Trendsetting in a Text World – Part 2: Sexuality and Gender Identity

This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Please check out Part 1 before continuing.

Achaea and same-sex relationships.

Achaea has allowed same-sex relationship and been LGBTQ-friendly for years now. Given that we have real-life government workers walking off their jobs because –gasp! – they may have to award a marriage license to two people who have similar genitalia, I think this is a big step and very before its time. (Like, very. This isn’t a new option in the game; it’s been around at least since I started playing way back in 2006. (And for you people who still think of “last decade” as referring to the 90s, bear in mind that 2006 was nine years ago.))

In the game, your character can marry another character. Without getting too into the specifics, other players are able to see your character’s various achievements and affiliations, including if your character is betrothed or not, and to whom. Achaea has long since allowed characters to marry others of the same gender, and even took that one step further when they allowed these same-sex text-couples to adopt other characters and register the adoption, again so other players can see who is related to whom in game.

And the best part? The players don’t give it a second thought. My character happens to be interested in both men and women (I mean, what’s not to like?) and has been married to both a gentleman at one point and a lady at another. Scandal! Except, actually, it’s no scandal at all. Nobody cares. It doesn’t change the way anyone interacts with your character. It doesn’t change the insults your enemies fling at you from across the battlefield. It doesn’t change anything.

achaeapic4

In addition to marrying whomever you like, Achaea also lets you be a cat if you want. Ha! Take that, society! (More original art by players here.)

One famous example (as famous as politics in a text-game can get, I guess) is once there were these two huge, powerhouse organizations. They were both run by men who were married to each other in-game. Those organizations had their share of scandals and enemies, but none of it had anything to do with anyone’s gender or sexuality. It’s how I’d like to imagine the United States will be in … well, maybe my grandchildren’s lifetime? That might be having some high hopes, but in any case, you see what I mean. Achaea has been doing things right much longer than most societies have in general.

Finally, let’s talk about gender.

In Achaea, you start, of course, by creating a character. That character must be either male or female. (I’ve had it confirmed by the powers that be that this will not be changing in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately the gender binary is, quite literally, hard-coded in, and cannot as of now be changed.) That, however, is where the strictness stops. There are very famous (and very respected) characters who are men, but dress as women, make-up and all. There are female characters who wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. There are, of course, also female characters who primp and polish and are in extravagant dresses suited for the most formal of occasions and male characters who live in boots and pants and a leather jerkin, with stubble on their face and nary a word to say that you wouldn’t hear among a group of very bawdy sailors. It’s whatever. You’re whatever. That is – whatever you want to be.

When it comes to this game, sure, ok, you have to pick option A or option B, but you can do with that option whatever you like. And no one will care! If you are a fearsome fighter, no one will be the least bit concerned with what gender you are or how you choose to express that gender when you smash faces on the battlefield. If you’re an incorruptible politician (or, ok, even a corruptible one), no one will be interested in what clothes you have on, how you’ve grown your hair, or any other inconsequential-to-your-political-goals choices you’ve made with your character. Can you lead a text-city? Well then you’re a shoe-in, no matter what shoes you may have on!

Tomorrow, if it came out that President Obama wore a dress in the privacy of his own home (or, really, any male mayor, or, shoot, any male school principal for that matter), you know that would be all over the news for months. In Achaea, you can stand at the pulpit in front of your congregation or take the podium to hold a rally in the town square or lead an army to press on toward the enemy as a character, female or male, in a ball gown and wearing the most flattering shade of lipstick you could find, and be as respected as anyone else. (Though, at least in battle, it might be wise to throw some armor on top of your dress, grrl.) The players care about what you do, what you have to say, and what action you’re going to take. They do not care what gender you are or how you choose to express your gender while you do it.

It’s awesome.

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A player’s visual interpretation of their character. And why yes, this is the same link from all the other images.

So, in the end, I have to give Achaea an A+ for being as accepting – both the admins and the playerbase – as any game I’ve personally ever played. It’s got what most would likely consider a steep learning curve, but once you get into it, you become so emboldened by your options, the myriad ways of expressing yourself, and the fantastical nature of the game, which makes it feel like you’re both writing and taking part in your very own novel, that you find yourself whiling the hours away with no pictures on your screen but a captivating scene laid out before you all the same. I highly recommend giving it a try!

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