The Problem with Video Game Character Creators

For video games where you build your own character, why does it only give you the option of “male” or “female” to choose from?

The first character creator that stood out to me, honestly, was in My Sims, an adequate Wii game spin-off of The Sims. You create your character in it, but you don’t assign any gender – you have access to all options in the editor.  Of course, all the characters are chibi so there isn’t really a “body type” difference in the characters you see around town, so why bother having that constraint?

But what if more games did that? Even if you did have different body-types, why not have all the options available, and not have to assign a gender? The lead character is usually addressed by their name anyway, and the Singular They could be used when your character isn’t directly being addressed.

I’ve had some people just recently argue with me about how “Singular They” is an abomination to the English language and that they refuse to use it, however. (Really? English? English itself is an abomination…) So I have a different suggestion for your character creators to get around this.

Don’t assign gender to your character in a character-creator. Assign pronouns.

The programming is not going to be much different from switching between he/she in the dialogue. You could store variables to be swapped out based on the pronouns. (He Him His – She Her Hers – They Them Theirs – and so on).

But that doesn’t go far enough – since these values are going to be stored in variables anyway, why not allow the user to type in their own pronouns?  Just have them enter in the three-or-so variations of the pronoun that shows up in the given language.

pronounbox

Many games allow the user to type in their own name – so give it a try, let people enter their own pronouns. Let people choose any option in the character editor.

Update, February 19th

I recently watched a GiantBomb Quick Look for Sunless Sea, and during the character creation process, I saw that they ask the question, “What term of address do you prefer ashore?” with options like “Madam”, “Sir”, “Citizen”, and more, which is a nice, story-integrated way to deal with this.

address

You can check out Sunless Sea’s official webpage here.

Do you know any other games that do this?

1 Response

  1. Peter 2015-03-27 / 9:33 am

    I think you are right that gender selection is often unnecessary but in The Sims it made sense because only a man and a woman can produce offsprings. They could have made them hermaphrodites but it’s a bit unrealistic.

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