SLIGHTLY BREAKING: same-sex marriage legal in Fallen London

By Failbetter, March 15, 2013 · Fallen London Tagged with ,

We just made same-sex marriage legal in Fallen London. Turns out it’s much easier in an imaginary nineteenth century than it is in the real twenty-first, because we only had to change a couple of text labels (‘Constant Companion’ -> ‘Spouse’) and a few dozen words of copy, not enact primary legislation. We were nearly there already. FL assumes everyone’s bisexual (which isn’t as interesting as presenting the full variety of human attractions and attachments explicitly, but it brings the content burden down to something we can afford). So what’s changed?

When we first wrote Constant Companion content, explicit gay marriage seemed a little too flavour-breaking for a Victorian setting: social conservatism is as much part of our expectations of nineteenth century London as top hats and thick fog. When you smooth out bigotry in a historical setting, the result can be anodyne and textureless. It’s a tricky area, and we’ve struggled with it before. So we fudged it. I don’t know if that was right or not.

But, you know, the legalisation of same-sex marriage is a big deal, and we want to recognise it. It felt wrong that very soon it would be possible for gay couples to marry in the real world, but not quite possible in our imaginary one. There is plenty of fictional justification for the rules being different in FL than they are on the surface (spoilers!) And it is important to have low-drama examples of same-sex marriages in fiction, so that in another twenty years, my daughter will be texting her (currently hypothetical) girlfriend on her ironic hipster retro smart watch to say, “Do you know, it was a big deal in our lifetime?’

EDIT: Paul points out that what we’ve actually just done is made marriage legal for PCs as well as NPCs. Legislate that, House of Lords!


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Devi Sage (@Deviija) May 6, 7:39pm

This is very awesome and something appreciated so much by me. Especially in games, fictional worlds that allow the player choices, it is great to be able to choose my character's spouse. From a gameplay/game-y standpoint, more choice can only benefit the player audience. More choices are always good. From a social justice standpoint, being able to have a game allow me flexible choice to express myself and my roleplay is awesome. And a kind of validation that, hey, we recognize this stuff is supposed to be escapism and enjoyable for the players. So thank you.

MrBasselope (@MrBasselope) Apr 23, 8:49pm

Ameliorated! Huzzah!

romancandleburn Apr 5, 2:21pm

Erk. I would prefer to have a Constant Companion rather than a Spouse. Can I have a choice in the matter? It gives a more open-ended interpretation for me as a player—I can imagine my character engaging in a long-term affair OR entering into a marriage. Calling them a Spouse gives me no choice but to see them as traditionally married. A long-term relationship without marriage is a real, valid lifestyle choice, both today as well as in the Victorian age, especially considering the bohemian world FL often depicts. Off the top of my head, Chopin and George Sand had a 10 year relationship, unmarried. I’m in a 6 year cohabiting, committed relationship, but I wouldn’t take it kindly if you suddenly forced me into a choice between marriage or an invalid relationship. It’s wrong to keep people from getting married, but I don’t think it’s right to have marriage forced on you either.

Eric Schwenke Apr 4, 1:46pm

I have to say that I agree with San on this, but since this is unlikely to change back, could you at least switch pets back to companions now? It's always felt strange having humans for pets. I now have eleven individual human pets, as well as an Appreciation Society of indeterminate size.

San (@_dchan) Mar 24, 6:25am

Hooray for same-sex marriage in FL! That being said, I actually sort of prefer the term Constant Companion to Spouse, largely because of all of the baggage associated with the latter term. I feel like Constant Companion allows for a wider variety of relationships that are perhaps a bit less traditional. Still, I don't feel so strongly that I'm going to make a fuss about it or anything.

Richard Mar 22, 11:27pm

Hi Zeedee! Yes, I do see where the comment comes from - thanks for furnishing the examples. But to develop the example a little further, my male character can choose a liaison with the Melancholy Curate, or with the Enigmatic Sister, or indeed with both. So he might self-identify as gay, straight or bi - or as something which doesn't fit into any of those categories - and the game offers him a course of action consistent with any of those options. Maybe I'm being overly pedantic about this! But when I was at college (many years back now), the LGBT community used the slogan "Assume Nothing" to summarise the message that any choice was OK. That was an elegant way of putting it, and it's stayed with me. So it feels wrong to me to talk about "assuming" a character is bi, when in fact the game is doing the right thing by assuming nothing at all. None of this is meant as a criticism, by the way! It's just musing out loud.

Alexis Kennedy Mar 21, 9:19am

Basselope, that's an error message. Could you drop your details to Thanks!

MrBasselope (@MrBasselope) Mar 20, 8:18pm

Perhaps you could resolve issues for the genderless as well? "some especially unspecified gender. Something is wrong here" grows tiresome.

Zeedee Mar 18, 8:41pm

"FL assumes everyone’s bisexual..." LOL! Richard, I am not certain, but I think Alexis means that the game's system allows all players (regardless of the gender they picked at the start screen) to pursue romantic storylines no matter the gender of the target in said storylines. Ex: My male character is not locked from the Melancholy Curate storyline just because they're of the same sex. My female character can win over the Honey-Sipping Heiress if she so chooses. I like this option of same-sex marriage in Fallen London. It's also suitable for the Bazaar's purposes, so I think it's quite in-theme!

Richard Mar 17, 1:51pm

With the greatest of respect, Alexis, as far as players' characters go, Fallen London does not "assume everyone's bisexual". And nor should it do; that would be to replace one generalisation with another. It's perfectly possible for a character to be gay, straight, bisexual, or something else again. What FL does is to offer everyone the choice, and (as epitomised by this post) support them in whatever choice they make. That's a little bit different - and a whole lot better.

vaelvictus Mar 16, 3:35pm

This is great news. I can't help but fall in love with you, Mr. Kennedy. And now it's possible. Marry me. I'll send you all the rats I can find. Consider it.

Rhys Rieter Wilson Mar 15, 11:19pm

.....wait.... you can get married in Fallen London??? first I have ever heard of it...

Andrew Mar 15, 10:42pm

Legal same sex marriage may not have been legal in Victorian times and male homosexuality was, indeed, illegal. However no-one batted an eyelid at two men or women living together and being Companions, unless they were overt about it, and since lesbians 'did not exist' according to the Queen they could be as overt about it as they liked without worrying about the law. I always felt that the ability to be Companions reflected this (without the legal problems male/male relationships would have). Still if the Empress wishes to allow the legal joining of two fellows or ladies in matrimony and the church agrees, who are we to judge?

Sean Barker Mar 15, 7:48pm

Thank you for this. My Constant Companion and I are most grateful (though we prefer to live in sin if that's all the same to you).

Frith Mar 15, 6:01pm

Thank you so much. And thank you for thinking about it so carefully, too. Media portrayals of things like this ARE important, and I'm beyond thrilled that the creators of one of my favourite pieces of media agree!

Zeb Brigham Mar 15, 5:58pm

Cool, now just allow polyamory and I might move there permanently ;-)

Andy Mar 15, 5:45pm

As noted at the end--I am pleased to note that I, indeed, am finally married to my Constant Companion. I feel as if I should celebrate.

Paul Meyer Mar 15, 5:01pm

Kudos as much for a careful decision as for doing the cool thing. Living in California I see a lot of the knee-jerk Political Correctness mindset, and even when I agree with somebody's politics I can find them obnoxious.

imzodd Mar 15, 4:55pm

I was somehow under the impression it already was possible.. but must have been implicit till now. Anyway if no one objects to having rubbery companions, I don't see how they would, or could, object to same sex ones. :)