A cisgender dev making a transgender character...

Transgender people are rarely seen in games, and when they are, it's not usually flattering. I decided to make a nonbinary gender character in my game. Did I do so effectively and respectfully?

So, since my last post, I've made a tremendous amount of progress in developing my visual novel game. I'm especially thankful to Joseph Brown with his debugging help.

One of my closest friends is a person who's gender questioning. My brother-in-law is a transgender man, and another one of my friends is genderfluid. There are transgender people in my life who I love. And although I'm cisgender, it frustrates me how transgender people are represented in games. 

Birdo in Super Mario Bros. 2 is a terrible example. The English language booklet for the game said, "Birdo thinks he is a girl and likes to be called Birdetta. He likes to wear a bow on his head and shoot eggs from his mouth." Of course, Birdo was designed by Japanese people, and LGBTQ people have different issues in modern Japanese culture than they do in the West.

Metroid developer Hirofumi Matsuoka infamously used a transphobic slur to describe Samus, even though the character is presumed to be cisgender.

Perhaps a more sensitive depiction of a transgender character was Krem in Dragon Age: Inquistion. Krem is a transgender man, but people have rightfully complained that he's an NPC, and he's voiced by a cisgender voice actor. Well, we're making gradual progress, I guess.

My game, Hackers Versus Banksters, is a visual novel set in Toronto about hackers... getting revenge on... wait for it... banksters!

Meet Taylor Santos. Not only are they transgender, they're also nonbinary gender! If there's another human nonbinary character in a video game, I haven't heard of them.

As the player decisions concern the actions of the two cisgender protagonists Crowgirl and Tankboy, Taylor can be considered to be an NPC. And as there's no voice acting in my game (unless my game hits a stretch goal in its upcoming Kickstarter), there's no cisgender actor miscast as them. If somehow I do add voice acting to my game though, I'll do my very best to find a transgender actor to voice them.

(Taylor's prefered pronoun is they. Transgender people, especially nonbinary transgender people, may prefer a number of different pronouns. When in doubt, ask them politely!)

Now, there are many different ways one can be nonbinary as well. The term nonbinary simply refers to not identifying as male or female completely or at all. Some nonbinary people are genderfluid, identifying with one binary gender or another at different times. Others consider themselves to be both male and female. In Taylor's case, they're neither male nor female.

Taylor works in the compliance department of Toronto Mistrust Bank, Crowgirl and Tankboy's hacking target. Taylor resents their employer, so they're willing to help Crowgirl and Tankboy from their lucrative vantage.

Taylor's defining character trait is simply how very normal they are. It was very important for me to portray a transgender character as a "normal" person, as opposed to some sort of transphobic or homophobic stereotype.

Taylor's obviously very successful, due to their position the bank's compliance department. Taylor's also very intelligent, but not technically inclined at all.

In one branch of the many in the game, Crowgirl and Tankboy need to give Taylor instructions regarding what they're supposed to do while they're in the bank's datacenter. As can be seen above, if you choose to give Taylor confusing instructions, the attack will fail.

I've shown a couple of my transgender friends my game in development and the Taylor Santos character. They like what they see so far. Hopefully, some transgender people will like my game.

I'm sure I'll get some criticism, and that's good. I'll do my best to listen and learn. Admittedly, I'm not completely sure of what I'm doing.

Developing a game almost completely on my own gives me a lot of power, and hopefully I'm using that for good.

My game is almost finished development, and I look forward to continuing writing about it here!

Hackers Versus Banksters is due in April 2016 for Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android.

Check out more screenshots here!

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