PC gender in IF

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W. Top Changwatchai

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Jun 17, 2001, 6:51:50 PM6/17/01
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One of the reviews for my entry in the PrologueComp made me think about
people's attitudes toward PC gender (although this post has less to do
specifically with my entry than with IF in general).

As I understand it, the reviewer objected to the PC, a "hard-boiled"
detective, being a female, especially as no advance notice was given. (In
fact, the only indication of gender is a single pronoun buried in the last
paragraph. Presumably substituting "his" for "her" would have excited no
comment.)

While every gender choice I made in my entry was deliberate, I certainly
hadn't meant to shock anybody by the PC's gender (much less the gender of
the deputy mayor (!)), especially since having a female PC is certainly
nothing new in IF. (Nor is having a tough female detective in modern
fiction, or in real life for that matter.)

Is it necessary for such a character to be female only if "female-ness" is
demanded by the plot or premise? A while back it was discussed here whether
a character could happen to be homosexual without this fact being a major
plot point. Gender seems to be less problematic, since it's usually *more*
awkward to obscure a character's gender than otherwise.

Or is there more of a dissonance simply because there's a strong
indentification between the player with the PC, and that players prefer to
feel that they are playing themselves, at least gender-wise?

Regardless of my own clumsy attempts at prose, do readers in general require
being gradually introduced to such concepts (like wading into a cold river),
say with references to purses and lipstick, or by genre conventions (being a
worried wife, or a damsel in distress)? I hope not, and I certainly
wouldn't write that way.

Top
--
W. Top Changwatchai
chngwtch at u i u c dot edu


Robotboy8

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Jun 17, 2001, 7:44:44 PM6/17/01
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Interesting point. If anything, I can't see why it would be shocking for the
main character to be female - just look at literature in general and you will
see many heroines. As to your point about homosexuality, that would be
interesting - but might <hiding my Cheerios and running away for fear of
starting argument> offend some people. On the other hand, liberals would
probably congratulate you. Hmm... How about this: a game where you are a
homosexual transvestite robotic female lemur, and ... Wait! Maybe I can
salvage this for the next Prologuecomp!

--
If I say so then it is so; if it is so, it's probably because I said so.

OKB -- not okblacke

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Jun 17, 2001, 8:16:04 PM6/17/01
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"W. Top Changwatchai" n...@spam.com wrote:
>Is it necessary for such a character to be female only if "female-ness" is
>demanded by the plot or premise?

I certainly hope not. In fact, I would say that the choice of a female
protagonist could well engender certain modifications to the plot, rather than
the other way around.

>Or is there more of a dissonance simply because there's a strong
>indentification between the player with the PC, and that players prefer to
>feel that they are playing themselves, at least gender-wise?

I think that depends on the particular player. Personally, I can
appreciate games with PCs of either gender equally (if they're good games),
although perhaps in different ways. In any case, choosing a gender based on
the predicted gender of the player is always risky, since you can't guarantee
that every player will be the gender you pick.

>Regardless of my own clumsy attempts at prose, do readers in general require
>being gradually introduced to such concepts (like wading into a cold river),
>say with references to purses and lipstick, or by genre conventions (being a
>worried wife, or a damsel in distress)? I hope not, and I certainly
>wouldn't write that way.

As with most things, I think this would be done best in the way which best
fits the plot and character. In other words, if it would be unnatural to keep
the PC's gender unknown, there's no reason to do so; likewise, if it would be
awkward to inform the player of the PC's gender, there's no reason to do that.

This is an interesting issue. In general, I'd say that the nature of the
game should determine how soon and how clearly the PCs gender is made known to
the player.

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Ulrich Schreitmueller

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Jun 17, 2001, 9:05:56 PM6/17/01
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"W. Top Changwatchai" wrote:

> As I understand it, the reviewer objected to the PC, a "hard-boiled"
> detective, being a female, especially as no advance notice was given. (In
> fact, the only indication of gender is a single pronoun buried in the last
> paragraph. Presumably substituting "his" for "her" would have excited no
> comment.)

I didn't see it as "objecting", but I might have to reread the comments...


> While every gender choice I made in my entry was deliberate, I certainly
> hadn't meant to shock anybody by the PC's gender (much less the gender of
> the deputy mayor (!)), especially since having a female PC is certainly
> nothing new in IF. (Nor is having a tough female detective in modern
> fiction, or in real life for that matter.)

Absolutely. Take "Plundered Hearts" for instance. Or, to broaden the field of
games, look at Lara Croft. Or even "Leather Goddesses of Phobos", where you
could choose your gender at the beginning.


> Is it necessary for such a character to be female only if "female-ness" is
> demanded by the plot or premise? A while back it was discussed here whether
> a character could happen to be homosexual without this fact being a major
> plot point. Gender seems to be less problematic, since it's usually *more*
> awkward to obscure a character's gender than otherwise.

While I haven't played a game that had a homosexual lead character before, I was
rather impressed at the portrayal of the lead character's gay co-worker in
"Phantasmagoria 2" - even if the whole thing fell a bit flat towards the end.


> Or is there more of a dissonance simply because there's a strong
> indentification between the player with the PC, and that players prefer to
> feel that they are playing themselves, at least gender-wise?

Instead of waxing eloquent here, I'll just guide you to an essay I wrote a while
ago: http://www.geocities.com/stonedwizrd/gameessay.html

It deals with how gender is represented in different game genres, and how people
do or do not identify with differently-gendered lead characters (I didn't know
Duke Nukem was so popular with some women, for example. Personally, I hated the
guy.)


> Regardless of my own clumsy attempts at prose, do readers in general require
> being gradually introduced to such concepts (like wading into a cold river),
> say with references to purses and lipstick, or by genre conventions (being a
> worried wife, or a damsel in distress)? I hope not, and I certainly
> wouldn't write that way.

Well, seeing as my own PrologueComp entry puts you in the role of an elderly
woman, I certainly don't have problems with it, but I can only speak for myself
here.
Generally, I like to know who I am in the game. Male, female, black, white,
animal, mineral, vegetable, I don't care as long as the character is interesting
to play.

Of course there are situations when part of the fun might consist in having your
initial assumptions undermined since most people, when faced with a blank, still
automatically tend to assume "male".
(Interesting variations on this theme might be the PrologueComp entry "Trouble
in Paradise", the maze scene in "Photopia", or even that one video by the
Prodigy, you know the one I'm talking about.)

Cheers,
Uli

MFischer5

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Jun 17, 2001, 9:37:36 PM6/17/01
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From: "W. Top Changwatchai" n...@spam.com
>Or is there more of a dissonance simply because there's a strong
>indentification between the player with the PC, and that players
>prefer to
>feel that they are playing themselves, at least gender-wise?

I received the whole range of comments about Cove/Masquerade (both which have a
female PC) on this very issue. Some were from women who were surprised to see
how much more "in to it" they got because the gender matched. Some were from
women saying very firmly "I wouldn't think this way", leaving one to wonder if,
if they were male evaluating a male PC, would they have responded the same way.
(That is, were they "harder" on the implementation of the PC because the gender
matched?) I received a surprising number from men who were intregued with
being a women, seeing the world from the other side, so to speak. Finally, I
received a few emails from men who got the willies having to kiss a female NPC.
:) Noting that most of those came from people with whom I carry on casual
email correspondances from time to time, one might draw the conclusion the
opinion was more prevalent then expressed, and it's just that friends are open
enough to express it - or, perhaps my friends are just prone to the willes. :)
:) :)

Kathleen (rambling from the FWIW files)

--
-- Masquerade - http://baf.wurb.com/if/competition00/inform/mask/
-- The Cove - Best of Landscape, Interactive Fiction Art Show 2000
-- ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/Cove.z5
-- Excuse me while I dance a little jig of despair

Gunther Schmidl

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Jun 18, 2001, 4:40:53 AM6/18/01
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Ulrich Schreitmueller wrote:
> While I haven't played a game that had a homosexual lead character before,
I was
> rather impressed at the portrayal of the lead character's gay co-worker in
> "Phantasmagoria 2" - even if the whole thing fell a bit flat towards the
end.

Well, Phantasmagoria 2 implied that the lead character was bisexual, as well
as into some of the more fetishy aspects of sex.

Your homework: play "And the Waves Choke the Wind". Compare. Note that no, I
didn't see Phantasmagoria 2 until well after I'd written what there is to
see of the game until now. Note also that I didn't get any complaints about
either homosexual or violent themes in the game.

Adam Thornton (or another of the Adams that isn't Adam Cadre) has also
written a game with a lesbian protagonist, though shamefully I forget its
name.

Good thing I don't eat Cheerios (nor have I the slightest idea what they
are).

-- Gunther
-- http://www.fourcoffees.com

Richard Bos

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Jun 18, 2001, 7:36:34 AM6/18/01
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"Gunther Schmidl" <gsch...@gmx.at> wrote:

> Your homework: play "And the Waves Choke the Wind". Compare. Note that no, I
> didn't see Phantasmagoria 2 until well after I'd written what there is to
> see of the game until now. Note also that I didn't get any complaints about
> either homosexual or violent themes in the game.

I think it helps a great deal that...

Spoiler space...

...the protagonist (i.e., the player) can refuse the homosexual aspects,
and that this doesn't have any serious consequences.

> Adam Thornton (or another of the Adams that isn't Adam Cadre) has also
> written a game with a lesbian protagonist, though shamefully I forget its
> name.

The Lost Spellmaker? No, that was by Neil James Brown.

> Good thing I don't eat Cheerios (nor have I the slightest idea what they
> are).

A breakfast cereal, I gather. TPB may piss away, I break fast on
sandwiches.

Richard

Ulrich Schreitmueller

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Jun 18, 2001, 8:06:42 AM6/18/01
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Gunther Schmidl wrote:

> Ulrich Schreitmueller wrote:
> > While I haven't played a game that had a homosexual lead character before,
> I was
> > rather impressed at the portrayal of the lead character's gay co-worker in
> > "Phantasmagoria 2" - even if the whole thing fell a bit flat towards the
> end.
>
> Well, Phantasmagoria 2 implied that the lead character was bisexual, as well
> as into some of the more fetishy aspects of sex.

It also implied some more outlandish things about the lead character as the game
drew to a close, and I really hope the author din't intend the message to be
"well, obviously he's a bit weird sexually, because he is a [snipped for fear of
spoiling]".
As far as I can remember, the lead character was told by his psychiatrist that
no person is 100% homo- or heterosexual, a statement which astonished me - not
in itself, but the fact that it was made in an American mainstream computer game
by Sierra.
The fact that he almost kissed his gay friend would fall (for me, at least) into
that "not 100%" experimental area, though I admit I don't know where to draw the
line between "curious" and "bisexual" here.


> Your homework: play "And the Waves Choke the Wind". Compare. Note that no, I
> didn't see Phantasmagoria 2 until well after I'd written what there is to
> see of the game until now. Note also that I didn't get any complaints about
> either homosexual or violent themes in the game.

Homework. Ahahahaha. Ahahahaha! AHAHAHAAAA!!!

Sorry. I'll play the game when I find some free time. It's just that I'm
drowning in other "homework" at the moment. (Read an incomprehensible, unfunny,
but funny-intended 19th-century 500-page novel fragment in one day? No
problem...)


> Adam Thornton (or another of the Adams that isn't Adam Cadre) has also
> written a game with a lesbian protagonist, though shamefully I forget its
> name.

I hope someone can answer this - sounds interesting.

Cheers,
Uli

Andrew Plotkin

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Jun 18, 2001, 11:51:04 AM6/18/01
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Richard Bos <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:

>> Adam Thornton (or another of the Adams that isn't Adam Cadre) has also
>> written a game with a lesbian protagonist, though shamefully I forget its
>> name.

> The Lost Spellmaker? No, that was by Neil James Brown.

(Another of the Neils who isn't Neil deMause or Neil K. Guy.) That's
the one I thought of -- the lesbian dwarf secret agent, which may be
intended to make some kind of point -- but there must be some examples
I'm not thinking of.

Mustn't there?

>> Good thing I don't eat Cheerios (nor have I the slightest idea what they
>> are).
>
> A breakfast cereal, I gather. TPB may piss away, I break fast on
> sandwiches.

Me, I break fast with lunch.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Votes count. Count votes.

Adam J. Thornton

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Jun 18, 2001, 11:56:03 AM6/18/01
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In article <9gkmjp$1nh$1...@newsg3.svr.pol.co.uk>,

Gunther Schmidl <gsch...@gmx.at> wrote:
>Adam Thornton (or another of the Adams that isn't Adam Cadre) has also
>written a game with a lesbian protagonist, though shamefully I forget its
>name.

Uh, wasn't me.

Unless, of course, you mean _Sins Against Mimesis_, in which the lead
character certainly _could_ be a lesbian. Or _In The End II_, I guess.
Or maybe, with a stretch, _Chicken and Egg_. In none of these did I
have it in mind that the protagonist *was* a lesbian. However, _ITE2_
and _Chicken and Egg_ are both direct parodies and my distinct
impression is that the protagonist in each of the games they're
parodying is male, although I don't know if it's ever spelled out.

_Sins_, of course, has the relationship in _Jigsaw_ at its heart, and
while I think it certainly works to have both Black and White female, I
have no idea whether that's what Graham Nelson intended (although I
think the ambiguity is certainly deliberate).

>Good thing I don't eat Cheerios (nor have I the slightest idea what they
>are).

They are, of course, oat-rings.

I think the game you're thinking of is _The Lost Spellmaker_, but I also
cannot remember who wrote it. I don't think it was an Adam, though.

Adam


--
ad...@princeton.edu
"My eyes say their prayers to her / Sailors ring her bell / Like a moth
mistakes a light bulb / For the moon and goes to hell." -- Tom Waits

Andrew Merenbach

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Jun 18, 2001, 1:42:04 PM6/18/01
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in article 3B2D53F4...@student.uni-tuebingen.de, Ulrich Schreitmueller
at ulrich.sch...@student.uni-tuebingen.de wrote on 6/17/01 6:05 PM:

> Absolutely. Take "Plundered Hearts" for instance. Or, to broaden the field of
> games, look at Lara Croft. Or even "Leather Goddesses of Phobos", where you
> could choose your gender at the beginning.

I'm making a game, and I'm wondering if it'd be a bad idea to let the player
choose his/her gender at the beginning. Would most people prefer that to
simply having the player be male?

--
Andrew Merenbach

Robb Sherwin

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Jun 18, 2001, 2:17:43 PM6/18/01
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On Mon, 18 Jun 2001 17:42:04 GMT, Andrew Merenbach
<amere...@mac.com> wrote:
>I'm making a game, and I'm wondering if it'd be a bad idea to let the player
>choose his/her gender at the beginning. Would most people prefer that to
>simply having the player be male?

That's a fine idea, but I think that you'd want to put bits or scenes
in the game that makes the decision matter. It's not completely
necessary, of course, but makes for a more entertaining experience if
implemented. (Unless you're really just going for the effect they had
in Wasteland, where it was just an option to help the players imagine
their characters better.)

Just be sure that if you are letting the player pick a gender that you
write the game with that choice in mind. You don't want to have an
inadvertent "him" in a room description or something. I forgot to put
the "female" tag on one of my NPCs in the comp last year and it's
jarring of train wreck proportions when a player runs into something
like that.. Angsty, tragic superheroes was as far as I wanted go;
angsty, tragic, superhuman she-males was too far.

Robb
=-=-=-=-=-
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Knight Orc Home Page: www.joltcountry.com
Reviews From Trotting Krips: ifiction.tsx.org

Thorsten Franz

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Jun 18, 2001, 2:13:08 PM6/18/01
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"Andrew Merenbach" <amere...@mac.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:B7538BA2.9AF5%amere...@mac.com...

> I'm making a game, and I'm wondering if it'd be a bad idea to let the
player
> choose his/her gender at the beginning. Would most people prefer that to
> simply having the player be male?

I like the way this was done in "Moonmist" - a transcript follows:
>PUSH EYE
The dragon's eye glows red. A voice comes from a hidden speaker. It says:
"Please announce yourself. State your title -- such as Lord or Lady, Sir or
Dame, Mr. or Ms. -- and your first and last name."
>MR. THORSTEN FRANZ
"Did you say your name is Mr. Thorsten Franz?"
>YES
"And what is your favorite color, Mr. Franz?"
>BLUE
"Did you say your favorite color is blue?"
>YES
"Jolly good! The spare bedroom is decorated in blue! Please enter."
The red eye turns green, and the front gate creaks open.

Based on the color you enter, you get to play one out of several variations
of the game, with different puzzles and outcomes. I'd really like to see
that in more games.

Also note the way Curses treats the gender of Black - it is never mentioned,
so the player may assume whatever gender he (here we are again) prefers to
feel strangely attracted to. :-)

--
Thorsten Franz, Bonn, Germany (shlomo.g...@gmx.de)


Aris Katsaris

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Jun 18, 2001, 2:28:05 PM6/18/01
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Andrew Merenbach <amere...@mac.com> wrote in message
news:B7538BA2.9AF5%amere...@mac.com...

If the gender doesn't matter, then flip a coin and have the character be
that.
No need to have the player choose, no need to "simply have the player be
male." You can equally well simply have the player be female.

If the gender matters, then choose the gender that makes your story work
best.

If you want to make the player choose, I'd say the exact opposite than most
tend to advise: Make it a clear choice in the beginning, *outside* the game.
Don't use things like "If the player chooses the little boys' room, he's
male."
This *breaks* mimesis for me - it seems unrealistic. A woman can indeed
choose to enter the men's toilet - a man the ladies' room. Having the choice
of rooms determine gender, is the exact opposite to what happens in
real life...

Aris Katsaris

Dennis G. Jerz

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Jun 18, 2001, 5:26:46 PM6/18/01
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"Ulrich Schreitmueller" <ulrich.sch...@student.uni-tuebingen.de>
wrote in message news:3B2D53F4...@student.uni-tuebingen.de...

> "W. Top Changwatchai" wrote:
>
> > As I understand it, the reviewer objected to the PC, a "hard-boiled"
> > detective, being a female, especially as no advance notice was given.
(In
> > fact, the only indication of gender is a single pronoun buried in the
last
> > paragraph. Presumably substituting "his" for "her" would have excited
no
> > comment.)
>
> I didn't see it as "objecting", but I might have to reread the comments...
>

I think that was my review.

I certainly didn't intend to object to the idea of a female PC in general,
nor to the idea of a female PC in a hard-boiled detective story. I felt
that the prologue didn't gain anything (in my mind) from making the PC
female. If the pronoun had been "his" instead of "her", then the sentence
would still have been a little awkward, but I wouldn't have thought to
myself, "This author has inserted an awkward sentence for the express
purpose of supplying the PC with a gender." My review also explains why I
was already resisting the narrative at that point. For example, I felt that
the omniscient point-of-view was unfairly teasing us by "cutting away"
before we ever learn what's going on. So it was the awkward inclusion of
the expository detail, not the nature of the detail itself, that hit me at
that point.

Your mileage may vary.

>
> > While every gender choice I made in my entry was deliberate, I certainly
> > hadn't meant to shock anybody by the PC's gender (much less the gender
of
> > the deputy mayor (!)), especially since having a female PC is certainly
> > nothing new in IF. (Nor is having a tough female detective in modern
> > fiction, or in real life for that matter.)
>
> Absolutely. Take "Plundered Hearts" for instance. Or, to broaden the field
of
> games, look at Lara Croft. Or even "Leather Goddesses of Phobos", where
you
> could choose your gender at the beginning.
>
>
> > Is it necessary for such a character to be female only if "female-ness"
is
> > demanded by the plot or premise?

One of my favorite IF works is "Christminster", with Christabel Spenser as
the PC. Christabel's gender puts her as an outsider in the all-male
academic world of Christabel, and the NPCs and even a few of the puzzles are
set up to underscore her female identity.

[deletions]

> Generally, I like to know who I am in the game. Male, female, black,
white,
> animal, mineral, vegetable, I don't care as long as the character is
interesting
> to play.

Yet there are also some games that present the PC as a complete blank slate.
That can be interesting, too, but the mimesis can be shattered when the
author describes an emotion instead of letting the player who sits at the
keyboard feel that emotion.


--
Dennis G. Jerz, Ph.D.; (715)836-2431
Dept. of English; U Wisc.-Eau Claire
419 Hibbard, Eau Claire, WI 54702
------------------------------------
Literacy Weblog: www.uwec.edu/jerzdg


Amarande

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Jun 18, 2001, 6:17:20 PM6/18/01
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On Mon, 18 Jun 2001 20:13:08 +0200, "Thorsten Franz"
<shlomo.g...@gmx.de> dumped into the public bit supply:

>Also note the way Curses treats the gender of Black - it is never mentioned,
>so the player may assume whatever gender he (here we are again) prefers to
>feel strangely attracted to. :-)

I thought Black was from Jigsaw, not Curses? ...

Ulrich Schreitmueller

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Jun 18, 2001, 6:05:32 PM6/18/01
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"Dennis G. Jerz" wrote:

> "Ulrich Schreitmueller" <ulrich.sch...@student.uni-tuebingen.de>
> wrote in message news:3B2D53F4...@student.uni-tuebingen.de...
>

> > Generally, I like to know who I am in the game. Male, female, black,


> white,
> > animal, mineral, vegetable, I don't care as long as the character is
> interesting
> > to play.
>
> Yet there are also some games that present the PC as a complete blank slate.
> That can be interesting, too, but the mimesis can be shattered when the
> author describes an emotion instead of letting the player who sits at the
> keyboard feel that emotion.
>

No arguments there. Did you play "Zork Grand Inquisitor"? I loved the way they
handled player identification there... if you annoy Marvin the goatfish, he
eventually yells "You want a piece of me, dock boy??? ...or dock girl, all you
people look the same to me..." And who could forget Dalboz, imprisoned in the
lamp: "What's your name? - Not talking, huh? All right, I'll just call you
ageless, faceless, gender-neutral, culturally ambiguous adventure person.
AFGNCAAP for short." And he keeps referring to you as "AFGNCAAP" throughout the
game.
Something that did jar for me was the German version of Myst. Since German
doesn't really have a neutral term for "friend", it always sounds as if Atrus is
talking to a male.

I still kinda prefer knowing who I am in a game, though.
Which, arguably, can be a problem in Tetris.

Anyway, that's my $.02 for tonight.

Cheers,
Uli

Duncan Stevens

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Jun 18, 2001, 6:53:29 PM6/18/01
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"W. Top Changwatchai" <n...@spam.com> wrote in message
news:LwaX6.9809$ki5.1...@vixen.cso.uiuc.edu...

There was a game released a few years back that very cleverly (and subtly)
set the player up to assume the PC was male, and then, late in the game,
sprang the trap. I won't reveal the title here, but those who have played it
know whereof I speak. There, the PC's gender was to some extent the point of
the game--and at that time a PC with an identity of his/her own was still
more the exception than the rule. (I'm not saying the reverse is true now,
but there's been movement in that direction.) It's probably more possible
now than it was then to have a PC who just happens to be female, though, as
far as I can tell, it's still pretty rare.

--Duncan


Andrew Merenbach

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Jun 18, 2001, 7:04:36 PM6/18/01
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in article 9gvsitk8o9fnm9i7s...@4ax.com, Amarande at
ava...@concentric.net wrote on 6/18/01 3:17 PM:

It is.

Now, if I remember correctly, I checked out this newsgroup (or rgif, maybe
both) after Jigsaw was released, and there were LOTS of messages in a thread
dealing with the character gender in Jigsaw. Though, wasn't the main
character's gender unknown, as well?

--
Andrew Merenbach

W. Top Changwatchai

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Jun 19, 2001, 2:02:14 AM6/19/01
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Andrew Merenbach <amere...@mac.com> wrote in message
news:B7538BA2.9AF5%amere...@mac.com...

In general I think I prefer games that don't give me a choice. My reason?
I don't necessarily want to play *myself* in games; for me, player
involvement is heightened rather than diminished by having a specific PC
role being assigned to me, especially if it means the PC is better
integrated into the story and interactions with other characters.

Further, I find nothing sacrosanct about making sure the player knows
exactly what the PC knows. As long as the player's knowledge doesn't
unfairly influence the PC's actions, then meta-knowledge about the PC's
world can sometimes be used to enhance the player's experience.

Take cut-scenes (found in many graphical adventurers) which reveal events
the PC knows nothing about. I felt they were used quite effectively in the
Monkey Island series, and I think this type of technique would work well
even in games that aren't so self-aware.

I'm definitely interested in hearing how people feel about these issues.

Below, some comments on the examples given earlier.

<very trivial spoilers for "Leather Goddesses" and "Life on Beal Street"
below>

One way to characterize games is by the specificity of the PC's description.
Many early games were purposefully vague, presumably so the player would
feel more like she herself were in the game. The PC is simply an anonymous
adventurer.

In fact, the Zork series gave me the strong impression that it could have
started: "You are a modern-day American. There's a flash of light, and you
suddenly find yourself in front of a white house..." (As I recall, some
non-Americans had some complaints about Zork 2.)

"Plundered Hearts," on the other hand, had a specific romance-novel
stereotype in mind for the PC, and the situations and the way other
characters related to the PC all reflected this identity.

I would consider "Leather Goddesses" to be closer to "Zork" than to
"Plundered Hearts" on the PC characterization scale. Although the player's
gender choice in LGOP affects the gender of many other characters in the
game, the difference is very small, mainly amounting to changes in pronouns.
I'm guessing the characters were specifically designed to make this gender
swapping very easy--leading to poorly-defined stock characters (not
necessarily a liability in the space opera genre).

I would guess that, in general, games that let the player choose the PC's
gender are more similar to games that are noncommittal about it, than they
are to games featuring strong character interaction. This is simply because
writing two substantively different versions of various text passages is
more work, with questionable benefits.

For myself, in story-oriented, character-rich games I tend to prefer a
well-defined PC. In puzzle-fests, I don't care who the PC is really. In
neither of these games do I feel choosing my character's gender adds much to
the experience.

As a potential counterexample, take "Life on Beal Street." The text goes
through various contortions to sidestep the question of PC gender, and I
believe it suffers for it (especially since the "game" is nothing more than
a series of text passages). Perhaps letting the player choose gender would
make some of the text less awkward, though again I question whether this
would be any better than the author's simply making the choice.

Here are several interesting XYZZY articles on PC gender and identity.
(Note: the first link below doesn't currently seem to work.)

http://www.xyzzynews.com//xyzzy.3h.html
http://www.xyzzynews.com//xyzzy.6f.html
http://www.xyzzynews.com//xyzzy.9d.html

W. Top Changwatchai

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 2:33:33 AM6/19/01
to
Dennis G. Jerz <Jer...@uwec.edu> wrote in message
news:9glroc$ru8$1...@wiscnews.wiscnet.net...

Tee-hee. "Awkward...awkward...awkward." Why do I get the impression my
writing sounded "awkward"?

Sadly, the awkwardness is due to my fledgling attempts at writing, and I
can't blame it on some expository agenda. I do appreciate your comments
though.

> > > Is it necessary for such a character to be female only if
"female-ness"
> is
> > > demanded by the plot or premise?
>
> One of my favorite IF works is "Christminster", with Christabel Spenser as
> the PC. Christabel's gender puts her as an outsider in the all-male
> academic world of Christabel, and the NPCs and even a few of the puzzles
are
> set up to underscore her female identity.

Hmm...it sounds like your answer to my question is basically "yes." I'm
genuinely interested in why this might be. Would the answer be the same if
the character were, say, Hispanic? What if the character were seven feet
tall? Or were wheelchair-bound? Or were albino? Or were a dinosaur?

In other words, is it OK for a character to have one of these unusual
characteristics if the premise or a major plot point doesn't demand it?
(Yes, it's less usual for a police detective to be female, or to be Hispanic
in this English-language setting.) Does the relative frequency of the
unusual characteristic matter?

Adam Cadre

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 5:16:34 AM6/19/01
to
Top Changwatchai wrote:
> Hmm...it sounds like your answer to my question ["Is it necessary for
> such a character to be female only if "female-ness" is demanded by the
> plot or premise?"] is basically "yes." I'm genuinely interested in why
> this might be. Would the answer be the same if the character were, say,
> Hispanic?

While much was made of the fact that Tracy Valencia is female, I don't
think even one commentator on I-0 so much as mentioned the fact that
she's Latina. Not until much later when I made this observation on the
newsgroup, anyway.

-----
Adam Cadre, Brooklyn, NY
web site: http://adamcadre.ac
novel: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060195584/adamcadreac

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 4:48:28 AM6/19/01
to

"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:9gl817$lnr$2...@news.panix.com...

> Richard Bos <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
>
> >> Adam Thornton (or another of the Adams that isn't Adam Cadre) has also
> >> written a game with a lesbian protagonist, though shamefully I forget
its
> >> name.
>
> > The Lost Spellmaker? No, that was by Neil James Brown.
>
> (Another of the Neils who isn't Neil deMause or Neil K. Guy.) That's
> the one I thought of -- the lesbian dwarf secret agent, which may be
> intended to make some kind of point -- but there must be some examples
> I'm not thinking of.

And you're both right - I got confused between all the
Adams-who-aren't-Cadre and Neils-who-aren't-deMause and promptly screwed up.

-- Gunther

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 5:17:11 AM6/19/01
to
W. Top Changwatchai wrote:

> Hmm...it sounds like your answer to my question is basically "yes." I'm
> genuinely interested in why this might be. Would the answer be the same
if
> the character were, say, Hispanic? What if the character were seven feet
> tall? Or were wheelchair-bound? Or were albino? Or were a dinosaur?

Let's see.

Hispanic / seven feet tall: these occur in normal life and aren't normally
too hindering. For the latter, I'd expect some comments like ducking under
doors, but I don't see why race or size need be relevant to the plot. See
for example Ursula K. LeGuin, who experiments with race and sexuality in
almost any novel (Left Hand of Darkness, The Telling, Planet of Exile coming
to mind first and foremost, as well as a certain passage from The Lathe of
Heaven[1]), not always relevant to the story; or Harlan Ellison's wonderful
"Paladin of the Lost Hour", which has one black and one white protagonist
without revealing who is who (though I gather it was made into an episode of
Outer Limits, which would resolve this ambiguity).

Albino: this depends, of course, on how albino the character is. Again, I'd
personally expect comments (or strange looks) from NPCs. Idea just coming to
mind: an albino of African descent in an all-black setting might make for a
very interesting story. In this case I would expect plot relevance - albinos
aren't as "common" as, say, Hispanics, and I'd want to come up with a reason
for that "gimmick". (That said, is there a "politically correct" term for
albinos yet? Pigmentation-impaired persons? Sorry.)

Wheelchair-bound: this is necessarily relevant to the game, I think, seeing
how people in wheelchairs need to solve puzzles in real life to get and get
to what they want. Travelling the London Underground in a wheelchair would
be, I think, a nightmare of epic proportions.

Dinosaurs: I'd definitely expect a relevant setting here, yes. Just having
the player be a dinosaur in, say, modern-day New York without any reason
(and that includes "the reason is this game is a practical joke") doesn't
make sense to me.

So what the hell am I trying to say? Racial and sexual diversity are good.
All-white, all-male casts don't happen in real-life; why should they happen
in a game? (Unless the circumstances call for it, of course - say, a game
set in France in the middle ages.) There doesn't have to be a reason for the
shopkeeper in your game being Pakistani (like you having him translate
something later) - it adds to the atmosphere. Robb Sherwin's games do a good
job of adding this kind of diversity (though hidden - how many people found
out that Avandre from "Chix Dig Jerks is black? See, it doesn't have an
influence on the game!)

Of course, in the end it all comes down to what you're trying to achieve
with your story. It's *your* game. Do what *you* want, but be prepared for
the consequences.

BELOW HERE THERE BE SPOILERS FOR "The Lathe of Heaven"


[1] In one chapter of which George Orr, a man who can change reality through
dreaming, is instructed to dream away all racial problems and complies by
turning everyone in the world grey.

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 5:46:02 AM6/19/01
to
Ulrich Schreitmueller wrote:
> It also implied some more outlandish things about the lead character as
the game
> drew to a close, and I really hope the author din't intend the message to
be
> "well, obviously he's a bit weird sexually, because he is a [snipped for
fear of
> spoiling]".

That author being, of course, Lorelei Shannon, who had previously worked on
one of the King's Quest games. Interestingly enough, all the interviews
about Phantasmagoria 2 I read with her carefully avoided the kinky bits.

I do know, however, that she puts in a cameo at the club, appropriately
dressed. I don't know anything about her sexual preferences, but I do think
she did not do it because of [said spoiler].

> As far as I can remember, the lead character was told by his psychiatrist
that
> no person is 100% homo- or heterosexual, a statement which astonished me -
not
> in itself, but the fact that it was made in an American mainstream
computer game
> by Sierra.

...and it promptly tanked horribly, sold next to nothing and was censored to
smithereens in almost every country.

I just realized this is one of the great things about IF: you can do
whatever the hell you want, and there's no BBFC/MPAA/whatever to tell you
"oh no, you can't do this." It also makes me realize just what you can get
away with in cartoons - take, for example,

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
Tom & Jerry
Itchy & Scratchy (which is sometimes censored in Germany)

...and any other ultraviolent cartoon and imagine them as live-action
Hollywood movies. Not much left there, hm?

With MTV now censoring the word "ratings" from music videos, it's good to
see that there are artforms free of the influence of mindless censorship in
the guise of "political correctness".

Long live IF, and FUCK YOU, MTV.

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 5:47:05 AM6/19/01
to
> Sorry. I'll play the game when I find some free time. It's just that I'm
> drowning in other "homework" at the moment. (Read an incomprehensible,
unfunny,
> but funny-intended 19th-century 500-page novel fragment in one day? No
> problem...)

Tell me this isn't Simplicius Simplicissimus, or I will start crying.

-- Gunther


Neil Cerutti

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 8:38:56 AM6/19/01
to
W. Top Changwatchai posted:

>In fact, the Zork series gave me the strong impression that it
>could have started: "You are a modern-day American. There's a
>flash of light, and you suddenly find yourself in front of a
>white house..." (As I recall, some non-Americans had some
>complaints about Zork 2.)

Yes, the so-called Baseball Puzzle in Zork 2 raised the ire of
most those that considered their culture to be baseball free.
However, *my* culture is inundated with baseball and I thought it
was a stupid and impossible puzzle, too. Baseball is just a red
herring. That puzzle stinks to every known culture.

--
Neil Cerutti <cer...@together.net>

Ulrich Schreitmueller

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 9:35:55 AM6/19/01
to
Gunther Schmidl wrote:

Actually, it's "Der Komet" by Jean Paul.

Uli

Dennis G. Jerz

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 10:14:01 AM6/19/01
to
> > > > Is it necessary for such a character to be female only if
> "female-ness"
> > is
> > > > demanded by the plot or premise?


No more so than it would be necessary for the PC to be male only if
"male-ness" is demanded by the plot or premise. My point is, if it
genuinely doesn't matter, any more than the color of the PC's eyes or the
kind of shoes he/she is wearing, then little is to be gained by specifying.

But in addition to plot and premise, there is also characterization, which
can be a very important factor in engaging the player emotionally.

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 10:40:34 AM6/19/01
to
Dennis G. Jerz <Jer...@uwec.edu> wrote:
>No more so than it would be necessary for the PC to be male only if
>"male-ness" is demanded by the plot or premise. My point is, if it
>genuinely doesn't matter, any more than the color of the PC's eyes or the
>kind of shoes he/she is wearing, then little is to be gained by specifying.

The thing is, it may not "matter" and yet be torture to work around in
a small number of cases--e.g. because the character needs to be
referred to by first name.

While it is still possible to maintain ambiguity in that case (for
example see BOWL DROP TOY SLEEP PLAY), it may not be worth the effort.
And, in that case, if the gender doesn't "matter" but needs to be
revealed, I personally favor selecting females rather than males,
in some small and probably pointless attempt to redress centuries of
social injustice.

If it can be written around it, and if the character is one that you
can reasonably hope players will project *themselves* into, then by
all means keep it ambiguous. But if players will not perceive
themselves as the protagonist, I'm not sure it gains anything to
leave it unspecified.

SeanB

Dennis G. Jerz

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 12:45:17 PM6/19/01
to
"Sean T Barrett" <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
news:GF6M3...@world.std.com...

> If it can be written around it, and if the character is one that you
> can reasonably hope players will project *themselves* into, then by
> all means keep it ambiguous. But if players will not perceive
> themselves as the protagonist, I'm not sure it gains anything to
> leave it unspecified.
>

A good clarification.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 1:37:24 PM6/19/01
to
Gunther Schmidl wrote:
> Dinosaurs: I'd definitely expect a relevant setting here, yes.

Sounds like a challenge to me! I hereby declare... Dino-Comp!

Wait, I already did that. Whoops.

Anyway, sounds like Top should chase down the Dino-Comp games and play "An
Important Appointment" by Jennifer Earl. Featuring a protagonist who just
happens to be Saurian-American.

Alex Watson

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 2:46:42 PM6/19/01
to
"It's Andrew Merenbach, Alex." "Who?" "You know, that weirdo from
rec.arts.int-fiction." "Oh, right." [blip] Incoming message:

I believe that was the whole point. The player's gender was ambiguous, so
Black's had to be too, because of... well, I don't think this would count
as a spoiler, but I think you can guess what I mean.

--
Alex Watson
http://www.watson1999-69.freeserve.co.uk/froup/
Replies to me[AT]watson1999-69.freeserve.co.uk
"If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown too?

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 4:28:15 PM6/19/01
to
Gunther says...

>See for example Ursula K. LeGuin, who experiments with race and sexuality in
>almost any novel...

Another science fiction author to play around with this is Samuel Delaney.
In some of his books (e.g. _Triton_, I think) the main character changes
sex during the story. In another book, (_Stars in My Pocket_, I think)
he uses the device of using "she/her/hers" to refer to a generic human,
but "he/him/his" to refer to one's own lover (whatever the sex).

--
Daryl McCullough
CoGenTex, Inc.
Ithaca, NY

Michael Brazier

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 6:43:42 PM6/19/01
to
On Mon, 18 Jun 2001 18:53:29 -0400, "Duncan Stevens" <dn...@starpower.net>
wrote:

>There was a game released a few years back that very cleverly (and subtly)
>set the player up to assume the PC was male, and then, late in the game,
>sprang the trap. I won't reveal the title here, but those who have played it
>know whereof I speak. There, the PC's gender was to some extent the point of
>the game--and at that time a PC with an identity of his/her own was still
>more the exception than the rule. (I'm not saying the reverse is true now,
>but there's been movement in that direction.) It's probably more possible
>now than it was then to have a PC who just happens to be female, though, as
>far as I can tell, it's still pretty rare.

Are you thinking of [Spoiler]


_Everybody Loves a Parade_? In that one the PC is female, but the player
isn't told that until halfway through the game, when a dirty old man leers
at the PC. That bit wasn't very realistic, BTW, because the PC had met the
man before, and all the man had said up to that point was "Looky thar -- a
tourist!" I can't help but feel that a dirty old man would have said
something more, er, salacious.

--
Michael Brazier But what are all these gaieties to me
Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?
X^2 + 7X + 53 = 11/3
-- Lewis Carroll

Duncan Stevens

unread,
Jun 19, 2001, 7:42:16 PM6/19/01
to
"Michael Brazier" <mbra...@argusinc.com> wrote in message
news:3b2fd3aa....@News.CIS.DFN.DE...

> On Mon, 18 Jun 2001 18:53:29 -0400, "Duncan Stevens" <dn...@starpower.net>
> wrote:
>
> >There was a game released a few years back that very cleverly (and
subtly)
> >set the player up to assume the PC was male, and then, late in the game,
> >sprang the trap. I won't reveal the title here, but those who have played
it
> >know whereof I speak. There, the PC's gender was to some extent the point
of
> >the game--and at that time a PC with an identity of his/her own was still
> >more the exception than the rule. (I'm not saying the reverse is true
now,
> >but there's been movement in that direction.) It's probably more possible
> >now than it was then to have a PC who just happens to be female, though,
as
> >far as I can tell, it's still pretty rare.
>
> Are you thinking of [Spoiler]
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> _Everybody Loves a Parade_? In that one the PC is female, but the player
> isn't told that until halfway through the game, when a dirty old man leers
> at the PC. That bit wasn't very realistic, BTW, because the PC had met
the
> man before, and all the man had said up to that point was "Looky thar -- a
> tourist!" I can't help but feel that a dirty old man would have said
> something more, er, salacious.

That's the one. The leering, however, was because your blouse comes undone,
not just because you're there. A good way to spring this particular trap?
Yes, in my book--you're suddenly forced to relocate your character, from
someone who's comfortable in a pool hall hanging out with bikers (okay,
okay, weird bikers) to someone who definitely isn't.

--Duncan


Richard Bos

unread,
Jun 20, 2001, 3:06:19 AM6/20/01
to
"Gunther Schmidl" <gsch...@gmx.at> wrote:

> With MTV now censoring the word "ratings" from music videos,

Huh!? Why? Sarcasm, or is there a real brain-dead PC reason?

Richard

Alexander Deubelbeiss

unread,
Jun 20, 2001, 8:11:30 AM6/20/01
to
It's demeaning to dyslexic rats.


Joe Mason

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Jun 20, 2001, 11:36:05 AM6/20/01
to
In article <9gock...@drn.newsguy.com>,

Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:
>Another science fiction author to play around with this is Samuel Delaney.
>In some of his books (e.g. _Triton_, I think) the main character changes
>sex during the story. In another book, (_Stars in My Pocket_, I think)

And then, of course, there's Jack L. Chalker...

Joe

Jake Wildstrom

unread,
Jun 20, 2001, 12:36:08 PM6/20/01
to
In article <9gqft5$mfm$1...@watserv3.uwaterloo.ca>,

I've only read _Downtiming the Night Side_. Do all his works have this
same gimmick or similar?

+--First Church of Briantology--Order of the Holy Quaternion--+
| A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into |
| theorems. -Paul Erdos |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| Jake Wildstrom |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

Matthew Russotto

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Jun 20, 2001, 1:41:59 PM6/20/01
to
In article <9gock...@drn.newsguy.com>,
Daryl McCullough <da...@cogentex.com> wrote:
>Gunther says...
>>See for example Ursula K. LeGuin, who experiments with race and sexuality in
>>almost any novel...

And who thereby has only really written one, with variations.

>Another science fiction author to play around with this is Samuel Delaney.
>In some of his books (e.g. _Triton_, I think) the main character changes
>sex during the story. In another book, (_Stars in My Pocket_, I think)
>he uses the device of using "she/her/hers" to refer to a generic human,
>but "he/him/his" to refer to one's own lover (whatever the sex).

I prefer using s/h/it as a generic pronoun.


--
Matthew T. Russotto russ...@pond.com
"Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit
of justice is no virtue."

Alexander Deubelbeiss

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Jun 20, 2001, 2:35:31 PM6/20/01
to

Adam Cadre schrieb in Nachricht <9gn59i$924$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com>...

>Top Changwatchai wrote:
>> Hmm...it sounds like your answer to my question ["Is it necessary for
>> such a character to be female only if "female-ness" is demanded by the
>> plot or premise?"] is basically "yes." I'm genuinely interested in why
>> this might be. Would the answer be the same if the character were, say,
>> Hispanic?
>
>While much was made of the fact that Tracy Valencia is female, I don't
>think even one commentator on I-0 so much as mentioned the fact that
>she's Latina. Not until much later when I made this observation on the
>newsgroup, anyway.
>
Actually I hadn't realized. "Tracy"?

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Jun 20, 2001, 2:52:22 PM6/20/01
to
Jake Wildstrom wrote:
> I've only read _Downtiming the Night Side_. Do all his works have this
> same gimmick or similar?

Not all, but he claims that he sells better when he does, because it's
what's expected of "Jack Chalker" the brand name. Sorta like Conan
Doyle or L. Frank Baum. His most important work in the genre is
probably the original Well World series: Midnight at the Well of Souls,
Exiles at tWoS, Quest for tWoS, The Return of Nathan Brazil, and
Twilight at tWoS.

--
John W. Kennedy
(Working from my laptop)

Gunther Schmidl

unread,
Jun 20, 2001, 5:10:14 PM6/20/01
to

Heh. I have no idea why it's being censored, but the respective bit from is
(the words "died" and "ratings" are censored by MTV):

Some children died the other day
We feed machines and then we pray
Look up and down mortified
You should have seen the ratings that day

-- Gunther


Andrew Merenbach

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Jun 20, 2001, 9:02:08 PM6/20/01
to
in article Hf5Y6.80003$Ne5.3...@e420r-sjo3.usenetserver.com, Matthew
Russotto at russ...@wanda.pond.com wrote on 6/20/01 10:41 AM:

> I prefer using s/h/it as a generic pronoun.

That's the dirties "generic pronoun" I've ever heard! :-)
--
Andrew Merenbach

David Glasser

unread,
Jun 21, 2001, 7:28:28 AM6/21/01
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> Richard Bos <in...@hoekstra-uitgeverij.nl> wrote:
>
> > The Lost Spellmaker? No, that was by Neil James Brown.
>
> (Another of the Neils who isn't Neil deMause or Neil K. Guy.) That's
> the one I thought of -- the lesbian dwarf secret agent, which may be
> intended to make some kind of point -- but there must be some examples
> I'm not thinking of.
>

> Mustn't there?

Other IF with gay protagonists include Ian Finley's "Exhibition" and
Neil Brown's "A Week in the Life", sort of.

--
David Glasser
ne...@davidglasser.net http://www.davidglasser.net/

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jun 21, 2001, 9:34:01 AM6/21/01
to
In article <9gn59i$924$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com>,

Adam Cadre <gri...@cascadia.drizzle.com> wrote:
>While much was made of the fact that Tracy Valencia is female, I don't
>think even one commentator on I-0 so much as mentioned the fact that
>she's Latina. Not until much later when I made this observation on the
>newsgroup, anyway.

Well, her sex is obviously very relevant to the game, but
is her ethnicity really relevant?

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, m...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~mol ------

Matthew Russotto

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Jun 21, 2001, 12:11:50 PM6/21/01
to
In article <9gr3gi$5ef$1...@newsg2.svr.pol.co.uk>,

Gunther Schmidl <gsch...@gmx.at> wrote:
>
>Heh. I have no idea why it's being censored, but the respective bit from is
>(the words "died" and "ratings" are censored by MTV):
>
>Some children died the other day
>We feed machines and then we pray
>Look up and down mortified
>You should have seen the ratings that day

Maybe some wiseass tech is censoring a few extra words as a protest?

Matthew Russotto

unread,
Jun 21, 2001, 12:13:40 PM6/21/01
to
In article <B75695C7.9F51%amere...@mac.com>,

Serves its purpose -- which is to answer complaints by s/h/its who
complain about my use of 'he' as a generic pronoun :-)

Jake Wildstrom

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Jun 21, 2001, 1:19:35 PM6/21/01
to
In article <1evccc8.184aq5ipekr6wN%ne...@davidglasser.net>,

David Glasser <ne...@davidglasser.net> wrote:
>Other IF with gay protagonists include Ian Finley's "Exhibition" and
>Neil Brown's "A Week in the Life", sort of.

Just to be pedantic, I didn't think the protagonist of "AWitL" had
stated gender (they're obviously attracted to men, but that could be a
gay man or a heterosexual woman, or a bisexual of either sex).

Then again, I never got past 6 actions, so maybe I'm missing something.

Adam Cadre

unread,
Jun 21, 2001, 5:28:43 PM6/21/01
to
>Well, her sex is obviously very relevant to the game, but
>is her ethnicity really relevant?

It's relevant in the same way that her height and her weight and the
names of her stuffed animals and her second-grade teacher are relevant.
The goal was to, in most cases, provide details about the PC that are
normally left to the player to fill in. In most games, the protagonist(s)
can look however the player wants -- I deliberately removed all references
to what Alley Dawson looks like shortly before testing, so that players
would fill in *their* mental images of her and thus feel closer to her --
but in this one, no, she looks like a very specific person. It wasn't
until years later that I knew that that person was Jessica Alba, however.

Thorsten Franz

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Jun 23, 2001, 7:13:01 AM6/23/01
to
"Amarande" <ava...@concentric.net> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:9gvsitk8o9fnm9i7s...@4ax.com...

> >Also note the way Curses treats the gender of Black - it is never
mentioned,
> >so the player may assume whatever gender he (here we are again) prefers
to
> >feel strangely attracted to. :-)
>
> I thought Black was from Jigsaw, not Curses? ...

You're right, and I'm embarrassed!

--
Thorsten Franz, Bonn, Germany (shlomo.g...@gmx.de)


Magnus Olsson

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Jun 26, 2001, 7:51:57 AM6/26/01
to

Adam Cadre (gri...@cascadia.drizzle.com) wrote:

(quoting me on the subject of why people keep mentioning that Tracy
Valencia in "I-0" is female, but not that she's a Latina)

>>Well, her sex is obviously very relevant to the game, but
>>is her ethnicity really relevant?
>
>It's relevant in the same way that her height and her weight and the
>names of her stuffed animals and her second-grade teacher are relevant.
>The goal was to, in most cases, provide details about the PC that are
>normally left to the player to fill in.

Yes, that's true, and I was a bit sloppy with my usage of "relevant",
so let me try again:

Tracy's sex is not just relevant to the game, it is fundamental for
the plot and the way the player plays her. Try changing the sex of
every character in the game, and you get something very different.

Her age is also fundamental for the way she, the player, and people
around her act. Make her one day older, and she's no longer jailbait.

But ethnicity - well, it obviously plays a part in how the player
perceives the character, but I don't think it plays a very large
part. She could, in principle, act exactly the same if her
grandparents were German or Chinese. African or Native American -
maybe not; I don't know enough about American society to say.

Note: what I'm saying is that I didn't notice anything in I-0
that would have to change if Tracy weren't a Latina. I'm of course
not saying that society is blind to ethnicity or anything like that.

Sean T Barrett

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Jun 26, 2001, 9:40:46 AM6/26/01
to

I apologize for answering for Adam, but if I followed
this conversation correctly, there's a misapprehension
going on:

In article <9h9t0t$703$1...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>(Adam quoting me on the subject of why people keep mentioning that Tracy


>Valencia in "I-0" is female, but not that she's a Latina)
>

>Adam Cadre (gri...@cascadia.drizzle.com) wrote:


>>Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>>>Well, her sex is obviously very relevant to the game, but
>>>is her ethnicity really relevant?
>>
>>It's relevant in the same way that her height and her weight and the
>>names of her stuffed animals and her second-grade teacher are relevant.
>

>Note: what I'm saying is that I didn't notice anything in I-0
>that would have to change if Tracy weren't a Latina. I'm of course
>not saying that society is blind to ethnicity or anything like that.

As I understood it, Adam was originally replying to someone expressing
the concern "so wait, is it a bad thing for me to say that the protagonist
is female if it doesn't really matter to the game", and Adam was offering
an example of it not seeming to be a bad thing to make such choices:
"nobody commented on the fact that Tracy was a Latina".

I took Adam's point to be that, since nobody commented on it, that means
nobody commented on it *negatively*--nobody was bothered by it--so it's
not a problem to do things like that even though it's "not relevant". So
bashing about exactly the manner in which it "was relevant" is not
really the point.

Adam may now deliver unto me a smackdown for misrepresenting his position.

SeanB

Adam Cadre

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Jun 26, 2001, 3:37:41 PM6/26/01
to
Sean Barrett wrote:
> As I understood it, Adam was originally replying to someone expressing
> the concern "so wait, is it a bad thing for me to say that the
> protagonist is female if it doesn't really matter to the game", and Adam
> was offering an example of it not seeming to be a bad thing to make such
> choices: "nobody commented on the fact that Tracy was a Latina".

In fact, Top specifically asked how specifying that a character is female
compared to specifying that a character is Hispanic, and as I happened to
have written a character who was both, I figured I'd chime in about the
reaction I'd received. At the time I'd read neither Top's prologue nor
the review he was responding to, but now I've read both, so here are my
thoughts on the larger subject.

Some of the confusion here stems from the fact that we're dealing with at
least a couple of overlapping issues. One is the extent to which
heterosexuality, European ancestry and possession of a Y chromosome are
viewed as defaults from which any deviation requires special comment. For
instance, Dennis writes, "I felt that the prologue didn't gain anything
(in my mind) from making the PC female"; the implication is that this
required some extra effort on top of the mere creation of the PC, who
started off male (or neuter, but the sort of neuter where male behavior is
invisible but female behavior sets off alarm bells) and then was changed
into a female for some particular reason. Now, the thing is, while in
*life* it is not the case that being a straight white male is "normal,"
within the confines of certain *genres*, it *is*: when you evoke the
classic film-noir detective genre, it's a package deal complete with
half-open blinds, 1940s hairstyles and a straight white male private eye.
Change an element of the genre, and the story automatically becomes in
large part about how you've changed it -- in this case, about the
detective being female. Assuming that Dennis correctly read what genre
Top was going for (me, I'm not so sure.)

Somewhat separate is the issue of calling *attention* to your characters'
demographic attributes. In I-0, age is foregrounded (discussed at length
in the prologue, for instance) while the treatment of race is fairly
oblique: the player has to piece it together from Tracy's physical
description, her father's name, her fluency in Spanish. Dennis apparently
found that Top's treatment of sex fell into the former category: "This
author has inserted an awkward sentence for the express purpose of
supplying the PC with a gender." Of course, as Top points out, the
foregrounding of gender is built into our language -- for instance, if you
say, "So, I asked my boss for a raise today," and the person you're
talking to replies, "Oh? What'd he say?", you might well find yourself
saying, "'She,' actually," even though the sex of your boss is irrelevant
to the story at hand. In the case of this particular prologue, it's a
tough call: the mention of "her crime scene" does place more than the
usual amount of emphasis on "her," but not because we're expecting "his
crime scene" -- it's because we (or at least I) expect "*a* crime scene."
By contrast, "the deputy mayor herself" doesn't strike me as setting off
the "look! a woman! how innovative!" alarm nearly as loudly.

And now I will send this, because I've already had to retype the whole
thing once already.

Dennis G. Jerz

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Jun 26, 2001, 7:50:40 PM6/26/01
to
"Adam Cadre" <gri...@cascadia.drizzle.com> wrote in message
news:9haoa5$num$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com...

> when you evoke the
> classic film-noir detective genre, it's a package deal complete with
> half-open blinds, 1940s hairstyles and a straight white male private eye.
> Change an element of the genre, and the story automatically becomes in
> large part about how you've changed it -- in this case, about the
> detective being female. Assuming that Dennis correctly read what genre
> Top was going for (me, I'm not so sure.)

Yes -- thanks, Adam, for explicating the matter so lucidly.

Part of my review expressed my frustration that the rules kept changing
(horror movie? omniscient narrative? IF?), but I think I had settled down
(very briefly) to expecting a gritty detective story, and was a bit
disturbed by what might be considered, to mix genres a bit, stunt casting.
For example, as a reporter for a college newspaper, I once reviewed an
amateur production of "Godspell," in which the director cast a black woman
in the role of Jesus, and informed me in an interview that, despite the
subject matter, she didn't consider the play to be a Christian play, but
rather a play "about a group of people who discover morals." The actress
had good stage presence, and I seem to recall she could sing well, and
overall the production was a lot of fun to watch, but the director didn't
make up her mind whether we were or weren't supposed to notice the gender
and/or the race of the person delivering Jesus's lines. So it ended up
looking like a stunt to me.

> In the case of this particular prologue, it's a
> tough call: the mention of "her crime scene" does place more than the
> usual amount of emphasis on "her," but not because we're expecting "his
> crime scene" -- it's because we (or at least I) expect "*a* crime scene."
> By contrast, "the deputy mayor herself" doesn't strike me as setting off
> the "look! a woman! how innovative!" alarm nearly as loudly.

Right. It wasn't the gender of the characters that troubled me, but calling
attention to the gender without also somehow making the gender *matter*.
Consider the female identity of the PC in Metamorphoses; Emily Short not
only describes, but permits the player to *experience* the loneliness and
quiet confidence of the PC, as she goes about doing her master's bidding.
Short embeds character details in the mechanisms of her IF world (for
example, note that the space inside the mirror is "cupped like the palm of
your master's hand," [or words to that effect] and for a tiny glimpse into
the PC's history, try to "sing").

Sean T Barrett

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Jun 26, 2001, 9:16:04 PM6/26/01
to
I was fine with your post until this last bit...

Dennis G. Jerz <Jer...@uwec.edu> wrote:
>Consider the female identity of the PC in Metamorphoses; Emily Short not
>only describes, but permits the player to *experience* the loneliness and
>quiet confidence of the PC, as she goes about doing her master's bidding.
>Short embeds character details in the mechanisms of her IF world (for
>example, note that the space inside the mirror is "cupped like the palm of
>your master's hand," [or words to that effect] and for a tiny glimpse into
>the PC's history, try to "sing").

What does any of what you've just described have to
do with the character's "female identity"? (I admit
I'm not firing it up to double-check in detail, but
at least as you have characterized it here, I don't
see the connection.)

SeanB

Dennis G. Jerz

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Jun 27, 2001, 12:42:17 AM6/27/01
to
"Sean T Barrett" <buz...@world.std.com> wrote in message
news:GFKE6...@world.std.com...

In isolation, there's nothing about a master's cupped hand or the response
to the verb "sing" that is inherently gendered. My point is that I found
all these details to be entirely consistent with the author's presentation
of the PC's character. For example, the relationship between the PC and her
master was developed in sufficient detail that I felt the dynamic would have
been very different -- requiring different writing, and even perhaps
slightly different puzzles -- if the gender of the PC had been either 1)
male or 2) unspecified.

IMHO, think the success of Metamorphoses has much more to do with good
writing and effective use of the IF medium, than it does with choice of PC
gender. The creator of the female detective PC (as discussed way up stream)
didn't have the opportunity to demonstrate how the PC's gender would affect
gameplay. After all, it was the ProlougeComp, not the
RevealSignificanceOfCharacterGenderThroughInteractionComp.

--
Dennis G. Jerz, Ph.D.; (715)836-2431
Dept. of English; U Wisc.-Eau Claire
419 Hibbard, Eau Claire, WI 54702
------------------------------------
Literacy Weblog: www.uwec.edu/jerzdg


ems...@mindspring.com

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Jun 27, 2001, 4:07:14 AM6/27/01
to
buz...@world.std.com (Sean T Barrett) wrote in message news:<GFKE6...@world.std.com>...

I realize that this is somewhat tangential to your question, but: I
fairly rarely thought *explicitly* about how to portray the
'femaleness' of the PC, but I also knew from the earliest conception
of the game that the player character must be female. Something about
the dynamic of the relationship between master and servant, and the
relationship between servant and world, seemed to call out for a
female protagonist, so I ignored the relative implausibility of a
woman in the society of that day and age having such a job. Hey, it's
fantasy. Once I'd made that decision, it affected some of the later
characterization/flashback writing, in that it's clear that the PC
doesn't fit into traditional society entirely because of her
situation, and thus avenues of escape that would otherwise be open to
her are less attractive.

One thing that did occur to me was that it would be confusing to
players, or at least cause them some sort of jar, if this point of
gender was important (as I felt it was important to the story and
would become evident eventually) but the player played through the
first few scenes without knowing it. This is, in fact, why I
originally endowed the player with a dress: one of the first steps is
taking inventory, and it seemed like a quiet but unmistakable way of
letting the player know the PC's gender without calling Attention to
it. It's not An Issue that the PC is female, but it is important to
the story.

ES

Barnaby Evans

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Jun 27, 2001, 10:01:34 AM6/27/01
to
> Gunther Schmidl <gsch...@gmx.at> wrote:
>>
>> Heh. I have no idea why it's being censored, but the respective bit from is
>> (the words "died" and "ratings" are censored by MTV):
>>
>> Some children died the other day
>> We feed machines and then we pray
>> Look up and down mortified
>> You should have seen the ratings that day

Context being all, it's worth noting that the song is by Marilyn Manson, and
is at least in part about the Colombine massacre, a public sensitivity
flashpoint unrivalled since the death of Princess Diana. Heaven forbid
anyone should be so crass as to suggest said tragedy was commercially
exploited by the media. (Similarly, one of only three words Interscope
autocensored on the encyclopaedically obscene current Eminem album was
'Colombine'; the other two comprised the name of Em's mother's lawyer, who
is libellously denoted a homosexual).

Magnus Olsson

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Jun 27, 2001, 10:12:06 AM6/27/01
to
In article <GFJHz...@world.std.com>,

Sean T Barrett <buz...@world.std.com> wrote:
>In article <9h9t0t$703$1...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>>(Adam quoting me on the subject of why people keep mentioning that Tracy
>>Valencia in "I-0" is female, but not that she's a Latina)
>>
>>Adam Cadre (gri...@cascadia.drizzle.com) wrote:
>>>Magnus Olsson <m...@df.lth.se> wrote:
>>>>Well, her sex is obviously very relevant to the game, but
>>>>is her ethnicity really relevant?
>>>
>>>It's relevant in the same way that her height and her weight and the
>>>names of her stuffed animals and her second-grade teacher are relevant.
>>
>>Note: what I'm saying is that I didn't notice anything in I-0
>>that would have to change