How can I stop making sexist games?

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#16 Post by sempersapiens » Mon Sep 22, 2014 3:48 pm

The only game on the list of those criticized I've played is Romance Is Dead, but I just wanted to chime in and say I think whoever wrote that email is definitely wrong about it.
- Romance is Dead is a "story about a young black woman who is so backwards in her views on love and romance that her entire concept of both can only be fulfilled by men who represent the romantic ideals of the 1950s, the 1920s or the 1800s". "Maddie... is the antithesis of the modern, self-empowered woman; she does everything to help and further the ambitions of the men in this story", and the fact that these "men are depicted in such loving detail while Maddie... remains pretty much a blank slate" . . .
. . . so? It's not like you're saying all women are like that or should be; it's just the one character. And it's extremely common for VN protagonists to be a "blank slate", regardless of gender. I really don't see anything sexist about that game. I don't know if the criticism of the others is accurate or not, but some people just want to be offended by everything. It's great to acknowledge that you might have subconscious prejudices and try to overcome them - most people do. But you don't need to listen to everything this one person said.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#17 Post by Sapphi » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:10 pm

E-night wrote: 3. Remember women are not a hive mind and you are not going to write a female character that speaks to us all. We have different values and different things we wants to see in our heroines.
Somebody wants to see compassion, somebody wants to see badassness, somebody wants both, somebody want neither, someone wants cleverness or snark, another wants creativity and well...
I think the one thing all women could get behind is more diversity so we generally have more woment characters to reflect on, reject, project ourself into, identify with and just enjoy..
I agree with this.

Also, I doubt I really have to say this, but "sexist" is a subjective term. Examples of sexism, as well as practically anything else, can be found anywhere if one connects enough dots. I'm not claiming that sexism is not a phenomenon. I mean to say that much of what is perceived to be sexist is perceived that way due to an individual's pre-existing thought patterns, over which authors have no control. Since different people see things through different lenses, you will always get complaints, so I don't think you should feel too alarmed. You can't please everyone, and besides, one or two outspoken complaints do not necessarily represent the views of the majority of your readerbase.

I think however that it is best to simply try to write more positive female characters. I personally think that "positive female character" tends to always have "realistic" as an implied descriptor. Everyone loves when they can find a character they really identify with. This is nothing new as far as writing advice is concerned, but I think in this case you need more help than you will find in this thread. If you want to write good female characters, you really have to understand the female experience. You are obviously at a disadvantage, being that you do not have experience with being female (and you may never be able to achieve the level of realism for your female characters that might be desired by some of your more critical female readers). What I think would benefit you the most, is joining a forum or some other kind of community with a large amount of female "personal experience" stories and discussion. I personally belong to several personality forums which have greatly enlightened me about the mindset of people (mostly male) whose minds function differently than my own, and it has really helped me to stop relying on cliches when I think about those types of people, even though much of my enlightenment was simply gleaned through lurking. You can of course find a few trusted female beta readers to rely on, but you will always be limited to their individual points of view. I think it would give you greater autonomy and mastery as an author if you yourself did extensive research on the female experience.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#18 Post by Taleweaver » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:21 pm

Though it's nice of you to address the criticism directed at my games and defend them, that isn't why I opened this thread. I'm seriously looking for suggestions on how to write female characters that are not offensive to female readers, which is something I didn't give much thought to in the past. I just wrote them as they came up in my mind, and apparently, if I do that, they come out differently than I intend. However, instead of advice how NOT to write female characters, I'm looking for advice how to do that PROPERLY.

"The Dreaming", by the way, hasn't been mentioned in the mail I received, which means that either the person who wrote the mail didn't play it or didn't find it as offensive as the other titles. Did I do anything differently in the description of Gabrielle that makes her a more well-rounded, more acceptable character than the others? Or maybe "The Thirteenth Year" - is Astelli's ambiguous sexuality a strong point for him/her?

Inserting female-to-female conversations in my games ("pass the Bechdel test") is certainly possible and not hard: either by making the protagonist a woman herself, or by having a male protagonist listen in on the conversation of two women. But wouldn't the latter be objectionable too? (Unless it's somehow asexual in the context of the story, like a male spy listening in on the tactical plannings of two female military officers.) I find the Bechdel test less appropriate in the contect of a narrative with only one viewpoint, as most VNs are.

About "write women the same way you write men" - I thought I already did that in most cases. I think the only game in which I deliberately didn't do that was in "Daemonophilia", which I wrote as a raunchy sitcom, and a lot of the humor comes from playing with stereotypes and breaking them (Simone, for example, is a succubus who has no idea how to properly seduce men). In my other titles, I always tried to make my female characters as much a part of their world as the males.

I think the only real female villain I've ever written is Sachiko in "Adrift", who actively tries to double-cross the protagonist in order to take over his position of power, and her motivation is that she feels she herself has deserved to be in this position. And she's not even wrong about this - by all means, she should be in his position were it not for the judgment of an uncaring machine making a decision strictly on fixed guidelines. Still, her role in the story is to be an obstacle to the protagonist's goals. I just thought she'd be an interesting obstacle, that's why I wrote her like this.

Really, I still don't quite get what I'm doing wrong.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#19 Post by MapleWizen » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:28 pm

OP, write whatever the hell you want to write, even if it offends people.

Whoever sent that email was projecting. A lot. Which says more about them than anything else.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#20 Post by maricon » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:44 pm

Really, I still don't quite get what I'm doing wrong.
Maybe the answer is "nothing"? We're talking about one offended person finding some fault in your games. You can of course do anything in your power to improve your writing, and use the advice made by people in this thread. But if what you are trying to do here is figure out what is wrong, well - perhaps take it under consideration that nothing is and that people simply vary in opinion.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#21 Post by Mad Harlequin » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:45 pm

ThisIsNoName wrote:I just wanted to point out that the Bechdel test is just having one conversation between two women without any mention of a man, instead of going the whole story without talking about men in general. The way that you worded it would be almost impossible to pass unless there weren't any male characters. :shock:
My wording was poor, but yes, I do know what the Bechdel test is. I was just giving a suggestion as to how one could definitely pass it (no talk about men ----> forced to converse about other subjects).

But as other people have said, Taleweaver, I wouldn't be too concerned about one e-mail. You've already admitted you've never really considered the viewpoint of female characters before. Once you start doing that, I don't think it'll be too difficult for you to keep it up.

And it's so true that one female character's experience is not representative of women as a group---no more than an individual male character's is representative of all men. So cheer up. I think you'll be okay!
Last edited by Mad Harlequin on Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#22 Post by Green Glasses Girl » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:49 pm

Taleweaver wrote:Inserting female-to-female conversations in my games ("pass the Bechdel test") is certainly possible and not hard: either by making the protagonist a woman herself, or by having a male protagonist listen in on the conversation of two women. But wouldn't the latter be objectionable too? (Unless it's somehow asexual in the context of the story, like a male spy listening in on the tactical plannings of two female military officers.) I find the Bechdel test less appropriate in the contect of a narrative with only one viewpoint, as most VNs are.
This is a good point. I can't find the essay, but someone compiled a list of movies that came out in 2013 that passed the Bechdel Test BUT still had poorly written female characters. For example, one of the movies (a romantic comedy if I remember correctly) had a short scene where two of the female characters gushed about their love for a particular recipe. Which is perfectly fine, but the two females in question only had roles in the film that revolved around the male character they were smitten with and the wacky hijinks involving him. The film passed the Bechdel Test with flying colors, but didn't leave anything else to offer for the characters.

I'll echo what a few others have said: write what you want, and then ask for feedback. There isn't a "right way" to write a character, although asking for critique and learning about other experiences will add some more in-depth and realistic characters to write about. But whatever you do, don't put limitations on your writing!
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#23 Post by Caveat Lector » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:54 pm

Taleweaver wrote:"The Dreaming", by the way, hasn't been mentioned in the mail I received, which means that either the person who wrote the mail didn't play it or didn't find it as offensive as the other titles. Did I do anything differently in the description of Gabrielle that makes her a more well-rounded, more acceptable character than the others?
It's been a while since I've played through The Dreaming, but from what I recall, Gabrielle was presented as someone who was defined by their interests, their likes, and their passions, as well her relationship to others. That's pretty much what you should be going for in future works.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#24 Post by papillon » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:55 pm

There is no way you can write that will avoid being offensive to everyone. None at all. Having female beta readers will not 'protect' you, because women are different and they'll strongly disagree on things. That does not mean do nothing. That does mean that we can't judge ourselves as successes or failures based on whether or not we ever got an angry email. In general if you never get an angry email about something you wrote, that means either people can't find your email address or not a lot of people read it. :)

What you can do is try to be mindful of what you're writing. Learn to recognise your own unconscious tropes and biases (we all have them!) and if you don't like what they say about you, try experimenting with subversions and aversions of them.

For arbitrary example, let's say you get an angry email from a reader pointing out that your works are extremely heteronormative because it's all male-female romance all the time. Does that mean you have to drop everything and write gay love? No, not if you don't want to. Try these steps:

1. Evaluate whether the complaint is true

Sometimes, the angry reader is just completely wrong. Your games may contain plenty of non-het comment that they just didn't notice. Maybe they only read the description and didn't play the game. Maybe they missed the point drastically.

2. Decide whether the complaint is relevant

Okay, so maybe it's true that all your games are hetero-centered. Do you care? If you're intentionally writing het romance, you may indeed not care. You don't have to change just because someone doesn't approve, if you're happy with what you're writing and why you're writing it. If, on the other hand, you didn't really mean to make all your games het and hadn't noticed until it was pointed out, your reaction may be very different.

3. Decide how to address the individual's complaint

This is a toughie because depending on the angry person sometimes writing back to them will lead you into an escalating shitstorm. However, if there was a simple misunderstanding, then you might be able to explain. But don't tell them that you'll try to "do better" in the future if you think they're full of shit or if you're really not interested in changing the way they think you should change. If they seem relatively non-insane you might be able to thank them for their input and point them in the direction of other works by other people that you think will suit their taste better.

4. If relevant, consider change

Getting lots of angry emails about lack of non-het content in games that DO contain non-het content? Maybe you want to consider making it more obvious or easier to find. It could be a marketing problem. Feeling bad because you've never written any non-het content? Maybe you want to consider adding some in the future.


... Okay, rant off, back to the original question.

You don't need to make all your female characters into STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMEN or GIRL ROLE MODELS. Having women be all good can be just as bad as having them be all bad. Having them be all anything will always invite complaint. It is helpful, in a large cast, to try and ensure you have at least two of a category and that they have contrasting traits. This mitigates a lot of unconscious feeling of "you're saying that all X are like this!"

There are very few traits that I can say will really make a female character great or that will make her terrible (*whinyness* is a thing that is very unpopular with players/readers, even if it's justified in the circumstances, but even whiny crybabies can find some fans if written well). Mostly, having multiple women, having them be different from each other, having them have their own goals/motivations which allow them to have a conversation that doesn't revolve around men... :)

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#25 Post by Applegate » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:13 pm

Really, I still don't quite get what I'm doing wrong.
"Nothing" is a possible answer. The problem with feminism is that there are some extreme parties who invalidate any dissenting opinion with "privilege", and who cry "misogyny" at every step when a man says anything; misandry seems to run strong in those kind of topics. However, like all extreme views, it's impossible to placate them and trying is an exercise in futility.

What appears to be the issue is that you use women in your VNs, and someone doesn't quite agree with their portrayal. That's all right; you're never going to please everyone. If you're concerned your females are badly written, try genderbending them. If a female character holds up fine as a (non-queer) male, then she has adequate personality beside feminine traits to stand on her own as a well-rounded character. If you can genderbend a man into a woman without her seeming like a total dyke, you've also not written a stereotypical male.

I'd use that little exercise to detect any females in your writing that seem too feminine/stereotypical female, but not worry overly hard about criticism regarding misogyny or the like. When someone criticises you or your work on the basis that "you are a man", then it's time to stop listening to that person.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#26 Post by gekiganwing » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:14 pm

Taleweaver wrote: About "write women the same way you write men" - I thought I already did that in most cases. I think the only game in which I deliberately didn't do that was in "Daemonophilia", which I wrote as a raunchy sitcom, and a lot of the humor comes from playing with stereotypes and breaking them (Simone, for example, is a succubus who has no idea how to properly seduce men). In my other titles, I always tried to make my female characters as much a part of their world as the males.
I read Daemonophilia a while back and really enjoyed it. Re-reading your comment reminded me of things that I liked about it.
MapleWizen wrote: OP, write whatever the hell you want to write, even if it offends people. Whoever sent that email was projecting. A lot. Which says more about them than anything else.
Something I learned in higher education -- and that I should have realized years earlier: Everything is offensive. It's impossible to write fiction without drawing ire. Even the most innocent story about puppies and clouds.

In my opinion, it's pretty ridiculous to get angry about fiction. Especially if the story is available for free. Sure, I can pay up to $60 US for a new video game and not enjoy the experience. However, I was not forced to play it, and it is certainly not the only game that is available. Sure, I can invest a lot of time reading prose novels, get frustrated waiting years for it to be finished, and get disappointed if the ending doesn't live up to my expectations. As I just said, I didn't have to read them, and there's plenty of other books available... plus it's very likely that I did not pay much for the books.

A couple other things to keep in mind...

1. The rule of Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes: unless you only get one review, there is no way to get perfect reviews. The more people who look at your work of fiction, the more likely you are to get harsh criticism. I remember how there were just a few professionals who gave negative reviews to The Dark Knight and Toy Story 3 on their initial release. Their writings drew a lot of anger from fans, but that's another topic.

2. Not every response is worth reading. There was that one professional writer who called Friendship is Magic "homophobic, racist, smart-shaping" in a headline after maybe *two* episodes. If you ask me, their article might have just been flamebait. Perhaps they had genuine criticism to offer, but it gives the impression that the person was looking at isolated lines of dialogue, and then singling them out as things to incite anger in their audience.

3. I don't know if the person who sent the private message was hiding being an alias, or trying to remain anonymous. Having said that, I know that a normal person who has anonymity (complete with no worries about getting in trouble in real life), a message, and an audience can become a complete jerk online. This is said better in the TVTropes article GIFT... which is not safe for work.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#27 Post by Caveat Lector » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:18 pm

Applegate wrote:The problem with feminism is that there are some extreme parties who invalidate any dissenting opinion with "privilege", and who cry "misogyny" at every step when a man says anything; misandry seems to run strong in those kind of topics. However, like all extreme views, it's impossible to placate them and trying is an exercise in futility.
Getting slightly off-topic, but I think you might want to take the time to actually read this: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com ... q-roundup/

And watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE
gekiganwing wrote:3. I don't know if the person who sent the private message was hiding being an alias, or trying to remain anonymous. Having said that, I know that a normal person who has anonymity (complete with no worries about getting in trouble in real life), a message, and an audience can become a complete jerk online. This is said better in the TVTropes article GIFT... which is not safe for work.
I thought I made it clear on the previous page that I was the one who sent the PM? :?
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#28 Post by papillon » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:24 pm

You don't expect everyone to actually read the posts before wading in, do you? :)

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#29 Post by Caveat Lector » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:26 pm

Well, you said it, not me! :lol:
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#30 Post by papillon » Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:27 pm

Well, I know that if I mostly want to reply to the OP I can end up skimming pretty fast through the rest of it myself...

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