I am going over my notes from the SA Game Dev Challenge this year planning to do a proper post-mortem of the process. In the mean-time, I thought I would share a little about the writing that went into the game. The game has 2 major dialogue points, with 2 more that sort of got thrown in towards the end that I ended up liking quite a bit. In this post I talk quite a bit about setting up the different dialogue, but if you want to just read it you can skip to the bottom where I posted everything from the game. The dialogue points are:
- When the host responds to a caller
This happens when the player plays an argument card or ends their turn. This was the first bit of writing that I knew I would need, and I was dreading it. My initial research did not help to allay these fears, as I had to collect actual MRA arguments and try to put them into the game without actually seeming to endorse them. A few people on IRC suggested a madlibs-type system, which I started to put together for initial testing. The arguments followed a pretty basic structure involving a thing that women allegedly do that MRAs hate and a thing that they feel men are forced to do or suffer with as a result. So I ended up with a format of “If it weren’t for women who [do this], maybe men wouldn’t feel forced to [do that]!”, with a few variations. After doing this, it was clear it wasn’t going to be enough, because I had used real MRA arguments and it still seemed a little dark, not to mention I just felt a little gross.
Luckily, just on a whim people started throwing out random absurd arguments and mixing them up and all of a sudden it became hilarious. So what I ended up doing was starting with a base list of “female verbs” and “male verbs” representing semi-realistic arguments, which I add to as the game progresses from a list of “strange” verbs for each gender. And it pairs a random male verb with a random female verb from the list collected so far. So as you play the arguments get more and more absurd, even though it starts with a list that mostly represents real MRA arguments. And thus we end up with the classic and true MRA argument, “Well, if women didn’t run faster than horses, then men wouldn’t have to gaze long into the abyss and allow the abyss to gaze back!”
- When the game describes a caller’s argument
The decision to have the game describe the caller’s argument from the host’s point of view was a deliberate one. I wanted it to seem like the host wasn’t really paying attention or wasn’t listening and just summarized the argument in his head. It also allowed me to play a little bit with the arguments that might seem weird if they were actually shown as “spoken” dialogue from a real caller. The caller arguments start with very simple basic things that women often have to deal with and MRAs often don’t think is a real issue or don’t think should be taken seriously. This was things like having a career, equal pay for equal work, being treated like human beings. Then I thought why not make some of these ridiculous as well, which resulted in one of my favorite lines from the game, “The caller says something about women just wanting to not be shrunk down and kept in jars as trophies. How ridiculous!”
- When the host signs off from the show
This was one of the bits that ended up getting snuck in at the last second. Originally I just had a placeholder sign-off quote I thought up on the spot when I was putting in the messaging system, which was “Join me next time on #YesCallMen to get more TRUTH BOMBS dropped on you!” This stayed in until the final few days of the challenge when I went back and updated a lot of dialogue. I thought the idea of using the same format all relating to violence was pretty funny so I ended up writing about 20 different sign-offs with a bunch of different TRUTH WEAPONS.
- When you get updated converted feminist numbers
This was something I threw together one night early on when it was late and I was too tired to work on anything really technical. I had decided there would be no actual end state, so I needed a way for the player to know the game was actually keeping track of their progress so they didn’t feel like it was just a pointless grind. I had already thought about using “feminists converted” as a way of tracking points, but then I had the idea of a public access call-in show being ridiculously effective and popular and it went from there. So instead of just tracking a number and stopping at the population of the world I decided to ramp it up so that every 10 shows or so you reach a new level of conversion.
The first step is to convert the entire planet, then move on to other planets, and other galaxies, then other universes and then multiverses.Initially, I only had different lines for the first 10 shows when you are converting Earth, plus a line or two for each new “step” describing the transition to converting other planets, galaxies, etc. I didn’t originally think anybody would play the game for longer than a couple minutes, so I didn’t put much time into it. But then playtesters had reported playing the game for hours and wanting unique results. So it stayed in for quite a while until the very end when I went back and spent hours writing unique results for every single show up through 50. This is some of my favorite writing in the game just because it’s so absurd, and coming up with random occurrences throughout the universe was a lot of fun.
So with that said, I know not everybody has time to play the whole game and see every different combination, so I thought I would share the list of writing here. This is copy-pasted from my code so it’s not formatted very nicely but you should be able to get the basic idea. Again, keep in mind that the Female Verbs and Male Verbs get randomized and combined into a single argument with a format similar to “Just because men [male verb] doesn’t mean women should [female verb]!”