The Awesome Queerness in Choice of Robots

My mother is blind, which means it’s difficult to share my favorite hobbies with her. We’ve never been close, but now as an adult-child of a blind woman I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to share the things I love. Audiobooks are not quite the same as reading, but come fairly close. We listened to a few crime novels together (I only slept through a couple of chapters). But gaming is tougher. Some board games are almost doable, but it involves a lot of extra work on my part. Unfortunately she thinks role-playing games are “goofy,” so those aren’t an option.

I began to search for games she could play on her own, hoping she’d enjoy gaming enough that it could be a new topic to discuss. Someone in a blind accessibility chat room suggested text-based games to me. Most of these aren’t written with the blind community in mind, but text-readers can be set up to narrate the choices to the player. I went on the hunt for great text-based games. That’s when I found the “Choice of” game series by developer Choice of Games, LLC.

Choice of Games is a California-based developer that’s churning out some pretty great visual novels. They started with Choice of Dragons and Choice of Broadsides. Many of their games work from phones as well as computers, and a few of their games are hosted online for free. Also, they’ve made their programming language, ChoiceScript, available to the public so that everyone can make a Choice of game. In fact, they’ll pay you for it.

Steam happened to be having a sale on Choice of Robots when I was checking out the company. This 300,000 word “interactive sci-fi novel,” written by Kevin Gold, allows you to live out thirty years of your life as a robot designer. The game develops your character by asking your gender (unfortunately only “guy” or “girl”), your reactions to certain stimuli, and your desires for the future. It then sets you up to build your first robot in the lab of your jerk boss. What kind of robot you create (wood? plastic? humanoid? spider-like? legs? wheels?) informs a bit of your future potential robot army, or robot love.

I’ve played through this game a few times now. My mother doesn’t seem ready to commit to a game this long yet, but at the end of each of my playthroughs I was ready to start again. There are so many possibilities, I haven’t come close to uncovering them all. In my first run I married my very humanoid robot companion, who was robot-sexed female, as was my character. My second time around I treated my robots as unpaid labor and loved a female human scientist. My third playthrough found me as a military robot overlord married to a male human journalist.

Which brings me to my favorite part of Choice of Robots: Queerness is normal and present in the game. I didn’t need to pretend my character was queer, I wasn’t forced to avoid romance as the only way to avoid heterosexuality. There isn’t a singular lesbian that you either make it with, or be left in a sea of available heterosexual men like in many other games. There are humans that you can date and robots that you can (build and then) date, and it doesn’t ever feel like the token gay character. One of the first characters you can meet is a woman named Elly, and one of your choices in regards to your background with this new character is that you had feelings for her in college, but never any time to date. You can choose to rekindle that romance now that you’re working toward your Ph.D. In my most recent playthrough Elly left me because I obviously had feelings for my sexy robot (sorry, Elly, I grossly built the perfect women).

The game doesn’t question your sexuality, but it may raise questions for you. If robots could love, should you love them back? Is there something disturbing in building your own companion? If your robot leaves you for another robot, can you really blame her? If these aren’t the kinds of questions you want to think about, don’t worry, you have the choice to never engage in romance throughout the novel. You could be an a-romantic businesswoman, or a warlord who just never found the time for dating.

For those gamers new to interactive fiction, this game is far away from the typical console experience. There are absolutely no images and the gaming window is devoid of any embellishments. It’s all about the words, and your choices. Throughout the story you can view your stats, which list things like your age, your “humanity” percentage, your robot’s empathy, and your relationships with the other characters. I found this to be the least interesting aspect of the novel, but there are achievements to be unlocked based on these statistics.

Choice of Robots is beloved by many text-based game lovers, and has a solid 8.5 score on MetaCritic because it is an excellent example of a visual novel. The writing is cohesive and entertaining, at times outright funny. The story allows you to imagine your life, actually several lives, and I believe that accessible gay characters are definitely a part of this success. If you enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventure novels, you have to try out the Choice of Games series. Choice of Robots is available online (and for Steam, iOS, Android, and Kindle) for $4.99, and you can even play the first two chapters for free!


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Profile gravatar of Al(ex) Rosenberg

Al Rosenberg is the Games Section Editor for Women Write About Comics, a Shimer College proselytizer, and general Obsession Collector. Currently she's acquiring tattoos in Chicago in-between zine-making, Hebrew lessons and Adventure Time marathons.

Al(ex) has written 6 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. This website has a bunch of other really cool stories as well! One of the better known ones is their hero trilogy–a lot of queerness there, too, where you have many, MANY choices and it even brings attention to bisexuality. I really enjoy their stories and they’re super inclusive–there’s a non-binary character in the story that I believe uses “ze” pronouns.

  2. Full disclosure: I’m biased because I know the people who run this company. But I also have a very high quality control filter. AND I LOVE THESE GAMES. My particular favorites have been Choice of Romance – yes, you can choose the gender you’re attracted to, though I belieeeeve it’s binary – and Choice of the Deathless, where you play a necromancer/lawyer AND CAN BE BISEXUAL. A GAME WHERE YOU CAN BE BISEXUAL. Wow

  3. As a reader and writer, I was never really able to make the leap into role playing games. The whole genre confused me. They were like watching a movie, but with too many choices. Or they were like writing a story, but with too few choices.

    But if anything could get me into the genre, it would be a text-based game. So I just tried this out! On my lunch break! And it’s so relaxing! It’s like a choose your own adventure book, only with far more choices. And I’ve already slept with my college crush AND given the robot I built special robot pronouns, so I’m pretty damn happy with the choices.

  4. I am so excited to see a review of Choice of Robots on here, that I’ve run down to the comments to regurgitate enthusiam all over the place.

    I love CoR. The writing is so good; I genuinly both laughed and cried.

    I have a passion for playing ‘evil’ characters. I like to make gritty backgrounds stories and explore why people may do very bads things – I find this sort of thing fascinating. I also admittedly have a very dark sense of humour, I will laugh disgracefully whilst playing any sort of meglomanic asshole of a character. However, I was amazed by how this game made me feel. It was fantastic at showing the reality of my characters actions, and sketched out in horrifying detail the path she ended up taking. I think I ended the game genuinly horrified and devastated, and though that sounds like a bad result, I came away from it with amazing feelings towards it. It took me on one hell of a journey, and one I won’t forget.

  5. Oh my gosh. I was playing Choice of Dragons and Choice of Broadsides years ago, I’d totally forgotten about them!! Broadsides is so good – who doesn’t love wlw pirates? I did, and this was before I could even admit to myself that I liked girls. So happy to hear that Choice of Games are still doing great work. I’ll have to check out Choice of Robots.

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