender was tied to their life experiences and outlook. I did start to doubt myself though, because the main reason I had gender flipping options wasn’t just to open it up to the reader but also because idealistically I wanted to be able to write characters and not be influenced by gender or gender conceptions.

It’s all really conflicting. I’ve probably contradicted myself several times but I’ll sort my thoughts out eventually.

Ugh I know this feeling. I had some friends who were very into pointing people out to me and remarking on their attractiveness. I never knew who they were pointing at. I got so frustrated when people talked about who’s ‘hot’ that I tried to figure out what traits made people ‘beautiful’ based on advertising media. It’s something I strongly do not recommend to anyone.


#19

@OrigamiPencil I think having a gender flipping character can work as long as you are writing a story where that is the only character beside the reader that exists within that story. As soon as you have multiple characters you need to consider how those other characters would react to the gender flipping one. At that point it isn’t just about personality > appearance anymore. If you create a character who happens to be rather shallow towards women for example then you need to consider every interaction said character has with the gender flipping one. You could just cut all of that away, but then the gender-set character would suffer depth due to him having to have a personality that works completely the same no matter what the gender flipping character is like. Or you write different scenarios regarding each possible gender and sexuality combo the non-set character can have, at which point it would probably be easier to just write a couple of set characters instead.

And ugh I agree so much! I remember those times when female friends would nudge me, point towards a person and go “Hey, what do you think about that guy there?” complete with the slightly lilting tone of voice and eyebrow wiggle. And I’d just be like “He has a really nice hairstyle! =D” I could feel the imaginary facepalm that my female friends would do. :grimacing:


#20

I know, and I don’t mind doing extra work (you should see some of my coding) but truth be told I’m a bit of a wuss and don’t want to deal with or write gender-biased characters. I’m in an industry that is saturated with it and I respond to and discuss this all the time with colleagues, friends and mentors. It’s a constant battle.
I might address this kind of bias directly in a future project but for now I’m creating a world that mostly transcends gender discrimination in favour of many others (species-ism, elitism, etc).

I hope that doesn’t just make it sound like I’m creating flat characters because I’m working hard not to. I think people who don’t discriminate based on gender are still fully fleshed out and interesting, and our interactions are best when they move away from such superficial levels.

If I sound like I’m on a soap box please just chuck some tomatoes my way. I didn’t mean to. I’ll get off.

Haha! I think I might have said exactly the same thing at one point! It was the worst when they’d start talking about one in particular amongst a group of guys. I’d get so lost.
I’m so glad I’m not alone.