As Queen, I keep dying

This post might contain spoilers for the games Reigns and/or Reigns: Her Majesty.

Reigns was a game that really kind of blew my mind when it came out. I guess the idea was to sort of frame a narrative around Tinder-esque interactions, which I didn’t really grasp (Tinder seems like the polar opposite of how I wish to find a mate). To me it was just this story, played over a whole bunch of games (some of which you had to fail), each game potentially affecting future games, and all handled via this incredibly simple decision tree mechanic. For the most part, you have two decisions at any given time (swipe left or right, that’s the Tinder-y bit). It was an oddly engaging game.

Now, in Reigns, you played as a king. So if they were to make a sequel, it would only be fitting that you would play as a queen. This is Reigns: Her Majesty. I don’t really make a habit of reviewing mobile games1 on this blog, but Her Majesty is fucking phenomenal. I don’t know if Leigh Alexander was involved in the first game, but she definitely has a writing credit on this one, and it shows. Reigns was clever, but Her Majesty is ridiculously tight, smart, and progressive.

Part of my draw to the game is likely bias — you play as a woman, a woman who I deeply respect wrote the thing, and the entire game just oozes with femininity and feminism. This has always been a sticking point for me, I will become far more invested in a game where I can play as a woman vs. one where I’m stuck as a man. That’s not necessarily a knock on any given game (or unwarranted praise on any other given game), it’s just my bias. But, trying to look past that bias, this Queen’s world undeniably gives Her Majesty far more depth than its predecessor.

If you never played the first game, it’s worth briefly describing what swiping left or right accomplishes. For any given scenario, swiping either direction may raise or lower one or more of your piety, popular favor, might, or financial2 stats. If any given stat maxes out or reaches zero, you die. This is the same in Her Majesty, but there’s a much bigger struggle (at least, how I’ve played it) with the church. Part of this is that a major aspect of the plot involves astrology and the occult, and diving into that essentially requires you to defy the church. Part of it is that you’re constantly given the opportunity to flirt with all the other women in the game and I mean, how could you not!? Oh, and occasionally the Cardinal asks you to conceal your pendulous melons (or something), which… no, I dress how I want.

And this is why I think the feminine aspect really gives the game depth. Personally, I find it hard to play in a way that defies my feminist sensibilities (and, in fact, a random owl occasionally pops up to tell you how feminist you are or situate you in various fandoms3), but this is often detrimental to my score – you are, after all, ‘just’ the Queen, and in a sense must maintain your place. But beyond my personal hangups, this still adds a great depth to the game. Choices aren’t as clear-cut, and your level of control isn’t always what it seems. Layer the whole astrological woman magic icing on top, and it’s an even more impossibly complex swipe-left-or-right game than Reigns.

This complexity and my desire to be an empowered Queen means that I have been losing very quickly, very often. Which might be grating in a lesser game, but somehow losing Her Majesty usually feels pretty damned virtuous.

Breaking Binaries (external)

Wonderfully written article about intersectionality catching up with feminism, particularly in the world of classical composition. What’s interesting to me is that that’s sort of the surface narrative here, but it’s really about marginalized groups trying so hard to get their voices heard, their tiny slices of power, that they forget other marginalized groups that are fighting alongside them. It’s kind of a refreshing article, as it’s not about TERFs or any sort of intentional exclusion necessarily… More the collateral damage of little wins, the ease in which we get caught up in them.

Site is behind some kind of paywall or something, so hopefully the reader hasn’t read two articles on ‘Van’ before. Not sure if that is in a month, or a year, or ever… pretty unclear. Just block cookies, I guess.

The Lazy He

While searching through the rule book for ‘Raptor’ (an admittedly great game by everyone’s favorite Brunos) for a bit of errata this weekend, I came across a grossly irritating footnote early on:

Note: throughout this document male pronouns are used for the sake of simplicity and readability. It should be clearly understood that in each instance, we mean to include female players as well.

This is bullshit on so many levels. The most inclusive choice would, of course, be to use the singular they. The most sorry-gaming-is-horribly-patriarchal choice would be to use female pronouns throughout1. And while I hate enforcing the gender binary, the most ‘readable’ choice would be to use male pronouns for Player A and female for Player B or vice versa. ‘Raptor’ is exclusively a two-player game, so all of the included examples rightfully include two players. Switching between two people with a shared set of pronouns is far less readable than unique pronouns for either. Ambiguity is always a potential pitfall of pronoun usage, easily avoidable when you’re dealing with two purely hypothetical humans.

Failing all of the above, however, I’d almost prefer they just used male pronouns throughout and cut out the nonsensical and condescending footnote. The footnote reads as though ‘some woman complained that we did this once and rather than adapt we’re just going to make up a bunch of excuses.’ Whose ‘simplicity’ is this for the sake of? The reader’s? Are we to assume that they are so caught up in the masculine gamer trope that a single female pronoun would cause their brains to shut down, eternally paralyzing them, rulebook still in hand? Or is it for the sake of simplicity on the part of the writers and editors, so lazy and consumed by male hegemony that they can’t even bother to do a find-and-replace on their masculine-as-default pronouns? The message put forward by the footnote is a brutally honest display of privilege: ‘we know we should be more inclusive, but we think it’s simpler not to.’ The footnote does not read as a statement of inclusiveness, rather an outright denial of it and a mockery of the very idea.