I am currently developing an RPG in which, during character creation, players may choose their pronouns as he/him/his, she/her/hers, or a custom entry based on their own text input. Whenever characters refer to them in dialogue, they will use the pronouns listed as they were typed into the character creation.
To head off some objections that have been raised in comments: this game isn't a hardline historical fiction, it's a video game RPG. My setting is what I write it to be, and in my game I want people to be able to make the character they want.
The trouble I've arrived at is that I will eventually be getting dialogue voice acted, and I am not sure how to account for these voice lines. Say for example a character set their name as Pete and pronouns as he/him/his, the dialogue might appear on screen as:
Hey! This is my friend [Pete]! [He] is new in town, want to help me show [him] around?
Under normal circumstances with a male/female only option, I could simply record two lines which omit the name, such that the line sounds like this in voice:
Hey! This is my friend! He is new in town, want to help me show him around?
Pronouns, however, cannot simply be omitted from speech.
What ways can I account for this in the voice acting of my game? Do there exist examples of voice acted games with custom pronouns that get around this issue?
Solutions I have come up with thus far:
- Write the story such a way that pronouns simply aren't used in dialogue, only e.g. in UI
This is doable from a writing perspective but doesn't feel right because it makes the pronoun selection feel completely meaningless. I would like players to feel like the gender represented by their pronouns, so a completely pronoun-neutral dialogue would feel weak to me.
- In voice acting, use a generic "they/them/their" pronouns and display the custom pronouns in text
Players will notice this, and it will feel out of place. Playing as a "he/him/his" or "she/her/hers" will probably seem confusing when they hear their "common" pronoun replaced with a neutral variant. Also, some consider "they/them/theirs" to be grammatically incorrect.
- In voice acting, record three lines: "he/him/his", "she/her/hers", and "they/them/theirs" used for any custom pronouns
This is the solution I'm currently leaning towards, but it still feels dirty. Like I'm offering token representation but then reducing it to an "other".