Should trans/non-binary characters be questioned about their gender?

Well, speaking as another person who’s part of LGBT (gay here) but not trans, I personally like seeing a variety of depictions in my media. Some stuff that, yeah, deals with “gay issues” and discrimination and all that, which are important and valid topics to write about, but also some stuff that involves gay characters in stories that don’t revolve around being gay, where the gay people just get to have a story like everyone else does. I want both.

Interactive fiction has different needs than a linear novel or movie, though. You have to bear in mind the experience of someone playing it. And the big thing is that if you’re making it so that someone’s overall penalized for playing a member of a certain group, then that is giving them a worse experience.

Oh hey, while I was typing this up, @Mewsly summarized the point way more succinctly:

Yeah, that.

I’m not saying you can’t write an interactive fiction that deals with issues of discrimination, but I’d suggest that that be something where it really one of the main themes, and probably means that the main character would have to belong to whichever group is being focused on here, rather than have it be a choice. For example, if someone wanted to write something in which dealing with homophobia was a major theme, I’d say that the protagonist of the game probably needs to be gay always. I’d expect this could apply similarly for transgender characters as well.

Well, yes. But that is in no way equivalent to having to suffer as a result of being trans (or any other group that’s discriminated against). A cis protagonist would need to suffer and struggle too—so, even speaking from a purely literary standpoint, there’s no need for additional suffering and struggling to be piled on.

How is it unrealistic if the setting doesn’t call for it? :confounded: If the setting doesn’t call for it then by definition it doesn’t need to be there… this doesn’t make sense… not every setting inherently has to be discriminatory; it’s possible for it not really to be there… I don’t understand what you’re saying because this seems like a complete contradiction in terms.

12 Likes

Honestly threads like these are always train wrecks, the best thing you can probably do as a writer is just ignore what everyone said (Except for this post of of course) and just do what you want to do. Lol.

9 Likes

I wouldn’t.

The trials a protagonist must go through depend on the plot, the setting, and the character itself. I wouldn’t even suggest giving a character so much as a paper-cut unless it served a greater purpose in the story. Punishing a character for no reason is lazy writing.

2 Likes

and when it does address issues that hit closer to home like homophobia with Dorian it’s done tastefully and it puts the homophobe, his father, squarely in the wrong as it should.

I just want to further double down on exactly why this was so fucking successful. In a really emotional scene, Dorian (alongside the MC) meets with Dorian’s father, and depending on the player’s choices, you can get Dorian to confront his father about the time he used magic to try and make Dorian straight. The reason this was successful is because

1.) It mirrors a real-life situation (conversion therapy) BUT
2.) it presents it in a way that lets us detach from it (magical conversion)

If I was going to give any writer advice on dealing with discrimination, it would be to follow those two steps. I haven’t been through conversion therapy but have read a lot about it and it horrifies me, but I was able to enjoy this scene without feeling threatened because it was detached from enough reality.

9 Likes

That would defeat the entire purpose of such things as feedback, workshops, editors, and just asking for opinions when someone is unsure what to do. That, and learning from the experiences of people who are more familiar with a topic than the author is, which is also pertinent here. It is also useful to gauge others’ reactions and see how in line they are with what an author meant to do.
Author intent is important, yes, and a good author knows when to set feedback aside, but a good author also knows when to seek advice and when to listen.

11 Likes

My grandma that was illiterate due born in Spanish civil war was the wise woman on Earth give me one advice If you aren’t writing about sewers you don’t need the readers feel the stench of poo and litter.

Think goes well with the theme of racism abuse etc… If your game is not about denouncing it you are only punishing player for the sake of it

6 Likes

Doesn’t Bioware get flak for their imaginary races? Especially in Inquisition and Andromeda. With the former making the Elves, a.k.a the Jew expies responsible for their own problems and the latter having mighty whitey tones? Plus they did put the autistic person in the machine in ME2.

Anyway speaking as a general minority instead I’m usually ok with a different experience targeted with bigotry. I like it better than just swapping or inserting one word around and get annoyed when only part of the experience is acknowledged, though I’m speaking from different groups. (Actually in one case I would say it might as well not be there if you just swapped/inserted a word)

Plus I don’t really believe the goodness of mankind to say it’s not realistic. The realism argument to me… is the same as any other argument. It’s there, realism has been used in games even if they hindered people. RD2’s fast travel and hunting systems come to mind. If you want to argue realism don’t just do it for that issue. More on topic, bigotry is more readily excused if your forced to be x group. All that matters is that you know that if you do this even if you please people in x group there’ll be people who feel alienated, if you’re willing to accept it go ahead. People are also more willing to accept it if you are part of x group, though some may call you a traitor (never mind people not knowing and assuming), bottom line you’ll probably alienate people like this, but if you can accept it, fine. Plus you’ll have to gauge if it’s the silent majority on your part anyway.

4 Likes

Honestly threads like these are always train wrecks, the best thing you can probably do as a writer is just ignore what everyone said (Except for this post of of course) and just do what you want to do. Lol.

Please do not do this. Please. Yes you should have full creative control over your own work, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard your audience. If you want your work live beyond your hard drive and to be read by other people, you will ultimately have to consider those peoples’ sensibilities.

10 Likes

I didn’t say never seek advice, but what always happens with this particular topic and similar ones is a bunch of finger waggling and scolding and generally trying to mold the writer into doing what the masses want.

To hell with that mindset, the writer should be doing what they want first and foremost. Contrary to the lie that’s generally thrown about around here, the writer doesn’t have an obligation to the readers at all.

Everyone in the world has their own struggle, the writer isn’t obligated to hold the reader’s hand and worry about if its going to be offensive to “X person” or not.

And while that might mean less sales, then that’s a sacrifice the writer can decide to make. If the vision is important or the money.

9 Likes

If you aren’t caring about people that are going to read what you write, why write at all? :thinking:

3 Likes

@MeltingPenguins Sorry If I got what you said wrong, can you clarify it more because what I got from your post is people in these communities hate or tired of stories about discrimination(which I feel is untrue.)

@Mewsly I know this question isn’t amid at me but I feel it makes the game more challenging and closer to home(for myself anyway’s). I feel it’s wrong to say it’s treating the mc worse because we don’t really don’t know what the op mean by “questioned” could be something subtle(like a character staring at the mc.) I personally probably wouldn’t put it in my story though(because they mostly take place in the future)

@TSSL I kind of messed that up lol, but what I mean is that while the scene doesn’t need the discrimination,it still make the story more realistic just not needed. A example of that is Dragon Age, which Dorian past story about homophobia isn’t needed in the plot but the fact it’s there make’s it more realistic.

1 Like

There is marked difference between “I am making sure to offend ABSOLUTELY NOBODY” and “I am writing this with attention to the fact that certain subjects spoken about in this scenario/setting/situation will be uncomfortable, alienating, or downright discriminatory.” There is also a difference between “fuck you got mine” and “I have listened to feedback and will filter what is necessary and what is not to maintain my artistic integrity.”

An author shouldn’t bend to every audience whim, but as @Drago303 said, if you ever plan to put your work in front of someone (and personally, I believe that something isn’t worth creating if no one but you is going to see it), then you will at some point need to consider that someone when making your work. It is naive at best and dangerously irresponsible at worst to ignore the audience. They are, after all, the most important part of your work.

And I am now off-topic. Yay.

8 Likes

Why do anything? Because it gives you enjoyment to do so. Obviously write for yourself, if others like it then that’s fine too.

4 Likes

Hm… Well, it is something i can’t identify with, but i can see how someone would feel that way. I don’t think this is the case here though, probably the author wouldn’t even be asking if it was the case…

2 Likes

Of course you can’t ignore the audience completely. They’re loud and opinionated. They’ll praise you one moment and boo you the next.

Which is exactly why you shouldn’t really bother listening to them 90% of the time and just follow your own vision whatever that is.

Now obviously if you genuinely value writing by committee then I guess by all means go for it since its obviously in line with your vision to begin with. (Which is trying to satisfy others)

5 Likes

@Nathaniel sorry to have gone off at you like this.

Long of the short (i’ll elaborate later pr maybe someone else will)

There are stories out there that, yes, do have a marginalized character. Who seems to be there to suffer and nothing else.
OR to lecture the mc about what it means to be X so the MC grows from it.
These characters are not really there as representation.
They are there for the not marginalized audience to feel sorry for or be inspired by how these characters do not despair despite being at such a disadvantage.

Latter is most common with disabled chars.
Who, e.g. use a wheelchair and the abled mc is in awe about how they are so brave and how they carry on even though they must feel so helpless, and how the mc could never do that etc.

In the case of queer chars you often get it that the queer char will die (sometimes they seem to just drop dead from being queer even wtf) or generally suffer, so the audience can feel sorry for them and act as if they “understand the struggle perfectly now”.

It’s this kind of faux-representation that people hate.

3 Likes

That’s a remarkably dismissive way to describe people giving opinions on what they’d like to see and how they feel about what they do see when asked for those very same opinions.

Writers being human, and readers being human, we all have some level of obligation to each other at the level of human decency. Saying that something is art does not absolve responsibility for the art.

I don’t take this as saying you can’t write stuff that someone might find offensive, but if it reaches the level of, say, promoting bigotry (which, let’s be clear, is not what Avery Moore was talking about doing) then I can say that, yes, the author promoted bigotry.

In this case, we’re not talking about something at that level. We’re just at a level where people can talk about what they would like to see, how they would feel about what they see, and what they think an interactive fiction should be like. Which is exactly what feedback is all about. Useful feedback is all about helping a work be a better version of what it’s setting out to be—and for a work that isn’t setting out to tackle weighty issues of discrimination as one of its themes, it’s absolutely appropriate for people to say what they think would make it a better version of its goal in terms of how it does or does not depict these things.

It is of course, best to recognize when this feedback is directed toward making a piece into a different sort of piece altogether, but since discrimination is not a fundamental part of this work’s vision in the first place, this feedback is still in line with the stated goals.

Or at least, why share it? If someone writes something just for themself and keeps it to themself, then yeah, they don’t have any responsibility to anyone else for its contents because no one else is involved.

11 Likes

And I would argue that including something that could even possibly be negative only for nb and trans players and not for cis players is treating them, at best, unfairly and, at worse, maliciously. If I play a cis female MC I don’t have to worry about another character calling her “sir” or “mister.” Why should a trans woman have to worry about that? What message does that send? What message are you trying to sends?

Including small, positive things like NB NPCs bonding with a NB MC over their indentity is one thing. Having a character misgender a NB or trans MC (accidentally or on purpose) is another thing and you really need to put serious thought into the kind of message having that in your game is sending.

6 Likes

If I thought stories (and art in general) had no power, I’d agree. If I thought the stories we tell didn’t contribute to how people think about themselves and others, I’d agree.

And I still mostly agree. “George R.R. Martin is not working for you,” as Neil Gaiman famously but more colorfully said. I’ve written elsewhere on the forum about how most of the audiences that don’t like Choice of Rebels just weren’t the audiences I was writing for. I have a vision for my work, and at the end of the day, I write what I want.

But because two of the things I want are (a) to write a story that does have power and (b) not to be an asshole, I listen to people when they talk about the ways my stories might affect them. There are lots of easy tweaks and fixes people suggest that don’t detract from my vision, that wouldn’t occur to me on my own, but make reading the story a more powerful experience for many people.

And then I choose to take their advice or not, and I own that choice–like @TSSL said, I take responsibility for my art and its impact. Without feeling the need to shame anyone for disagreeing with me.

20 Likes

On the note of addresses:

That had been one of my main struggle in my game, till I settled on ‘mair’ (compared to ma’am or sir) for non binary etc chars.