How RimWorld’s Code Defines Strict Gender Roles

Reed’s having a bad day: her spaceship crashed, she’s one of three survivors, and the other two won’t stop hitting on her. Unfortunately for her, she’s beautiful, which means that they’re immediately enamoured with her; unfortunately for them, she’s gay, which means the feeling is definitely not mutual. Her life is a constant hellish stream of corny pick-up lines and work for the colony.

RimWorld is a scifi colony management sim that seems to effortlessly weave dynamic stories around the player’s attempts to survive on an often harsh alien world, but when it comes to sexuality, romance and gender, it tells variations on this one story far too often. We dug into the code to find out why that is.

Returning to Reed, we can see that the pick-up lines don’t get her down. She receives no penalty to her mood for being barraged by come-ons. But the two men, Rob and Boots, feel differently. They have a near-permanent mood and relationship penalty for Reed, because they keep asking her out, and keep getting rebuffed. But it’s not really their fault – Rob and Boots can’t stop hitting on her because they’re men, and because she’s just so gosh-darned pretty. More precisely, that’s how they’ve been programmed.

The eerie thing is, remove the bit about the crashed spaceship and this scenario mirrors a common narrative about romance, sexuality, and relationships between men and women. It is not at all uncommon to hear stories, in media and in real life, of how men ‘just can’t help themselves’ around beautiful women, and to hear how devastating it is for men to be rejected by the women to whom they are attracted. Setting aside the truth of those stories, and how demeaning they are to men and women both, why is this the story that RimWorld tells about relationships? In order to get to the heart of the situation, I unpacked the latest publicly-available build of RimWorld to see how romantic interactions are determined. For the sake of non-coders among us, longer sections are presented in pseudocode that tells you what it does, without requiring you to be fluent in C#.

To be clear, the anecdote I’ve described above is not a unique scenario in RimWorld. The current top-rated post of all time on the RimWorld subreddit is a user asking for “strategies to deal with attractive lesbians”. Additionally, an earlier decompilation of the game, summarizing how RimWorld models romantic behaviour, was a pretty good indicator that the answer to Reed’s dilemma lay somewhere in the game’s source code.

So why were Reed’s fellow survivors constantly hitting on her? The answer lies, partially, in how romance attempts are calculated differently for male and female “pawns”, the game’s term for all the colonists you control. All pawns start out with a base chance of turning any social interaction into a romance attempt, and a minimum threshold of attractiveness and positive opinion for this to happen. In other words, you have to actually like someone and find them attractive in order to try to start a romantic relationship with them. Things become interesting when the random chance of initiation comes in.

// Change chance of initiation based on gender of initiator  

       if(me.gender == male) {
            // no change
            initiation-chance = initiation-chance * 100%; 

       if(me.gender == female) {
            // initiation chance is 12.5% of what it would be
            Initiation-chance = initiation-chance * 12.5%

In other words, female pawns are about eight times less likely to try and start a romantic relationship. Granted, this is not the only factor – other elements include presence or absence of an existing romantic partner, and how they feel about said partner. However, this single check on gender has such a profound effect that it makes female-initiated romance attempts incredibly rare. Notice that neither a history of rebuffals nor the presence of the “gay” trait in the recipient are factored in, which would explain why they won’t stop. This behaviour is one-way, though. Reed doesn’t hit on them, not because she’s female, but because she finds them unattractive.

So how is attractiveness actually calculated? For both male and female pawns, attractiveness rests on a few variables: the genders of the initiator and the recipient, the sexual orientation of the initiator, the beauty of the recipient, age, and physical ability.

Before going into gender-specific differences, let’s first look at some universal variables..

// In the rest of the function, multiply attractiveness with the factors for:
// Talking, moving, and manipulation efficiency (penalty for pawns with disabilities)
// Bonus or penalty for attractiveness traits (ugly = 30% as likely, beautiful = 230% as likely)
// Additional age factor for people between 15 and 18else if(me.gender == female) {
// Enforce sexual orientation for gay women

        if(me.orientation == gay and them.gender == male) {
            // zero attractiveness, no matter what
            return 0.0;
        // And for non-gay women
        if(me.orientation == straight and them.gender == female) {
            // Only 15% as strong as it would otherwise be
            attractiveness = attractiveness * 15%;

There are no straight women in RimWorld, as in, there are no women only attracted to men. Instead, every single non-gay woman in the game has some chance of being attracted to another woman. As for the men, it works a little differently.

// Calculate the perceived attractiveness (between 0.0 and 1.0) of them, to me

    float calculate_attractiveness(Pawn me, Pawn them) {
    float attractiveness = 0.0;

    if(me.gender == male) {

        // Enforce sexual orientation for male pawns
        if(me.orientation == gay and them.gender == female) {
            // zero attractiveness, no matter what
            return 0.0; 
        if(me.orientation == straight and them.gender == male) {
            // zero attractiveness, no matter what
            return 0.0;

Notice that there’s only two possible orientations for men, gay or straight. In RimWorld, there are no bisexual men, only gay or straight men; there are no straight women, only gay or bisexual women.

Lastly, we move on to the most complicated part of this, age-based attraction. These are hard to visualize just by reading the code, so here they are in diagram form.

In RimWorld, male pawns will always find pawns between 20 and their own age attractive. If the male pawn in question is under 20, that doesn’t make a difference – because it’ll check the “lower” bound first, they’re guaranteed to find a 20-year-old attractive. This explains why Rob (age 32) and Boots (age 17) keep trying to ask out Reed (age 23). But, since the same code doesn’t check for relative age, 17-year-old Boots wouldn’t actually find a fellow 17-year-old teenager all that attractive. There’s also a minimum age for attraction, 16 years old, and a maximum age, any pawn 15 years older than themselves. So in this case, Boots wouldn’t find any woman over the age of 32, or any woman under age 16, attractive.

On the other hand, women overwhelmingly prefer partners older than them. And, unlike for men, there’s no firm cutoff for pawns that are “too old”: even pawns 40 years older than the woman in question have a chance of being perceived as attractive. Contrast this to the calculation for men, where pawns 15 years older than them have absolutely no chance.

In summary:

  • Men are about eight times as likely as women to try and start a romance.
  • Pawns with disabilities will always be found less attractive.
  • Beautiful pawns are always considered vastly more attractive; ugly pawns, vastly less. Physical beauty is the only trait that governs attractiveness, aside from sexual orientation.
  • Straight men always find men unattractive. Gay men always find women unattractive. There are no bisexual men.
  • Women may find women attractive. Gay women always find men unattractive. There are only bisexual or gay women.
  • All men consider partners aged 20 to their own age most attractive. If they’re under 20, they’ll find pawns 20 or over most attractive, with no regard for pawns that are a similar age to them.
  • All women consider partners the same age and older most attractive. Partners slightly younger than themselves are very unattractive, and partners that are 10 years younger than them are always considered unattractive.
  • All men consider any pawn 15 years older than themselves to be unattractive.
  • There is no “old age” cutoff for women. No matter how much older a partner is, women have some chance of finding them attractive.

Now, RimWorld is not finished. It’s a game that’s still under constant development, and so this relationship system might well continue to develop and change. On top of that, the various numbers thrown into these governing formulae might well be there because of a late night, or as placeholders, or just to try and make the systems work. In other words, there might not be any specific commentary on or interpretation of gender roles behind this, malicious or otherwise. Any game system that tries to represent or model complicated real-world scenarios necessarily has to make abstractions and sacrifices, and human relationships might be one of the most complicated things you could possibly portray.

But we are not analyzing RimWorld on the basis of what it might be in the future. The question we’re asking is, “what are the stories that RimWorld is already telling?” Yes, making a game is a lot of work, and maybe these numbers were just thrown in without too much thought as to how they’d influence the game. But what kind of system is being designed, that in order to ‘just make it work’, you wind up with a system where there will never be bisexual men? Or where all women, across the board, are eight times less likely to initiate romance?

On top of that, what RimWorld doesn’t model is as important as what it does. Remember how constantly being hit on and rebuffing people doesn’t lead to a mood penalty, only a reduced opinion of the person pursuing? In daily life, the feeling of having to constantly turn people down is not a nice feeling. But these negative feelings are only reflected mechanically for those being rejected, and because of the way romance initiation is handled, you end up having to cater for the sad rejected men, rather than the women who are always having to turn away these unwanted encounters.

We could label that behaviour a bug, perhaps. But those are just the surface symptoms. Those are the easily-noticed, in-game consequences of a system whose base structure has literally encoded assumptions about how men and women operate. Now, representation is a tricky subject, and we will probably never create a perfect model of romantic behaviour.

But the problem with this model isn’t that it’s flawed. It’s that it’s flawed in a way that perfectly mirrors existing sexist expectations of romance, with such specificity that it is hard to view it as unintentional . And if it is unintentional it is on us to ask what this system is trying to show. What are the possibilities that it allows? What is RimWorld setting as the boundaries of possibility?

Decompiling the source code provides a very clear look at how these gender differences were written into the game. However, it’s not something that’s intuitive to grasp just by playing the game. At the same time, this is a system that has an enormous impact on how you play, because one of the key challenges in RimWorld is keeping your colonists happy. Code is never neutral. All of these coded structures push a particular scenario over others, and most of the time this is fairly benign. However, this does not mean that it should escape scrutiny, because we can end up uncritically coding in harmful assumptions, which ultimately means we are constraining what our games could be while also alienating other players.

As for Reed, things have gotten a little better. Other women have joined the colony, and one of them, nineteen-year-old Roughchild, has gotten engaged to Rob. Reed’s on better terms with Rob, now that he’s spending time with his fiancee instead of constantly trying to get with her. Everyone still adores her, of course, because she’s beautiful; everyone still talks to her, and Boots is still making passes at her. But the feeling is never mutual.

Editor’s note: The developer was contacted for interview as part of this article, but declined to take part unless we ceded editorial control over the publishing of that interview. We do not cede editorial control to developers or interview subjects and so no interview took place. The developer has left a response below in the comments and here on Reddit. We stand by the accuracy of the article entirely.


Top comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Graham Smith says:

    The developer was contacted for comment but refused to participate in an interview unless we ceded editorial control. I wasn't willing to do that.

    FWIW, I personally think RimWorld is great, we've written many positive articles about it, and I don't think this cancels out the game's positive qualities. But I also don't think that being in early access or unfinished means that you can't analyse and criticise the explicit and implicit statements a game is making through its design. As long as it's publicly available - and especially it's for sale - I think it's fair to critique.
  2. TynanSylvester says:

    I'm the developer of RimWorld.

    The author of this anger-farming hit piece did email me asking if she could ask me some questions. However, she wanted to edit my responses. When I said I'd be willing to answer questions, but not if the responses were edited, she went silent. I guess she wasn't willing to print the other side of the story if she didn't have the power to edit it.

    There's also some blatant lying in this article, where the author pretends not to know things that I specifically told her.

    For example, Claudia wrote: "It’s a game that’s still under constant development, and so this relationship system might well continue to develop and change. On top of that, the various numbers thrown into these governing formulae might well be there because of a late night, or as placeholders, or just to try and make the systems work."

    However, in my email response I said, "You should be aware that there are some bugs in the relationship system in Alpha 15 that are already reported and fixed for Alpha 16. So you're analyzing a broken system :/ Also, this system is just something slammed together to get the game working in a basic way. It's just barely functional enough to fill its role. It's never been intended as any kind of accurate or even reasonable simulation of the real thing."

    So she knows for a fact that the system as it works has known bugs, already fixed. She knows for a fact that it's very rough. Yet she insists on presenting this as some sort of "might well be" theory as though she has no more information.


    Now onto the 'journalism'. The way this is written is disgusting. There's no attempt to get an explanation or understanding of why the code works as it does. The decision was specifically made to not ask me any question, or understand why these decisions were made, or comprehend the research or meaning behind them. It's purely written in the style of a witch hunt - point at the heretic, maliciously misinterpret everything in the most moralistic, angry way possible, and harvest the resulting anger for clicks.

    I saw it coming a mile away, which is why I wanted my words to be printed unedited.

    Is this journalism? No, because it doesn't make the minimal effort to get or present the truth fairly.

    Is it opinion? No, it's not an editorial.

    It's anger-farming, combined with a moralistic witch hunt. It's the worst kind of click-bait - they type that generates anger on purpose, where none needed to exist, in a community that was perfectly at peace beforehand.

    Notice how it specifically skirts as close to calling me a "malicious" person as possible without actually making the claim.


    The truth of this system is that it is very rough, and that it's based on research and discussions with various people. I'd be willing to talk about these things, in the context of an honest discussion of hows and whys. This is not that, so I'm not going to try to justify every part of this here.

    I will, however, quote a discussion I had with another user who contacted me about this, so we can all see an example of what an honest discussion looks like. Here it is:

    *** FROM USER

    So I'm sure you've seen it discussed extensively that gay colonists need some tweaks, from a game balance perspective. The community generally agrees that advances between colonists of incompatible sexualities should be decreased, so they would stop getting "rebuffed" mood penalties needlessly.
    This isn't particularly urgent in my opinion, since there are (as usual in Rimworld) some creative and questionably moral ways to get around this. I've expressed my opinions, and you can react however you please; it's your game. But if you're already planning on changing the code for romancing/sexuality, I have a few things to request:
    First off, I'm bi, and no colonists are bisexual in Rimworld. It would nice to get some representation, blah blah blah... In truth this isn't a big deal to me personally, I just thought I might bring it to your attention that we exist.
    Now, one thing that really does bother me, both from a game-balance and "political" point of view, is a conclusion drawn from this thread: "set a value that multiplies attractiveness by 0.15 at the end, then keep going. That's right - women are always a little bit bi." If neither gender had this multiplier, I would write it off as you not wanting to overcomplicate game mechanics (not that you need to or seem to feel the need to). If both did, I don't think anyone would have a problem. It could even be a minor workaround fix for the current complaints, allowing gay colonists to have a small chance to succeed in their advances on straight ones.
    But at the risk of calling your opinions invalid (not my intent) I have to insist that being "bi-curious" is not asymmetrical between genders, as you seem to imply in this code. I'm not going to tell you how to make your game, and I certainly have no intentions of telling you how to think, but I just wanted to express my opinion as an admiring member of your game's community. Overall you've created something great that a lot of people enjoy.
    Hi there, thanks for the mail.
    I think bi-curiosity is quite asymmetrical between sexes. I've developed this view from research, and it also aligns with what I've observed personally.
    The above study indicates that a larger proportion of women who identify as straight are bi-curious or have engaged in bisexual behavior.
    The above paper indicates (on page 6 specifically) that of people who identify as gay/lesbian/bi, the proportion of bi among women is about double the proportion of bi men.
    And personal observations: I've known some bi women and a large proportion of the nominally straight women I've known have discussed bi impulses or experiences they've had. In contrast, every bi man I've ever known has ultimately ended up identifying as gay. These patterns seem to apply even in very gay-friendly social contexts.
    Of course I'm sure bi/bi-curious men exist, but the research and what I've seen supports the conclusion that they're rarer than bi women. Conversely, gay women seem to be rarer than gay men.
    Nor am I an expert in all this; the game simply attempts a very rough approximation of some patterns from real life. In truth I never did a full analysis of every possible situation this code could run into. I'm sure various numbers are wrong. But, it's functional and gets the job done.
    In truth I hate these discussions because there's really no way to reach agreement. So I don't ask you to agree with me necessarily, only to understand why I would make these choices given the research and observations I've found.
    Wow, thanks for this great reply! I think you should post an explanation like this somewhere public. (Maybe you did, and I missed it) I'm sure people like me would appreciate that you put a lot of thought into this, rather than just basing it on stereotype. That was my biggest concern, honestly. This is great!
    But the other burning question - just because I'm curious: Are you planning on tweaking the code? The "dealing with attractive lesbians" thread is actually the highest scoring one of all time in /r/rimworld, heh. No judgement either way, I'm just wondering your thoughts on the functionality of it. Thanks again!
    Sadly these discussions, had in public, have a tendency to attract people that enjoy conflict. So I choose to just try to do something reasonable (that I can explain if ultimately necessary), but not to put out justifications for it because they'd be bait for any Internet flame-wars. Because you know no matter what I say some people will hate it - and some of those might hate it a lot, and I just have better things to do than deal with that. It's a sad thing about the Net.
    As for the lesbians, I added a "gaydar" factor so colonists will be less likely to attempt romance with others of non-matching orientation. That was easy - just something I didn't think to add before. Of course awkward interactions will still happen, just not so constantly and repeatedly, because that made little sense and screwed up the balance.
    Best Ty
  1. Solomon Grundy says:

    Disappointed in RPS for an article like this. What a tiresome era we are living through…

    • KaijiKun says:

      Well said.

      It’s a computer game based on fiction. The developer is under no obligation – legal, moral or otherwise – to model anything as closely as possible to it’s real life counterpart. If you don’t like a given aspect of it, simply don’t play it in the same way you might not listen to a musician you intensely dislike.

      If you seriously think Rimworld is gonna have some kind of negative impact on the perception of gender roles in the imaginary future utopia you seem intent on forging toward with this ridiculous crusade, you have a very childlike idea of how reality works.

      Goodbye RPS. You slowly and gradually turned into a really crappy website. I hope you get the page hits and financial profit you’re clearly gasping for.

      • pepperfez says:

        Fuckin’ RPS, man, always on the hunt for those sweet “gender issues explained in pseudocode” bucks. As if we don’t have enough of those articles everywhere else, right?

    • mrbeman says:

      I too wish my critical media never questioned anything or attempted any critical thought. Can’t we just have a site that re-hosts press releases or something? You know, like a space that’s safe from opinions that differ from mine?

    • preshrunk_cyberpunk says:

      God, I just love that feminism.

      RPS really, I hadn’t realized you were engaging in cultural Marxist propaganda.

      I think you just lost a reader.

      • connor491 says:

        Believe me, they didn’t lose just one.

        • Yglorba says:

          Goodbye! Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out! Please don’t come back ever.

          (Aside suggestion: Could the site’s developers add a “LEAVING FOREVER” button that people can push to permanently ban themselves from the site, just to be sure that none of these people slip back in? They get to avoid the temptation to ever read RPS again, we don’t have them frothing in our comments section every time sex or gender comes up. It’s win-win!)

          • LuciusAnnaeus says:

            while I can understand where you are coming from, I think that sorrt of rhetoric is not constructive either – it is hard to find common ground or compromise when both sides of an argument refuse to even acknowledge the opposing view point

            even though it can be hard to stomach at times …

  2. HeadClot says:

    This honestly feels like a hit piece.

  3. Magaro says:

    Lurker here coming out of the shadows (closet?) to comment on this article and its associated comments. Really interesting piece, albeit with what feels like a somewhat coldhearted mission from the outset. Strongly felt comments, some rational discussion, and a touch of indifference. Overall, a good read.

    I don’t own Rimworld, but I intend to (huge pending backlog), and this whole brouhaha has done nothing to change my mind. What I REALLY find fascinating is that, as I’ve followed articles and comments about RimWorld, I’ve seen essentially ZERO indignation about offensive gender bias in the game. Mostly I just see entertaining, glowing, well-realized descriptions of the gameplay experience. It seems to have taken a deconstruction and analysis of the actual game code, which really shouldn’t matter to any gamer, to incite folks to take up their pitchforks and torches and storm the castle. Curious. Perhaps I need to polish my reading skills…

    • Zankman says:

      >>>What I REALLY find fascinating is that, as I’ve followed articles and comments about RimWorld, I’ve seen essentially ZERO indignation about offensive gender bias in the game. Mostly I just see entertaining, glowing, well-realized descriptions of the gameplay experience.

      Well, it also reveals how the average player and even journalists that write articles here do not care about such topics in the slightest; they just care about it being a good game or not.

      This is a “forced” article, basically; it’s negative tone and attacking nature make that a bad thing.

      • shde2e says:

        Nah, it probably meant that either people didnt notice this, they thought it was just several coincidences, or they didnt think it was worth investigating.

        When you find out it’s actually hardcoded behaviour though, it gets a whole lot more inflammatory.

      • Magaro says:

        “Forced” is exactly right. But to what effect? “Clicks” or socially enlightened discussion? Part of me want to believe this whole thing is cathartic and enlightening, and the rest of me just wants to go read other posts about fun games worth my free time.

        Maybe I’m just spent, living in the US and waiting for our current moral nightmare to end.

        For now: back to “Slayaway Camp” to (fail to) kill things…

      • mrbeman says:

        Thankfully, a game’s quality is a binary question with quantitative measures and isn’t at all affected by subjective experience.

  4. datreus says:

    I must say one of the best things on the internet is conservative people getting outrageously offended by ‘offence culture’.

    If only you could harness their cognitive dissonance as a form of renewable, yet pathetic, energy.

  5. mxmissile says:

    Who the F!@#$ reads game code to make sure it’s politically correct? Don’t give in Tyan. What is this Rock Paper Xbox now? Lame AF. So disappointed in RPS.

    • klops says:

      When the code proves the points the writer is telling, I’d say that is an excellent way of research.

      I just don’t find the points as revolting as the writer. Actually, I find how the game works agreeable in many places. Sure, there are problems, like the weird absense of bi men or 100% this or that in preferences, but is it really a fault to code men much more likely to make initiative in a romantic relationship, for example?

  6. baud001 says:

    > Code is never neutral

    As a dev, I’m fairly sure that the code used to render is pretty neutral and will render all orientations.

    Also the code in the third listing is missing an indentation.

    • shde2e says:

      Then maybe “code is always neutral, but the guy writing it sure as hell isn’t”?

      • baud001 says:

        > “code is always neutral”

        I did not said that, but saying that code is never neutral is false. You have parts of code that are neutral and are not influenced in any way by the opinions of the developer.

        But also some parts of code will not be neutral since it would not be possible. Code resolve a problem by quantifying and naming variables, then manipulating them, trying to model the world. So the opinions of the developer will leak in his code, when the code is about something that is part of the identity of the dev, like sexuality and opinions on sexual orientation.

        So code can be neutral, but the developer will have opinions that sometime leak in the code.

    • Ghostwise says:

      “Code is never neutral” is a reference to a large-ish body of work around the role of code in society, with Lawrence Lessig’s stuff likely being the more famous bit.

      • baud001 says:

        No, Lessig’s work was on net neutrality.
        The net being neutral means that the means of transportation of the information (internet) must be neutral towards the content it is transporting, without intervention from either the government or corporations.

        Edit: Or I am wrong and I misunderstood what I read on the subject. If so, would you kindly point me towards any of his work on that?

  7. baud001 says:

    There are no easy solution for this problem. Either men and women have the same behavior (and you’ll have at least a few people whining about it, perhaps even some that would complain about how the current behavior).
    Or you add different behaviors and you have to put figures on things and it’s not easy. And I do not know how the dev could have done that without relying on existing expectation, however bad they currently are. (Also the author could give some possible ways to tweak the algo for a better result)

  8. freddyu says:

    You should send this article to those schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram so they can understand what true oppression is.

    • klops says:

      “Officer, I didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t beat me with a nightstick”
      “Boo hoo, there are girls molessed by Boko Haram, this is nothing compared to that”

      “You can’t let the your kid beat my kid every day on his way to school!”
      “Boo hoo, there are girls molessed by Boko Haram, that’s nothing compared to that”

      and so on… There’s always bigger issues and we could nullify every complaint with a global warming, malnutrition or civil war somewhere. Which means that that argument is nothing more than total crap. World would be a better place if you didn’t use it anymore.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Also, that was like 3 years ago. Your straw man is starting to mold.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Why are you writing banal comments when you could be studying biology so you can cure cancer? You’re basically a murderer now.

      • pepperfez says:

        OH NO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??! Weakly trolling comment sections was the only thing distracting him from unleashing Skynet!

  9. Abaddon2020 says:

    I think it’s really hard to argue that this is not a hit piece.

    It takes an accusatory position right off the bat with a title telling the reader how they’re supposed to feel about what they are about to read. And if it isn’t intended as a hit piece then what IS the purpose of the article? As a gamer, why should I care about the differences between the code for males and females? I don’t come to RPS for my daily dose of social engineering — which is leaving me to wonder why I come here at all anymore.

    There is nothing in the article that explores whether the game is more or less interesting for the different ways the genders are handled. It’s all about whether it’s right or wrong to have these differences at all. And the benefit of the doubt given to the “unnamed” (as if not naming him is meaningful in any way) developer is to allow that this might be a bug, or unfinished code because clearly no decent human being would ever write gender code like that, right?

    • rororo says:

      Dude, it’s gaming critique! If you think this is nasty you should see my supervisor talking about old school ‘video games aren’t games’ academics. You hardly ever see this kind of analysis in gaming journalism but I guess there aren’t many games out there that are this interesting.

      Especially given it’s a sandbox game with emerging narratives, the variables and code the developers use to create those narratives is insanely fascinating especially when they pull off something that actually works. Which is what I’d imagine the original version of this article was about but then the author found all the gender based code. Wouldn’t you find it more interesting to have some overly forward women and some hilariously bashful men too? It’s not like weighted randomisation is hard. Tbh, this is just a couple of lines out of tens of thousands, and he probably wrote it months ago in 10 minutes and forgot about it, if it wasn’t for his replies in the comments I’d have thought it was it-is-3am-screw-it-i-am-done-coding.

    • mrbeman says:

      There are plenty of sites that re-host press releases. If you want somewhere that actually takes gaming criticism seriously and doesn’t guarantee you a safe space where your own assumptions are never challenged, you may want to move to one of those.

    • Neutrino says:

      Exactly. The only ones who don’t see ths as a hit piece are the ones jumping on the dev hate bandwagon. The only point the article makes is that the game is intentionally sexist and that we should all have a problem with that. Which is overtly partisan and political and nothing whatsoever to do with whether it’s a good game or not.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        That’s based on a lot of assumptions. Reading through the comments I could easily say the only people who see this as a hit-piece are the ones jumping on the author hate bandwagon.

        • Abaddon2020 says:

          I don’t hate the author, and I don’t even think she should not have written the article. I just think she wrote it for the wrong site.

          This is a gaming news site, or I used to think it was. It would have been completely different if this had explored how the code affected gameplay.

          But the article doesn’t even care about gameplay – as the author wrote: “But the problem with this model isn’t that it’s flawed. It’s that it’s flawed in a way that perfectly mirrors existing sexist expectations of romance, with such specificity that it is hard to view it as unintentional.”

          It’s not about the game. It’s about how the portrayal of gender relationships differs from her idealized vision of how gender relationships should work.

          This was written to tell us that the developer is, in her opinion, wrong-minded.

          • blur says:

            @Abaddon2020, this is very much NOT a news site. Copy-pasta-ing from the “about” page: “RPS is about PC gaming – all of PC gaming…”

            Among other things, the wot i think articles aren’t news. That’s editorial (objective vs subjective). But also think about the other series they’ve done – Fail Forward, about learning from what games have done wrong; Cogwatch, examining in detail a single mechanic in a game; and of course the S.EXE series, examining….get this….PORTRAYALS OF SEX AND GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS IN VIDEOGAMES!

  10. thvaz says:

    I read about political, social (that includes gender) issues all the time, and I really am interested by the subject, or I wouldn’t read about it. I like to challenge my opinions, to confront them with opposite views, to change if necessary.
    But I dont wat to bother with it in a games site. Not in this way.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Ah, the old “I have a PS3 and a PC, so i can’t be biased” argument. Well played.

      • Abaddon2020 says:

        No, more like the old “I expect my coffee shop to serve coffee” argument. When you go to Starbucks you don’t expect to be confronted by a high-pressure pitch for a new energy efficient washing machine. And even if you were in the market for one, even if he was trying to sell you the exact model you’d been thinking of getting – you’d still be annoyed at having someone shove it in your face when you’re trying to order your peppermint mocha latte. Because that’s not what you went to Starbucks for.

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          I expect my coffee shop to serve coffee but I’m not offended that it also has cakes, tea, smoothies, cookies, and sometimes sandwiches on sale. If I just wanted my coffee then I can have that. But the fact that I can get opinion pieces like this to enjoy alongside my press releases and reviews doesn’t mean OH NO, I MUST NEVER GO AGAIN.

          • Abaddon2020 says:

            You seem to be applying a lot more emotion to what I’m saying than what I’m actually feeling.

            Never, said I’m never coming here again.

            And actually you tend to expect cakes, doughnuts and whatnot at coffee shops, just like you expect fries at your burger place – so, bad analogy on your part.

            Again, I’m not saying the article shouldn’t exist – just that I don’t come to gaming sites to read about social issues. The more sites host content that deviates from their main purpose, the less useful they become for filling that main purpose.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            Not expecting this sort of article at a website whose title bar says ‘PC Gaming Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity‘ is exactly analogous to not expecting to see cakes etc at a coffee shop, actually.

            And comparing a single article appealing on a website amongst dozens to a high pressure pitch shoved in my face is disingenuous to say the least. Where’s your anger at the article about importing Skyrim saves?

  11. trashbarge says:

    show of hands: how many people in here screaming at RPS for not caving to an interview subject’s unreasonable demands are the same people who were screaming about ethics in games journalism not too long ago

    been eyeing this game for a while. grateful that RPS + the dev have saved me from wasting my money on it

    • brucethemoose says:

      You’re really gonna skip RimWorld for some drama between RPS and the devs, or some roughness with the brand new relationship system?

      • trashbarge says:

        nah, mostly b/c the dev seems like a turd and there are plenty of other neat games out there/on the horizon by devs i respect + who respect their queer players

        • brucethemoose says:

          From what I know, Tynan is human, but he’s mostly reasonable.

          A critical piece of missing context is his development philosophy: Tynan focuses on efficiency, adding features that add the most to the game for the least amount of effort (aka time). This has made RimWorld as great as it is today without taking a billion years to develop.

          Apply that to his comments about the relationship system seen above… He implemented a fairly simple relationship system based on his knowledge of relationships, but trying to accurately simulate human sexuality would require FAR more development effort. It’s not so much that he’s being an asshole, he’s just being pragmatic.

          • trashbarge says:

            he wrote code that causes characters to find disabled people unattractive, bi men to not exist, and women to be harassed by straight dudes. that’s not pragmatic- he put in extra effort to make that happen.

          • klops says:

            He didn’t wrote characters with disabilities to be unattractive no matter how many times you write it. The article said that the disabilities make the pawns less attractive.

          • trashbarge says:

            you’re right klops, i’m sorry. he just wrote code that makes disabled characters universally less attractive. what a huge difference thx for the correction

        • adammtlx says:

          Oh fucking stop it. You were never going to buy the game, you just get good feelings about yourself by saying that you were going to until you saw this article.

          • trashbarge says:

            thx for the input friend! how neat is it that bi men don’t exist but mind readers like you do

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            I know you’re addressing someone else, but I absolutely was going to purchase this game (probably in the next holiday sale) – until I saw what was exposed by this article.

            It looked like a really neat game, and I’m disappointed to skip it. But there are plenty of other neat games out there that aren’t built on really gross assumptions about human sexuality. Might as well spend my money and game time on them.

      • Hyena Grin says:

        Honestly, I’ve had Rimworld for a good long while now, and I rather like the game, and just in terms of gameplay, I can’t recommend the game more to people. It’s generated hundreds of hours of entertainment for me, and I expect it’ll generate more.

        I didn’t think the article was damning at all. RPS has done a ton of glowing content for Rimworld that has undoubtedly sold many copies. Ty obviously has a lot of support from RPS, and pretending otherwise just because they pointed out some problematic details in the code, is just silly. This was an incredibly gentle piece. If Ty had ignored it and patched things at some point before release, it would’ve been no big deal. If he’d decided to comment that it was placeholder stuff and it was being changed, that’d be great.

        However. Ty’s response has really soured my view of the game and the developer. His response was pretty typical of an armchair researcher, couching his preconceptions in science he doesn’t actually understand. His views are on the tamer end of ugly (he’s just confused, not malicious), but he made them worse by going on the attack.

        The rush of poison from people who, as far as I can tell, don’t care about content until the moment it puts forward a view they want to see silenced, has also soured my view of the game and Ty.

        Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop playing it. But I can absolutely sympathize with someone who may decide to spend their dollars elsewhere.

        An analogy; it doesn’t really matter how good the food at a restaurant is. If the chef is an absolute jerk to you, you’re probably not going back.

        • adammtlx says:

          Did you even bother to read his followups? He admitted that his response was too angry and off-the-cuff.

          Evidently you’ve never had a labor of love that you’ve worked on for years dragged into the public eye and shit on for the sole purpose of getting eyeballs on the piece for money. I bet you’d react in anger, too.

          • Hyena Grin says:

            Of course I read his follow-ups. But I never said anything about having a problem with his tone.

            I have a problem with his opinions, and his double-downing on them as factual based on an incomplete understanding of a single study that confirmed his opinions.

            There are tons of people on the internet who think that pointing at a research paper and a personal anecdote is the apex of Being Correct, but it’s not.

            At the end of the day, he could have been angry about the piece and still acknowledged that his method was flawed, and I would have respected that a lot more than what he did.

            I don’t have a lot of patience for people who double-down in ignorance about something which I know to be factually incorrect, because if he were correct, then I would not exist. Nor would my husband. Nor would a number of my closest friends. So no, I don’t really see his response as reasonable, regardless of his tone or apologies about it.

            Why shouldn’t that sour my opinion?

      • PancakeWizard says:

        Are you really that surprised? Every time Stardock brings out a game, RPS report it neutrally, yet at least someone has to post a ‘Brad Wardell yuck’ comment on it.

  12. brucethemoose says:

    300 comments and growing…

    Funny, of all the recent instances of sexism in gaming they could pick at, I never thought RPS would pick RimWorld.

  13. Pantalaimon says:

    Though RimWorld’s simulation of sexuality does not live up to my own experiences, I cannot castigate a creator for simply having limited/under-exposed views, given that this position is complete normalcy for most of the world’s population. It is so commonplace that it simply is not surprising, even though it is always disappointing coming from someone you otherwise hold in regard.

    However, the brand of conservative sexuality embodied in the vast majority of films or TV series, books, or the output of your elected politicians, is far less nuanced than that perpetuated by RimWorld’s simulated colonists. That is an important context for this discussion. It is easy to be blinkered by carefully choosing who or what we watch, listen to or play.

    It is also hard for me to point to ways in which people can move beyond this. Notions about sexuality are so incredibly deep-rooted that unless you have first-hand experience, or have frequently exposed yourself to progressive cultural output from an early age (or most likely, both of these), you are unlikely to have developed particularly nuanced views on this subject. Even then you might find yourself doubting the reality of such ideas. And that doesn’t speak to any kind of malice or agenda. It is simply an ignorance that is hard to overcome, even if someone is otherwise entirely open-minded. There are so many ways in which that first-hand exposure never happens.

    Though I cannot ever contemplate developing a game system where I hard-coded gender rules, that is only because my experiences counteract assumptions about gender. It’s not from reading dozens of studies. I would not feel the need to read up on and discover if there was some % value I could use for distributions of bisexuality, because everyone would be fundamentally bisexual. That wouldn’t be realistic based on how people think about their sexuality in 2016, it would be aspirational and idealogical. Therefore I cannot claim that my methodology is any better. Though it would be honest, and I would like to believe, forward thinking, it would also be just as biased towards anecdotal evidence.

    Frankly, the detail of RimWorld’s simulation of sexuality – though unbalanced and problematic to me – is above and beyond most games that you will play. I believe that the criticism this article has provoked is basically a result of how already detailed it is, even though it is clearly prototypical, a first-pass type effort, and by Sylvester’s own admittance, not the intended ‘final form’. If it were yet another surface-level binary sexuality game, where girls like boys, and boys like girls, and never the twain, it wouldn’t be featured in an article here.

    Given that Sylvester took the time to read up on the subject – even if that research suffers the same difficulties, inaccuracies, flaws and biases of all sexuality research – one cannot label him as wilfully ignorant. And from having read his output across many different sites, I know that he is kind of obsessed with the details of his games, and puts great stock in his systematic approach to gameplay design. Given this, I am confident that had he had the exposure to varied flavours of sexuality – or even personal experiences – he would have pursued a system that reflected those things.

    I am disappointed that there was not a positive dialogue between RPS and Sylvester on this topic, and that the interview did not happen. I do believe this has done both parties a disservice, and a positive, nuanced dialogue is what is actually needed. I am hoping that this dicussion will lead to Sylvester developing his thinking on sexuality in time, though ultimately experience is still the greatest motivator for change.

    • trashbarge says:

      ok but on what planet is a journalist responsible for having a “positive dialogue” w/ an interview subject who is openly hostile to basic journalistic standards. he had his chance to have input on this piece + he blew it. claudia still bent over backwards to give him credit for this possibly being a mistake or WIP, which he disproved w/ his own super unprofessional comments. RPS owes this whiny biphobic dude nothing, + claudia deserve tons of credit for examining a shitty aspect of this game in such a fair + thoughtful way

      • Pantalaimon says:

        I think you’re making a lot of assumptions about him and his attitude.

        Even if you are correct with him being ‘biphobic’, by definition that is about fear and lack of understanding more than anything else? Your response shouldn’t be ‘he doesn’t get it, fuck him, he’s dead to me’. That doesn’t help him and it doesn’t help you in the grand scheme of things.

        So yes, in this world, or at the least, in the world that is worth striving for in line with this topic, I want and expect journalistic outlets like RPS to go to greater lengths to achieve that interview. If their intention with articles like this is truly progressive then they need to be a platform for dialogue. And if the dialogue between them breaks down and an interview can’t be conducted in the short term, I think they need to sit on it until later.

        If the article through-line is ‘why has the creator designed their simulation like this?’, then you need to speak to the creator. Without that, you’re picking over brush strokes on a canvas, and there’s no story in that.

        • trashbarge says:

          lmao yeah a journalist should sit on a story. that’s totally their job

          RPS reached out to him. they made the effort. he chose to make demands they couldn’t abide by.

          also, again for the cheap seats:

          “he wrote code that causes characters to find disabled people unattractive, bi men to not exist, and women to be harassed by straight dudes.”

          + then he chimed in to confirm that yep, it was totally deliberate. not making assumptions there, you can scroll up to see for yourself

          in the end, the guy made some messed up decisions + it got called out. that’s positive dialogue imo

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          The guy got his chance to submit his response in the highlighted comments at the bottom of the page. It seems clear to me that he demanded a level of control over any article that is beyond merely the opportunity to give unedited responses – which is what he has provided.

  14. diglazarus says:

    Never felt it necessary to comment before.

    Whoever thought it necessary to publish:

    Editor’s note: The developer was contacted for interview as part of this article, but declined to take part unless we ceded editorial control over the publishing of that interview. We do not cede editorial control to developers or interview subjects and so no interview took place.

    Deserves criticism. I assume this is both Graham and the editor, as it is almost verbatim from Graham’s comment.

    Choosing to deny an interview without assurance that we could read his comments unfiltered out of concern that they may be taken out of context or misquoted is very common (at least in fields outside of video games), especially when the subject of the article has to defend their work (in this particularly instance, from the not-even-thinly veiled accusations of sexism). Professionally, it is left as “refused to comment,” or similar. Even if readers may (falsely) identify that as admitting guilt by omission, its respectful and not inherently misleading. The aforementioned statement reads as defensive, and (given my experience) likely false. You are, in effect, purposefully misconstruing his desire to not be interviewed out of his concern that his statements would be misconstrued in order to further your own ethos.

    The content of the article is worthwhile. That being said, I find that addendum particularly damning of the intent of the entire article.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I also like how the developer’s response to this article is buried in those 300+ comments, but only the bit about contacting the dev is highlighted.

      • diglazarus says:

        I just saw that.

        I can’t really condemn a guy for being defensive after reading this piece. Especially when he came back with a cooler head and apologized, and openly offered up his reasoning on his own terms.

        But apparently other folks, obviously far more thoughtful than I, can. Good on ya, RPS community.

        • pepperfez says:

          He deserves extra credit for only abusively flipping out on a critic one time? When you start out by accusing people of politically-motivated bad faith, any response more accommodating than the door slamming in your face is a gift.

  15. bonuswavepilot says:

    Reading comments to stuff like this here always makes my head hurt. I think there are some fundamental differences in readers’ definitions of basic terms which contribute to this: firstly, ‘political’ means anything involving groups and power relationships, as I read it. I think from comments here and elsewhere though, that many see it as meaning ‘activity undertaken by politicians, or their associates’. This idea of ‘politics’ is more authoritarian, and assuming this sort of authoritarianism is I think part of what gets folks on that side of the equation into such a tizz. In this conception, ‘correcting offensive speech’ is envisaged as truncheons and jackboots.

    Similarly, ‘criticism’. The role of the critic is a bit messy these days, but criticism doesn’t have to mean an attack. In my view, it is insufficient for a critic to just say ‘this was good/bad’ or ‘7/10′. In a sense people do read criticism as a buyers’ guide, but the point is not just a description of the contents or whether the critic thought something was ‘good’, but to interrogate what methods were employed in the service of making something good or not, and how those methods relate to culture in general, how they change over time, etc. This is where the interesting stuff lives: subversive elements, or satire or even just novel game mechanics.

    It seems as though there are some whose principal consideration in an article like this is how it affects the games’ sales. I think it would be irresponsible not to at least consider this angle, particularly when writing for a publication with a significant readership like this one, but it also tends to reduce all criticism to basically ‘YAY!’ or ‘BOO!’.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The actual fundamental difference is that there are a whole lot of young proto-fascist gamers on the internet these days.

      And some occasionally-too-annoying liberals. But yeah mostly the fascism. That’s your problem right there. Everything else is secondary.

  16. Blad the impaler says:

    I actually think having a gender dynamic inherent in the code makes Rimworld more interesting. At the very least, it’s another obstacle between me and the spaceship.

    I may be better off for having read this – but I don’t think I actually care that much that it treads on stereotype. What popular media doesn’t these days? I doubt it was Tynan’s intention to reinforce the patriarchy when he put Rimworld together.

    All aside, the article is excellent and though-provoking, Claudia. I read RPS daily – and this is most definitely one of the good ones.

    • Scripten says:

      That’s kind of the point, though, isn’t it? Patriarchal constructs get unconsciously reinforced due to socialization. It’s hardly ever intentional, and everyone falls victim to it at times. The important part is looking at your own actions and dismantling the motivations and biases that bring you to perform them. If you find those biases troubling, it’s entirely possible to change what you do to better yourself.

      • Blad the impaler says:

        I looked. There’s nothing wrong with my actions, motivations or assertions here.

        • podbaydoors says:

          “I doubt it was Tynan’s intention to reinforce the patriarchy when he put Rimworld together.”

          “That’s kind of the point, though, isn’t it?”

          Uuuh, Scripten was agreeing with you buddy.

    • Hybrid Salmon says:

      I don’t think anyone would want for both sexes to be programmed the same. The game’s set in 5500AD so you can be very creative. Maybe everyone was forced to be sterilized from birth or maybe the female population is 2 times the size of the men because of a gender virus in 3300AD. So it’s a pity that it’s so limited to the beliefs of the dev while the rest of the game is open-minded in a sort of way.

      • Yglorba says:

        That was my thought on reading the article and the dev’s response, too. Like… really?

        It’s one thing to hold to common stereotypes about gender roles; I can cut him some slack there, since (yes) most stereotypes do have some basis in fact, even if I think it’s obvious the game brutally overplays them.

        But the idea that gender-roles are immutable and will be the same three-thousand years in the future? That’s silly. And the fact that the author felt compelled to code in his views on 20th-21st-century gender roles in a game set so far in the future, especially combined with the aggressive doubling-down in his responses, makes me feel like he has an axe to grind about gender politics.

        Which is, well, his call! I don’t actually have an issue with games touching on gender politics the way he did, after all (even if I think his views here are silly and dumb.) But when you put your views in your game like that, it’s fair for people to discuss them.

        If they’re seriously confident about believing that “men pursue, women are pursued” is a basic fact of nature – confident enough to make it central to their game’s implementation of romance – then they should be happy when someone analyzes it and brings it up for discussion, shouldn’t they?

  17. RosyGlow says:

    Registered on this site just to comment on this fantastic piece of critical journalism.

    It is so easy for men to label critiques that call out sexist behaviour as “absurd” but that’s because we aren’t used to the status quo, which gives us enormous advantages, being challenged. So of course it seems absurd, of course “people are making too big a deal out of nothing.”

    This article is NOT absurd. The main argument here seems to be that “it was just an oversight and the devs didn’t have time/forgot to fix it.”
    It’s these oversights that are so telling. It’s these oversights that perpetuate sexist behaviours. It’s these oversights that results directly from sexist behaviours.

    I’m really impressed that the author of this article did some delving and dredged up some interesting stuff. It’s these things that need to be paid attention to, not just in games but everywhere sexism exists (so, everywhere.)

    Fellow men: Next time someone points out something sexist, try taking a breath and trying that opinion on, rather than going to the kneejerk reaction of defensiveness.

    • Neutrino says:

      Advantages you say?

      Advantages like paying most of the tax. Having no rights to see our own children. Obliged to live in our cars after the courts give all our assets to our ex-partners. Being 5 times more likely to commit suicide. Able to be fired from our jobs for not being Feminists. Able to be discriminated against when applying for a job in the first place. Etc, etc, etc…

      Gosh, men sure are privileged.

      • Nauallis says:

        Man, thought I could stay off of the comments. I guess not. Insofar as any of the coded sexuality bothers me, it just bothers me that it’s unfair to men, rather than somehow unfair to women. Why can’t men be bisexual in the game? I haven’t read anybody complaining about specifically that; only and fairly simply sexual misogyny. Get triggered about women, but nobody’s arguing for men. Why?

        To add to Neutrino’s point above: men also work most of the jobs that have high fatality/injury rates – police, firefighters, soldiers, construction, shipping, and so on. Yes, there are more men who work those jobs, so there’s more opportunity for male death. Men are culturally subconsciously thought of as expendable, emotionally and to some extent physically (this is especially true in the United States). However, I haven’t ever heard a feminist (or otherwise) argue that she wants to have the same likelihood and opportunity for early death that men have in these more dangerous professions. Even in the cases where women are in these professions, they still do not have a similar fatality rate. Not that the draft is still a thing, but I’ve near heard a convincing argument from a majority of women saying that they also need to be registered for selective service. I’m all for equal pay and benefits, but that also must mean assuming equal risk of life and happiness.

        • Hybrid Salmon says:

          It’s a bit odd to make it sound like it’s men who do the dangerous work because women don’t want to. If you go back far in the past the reason why men did the deadly jobs was because it’s easier to cope with the loss of half your men in your whatever(village, county,…) than half your women because women can make babies. When that survival aspect wasn’t that important anymore it already was a patriarchal society. Frankly it’s disgusting to say ‘hey if you want equal pay you have to have equal risk’ and act like women deliberately avoid those. Women aren’t allowed to be in combat/army by policies enforced by generals/politicians. Some men also don’t like it when a women does a more dangerous job or earns more because then they don’t feel manly anymore. And in a lot of cases(doesn’t matter what job) women are still considered weak(physically and mentally) and overemotional to be fit for the job. So frankly it’s a bit disappointing to imply that women don’t want to do the same risk as us while ‘we’ are constantly discouraging them to not do it.

          • LuciusAnnaeus says:

            I agree with you whole heartedly – but I also think that feminists sometimes could do a better job to communicate, how questioning gender stereotypes can be positive for both sexes.
            Perhaps that might help bring those men who feel (justly or unjustly) threatened or persecuted on board a little easier.
            additionally privilege can be derived from other then places then gender (class/race/etc), and I have a feeling that many people have a tendency to pay more attention to the areas where they perceive themselves to be at a disadvantage

      • disconnect says:

        Don’t forget the trouser tax.

  18. Paranoid says:

    The actual content in the game is based on the particular biases of the dev, which honestly would be quite forgivable given the expansive nature of the game and the early access status. What isn’t acceptable are the comments the dev has made in this thread. You need to come out and backtrack massively or this will stain what seems like a decent game.

  19. sagredo1632 says:

    Surprised there isn’t more discussion about the observed distribution of sexuality here. Note that my numbers rely on US polling data. When asked, people tend to grossly overestimate the percentage of gay and bi members of all sexes, typically giving values in the ~20% range (Gallup 2015). The same question, when issued in self-identification surveys (also Gallup 2015) gives a result of roughly ~4%.

    Using the “real” number in the game, however, might be extremely problematic if the populations involved in play are relatively small (I’m assuming this game doesn’t have you managing a colony in the 1000s persons), and would, in expectation, require a population of ~100 colonists to even form 2 stable bi/homosexual pairings (and might even result in heterosexual couplings depending upon the population weight of bi vs. gay). Clearly, some form of realism is going to have to give if you want gender identity to even be a factor in autonomous behaviors.

    PS I’d like to see some of the responses from developer Ty, Graham, and others out of this comment thread condensed into a followup article. Surely RPS and the developer can play nice long enough for this to happen, yes? It’s an interesting read all the same, but I’d hate to have missed the appended discussion.

    • Michael Anson says:

      There was a comment upthread about the dangers of relying on polling data without taking into account self-selection bias. Essentially, being gay is still considered socially unacceptable, and as such people are significantly less likely to report themselves as gay. This is very well known in social sciences. The result is that any poll will only give you what people have reported themselves as, not what they actually are.

      • Zanchito says:

        This is the kind of discussion that interests me. The developer cites papers and studies as well as a reasoning for his sexuality modelling. I’m not very much into anthropology or social sciences, so I don’t know whether the extrapolated model has any merit or not (judging by how things actually are, not by how I’d like them to be). I do know more gay men than lesbian women, but that’s just personal experience (aka. worth nothing). Also, as harsh as it sounds, most people I know are fine with disabled people as friends and coworkers, but when looking for sexual mates, they tend to go for sociotypical partners. Of course, that’s pretty shit for the people who get chosen less often. Without going to extremes, the same applies to pretty people vs. ugly ones.

  20. Hyena Grin says:

    Great piece.

    Shame about all the kneejerk reactions from people who think games and politics shouldn’t mix.

    They are super wrong, but they are entitled to that belief.

    I am not sure how they have gotten this far on RPS without realizing that this is a site that has always been willing to delve into the mire between games, culture, and sociology at large. It’s like every time there’s an article that presents a remotely feminist viewpoint, or some other socially-aware piece, piles of oblivious RPS readers come out of the woodwork to ‘quit’ the site because it got too ‘SJW’ or something. Funny how that works.

    Anyway, just wanted to chime in with some positivity. Not that I’m sure you weren’t absolutely expecting some negative responses.

    This is why I read RPS. Keep up the fine work.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      RPS articles get syndicated to Steam under the news section for each game, so a lot of the times when this sort of things happen many of the people jumping into the comments are coming from Steam who aren’t familiar with the site and saw a headline they wanted to get outraged about.

  21. Solomon Grundy says:

    “In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out. Perhaps intimidating their elders into silence is the intention of the identity-politics cabal — and maybe my generation should retreat to our living rooms and let the young people tear one another apart over who seemed to imply that Asians are good at math.”

    link to

    • Sin Vega says:

      “Bagpuss gave a big yawn, and settled down to sleep. And of course when Bagpuss goes to sleep, all his friends go to sleep too. The mice were ornaments on the mouse-organ. Gabriel and Madeleine were just dolls, and Professor Yaffle was a carved wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker. Even Bagpuss himself once he was asleep was just an old, saggy cloth cat. Baggy, and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him.”

      link to

  22. KRVeale says:

    I love this article and would like to see more like it. It’s exactly the kind of discussion I hope gets funded with my financial support, and I consider upping that support further every time whiners claim to blacklist the site over doing good work.

    After RPS has had to deal with this whinefest, it sounds like time to send over some more cash.

    I wondered if anyone was going to complain about all the “politics” in RPS articles, but hoped I was wrong. But nope, the bingo card filled in promptly: the facts that bisexual men don’t exist, it’s impossible to be attracted to anyone with a disability, and all women are bi or lesbian are just neutral reflections of the world, and have no political dimension apparently. Oh well.

    • Person of Interest says:

      I’m very pleased by the overall quality of the comments for this article. Even the trolls are mostly capitalizing and punctuating correctly. (Although this could be an illusion maintained by busy moderators.) It’s an amazingly high caliber discussion, when you consider that you’re observing anonymous internet folk talk about sexuality in games.

      • Niko says:

        Thanks to RPS community being mostly excellent to each other, I guess. I shiver when I imagine what type of comments this might have attracted on some sites.

        • KRVeale says:

          That… is a very good point, and thanks to both of you.

          The whining nonsense about sjws and the like has been pissing me off, but you’re right that on almost anywhere else it would have been unimaginably worse – and there has periodically been good discussion happening amid the garbage.

          So that’s definitely positive.

          • DelrueOfDetroit says:

            We should chip in and buy pizza for whoever got stuck moderating this beast.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Just want to echo the sentiment here: this was a really interesting read. I know that for the most part game code is off-limits (moddable games are few) but I think this would make for a really interesting series dispelling the whole “code neutrality” thing that a ton of tech people seem attached to. The gender politics of Rimworld were made pretty obvious here, but I’m sure there’s even more stuff going on that reveals certain beliefs about how the world works and how it should be (beyond the evident ‘it’s a survival sim’, a favorite fantasy of our times).

      Anyway, great article, thanks for this, Claudia and RPS for publishing it!

      • duaneg says:

        Ditto: pieces like this are why I started reading RPS and why I’m a supporter. Brilliant stuff.

  23. Fredward says:

    Man, this is like hearing someone skillfully telling a funny story and you’re like “Wow, I bet this person is insightful, humorous, woke and witty!” and you look up their social media and they’re a rabid Trump supporter.

    Bisexual erasure: link to

    Many gay men DO use the bisexual label as a transition to becoming ‘fully’ gay, that doesn’t mean male bisexuality doesn’t exist. It’s like people saying “All the gay men I know are just soooo flamboyant!” but they never notice the ones who aren’t so their view is ridiculously slanted.

    It’s interesting to see that the creator doesn’t (outrightly) deny the existence of bisexual men but also doesn’t say shit about adding them. Then there’s this idea that women just like going for well aged prunes for ever and always despite this idea usually tying this to the male’s presumed accumulated resources which wouldn’t be the case in a setting like Rimworld. Or how women simply do not go for younger men because don’t exist yoh.

    It’s selectively adding some stereotyped ‘fringe’ gender and sexuality-related behavior while ignoring others, inevitably in the mould of straight white male.

    Just… ugh.

    • Risingson says:

      Do you realize how much insulting is what you wrote to bisexuals?

      Do I mention the non cis sexuality or are we in this comment section like 100 years behind that?

      • Fredward says:

        I’m sorry, what?

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          I have read your comment like 5 times and I can only conclude RisingSun either misinterpreted your comment or meant to reply to another.

          Or he is possessed, forgot about that one.

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. RPS’s comment reply system is unreliable enough on a 20 comment article. I can’t imagine the number of scotch eggs they’ve had to feed it to power this 600+ behemoth of a thread.

  24. Aetylus says:

    Sigh. This could have been a really good opportunity for a discussion on how games and society interact. If a game codes in social stereo-types there is clearly an interesting chat around whether games should reflect society or shape society. And another chat about what an accurate representation of sexual preference measured on a statistical basis and converted to code could look like. And other chat about the point when collective statistics about a group (not discrimination) move to collective assumptions about individuals (discrimination).

    I thought the article gave an unusual angle and provoked criticism of a game I love from in a way I hadn’t consider – which makes it a useful though piece. Similarly I though Tynan’s response was reasonable (if a bit emotional). All in all, both the basis for a good debate.

    Sadly 80% of the comments consist of either “omfg the game is evil” or “omfg RPS is terrible”. Somehow both sides of the debate seem to have chosen to approach the topic like five year olds. I normally rather enjoy the RPS comments section, but quite frankly, this lot is shite. I’d suggest that anyone who considers that there are “sides” in either the original article or Tynan’s response in bringing in a whole lot more of their own baggage than exists in either of those two pieces.

    • Niko says:

      There are hints of an interesting conversation in the comments, sadly, there’s also there “waa social justice agenda witch hunt” overreacting folks.

    • Michael Anson says:

      The argument about reflecting or shaping viewpoints is an interesting one, but I feel that it’s one that should be based more on setting than anything else. A historically based game should reflect the social mores of the time (though it can also include commentary on those mores); a contemporary game can choose to be reflective or shaping in its representation; a fantasy or science fiction game is inherently shaping as it is not inherently based on reality, and should see more care in such issues. That’s my starting point on the discussion, and I welcome your insights.

      • Aetylus says:

        A rather good starting point. I’d suggest that Rimworld is actually contemporary in the society it intends to reflect. Rather than being a future utopia/distopia, its more a case of “People from today go to space”.

        There are a number of articles that talk about the core of Rimworld’s success – which is that it is a Random Story Generator. But to generate a narrative that people recognize from code, the game has to draw heavily on tropes. It makes heavy use of situations that remind people of their favorite movies etc to avoid just being a spreadsheet with graphic. Social stereotypes and tropes go hand in hand (for better or worse).

        There is a strong case to say that Rimworld is (and should) therefore aim to be reflective of contemporary society. Reflective in a familiar way, rather than a critical way, as its essential to creating that familiar narrative.

        I’d go so far as to say that it is good conceptual design to include social stereotypes in a Random Story Generator. You could reasonably say that it was roughly implemented and could be improved. You could certainly point a stern finger at the society that created such stereotypes.

        But while I thoroughly enjoy those games which seek to break stereotypes, I don’t think that it would make Rimworld better. Probably worse for this particular game.

        P.S. on the subject of historic reflection, I very much recommend the book “A Distant Mirror”. Its a reflection of the medieval mind that is in many cases striking for its alienness.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Welcome to the world of political polarization.

    • Neutrino says:

      The article would have been a better foundation for a good debate it hadn’t labelled the game as problematic for being intentionally sexist. You just can’t say that these days without it being seen for the obvious morality attack that it unquestionably is.

      Now if the article had limited itself to stating that the game reflected certain sexual stereotypes prevelant in society and sought to examine why that was the case, _then_ it could have formed the basis for the discussion we would have both appreciated.

      • Aetylus says:

        Labelling parts of the game as problematic is *not* “the obvious morality attack that it unquestionably is”. It is a piece of critical journalism. (IMO an interesting one viewing a game from a different angle).

        Equally, a parts of the code reflecting social stereotypes is *not* a personal attack on parts of society. (and IMO justifiable for this particular game)

        People can, will, and should have different views on this subject. My point is that much of the commentary is jumping directly to the most extreme views that can be formed. Both of which extreme view are very far from Claudia’s or Tynan’s statements. And both views are just hopeless for actually discussing a complex subject. Those extreme views are basically what a five year old does when they want to shut down a conversation. Those people might as well just write “La la la, fingers in ears, not listening to you”.

        To suggest a discussion shouldn’t be started because the audience might not be mature enough to deal with it is a bit silly.

  25. Risingson says:

    Graham, RPS: THANK YOU.

    Devs: remove all romance from your games already, please. It will save a lot of trouble to everyone.

  26. ABen says:

    Just wanted to say that this is the kind of article that I come to RPS for. Thanks, Claudia, for the interesting and well thought out article, and the examination of these systems and their implications. More like this please!

    Tynan, don’t know that you’re reading down this far, but thanks also for an incredibly fun (and also well thought out) game. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it.

    Lastly, I’m not sure how people expect games to grow as a medium without thoughtful criticism. It’s OK to think that a system is not representative, or should have been implemented differently, or disagree with a game’s implications, and still love a game. Or things like that can be a dealbreaker for others. It’s fine to ignore the entire thing, too (but then you probably don’t need to comment to say that you don’t care, I would think that’s implied by not clicking on the article or commenting)!

  27. Carcer says:

    I think that the titling of the article is somewhat misrepresentative of the content, as it sounds very general when the problem content is in fact limited to the relationship system – but the content of that relationship system is a problem. It is understandable to code differences in romantic behaviour between male and female pawns – variety is what makes the game interesting – but it’s the fact that the differences are so extreme that is concerning. “straight” women are more likely to be bi-curious than men? Fine. Men can NEVER EVER be bisexual? Not fine. And that’s the kind of decision which is extremely difficult to point to, as many are doing, and say “oh, it was done in a hurry, it’s an oversight, it’s a quick hack to make a working system and it’ll be refined”. There’s a working system in place for women which gives them a chance of this temptation. The decision was deliberately taken that there would be no such chance for men, not even a lesser chance, and then justified by anecdotes from the dev’s personal life that all bi men turn out to be gay, actually. I understand he’s apparently turned around on that now but it was a shitty decision to make in the first place and it deserved criticism. I am bewildered by anyone seriously trying to make the argument that these are artifacts of a quick hack at a simplest possible system just to get relationships in game when coding such differences in behaviour is, blindingly obviously, more complex than making all pawns behave the same way.

    It does also seem like the system which makes you sad for being rejected but has no consideration for being the subject of unwanted romantic advances comes from the default position of being a straight male making advances on women. I’m sure this is an oversight and that will become more nuanced but most of the social interactions already affect both pawns so it’s not like it was an incredible extra effort.

    Anyway, within the context of Rimworld it’d obviously be better for Tynan to look at studies on situational sexuality and behaviours in those isolated populations than the behaviour of modern-day humans on dating websites if he wants to ground the relationship system in some statistics.

  28. Faxanadu says:

    It’s a game. It’s art. It’s not sexist.

    Is Game of Thrones sexist? No. It’s a book. It’s art.

    Why is the default position, that a game that has sexist content, (based on a very, very flimsy opinion, and one that doesn’t even try to tell what would have been ok,) is sexist? And maybe even the dev is too then?

    • Fredward says:

      Cuz the game doesn’t ‘contain’ sexism. An example of it ‘containing’ sexism would be if SOME of the men wouldn’t stop flirting with women who are clearly not interested and others would get the hint and stop, this instead presents sexism as the norm. Women never get upset from unwanted solicitations, men and their feelings are the victim.

      The women of ASoIaF function in a sexist world but their behavior/thoughts/feelings doesn’t reflect that sexism. Daenerys didn’t crumple in a heap when her brother died, she didn’t join the whoever ladies when Drogo died, she doesn’t leave it to the menfolk to deal with her dragons. Arya didn’t run to the nearest father figure to coddle her. Cercei didn’t quietly live with her active distaste of Robert etc.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      Art can be sexist. What in the game of god makes you think art can’t be sexist?

    • Synesthesia says:

      I… what? Art can’t be sexist? Did you just jump out of a portal from a parallel universe?

  29. Neutrino says:

    “But the problem with this model isn’t that it’s flawed. It’s that it’s flawed in a way that perfectly mirrors existing sexist expectations of romance, with such specificity that it is hard to view it as unintentional”

    Translation: This simulation doesn’t conform to my social justice warrior preferences on how things should be portrayed and that shouldn’t be just a problem for me, but I think that should be a problem for you too.


  30. Ulminati says:

    If you have that much time to spend on analyzing gender roles, your rimworld colony isn’t getting enough cannibal-pirate raids, enraged polar bears and radioactive meteors full of robo-caterpillar events.

    • podbaydoors says:

      Tynan: Bisexual men don’t exist so I won’t add them to my game.

      Also Tynan: How many plasma rifles should an immortal alien cyber-caterpillar have?

      • Wulfram says:

        Eh, even in the most outlandish fantasy or sci-fi setting I think its important to get the people to act like people.

        The problem is that this isn’t doing that

  31. Ashabel says:

    RimWorld, as of this moment, has 4,182 reviews. Compare to ARK: Survival Evolved (just a little above 100,000), No Man’s Sky (75,000), Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (30,000 reviews), Dishonored (25,000), Skyrim (175,000) and Starbound (57,000). Even Defiance, a MMO nobody plays, has twice more reviews than RimWorld does (9,000).

    Even within its genre, the number of reviews RimWorld has is nothing compared to Civilization VI (8,000) or V (82,000), or Crusader Kings 2 (15,000).

    So saying it’s one of the best reviewed games on Steam is objectively false. It has a high review score, sure, but its playerbase is evidently not even half of its own direct competitors, let alone that of many other popular games on Steam. It’s an arbitrary number, very easy to game. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that you don’t much care whether someone tried to use research that hasn’t been peer-reviewed in their arguments, since you’ve a very weak comprehension of what makes for facts.

    EDIT: It appears that the comment this was a response to has been deleted. I’ll still leave it hanging here for posterity, just in case is someone else tries to claim that the number of RimWorld’s positive Steam reviews makes this article magically invalid.

  32. spacedyemeerkat says:

    The author made what I thought was an interesting response to a re-tweet she made.

    link to

  33. RedMattis says:

    Wow, I feel sorry for the developer.

    Seriously, he clearly didn’t implement it this way with intent to hurt anyone so what the heck is up with this malevolent reaction? All this hate just because his fictional bizarro world where you slaughter (and possibly butcher) hundreds of suicidal tribesmen doesn’t represent your particular perspective on sexuality? The guy even went through the effort of looking up scientific studies; most programmers would just slap a [age+/- 10] and [isMyPreferedGender] check on the character and call it a night.

    Give the guy a break, and since he clearly isn’t make his game to spread hate, let him make the game however he wishes.

    • DudeshootMankill says:

      This entire article is meant to generate internet rage and the resulting many many hits that follows. Kinda a new low for you RPS. The game is in early access and simulating something as complex as human relationships is a lot of work. I’ll buy your game Tynan, and i’ll buy it for the wife too.

  34. MightyCake says:

    Thanks for the article, great read.
    Shame that many people in the comments (including the developer) are so ignorant.
    It’s obvious social statements in the code and nobody asks to crucify the devs for it, the whole article is just facts about how the game works.
    Poor RPS staff.

  35. Zanchito says:

    “The developer was contacted for comment but refused to participate in an interview unless we ceded editorial control.”
    -Not cool

    “I saw it coming a mile away, which is why I wanted my words to be printed unedited.”
    – Cool

    I’m being candid here, please explain so I can learn: printing responses unedited doesn’t sound as bad as ceding editorial control as a whole, and in my non-journalistic mind, seems to be an agreeable term for what would be an interesting interview regarding this topic.

    Also, thanks for putting the developer response up there with Graham’s comment, it greatly helps understanding this whole thing.

    • Neutrino says:

      This stands out for me too. Mischaracterising the dev’s desire to not be misquoted as ‘ceeding editorial control’ strikes me as pernious spin.

      What would have prevented the author from interviewing the dev, and then if they couldn’t come to an agreement on the phrasing of his replies, simply not publish the interview?

    • Wheelsner says:

      I suppose the issue with agreeing to print responses ‘unedited’ is that most would consider selectively quoting part of an answer as ‘editing’, and that agreeing to potentially quote long paragraphs of developer response unbroken mid-article could be a recipe for something utterly unreadable.

      However I’m a disappointed that RPS does not appear to have responded with an alternative offer and simply decided to publish the article as-is. Setting aside authorial intent, this was always bound to be a sensitive and potentially inflammatory topic and I’m surprised that some way to allow the developer to respond (aside from posting below the line in the heat of the moment) could not be found. RPS have published Q&A style interviews before with what appears to be little editing a I wonder whether this could have been published as a companion piece so not to disrupt the flow of the main article. Even a brief “We reached out to the developer for comment but he was concerned that his views may be misrepresented if his responses were edited. As we did not feel able to cede editorial control of the full article to a third party, we have a agreed to publish an unedited respose below” would perhaps provided a compromise solution.

      Perhaps there are practical reasons why this wasn’t possible, but the information available gives me the impression (rightly or wrongly) that more could have been done to give the developer a right of reply before publication.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        But there’s a giant rambly block of comments from the dev published unedited and highlighted in red in the bottom of the article you are reading, is there not? So it seems like an alternative arrangement *was* actually arrived at.

    • UnintendedConsequences says:

      Indeed. I’m not going to comment on the substance of the article but as a long term reader, I have to take issue here too. To say the dev asked for editorial control is to mislead your readers.

      As anyone who works in the journalism/publishing industry knows, editorial control implies and is widely understood as the right to edit the content and tone of the whole piece, including a right sign off/approve the final piece in its entirety before it’s published. That’s what the ‘control’ bit means.

      But when you read the comment from the dev, it becomes clear he didn’t ask for editorial control. He asked for his responses to be included “unedited”. So that means you could put his statement in one block, without picking and choosing which sentences to use. Incidentally, it is entirely possible to write the article around that, and perhaps a more experienced writer would have done so. You simply say: the dev declined to be interviewed by instead supplied this statement in response to this article: “dev statement here” .

      But that’s beside the point. The attempt to justify this latterly by citing “editorial control” is disingenuous, and I think all ye at RPS towers must know that. Perhaps you should change your statement at the top of the article to reflect what appears to have happened: “The dev was contacted before this article was published for comment. He offered to supply an unedited statement to be included in the article, but we declined to follow him up on that offer.”

      • onionman says:

        As a long-term reader myself, John’s reviews are strike one.

        This article is strike two.

        • Sin Vega says:

          Can you give a hint what strike three might be? I’d be happy to pitch it if I know where to start.

          • onionman says:

            What you fail to understand is that history does not have “sides,” but if it did you and Ms.(?) Lo would be on the wrong one.

  36. Alfius says:

    It’s almost like parameterising something which is inherently difficult to parameterise is … difficult.

    Who’d have suspected?

    The guy seems to have taken a reasonable stab at something hard based on *some* data and *some* anecdotal evidence. I submit that short of proof of conscious bias on the dev’s part nothing you could do would be any more valid. Whether or not it conforms to the popular view though is a different matter. The alternative would have been to not bother and just used a uniform set of stats, but that feels lazy in the circumstances. He’s tried to show the world how it is, not how he or anyone else would like it to be, go ahead and debate whether or not he’s succeeded if you like but dismissing him and his efforts for the decisions he’s made in the attempt is childish.

  37. dare says:

    This was a great and interesting article. It didn’t make me angry at the game or the developer, since the game is obviously trying to do interesting things, and the article felt like it was reporting on the implications and values they (unconsciously?) portray. Then the developer decided to chime in, and … yeah.

    Well written, Claudia. As for the developer: when someone is examining / critiquing a game you’ve made and published, it is not an attack on you.

  38. Ulminati says:

    I miss the days when gaming media was written by people who played games to have fun.

    These days there’s too many people who make a living out of being offended by games.

  39. onionman says:


  40. fidelfc says:

    Truly disgusted by this “article”, and if anything, my respect for Tynan grew even more with his response. RPS lost a reader, because i’ll never support this kind of “journalism”.

  41. Eggsenbacon says:

    This is cancer

  42. SuicideKing says:

    Well that escalated quickly

    • LuciusAnnaeus says:

      it would be funny, if it wasnt an indicator of deeper fissures in the political landscape

  43. Adam says:

    Are we all unique snowflakes with different preferences and attractions? Yes.

    Do I want to be the one to try and code that into something that isn’t primarily a relationship simulator? No. Hell no.

    The guy did some research, found some trends and stereotypes (they’re stereotypes because it’s primarily observed behaviour) and he applied some arbitrary rules based on this to get the game going. Does it take into account all of human behaviour? Of course not. There’s no reason to break it down and get all upset by it though.

    I’ve been putting it off but I’ll certainly be buying it later.

    p.s. I’m sure I read an article about a woman who was in love with a tree. Why is this not included in the game?!

  44. Chaotic Entropy says:

    Well… this seems like a well researched but ultimately, unnecessarily, spiteful article.

    • jonahcutter says:

      It’s a very good example of how a journalist can indeed research their subject to some extent, and yet still wildly misrepresent the actual situation.

      This is not just a sin of the writer though, but the editorial staff. If an attack/agenda/oppositional piece was indeed not intended, editorial should facilitate the subject having their own words presented as they say them. They would understand raw facts (the code in this instance) don’t always tell the actual story. Graham clearly wasn’t willing to do that, and goes so far as to misrepresent this as “ceding editorial control” to his own readers.

      RPS stuffs it up here, pretty much across the board.

  45. Reapy says:

    Welp, how surprising/not surprising.

    When the dev gets an email about to tell him how they are going to analyze gender roles in your game, can you see why he probably started getting immediately agitated? How have gender articles gone in gaming for the past few years?

    You realize rimworld is probably this guy’s way of eating and paying his rent, right? It is amazing to me people are upset how inhumane our leaders are when we do not tolerate humanity.

    So you attack this guys way of basically eating then get upset when he ‘gets upset’ about it? You don’t think articles like this don’t affect his bottom line, don’t poison his community and the topics of discussion? Doesn’t affect him?

    People think he needs to sit down and be a calculated PR machine, that same thing we all complained about PR Mouthpiece. Time and again we prove why big companies don’t fucking talk for real, because when you show any kind of emotion everyone jumps down your throat.

    I mean the guy wrote a one night system in a game of many systems based on his personal knowledge and light research. But now hes a sexist. Oh wait, but now hes a sexist????? There a question mark on the end i can say anything and say I didn’t actually say it.

    I mean jesus the guy has lesbian, gay, and bi sexual interactions in his game and people are STILL mad at him, after all that shit a few years ago.

    Fucking. Unbelievable.

    It’s one thing to write a review on a window washer and tell everybody he leaves dirty windows, instead you are going around telling everybody hes a sexist that hates bisexuals because he left a smudge in the lower left corner of the window.

    Then, then after initially getting upset the dev calms down, FUCKING LISTENS and talks to the people that are upset with him, and HES STILL AN ASSHOLE.

    Time and again we prove that what we really want are the politicians we et and the PR mouth pieces to carefully coddle ourselves rather than a person acting liek a person.

    You cut at his livelihood, I am pretty sure most people here would be upset when there is an article coming out that is trying to get you basically fired from your job, I think you’d be upset too, who wouldn’t?

    What’s funny is I think of the things that have helped me understand how difficult it is to be a minority or ‘different’ than the majority of people and not a one of them was critical ‘this guys an asshole because of xyz’ and all of them were instead either personal stories or fictional characters with which you can really ‘get it’.

    I’m going through orange is the new black and yeah I don’t know how realistic the transgendered character is on there, but it at least has shown to me how difficult situations can be when trying to sort everyones feelings out.

    That is the stuff that makes a difference and spread empathy, not this kind of bullshit, and yeah, this article is bull shit.

    I expect the next one is we are going to look through his variable names and determine if he’s actually a rapist or not, question mark.

    • Ulminati says:

      A casual glance at the authors twitter account sets off all kinds of alarms. Link: link to

      Gender studies? Big picture of someone doing a feminism protest? Heck, how about:
      “Magic GameDev Trio of art/program/design leaves out vital (feminised) work, esp wrt emotional labour/nonproducing work”

      Yeah… If that person wants to analyze gender roles in my game, I’d expect a hit piece too. Hopefully this was a one-off and RPS won’t comission more work from that person in the future.

      • spacedyemeerkat says:

        I posted a link to this tweet earlier but it, unsurprisingly, went unnoticed: link to

        Doesn’t this single tweet bring into question her motivation for writing the piece in the first place?

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          The author and my friend’s motivation is expressing her opinion about a game. Are we seriously talking about blacklisting people for holding opinions you disagree with, as identified by your searches of her twitter?

          Shaking my head so hard right now.

          • spacedyemeerkat says:

            How have you deduced that I am advocating blacklisting?

            As for my ‘searches’, Richard Cobbett, someone I follow on Twitter, tweeted some with reference to the author and I followed the link. Nothing nefarious.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            You wrote a reply supporting a comment that said RPS shouldn’t commission any more articles from the author.

  46. nailertn says:

    Can we stick to gaming journalism please? Ideologues masquerading their personal crusade towards some gender blind fantasy as such because the dev has the “wrong” biases is not it.

  47. hungrycookpot says:

    So just to be clear, we’re all mad because Tynan made a game which roughly reflects the behavior of people in real life? Or was it because bisexual men were omitted, as opposed to every other game in existence? I need someone to specifically tell me what to get outraged over, please.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Apparently we’re all outraged because RPS published a criticism of a game they like.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        In this case, RPS and the game itself were merely the conduit for a gender studies major to throw their weight around.

    • Ulminati says:

      I think we’re just tired of tumblr feminists trying to hijack everything and turn it into a tinfoil hat conspiracy about the patriarchy keeping them down.

      They even spun the authors request not to edit his answers to their questions as some kind of demand they submit to his editorial control.

  48. fugo says:

    Im sorry guys, but this is utter trash.

    How can you call this journalism? The developer of Rimworld is excellent at interacting with the community and has made it clear all the code mentioned will be heavily revised in the near future, and apparently he even told you that directly.

    The only purpose of this piece is to incite a mob to get something you dislike changed quickly. And if that is not the purpose, the naivety of posting it is unreal, because that is what it will do.

    If a game in early access only has a male character but the developer has made it clear there will be a character creator with female models in the finished product would you write a long form article slamming them for not including it in the current build? And if not, how is this article any different from that?

    I cannot comprehend how you think this article is acceptable. RPS has previously done an excellent job of walking the line between discussion and denouncement, but this is by far the later, and for a game that’s not anywhere close to being finished!

    I imagine you don’t care, and you will assume i am a dirty sexist for disagreeing with you, but I’m sorry, I’m done with RPS. I’ve suffered the stupid snide sexism jokes for the last couple of years, but the net gain of visiting here is clearly not worth it.

    Thanks for the good times – I’ve been reading since the beginning and a big fan of John and Jim at PCG before that.

    Best of luck, I hope you all grow the fuck up at some point.

  49. Fungaroo says:

    How far off are we before we start saying code, in and of itself, is racist and sexist, lol. Also, what an original and compelling argument, amirite?
    So frustrating to see this stuff get printed by RPS. Not sure why they don’t understand, but the cultural gentrification the left has been attempting to apply to gaming for the last several years is probably far more dangerous than anything the American Christian Right of my youth ever tried. Combine that with the endless sanitizing of this hobby in the name of profit, and it’s not gonna be pretty. Anyways. As a RimWorld player, love the game still. No f***s given about this. Have fun, moral scolds, as you kill the thing you love because you have no chill.

  50. klops says:

    Why this sort of outrage never rose out from Crusader Kings? Big part of the game is the eugenics simulator and big part of the game are stats and appearance clearly affect on those stats.

    In CK2’s stats it is clear that beautiful and tall beople get bonuses (stats like beautiful and tall) while disabled (stats like harelipped, hunchbacked, flat-footed etc…) brings negative reactions.

    So appearance affects on the reaction of character in both games (and in real life as well, Johnny Utopia). Only Rimworld gets attacked for it. For example, look for the false claim repeated here how “Rimworld makes people with disabilities unattractive” (which the article never even claims).

    Of course, Rimworld had other things questionable/plain wrong but this part confuses me quite a lot. In CK2 and real life it’s ok that people with disablities aren’t as attractive as people without them but in Rimworld it is not. Logic error.

    Your hopes of how people would bypass appearance on the future is really not a valid argument here.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Feminist criticism of Crusader Kings 2 actually did exist. E.g. link to
      link to

      More generally criticism of the situation depicted in the game is kinda rolled up into the entire discourse about women in history. Paradox themselves address the issue by releasing a feminist DLC for EU4 link to

      • klops says:

        I didn’t ask about women in CK2. I asked why the disablities affecting attractiveness didn’t raise uproar in CK2 but in Rimworld they are evil.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          I apologise, I interpreted ‘this sort of outrage’ generally. I think you are asking a bit much for specific criticism (and I would certainly call it criticism, instead of ‘uproar’) of this sort to be replicated for every single game that does this that or the other.

          But I think my general comment also applies – the issue with historical games is not that bad things depicted in them are not criticised (vast volumes of criticism exist), but that the criticism is interpreted as a criticism of the society that is being depicted.

          Consider changing the paragraph offending lots of people to:

          “It’s that it’s flawed in a way that perfectly mirrors historical sexist expectations of romance, with such specificity that it is hard to view it as unintentional. And if it is unintentional it is on us to ask what this system is trying to show. What are the possibilities that it allows? What is Crusader Kings 2 setting as the boundaries of possibility?”

          An article can ask this open question of a historical game fairly safely. One cannot however apparently suppose that systems like in Rimworld have something to say.

          • klops says:

            Yeah, I can see why. I actually first wrote how “I also find the absence of bi men and the strict age rules OFF, but here’s my point blah blah” but deleted it since the post was already too long. My bad. Uproar was an exaggeration, as was outrage. My bad again.

            If your general comment applies, I still don’t see how attractiveness and the traits affecting it in the imaginary future are worse than attractiveness and the traits affecting it in the imaginary past.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            If your general comment applies, I still don’t see how attractiveness and the traits affecting it in the imaginary future are worse than attractiveness and the traits affecting it in the imaginary past.

            Well, I think the question of is X worse than Y isn’t the most useful question. The argument I am raising is that actually criticism of both exists – but criticism of the former is perceived as harsher and more malicious than the latter. You can say ‘this history book/game shows a very fucked up society’ without much backlash or attention. Vast volumes of this stuff exists. But say this ‘fictional future game shows a very fucked up gender relations’ and suddenly people start getting angry. The difference actually lies in the response to the criticism, the assumption that this criticism must have a hidden and evil agenda.

            Of course this is exacerbated by the relatively hidden nature of this stuff in Rimworld vs in Crusader Kings where it’s very transparent.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Gorden bennet, how are people still not getting it? There is no outrage. Read what the article says and think about, stop imagining attackers hiding between every line break. Observations about a work’s design and its relation to the society that bore it are a fundamental pillar of criticism. You don’t have to agree that it’s significant or interesting, but all the people inventing some ridiculous interpretation that this is an “outrage” are flat out wrong.

      So tiresome.

      • klops says:

        True, outrage was exaggeration. My use of English isn’t that good and I tend to exaggerate especially in comments and forums.

        With outrage I didn’t mean the article which I both agree and disagree with. I meant the comment reactions like: “I’m deleting Rimworld from my Steam account permanently because of this” or the comments on how “Rimworld makes disabled people unattractive” that are completely made up (at least by the article). Those were “the imaginary attacks I was seeing behind every corner”, or how did you put it. Of course, they could’ve been written in a very calm state of mind.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          You’re putting that statement in quotes but I don’t see any comments like that. The closest to it are people uninstalling the game as a protest at the hostility of the dev’s comments and the hysteria of his fanbase commenting here, which is a bigger issue.

          As for people claiming that he makes people with disabilities unattractive, well that presumeably is from

          // In the rest of the function, multiply attractiveness with the factors for:
          // Talking, moving, and manipulation efficiency (penalty for pawns with disabilities)

          Admittedly it’s not clear to me whether these comments are added by the decompiler or whether they are in the codebase.

          • klops says:

            Not straight quotes, no. I put the imaginary lines in quotes to make them separate them from my text.

            Getting a movement/persuasion/whatever penalty from a disablity does not mean that the dev is making people with disabilities unattractive.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            Not straight quotes, no. I put the imaginary lines in quotes to make them separate them from my text.

            That’s not my point though. You’re saying that there’s outrage because people are deleting the game from their steam account solely due to this article. This does not seem to be happening? It’s not just that this isn’t a straight quote, it’s that you’re pretending things are happening that aren’t? There’s people reacting badly to the author’s reaction, and then there’s people removing the game from wishlists, which is different – I would say in the latter case that those people never really wanted the game that much in the first place and a small thing could be a sufficient turn-off for them.

            Getting a movement/persuasion/whatever penalty from a disablity does not mean that the dev is making people with disabilities unattractive.

            I would say that if your movement penalty is a multiplicative factor on your attractiveness level, that actually is the very definition of making people with disabilities unattractive. The article doesn’t discuss this part, but it’s in the game, no?

          • klops says:

            Outrage = my exaggeration on how people reacted on the comments on this whole deal by telling how they remove the game from their wishlist, wishing they hadn’t bought it or uninstalling it.

            I haven’t played the game, but nothing in the article says that the game is making people with disablilities unattractive. If I have an -5 aiming penalty in Fallout, it does not make me blind in the game. But if the disabilities really do that, it should be changed asap.

            By the way, did you see much hysteria here? Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic? This does not seem to be happening? Is it so that you’re pretending things are happening that aren’t?

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            FhnuZoag says:

            I think you are reading ‘disabilities make characters find people unattractive’ as implying there is a specific ‘unattractive’ state that disabled people are put into. When all that is meant is that disabilities in the game makes characters less attractive. Colloquially it works the same way as ‘smoking gives you cancer’, which is understood to mean ‘smoking increases the chances of you getting cancer’, not ‘if you touch a single cigarette, bam cancer’.

            In terms of hysteria, there is a lot of comments here that yeah, I would put as behaviour showing exaggerated emotion. For example:

            “The way this is written is disgusting.”

            “It’s purely written in the style of a witch hunt – point at the heretic, maliciously misinterpret everything in the most moralistic, angry way possible, and harvest the resulting anger for clicks.”

            “To say this isn’t malicious is laughable. The article practically REEKS of it.”

            “Truly disgusted by this “article”, and if anything, my respect for Tynan grew even more with his response. RPS lost a reader, because i’ll never support this kind of “journalism”.”

            “So you attack this guys way of basically eating then get upset when he ‘gets upset’ about it? You don’t think articles like this don’t affect his bottom line, don’t poison his community and the topics of discussion? Doesn’t affect him? ”

            I’d call accusing the article’s author as trying to starve the dev to be *rather* hysterical, yeah.

        • Sin Vega says:

          Then I apologise, and I agree that people taking the article as a cue to boycott the game are also overreacting and kind of missing the point.