representation of women (was: IF Comp Predictions Thread

A few scattered thoughts:

I definitely agree with the idea that the Bechdel test is more applicable to populations of games (or to longer multi-character works, like TV series and movies) than to individual games. It’s when you have trouble finding anything where two women talk to each other that troubles me – and I don’t think the IFComp is really at that level.

But I disagree with the idea Wade stated, that “Outside arm bending is likely to lead to false writing,” or at least that this is completely relevant here. Observations like this can be a way for authors to get knocked out of their comfort zone, or think about things that may be missing in their writing, and that can be a good thing. I’ve at least once got an idea for some characters by thinking “What could I do that would pass the Bechdel test instead of being another thing about some guy’s Difficulties With Girls?” Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with writing about DWG per se, but it shouldn’t be everything anyone writes about (admittedly not so much a problem in IF), and if everyone isn’t going to write about it someone has to write about something else. Plus, new ideas for me!

On othering women: I think that’s part of it. But there’s one thing that Marco says too: If I write about a green orc, at least I’m not appropriating and misrepresenting the experience of orcs. A well-intentioned man might be concerned about that with women. But, but, there’s what Emily says that the worst portrayals come from men who don’t seem to be trying to get inside the character’s head at all. So maybe the moral is: try. And don’t think of women just purely in terms of the way they relate to men. Which may be a place where the Bechdel test is helpful. (My wife particularly complains about Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom; there’s a long section which consists of a woman’s autobiography which is all about basketball and her relationship with men, and she doesn’t seem to have any female friends.

Later it literally gets used as a prop in a dispute between the two male characters. )

And then there’s the thing Andrew said about drawing a triangle on a men’s room sign. I feel that sometimes, but also, if your main character is pretty generic, why can’t she be a generic woman? Part of this for me might be laziness about thinking outside my default assumptions that everyone is like me. This is even embodies in Inform 7 itself, where the PC is male by default. And sometimes as a player I assume a PC is male when there’s no indication, which is on me.

[There was a bunch of stuff about race here too, but I deleted it. IF protagonists: Also disproportionately white, much of the time!]

Yeah, but it’s much harder to figure out what “proportionate” would look like, here. IF isn’t the USA; it isn’t the Anglophone world; it isn’t the world.

(In mainstream videogames, the discussion tends to be about the disparity between developer and audience demographics – compared to videogame consumers, devs are heavily male, white and Asian. That’s not really an appropriate metric for IF, where authors and audience are largely the same people.)

Well, I don’t think there should be some quota that the demographics of IF characters should be exactly like the demographics of the audience, or of any other group. It’s just that it is striking how few black and Latino characters there are in the games, though no doubt I’m missing something. (I know about L.A.S.H. but haven’t played it.)

OK, here’s part of what I deleted: I personally write women characters all the time, but I feel some trepidation about writing black and Latino characters, because I fear coming across as the Condescending White Guy Explaining The Black/Latino Experience. But whitewashing my world doesn’t help either. I wonder whether something like this was involved J’dal – talking about racism against Drow gives you a way of talking about racism without necessarily appropriating the experience of an actually existing racial group. (But I have no way of knowing the author’s own race anyway.)