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A Note About Playing as ‘Asrion’ in Redshirt

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It’s been almost a week since Redshirt was released, and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported the game so far. Thank you so much!

I just wanted to post a quick notice however, as this entry on tumblr was brought to my attention: “Trigger warning for anyone interested in playing the indie game Redshirt”, which relays one woman’s experience of playing as, seemingly, an Asrion character, and therefore receiving repeated unwanted attention from men, despite stating on her profile that her character is interested in only women.

The author writes that she was triggered by the experience of playing, and I am deeply sorry that there was no clearly-stated warning that this would happen when playing as an Asrion.

As the awesome Border House Blog covered Redshirt in their Bunk Bed series last week, this particular dynamic of the game was also touched upon, and I left a comment further expanding upon the way this works in Redshirt. I’ll reiterate that here, too…

The way that Redshirt deals with sexuality is such: while our profiles define how we choose to present ourselves to others, whether or not other characters respect this is up to them. Asrions get the worst of this deal, being the male-wish-fulfillment-sci-fi-trope that they are. As implied by their species description, they are the typical green/blue-skinned ladies of science fiction, perceived to be an empowered, matriarchal society, when actually, they are objectified by everyone else. As such, the game aims towards slightly different dynamics (and therefore, an additional layer of intended social commentary) for when you play as an Asrion.  They will tend to receive unwanted attention from heterosexual male NPCs who are explicitly “bigoted”, and this attention will increase their perceived relationship with that NPC (at least according to that NPC), but also lower their happiness at the same time.

Again, it’s only NPCs with a high ‘bigotry’ attribute who will post unwanted messages to Asrion characters who are not interested in them. Playing as any species other than Asrion will therefore not result in this dynamic. Furthermore, it is possible to avoid this dynamic altogether by turning the ‘bigotry’ slider all the way down to zero when you create a game, so that there are no ‘bigoted’ NPCs aboard the station.

Again, I’m really, genuinely sorry to Elle, and anyone else who has been triggered by the existence of this particular dynamic, and I will definitely take steps towards ensuring this doesn’t happen again. I will add appropriate labels to the character creation screens in a future update, to indicate that this is what happens when playing as an Asrion (and as a result of the bigotry slider.) I’ll also see if a ‘block’ feature may be possible.

In the meanwhile, if you could share this post with anyone else to whom it would be of interest, that would be appreciated.

Once again, I’m really sorry.

13 Responses to “A Note About Playing as ‘Asrion’ in Redshirt”

  1. fiddlecub says:

    What an incredibly classy statement. Much respect for the acknowledgement.

  2. Squallmuzza (NerdJunkies.com) says:

    I think you’re being pushed a little too much on the back-foot with this one. While it may be daunting and frankly suck to feel that way (especially considering how people react in the real world), this is a DIRECT PARODY of the real world. That’s the point. This is a sci-fi simulation based around a social network where things like that happen. Considering your primary goal is to schmooze your way to the top (upto and including posting similar comments repeatedly to get someone to like you), this shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise that it happens in reverse.
    While I wouldn’t condone it occuring in the real world, I think for an accurate simulation to be, y’know, accurate, these things are fairly core to it. Perhaps I’m the only person that RedShirt comes across as a tongue-in-cheek view of shameless social networking, but that seems to be a pretty obvious opinion to take. Maybe its because I come from a male standpoint and therefore haven’t received that kind of treatment.
    A little extra labelling could perhaps have prevented that reaction, however the very fact that there is a bigotry meter should have been a fairly clear marker that there might be some bigotry in the game (albeit for comical value).
    I don’t know, I don’t want to seem like some complete douchebag from this post, but I definitely do not think you should feel at all bad about this Mitu. You’ve put out a cracking title and, in my opinion, have suffered a little due to hyper-sensitive reactions to an accurate portrayal within a game that runs parallel to real life.

    • umuad says:

      Why are you making excuses for them to not make changes, really?

      It’s pretty clear Mitu was concerned that this happened to a player, unless you’re implying that they are lying for some reason.

      • Squallmuzza (NerdJunkies.com) says:

        I’m sorry, where did I insinuate that I didn’t want Mitu to make the changes? I know I certainly didn’t say as much. Just because I don’t particular agree with the situation or the level of reaction that has occured, doesn’t mean I don’t think the situation should be looked at. It’d be terribly kind for you not to put words and sentiments in my mouth please and thank you.
        All I was trying to say by my post is that when I play a pirate game, I expect to see pirate things like boats, treasure and perhaps I might have to brace myself for the word ‘wench’ being thrown around a bit. I don’t agree with calling someone a wench, however considering the form of game I have chosen to play, I expect it as it is relevant and related to the game style.
        If I’m playing some form of world-conquering game, I am pretty well prepared for war and famine. I am not going to be offended if the German equivalent in that game invades the Poland equivalent of the game. Its something I accept when I click purchase as a potential outcome of the experience.
        i suppose it all boils down to expectations and how people think. When I first came across RedShirt on the EGX floor, it immediately struck me as satirical humour. Therefore I assumed everything I come across would be a magnified version of what I would experience and see on real Facebook.
        I just don’t think you should go out and buy a sandwich and be horrified when you find butter in it.

        • umuad says:

          So you wrote thrice as many words illustrating circumstances in which you wouldn’t expect a dev to change a game, but you never specifically disagreed with this dev changing this game? Are you aware of the word “context”?

          Further, anyways, I would expect a change, really, if I fired up Civ5, and there were graphic depictions of the “horrors of war” on civilians when units take over a city or fight an enemy, or with pirates, or whatever.

          Saying it strikes you as “humour” doesn’t immediately render it powerless in the face of people who have actually had to deal with sexual harassment on social networks. We play games for a myriad of reasons, realism being one of them, sure, but tut-tutting people who don’t want to deal with abuse they already received their entire lives in a video game because it’s not realistic? Really? In a game where you play as an alien on a starship? Think about that for a second.

    • Mitu says:

      I appreciate the sentiment, and I’m really glad that you’ve been enjoying the game yourself.

      While that particular feature is indeed there as social commentary, I definitely did not want it to cause that level of unexpected distress. I don’t think it’s at all unfair for players to want a warning that this is a dynamic that *can* happen in the game. Yes, it’s a dynamic that does rely partly on discomfort, but it should definitely be a ‘knowing discomfort’, rather than the unexpected feelings of distress that can currently be caused. So yes, I’ll be making those changes as described above.

  3. Nick says:

    Full disclaimer: I saw your response to this shared on twitter, and previously knew nothing about the game.

    I think it’s a shame, in the legitimate “This shouldn’t have happened to someone without warning” sense, that your game was a trigger and that it’s clear that it needs warnings about such so nobody has this sort of experience. I’m lucky in that to my knowledge, I don’t personally have many triggers, and can carry on with life blind to potential ones. Not every one is that lucky, but for those that are, it can be difficult to identify triggers. I don’t know whether the presence of one occurred to you or not, but I think your response is right.

    With that said, I’ve thought that something along these lines has been required from a game for sometime. They are a medium ideally placed where the person experiencing it is in the centre of what’s happening, and also forms a relationship with the character they control, whether it’s a surrogate for themselves or one they have an attachment to. My walk down the street is different from your walk down the street, which is different to my partner’s walk down the street. That’s an unfortunate fact of society, but I think games are capable of sharing those experiences – not to normalise them, or make light of them. Definitely not to trigger those that actually live them, but to allow those that have the good fortune to not have been sexually harassed, or racially profiled, or prejudiced against in other ways – to experience what it’s like.

    In a perfect world, none of it would happen. In a slightly less perfect world, we’d all be super empathetic to the point where we could understand exactly what people were going through. We won’t ever get there, but maybe through the use of games that do explore these issues (whether as the focal point, or as an additional dose of ‘reality’) we can explain to the lucky what others can and do go through, with the hope it can make them understand via their characters.

  4. Dora Breckinridge says:

    It’s very kind of you to make this statement, and I can only hope that people will remember it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for any one person to intuit what might be viewed as a “trigger” simply because that words means so many things to so many different people. Not including a warning about something beyond the obvious spectrum (IE, rape and so forth) isn’t necessarily a failure on the developer’s fault just because, again, it’s impossible to predict how everyone will feel about everything. We are shaped by our experiences, and one human’s trigger may not even be a blip on someone else’s emotional radar. This is not a statement against warnings, or about voicing your opinion… just about keeping in mind nobody will know everybody and thus shouldn’t be expected to predict every possible upset, and to remember to voice your concerns as politely and respectfully as you would want someone to respond to them instead of just assuming someone is being deliberately cruel and ignorant.

  5. Russ says:

    I understand the damage-control value of responding to this with a mea culpa (as a developer, I would be tempted do the same), however I’m not sure it is warranted, or even desirable.

    It seems to me that “triggered” can be (and is, in this case) used, instead of a word like “upset”, to add legitimacy and a sense of victimisation, to something that is essentially a personal emotional response. Some people get offended when they read The Onion and don’t realise it’s satire. Do they need an apology? A warning?

    I’m not sure I want all my art to come with a health warning. “Be careful: this art may cause an emotional response!” The game has a ‘bigotry’ slider. Isn’t that enough of a clue to what’s going on?

    I’m never shy of apologising (I’m British, after all), but we need to ask ourselves: does the taking of offence automatically justify an apology? Do we want to live in a society where anything someone thinks in response to something you say, is your fault?

    This may not seem like a big deal, but every time we bow down to an angry person who has not stopped to examine their own reaction, we encourage more people to shout first and think later. There is already enough angry shouting on the internet.

    Just a thought.

    Mitu: well done for making a game that makes people feel things. Try not to apologise too hard for that.

  6. Sik says:

    To those saying that having a bigotry slider should be a giveaway: depends on how easy it’s to overlook it (and no, I haven’t played the game). Considering how most people will skip any settings and try to start playing as soon as possible, I’m going to assume that the chances of overlooking it are *very* high.

    The description is rather explicit about what’s going on though, going by that screenshot… I wonder if what happens is that the description is overlooked as well? After all, it’s at the bottom and is small, and it’s much easier to end up just looking at the shape of the character.

    • lex says:

      Well whose fault is that then? You cant complain about a sexual harassment tigger when the tool to remove it is right in your face.

  7. noturtles says:

    “Automated sexual harassment” doesn’t really seem like a core feature of the game. I think having the bigotry setting *default* to zero would be wise.

  8. Psychochild says:

    I haven’t gotten around to playing this game (yet), but as a fellow game developer I wanted to thank you for posting this. It’s a great bit of insight into the game, and makes me interested given my interest in AI in my current work.

    While I think it’s unfortunate that some people have painful memories dredged up by a game, i think that including harassment can be important. Years ago I played a text MUD (the predecessors to MMORPGs) and I rolled up an alternate character. I made the character female even though I’m male; I didn’t think it was a big deal, as I had played female characters in tabletop games. I didn’t tell anyone who the character was, though. One other character I knew from my main character took an interest in my new character. He took her around to the various hunting grounds, got her some starting equipment and cash. But, when he got to a relatively secluded area, he did a “kiss” emote. This creeped me out, as I realized what his expectations were for showing me some attention in the game. I hastily logged out, and never played the character again. Now, I wasn’t a blatant sexist before this event, but it showed me that I certainly didn’t want to be “that guy” in a game. It helped me to understand how my actions can make women feel.

    So, I hope that if some guy plays an Asrion in Redshirt, that perhaps it will be a teachable moment for them. They might realize how sleazy it is to be on the receiving end of unwanted advances, and might give them pause and make them consider how their behavior can impact others, even something as “harmless” as social network messages.

    Anyway, congrats on launching the game, and for having people care enough to criticize it. I look forward to getting some time to play it in the future.

    -Psychochild

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