I have had my eye on Dungeonmans for a while now, having come to adore roguelikes, roguelites, and other procedural death labyrinth type games over the course of the past year, but I didn't get to try it until last night. It was a great deal of fun to play, but I was already entertained well before I got into the meat of the game because character creation is speckled with all kinds of silliness. The strength stat is called STREMF, there's a stat called FOOM, and the game subverts the you-as-great-hero thing right up front (for starters... there's a lot more fun stuff in there). My favorite part of character creation, though, came all the way at the end: choosing the character's gender.
Let me give you some background before I explain what is so great about Dungeonmans' gender system. I am a woman. If I'd heard of transgenderism as a teenager, I suspect I would have wondered about myself, but that's entirely hypothetical. From the middle of elementary school to the middle of college, though, there were countless times that I wished I had been born male. I got really, really sick of being made fun of for liking things which at home were considered gender neutral but to the rest of the world were "for boys". Dungeons & Dragons, sci-fi, video games, building computers, programming, etcetera. I was bullied and/or ignored by most people for the bulk of that time and was upset that all the boys (who I got along with really well) thought of me as just "one of the guys" because I felt like I was supposed to get a boyfriend and I was basically being "friend zoned" (though I didn't think of it using that term) by all the people who would talk to me like a regular human being.
Eventually I realized that I really just don't have much interest in sex, which eliminated the sting of being "one of the guys" and allowed me to fully enjoy hanging out with my male friends, playing games and talking about programming and D&D and teaching less knowledgeable friends how to build computers. I now simply believe in the idea of a gender slider rather than a gender binary and although I go with woman if I have to choose one or the other, I am, quite frankly, a very manly woman in some ways.
Fast forwarding to this week: I've been a bit cranky about gender for the last few days because of some online forms. I came across one while changing a password that said gender was optional, but it wouldn't let me remove the gender I'd put in who knows how many years before. Then a couple of days later I had a survey to fill out for the JET Program that required a gender to be specified when there was literally no reason they should need that information for the data they were trying to collect. So I was feeling a bit salty about gender already when Dungeonmans surprised me by being really awesome about it.
Gender is the last thing a player can choose in Dungeonmans character creation. It's part of confirming the character before getting into the actual game. The default is male, but when I switched it to female, nothing changed. I blinked, then realized that something had changed after all. Instead of being Crowbeak, Level 1 Fightermans, I was now Crowbeak, Level 1 Lady Fightermans. That was it. The picture didn't change. That was when I realized that the character's picture was androgynous. F*** yeah! I wanted to make sure, so I clicked the gender selector again. To my further surprise, my gender changed to "Beast" instead of "Male"! And sure enough, I was, once again, Crowbeak, Level 1 Fightermans. There was a fourth option, too: "Who Cares?"
As tempting as Beast and Who Cares? were, I decided I liked the idea of being a Lady Fightermans too much not to do that first. Dungeonmans is a roguelike, so I'll have plenty of chances to play as the other genders, after all. But even as I chose it, I thought about how I'd been grumbly about being forced into the gender binary so often and that it was ironic that when given more choices, I went back to female. I honestly think that if it hadn't been for the Lady addition to the class name, I would have gone with one of the non-standard choices. Who doesn't want their fighter to be a BEAST, amirite?
I mentioned to the Dungeonmans twitter account that I like how gender was handled and found out that gender choice affects the pronouns used throughout the game text, with Beast resulting in gender neutral pronouns like "its" and Who Cares? replacing pronouns with the character name. (Crowbeak fires Crowbeak's bow!)
Regardless, Dungeonmans dissolved my disgruntlement with the gender binary (for now) and proved to be a good game to boot. I'm really glad I played it yesterday.