Limited choices


#1

Hi everyone!

So I haven’t ever really posted here before, but I’ve been noticing a recent trend amongst some hosted games and I was wondering if anyone would like to weigh in.

Some recent games, Path of Light and Gangs of Old Camp for example, are gender-locked and/or have predetermined sexual orientations.

CoG is a brand. Part of that brand is the truly immersive experience of CoG. The games are able to achieve this immersion largely because of how inclusive and open the creation of characters are. This allows the reader to progress through a storyline with an avatar they are actually invested in.

It seems to me that certain elements of the CoG brand are not extended to hosted games, and understandably so. It definitely can hurt productivity to force free-lance writers into a template they are unmotivated by. Furthermore It would probably harm the quality of writing to force someone to write from a perspective they don’t understand, and therefore cannot write from with depth.

While we cannot expect writers to be able to convey the perspective of every person playing a game, we also should be aware that at the same time, customers may not be able to derive the same immersive experience that they have come to associate with CoG; when they are forced into a storyline they either do not feel comfortable in or have no meaningful experience with.

At the end of the day, hosted games cost money, and hosted games essentially draw their customers based on the ethos of CoG. A large part of that ethos has been until very recently, completely open choices with regards to gender and sexual orientation. When hosted games deviate from that formulation, they are deviating from what one usually expects from a CoG game, and therefore from the general brand.

That being said, it should be made very apparent to prospective customers when games are gender locked, or have predetermined orientations, and I mean outside of the individual threads for each game. In this way, CoG can avoid inadvertently misleading people as to the content of hosted games, as well as prevent a certain level of buyer’s remorse.


#2

Hosted Games are a wild wasteland. There is no brand and no expectations. You can always get a refund from the iOS/Android market within an hour of your purchase.


#3

That’s false.

CoG has on multiple occasions indicated the correlation between hosted games and company produced games. One example of this is the continual postponement of Tin Star so that it could be released in combination with Choice of the Rock Star.

Furthermore as a general rule of business, whether it be a shoe store or a website, hosted content directly references the parent company’s brand. You buy laces at a shoe store, because you expect they will be of a certain quality that you have to expect from that organization, as opposed to ordering them online from China. When you purchase a hosted game from a website like this, as opposed to from any other website or from the app store directly, you expect a level of quality control. To think otherwise is to be essentially naive in business practices.


#4

Hell I’d be more concerned about a lack of coherent english rather than limited gender choices in Hosted Games @Letra

There is no quality control, but no one on CoG wants to be in charge of controlling it. That’s their call. Hosted Games that aren’t up to snuff are rated as such in the iOS/Android marketplace. It takes care of itself.


#5

As a published (soon to be published twice) Hosted Games author, I would say this:
My first game, Murder in Berlin, was in many ways what you were describing @Letra, gender and orientation fixed. At the time I was writing the story I wanted to write, I didn’t really think about other options, I didn’t think about trying to reflect CoG’s values or anything, that just wasn’t a part of my thinking process.
Subsequently, I realised the limitations of this and the way certain members of the CoG community could be excluded.
I then started a WIP called Purple Reign set in the Byzantine Empire, where you could be emperor or empress, marry who you wanted, be from a variety of backgrounds. But basically I lost interest in the project because I found it almost impossible to write scenes and conversations when so many things could be so different.
I’m not saying it’s not worth doing, I’m saying for a lot of authors it is both difficult and time consuming to have to write a scene 4 or 5 times. It makes it hard to imagine the characters and their interactions if one of the characters, the main one in fact, is a blank slate with a dozen different personalities. I have massive respect for the authors who have convincingly written like this in some CoGs although you do find a lot of repetition, simply with ‘her’ changed to ‘him’ for instance.

Anyway, I found that project too challenging so started, and indeed finished a WIP called Divided We Fall, set in the Spanish Civil War, soon to be released on Hosted Games. In this, there are 4 main characters, all controlled by the player, 2 men and 2 women. For one of the characters, it is possible to choose your orientation, 2 are Catholic and so that’s kind of off the table and one doesn’t have romance. So I guess I’ve tried to get round the issue of sex and gender with variety whilst staying historically accurate.

Sorry for writing so much, I’m just trying to give an author’s perspective.


#6

@Letra
Another author’s personal perspective, if you’ll have it:

My series, which I’m tentatively referring to as “The Dragoon Saga” (Sabres of Infinity, and Guns of Infinity so far) demands that the protagonist be a certain type of person in gender, in nationality, and in class. The combination of these three things (a male Tierran aristocrat) in the context of the place where the story is set in places the player character in a position of immense privilege. This was intentional, for three salient reasons:

The first is that the Infiniverse is a setting with years of research and world building behind it. Most of this world building, and a lot of the verisimilitude which the series has been praised for, comes from an exhaustive amount of research regarding historical cultures and systems of government, including entire sections which have been lifted from their historical contexts and placed in new ones: Grenadier Square is Horse Guards with the serial numbers filed off, the Tierran Line Infantry would not be out of place at Talavera or Vittoria, the lyrical mentality and tone of “The March of the King’s Chosen” match those of “The British Grenadiers” and the “Hohenfriedburger Marsch”. The problem is, to maintain congruity and consistency, the parts I take have to fit into a society and a culture which could have realistically produced them, or else the setting’s internal consistency (infinitely important in world building) is broken.

The societies which I’m cribbing from had immense and heavily pervasive mechanisms to maintain gender and class barriers as gatekeepers to the sort of places where I want to take the story. To dismantle those for my own setting would effectively mean building an entire new society, one more equal and inclusive than our own, from scratch, and I couldn’t do that with the level of detail I put into Sabres in a hundred years, and there would likely still be immense inconsistencies and disconnects.

The second reason was more mechanical: I didn’t know if I could write female characters properly, and I wasn’t confident enough to try. I think I’ve worked my way beyond that, so it really doesn’t apply anymore.

Lastly, there is the fact that “The Dragoon Saga” is a story about injustice, about inequalities primarily of class and race, which I feel need a great deal more examination, especially in fantasy. When it comes to such stories, I’ve come to the conclusion that if an author wants to make a statement about privilege, he/she should write from the bottom. If an author wants to write a story about the mechanics of privilege, then they should write from near the top, high enough to see where all the moving parts go, but not high enough to be able to assume there is no injustice, because there is no systemic injustice in the PoV character’s life. That’s been my experience with my own (cis-male, hetero, non-white, working class upbringing) position. Therefore, I’ve done the equivalent at least, at this early juncture, not of inviting the player to take the stage, but giving them that rare seat which lets them see the play, and the stage crew working backstage.

CoG’s policy for official titles (including my own) doesn’t allow for that sort of examination simply because the requirement that the story as welcoming to any human being with the required level of literacy also requires the creation of settings where injustices (which, of course, still exist in our society) of gender and sexuality don’t exist. Hosted Games don’t have that requirement, and the fact that they are distanced as a separate label with explicitly no aid from the parent company save for tools and distribution gives authors like me the creative freedom to take such critical stances.

A bit rambly, sorry about that, but this is what came to mind.


#7

There are generally two types of CoG that I’ve found. First you have your classic CYOA adventure style where everything is a choice for the player. These ones are fun if they set the player character down a story, see Tin Star and Slammed for example, the character is anyone but they work within the frame of the story. And yes, the choices they make will affect the story in some way.
There is a certain kind of freedom in these stories, even if it kind of an illusion.

Second type is heavily structured stories that has the player character moving in a set course, see Heroes Rise, Infinity Saga and Way Walkers for example. Now, these ones can be good, a heavily structured story allows for the character to interact with the world in more detail than the previous kind. Now the writing in these stories has to be good enough to carry your character and generally they are, Infinity has you locked as a Dragoon but you decide how to play him. Guenevere has you play as her but again, how you do is up to you.
It is heavily scripted and choice is basically an illusion, but you’ll still get stick into these stories anyway.

But that’s the thing with the second category, the writing has to be good, else the reader feels like they’re being railroaded. You also have to offer them choice as well, or at least the illusion of choice, because again, they’ll feel like they’re on a boring amusement park ride.

I know English might not be your first language or it might be your first project. And I know that if you keep at it, you will keep better. Just keep certain tenets in mind when writing. You’re writing the story, so you’re looking at it from the author’s point of view, try also looking at it from the readers.

There is freedom in choice, even if it’s only an illusion.


#8

@AlexClifford1994

The idea of controlling multiple characters is actually really intriguing, looking forward to trying that out!

@AlexClifford1994 @Cataphrak

Thanks a lot for giving your perspectives as authors. I definitely appreciate massive the challenges, both practical and conceptual, that come with trying to give the reader free reign when it comes to determining aspects of their characters. I’ve never written a game before, but I have done a thesis, and for about three month after I avoided any moment that required literacy for the sake of my sanity.

I also love that hosted games are often times grittier than their “official” counterparts.

My criticism isn’t at all that games shouldn’t be gender/orientation locked. My criticism is that in those instances this should be made explicit to buyers before they purchase it. I get that you can just apply for a refund. It’s still a peculiar business practice however to know that there is something that could potentially cause a customer to want to “return” the item, and not make them aware of it beforehand.


#9

Not to seem dismissive of the issue, I understand where you’re coming from and agree that many blurbs on the website and the stores are lacking, but in many cases where the games are locked by gender or orientation, it becomes apparent on the online demo version that you can try out for free. I personally would not recommend any CYOA game to anyone if they did not have the possibility of seeing at least the opening chapter worth of choices and writing style to try it out before purchase. In some cases when it’s a lengthier game, stuff like sexual orientation and the weight of consequences may come up well into the story that the demo does not cover, which is exactly where your concerns become more prominent.

I find that the descriptions for games on CoG are very much aimed at being copypastable to the app stores and steam. Thus they are more akin to brief sales pitches and lack an explanation of exactly what you’re getting. I remember only one case where something as important as a word count (meaning length, which is a good guideline on if it’s “worth the price”) was prominently exclaimed, and that was with Slammed. Stuff like length should have a place in the description, at least on the website. In addition even a broader explanation of whether it falls under a more CYOA-style open structure, or a more linear interactive novel style, should be presented to the consumer. There’s plenty of detail that could be added in just a few lines of text at the end or interwoven with the sales pitch.


#10

It was actually Trial of the Demon Hunter that was continually postponed in order to be released alongside Rock Star :stuck_out_tongue: it didn’t work out, but still.


#11

Bah, thanks for the correction!


#12

It really could be a simple acronym or something: GOL = Gender/orientation locked


#13

That entire post was beautifully written and is the best read I’ve had all night.
I feel that I have greater appreciation for the “Hosted Games” section of the site as well.


#14

For anyone who wants to try out a new game, official or hosted, there are the demos at the CoG page. All the games without a gender/orientation choice (Path of Light and Gangs of Old Camp as well as Murder in Berlin and Sabres of Infinity) make this clear on their very first pages, so that anyone who plays the demo knows what limits of MC customization there are. A label like this is therefore simply redundant.

Besides, I don’t see why gender and orientation should be given special treatment in regard of limited choices. Other attributes can be quite improtant for some people. For example, many games (both offcial and hosted) don’t have a choice on the MC’s age or race/nation or class. Also some games allow the player to customize the gender or other attributes of certain NPCs while others don’t have this option. If a GOL lable would be intoduced, many people could legitimately demand many more lables, which would overload the game’s description with non-obvious acronyms.


#15

As an author (although not yet a published CoG author, although I have 2 WIPs, one gender locked, one not…)

An author makes choices in writing a story (or a game.) As an author you know your story is not going to appeal to everyone. Some people don’t like Westerns. Some people don’t like romance. If I’m an author and I like to write sci-fi, I write it, and I don’t expect someone who likes Westerns to be interested. Yeah, I’m losing a segment of the buying public, but that’s the way it goes…that’s my choice. :wink:

A publisher usually publishes all kinds of different genres. Romance. Western. Sci-fi. The reader chooses what they want to read and buys it. I don’t expect all Dell books to be Westerns or all Randon House books to be true crime. Expecting all books (or games) from a publisher to be the same is very limiting for both the publisher and the authors.

As Goshman says above, a reader can demo all the games. If a reader plays the demo and doesn’t like the characters or the game, they won’t buy it. If a reader can’t be bothered to play the demo, or read the blurb, and discover if the book is to their liking or not, that’s their problem. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but as an author I don’t feel obliged to please everyone, and I don’t feel like I have to take responsibility for the displeasure of a reader who didn’t bother to look at the book/game before they bought it. :slight_smile: Just my thoughts.


#16

I’m gonna be honest, and while I’m not trying to call anyone out here, I think most of the recent Hosted Games have been extremely low quality. I’ve played demos for WIPs on here that I found much more fun and interesting (for example Guenevere) than anything recent in the Hosted Games section. I’d also appreciate it if they listed how many words are in each game. I like to know the quantity as well as the quality.

I don’t like games that try to tell a predetermined story. These games are about choice. If you desperately want to tell a preset story, write a novel. I try to stray away from having too many paragraphs in a row in my game. It’s not about what I want to happen— it’s about what the player wants to happen.

I think CoG should institute more quality control. It’s tough to say “Your game isn’t good enough” but if you are going to publish something under your label for money you should at least guarantee it is free of basic grammatical errors and has an actual plot.


#17

Most of the titles on Amazon have the word count listed in the “features.”


#18

I play choice of games in imagining sorta. So if I don’t like genders,appearance,etc. I just imagine it in a different form. By that I mean if you’re genderlocked as a male or female imagine yourself as the opposite sex.Sorry if this doesn’t help in anyway.


#19

Like what are the many other labels, based on published games, that could be demanded? Race? I haven’t seen a game that is exclusionary of races. Religion? Most of these games take place outside the scope of religion, or do not have religion as central to the contents of the story. The gender identity of the character and the way they interact with other people in the story are however central, despite whatever fantastic setting the story is placed in.


#20

So what you’re saying is that

  1. Either the issue of gender/orientation locked is stated in the description blurb(which I agree with, I’m not sure if you realize that this issue is specifically concerning games where that is not the case)

or

  1. The issue of gender and orientation selection should be confined to the demo space, which also seems “very limiting for both publishers and authors”, since perhaps those issues cannot be properly addressed at that point in the narrative.

This is not about games being expected to please everyone, but to use your analogy if I buy a book with a picture of a space battle on the cover, and I have no way of reading it before I buy it, only to find out it’s about children’s fairytales, that’s a problem.