• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

PSA: The Gender Stuff

This is less of an update post and more of a PSA! Yeah, we’re working on some stuff we’ll hopefully have done before the end of October, but that’ll be a nice surprise for later. That being said, this is a game with several trans characters, and while we don’t expect people who play this game to know everything ever about trans experiences, there’s just a few things we’d like to note.

  • The primary audience, i.e. the kinds of people this game was made for, are people who are trans and want to see more games with trans characters. We didn't approach the writing thinking about whether or not cisgender folks would understand this aspect of the characters. If you felt that someone’s appearance did not match your expectations, that was something we didn’t feel the need to explain or justify.

    This is a game with trans characters, but it’s not a game that’s about being trans. There is conflict related to characters like Lana's gender, it’s just not the focus of the game.
  • The exact details of how Kozmin views her gender aren't explicitly laid out. She is androgynous, in that she uses she/her pronouns but male forms of dress and address (Mr., sir, etc.). If this was modern day Kozmin, she might identify herself as nonbinary, but Kozmin doesn't express herself using that language and nonbinary is an intentionally broad label for her. There's a lot of ways you could talk about her gender. However, she does clearly specify that she's not a woman. She’s also not a man.



    Alright, full disclosure: the conditional branch that leads to this specific response is bugged in the IGMC release! But it’s in there and that bug has since been fixed.


    It's not uncommon to see people use the pronoun "he" when they mean to be gender-neutral. When using "she" in reference to Kozmin, this is a similar idea. Even though she may be referred to as "Lana's sister", it's important to note that how someone is labeled by others does not describe how someone views themself. (For what it’s worth, when writing about the game we refer to Kozmin as “Lana’s sibling” and talk about “the Kozmin siblings”.) Kozmin is a fictional character, and we the creators are telling you she’s not a woman even though it might "seem" that way. Kozmin's gender is a way to present someone who is pretty masculine, while trying to avoid thinking of “androgynous” as inherently meaning “masculine”.

    If all of this is confusing to you, that's okay! This may legit be the first time you've heard about nonbinary people. Nonbinary is simply "not binary", as in not a binary gender. This means not thinking of gender as "male or female" (which is like a binary yes/no) and instead considering gender as a spectrum with many different possibilities. Here’s a starting point if you’re interested in learning more.


  • Mortimer is a woman; try not to get hung up on her name or whether or not she looks “masculine”. Yes, she’s a trans woman, but whatever reasoning you may have for thinking she looks masculine, I guarantee there are cisgender women with similar physical features or styles of dress. Women in pretty much any type of media are often portrayed in exaggerated ways, with a very narrow idea of what it is that makes someone a woman.


  • It’s not historically inaccurate to have trans characters. This is also not unrealistic, and definitely isn’t as unrealistic or historically inaccurate as things like chatting up ghosts.


This game has received a very positive response and much more attention than either of us expected! That is cool and great and wonderful. And even with regards to the trans characters, for the most part people have been cool about it and that’s lovely. As far as we’ve seen, there’s only been a couple instances of someone saying something cringeworthy. This is just to clear up some misconceptions we’ve seen floating around, as well as clarify for anyone who felt confused about things like Kozmin’s gender.

No funny pictures to close out this post, but as usual thanks for all the support and feedback! It’s being used to make this game even better.

Posts

Pages: 1
Thank you.

I didn't try to unpack any of the gender stuff in my review or afterward, since I wasn't sure if by talking about I'd be trespassing on something personal, but I'm really glad you posted this.
unity
You're magical to me.
12188
I am so happy to see more varied "gender stuff" in any media, so this is great! Kozmin is also just an awesome character in general :D

I would like to include trans characters in my future games, and I have an idea for a game where the plot revolves around someone who feels they were born into the wrong body, but I don't have personal experience with the subject and am a little scared of messing it up. Am I worrying too much? ^^;;
charblar
"wait you made this a career?"
3552
Hell yeah.

Edit: I know a lot of people who want to include representation are scared to do so because they don't want to screw it up. I'd be happy to look over anything people ever have about gender stuff as yeah it kinda is harder to do when your not in those peoples shoes
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5177
I was wondering what the heck was going on there.

I quickly just settled into, "Welp, if the game doesn't give a crap, neither do I!" :V
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7616
I'll admit I didn't think too much of their identities while playing (I noticed the conflicts, but I just accepted it without really thinking about it), so this has been an interesting read.

author=PentagonBuddy
If you felt that someone’s appearance did not match your expectations, that was something we didn’t feel the need to explain or justify.

Good call. Showing players that these are the kind of people the characters are without forcing it down their throats is (to me at least) the best way to be taken seriously, especially since that wasn't the focus of the game.
@kumada: It's totally fine with me, personally, if someone talks about this game and doesn't end up talking about anyone's gender or sexuality. If it feels outside of stuff you know about/want to comment about, hey that's fine! it happens

The other side of that is that it's hard to advertise to our intended audience if no one ever brings it up, but you shouldn't feel obligated to!

@unity: Like charblar, at least on RMN I'm willing to talk to ppl who want to represent a topic where I know stuff about it or could direct you to ppl who know BETTER stuff. I mean I'm not an authority on anything, I just know some stuff and stockpile resources for myself that sometimes help other people. (With the caveat of like, "please respect my time and ability to say 'no I'm good hearing about this'" but so far everyone I've talked to has been super respectful and rad.)

idk if you're worrying too much and I can't give you a blanket "yes that is good/bad" from a single comment, but if you ever wanna flesh out that idea you can shoot me a pm and I'll give you my 2 cents...plus i could potentially learn about a game i'd be interested in, so it works out!
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
26998
I personally absolutely loved this game...and gave it my vote on IGMC. As far as the gender goes, I understood fine. Mortimer, I did not notice, though. Honestly, it never occurred to me address the gender points this game brought up, in spite of the fact I noticed them and realized that you were trying to include characters the way they should be included in a story. I was really glad to see it and it helped give Kozmin's character an added depth.

People complain about the lack of people with different gender identities in film and story all the time, but while they may be right in many cases, I think they often forget that in real life, most people don't broadcast their gender identities. I liked the way you did this. You informed us that Kozmin was nonbinary without having him singing about it, but by simply having him ask people to respect his manner of addressing himself.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18752
I thought it was interesting to see a game addressing this stuff, and as a non-trans person I didn't see it as being overly forceful or hard to follow, or distracting in any way. As long as people are approaching the game with an open mind I think it works fine.
Firstly, I am still filled with warm fuzzies but the support in this thread. But I am also having mixed feelings: primarily, that I think the point of this post didn't really click for some folks. I just want to elaborate on one point that is troubling me.

SORRY PIANOTM you said the thing that I am going to pick on, but I promise it's only because you arranged words in such a way that they were easy to respond to. OTL

There are a few points to address, but the first one is p simple so I will start there:
author=pianotm
You informed us that Kozmin was nonbinary without having him singing about it, but by simply having him ask people to respect his manner of addressing himself.

Kozmin goes by she/her pronouns, like we mentioned. I can understand why some folks might find her gender expression to be confusing -- because, hey, compared to what most people are used to? It can seem confusing -- but it is very important to correctly gender trans folks, even if they are fictional. You might not understand why a person wants to be referred to in a certain way, but it’s still important to respect their identity.

Next is the slightly more complex one:
author=pianotm
People complain about the lack of people with different gender identities in film and story all the time, but while they may be right in many cases, I think they often forget that in real life, most people don't broadcast their gender identities.


Two points related to this blurb! First of all, I'm not sure where you got the idea that folks in this game don't broadcast their identities. Sure, while there are characters like Mortimer who are pretty subtle about it, there are also characters like Kozmin who are very overt about their genders. Kozmin's dress and her insistence of being referred to by masculine forms of address are absolutely, 100% in your face, and this was intentional.

I personally take issue with the notion that a good trans narrative is the most subtle one possible, since this is not always the case. The main reason there wasn't that much shouting from the rooftops about genders in this game is indeed because our intended audience was other trans folks! For the most part, other trans folks can look at characters in this game and pinpoint who experiences The Genders (and spoilers: there are more than the 3-4 that are obviously pointed out).

I guess, the sum-up for me is: if you are cis and enjoyed this game while not 100% understanding the trans aspect of it, that’s neato! I am glad you did. But we did not construct this game thinking of our cisgender audience and how they would react. We constructed this game based on what we, as trans folks, wanted to see in games, and that was “cool trans people doing cool fantasy things and hanging out with each other.” If more folks than the intended audience can get behind that, well, that’s gravy.
unity
You're magical to me.
12188
author=charblar
Edit: I know a lot of people who want to include representation are scared to do so because they don't want to screw it up. I'd be happy to look over anything people ever have about gender stuff as yeah it kinda is harder to do when your not in those peoples shoes

author=PentagonBuddy
@unity: Like charblar, at least on RMN I'm willing to talk to ppl who want to represent a topic where I know stuff about it or could direct you to ppl who know BETTER stuff. I mean I'm not an authority on anything, I just know some stuff and stockpile resources for myself that sometimes help other people. (With the caveat of like, "please respect my time and ability to say 'no I'm good hearing about this'" but so far everyone I've talked to has been super respectful and rad.)

idk if you're worrying too much and I can't give you a blanket "yes that is good/bad" from a single comment, but if you ever wanna flesh out that idea you can shoot me a pm and I'll give you my 2 cents...plus i could potentially learn about a game i'd be interested in, so it works out!

I'd definitely like to contact you both when the time comes (if that's cool). I know that it can be hard to make something that will please everyone, as each person has their own personal stories and preferences, but what I'd like at least is to avoid being blatantly offensive and insulting, given my lack of knowledge on the subject. Thanks a lot ^_^

author=emmych
I guess, the sum-up for me is: if you are cis and enjoyed this game while not 100% understanding the trans aspect of it, that’s neato! I am glad you did. But we did not construct this game thinking of our cisgender audience and how they would react. We constructed this game based on what we, as trans folks, wanted to see in games, and that was “cool trans people doing cool fantasy things and hanging out with each other.” If more folks than the intended audience can get behind that, well, that’s gravy.

That's why I love blogs like this. There is a whole other level that the game can be enjoyed on, and, it's really neat to have insights into that.
Most aspects of this theme in this game were pretty graceful (by which I do not necessarily mean subtle ;) ) so three thumbs up for that. There's saying something that matters, and there's saying it well, and thankfully you do both.

Concerning some of the comments, I'm a little sad that anyone should be scared of talking about anything, especially when they're trying to be positive. But of course, the "rules" are okay as a provisional thing - if they finally get us to the point where few enough people have been hurt intentionally that we stop needing protection from blunders, then incalculable good will have been achieved :)

Anyway, I just wanted to say to charblar and unity: even if you 'know' nothing, what you feel can always help someone somewhere who doesn't quite fit in other pictures, so don't suppress it altogether (as long as you're willing to apologize and adapt if, or hopefully before, offense happens).
Just like I'm thankful to emmych and pentagon, I'd be thankful for what you could have to say. At the core, no one is uniquely cis or trans or anything else, and no experience is irrelevant. We're just human and trying to make sense of it all.
Processing in game, just wanted to mention one confusing, only me I hope, thing.
Kozmin... is her/his father was named Aleksey? Because Nadia's patronymic here is Alexeievich, middle name (patronymic) is based on father's name and it's a bit wrong here, as she is still "she" based on her name Nadia, and it should be written as "Alekseyevna" or just like father's name "Aleksey"... well based on all russian correct language.
Just mentioned it.
@Dragol: the post above addresses everything you stated. Please read it again and check out the supplementary material we linked if you continue to have difficulty understanding.

This is not a matter of grammar, but of gender. Kozmin's name is correct. Using "his/her" is transphobic because we have explicitly stated what her pronouns are in the post above. Please refrain from doing this again in the future. If you are unable to respect this request, I would respectfully ask you do not comment on this page further.

Thank you for your understanding.
Ok, I was confused and didn't get it. Didn't know I offended you.
But... short name for Svetlana is Sveta, not Lana.
author=Dragol
Ok, I was confused and didn't get it. Didn't know I offended you.
But... short name for Svetlana is Sveta, not Lana.

Lana calls herself Lana because she feels "Svetlana" is too Russian of a name to fit in with American culture. The game is set in a time when Russian immigrants faced open discrimination in the US, so Lana chooses to adopt a more American identity to dodge some of this/make a fresh start in a new country after fleeing Russia after the revolution. Though you can't hear it, she also has an accent that she has worked very hard to conceal! It's another reason she hates having her sibling around, as Kozmin makes no effort to conceal her accent and is openly proud of her heritage, not considering herself an American at all. This outs Lana by association.

Kozmin actually calls her Sveta all throughout the game, because she, being her Russian sibling, knows the proper diminutive for Svetlana. This is a sticking point in their relationship because it is evidence of Kozmin choosing to live in the past/wishing she could return home, while Lana actually prefers being American, as she has had access to new opportunities and chances to shape her life they way she's always wanted to.

You probably wouldn't catch this nuance from the game page alone, so I'd recommend you play the game if you have any further questions! Hopefully the material will speak for itself, and if it doesn't, feel free to PM me with any plot/characterization gaps you think you've come across and I'll be sure to address them.
Thank you for explaining.
But I've already beat tutorial ghost and in bar, before written it all.
author=Dragol
Thank you for explaining.
But I've already beat tutorial ghost and in bar, before written it all.

Thankfully there are three whole chapters after the tutorial! Here's hoping you enjoy them.
Pages: 1