So in addition to playing and thinking about Legerdemain and thinking about the game I might someday write inspired by it, today I went and read Gender Politics Taste Like Chicken over at Choice of Games Blog. [Did I mention them before? They make some really interesting games, and they're putting some good effort into thinking about the effect of the gender stereotypes they write into their games and how they can be responsible about it. Interesting games, too.]
They're currently thinking about how to write a good game driven by "an Austenesque romance within a Tudoresque court intrigue" in a world that has real gender equality and is accepting of same-sex relationships. It's interesting to see how much of the default assumptions stop working if that world is to be believable, and I'm really interested to see what they've come up with to provide the appropriate tensions.
It also got me thinking about that theoretical epic Rogue-like I might write that I was talking about last post. An interesting feature of Rogue-likes is that the player is traditionally represented by an @. It's the perfect blank protagonist, onto whom you can project pretty much any appearance you want.
So I was thinking, what if I don't ask the player to select a gender for their character at all? And what if I do then go ahead and write a game which has hooks for potential romance plots with some variety of characters within the game that you meet, and either give them a variety of genders or leave their genders also unspecified.
Would this work to create an interesting space for those who wanted to see it that way, or would it just fail in a male-normative hetero-normative assumption? Could that be combated with some sort of author's note?
Would it work better if the player were asked to specify a gender (with more than two options) which then proceeded to have no gameplay effect whatsoever, including no effect on the potential romance plots?
[Is it actually possible and desirable to try to write this character-driven a plot into a fantasy quest game of the type I'm considering? Don't answer that. I think it at least merits further thought.]
I don't really have any answers, although I'm hoping my thoughts will coalesce on this in time. Thoughts and discussion would be highly welcome; I expect a lot of my friends are likely to have valuable insight here.