Why are there so many HGs genderlocked to male?


@Jacic & @nmjjmn

Where are those reviews? On the iTunes app store, the Google Play Store?


I Facebook-ranted this week about people (mostly men I think) complaining that the TWD was now all “women and lesbians,” so even though I am a middle-aged straight white guy I would like to think I am fairly reasonable and progressive about gender representation.

I’m writing a game for another studio with a set female protagonist, with first person POV, so I’m digging deep…deep…deep into her head.

I mention this because it’s intimidating! It’s intimidating to write from the POV of a different gender, especially coupled with a huge age difference between author and character. (Of course it’s also intimidating to write from the POV of someone living 100 years in the future, and that’s frankly the biggest challenge) Anyway, I am doing my absolute best to make her awesome but there’s always the chance that someone reads it and says, “She doesn’t seem authentic! Wait, she was written by a 45-year old white guy! It all makes sense now. Booooo!”

So the author goes out of his comfort zone, tries to write an well-developed character much different than himself, and hopes he doesn’t get bashed if he gets it wrong. (If I had a nickel for every Tweet I’ve read complaining about how a “straight white guy” wrote a female character)

No wonder some people stick to writing characters that closer resemble themselves. If we’re encouraging authors to include more diverse characters (which is a good thing), we have to be forgiving if/when we think they miss the mark once in a while. We all learn from a forgiving approach.

As applied to CoG/HG games, I don’t think it’s every individual author’s job to make every single story equally accessible to everyone. If they want to lock a MC, just don’t buy it if it’s not for you. I do think it’s vital to have a library where pretty much everyone can find stories that speak to them. And CoG/HG do an excellent job in that regard.

I mean, am I going to pick up the drag queen game next year? Well…maybe? I’m not sure yet. But just because it’s not targeted to me doesn’t mean that it’s somehow invalid.


A good post, Eric, but I must say I’m getting extremely fed up of people bringing up race, sex and sexuality. Not in response to what you said, of course, but it’s rather directed at those who make those comments. What relevance does it have to anything? You either write a character/story well, or you don’t.


Sure it might take some explanation of why a male mc is in such a societal role that he has to marry and be courted instead of doing the courting himself, but I’d not have been averse to it per se. And I’m a gay guy.
That said I’m not a fan of too many outright genderflips because I like male/male relationships and it would still have to be mr. not miss Darcy for me.


I feel like you’re deliberately misinterpreting what I said. I completely agree people can say whatever they want about games(or anything for that matter), as I specifically said in my post. What I take issue with, again, as I said in my post, is when people with an agenda try to influence writers by telling them they should or shouldn’t write something because of X, Y or Z reason. You can agree or disagree all you want, as is yours and everyones right.
I never mentioned freedom of expression btw. As most people hopefully do, I believe in as much freedom as possible. That is, until you start encroaching on limiting the fredom of others. Which is very relevant to this discussion.
I feel like since you were awfully specific and selective with what you chose to take in from what I said, I somehow offended you personally. If so, that wasn’t my intention. However I would ask that you don’t intentionally or otherwise misrepresent what people say so blatantly.


When people put such extreme emphasis on proper representation for characters in a group seen as marginalized, its no longer about just writing a good character. It becomes about writing a character the “right” way in a sense. Thats how I see it in a sense. I’ve seen potential authors on this forum criticized and chastised for not properly representing one group or another in their story. Even when the characters were written well. Race, sex, and sexuality are relevant and important to the discussion because, in a way, people have made them relevant to the discussion. I’m not casting blame or saying one side is right or wrong. These are just my own thoughts and observations.


That is one complaint that is often trotted out on the forums as well…and one I wish didn’t get thrown out.

I mean, there will always be something a person writes that they won’t have first-hand experience with. So if a male writer makes an effort to be inclusive? I give them credit for doing so, and I certainly won’t give them grief over it.

What is always interesting then is when someone says “This looks like it was written by gender X” and the author turns out to be “Gender Z”.

That is fair, but it is also fair for a potential customer to point out why they didn’t buy something, or gave a low score even if it is based on gender-locking.


I wasn’t expecting it to be answered, as it was more of a rhetorical question. There’s not really anything that can be said to make me think it’s right.

However, we agree where I quoted. It is very important to get it right. It’s just that, while I believe a person of color might have an easier time writing a person of color, particularly if it deals with racism, it doesn’t mean white people can’t write it well. And you can say this about anything really (flip the race, sex etc. around).

Really, the only thing that should matter is whether something was done ‘well/right’. Saying those things partly makes it about the author and, quite frankly, it doesn’t reflect well on the person saying it in my view.

People can see what Lys said as well, which I’m in agreement with.


I fully support an author’s right to write whatever kind of story they want.

I do think it’s perfectly fair for readers of those stories to give low/negative reviews if they are gender-locked. Being able to choose your gender is a common feature of CS games (and an absolute requirement for those released under the CoG brand).

It’s a feature so common that it is completely understandable for players to expect it. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips but the overwhelming majority of CS games feature the ability to choose your character’s gender. If a feature that is common to a set of games is suddenly not available in one of them I think it’s perfectly fair to criticize that game for leaving it out.


If a game’s marketing copy specifically says that the main character is gender-locked, it is absolutely ridiculous for a customer to complain about that feature, because they freaking bought the game having been advised of that feature. You’re seriously going to buy a game knowing it has feature Z and then write a low review because…wait for it…the game actually has feature Z?

And this is another whole basket of eggs, but I think it’s a huge problem if CoG/HG customers have been programmed to complain about any aspect of a game (locked gender, first person POV, set protagonist, past tense) that deviates from the “norm” because at that point authors are HIGHLY discouraged from trying new things.


Man, you know people don’t read the marketing copy. How many “paywall” complaints are there, when a vast majority of games clearly state that you can only read the first few chapters for free. Lol. :slight_smile:


You are absolutely right. A lot of people ARE entitled and stupid. Even if that’s not what you’re saying, I feel like it would be pretty easy to categorize someone who knowingly omits to read the description of what they’re downloading/buying, and then go on to complain about what was mentioned in said description, as entitled and stupid. It’s like being allergic to peanuts, going in to a store buying a cookie without reading the ingredients on the packet, then blaming the place where you bought the cookie for getting an allergic reaction. Then trying to get them to change said cookie to also have a peanut-free option. Their first instinct isn’t to go get a different cookie that already is free of peanuts, no, they want that specific cookie. And they will citicize that specific cookie.


Similar to how there will be those who leave poor reviews for paywalls, there too will be those who leave negative reviews for gender-locking. Whether or not it’s fair is arguable both ways - while concerns over such grievances are certainly valid since gender-locking will reduce how immersive a story can be, it can also be quite unfair to punish authors who have their own reasons for choosing to write in such a way. I’d think such authors are already aware that gender-locking a story will reduce their audience outreach. Since it’s a choice they made for the game mechanic, it can be unfair to give their story a low rating simply because of this, as it effectively seemingly implies that their story is poorly done (since such ratings will bring down the overall average) when gender-lock and plot are two different issues altogether.

For myself, as much as I prefer non-gender locked books, it was actually the gender-locked ones of the infinity series and A Study in Steampunk that drew me into COG in the first place. They may be gender-locked to male, but I still love them for their stories all the same.


First: I would like to thank everyone for staying on topic and for discussing the issue of the thread without turning personal.

I really appreciate the effort seen here to respect the “freedom of speech” allowed here. I bring up freedom of speech specifically because it has two aspects to it that are necessary to discuss here.

Now to reply in detail to a few points made:

When you add CoG titles and HG titles together, you defeat your position here. If you had said this about HG titles exclusively, I’d totally agree with this statement.

When you talk about CoG titles, I’d argue that they have a duty to make their game equally accessible to everyone because if the CoG mission statement and publishing philosophy. The goal of this company is to represent those groups that have been historically underrepresented or even misrepresented.

This is one of the reasons the CoG “formula” is used for all CoG titles when possible. There are exceptions, such as XoR but for the majority of CoG releases you see the same approach taken over and over.

The brand differentiation between CoG and HG is not as strong as it, perhaps, should be but HG was established to allow liberties for publishing that would not normally be tolerated in CoG titles.

Every person that provides feedback has an agenda, conscious or not. There is no unbiased feedback other than low-level corrections of grammar and structure. If an author does not desire to be influenced before publishing, then they should not seek feedback other than editing.

One of the strengths of testing and getting feedback is to be influenced by a potential audience or consumer. Most game designers crave feedback so that they know their vision and execution will be accepted and that they will be able to sell their title on release.

It is up to the author to decide which feedback is actionable and which should be discarded out of hand. Everyone else should not worry about feedback given because feedback is for the author to decide to take action on or not.

I will never give “reviews” the weight that many authors here give them.

Freedom of speech is a concept that involves two very distinct aspects to it and you can not separate them. Freedom of expression is just one aspect. The other, equally important, aspect is the freedom of furthering our happiness as listeners of that expression.

I won’t go into the freedom of expression aspect too far because it is easy to grasp - it furthers an individual’s happiness and utility to allow them the freedom to express what they want and how they want to further their happiness and to develop their skills. That is very intuitive.

What may not be intuitive to many is the right of those targeted by that expression to further our happiness and develop our utility (learning) from that expression. Whether we want to learn a recipe, a medical treatment or simply enjoy a story, we can only do so fully if those who write, publish or distribute these messages can do so responsibly and without harm.

The freedom of expression is not alone in a vacuum, it must be paired with the freedom as a listener to benefit from that expression. Where the two freedoms clash is where there must be guidelines and precedents set. In the American political world, this is done by the Supreme Court , where decisions such as Citizens United are made to enforce both the freedom of expression and the freedom of listeners to benefit from that expression.

In the world of CoG/HG that function is filled by the publisher - and also by the beta testers for HG titles. CoG wants to publish games that further their audience’s happiness. When that audience gives feedback expressing what exactly furthers that happiness, they want authors to listen to that.


I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours by mentioning one of the worst Supreme Court decisions there.
Because money=speech is not and never should be a solid, guiding principle. Much as I admire the less restricted concept of American free speech, as compared to the version poffered by our timorous souls who eternally prefer enforcing a negative peace to allowing free speech to perhaps upset delicate balances, for good or ill.
By the money=speech metric anything @Havenstone says in 2040 with the money of being a wildly successful author behind him should count for at least thrice my opinions, not on its objective or even subjective textual, prose and logical merits but because he might be able to put thrice the amount of money behind it. That’s not how free speech should work either.


That’s well and good, and I do generally try to write in ways that won’t trigger defensiveness (though I clearly failed today). That said, I also firmly believe that authors need to take responsibility for their reactions to feedback.

The language that regularly pops up every time we go round this topic–“Stop trying to force the author to do something,” “Stop talking as if the author is doing something wrong,” “Stop telling the author what to do”–is I suggest unjustifiably defensive. If we’re going to ask readers to be friendlier in how they phrase their opinions, we’ve also got to ask writers to toughen up, recognize that a forum poster or Google Play reviewer can’t force them to do a damn thing, and that worthwhile feedback is sometimes going to come in the form, “You should do things my way.”

The hostile reviews of Choice of Rebels on various platforms rarely hesitate to prescribe the way I should have written it, instructing me in the right way to immerse people in a fantasy world, use made-up words, write characters, etc. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Telling the author how they should have done things is the reviewers’ prerogative…as readers, as customers, as human beings with opinions about how things oughtta be.

That doesn’t force me to agree with them. It remains my prerogative to disagree and/or ignore them and follow my own tastes. And sure, it’s (even) easier to do so when they phrase their opinions in the form of an annoying demand rather than a suggestion. Does that mean they should only speak in suggestions, the better to persuade me? Not necessarily. @poison_mara was full of colorfully and forcefully expressed feedback on the Rebels WiP, much of which I took on board because I liked the substance of it, and the rest of which I pushed back.

When it comes to the urgency and forcefulness with which opinions are expressed…I expect more of both from people who are used to having their opinions discounted or dismissed in daily life (because they’re women, or trans, or PoC, etc). As long as the expressions aren’t ad hominem or repeated to the point of harassment, I’m going to be more inclined to suggest that authors thicken their skin and listen than to suggest that the commenters phrase everything in the form of a tentatively offered personal opinion.

Actually, we don’t disagree on the goodness of set characters; I’d also welcome an increased number of games written with them. I don’t self-insert when I read CoGs. I enjoy set characters like the cast of Divided We Fall. It would be great to have more historical CoGs that walk you through the choices of a specific figure, or a literary CoG that revealed an MC’s (pre-set) personality and history through the choices you make about their actions. It also doesn’t bother me when an otherwise customizable CoG MC has set personality traits (like the wild immaturity of the Heroes Rise MC) as long as those contribute to a fun story.

And I definitely enjoy less power fantasy; the powerless MC of Community College Hero and the bitter trade-offs of the Infinite Sea are much more appealing to me than standard chosen-one superhero and fantasy stories. (Though it may be worth noting that I don’t think the choice or lack of choice of MC sex has anything to do with whether the above stories are power fantasies.)

From other things you’ve written, David, I think where we actually disagree–and please correct me if I’m wrong!–is that you think that more gender-flipping and player-defined MCs would be not-good, that protagonist customizability is broadly inconsistent with good writing. You’d like to see not just a greater number but a greater proportion of CoGs have set MCs. If I’m not mistaken, you used to say that more forthrightly, a few debates ago. Just like you forthrightly say:

For my part, I can look at a library of well-written stories and be glad that they’re well-written…while lamenting that they’re written in a way that the overwhelming majority of protagonists are white cis straight men. Stories aren’t just entertainment, they’re how we learn and pass on values, and changing stories to allow someone other than the white guy to be a hero makes a difference.

On these things, if I’ve read you rightly, we disagree. And not just about what we enjoy as individuals, but about our perceptions of what it means to write a good story. On so substantial a matter, I’m not surprised that

That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy what you write. I heartily agree with Eric that we need more games that experiment and break norms in interesting ways, and I don’t need to agree with an author’s rationale for norm-breaking (e.g. VS Naipaul, Frank Miller, Alan Moore) to appreciate the results.

In the HG case, of course, I’ll appreciate the experiment more if it’s distinctive, rather than just another male-locked protagonist–which as this thread testifies has been done plenty already.

I’m sorry, Lewis, but if you say you believe that “people can say whatever they want,” it’s inconsistent to insist that “what you can’t do is tell an author what they should or shouldn’t do”. Yes, you did say both things in your post, and they contradict each other.

Which was why I opened by asking how you would relate it to the creative freedom that you did mention.

If you now say you believe in as much freedom of expression as possible, it’s inconsistent to claim that people have “no right” to try to influence an author. They literally do have that right; it’s called freedom of expression. Influence is not coercion, and the attempt to influence an artist is not an encroachment on the artist’s creative freedom.

I’m not at all offended personally by your remarks–if anything, I was flattered by your kind words about the vastly imaginative talents who write CoG/HG games–and I’m sad that you seem to be offended by mine. I was specific in my comments, not with the intent of distorting what you said, but of showing its inconsistency as succinctly as possible. I know that you don’t think you wrote anything inconsistent…but I don’t believe I’m misrepresenting you here.


To my defence My English culture understanding was far lower than nowadays. If that happened now I would have been far more polite. Still; I think I was sincere in my feedback.

Any author has prerogative to make their own vision but in moment it makes it public and wants to obtain money from people Has to accept criticism even the one that have no basis. And trying to improve in base the ones it believe realistic and good to growth as writer and take less attention to the wordings.


Again you chose to forget/ignore half of what I’m saying… I’m all for freedom of expression. “That is, until you start encroaching on limiting the fredom of others.” Direct quote. Whether it be speech, expression or creative freedom… That is my whole point. Take free speech for example. Threats of violence, calls to action etc. are NOT protected under the first amendment because it has nothing to do with freedom of speech, whether it is an utterance or not. Freedom of expression is NOT protected under the first amendment, contrary to belief they are NOT the same thing, because it’s not just speech, expression can manifest itself in many different forms. I don’t think expression is even on the same tier of importance as speech, so equating the two is a mistake. You’re right when you say that saying people “can’t”(poor choice of word, I guess?)say what writers should or shouldn’t do is wrong, because technically they can. But what I’m saying is, as I said earlier, is that maybe people should be a bit more careful about chunking away at the freedom of others by telling them what they should or shouldn’t do with their own work.
It’s more about common sense than any laws or rules. Just like you “can’t”(again, yes technically you can, but common sense, ok.) tell your neighbour how they should or shouldn’t paint their house, you “can’t” tell a writer they have to/should do, or can’t do, X, Y or Z, because they don’t like it. Does that make more sense to you?
I never said people literally can NOT do that because of X law or Y rule, and you know that’s not what I meant by saying “can’t”.


I don’t think gender-flipping and player-defined MCs are ‘not good’. They can be. It’s like with everything else. It depends on the skill of the writer, the story, and the like. I do enjoy player-defined stories as well.

I do, however, think that having a set character makes it easier to write a good, in-depth story.

Also, it’s rather that I’d like to see more thought-provoking stories that take advantage of the medium (I just focus on set characters because I think it can lead to more in-depth stories or makes it easier). Also, I don’t expect CoG in any shape or form to offer stories with set characters. They’re a publisher and are well within their rights to look for certain things. Rather, it’s the interactive medium in general and, because HG is a self-published label, HG that I’d like to see deliver this.

I feel what I’ve said has been taken out of context. I was simply addressing those who say a female character, for instance, isn’t well written because they were written by a straight, white guy. Like I said, nothing will ever convince me it’s right to say that. It says more about the person in question who’s making those comments at the end of the day. The sex, ethnicity and sexuality of the writer can help, but only ‘can’ and it’s like saying no straight, white man can write a female character well (or few can). (Like I said, it reflects poorly only on them)

So, unless I’ve read you wrong, which I doubt, we don’t disagree. I think it’s good that there are characters of other ethnicities present in stories (I enjoyed Creed). And we very much agree that stories are a way of passing on values, that they aren’t simply entertainment.

I don’t think there’s much chance of there being an opportunity to read what I write. I’m someone that only writes when I have something I want to say (I’m rarely happy with my work as well) and quite frankly, what I saw earlier in the thread made me not want to write for here. It was, however, a combination of other things too. It’s not that big of a deal anyway, as I only had two paragraphs, albeit two paragraphs that I thought were well-written despite their rough nature (just to give me a starting point for when I sat down to write). While things can change anyway, meaning I might write for here in the future, I might just try to program my own engine/game if I want to write a interactive story as I am learning programming as a hobby. Or just write a traditional story. (I’m pretty much buggered on the sound front though, and my art skills aren’t up to snuff. I can’t even draw a stick man.)

But yes, if I were to write for here and with a set character, it would be so I can tell a story as good as I can. Being totally honest, I did try to provide sex options once, alongside quite a bit of freedom in terms of player personality and I just didn’t feel it worked. It clashes with my style. I’m not a descriptive writer, as I’m more character/thought based, so there wasn’t much text between options as I was trying to provide as many options as I could. Again, I just don’t think it meshes with my style, hence another reason I really need a set character. So I have a fair bit of control and don’t have to worry about what the player might be feeling/wanting.

PS: I did originally say a lot more than this, Havenstone. I removed much because I rambled like I often do, but the edits are there if you do want to see what else I’d typed.


In the moment you asking me for my money and I bought your products I have all right in the world to express why I consider your work bad or good And all colourful I want. Same I could criticise The world of a electrical company or a car rental service .

Many authors believe thwy live in the vacuum and nobody can talking or value their work. But in the moment you make your work public and more if your asking for money. you have to be opened to critics more for the people who has invest money on you.

Many forget that and Wants only pure ego appraisal and everything is not that is killing their creative vision… It is quite curious. When people is more focused in the wording that in the spirit of the constructive criticism those people would never improve as in their mind they are like Mary poppings absolutely perfect in everything.