Games Done Right: Choice of the Dragon

A question asks, "Will you be male or female?" and options include "Neither", "Unknown/undetermined", and "Do not pester me with impudent questions!"

Edit: Turns out, we’ve already reviewed this game and I’m a totally forgetful person and wrote about it again.  Please read Brinstar’s full review of the game here!

Choice of the Dragon is a text-based multiple choice roleplaying game that has a full web version along with an Android and iOS version.  One of our readers, Patrick, has submitted screenshots of a few of the questions in the game.  Similar to Echo Bazaar, Choice of the Dragon allows players to have more than just two binary gender options.  The game also questions the sexist nature of RPGs always using princesses who need to be rescued as plot elements within their games.

The game asks, "Isn't it a little sexist to always kidnap princesses?" and the choices include the options, "You know, I never thought about that before. I think I kidnapped a prince, just to avoid being sexist" among other choices.

The game actually allows you to play as whichever gender you want, pick mates regardless of gender, and make conscious decisions to be avoid being sexist.  This sounds like a Border House win to us.  While doing some digging, I came across a blog post by one of the Choice of Games designers who identifies as feminist.

Many video games assume a male protagonist, and I actively wanted to avoid that presumption.  At the same time, our games require a certain amount of identification between the player and the character.  A game that’s written in the second person runs into problems if the player can’t accept that “you” means both the character and the player.

Once we settled on a dragon as the protagonist of our first game, “Choice of the Dragon,” many of the gender issues became easy.  No need at all for us to assign a sex to the player’s dragon—it’s perfectly easy to ask the player what their dragon’s sex is.  Likewise, even the mating scene could be done

The biggest sticking point was really the most iconic.  Dan was committed to the idea that dragons kidnap princesses.  From his perspective, that was a necessary trope in the fire-breathing dragon genre.  I was equally committed to the idea that kidnapping princesses but not princes conveys a message of dependence and incompetence about women that was not acceptable.  We ended up deciding to directly confront the player with it with a choice, which we thought was sufficiently amusing to put into our screenshots for promoting the mobile versions.  Working on balancing the issues between using tropes and avoiding the long and ugly history of patriarchy in fantasy ended up producing fun gameplay.

The company has a few other games available in the same format, including Choice of Romance, and Choice of the Vampire.  I haven’t had a chance to play those yet, but feel free to play them and report on their inclusiveness as well in our comments.

Choice of the Dragon is free-to-play online and is definitely worth the time it takes to run through and make your dragon.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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6 Responses to Games Done Right: Choice of the Dragon

  1. KA101 says:

    Vampire & Romance aren’t quite finished yet, but that doesn’t make any of the four any less of a timesuck. I’m simultaneously grateful and irritated I don’t have a compatible phone.

    [spoiler warning]

    Dragon: Mating is purely cosmetic and optional so far as I can tell. Your preferred gender affects pronouns, and that’s it. Haven’t experimented with different player-genders yet.

    Broadsides: three het options, one same-sex. Gender binary enforced for setting purposes BUT navy gendered to match. Will gladly screencap if desired.

    Romance: Binary enforced; haven’t tried playing as a woman or same-sex attracted yet. The amount of attention I got as a het male character was disconcerting.

    Vampire: Binary enforced; Clotho can be romanced by either gender.

  2. auntie says:

    yeah, my friend sparky told me about choice of the buccaneer or whatever the pirate edition was the other day. the historical setting demands a sexual division of labor, but the game allows you to play as a woman buccaneer by inverting gender dynamics throughout the entire setting.

    granted they could have allowed the player to be an anne bonny or mary read but that would have been a very different story.

  3. Jamie says:

    I actually really enjoyed the part of Vampire that I played, I ended up feeling a strong attachment to the characters, which in a text based game is slightly creepy.

    [Spoiler Warning]

    Also in Vampire it’s possible to romance a Confederate soldier if you’re male or female, so there’s that going for it as well.
    Now I just need to wait for it to be finished.

  4. tekanji says:

    I’m playing Vampire right now and I was disappointed that they determined your gender depending on whether you bowed or curtsied. For a team that has always been careful in the past to make sure that the game allows you to play the gender that you want, Vampire’s system was pretty disappointing.

  5. Alex says:

    Choice of Broadsides is still my favorite!

  6. KA101 says:

    Agreed. Would be nice to figure out how one’s supposed to get enough money together to have a decent retirement estate (start with higher Patronage?)

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