The Problem with Video Game Character Creators

Raye Chell Mahela

For video games where you build your own character, why does it only give you the option of “male” or “female” to choose from?

The first character creator that stood out to me, honestly, was in My Sims, an adequate Wii game spin-off of The Sims. You create your character in it, but you don’t assign any gender – you have access to all options in the editor.  Of course, all the characters are chibi so there isn’t really a “body type” difference in the characters you see around town, so why bother having that constraint?

But what if more games did that? Even if you did have different body-types, why not have all the options available, and not have to assign a gender? The lead character is usually addressed by their name anyway, and the Singular They could be used when your character isn’t directly being addressed.

I’ve had some people just recently argue with me about how “Singular They” is an abomination to the English language and that they refuse to use it, however. (Really? English? English itself is an abomination…) So I have a different suggestion for your character creators to get around this.

Don’t assign gender to your character in a character-creator. Assign pronouns.

The programming is not going to be much different from switching between he/she in the dialogue. You could store variables to be swapped out based on the pronouns. (He Him His – She Her Hers – They Them Theirs – and so on).

But that doesn’t go far enough – since these values are going to be stored in variables anyway, why not allow the user to type in their own pronouns?  Just have them enter in the three-or-so variations of the pronoun that shows up in the given language.

pronounbox

Many games allow the user to type in their own name – so give it a try, let people enter their own pronouns. Let people choose any option in the character editor.

Update, February 19th

I recently watched a GiantBomb Quick Look for Sunless Sea, and during the character creation process, I saw that they ask the question, “What term of address do you prefer ashore?” with options like “Madam”, “Sir”, “Citizen”, and more, which is a nice, story-integrated way to deal with this.

address

You can check out Sunless Sea’s official webpage here.

Do you know any other games that do this?

Update, November 10th

Read Only Memories also lets you choose pronouns! :)

read only memories

La Ido Linguo and Sharing it with Others

Raye Chell Mahela

quoesasito

Esperanto has a problem with branding. Can Ido be a blank slate for introducing others to Auxiliary languages?

Most people who have already heard of Esperanto, regard it with disdain, for some reason. I think part of the problem is that they see it as egotistical for one man to invent a language. Some people are a bit more familiar with Esperanto than just the ‘synopsis’, and their dislike of Esperanto comes from run-ins with Esperantistoj, who come off as pushy and defensive. (This, I think, is mainly because there’s a few myths about Esperanto that everybody brings up, and we’re tired of hearing it, so we get exasperated. Nobody listens to us! :P)

So, Esperanto has a branding problem. However, Ido does not. This is partially because almost nobody knows what Ido is.

Ido is more of a tabula rasa at this point. Yes, there are few speakers of Ido, and nobody knows what it is, but that can make it a building point.

I also think that telling people what Ido is would go over a bit better – Oh, a committee of people put together this language! Somehow sounds more scientific and thought-out than just some random man.

You still have the problem of the over-European influences on the language, even more so than Esperanto it seems like, but since nobody knows Ido to begin with, it’s about “marketing” that as a strength. Perhaps not jumping right into the “Fina Venko”, “This is a global second language for everybody” pitch. (Does Ido even have a “Fina Venko”? I’m not that close to Ido culture).

You also have the advantage of Ilu Elu Olu. People new to Ido won’t find the same fighting going on over the Esperanto -iĉ, gender neutrality, and so on. Some people, who would otherwise be interested in learning Esperanto, can run into this early on and leave – not because it’s being discussed, but because of the hate that gets spewed when it is discussed. Alienating people who voluntarily come to the language is not the way to spread your language!

I, myself, kabeis (left the Esperanto world) several times, but eventually came back because it was fundamentally a fun thing for me. I just learned which communities to avoid. ;P

Minor pluses include lack of hats – strange and different, hard-to-type (relatively) characters are intimidating! And perhaps lack of accusative – though, really kids, the accusative isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. I had trouble with it at first, too, but it’s really not difficult. ;P

So what do you think?  If you’re an Esperantist, do you think that Ido is worth a shot? (I mean, you already know Esperanto, how much more work would it be to learn Ido?)

Would it be worth it to be a part of and build the Ido community?

My Ido website is here: http://niaido.moosader.com/

And if you’d like to be part of a chatroom, there is #NiaIdo on Freenode. You can connect via the web through this link.


Some input from my friend Tea (with formatting/grammatical fixes):

As a long time Ido learner, I think that Ido has both a disadvantage and an advantage. That is: It is not well-known.

How’s that good?

Well, Esperanto community is already as big as it is but it’s also very crystallized. It is not flexible at all. Now, Ido is a very beautiful language and it fixes and improves a lot of Esperanto flaws (Call it flaws, call it features) although that depends on your taste. Ido has a chance of not learning of the mistakes of the past and to grow up and mature (both physically and actually the community feels very cozy because is not as big as Esperanto’s).

I always saw Esperanto and Ido as two languages that can live together, that could even merge into one or even many languages (which would be really cool). Maybe they are not as close as dialects but they are two really close languages one to the other.

I saw other communities of not-known-languages that are really cool they are so flexible, so collaborative, they care about newcomers and about making the language grow and not bashing people for “not using it properly” and to see people speaking different languages, understanding each other and going towards the same goal is simply marvellous.

Because what I hate the most is to be new at something and have a bunch of smart-asses bashing me instead of helping me.

Translation of “Night of the Living Dead”

Raye Chell Mahela

There are some public domain films out there, which could potentially be translated and re-released, without any limits. 😉 I, personally, dislike Esperanto subtitles — really, I’d prefer Esperanto dubbing! So, why not translate and re-record voices (and sounds/music) for an old public domain film or television show?

Nokto de la Vivantaj Mortantoj

We need a lot of help if we’re going to translate the total film! The first task is translation, and afterwards we’ll need additional help, such as voice acting.

Night-of-The-Living-Dead

Are you interested? Could you help us with translating?

You will need a GitHub account (you don’t need to be a programmer, but you need an account!) — Tell me what your username is so I can add you to the project:

https://github.com/Rejcx/Night-of-the-Living-Dead-Esperanto

After you’re in the group, you can edit the script via the web-based text editor!

Thanks!

Languages, Text Parsers, and Video Games

Raye Chell Mahela

I can speak English and Esperanto. I’ve started learning a handful of other languages, though I tend to have a hard time sticking with one. Oddly, sticking with Esperanto is easy, perhaps because I already have communities I’m part of, and uses for it, while with other languages – say, Korean – I really only get to use it at the nearby Korean grocery store.

But, I’ve decided to start learning Chinese. I decided that a couple of weeks ago, but so far I haven’t done much studying yet, just skimming pieces here and there. Do I start with reading on grammar? Do I start by studying Pinyin? Do I start by learning the building blocks of the writing system? Hm.

I’m a bit restless when it comes to sticking with a single textbook, and I want to start using the language as soon as I can, so then – do I memorize phrases and investigate how words are put together?

I began compiling a list of the verbs, nouns, and adjectives I find myself using the most in Esperanto. It’s hard to really quantify what English I use in my day-to-day life because it’s so engrained, but that’s one of the good things about being familiar with Esperanto – I have more of an explicit idea of what I’ve learned over the past three years, so it could perhaps be a blueprint of what I would need to learn for another language.

Building this list of words and common ways I end up combining them actually reminds me of writing a text parser for a text adventure (or something like the old King’s Quest games).  Actually – wouldn’t it be kind of fun to learn some basics of language through mixing and matching verbs and nouns together to interact with a virtual environment? (OK, maybe it appeals to me because I grew up with Sierra adventures…)

Though a problem with this method of “learning the patterns and extrapolating from there” would be more difficult for an irregular language, when you can’t always be sure that it will be something like “Verb-command-form [the] noun”

On a similar note – games can be a great way to give a controlled, somewhat immersive experience. If designed properly, a whole game could be in the target language, while not overwhelming the player with more nuanced parts of grammar.

If I pick up a new multiplayer game, for example, I pretty much always want to play Single Player first to get a feel for the maps, weapons, gameplay, etc. Similarly, I am going to be pretty shy when it comes to actually practicing a new language, I want a “safe sandbox” to practice in first.

And, with respect to old Sierra and LucasArts games, I know that I, personally, have heard a number of non-native-English speakers say that those games were a big part of how they learned English.

So, what might be a good way to apply language learning in a game medium? What games have done this, and done a decent job? Hmmm…

Donated Books, Magazines, and Newsletters in and about Esperanto

Raye Chell Mahela

Just this past December, I had decided to make a group on Facebook for Esperantists in Kansas and Missouri. I knew there were at least five of us in Kansas – Two in Wichita, three in Kansas City. I made it mostly as a way for us to get to know each other and keep in touch.

For Z-Day 2014, Andy and I decided that we should have a get-together at a local restaurant & pub, The Green Room. So, we proceeded to send out messages on Lernu, and the existing circle of us five brought in any others we knew about. I’m a member of Esperanto-USA, so I went through the little directory book and sent out messages inviting anyone interested to stop in.

And now, we’re going to start having regular monthly meetings. Wow.

Tim Wand, an Esperantist that I found out of the directory book, has been in the movado for a while, and has some interesting stories to tell about the history here in the U.S.A. He has also donated quite a few old books to the club, which originally belonged to a Mr. Runser, who passed away perhaps a decade ago.

I only began learning Esperanto in 2012, so I’m not completely sure what the best thing I can do with these books is, but I’m hoping to go through them and, for anything that is in the public domain, make scans and publish online somewhere.

I took pictures of the collection tonight, and I’m posting them up; perhaps it will pique somebody’s interest, and they’ll have a suggestion for me.

*edit* I scanned the covers of all the books, and they can be viewed on the Library page.

February – March: Skribu!

Raye Chell Mahela

Skribu!

Write stories in Esperanto during February & March!

December – January was Ludfesto, the event to make video games in Esperanto, and February – March is Skribu – an event for writing stories in Esperanto.

Lometha is organizing this one, and if you’re interested in participating, check out the /r/Skribu subreddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/skribu

Video games… Stories… perhaps April – May will be the Movie Months! 😉

Penpals – via YouTube

Raye Chell Mahela

Are you looking for a way to practice your spoken Esperanto?

The Praktiku Esperanton group might be a good place to check out, if you can make it to one of the G+ Hangouts. But, if you don’t have the time, or courage, for a group video-and-voice chat, perhaps video penpals is a better solution for you!

Video Pen Pals

I’ve begun a project where some friends and I send each other brief video messages via YouTube – similar to how you would send a small postcard. After someone receives a video message, then they can record their own in response, and the cycle continues!

The nice thing about video pen pal projects it that you can work at your own pace – you can script your response, or try to ad lib, and you can edit your video down before uploading.

For an example of how it works, you can check out my YouTube playlist, where I’m keeping track of my correspondence!

  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLS2Wd7eRaiVIXwZje2LvmdYPZMAB2P893

Feel free to send me a video message (make sure to leave me a comment somewhere, so I will know!), and I will try to get back to you when I can! Otherwise, try it out with a friend!

People currently doing video postcards: