This is a little bit of Fallen London history with a juicy bit of news at the end.
Fallen London is somewhat known for its third gender option:
This is reflective of a personal experience of our founder, Alexis. His name is often taken for a female name in the US, to the consternation of event organisers and internet strangers. This inspired him to include an option in Fallen London that was basically a ‘bugger off’ to people asking about gender.
This is a fairly humble beginning for an element of Fallen London which has become much-loved by players of mysterious and indistinct gender. It is simply wonderful to us that people still screengrab and share the signup screen, six years down the line.
The way the real world has handled pronouns has changed a lot in the last six years. As a text adventure/literary RPG, we have some specific uses of pronouns which have perhaps not stood the test of time very well. Take this example:
1) Male character:
You invite the urchin in. “Nice place, Sir. Very nice. I like how it’s got, like, a roof. Also walls.”
2) Female character:
You invite the urchin in. “Nice place, Madam. Very nice. I like how it’s got, like, a roof. Also walls.”
3) Character of mysterious and indistinct gender:
You invite the urchin in. “Nice place, ah, Si-, er, Mad-, er, yes. Very nice. I like how it’s got, like, a roof. Also walls.”
We’ve had dozens of support tickets both in support of and criticising the ‘yes/er’ pronoun replacement. Some people have loved it, and some have told us that it makes them uncomfortable. It’s clear from the mixed feedback that this language is still malleable: it’s highly a personal matter.
In Sunless Sea, we iterated on our gender options: the game isn’t interested in what gender you are, asking instead for your preferred form of address (“Your actual gender is up to you”).
This caused us a few headaches when trying to write the option to have children when the game doesn’t know about the reproductive equipment of either of the people involved – but we figured it out, and it led to things like this delightful family:
This art by tumblr user littlegumshoe was captioned: “this is my cute family in sunless sea, i cant believe im an actual gender neutral character w/ a trans boyfriend and a child. and its all completely canon i cant believe it”
Learning from what we implemented for Sunless Sea has led us to making some changes in Fallen London that will come into effect this week:
- The ‘er- ah- um- yes’ pronoun will be replaced.
- The game will get out of the way of your character’s gender, and take the Sunless Sea approach of asking for your preferred form of address.
- We’re adding lots of new titles (some of which will be unlockable, depending on profession and other factors).
- As with the recent Making Your Name changes, established players will be given an option to choose a new preferred form of address.
- The character sign-up screen will be the same, and you’ll still be a Person of Mysterious and Indistinct Gender on your profile.
Please as ever, send your thoughts and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. We relish hearing from you, and we hope that these changes will only enhance your experience of Fallen London!