Yore Devlog #1 : Valériane

Why is Valériane an old woman?

– by Oscar Barda

It might be trivial to ask that or even insulting to some…
«Why is that even a question worth asking?!» could one exclaim: why in the modern world would we even bother justifying ourselves on the gender of our character… Especially if it’s a woman since there are so few of them you can play in video games.

Well, we live in a world… Yeah that’s it.
Our game unfolds as a cultural object in a world. A world full of bias and doubts, a world sometimes full of discriminations and clichés and tropes which makes crafting a story and choosing its elements and ingredients a series of difficult choices, some of them seem to have no right answer.

The story of Yore was a very personal one, for me, I carried it for a long time under my vest, but there was something about my personal history, a ray of hope that shaped the person I am today originated when I told stories to 3 little girls I was babysitting something like forever ago.
So the first thing I did when I externalized the idea that would become Yore for the first time was to say it was the story of an old man. An old man, left alone and despairing that a sudden ray of hope for a future he might never even be a part of stroke, because that old man was me…

First test for the old man

But then, a lot of things changed in the world, a lot of things evolved and new subjects were brought on the scene and my story of one more man in a sea of male protagonists suddenly began to feel a little at odds with my wish to make the world of video games a better place for women.

So that nameless old grandpa became a nameless old grandma, since their story was yet to be written. Because the game’s idea was first built on the storytelling gameplay, there was no “what works best with the story”… It was all about what we wanted to add to the world in which Yore would come out.
The choice we laid out was thus: either our hero is a dude and we get one more guy protagonist out there or it’s a woman and… what does that mean.
Well, our main character is a stay at home person that lives in the memory of their loved one and isn’t actually doing anything with their life… Suddenly that person starts to take care of children and discovers the joy of telling stories… We felt that was such a cliché for that character to be a woman. Dressing back womanhood in the usual habits of motherhood and child-care.

Here is an example of what I was talking about earlier: both choices felt weird to our team… So what about a trans grandma ? Well, why not!?
However, for reasons that we will not reveal right now (elements of the story), so that our world feels folk-tales like, that solution didn’t seem perfect either. There is definitely bias here about what feels like this deep childhood nostalgia to us, and we do not mean to offend anyone. I just wanted to state that trans people exist and have to be treated as equal to others and included in stories, our protagonist didn’t feel like the right one for that job. Maybe next time.

We considered this situation at length, there is a very precise memory etched in my brain of the moment where we all felt silent and thought deeply in our meeting room, weighing in the options… Then we chose, knowing that none of the choices were without consequences, and Valériane became a woman, living in France (and why the story happens in France will be revealed in an upcoming update, coming to you at the end of December).

Again, our choice isn’t perfect, some other things came into consideration : during our research into what stories resembled ours, we remembered that an old grumpy man living alone had been cast in Up by Pixar and we didn’t want to feel too derivative.
There were other earthquakes in the world of video games and some biases against women were made even more apparent.
And to some extent, talking about a character that was raised in a small town, in a time when people used to have more defined roles in society made us feel kind-of-sort-of-not-really-but-maybe-a-little that casting a woman in a motherly role wasn’t as huge a problem for us as it would’ve been if the game talked about young women living in the future (full disclosure, there are some in our team that feel this is only rationalization :P).

After taking that decision because one had to be made, we started to flesh out Valériane as a character, her life, her story, her memories and feelings, and it became clear that we felt a deep attachment to this character that would make it really hard to start over again.
Although this article may feel very final, we are ever open to suggestions so if you have opinions on this decision, please take to the forums where we’ll be waiting for your reactions regarding this choice.