Pyre developer and writer Greg Kasavin responds to concerns that some of the game’s language is transphobic. Gamers expressed their issues with the game’s content after the upcoming PC and PS4 game was demoed at PlayStation Experience 2016.
Kasavin, who takes responsibility for the offending content, says that he regrets that this part of the game “came across so poorly.”
Pyre Transphobia Concerns
— Nick Robinson (@Babylonian) December 3, 2016
Concerns that some of Pyre‘s content is transphobic were raised after Polygon video producer Nick Robinson uploaded a video of the game’s gender selection feature to Twitter. The footage, taken from the game’s PlayStation Experience demo, shows how Pyre players can select their character’s gender by having a conversation with a ‘masked creature.’
This masked creature offers three different responses: ‘you sure it’s a he?’ ‘you sure it’s a she?’ or ‘you sure it’s a they?’ with the game indicating that the creature ‘presumes’ that the player is male, female or they presume nothing about the player character’s gender. Although some praised Pyre for allowing players to choose they/them pronouns, making the upcoming action RPG one of few games to feature non-binary or gender non-conforming characters, others said that referring to a player as “it” is dehumanising.
Several transgender gamers also said that as transphobic people in the real world often use the word “it” to invalidate their gender identities, the way that the gender selection feature comes across makes them feel uncomfortable. Moreover, some argued that the gender selection feature simulated what it’s like to be misgendered.
Pyre developer Greg Kasavin, who was also the writer behind highly acclaimed titles Transistor and Bastion, told me via email that he intends to change this part of the game “so that it cannot be misconstrued in such a way” and that “it is unacceptable to me that it can be taken this way, regardless of intent or surrounding context.”
Kasavin also added that “the game is a work-in-progress and many aspects of it continue to evolve based on feedback both on and off the team, so I take some solace in the imminent revisions being true to the spirit of our development process. The main thrust of the story is what matters, and specific words can and should be changed to better convey the intended meaning.”
Additionally, Kasavin said that “getting feedback from a diverse group of players, including trans and gender non-conforming players, has always been part of our development process since our first game. It has always been part of my writing process for our games. So, my plan is to continue to do this.” The developer and writer also explains that:
“Words are wonderful in how they can take on different meanings and readings, but that can also make them harmful, sometimes intentionally, but often not. The words in this moment in the game are simply not meant to be taken certain ways, let alone to create such a negative or distracting experience for anyone. They should not require the author to have to explain or defend the surrounding context. The simple purpose of this moment is to help draw players into the world of the game, not to push them out. As a writer, I can do better.”
Pyre will be released on PC and PS4 in 2017.