Transgender Characters In Choice Games


#1

I’ve been thinking of how to include transgender characters in my games. Both as the main characters and as NPCs. I find it easier to include them as NPCs. As the main character though, I’ve started having issues that I never expected to.

I tend to prefer to ask for pronouns and not for gender. Since I find the following to be awkward and blunt, and I really don’t like it.

What gender are you?
Cismale
Cisfemale
Transmale
Transfemale
Genderqueer

I think I’m more comfortable with just having the characters pass, and for it to never come up unless they’re in a romantic relationship. But again, thinking it over, I don’t like that.

I want to tell stories in which you can be a hero, regardless of gender and sexuality. Where those will only have a minor impact in the grand scheme of things, and whether you can slay the princess and rescue the dragon will be far, far more important.

I loved how Seven Winds did things, where you can just pick your form and you can always pick male, or female, or flip between the two or just try and spend your time as a sheep. I like Choice of the Dragon, and the games that don’t even ask gender. That’s not always possible.

I’m interested in other people’s thoughts on the matter. How they’d tackle the question of main characters, or how they’d introduce transgender NPCs. Or even how the gender-flip most games have intersects with such issues. Or things that are awkward or off-putting and incidents where they’ve seen things tackled well.

Note: I am not interested in any negative commentary about not including transgender characters.


Trans Discussion In and Out of Choice Games
Supernatural in New York (WIP) [revamped 26 July 2018]
Writing good characters with marginalized identities
What Frustrates You Big Time?
#2

What strikes me as ironic (speaking from the case of someone firmly male in any case) is that some people seem to make to make such a big deal of the apparent range of gender options simply so it won’t be such a big deal. That said, including the option for those in that position seems logical. I have to admit that Seven Winds and Choice of the Dragon did tackle it well.


#3

Well im always include a type of transgender in my games due the gender problem is fascinating in a game based in a story about characters. in my game i just dont ask sex orientation and based the options in things like personality and have you act instead your character cromosomes.

Make it natural, ask their feelings to pc and if responses are positive let them become transgender and let the universe going adapted to pc change or npc


#4

I like my escapist fantasies.

There’s plenty of stories already out there about being discriminated against, of being hated and oppressed and attacked and murdered, just for being who you are. There’s stories that are dedicated solely to being gay or transgender, which revolve around that, exploring all the pains, all the troubles, all the difficulties and such like.

Those aren’t the sort of stories that I’m particularly interested in telling in Choice of Games. That’s not to say that those stories don’t have their place, but I find them tiring. I admire those who can write those sorts of stories. I love that Twine, for instance, is a medium which is allowing easier access to telling those sorts of stories as interactive games. I find games themselves an extremely powerful storytelling medium.

But personally, I just want to write escapist fantasy where anyone can be a hero. Where you’re more concerned about saving the world than suffering from discrimination and any other problems relating to your gender and/or sexuality.

I think there’s no actual conflict between it being important to ensure that a wide variety of choice in regards to sexuality and gender is given, while also ensuring that the results of those choices don’t dominate the storyline, and the story isn’t simply about being those things first and foremost. I like it being treated casually, as if it’s no big deal.


#5

In my last story is fantasy and there is no any type of discrimination about it due magic allows modify their genes for them is natural and they are masters who decide maintain a neutral form easy to modify in each moment.

But starting as a 15 year boy ask are you a this this or this seemed forced so i would let characters and player explore and with time say i would be a transgender or a no gender. Seems more natural to me


#6

If you’re writing a story where gender and sexuality don’t affect what the PC can and cannot do, why bother including them? If they have no consequence, they are purely aesthetic; and if they are purely aesthetic, a simple ‘How do they address you?: Sir/Madam/Ohgetonwithit’ would suffice. If the game has a pregnancy dynamic, however, then you should introduce anatomical queries, otherwise the options are false, and their presence vacuous.


#7

For NPC’s, I think it should be pretty simple - just introduce the NPC as you would any character and only mention the issue when it comes up. Same I think can be done with the PC, ie. A possible interaction would be the PC telling a NPC that they aren’t a drag, they’re a woman.

One problem I feel with inclusion of trans-gendered PC’s is that I don’t think trans-gendered players don’t identify themselves as trans-gendered but rather as the gender they chose. Ie. A transgendered woman would identify herself as a woman and not as a man who turned into a woman. To me, the whole concept of transgender is seen from the outside looking in. Please forgive me if I’m mistaken, because my observations are also coming from the outside of the situation.


#8

No the genders matters, i only said there aren’t discriminate @Drazen way of act clothes and what people imagine about typical male women are there. For instance if you are a male and dress with a women clothing they will think you miss any spell and would look you strangely , or a transgender always dressed like woman and acting like that suddenly become a boy. A two girls matrimony well one just transform in male or transmute a mixture of cells of both , imagine what we could do with science they did with direct magic


#9

@MaraJade I am discriminating between you and a table, right now, because I am writing a message to you, and would never do so to a table. If I were to not discriminate, then I would either write messages to neither you nor the table, or to both.

The escapist situation @FairyGodFeather described is one where gender and sexuality are not discriminating factors, i.e. are not consequential qualities (unlike the distinction between yourself and the table, which is highly consequential (I would hope)); Hence, my point: Why bother including them as primary choices?

Discriminating qualities which are not consequential to the story, e.g. mentioning “This fellow wears a flatcap, but the other one wears a homburg,” is perfectly acceptable to pad out the aesthetic backdrop of a story. But when authors start including choices which are entirely Homburg vs. Flatcap, one tends to wonder why they bothered.

Therefore, just focus on terms of address, and leave issues of gender and sexuality to passing remarks and descriptions.


#10

New forum user but I’ve been lurking and purchasing CoGs for at least a year or more now. Happy to be here. (And funny that I would choose the transgender topic as my first post.)

I agree with @hahaha01357. As someone of a “non-normative” gender identity and sex, I think that including cis or trans* status is a considerate but mostly unnecessary point.

In the case of that particular WIP that allowed a cis/trans option, it seemed to fit well into the cybernetics, body mods, and organic reconstruction universe. Also, if it’s a story that could potentially result in someones trans* status being a point of interest (Drazen’s pregnancy example could fit here) that would be fine as well. But I suspect that many trans* folks will simply opt for the gender which most accurately represents their identity and sets the appropriate pronouns.

If you wanted to push inclusivity you could add an androgynous/agender option or allow for the Tin Star subtle redirect (“You’ll be calling me Marshall/Doctor”) and stick to gender neutral they/them/theirs for 3rd. But unless some facet of the story deals with identity vs presentation vs body politics then I think you’ll be fine without the cis/trans distinction.

I do like the idea of simply asking for pronouns or honorifics since that eliminates the distinction between sex designation (“Are you a Male? Do you have guy parts?”), stereotypes (“Do you have short hair, abs on your face, and insist on wearing that horrendous suit?”) and so on. This could be accommodating for some trans*, intersex, or simply gender non-conforming players.

Trans NPCs could certainly be appreciated as long they don’t exist solely to fulfill a token minority role without any narrative advancing characteristics of their own.

Of course, others might prefer the option to distinguish their trans* or sex status and I encourage their perspectives as well. Especially since I cannot personally speak for all trans* or intersex people.

Hopefully this response is neither too long, unhelpful, or rambling.


#11

Also, I should probably mention that the treatment of this issue depends entirely on several factors: 1) Is sex consequential? E.g. is it a war game requiring male prowess, or is pregnancy an issue. 2a) Is gender real? and 2b) Does the world treat gender as being real?

So, @FairyGodFeather’s manner of story-telling runs: No, No, and No, hence allowing him, in my view, to disregard it entirely, focussing entirely on pronouns and so forth. This could not be possible in a realist/non-escapist story which ran Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Unusual combinations such as games set within the modern dynamic, which I’d argue runs Yes, Yes, and No, would requite an interesting and very nuanced treatment; Likewise, No, No, and Yes would be very peculiar. And so on, and so forth.


#12

well @Drazen1 in my game magic is equal force in nobles women and man, magic could powered your muscles to be powerful as king kong or just shooting fire ice or provoke earthquakes both women and man have same faculties so army is more or less 50%.
Pregnancy male could become female his sperm and acelerate baby pregnancy to transcurred in 24 hours and one of them change his body to a women , so gender could be avoided. 2b- Not noble people hast got magic so genders for them works as for us. So are real


#13

@MaraJade Since your answer runs (assuming the PC is a noble) No, Yes, and Yes(?), you wouldn’t have to give a choice for the PC’s anatomical gubbins, but would still have to, for example, describe the dynamic faced by the plebs.


#14

Bouncing in on the discussion.

For trans* NPCs, there really is no issue. Just write the character like any other and when it would come up, bring it up. Do try not to make them a token, though. They’ll behave like anyone else would in most situations, so there’s no need to make your transwoman obsessed with sun dresses and pretty make-up, unless that’s what the character would like anyway, regardless of gender.

For trans* players, things get a lot more iffy, especially if you are writing from a cis perspective. Trans* people have widely varied relationships with their trans* status. Many are “out and proud” whether by choice or by the fact that they just can’t pass realistically. Many are completely stealth and get really nervous when the topic is brought up. Many more just straight up identify as male or female. So to throw the option in the game and then have it change basically NOTHING but pronouns could be seen as erasure. If your game is set in a gendered society, like ours, and you want to include trans* people, just make sure you actually show the effects of that. To avoid it may seem more polite, or correct, because “Hey! Anyone can save the world!”. However, that attitude kind of sits all over the very real struggles and problems trans* people face. I know games are all about escapism, but as a transperson myself, I just don’t like games that seem to just “throw it in the pot” without showing me any of the flavor. You don’t have to make the game about transition or being murdered in front of a police station or anything, but if you do put it in, put it in right.

ALL THAT SAID, if you game really does take place in a world that doesn’t give a crap, there still really isn’t a good reason not to treat trans* identities as more than just male/female. Allow trans* players to acknowledge their status when asked, have other people make remarks about it if it would make sense. After all, if a society was used to it, they would be a lot more comfortable talking about it regularly. Basically, don’t just make it a palette swap. Men are different from women are different from transmen are different from transwomen. Show this, even if it’s in a small way.

More directly at @FairyGodfeather I would say that you can indeed write escapist fantasy where anyone could be the hero. Just allow the player to have a little pride in who they are. Male, female, trans* whatever. Like games where you can choose your hair color. It has no bearing on almost anything, but still, most authors bring it up occasionally, so the player can be like “Oh look it’s me!”

Yeah. That’s my thoughts. Sorry if that makes no sense at all. I just don’t like erasure and tokenization and throwing in things like this without making it have any kind of effect at all.


#15

Yes i dont know what gubblings are. But gender is real in nobles due they have to treat look similar to the comoners, so they copy in public many victorian age manierisms and old age customs like a public opinion facade . yes you are a noble or a bastard in game


#16

@SpaceLesbian “I would say that you can indeed write escapist fantasy where anyone could be the hero. Just allow the player to have a little pride in who they are. Male, female, trans* whatever. Like games where you can choose your hair color. It has no bearing on almost anything, but still, most authors bring it up occasionally, so the player can be like “Oh look it’s me!””

That actually smells rather like the tokenisation you criticised. If it has no bearing, why bring it up, other than to, e.g., make a point of how “tolerant” one is? Purely aesthetic choices tend to be purposeless. A gender choice, in such an environment as it is non-consequential, for the sake of pride, has the same per se justification as a choice of how many hairs sit on one’s head. Is the PC supposed to be thrilled at the chance they can now express their baldness in a game with pride?


#17

@Drazen I suppose you are correct, if you also consider including a gender option at all being token, but that statement was talking about games where the author doesn’t have extra time to actually make a trans* path. I simply said that if you are going that route, make it more than just a stat that alters pronouns, because that really would appear to just be putting it in to say they did. All that said, inclusion is inclusion, and so long as the option is as complex as the cis gender options, while still being unique, I really don’t have a problem


#18

@hahaha01357

There’s a mix. Some people would rather just pass and identify as male or female.

Others being transgender is part of their identity and it’s not something they hide or feel shame over. (Not to say the first category does.)

And there’s those who’re genderqueer who’re not interested in always being male or female but may wish to be seen as both, or neither, or sometimes one, sometimes the other.

@Jacrenais

Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. I think you’ve raised some very interesting points.

Oh no! I’d definitely not write trans characters as token minorities, whose sole facet of personality is “hey I’m trans! I’m trans!” I do hate token characters.

@SpaceLesbian

Oh the mention of erasure is a good one, and one I hadn’t truly considered. Although I’ll say I never intended for the choices to change nothing. Just not for that single choice to be the sole focus of the plot and all of your interactions. Instead it would be a fully nuanced character where that is one aspect of their identity.

I do find it frustrating when such choices aren’t taken into consideration at all. When they just don’t matter. If they don’t matter there’s no point having them.

I thought that your reply did make sense and it was very thoughtful.


#19

:>


#20

Why not just make a transgender protagonist and not worry about including anyone else?

Really I’d prefer it if authors just picked a single protagonist and went with it. I mean get the idea of wanting to include everyone, but I find most CYOA storylines tend to be stronger with a semi-established protagonist.

When you try to make a choice for every single gender, race, orientation, religion etc. the quality of the writing tends to suffer due to the fact that the author is attempting to account for every little factor concerning whatever they happen to be into.

Either the author is forced to write in a very generic way so that it accounts for all possibilities or they give themselves a lot more work to make each path unique. Most authors go for the former and those that attempt the latter tend to not finish their story.

So instead of making a choice to be gay or transgender or whatever, just make the protagonist gay or transgender, etc. Like that’s it. Done. One less thing to worry about and you can focus on more important parts of the story.

If you’re also doing romances, this cuts down on the headache of making several of them for each possibility or just copping out and making them all “bi” ala Bioware. (Obviously if the protagonist is Bi, you can still put in both genders)

I mean yeah you’re probably going to get people who won’t play the story due to the fact that the protagonist is trans or gay and maybe it won’t be read as much, but really you’d be doing something a lot more special by solely gearing the story for groups that don’t tend to have too much popular media geared to where they’re the hero.

And really if the writing is good enough you’ll have people that won’t care and will enjoy the story even if they might not fully “connect” with the protagonist. Happens all the time.