Hey nerds! Erica Kudisch here promoting my novel DON’T FEED THE TROLLS, a genderqueer romp through internet drama. And if you keep up with the blog tour and its bonus DLC, there’s a $50 prize package achievement for you to unlock. Have fun!
More Than Character Models: ways the video game industry could be less gender-essentialist
I’ve been a gamer, mostly console, for nearly all my life. Plenty of people have already expounded on the issues that the gaming industry has with its treatment of female characters, amounting mostly to various forms of objectification or complete erasure. But many of these thinkpieces treat gender as a binary, with cis male and cis female as the only options for character creation.
To be fair, hardware limitations account for a lack of nuance. Video games require extensive programming, and the main character often has a prescribed gender and character model–Lara Croft, for instance–or a limited set of models and customizable skins–as in Mass Effect, where you can play either an assumed-male or assumed-female version of Commander Shepard. Some games spread the choices out even farther, once you’ve chosen your starting race or class, but I have yet to encounter a game that has such customizable options where genders other than male and female are available. Echo Bazaar allows for you to play “a person of mysterious and indistinct gender”, but has still character portraits instead of animated character models, which are much less expensive to create.
Said character models are not nearly as expensive as Ubisoft made them out to be in its recent kerfluffle about how “women are hard to animate” pertaining to their Assassin’s Creed franchise. But that assumption is predicated on the idea that there are fundamental anatomical differences between male and female bodies. Which is much more complex than “women are hard to animate”.
More prominent critics than I have extensively discussed the myriad issues with objectifying women in games. So, rather than go on about the flaws, I want to use this space to offer suggestions for game designers to break away from the dominant gender-essential modes of character design.
- Go back to gaming’s roots. In the earliest games, even if a character had a gender, programming and graphical limitations meant that all characters moved more or less the same and have capabilities not tied to gender. The From Software games do this exceptionally well: while there are still only two options for gender at character creation, everyone can wear the same armor and use the same items, and all player characters have indistinguishable animations and voice acting. It wouldn’t be so hard to just not have gender be a criteria in the character design, since it’s not written into NPC dialog either.
- More non-gendered or gender-unspecified characters in general would be excellent. Undertale takes advantage of its silent protagonist, the Fallen Child, but there are dozens of other opportunities to just not give a damn about your avatar’s gender.
- Cheap option: have walk animation be customizable! As long as you have options for gender at character creation, and can select face, body, voice, and costume options, why not offer a selection of walk and gesture packages.
- Hire more diverse animation models. We have the tech to turn Lupita Nyong’o into Maz Kanata: use it.
Title: Don’t Feed the Trolls by Erica Kudisch
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Lesbian, Genderqueer, Romance
Length: 230 pages/Word Count: 55,000
Gaming while female is enough to incur the wrath of the dude-bros, and they’ve come for me. Instead of fighting back, I’ve created an alternate account. Male name, male pronouns. And I’ve met this girl. I’ve always liked girls, and Laura’s adorable and smart and never gives up, and she likes me back. Or rather, she likes the man I’m pretending to be. But I can’t tell her I’m a woman without the mob coming after her too.
And besides: I might not be a woman, not really.
The truth is, I don’t know what I am anymore. I’ve spent my whole life being told how I’m supposed to act and what I’m supposed to be, but none of it feels right. And my lie is starting to feel truer than anything I’ve ever been.
There’s a convention coming up, but the closer it gets, the more I have to choose: lie or fight. But if I don’t stand my ground as a girl, am I letting the haters win?
Then again, those aren’t the only two ways to live.
Add to Goodreads.
Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing
Erica Kudisch lives, writes, sings, and often trips over things in New York City. When not in pursuit of about five different creative vocations, none of which pay her nearly enough, you can usually find her pontificating about dead gay video games, shopping for thigh-high socks, and making her beleaguered characters wait forty thousand words before they get in the sack.
In addition to publishing novellas and short stories as fantastika-focused alter-ego Kaye Chazan (What Aelister Found Here and The Ashkenazi Candidate, both available at Candlemark & Gleam) Erica is responsible for the BDSM musical Dogboy & Justine, and serves as creative director and co-founder of Treble Entendre Productions.
She also has issues with authority. And curses too fu*king much.
To celebrate the release of Don’t Feed the Trolls, one lucky winner will receive a $30 Riptide credit and a $20 Steam gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 8, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!