Fight for the glory of rome!

I’d like to bring a game to the general attention of anyone who’s still checking this board. Because, a) we need the activity!, and b) I just have to say this, and might as well say it here.

You’ll find the game at IFDB: It is a CYOA, by the good folks at ClickVenture. I have played very little of their games - I can’t download them, so I don’t bother - but I like the little I’ve seen. It’s silly in the right places, the humour tickles my fancy, and the pacing is quite tight.

The one thing that I’ve found distinguishes this game from others is that it tackles an issue that others have for a long time tried to tackle without, IMO, much success - the relevance of a character’s sexual orientation, or lack thereof.

Some games and gamemakers, chief amongst them “Choice Of”, delight in providing us with a myriad of choices regarding the player character. Male? Female? Trans? Genderqueer? Straight? Bi? Homosexual? I find this all quite silly, because I wouldn’t mind if I were playing an autistic african-american Chinese hermaphroditic midget from France. While those things are valuable in characterization, I find they are not more valuable than, say, a more detailed backstory. In fact, all these labels immediately start characterising the PC in stereotypes - aha, I’m playing a pre-op black trans, so I can immediately glean these traits from their personality. In an attempt to diversify, I find these multiple choices are artificial at best, and when they try to actually define the character they become the demeaning stereotypes they’re trying so hard to avoid.

“Glory of Rome” takes an amusing stab at this issue, one that I find much more effective than anything those other guys have made. It states, quite clearly, that your sexuality is totally irrelevant to the story. Then proceeds, without warning, to throw you into the arms of your gay lover. You have the chance to act surprised and indulge in a little dialog with the game at this point.

I think it’s normal to be surprised. There are norms and expectations that anyone has entering a work of fiction. One of those expectations is that, for instance, the character is neurotypical and heterosexual unless stated otherwise.

This game, not too subtly, brings up the question: why?

Why would I be so taken aback when it turned out my character was homosexual? Because I wasn’t expecting it. That’s valid - but should I have been quite so surprised? It’s not a shocking revelation. Except that it rather is; it’s a little insight about the character that I had been completely unaware of. I would have been just as surprised if the game had suddenly revealed that my character had magical powers, or a wooden leg, or was really the Emperor in disguise.

It very successfully made me think about the norms and expectations I usually take with me when I start a new book, or game, or film. Of course, it’s also a bit unfair of the game; one can’t be seriously expected to start a work of fiction without some expectations. Based on little clues I’m given, I flesh out the character I’m reading about, and fill in the blanks from my empirical experience. I can’t read an entire book wondering if the character is a closet homosexual, or a post-op trans, unless the book gives me some clues to that effect. I hate being made to feel guilty because I’m heterosexual, neurotypical and not disabled, like the vast majority of the earth’s population. Yes, I bring those expectations in with me when I start a new game or book; it’s what I know about. That is normal.

So, the game actually cheats to provoke this reaction. It says your sexuality isn’t revelant, then takes great glee in giving you a sexuality that defies your expectations and watches your reaction.

It goes one step further. To save the game, you must kiss your lover, and are treated to an image of two very male mouths kissing. Homophobes beware. Is it any different, though, from the image of a male and a female mouth kissing?

So this game makes me re-evaluate my expectations, it point-blank shows me an alternative that is no better nor worse, and doesn’t trick me into feeling guilty. Kudos.

The game itself is funny, cute, and light-hearted. It’s worth checking out at least once. But what really made it memorable to me (I didn’t get far, mind - I quickly lost interest in the battle scene) was that one moment that, I think, is really the raison d’être for this game. It’s very much a game not about sexual orientation. Then it forces you into one - like pretty much all games do when sexuality is not an issue - and asks “Have you got a problem with that?”.

Of course, if this really were a game where sexual orientation isn’t important, it’d play like Blue Lacuna, where Progue can be a friend, an enemy, a father figure, a lover - it just depends on your interactions.

I enjoyed the splash of cold water. It was much, much, much more effecient to me than many other games and works that various people have been churning out on the matter. Because this game cuts to the crux of the issue: “It’s not relevant to the story.” I’m not forced to dwell on this in detail. I’m not treated to a socio-political statement about sexuality representation in games. I’m presented point-blank with a situation not in the least unlike any other game - except that, in this case, the PC happens to be homosexual. And if I don’t like it, I’m made to question that feeling in a most revealing way.


Something extremely important I’d like to add here, which I think is worth another post (rather than an edit). Within the historical context, homosexuality - or, if you prefer to be more exact, same-sex relationships - is perfectly valid. The odd thing would be for homosexuality to be frowned upon.

It is a nice little twist; just as I would criticise a game set in a historic period for trying to obfuscate whatever prejudices there were at the time (racism, mysogynism, whatever you want)…

…and in fact, just as I have defended a game called “Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons” (which is brilliant and you should totally play) against some strange accusations of misoginy by, among other things, very loudly pointing out the folklore it stems from and praising the depth to which it drank from that folklore, regardless of what some of it felt like to modern (exceedingly sensible?) sensibilities…

…I would by the same token find fault in this game if it did not portray this same-sex relationship with this much naturality.

I’ve played several games by the Choice of Games folk and often find the choices as to character’s sexuality, sex and race to be pretty silly. And largely irrelevant to the overall storyline. One game I played through as a straight male, then replayed it as a female lesbian. Not much changed. I was left with the impression that the choices were offered to me for the sake of offering them, not because they had any real effect on the storyline. And the setting was very politically correct – not once during the time I was playing as a gay character did anyone take issue with my sexuality or even question me about it.

Then again, considering the way the folks at Intfiction get worked up over things like that these days, I can only imagine the fuss kicked up if a straight character had an easier time of things than a gay character. Or a male character received praise for some action but a female character was criticised for it.


If the story is exactly the same regardless on the gender or sexuality, yeah, why bother with the choice at all, why even bring it to immediate attention and make a big deal of it? :stuck_out_tongue: Obvious answer: so the player can relate to the main character. Then that leaves me in a sorry state, as I obviously can’t relate to a myriad of main characters in books, films and games. I’m not homosexual, I’m not a woman, I’m not autistic, I don’t have brothers or sisters, I don’t have sons or daughters… wow, the sheer amount of works I can’t possibly relate to is staggering.

I do like it when games make a point intelligently - case in point, Glory of Rome. I would like it if a homosexual character did have a more difficult time in a certain context than a heterosexual character. Similarly, I would find it very interesting and enjoyable if, in a certain context, a heterosexual character had a more difficult time than a homosexual character.

Jigsaw and Blue Lacuna and Glory of Rome seem to me to be far more interesting and thought-provoking in their natural, nonchalant approach to gender than any game where you can artifically choose deep personality traits as though you were choosing hair colour.

…actually, I think I just hit it on the head there. In those games, choosing gender and sexuality really is just like customising an avatar. I always found that whole exercise pointless. Perhaps people who do enjoy spending hours on their avatar so it resembles themselves do find value in endless customisation of the PC’s gender and sexual orientation, I dunno.

(I wonder where it will stop. Skin, race, looks. Now sexual orientation. I seem to remember an RPG that allowed you to select a backstory for your character, fat lot of good that did. That’s an awful lot of time spent on the game not playing it)

That sort of thing would be thought-provoking, and carry a strong message. Unfortunately, when it’s actually done, it usually carries a heavy, angry, overly dramatic and overpowering “If you cut us, do we not bleed” sentiment that automatically turns me off. I’ve had quite enough angst of my own and of the world around me, thank you; if you want to bring something to my attention fine, I’ll listen and think about it and possibly change the way I look at the world, but if you start raving and guilt-tripping then I have no time or patience for you.

I am suddenly reminded of CisGaze. I’ve read a few of Inurashii’s blog posts, and I can’t say I don’t think there’s something of the extreme going on there, and it does quite put me off - but regardless CisGaze is a game that quite succeeded in making me listen and making me think and raising my awareness. That’s because it wasn’t bludgeoning me while it was doing it.


I lol’d at the PCs house and furnishings thereof.

A lot of the problem I always find when it’s possible to customise your character too much is that unless the game is written to the extent where you have separate passages for every male or female character, or every white and black one, or every straight and gay one, or every fat and thin one, or every tall and short one, etc, etc is that the great majority of the text is the same each time. A straight white male who is fat and tall is going to have largely the same kind of experience as a gay black female who is thin and short. Whatever the combination of attributes you pick, your adventure will be pretty much the same each time.

I’d far sooner they concentrated on the story and less on customising the
character. Unless there’s a specific reason why a male character is going to do better than a female character in a certain situation, there’s no real reason to specify the sex. Leave it all open to the player as to whether they think they’re playing a male or female.


I agree somewhat. Choice of Games model used to drive me up the wall. I call it co-creation. Some people really like it. I don’t mind a neutral protagonist. Some people find customization as better roleplay. I find it more interesting if the author forces me to think like a Bulgarian nun.

Whenever Choice of Games comes up I always remember the time I decided to roleplay a sort of Machiavellian male character in one of the earlier games, became consort to the Queen, and then it became a plot point that my character was seriously concerned that a (female) friend of the Queen’s would wind up pregnant by her and produce a heir!

Granted, it was a fantasy setting, so one could pretend magic was involved. :smiley: But in reality it was because the game was written for a straight female protagonist (there were other, less blatant clues to that I’d already come across). Only because it was a ‘Choice of…’ they had to give you the ability to play anyone of any gender and orientation and gender swap NPCs accordingly. They turned the King into a Queen but forgot to change ‘her’ friend as well.

Otherwise it had no impact on the story. It really was no different than designing an avatar for an RPG. Except in a game that’s ostensibly also a story, isn’t it a failing that who the main character is doesn’t effect anything about that story at all? Or at least no more than their hair or eye color does. It’s incredibly shallow and seems to assume that about the player as well…that they’re not capable of getting invested in a story unless the protagonist is a carbon copy of themselves.

I can get into the role of any well written character presented to me even if they don’t represent anything similar to me or my own views (see, Varicella…or this Rome game, to make this tenuously on topic.) Or any book or movie I’ve ever enjoyed where the star wasn’t Literally Me. (My absolute favorite book of all time is about talking rabbits for chrissakes…)

But if you ARE going to give me choices, then make them matter, please. I’d much rather the author just say flat out ‘this is your character, deal with it’ than ‘hey guess what you can play as any character you want… except not really and I’ve specifically designed this story to make your choices pointless’.


Watership Down?

(plus some padding to make the post at least 20 characters so this place doesn’t balk)

I see I typoed that but yes. :slight_smile:

I practically have it memorized and love that story with every ounce of my being but when someone sees me reading it during my lunch break or whenever and asks what it’s ABOUT…well let’s just say awkward conversations ensue.

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It’s definitely on my to-read list. I’ve only watched the film, I’m afraid (the full-length one with John Hurt), which I understand is lacking some content.

I feel similarly to The Last Unicorn, though. :smile:

And I’ve seen the Last Unicorn movie but never read the book…I promise to take care of that ASAP if you’ll spend some time with Hazel and Fiver in exchange. :smile:

The Watership Down movie is good but has nowhere near the depth of the book. (what movie ever does?), Though it’s also enjoyable on the entirely different level of ‘inattentive parents see cartoon rabbit on the cover, proceed to traumatize their small children’ which pretty much never gets old.

I was going to say it’s been a while since I read Watership Down, but realized I may not have read it at all. Might be mixing it up with Redwall.

The rabbits in Watership Down do not use bows or kill rats, hth.

Deal! I’ll just have to wrench myself from IF long enough to go back to actual book-reading… which is hard, because of all those pesky quality gamemakers out there.

I’ll have to look for it at the library. Thanks for reminding me that it exists. :rabbit2: :rabbit2: