Gender-unknown games

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dhekuir
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Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:43 pm

Gender-unknown games

#1 Postby dhekuir » Tue May 13, 2014 7:48 pm

I'm wondering what are the prerequisites and techniques to make a gender-unknown game. That is, one where you don't even know (and you don't choose) the gender of your protagonist, but where it does matter (no robots/aliens/etc., where gender is secondary or inexistent).

The English language does help a lot with if (e.g. for adjectives), though some bits of text do require some pronouns which might be tricky to write (using Magical Diary-pronouns such as e, eir, etc. looks unpleasant to many readers, I believe). For art, typically putting some kind of mask or hood should help conceal the identity in a sufficiently neutral way. In realistic terms, the gait would also need to be concealed, under some large armor or cloak.

My idea is that, at the end, the decisions made by the player might result in the character revealing *emself* as either a man or woman (or something else). And it would be nice to see players thinking all along their character of being of a given gender, and then at the end it isn't... but with as many misdirecting clues as possible, to make the player unconsciously think about it.

So, my questions are:

- Are there any Hanako games which do something vaguely similar to this? As fas as I know, most of them revolve around female protagonists, and simply replacing pronouns would not be convincing (e.g. replacing Mary Sue with John Doe would not work, even if the art were replaced, because some situations simply would not be credible if some genders were swapped - which is fortunate, otherwise there would be no point in making a Wolf Hall game);

- I know there has been an "artistical game" sometime ago which had this gender-neutral protagonist, but I don't remember its name and can't find it easily. I believe it had no dialog though, it's just in terms of the art concepts that the character seemed like some sort of humanoid shade. Which is more like "no gender" than "unknown gender", where you believe you know your protagonist is either male or female, so you form your own mental image of the gender and nothing in the text makes you question it, until you realize (ideally at the end) that you were mistaken. I mean, the more subtle, the better.

- Samus in Metroid might be another example of a gender-unknown game, but again, it's an action game without any dialog. Some RPG games do have generic dialog, but then again, it's those games where gender does not matter much (ok, Fallout has some gender-specific dialogs, but I don't remember any major decisions depending on them, and then again, you know your gender already, so it's not exactly what I'm aiming for).

- Does it make sense? I hope it does, but maybe I didn't thing this through enough. If you know some examples of games which might be related, or techniques to write text in a gender-significant-but-unknown way, I'd like to know about them!

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hanako
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Re: Gender-unknown games

#2 Postby hanako » Tue May 13, 2014 8:39 pm

The text adventure "Jigsaw" (I'd say 'the famous text adventure' but it's only famous if you're into these things) has gender-neutral writing for both the protagonist and the primary adversary/love-interest. Supposedly. It's done subtly enough that I never noticed, and did read them as male and female, and I haven't played it again to check if there were any weird bits.

That game does have the advantage that it's pure text so your cues about the characters are very limited, and text adventures traditionally use second person, which glosses over some pronoun trouble. (Relatedly, if people only talk TO you and not ABOUT you, they will just say 'you' and not 'him/her'.)

There are a couple other text adventures that pull protagonist-reveals (that is, you're not playing who you think you're playing) and a couple of visual novels that do it on a meta-level but in these cases it's MAJOR spoilers so I can't go into detail.

The problem with a surprise protagonist reveal is that it can be a very upsetting disconnect to the player if all along they thought they were role-playing one thing and they were actually being tricked. I can think of a few examples (again, massive spoilers) where a character you thought you were controlling is actually a mass-murderer or a traitor and suddenly goes off and does something horrible outside of your control. Which is not to say that surprise gender is anything like mass murder, but it can still feel to the player like the game is not playing fair.

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Spandex Faffy
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Re: Gender-unknown games

#3 Postby Spandex Faffy » Fri May 16, 2014 9:08 pm

In some dark souls 2 review or something of the sort someone said they got half way through the game then realised they had accidentally got a sex change several hours before, does that count as your gender unknown thing.

dhekuir
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Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:43 pm

Re: Gender-unknown games

#4 Postby dhekuir » Sat May 17, 2014 10:25 am

hanako wrote:The problem with a surprise protagonist reveal is that it can be a very upsetting disconnect to the player if all along they thought they were role-playing one thing and they were actually being tricked. I can think of a few examples (again, massive spoilers) where a character you thought you were controlling is actually a mass-murderer or a traitor and suddenly goes off and does something horrible outside of your control. Which is not to say that surprise gender is anything like mass murder, but it can still feel to the player like the game is not playing fair.


Thanks for the indication, and yes, there are all these psychological aspects which I never really thought about.

I'll check Jigsaw and keep in mind your advice, thanks! Should I ever get to actually produce something with a "surprise gender", I'll post about it here.


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