In the games I’ve read, which are few and far between unfortunately, I’ve noticed a trend toward giving gender-variable characters ‘neutral’ names like Sam or Alex or referring to them primarily by their last name. But games like Wayhaven assign different names to different gender states (so Adam/Ava, Nat/Nate, etc).
Is there a preference for either? On the one hand, having two names can sometimes make it feel like they’re not the same character, but can also provide a helpful way to differentiate between the genders if you want to, say, replay the game and romance the same person but as a different gender.
On the other hand, GV characters with one name can restrict authors to unisex names or referring to the character in question by their last name. But it’s slightly easier to code, of course.
And how do we feel about mixing these two tactics? WIP-specific context for this Q under the cut.
Because it’s just occurred to me that if you want to be in a F/M relationship in my WIP, you only have one romance option out of… six. Which doesn’t feel very balanced. But the only characters of mine I can see being both GV and bisexual have kind of weird names that don’t make it easy to find an opposite-gender equivalent (one of them is named Story… what’s the male version of that? Tale?). The rest of the existing ROs who are GV have different names for each gender already, though.
I, personally–even though it’s obvious that what I’d say is personal to myself (but I said it anyway)–, am a devout believer if a GV character has changing name, they’re both different personas. If they have a singular unisex name, they’re the same person with only different physique.
However, if you have a GV character named “Story”… I think I’ll just roll with whatever you feel like.
I cannot say this ^ enough. I know that this answer is very non-specific and might not be as concrete of a response as you are looking for, but I would honestly say just do what you want RE: naming. There’s more than one single-star review of my storygame that mentions the names being “weird” or some variation of that… and, honestly, I don’t particularly care. I enjoy puns and names with meaning, and that obviously isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I kept my naming style into my second storygame and no one has said anything.
I would say name how you want to name, and that you shouldn’t feel pressured to change a character’s name just because some people might want to push you into doing a certain thing! (:
I am mixing them both in Fallen Hero. Ortega is Ricardo/Julia, while Dr. Mortum is always Dr. Mortum.
It is really interesting that Ricardo and Julia has taken on very different personalities with the readers, even though 99% of the text and dialog is identical. Maybe it’s the different names that caused that, or it’s just that the same actions gets interpreted differently whether it’s a man or a woman that does them. But if the latter was true, the same would have happened to Dr. Mortum, who has not been affected by that, regardless of gender they seem to be seen the same.
In fact, I am rather fond of the Twin AU that people has developed, where bot Julia and Ricardo gets to hang around the team.
I feel the implementation and deployment of a naming convention depends on the game you are making.
Some settings (ie historical fiction) have a set naming convention for the period the game takes place and deviation from that convention would break immersion for many readers.
Other games, such as fantasies or future-based sci-fi stories can get away with more flexibility.
A “general rule” I like to try to follow is to find a set of “neutral” names to include in my choices, to try to connect with my non-binary/fluid audience who might feel more comfortable with a neutral name. Even in historical fiction I can usually find three such names.
It is my experience that gamers/readers do this to facilitate replay … if they perceive the “two” characters as different, it gives them the excuse to replay the game using the alternative name.
It is something I’ve taken advantage of for a very long time.
I’m just pitching in to say that in my opinion, gender neutral names are the superior choice. Maybe a little limiting, but I’ve absolutely seen it confuse people on the forums who, say, only play with the female versions of most of the characters think the male/nb versions are totally different characters they just didn’t meet in their playthrough. It’s a drag to have to type two different versions of a name, and personally letters feel a touch impersonal to me. And with a name like Story, as beeanca says, it doesn’t seem at all necessary to make a different name for each of their genders.
I personally don’t care if they have an unisex name or if it changes depending of the gender of the RO (for me as long as the two names share the first letter it’s okay, ex patrick/patricia is good but it’s also alright if it’s patrick/penny)
BUT I do think that if you’re going to use an unisex name it should be one that isn’t so common (there are a so many characters named Alex, it would be cool to see other names)
For the NPCs I don’t really care? RO names would probably give just as good of an idea of the naming conventions for people who do want to take that into account.
A lot of games usually code a warning if the player sets the same name as one of the names characters, which could be helpful for some.
I am pretty chill about authors using either of these methods the only thing I really don’t like is when the names (what the character is primarily called) of a GV character are drastically different and do not even start with the same letter (ex. a single character who is named Juniper/Ian depending on the gender).
So even though in Fallen Hero, it is iirc Roberto and Julia Ortega, because they go by Ortega it doesn’t really matter and is actually more of a usage of the gender neutral naming convention.
The whole Ava/Adam can sometimes confuse people at first but I think is much easier to pick up on and understand.
Related Side Note: If you do not already list the gender options of all your ROs in your WIP, please do so.
Gender neutral names are typically paired with they/them pronouns in discussion OR the people in the comments will only discuss one gender of an RO which means players might confuse them as being either a non-binary RO or only having one gender if this is not clearly labelled so I suppose I have a slight preference for gendered names, but I’ve never been super bothered when authors use neutral names for gender variable characters. This goes double if the neutral name is a nickname like Glitch.
Thanks Greendaisy, my current WIP is so heavily customizable, its scary, and I wondered if I’m not way over my head.
lol the player will choose everything, RO/friend option gender, race, height, and even the first name for one of them. Same with one or two NPC. and I went with the same first letter names depends on genders such as Luke/Lucia or Gemma/Jimmy. Customizable personality based on gender etc…
I have read some posts where some readers mentioned that they don’t mind heavy customization but they mind not having them being relevant or mentioned again in the story. So I’m also taking care of that.
I plan on having a note to warn the player that the prologue will be sort of a place to just set the preferences and customize so the following chapters can just go smoothly with the story and normal choices related to the game.
Personally I detest GV characters, when writing RO’s I usually make at least a few of each gender and make them all… shall we say ‘flexible’ on their sexuality. This way there is usually at least one or two for everyone.
Though to be fair I gain nothing from GV RO’s as a bisexual