Lamplight City Narrative Commentary, Part 7: Punching bigots

This is a series of spoiler-free (or -lite) transcripts from my portion of the Lamplight City developer commentary, which includes behind-the-scenes insights and anecdotes about the story writing and editing process. Start with Part 1.

There are some moments where Miles witnesses racist comments and attitudes directed at his wife Addy, and these scenes went through a few changes in the script.

In early versions, the player would be offered a few options to respond — either to defend Addy, or to let it pass unchallenged, with consequences for the relationship. If you failed to speak up, Addy would feel betrayed and later reproach you for your silence.

But when we sought out consultation and discussed these scenes with friends who were actually in mixed couples, they pointed out that it would be realistic for the more privileged person to be righteously indignant on their partner’s behalf, while the more marginalized person would tend to defuse or downplay the situation. They would be more accustomed to encountering slights like this and letting them them go, just as a matter of daily survival.

We eventually ended up discarding the points model for the relationship with Addy, because we didn’t want players to be able to avoid the coming crisis by always picking the wise and prudent thing for Miles to say. It’s an important part of Miles’s character that he’s not always wise and prudent. So in the final version of this scene, you still get to express yourself by choosing which indignant line to say, Miles will always speak up and say something.

And when he tries to commiserate with Addy by complaining that she shouldn’t have to hear things like that, she’s the one who shrugs it off. She’s heard worse. If she stopped putting up with the casually racist ladies whose hair she styles, she says, she wouldn’t have any clients at all.

In another scene, when you seek Addy’s help in distracting a police officer away from the tomb he’s guarding, he instead attacks her with racist insults. Our discussions with friends on the topic made us more confident in our decision to remove player agency from this scene. Instead of picking whether to apologize, run away, stand up for Addy, etc., you have no input in the matter: Miles immediately hauls off and decks the officer.

I’m not saying that we necessarily condone punching bigots, but sometimes to stay in character there’s really no alternative.

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