Jul 01

2010

Gender Politics Taste Like Chicken (or, Help Us Flavor the Next Choice of Game)

Posted by: Heather Albano | Comments (53)

Based on number of comments on this topic, clearly the next game should be Choice of Romance. 😛 – Jake Forbes

Yeah, the thought crossed our minds, too. The Great Villeneuve Debate, aka TGVN (thank you, Jake, for coining a term that will make me grin for the rest of my life) demonstrated among other things that there was room in the Choice of Games stable for something that relied more heavily on personal interactions and less heavily on hitting things with swords or crunching them with your dragon teeth. (Don’t worry, we haven’t given up on those games. We’ll be doing those, too.)

While I of course cannot comment on what we might be working on next, setting a romance plot in a world we built ourselves would remove many of the aforementioned constraints. It would be much easier to code said plot to work equally well for male-courting-female, male-courting-male, female-courting-male, and female-courting-female. – Me, on April 5th

Looking at our market research data confirmed the impression. I was genuinely surprised at the number of votes (via the blog and via the AdWords test) for Choice of the Consort. Okay then! Adam and I settled down to write a game based on the concept, “As a lovely young courtier who has caught the monarch’s eye, will you gain a crown or lose your head?”

Henry VIII’s love life provided a reasonable starting point for our research, since the six wives and three-at-least mistresses of that unstable ruler demonstrated a variety of paths a lovely young courtier might take to a monarch’s bed… and/or the throne… and/or the executioner’s block. We figured that if we could achieve something partway between a Tudor court intrigue and a drawing-room comedy of manners, we’d have the right atmosphere.

Except we also knew we wanted to set the story in a gender-equal world where it was equally possible and equally interesting to play male or female, straight or gay.

Which meant we had just deprived ourselves of all the usual building blocks of a Tudoresque court intrigue or an Austenesque comedy of manners.

A gender-equal world eliminates the tension around needing to have a male heir… the tension around a woman needing to marry at all. A gender-equal and same-sex-friendly world makes unusable the rituals of courtship that impart the flavor of a late medieval or early modern romance. How do the formalized roles of suitor and courted work now? What would make a relationship ‘scandalous’? How does a same-sex couple have a legal heir in a world without modern technology?

How do you impart the flavor without using any of the traditional ingredients?

It struck me as not unlike adapting traditional recipes for a vegetarian audience. After all, a lot of things taste like chicken. More to the point, a lot of things have the texture of chicken, serving just as well in the role of “protein thing that absorbs the flavors it is cooked with.” There need to be rules of courtship that the player can choose to obey or flout; there need to be obstacles to a happy union; there need to be markings other than gender that indicate who is the courted and who the suitor in any given encounter; there need to be constraints on what sort of person the monarch may take as a consort; none of these things need to match their counterparts of this world as long as they serve the purpose equally well.

So we went back to the very beginning, made the building blocks, and then used them to create an Austenesque romance within a Tudoresque court intrigue. Or, at least, we hope we did. The initial feedback is promising. In a about a month, we figure, you’ll be able to tell us if we pulled it off.

In the meantime, we could use your help! In Broadsides, if you recall, we were at a loss for titles in the gender-flipped universe. In the game-currently-known-as-Consort (we may change the working title before release) we’re struggling with the title for the monarch’s spouse. The monarch can be a reigning King or a reigning Queen, and his/her spouse can be male or female.

Help us title the spouse! Choices beneath the cut!

Here are the choices. Should we call the monarch’s spouse:

1) Prince/Princess Consort?

That makes the combinations:
King John and Princess Consort Mary
King John and Prince Consort Martin
Queen Mary and Prince Consort John
Queen Mary and Princess Consort Joan

2) King/Queen?

That makes the combinations
King John and Queen Mary
King John and King Martin
Queen Mary and King John
Queen Mary and Queen Joan

(I don’t like this one personally because I think you need a title distinguishing the person who rules from the person to whom the ruler is married.)

3) King Consort/Queen Consort?

That makes the combinations
King John and Queen Consort Mary
King John and King Consort Martin
Queen Mary and King Consort John
Queen Mary and Queen Consort Joan

4) The Consort?

That makes the combinations
King John and his Consort, Mary
King John and his Consort, Martin
Queen Mary and her Consort, John
Queen Mary and her Consort, Joan

(Possibly the best in terms of gender neutrality, but perhaps lacking in flavor? It would also mean that we have to change the game’s title, as the action does not follow the person who holds the title of Consort at game start.)

5) Something else entirely? Let us know what you think!

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