PC gender in conversation

5 views
Skip to first unread message

Julian Fleetwood

unread,
Oct 24, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/24/98
to
I recently attended a talk by John Marsden [1] as part of my English lesson.
As well as answering questions and signing books he talked about writing
with an emphasis on dialogue.

The talk was quite short but John did bring up an obvious point which I
hadn't considered before. When writing character dialogue there are subtle
*and* huge differences between male and female versions. This comment made
me think about how many IF authors try to avoid making references to the
PC's gender. My question then is; is it possible to write realistic
non-gender referring dialogue?

While I was pondering this question I immediately thought about the option
of *describing* what the PC says - rather than actual printing what they
say. Another point is that if you always get the player to type in what they
say there would be no problem.

Thoughts?

--
[1] Author of _Tomorrow When the War Began_ and loads of other books (most
of which I haven't read)

Julian Fleetwood (http://surf.to/free4all)
-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
G!>GCS d- s+:- a16 C++ UL P+ L+>++ E W+(++) N++ w-- M+ PS PE Y PGP- t+ 5
X++>+++ R tv b++ DI+ D++ G++ e- h! y?
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------

Doeadeer3

unread,
Oct 26, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/26/98
to

In article <36341...@newshost.pcug.org.au>, "Julian Fleetwood"
<mfle...@pcug.org.au> writes:

>When writing character dialogue there are subtle
>*and* huge differences between male and female versions. This comment made
>me think about how many IF authors try to avoid making references to the
>PC's gender. My question then is; is it possible to write realistic
>non-gender referring dialogue?
>
>While I was pondering this question I immediately thought about the option
>of *describing* what the PC says - rather than actual printing what they
>say. Another point is that if you always get the player to type in what they
>say there would be no problem.
>
>Thoughts?

I think if the player enters the dialogue it is easier for the PC to be either
gender.

The bigger problem is NPC's, in real life men respond differently to women than
women do to women (and vica versa, I suppose). So trying to have a
non-specific-gender PC is tricky when it comes to how the NPC's respond to what
the player says. It is impossible to cover all situations and the author can
only do the best they can. As long as reactions are not too gender specific,
then the intention to keep the PC general will probably succeed to a large
extent.

(As a woman I am willing to overlook a lot, as long as the PC is not
reacting/being reacted to as if it was obviously male, I can insert myself
unchanged into the PC. If not I have to change my perception and see the PC as
male and myself as playing a male character, which is something women have done
all their lives anyway, when reading much or most of "classic" literature.)

Doe :-)


Doe doea...@aol.com (formerly known as FemaleDeer)
****************************************************************************
"In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane." Mark Twain

TenthStone

unread,
Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
"Julian Fleetwood" <mfle...@pcug.org.au> caused this to appear in our
collective minds on Sat, 24 Oct 1998 12:18:09 +1000:

>I recently attended a talk by John Marsden [1] as part of my English lesson.
>As well as answering questions and signing books he talked about writing
>with an emphasis on dialogue.
>
>The talk was quite short but John did bring up an obvious point which I

>hadn't considered before. When writing character dialogue there are subtle


>*and* huge differences between male and female versions. This comment made
>me think about how many IF authors try to avoid making references to the
>PC's gender. My question then is; is it possible to write realistic
>non-gender referring dialogue?

Well... Jigsaw is an excellent example. Such dialogue is not easy by any
means; one must constantly be on guard against sundry accidental
phrasings which might disturb the balance.

I suspect that if the dialogue in Jigsaw were more widespread, it might
collapse. Enough on this specific subject; no need to rehash old
threads.

Certainly, gender inspecific writing is possible, but it might be easier
or even better just to screw it and go with 1. a specific gender,
2. multiple player-characters, or 3. the old gender-switch, e.g. Zero
Sum Game (zero.gam), wherein the player-character's gender is determined
by a choice at start.

>While I was pondering this question I immediately thought about the option
>of *describing* what the PC says - rather than actual printing what they
>say. Another point is that if you always get the player to type in what they
>say there would be no problem.

Indirect conversation can be very annoying, especially for psychologists.
It's adequate if you're only trying to convey information; otherwise,
remember that infinite subtleties are conveyed through speech, and even
in text there's no substitute.

Consider:
"I spoke to Michael this evening; Laura's not been well."
"I talked to Michael tonight at the dinner. He said Laura didn't feel up
to coming; I guess she's been sick."

An experienced English speaker could tell you that the first sentence
was probably not spoken by an American; the contraction of
'has' is rare in American speech with anything besides a pronoun. The
second speaker is more energetic; the first is, most likely, tired. The
first speaker may also be an introvert.

That's what I mean by subtlety.

-----------

The imperturbable TenthStone
tenth...@hotmail.com mcc...@erols.com mcc...@gsgis.k12.va.us

green_g...@my-dejanews.com

unread,
Oct 27, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/27/98
to
In article <19981026162715...@ngol08.aol.com>,

doea...@aol.com (Doeadeer3) wrote:
> The bigger problem is NPC's, in real life men respond differently to women
> than women do to women (and vica versa, I suppose).

Absolutely. In dialog its very obvious in tone, phrasing, and subject matter.
To leave these details out is to produce overly simple (and boring) dialog.

While on the one had you hate to perpetuate stereotypes, it is our
differences that make life interesting (IMHO). The NPC that does (or doesn't)
open the door for the female PC is making a statement about himself and her,
as is the female NPC that insists on paying for dinner.

... The waiter arrives and puts the check on the table.

> pay check
You place your gold card down on the plastic tray.

> exit
You and Lisa leave the table.

Is rather dull

... The waiter arrives and puts the check on the table.

> pay check
As your hand reaches into your pocket Lisa whips out her platinum card
and slides it onto the tray.

"I'll get this one, " she says briskly.

> pay check
"What? Don't think a lady is capable of paying her own way?" she snaps,
her green eyes flashing.

> Lisa, sorry
Lisa eyes you warily, then flashes you her wining smile. "Guess I'm
overly touchy about these things, huh?"

> exit
As you leave the table, Lisa slides her arm under yours...
etc.

> (As a woman I am willing to overlook a lot, as long as the PC is not
> reacting/being reacted to as if it was obviously male, I can insert myself
> unchanged into the PC. If not I have to change my perception and see the PC as
> male and myself as playing a male character, which is something women have
done
> all their lives anyway, when reading much or most of "classic" literature.)

Yup. Same here. Actually, when I think about it - I always approach an
"unknown" PC assuming its male. Force of habit. I would much rather play
a well done (or even average) male PC then a poorly done/overly
stereotyped female one. And FWIW - I think I would rather play a gendered (is
that a word?) PC than a non-gendered one, ignoring animals, robots, etc.
I don't see much point in having a game where you can select your gender
ahead of time unless it's an essential part of the plot. It wastes
programmers time creating special dialog for both cases, and if you don't
then what's the point. When you remove gender altogether, then you take
out a lot of potential for interesting interaction with NPC's.

Kathleen

--
-- Excuse me while I dance a little jig of despair.

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

TenthStone

unread,
Oct 28, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/28/98
to
mcc...@erols.com (TenthStone) caused this to appear in our collective
minds on Tue, 27 Oct 1998 06:34:35 GMT:

>[T]he contraction of 'has' is rare in American speech with anything besides a
>pronoun.

After spending an entire day using exactly this construction, I'd like to
recant on this argument. The first speaker, however, still seems
"un-American" to me.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages