Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adventures in Oz: An Inclusive RPG

While Heartbreak & Heroines seems to be cancelled, it has given us all some food for thought about the idea of inclusion in RPGs. Or at very least drawn attention to the fact that we're more exclusive than we think we are.

Like it or not, the typical gamer is male. So most of the marketing dollars spent in the RPG industry are reaching out to those men, playing on their desire to be badass fantasy heroes and be surrounded by nubile women. Although some of those nubile women are now fighting alongside the heroes rather than waiting to be rescued and claimed as a quest reward.

As soon as I set about writing an Oz RPG, I knew that I could not in good conscience cater specifically to this market. Because Oz really is a setting for everyone.

My first step came with the writing. While it is commonplace to use the pronoun "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun, I decided to avoid gendered language as much as possible. This does mean that "they" comes up a good bit. There are those who say that using "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun is bad grammar, which might be why I get a lot of knocks for my grammar in reviews. I only used gendered pronouns when I was referring to a specific, gendered character. (Chick the Cherub is going to get interesting when I do Beyond the Deadly Desert)

The next step was the art. While I did not make a point of asking for non-sexed-up art, I was very glad that I did not receive any. Many of the female Oz characters are frequently described as beautiful, but this is the sexiest piece of art I received. Notice that she is sexy without being sexed up. No revealing clothing. No distorted anatomy designed to show off T&A.


Nezumi said...

Lots of people say that using "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun is bad grammar. They're all wrong. It's been in use in this fashion in some capacity for centuries.

Nezumi said...

Ending a sentence with a preposition is another one people harp on that's not actually bad grammar at all. It was literally just made up by someone as what they thought proper English should look like, without actually reflecting how the language is used. It was already being strongly questioned by actual grammarians as far back as the 50s.

George Q said...

I think using they for general examples and then pulling out he/she for named examples is pretty sensible. That said, for all the fuss they get (including pre-book disclaimers and all that) I don't think pronoun use is really the key issue here.

If anything, the pre-book explanations of why the book uses he, she, it, they, zir or wibble almost always come across as a little pretentious to me. I'd rather they just did what they were gonna do.

The art is perhaps a more central issue, to me. As you say, there's nothing wrong with a sexy woman in your art - it's when we get to ridiculous cheesecake shot status that it all starts to fall apart, or when no woman in the game world seems to be anything other than 18 to 25 sexpots.

Oz is definitely a game world that's gender neutral. I think you have a lot of the heavy lifting in making it "woman-friendly" done already is you just stick to the tone and material therein.

George Q said...

Nezumi: Yeah, English has some rather odd "grammar rules" which aren't really rules at all and don't make sentences clearer. Split infinitives spring to mind here.

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