How can I stop making sexist games?

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#46 Post by Anne » Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:28 pm

Biomass wrote: but I think cutting out female traits altogether is the wrong approach.
And these are?

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#47 Post by Biomass » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:23 am

Anne wrote:
Biomass wrote: but I think cutting out female traits altogether is the wrong approach.
And these are?
Are we ignoring biology? Or that many social customs and norms are dependent on gender? Or that men and women approach problems and situations in different ways, or that certain options that are available to one gender aren't available to another?

Can we simply not write about them? Sure... but I think that makes for blander work overall.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#48 Post by xiaomao » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:40 am

Biomass, I know I don't speak for everyone, but personally I've *never* seen a game, movie, book, or comic that cut out all of the things you just mentioned. I mean, tbh, if you can think of one of these "blander works" that do that...please tell me! I would love to see it.

In my experience it's usually the opposite problem. Me, my female friends and family members all have tons of interesting traits and life experiences that I've never seen represented anywhere, in any medium.

I'm not sure if this is or isn't what you meant to say.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#49 Post by papillon » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:42 am

Biomass wrote:
Anne wrote:
Biomass wrote: but I think cutting out female traits altogether is the wrong approach.
And these are?
Are we ignoring biology? Or that many social customs and norms are dependent on gender? Or that men and women approach problems and situations in different ways, or that certain options that are available to one gender aren't available to another?

Can we simply not write about them? Sure... but I think that makes for blander work overall.
Sorry, you're still not explaining. Which traits are you talking about?

The average man and the average woman are different in a wide variety of ways that don't necessarily apply to every single man or woman. If everyone only acts in complete accordance with stereotype, that also makes a fairly bland story.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#50 Post by E-night » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:11 am

Biomass wrote:
Anne wrote:
Biomass wrote: but I think cutting out female traits altogether is the wrong approach.
And these are?
Are we ignoring biology? Or that many social customs and norms are dependent on gender? Or that men and women approach problems and situations in different ways, or that certain options that are available to one gender aren't available to another?

Can we simply not write about them? Sure... but I think that makes for blander work overall.
But that are no traits that every woman (or man for that matter) have or lack. Stories are not written 'on the average' even if they describe the most avarage perosn on earth. Not even biologi, because body functions and body parts can be lacking/missing and that makes the person no less a women.
'
And even if we deal with a made up culture (or any other culture) there will be women who conforms and who is against the culture because that is how humans works.

Stories are about individuals and thus there are no traits that are universal, and even if there were, if those traits have nothing to add the to the story and character they should not be in the story.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#51 Post by Taleweaver » Tue Sep 23, 2014 2:55 am

Oof. I'm still trying to sift through all that advice, so bear with me if I still need a little time to get it all ordered in a way my mind can process it.

A few things that stuck out to me, right now:

Some of you have recommended making the Bechdel test as one way (though not the only one) of checking the role my female characters are playing. Personally, for VNs without a female protagonist, I think I'd only pass the test by specifically inserting scenes MEANT to pass that test - i.e. scenes where the male protagonist is listening in on conversations of female characters, which, frankly, don't come naturally to me in most of my games. Thus, my question: For the definition of female characters, is it important to show them in conversations with other female characters, onscreen? I could easily imply two women having spoken to one another, offscreen, but as I understand it, that wouldn't be enough, right?

Apparently, quite a few of my female characters come across as being defined by their relations to other men - that seems to be the biggest problem with my characters so far, and I can see how someone would get that idea. Still, a few of them I wrote with the intention in mind that they were struggling for their position in a world dominated by men, such as Gabrielle (The Dreaming), Sachiko (Adrift), and even Astelli (The Thirteenth Year) if you choose to give her a female identity. All of these cases can be easily seen as "a woman is only defined by the male role models she wishes to live up to". So the question would be: How do I define this kind of woman without either making her a feminist caricature or showing how she is motivated by proving her worth to a dominantly male world?

More questions probably coming as soon as I've been able to put them in words.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#52 Post by papillon » Tue Sep 23, 2014 3:40 am

I could easily imply two women having spoken to one another, offscreen, but as I understand it, that wouldn't be enough, right?
It wouldn't pass the traditional movie bechdel test, but this isn't a movie. Simply paying attention to their motivations and relationships off-screen (and making sure that they would be ABLE to talk about something other than how hot ThePlayboy is) is already a big start in making sure that characters don't just exist to be "the love interest".
All of these cases can be easily seen as "a woman is only defined by the male role models she wishes to live up to". So the question would be: How do I define this kind of woman without either making her a feminist caricature or showing how she is motivated by proving her worth to a dominantly male world?
Well, there are many ways of looking at this. One is that some people are tired of reading the story of the Exceptional Woman who struggles for approval in a Male Dominated World. :) If you keep telling that story over and over again, maybe you're telling that story too much? Maybe not all your worlds have to be male-dominated?

It's not that it's a bad story arc, but it can get old. Prevalence matters when evaluating tropes.

Even in a world that has more men in power, surely your female character is not the only female character ever to have broken the mold. She can still have female role models. (Not referring to any specific game here, just talking about characters in general.) She could have female relatives who took up jobs during The War when men were few and far between.

Primary motivations don't always have to be about role models, either. She could be motivated to avenge the death of her mother, or to find the crook who robbed her sister's hair salon.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#53 Post by E-night » Tue Sep 23, 2014 3:46 am

Taleweaver wrote:Oof. I'm still trying to sift through all that advice, so bear with me if I still need a little time to get it all ordered in a way my mind can process it.

A few things that stuck out to me, right now:

Some of you have recommended making the Bechdel test as one way (though not the only one) of checking the role my female characters are playing. Personally, for VNs without a female protagonist, I think I'd only pass the test by specifically inserting scenes MEANT to pass that test - i.e. scenes where the male protagonist is listening in on conversations of female characters, which, frankly, don't come naturally to me in most of my games. Thus, my question: For the definition of female characters, is it important to show them in conversations with other female characters, onscreen? I could easily imply two women having spoken to one another, offscreen, but as I understand it, that wouldn't be enough, right?.
You don't actually have to pass the Bechdel test what is important is that the female characters are not defined by the male characters alone and the test is a good warning sign, nothing more.
But I have to ask does your npc never have conversation amongst themselves? Say your have a team of two women and two men (one of the men being the protagonist) and they have to solve some kind of crisis. Does the group never discuss the crisis together?

The Bechdel test have never demanded that the woman talk to each other with no man present (espicially hard in a first person vn with a male protagonist). Simply that they all their interaction does not center around men.

Taleweaver wrote:
Apparently, quite a few of my female characters come across as being defined by their relations to other men - that seems to be the biggest problem with my characters so far, and I can see how someone would get that idea. Still, a few of them I wrote with the intention in mind that they were struggling for their position in a world dominated by men, such as Gabrielle (The Dreaming), Sachiko (Adrift), and even Astelli (The Thirteenth Year) if you choose to give her a female identity. All of these cases can be easily seen as "a woman is only defined by the male role models she wishes to live up to". So the question would be: How do I define this kind of woman without either making her a feminist caricature or showing how she is motivated by proving her worth to a dominantly male world?

More questions probably coming as soon as I've been able to put them in words.
Make her a well rounded, interesting character. It's the only way, and make sure that you don't accidentially validate the sexism.

For example if the argument is that women are too emotional, then you can't make her mess up due to anger or not being able to immediatly cope with grief - at least no without make it very clear that her male peers handle it much worse (and yes I mean worse) than her. It's is not fair (because most people are emotional) and not even good writing, but if you don't, you will have created a subtext where someone can legitimately look at your work and point out that the sexist had a point.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#54 Post by Biomass » Tue Sep 23, 2014 3:50 am

E-night wrote:
But that are no traits that every woman (or man for that matter) have or lack. Stories are not written 'on the average' even if they describe the most avarage perosn on earth. Not even biologi, because body functions and body parts can be lacking/missing and that makes the person no less a women.
'
And even if we deal with a made up culture (or any other culture) there will be women who conforms and who is against the culture because that is how humans works.

Stories are about individuals and thus there are no traits that are universal, and even if there were, if those traits have nothing to add the to the story and character they should not be in the story.
I was writing a reply to the posts above you, but you seem to be more on my wavelength so I'll answer you instead and hope the other two read this. We (meaning, me and you) sort of agree.

Individuals are not completely 100% unique. This point is important. People are by and large very similar and a number of differentiating traits is what makes you an individual. You could say that stories depend on these differences to make things interesting, but at the same time the traits we share are also important. For instance, I could read a story about an Estonian man's fight against injustice in his home country using superpowers bestowed on him by aliens. As a reader I can form a quick picture of the character from "Estonian man" and then the writer makes him more interesting with the superpowers and aliens. Combining many traits forms a very specific individual.

Gender is just another one of these traits. I think shying away from using it makes your character more vaguely defined. Certainly you can write a story where it really doesn't matter if the character is male or female (off the top of my head, a lot of Asimov's work is like this), but cutting gender out of writing is like throwing away a useful tool. Just because you don't need it all the time doesn't mean you won't want to use it sometimes.

From Anne's tone, I assume there was some offense from my suggestion that there are things such as "female traits". On average, I would say there are and that they are certainly not universal to all girls everywhere and vary from culture to culture. Maybe I should change it to "feminine traits of a particular culture"? It was never explained to me why physiological differences don't count.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#55 Post by papillon » Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:24 am

Biomass wrote: Gender is just another one of these traits. I think shying away from using it makes your character more vaguely defined. Certainly you can write a story where it really doesn't matter if the character is male or female (off the top of my head, a lot of Asimov's work is like this), but cutting gender out of writing is like throwing away a useful tool. Just because you don't need it all the time doesn't mean you won't want to use it sometimes.

From Anne's tone, I assume there was some offense from my suggestion that there are things such as "female traits". On average, I would say there are and that they are certainly not universal to all girls everywhere and vary from culture to culture. Maybe I should change it to "feminine traits of a particular culture"? It was never explained to me why physiological differences don't count.
I can't tell if you think we secretly know exactly what you mean and are just toying with you or what.

I'm not asking questions because I'm offended by your comments, I really can't tell what, exactly, you think it is that people are trying to remove and shouldn't. The only people talking about writing games with sexless robots are those saying it sarcastically, as far as I can tell?

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#56 Post by xiaomao » Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:35 am

Taleweaver, it's so great that you're thinking hard about this. It makes me really happy.
Taleweaver wrote:I could easily imply two women having spoken to one another, offscreen, but as I understand it, that wouldn't be enough, right?
That raises an interesting point about what's "enough," which will inevitably require a personal answer for each individual.

For me, the goal with my female characters is to write people that I, personally, would want to identify with, especially when I was a teenager. The reason for this is because when I was growing up, I could not relate to any fictional female characters at all, and so I only identified with male characters for the first 20 years of my life. Then in the past few years I started to realize how massively disconnected I was from my own sex, and think about how I, as a creator, could do my part to help curb this effect on the next generation of girls. As such, I have a very particular idea of the kind of female characters I want to write about, mainly traits that I have that I never, ever saw represented in fiction, traits that were always coded as male and never female. I'll know I've done "enough" when girls come to me to tell me they really identify with my characters.

As a man, you will likely have different reasons for wanting to deepen your female characters. Your reasons will give you a goal and let you know what's "enough". Maybe you have some important women in your life whom you're inspired by and want to impart some of their essence into your games. That sort of thing. Some guys say they want to make art that they feel proud to give their daughters, but maybe that's not a great motive for a hentai game >u<

Anyway, tl:dr, identifying your personal reasons will let you know if you're on the right track to meeting your goals.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#57 Post by Taleweaver » Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:43 am

xiaomao wrote:Anyway, tl:dr, identifying your personal reasons will let you know if you're on the right track to meeting your goals.
My personal reasons are easily defined:

"I write because I want to entertain people in as many different ways as possible."

Does this help?
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#58 Post by sasquatchii » Tue Sep 23, 2014 7:30 am

Caveat Lector wrote:So if something isn't sexist to you, then it's not sexist? :? Really, I think a discussion like this is actually quite beneficial for a lot of gamers. I see no merit in belittling those who are bothered by sexism in games and just want to have an honest, open discussion. That's not "bitching and moaning and crying".
I wasn't attacking you or anyone on this forum. I adore the community here. I get excited about new visual novels being made. I just feel like gamers sometimes sometimes take things to an extreme (again, didn't mean YOU specifically, but people in general) and are overly pessimistic, complaining about problems with games they haven't even played, discouraging others from playing it, and the game isn't even out yet. What happened to the fun of gaming? The excitement and anticipation of spending time in a new adventure? Where did it all go, and when did we become this bunch who seems to hate everything about their own hobby?

To me, it's unfair to badger the creators of these games, even if we disagree with them. But open honest discussion (such as this thread) is awesome!

And OF COURSE sexism exists in games. It sucks. But I also think that if people want to create those types of games (or any games with offensive/controversial subject matter), then I'm okay with it, because I believe in freedom of speech/expression. Just because I disagree with you about RID doesn't mean I'm trying to invalidate your opinion. In a perfect world, there would be no sexism. My point being, what's complaining going to do about it? A better way to spark change is through transparent, rational discussion. Or by creating your own games with the types of characters you want to see. You can also boycott games you don't like, and tell your friends not to buy/play them either.
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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#59 Post by Aviala » Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:22 am

As some people here have said already, I think one of the most important things in making non-sexist games is having a wide variety of female characters. Many games (and movies) only have one female character in the main cast so the one woman has to kind of portray ALL women at the same time, which is obviously not a very good solution. How could one character portray half of all humanity?

Having a 1:1 ratio of men and women is an excellent start but I'd also like to see more variety amongst the females. Somebody said that it'd be great to see more old women in games, and I agree. Men are often given more diverse roles in fiction; for example men are allowed to be old, ugly, weird or nerdy while women are not (at least not very often). Women are people too, and people are surprisingly diverse.

Another point I'd like to address is how fiction often pits women against each other. Other women are seen as competitors and enemies (in love, looks, life in general). I'd like to see women in situations where they cooperate, work together and support each other.

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Re: How can I stop making sexist games?

#60 Post by Gabylc » Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:40 am

sasquatchii > Yeah, I'm all for letting people enjoy what they enjoy and create what they want to, and eventually letting people criticize when they feel the need to, as long as everyone respect each other, but here the op explicitly asked for advice to make his game more inclusive. That's not mandatory, but if someone ask for help in this area, I won't discourage them ;)

So, let's be practical. As I said earlier, I didn't play Taleweaver game so I'll make a random example on "how to make a better game without objectifying women?" (remember, that's just tips and not absolute formula).

Basis: a person can be considered as an object OR as a subject. Objectifying is kinda degrading, so you want to make your character a subject that means a character who can stand on his own and isn't a simple plot device. That's a bit complicated because character are, indeed, objects, they're not real persons, that's a illusion you're trying to create. And how do you know a character became a subject rather than an object? It got agency: in sociology and philosophy, agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general, or soul-consciousness in religion) to act in a world (wikipedia definition). It can act upon stuff to change the world around itself rather than being acted upon. Yeah, that's basic character construction regardless of its gender, but it's a bit more tricky for female characters as female people are often objectified by today's culture. I will not turn this on a long educational feminist post but if you want there is a lot of blogs around the internet giving examples of that.

Now let's see how we can transform a plot to make it less objectifying :
After her father's retirement, sheltered Female MC became CEO of his company and try to live up to his standards. Everything get more complicated when a young (and handsome) self-made-man come into town and start a rival company. Will the MC manage to keep her business running and get into Mr Hottie pants by impressing him?

At first, it seems great: yeah, a female MC who is a CEO! Awesome, business women need more representation etc. Except it's terrible, let me explain why: all other characters are male. Even worse, they're 100% shaping our MC. She didn't do anything by herself as her father did everything, she's constructed in opposition with the rival/love interest (sheltered / self-made-man) and her only goals are directed toward men (impressing her father / Mr Hottie). As she's totally flat and without will of her own, the male rival also seems more likable. So, how do we improve that?

First, try making a 1:1 ratio concerning characters. We have 2 important male characters, let's create 2 important female characters to interact with our MC! Give a voice to her mother for example (yeah, don't make her dead, this trope is lazy and overused): she was smart and dedicated and gave many ideas to her husband concerning his business, but was to shy to ever claim recognition over her hard-work, so she staid in his husband's shadow all her professional life. Let's also throw a female bank manager that our MC have to work with to get credits to get her business running.

Yeah, that's better, now we have a more inclusive cast! Female players won't feel limited to a unique model to identify themselves and you don't give the idea that you're default character is male and you only make them female when you need them for fanservice / reproduction. Also, female characters got essential roles that can't be removed without weakening the plot (like I said in my first message).

We still have problems regarding MC motivations tho. Let's try to balance her relationship with her father: she admires him, yes, but she also suffered to see her mother being left behind because he was to egocentric to share the spotlights, so she's decided to run the business differently to give more voice to talented people working for her. Concerning her bank manager, she needs her trust (and maybe affection) so she will be supportive when MC will launch more ambitious project.

Good, now she's not only an object for men, but also for women... Hm, we can do better by giving her some agency and self-motivation!

She really love her CEO job not only because she can “avenge” her mother and impress her father, but also because she loves using her mind to solve problems quickly and thinking outside of the box. She also finds it rewarding to see her idea become concrete stuff and having the opportunity to make the world a better place by creating useful and meaningful products. As a perfect character is boring, she's also a bit naive and over optimistic, allowing people (both male and female) to abuse her. Then, we can show some character development: being in charge gives her confidence about herself so she can be more assertive when challenged.

That's what I meant in my first message when I said “what can you say about your character without referring to a male character?” Here we got a whole paragraph of her own, internal personalities, goals and struggles.

To go further, you can also work on cliche concerning the MC and Mr Hottie. Too often, it's a one way road: i.e Mr Hottie will show sheltered MC how the real world works and she'll grow thanks to him, ultimately growing worthy of his sexual interest. Let's make it a 2 way road when they learn form each other, because the MC got her own interesting resources. Making a friendship route and/or a route focused of financial success that lead to good endings is another way to challenge overused tropes a little. One important point is to treat them equally, give them equivalent (not identical uh) flaws and qualities, love them both and players won't think “not another annoying female lead while the male rival is sooo much more interesting”. It's easier to get on this point if the world building and character building have been done correctly ;) Also, try to avoid most problematic tropes that will make the reader uncomfortable, like stalking, rape, physical and emotional abuse... Unless you're really confident about their relevance in your story.

Sorry for the wall of text, I hope it's helpful but I'm wondering if I didn't side-tracked a bit too much ^^' Of course if other want to point out stuff that can be improved, feel free to do so! I don't know, I felt like it was clearer with some kind of illustration ;_; At least you can see key points where, I think, your attention should be focused if your questioning sexism in the games you make.

As for examples of good VN with interesting female cast, I didn't play a lot of VN but Autumn’s Journey is a great example of fully fleshed out female lead, but maybe others can be more helpful.
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