Discussion: Gender Choices in Featured Stories

Note: this is for Episode featured stories, not community/user stories. Nor is it stories like The Infected and The Acting Game where it is purely a sexuality choice and the LIs are fleshed out on their own right

If anyone keeps pretty up-to-date on a lot of Featured and Official stories like I have, I would like to say that a general theme is that most of them have gender choices - all but one for the love interest(s). Some featured stories may already had gender choices in the original versions or it is a modification made for the Featured story only. Or in the case of Episode exclusives it is a given.

In theory, this is something admirable to appeal to a wider audience (I.e. WLW or MLW), considering most original stories only had male LIs. In practice, it is inevitable to have pronoun or name typos, or even the gender choice itself not make sense in the context of the story. The most damning example I can think of is Craving for You, where the LI has a cynical, demeaning view of women in general - even as a woman :expressionless:. To contrast, stories like Rule Breaker are pretty decent in that department even though the female LI path had a scene where MC jokes about Isa to have made out with her school friend while in the male path it’s only Easton hooking up with the mother. Because someone making out with your dad’s ex-wife has the same weight as them making out with a high school student :unamused: So admittedly, with utilising gender choices you have to really think about how the gender paths would differ, as of course men and women experience life slightly different, like how straight, cis people and LGBT+ people experience life slightly differently. Then again, if they are too different … that would be a whole can of worms.

  1. How do you think gender choices are usually executed? Good, bad, okay?
  2. If you could suggest one thing for Episode or featured writers to develop/improve gender choices, what would it be?
  3. Especially for stories which originally only had male LIs/female MCs, do you think that implementing a gender choice is a good additional feature?
  4. How different should male/female LIs or MCs should act in a gender choice story? Or should both their paths be mostly gender-neutral?
  5. Anything else you like to add?
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For the most part, poorly… I read College-ish with a female love interest and whilst I enjoyed it, and found that overall the situations MC and LI were in made more sense because they were both female, there was just some dialogue that hadn’t really been thought through very well at all - like conversations didn’t sound natural. Like MC’s mum joking about how MC should have been running around with a bad boy instead of pretending to be in college lol.

I’ve also noticed that when you choose to date a female in featured stories, they usually give you a very outdated CC in comparison to the one they give the male love interests. It’s kind of hard to know who to blame though, with so many featured stories now being user ones anyway :grimacing: Though, it’s still neglect on Episode’s part - they truly don’t care about it feeling authentic.

Then there’s small things, like heights that don’t get adjusted :joy: And that’s a whole other story because to this day I still don’t understand why LL males are shorter. Just make them the same height!

Well, see… I beta read Prom Night and there was no sexuality choice in the beta version, yet there was in the official version. So I kind of suspect they don’t test the branches properly. Maybe they do with some stories, but really, they should be testing it with all their stories and then offering some kind of feedback survey at the end for the people who get the beta versions to point this out to them.

If it can work, then yes of course. Something like an accidental pregnancy story though? I mean…

I think it depends on the story. Love on Fire seems to work in the sense that MC is default bisexual so it’s determined based on who MC connects with. The branching in that story is wack though, so idk how much effort they put into actually giving characters personalities, let alone different ones. But the copy and paste male/female method seen more often with sexuality choices leaves more room for pronoun errors and spotting issues. So really, I don’t expect personalities to vary much considering they can’t fix the basic things a lot of the time.

In saying that, should they act differently? Yes. They should. I don’t think it needs to be huge changes in dialogues but here and there, I can always spot a conversation or two that wouldn’t work if the love interest was the opposite gender.

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Interesting. Though I think for me, that I more often see the female LI CC being more well-equipped than the MC’s :thinking:

I also kinda have that feeling. Though it brings to question who on what end would suggest and implement the gender choice to begin with. Because there are still some featured stories without gender choices.

True!!! Though I’m starting to suspect that it could be because it’s the right height ratio for men-women kissing :woman_shrugging:t2:

I really wonder how episode would have gotten data or input during beta, so this is much needed

Vietnam flashbacks to Positively Princess and the egg implantation explanation

See Craving for You as an example lol :woman_facepalming:t2:

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oh, and before I forget, I’m playing through both LI gender branches for Enemies with Benefits. It is relatively okay with the appropriate dialogue lines (even with weird directing quirks) , even though the female/Jamie branch constantly refers the LI as the ‘female lead’ even though MC is already one. I mean, if the story bothered to change the line from imagining the LI shirtless to having their jacket off, it can bother with saying ‘the OTHER female lead’.

I don’t read featured stories, and yet, here I am. :v::sunglasses:

I’ve only ever read one story with a male/female choice for a single LI where I chose female. It was a community story of course. I won’t say which, and I will say that it was a nice touch to add, but the errors and just weird plotlines were so strange that it was distracting. The story itself was gendered enough that suddenly switching the main cast to lesbians made no sense, the women were still obviously treated in a masculine or feminine way according to the heterosexual path. Once again, I definitely applaud the author for the inclusivity, just that the plot was barely able to support both a straight and lesbian plotline at the same time. 10/10 for intentions, but a difficult feat to execute.

Now, back to featured stories.

I’m a cynic, but I somehow doubt that Episode would have any intention of making all of the gender choices make sense all of the time. For some stories, few if any plotlines revolve around the gender/sexuality of the characters, but with most, there are major plot points that wouldn’t happen to a different couple. If Episode wanted to be perfect, they’d write entirely different stories, some heterosexual and some LGBT+, but there’s less money to be made in that. So there’s a certain amount of ridiculousness that we’ll have to tolerate. “Okay, I mean, the entire group/office just happens to be queer women, and I’m flustered and blushing about some and oddly threatened by others, sure, fine, let’s just continue.” With Episode, it’s most likely this or not at all. :woman_shrugging: I don’t blame them for WLW relationships being included but taking a backseat, it’s just business to try to get everyone but to lean preferentially to the majority. That said, effort shows. Testing the female LI branches, cleaning up pronoun mistakes, fixing the heights, at least trying to fix any extremely nonsensical plotlines so the MC doesn’t steal her girlfriend’s eggs, people will notice. :slightly_smiling_face:

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This is an absolute true statement :rofl:

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I usually choose male LIs because the LGBT option is always an afterthought. The coding evidence for this is pronoun errors, but there are also thoughtless oversights in characterization which I find hurtful. Craving for You is, as you mentioned, one example of this.

It’s just such thoughtless, half-hearted representation to replace a misogynistic dude with an LGBTQ woman who exhibits this kind of internalized misogyny and act like it’s the same, as though the two characters’ gender and sexuality would in no way inform their experiences of the world and shade their relationships to misogyny in different ways.

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I’m not a fan of episode adding the gender option to stories that didn’t have it before, because dialogues just can’t fit in many situations. Not to mention characters’ behavior that’s just different. And if an author wants to make a season 2, they should add this option too to make it consistent and it’s a lot of work to make it decently (especially when there’s a lot of branching).

Personally, I prefer stories that are just written as LGBT, that can focus on this plot, accurate dialogues and the general mood. Not on changing just an appearance.

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My thing with gender choices is that it’s so blatantly obvious when authors are using it as reader bait or pretending that they care about being inclusive. In official stories, in featured ones, and frankly, popular community stories.

And that’s why we keep getting absolute nonsense in F/F branching. In office stories, you can’t just take a F/M relationship with dynamics and conflict being about the differences between male and female power levels in society (which always ends up becoming a sexist narrative in its own way) and make it gay and expect it to make sense.

So we get that or - I’m trying to stay close to the thread prompt, I am - excuses and “sorry not this time, the branching would be too haaaaard” and various levels of homophobia. The worst part is that it would be easier to name stories that get this right, not the other way around.

You really have to come at a story including gender options for the LI with thought into how the plot can be adapted to that particular experience of life. It’s going to be different. The dynamic is going to be different, even if they have the same exact personalities. The sexual component is going to be different. You have to give a damn and you have to put in some effort.

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Preach!! :raised_hands:t3:
If playing a little devil’s advocate, I assume the justification for the lazy copy-and-Paste method is that ‘men and women are equal, so yeah they can have similar experiences’. Yeah, but I doubt most women, let alone F/F women who are best friends with guys, are athletic and have the libido of Casanova. What I’m talking about kinda is not your point, but yeah it’s just inevitable guys are different to girls.

Thanks to everyone who’ve shared their own thoughts, even with having different experiences with Featured stories than me. I just really wish these types of stuff is more properly executed, and Episode is just gonna be a good example of that :woman_shrugging:t2:

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For me, it isn’t even that. I believe along the lines of “men and women don’t think as differently as everyone wants to tell them they do,” but even that justification for why gender choices are copy-pasted doesn’t work to me. Interesting note: I’ve never seen somebody use this excuse. They just keep it moving and suddenly can’t see. :woman_shrugging:

But depending on your identity, your experience with social structure is going to be different. Dialogue about a male LI benefiting from social systems as a man or looking down on women can’t be copy-pasted into a female LI because it’s just not the same experience. A woman who looks down on woman will say different things and have different motivations than a man looking down on a woman. And that’s just one piece of their identity.

People are made up of dozens of pieces (race, gender, economic status, physical and social environment, ableism, etc.) and all these things combine to make individual experiences. A man in a wheelchair is going to experience life differently than a man who isn’t, even if all the other aspects of their lives were the same.

I think this bothers me the most in modern stories. Fantasy stories are a more complex thing because the world can be altered, but for the most part, I haven’t seen many that are much better.

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True. Of course not expecting every author to justify, but different people of whatever background are not black-or-white or copy-and-paste. Society treats people differently, and vice versa, and that’s the tea

This story just reeks of laziness and lack of foresight. How the story overall shows the LI as absolutely irresistible and swoon worthy is one thing, but the few changes it has, especially the gender choice, doesn’t this story at all

Bumping up this thread, in light of the new Whoops I’m Pregnant story. And probably more about Craving for You, and Enemies with Benefits

To be fair, that story doesn’t make any sense even if you pick a male love interest.

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True :sweat_smile: but I gotta admit how nicely the female LI branch was adapted

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What really ticks me though that usually the recent stories’ female branches just full out uses default characters as speaking roles … it’s comes off as kinda lazy

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Came here from your IG story, “Melt Arthur’s heart!” really? Episode doesn’t care about female LI branches at all. :unamused:

Positively Princess’ female LI ending was stupid, Whoops, I’m pregnant doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s still somewhat scientific, I can at least appreciate these two stories for actually noticing and changing pronouns/certain words (like man to woman) or even names. They are bad, but not the worst.

But everything in Craving For You is such a mess. :unamused: I’m convinced all Episode does is just use CTRL+F to change pronouns/names. Actually, they don’t even do that. :roll_eyes:

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I’m having the same sentiments

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