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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Ben O'Neal on May 06, 2004, 07:56:35 PM



Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 06, 2004, 07:56:35 PM
Up front, I am completely aware of the 'controversy' that building mechanical gender differences into a game entails. People may be offended/disgusted/whatever, and I accept this. I ask that if this is the case, that your input is most especially welcome, provided you give reasons for why you are offended. If you cannot give reasons, then your offence is an automatic and irrational response (irrational in the sense that it arises devoid of reason, not that it is invalid). I welcome all intelligent discourse on this topic. [/disclaimer]

Now, this issue has cropped up before I know, but AnyaTheBlue hinted in this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8052&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=45) with this quote...
Quote
What is your goal in Simulating these real or perceived gender differences? How and why does it make the game more fun? Is it 'really real', is it based on a bias or misconception, or is it wish-fulfillment?

...at the answer to what I feel may be the primary concern with why gender difference mechanics are so controversial: That such gender differences usually impinge on character effectiveness detrimental to the game's focus. In other words, if D&D, a game primarily concerned with combat, included a -2 penalty to STR for women, then regardless of what consequent +2 bonus they recieved, it would not make up for the fact that choosing a female character would make you less effective when pursuing the primary focus of the game. Conversely were they even to grant solely a +2 bonus to CHA for females without any "balancing" bonus for males, then this would be not nearly so severe, as CHA is used for so few things (unles you are a sorcerer, and even then the bonus is tiny).

So that's what I think the problem is really all about (except perhaps the attitutude that males and females should be identical in all ways but genitalia and any suggestion to the contrary is blasphemous).

The reason I ask is because my game, Eclipse, incoporates gender differences into chargen. You can read about Eclipse chargen  in this incomplete version of my play-test rules (http://eclipse.netlab.com.au/Eclipse-PTR.pdf).

In summary, attributes are bought via a point-buy system, but in order to help differentiate the species (and genders), you are limited as to how high you can raise them. You can't raise an attribute (at chargen, the limit dissapears in-game or advancement would be futile) higher than 16 plus your initial attribute, which is determined by the attribute modifiers for your species and gender. For example, for a human (no species modifiers) female, you can't raise Power higher than 14, and a human male can't raise it higher than 18 (there are 9 attributes, and it probably would help if you read the link I gave above).

Now, specifically dealing with the quote I gave earilier in addressing what I percieve as the real problem with gender being mechanically enforced, I will answer the questions raised.

1. "What is my goal in simulating gender differences?"
The same as my goal for simulating combat and social interaction and economy: to provide rules which not only allow players to explore the world, but which actually conceptually explain why the world is the way it is. People don't just go around killing people because the rules say that combat is dangerous for practically everybody, with death being a knife-slip away. People form communities and don't just wander around "having adventures" because the rules say that it is advantageous to form and maintain many close friendships, and disadvantageous to be alone. In turn, armies are made primarily of men because the rules say that men are stronger in melee. Personally, I find it destroys the verisimilitude of a world to say that males and females are perfectly identical, and yet there are gender divisions amongst various areas.

2. "How and why does it make the game more fun?"
The answer to this has a lot of crossover with my above answer, but in short, because given the rules and options available, your choice of gender can have tactical advantage depending on the style of play you wish to pursue. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way to make gender important beyond chargen, so once you've advanced a bit the choice of gender becomes mute, but I'm considering perhaps implementing some sort of multiplier for advancement such that if you distribute attrbute points among certian attributes defined by your gender then you get more than if you stick them elsewhere. Dunno yet though.

3. "Is it 'really real', is it based on a bias or misconception, or is it wish-fulfillment?"
Is any game or rule "really real"? Are identical genders based on feminist bias, misconception, or wish-fulfillment? I don't want to spark some sort of feminist debate, but this question cuts both ways. I think the best answer would be "within the game world, in describing and conceptually streamlining the facts onf the world, yes, gender differences are "really real" in the sense that they reflect the reality of that world just as magic does".


To specifically deal with the aspect of "do the gender differences have a negative impact on the pursuit of the goals of the game", In my case, I would say "No", because combat is, if anything, disincentivised (not through rules per se, but in relation to the social interaction half of the equation), and where females may initially be limited in their pursuit of killing other people, they are granted greater social interaction effectiveness, which comes into play more often, and can provide many nice bonuses. In fact, social interaction in Eclipse is a better and easier way to improve character effectiveness than fighting, and also has the added bonus of really driving plot oppurtunities (especially when dealing with threats to those you care about). For more information on what I mean you can read my social interaction mechanics here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10431).


Now, these are my thoughts on the matter, and I've used my mechanics as an example. I personally feel that it is possible, and that I have acheived this, to incorporate gender differences into a game without it suffering from and controvery regarding sexism or unfair bias. However, I obviously am one least able to make this ascertion objectively.

I would like to keep this discussion to the possibility, reasons. and implications for attempts to create gender-based mechanics. I feel that few things in this world are as consistently salient as gender, and that the current trend of "all humans are clones that look different, and yet we are all individuals, and yet males don't understand females" is incongruous and purely illogical wish-fulfillment of the modern feminist kind. Specifically I would like this discussion to NOT include reference to either gender as players, or to how a given group of individuals within a gender might react to such things. Attitudes are fine and necessary, generalising attitudes to groups of people is not the focus of this thread.

So, questions to spark discussion:

Has anyone attempted to use gender mechanics in their games? If so, why, if not, why not?
Are games typically focused in such a way that gender mechanics invariably result in The Problem?
What is your personal attitude towards gender being mechanically salient within a game?


If it helps, you can address my mechnics specifically to help highlight problem areas and/or whatever.

-Ben


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: John Kim on May 06, 2004, 09:24:36 PM
Quote from: Ravien
 So, questions to spark discussion:
Has anyone attempted to use gender mechanics in their games? If so, why, if not, why not?
Are games typically focused in such a way that gender mechanics invariably result in The Problem?
What is your personal attitude towards gender being mechanically salient within a game?

If it helps, you can address my mechnics specifically to help highlight problem areas and/or whatever.

OK, here is my feedback: as far as I see, the only effect you have for gender is in the attribute modifiers.  This creates the strong subtext that you think that gender differences are primarily genetic rather than cultural.  In contrast, for example, my Vinland game has fairly strong social effects -- women have roles which are pretty much historical -- but no mechanical difference in the attributes.  This creates a subtext that emphasizes the social creation of gender differences over the genetic dimorphism.  

Since my system is flat-cost point-allocation, it wouldn't have made much difference anyhow.  I could in principle have set a maximum Strength for women, say, but it wouldn't have made a difference since none of the female PCs took particularly high Strength anyhow.  

So I guess here's my question: what are you doing to acknowledge gender-based social roles?  In my experience, most fantasy games which have gender mechanics tend to throw in a token Strength modifier, but then go ahead and ignore gender throughout the rest of the game -- even encouraging parties where warrioresses and witches work alongside priests and rogues.  

As far as your system, it seems like it tries to cast social differences as "attributes" which are implied to be genetic or at least inherent.  For example, you give +1 to Beauty for females and -1 to Beauty for males.  Note that that's a social effect.  The physical differences between the human sexes are almost all functional (i.e. mammaries, hips).  I could see male peacocks having higher beauty than female peacocks, say, because they are evolved to be visibly prettier.  But humans don't have such differences.  Rather, we just have a society which values beauty more in women.  

This could alternately be represented, say, as skills rather than a dichotomy in attributes.  This would make it more explicit as a socially-learned difference.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: clehrich on May 06, 2004, 09:31:05 PM
Ben,

I don't have any necessary problem with gender- or sex-structured mechanics.  The thing is, I do think your defense here actually sort of begs the question: why bother?

It seems to me that by including a sex division within the mechanics, you focus attention on that division.  The question, then, is why you want this focus.

Let me put it this way.  Suppose I wrote a game set in the antebellum South, and I built in mechanics such that blacks were, on average, less intelligent but physically stronger than whites.  Now I could do this out of pure racism, of course, and the danger would certainly be that some would read it so.  But I could also do it as a way of focusing attention on cultural inequities.  For example, if I had "intelligence" be a general marker that also indicated education, and I emphasized that physical strength was largely dependent on hours and hours of physical labor, then the unequal mechanics would probably be historically true: male slaves especially would tend, on average, to have less education and more physical labor-hours than white plantation-owners.  But if I built it this way, and simply said, "Well, because it was really like that," I'd have structured the mechanics to focus on this issue for no good reason.  If, on the other hand, I did with the explicit and overt purpose of encouraging players to bang their heads against the horrible inequities of that society, then it would be a reasonable (if a bit dangerous) thing to do.

I could see the same thing with sex differentiation.  I could easily see writing a game in which sex differences had strong mechanical effects, with the point being to focus play on the reasons for those effects and inequalities.  But to do it because it "makes sense" or seems "balanced" or simulates some notion of reality strikes me as very problematic indeed.

My question, then, would be why you want attention drawn to this issue, in your game.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on May 06, 2004, 10:06:24 PM
Hi.

I'll be blunt.  I tried to write a really cozy, friendly response, but life's just getting too short.

You sound like a teenage boy stuffed in the head with a bunch of fear-driven women-scare-me-so-at-least-I-can-be-safe-here-in-a-fake-D&D-game  crap.

Now:

First,  Chris's post above is vital.  I mean vital.  You must articulate why *this* particular bugaboo is so vital to your game to defend this point.  You say it's to simulation reality.  Well, there's tons of modifiers you could add.  

For example, the effect of wealth on male and female strenth.  The average woman in Los Angeles could kick the ass of most men in famine ravaged lands across our planet.  Where are the wealth modifiers for strength?  

Don't have them?  Why not?  Oh, you're really, really married to the idea of PC men being, on average, more powerful than PC women?  Great, then.  That's the obsession at stake, and not modelling reality.

Second.  (And this is my Standar Arguement (tm) when it comes to this nonsense):  PCs, by definition, are NEVER THE AVERAGE!  Who the hell is to say the greatest female adventurer of any fantasy world isn't the strongest person who ever walked the earth?  These are the people who break the norms.  These are the people who set the upper limits of capability, stamana and strength.  

These riduculous modifiers always presume the average of society.  But when creating specific EXTRAORDINARY characters, the average is out the window.  THAT'S THE POINT.  

Yeesh.

Look, you want to make yourself feel better knowing that even though you feel at a loss because you feel a lot more attracted to women than you feel women are attracted to you, go ahead, give them a STR penality to compensate for what you percieve as the inequality of beauty.  But please, please, don't hide behind "logic" or "simulation" when you're talking about fantasy characters, in a fantasy world, where the norm might be anything, and in particular, the PCs are anything but the norm.

This sounds harsh.  It's meant well.  Listen: take the hit. In ten years you'll thank me.

Christopher


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Silmenume on May 06, 2004, 10:07:24 PM
Quote from: clehrich
I could see the same thing with sex differentiation.  I could easily see writing a game in which sex differences had strong mechanical effects, with the point being to focus play on the reasons for those effects and inequalities.  But to do it because it "makes sense" or seems "balanced" or simulates some notion of reality strikes me as very problematic indeed.

My question, then, would be why you want attention drawn to this issue, in your game.

Italic emphasis mine.


I am a little confused on two issues here.

In a world and culture where we are supposed to celebrate diversity (differences), why is the quantification of said differences inherently problementical?

And because there are differences why is that necessarily a negative issue, and one that is drawing attention itself?

If we are supposed to be celebrating diversity would this not present an opportunity to do so?

Differences and the quantification of them mean nothing - that is unless human beings then decides to make other sorts of judgements based upon those inherently neutral differences.

The problem lies not in the mechanics, but in the players.

I am shorter than the norm, lighter than the norm, and by one dubious measure more intelligent than the norm here in the US.  What does that say about me as a person?  Nothing.  It does effect how I am effected by the world, however it is exactly how I respond to the world, based upon my gifts and limitations that is the measure of the person I am.  I believe it is the same with games.

I believe fretting over the inclusion or exclusion of such mechanics is really much ado about nothing until one sees how they are intended.

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 06, 2004, 10:14:33 PM
John and Chris, quite a few points, and good ones all.

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OK, here is my feedback: as far as I see, the only effect you have for gender is in the attribute modifiers. This creates the strong subtext that you think that gender differences are primarily genetic rather than cultural. In contrast, for example, my Vinland game has fairly strong social effects -- women have roles which are pretty much historical -- but no mechanical difference in the attributes. This creates a subtext that emphasizes the social creation of gender differences over the genetic dimorphism.

Excellent point concerning genetic subtext. Indeed, I do feel that the difference would be primarily genetic, and then buit upon socially, either to minimise or maximise what was already given. But you have inspired me to consider ways to carry gender as being important during play, not just before play (and possibly at advancement, though that's not how it stands now). Thanks, I'll have a think on that.

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So I guess here's my question: what are you doing to acknowledge gender-based social roles? In my experience, most fantasy games which have gender mechanics tend to throw in a token Strength modifier, but then go ahead and ignore gender throughout the rest of the game -- even encouraging parties where warrioresses and witches work alongside priests and rogues.

I guess my initial idea was that the commented on why such social roles existed, but I can see how it doesn't acknowledge their permanence. Your point about throwing in a modifier and then forgetting is well taken, and part of what I see to be The Problem.

However, regarding beauty, I feel that it is primarily genetic. Why? because despite the fact that women can be attracted to men, when asked which gender is more attractive, I think I've never met anyone who doesn't think that females are just innately more aesthetically pleasing to look at than males, regardless of their gender. Were the modifier instead meant to represent the values society places on women for beauty, it would be higher than +1.

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It seems to me that by including a sex division within the mechanics, you focus attention on that division. The question, then, is why you want this focus.

But by that same token, am I not also focusing attention on species? Indeed, yes I am. But as a choice. Species actually is a rather pervasive decision in Eclipse, carrying with it many implications, from societal structures and values, to how social interaction rules apply to them, to the options that are available for them to pursue. I think it's important to note that compared to gender, species is far more pervasive and affects play in more drastic ways which in most cases cannot be overcome, unlike gender.

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I could see the same thing with sex differentiation. I could easily see writing a game in which sex differences had strong mechanical effects, with the point being to focus play on the reasons for those effects and inequalities. But to do it because it "makes sense" or seems "balanced" or simulates some notion of reality strikes me as very problematic indeed.

Yes, it would be. But the gender rules I include are not meant to be reflective of "reality" or the world, but instead are the cause of the world's reality. I feel that the distinction is important to avoid getting the horse before the cart.

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why bother?

I'm not trying to make a profound statement with my game, nor am I trying to encourage grown adults to question their perceptions. I don't believe games like that can really work. Either people are open and willing to question their reality or they aren't, and my game won't make a difference any more than watching a movie will. Instead, I wasn't trying to "draw attention to the issue of gender" as opposed to "making rules which help verisimilitude by describing why things are how they are".


As a side note of sorts, your example of a "racist" mechanic was good. But here's an exercise: Why would such a mechanic be a bad thing? This question is perhaps made especially harder if the game were actually attempting to depict the reality of that historical period. Would it still be as bad if blacks were the base rate and whites had +2 to intelligence and -2 to strength? What about if blacks had +2 to intelligence and -2 to strength? Are these options equalling unappealing? See, what I would take home from this is that there is nothing at all inherently wrong with such a mechanic, nor is it racist. Instead, I think any problem with such a division is not what that division is, but the fact that there is a division, implying that deep down, no-one wants to be different or "singled-out" from whatever is defined as "the norm", unless it is for praise or something positive. If in such a game blacks were "the norm", whites would not wish to be different from them regardless of "balance". Of course, such an observation is made hilarious by the explicit desire for everyone to be "an individual".


Also, to help further this discussion, I would be very interested in hearing how you brought about cultural gender differences in your Vinland game.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 06, 2004, 10:27:27 PM
Ok, three posts got cross-posted because mine was long.

Christopher, that was perhaps the most infantile rant I've ever had the displeasure of reading here at the forge. Clearly you saw "Mechanical Gender Differences" and formed your opinion of me before reading my post (which I actually seriously doubt you did), and did not allow yourself to be swayed in any way by my arguments therein. Such an attitude makes discourse impossible, so I would ask that until you can provide something considered to this thread, that you do not further reply.

Had you read my post, and had a look at the play-test pdf I linked to (which, given that you were addressing me specifically, you really ought to have), then you would know that in no way are men "more powerful" than women. In fact, by your attitude I would hazard a guess and presume that to you, physical power is the definition on character power. In my game, that is clearly not the case, given the strong emphasis on social interaction and the inclusion of 8 other attributes, which you so conveniently ignored.

As chris mentioned, and as I replyed in my previous post, the attribute modifiers are symbolic of genetics, and as such, do not necesssitate the inclusion of wealth as a factor.

Without knowing my game, I find your argument that PC's are never the average to be laughable, and I'm sure this would be true of a few other games as well.

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Look, you want to make yourself feel better knowing that even though you feel at a loss because you feel a lot more attracted to women than you feel women are attracted to you, go ahead, give them a STR penality to compensate for what you percieve as the inequality of beauty. But please, please, don't hide behind "logic" or "simulation" when you're talking about fantasy characters, in a fantasy world, where the norm might be anything, and in particular, the PCs are anything but the norm.

This was not only un-called for and unecessarily caustic, but also based on what you know about me: precisely nothing.

Quote
fantasy characters, in a fantasy world

That's right, MY fantasy characters in MY fantasy world. Who are you to dictate what should be and should not be in MY FANTASY? Your own words destroy your whole argument.

Now, regarding a more intelligent and constructive post, Silmenume, i am unsure where you stand from your post. Are you saying that such mechanics are always unecessary? Or that they are fine providing that they are included for the right reasons? Or are you saying that mechanics are less important than the players?

-Ben


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: beingfrank on May 06, 2004, 10:31:38 PM
Quote from: Ravien
So, questions to spark discussion:

What is your personal attitude towards gender being mechanically salient within a game?

If it helps, you can address my mechnics specifically to help highlight problem areas and/or whatever.


My personal attitude is 'why bother?' for a couple of reasons.

If you're specifically making gender differences an issue of the game, then it's all very well, if you're not, it seems a bit pointless.  As has been said better by others, it's just drawing focus to something that you're not actually interested it.

My other issue is scale.  A few years ago I was reviewing the literature on differences between the genders (mainly psychological rather than physical) and the overwhelming trend was that there was a significant* different between the genders in some traits, but that it was very, very, very, very small.  So that the variation within a gender is vastly greater than the variation between genders.

This means that if you're using a mechanic where attributes range from 1 to 20, then the gender modifier in whatever direction should be about +0.00001** if your aim is to accurately model human abilities.  I really can't see that this adds anything to your game, and it just gives you a major headache as you try to deal with a phenomena that your system simply doesn't have the fine grain to deal with.  So why bother?

If, however, you're dealing with species, alien for example, where there are differences between the genders on the scale that your system can cope with, and you're interested in making these are relevent point of the game, then I say knock yourself out.  But if you're talking about anything that's even vaguely human, I just wouldn't bother.  If you're doing it for some notion of realism, then you're likely to have the opposite effect, as people find it disconcerting to have extremely minor differences exaggerated into major life-altering differences.  It would just be freaky weird, instead of providing rules that explain the world, adding to fun, or making things more 'really real.'

* Significant in the statistical sense, not in the 'important' sense.  I'm using it to mean 'a difference that's probably due to drawing from two different populations (like men and women) rather than drawing from the same population.'  I can clarify this if it becomes relevent to the discussion.

** Note: extremely rough ball park figure.  I couldn't be bothered digging out actual studies.  If anything I'm being generous to your suggestion by several orders of magnitude.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on May 06, 2004, 10:35:16 PM
Chris, Ravien, both your posts are a little hot under the collar. Please relax.

I'm with the "why bother, your game isn't about gender issues" camp here. Why do you want your rules to derive differences between genders? Do you believe that cultural norms must be backed up with some genetic cause?

If that's a reality of your game, why is it so?

Edited to add:

I believe that one of the supplements for Sorcerer deals with player gender.

In one version of Snow From Korea, I incorporate cultural gender differences, by providing characters of different genders with different skillsets, agendas, and Currency mechanics, which are intended to make them feel very different in play. I'm not sure how well this has succeeded, since SFK is still in a semi-RPG state and hasn't been really playtested.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on May 06, 2004, 10:41:06 PM
For the record, I read the post.

For the record, I read the rules.

For the reord, when I wrote "powerful" I was inferring "physically powerful," since that was the topic on the table.

And my first point was Chris' point in his first post, which has now been echoed by two more posters:

"Why?"

And yes, it is YOUR FANTASY.

... and so, I'm still fascinated... Why is this Your Fantasy?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 06, 2004, 11:04:40 PM
Quote
In one version of Snow From Korea, I incorporate cultural gender differences, by providing characters of different genders with different skillsets, agendas, and Currency mechanics, which are intended to make them feel very different in play. I'm not sure how well this has succeeded, since SFK is still in a semi-RPG state and hasn't been really playtested.

Excellent, so now I'll ask you the same thing I've been asked: Why? What did you want to achieve? What statements are you trying to make? What is the logic of your world to support that males and females play differently? Do the mechanics infringe on player enjoyment if they choose one gender over the other? Interested in hearing your replies.

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Why Bother?

Actually, I think I've already provided an explanation. A few actually, in my original post and subsequent replies. One of which can be summarised by "To give credence within the rules to the reality of the world the rules support". I really can't think of any better reason than that for any mechanic to be introduced into any game. As I understand it, it is basically the Lumpley principle restated.

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My other issue is scale. A few years ago I was reviewing the literature on differences between the genders (mainly psychological rather than physical) and the overwhelming trend was that there was a significant* different between the genders in some traits, but that it was very, very, very, very small. So that the variation within a gender is vastly greater than the variation between genders.

Really? I'm doing that right now for my next essay. Isn't it fun!?

However I would question your interpretation of "small differences". As you imply, what is small? As a rather shocking example, approximately 30% of all women (yes, real figures from real studies cited in a meta-analysis) fantasize about being raped (as in being the victim, not doing the raping). Guess how many men do the same? 2%. Now, this is not a physical difference, and yet it is, in my opinion, not a small one, and clearly indicative of the levels by which males and females can differ. A trend that I have found is that the more specific you make your test item, the bigger the differences will be, and the more general the item is, the smaller the differences will be, as inter-gender differneces come into play more. So you are right, it is about scale, but not the scale of the differences, instead it's the scale of the specific item of interest.

Now, clearly my mechanics are dealing with "large-scale" things in terms of attributes, but instead of just homogenising them, and losing all the detail of the true differences, I've highlighted them to show that differences do exist, but unfortunately character sheets are not 2000 inventory personality assessments.

This is really similar to how I've approached the rest of the rules, in that all the details of combat are not represented, but are instead collapsed and magnified to "similuate" or rather "emulate" combat. Social interaction is follows the same principle, in order to get the maximum benefit from the minimum detail. Is this really all that unreasonable?



Unfortunately, it seems to me that this discussion is not one of thoughtful reflection on design, but instead has turned out as negative throwbacks to why such a thing might be included. I have yet to see any real reason to not include gender modifiers other than the ones Claire presented, and instead I'm only seeing "why bother" as a question of "why break with the accepted convention", as if this issue really is far more controversial than I ever could imagine.

Really people, if you can't see why one should, why the fuck should you NOT include gender? It's pervasive and salient in every day of our lives, in every aspect. Turn on the TV: GENDER, listen to music: GENDER, our language is laced with gender-specific references (chick-flick? brute?), so why is it so hard to imagine a fantasy world where we are, as we are in reality, different genders? Or is everybody's fantasy that we are the same? Do you love males so much that you want females to be the same (or vice versa)? Why are people so afraid to put these things in rules?

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Shreyas Sampat on May 06, 2004, 11:22:33 PM
In SFK, the reason was simple: the gender line provided a fairly obvious division that let me hang various mechanical doodads on it. Has nothing to do with issues at all. (Though it does reflect some observations I have made about the source material, this was more happy coincidence than something deliberate.)

In the one-gendered version of the game, all the characters are the same gender, but the tenor of Currency interactions changes from gender to gender; the female game has a much more accessible Resource, while the male game's Resource is more powerful.

In the two-gender version, players actually play both members of a couple, and their characters can interact in limited ways; the point in either case is to explore the number game that the interacting Currencies create.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: John Kim on May 06, 2004, 11:57:14 PM
First of all, let's try to discuss this civilly.  I agree with Claire that in modern societies the differences on the whole are pretty small.  Certainly even Ben's +1 / -1 on a scale of 1 - 20 is questionable for many things.  For example, the ostensible gap in math scores girls is extremely small when measured in recent years (less than 5%).  On the other hand, the language gap where boys do significantly worse in verbal tests is more significant.  

To me, the bigger issue than quibbling over 1% vs 5% is the implication that the observed gender differences in populations indicates only inherent genetic tendencies.  This is the age-old problem of nature vs nurture -- expressed in modern-day gender arguments as essentialism vs constructionism.  There's no right answer, but I think there are problems with making one or the other inherent in your game mechanics -- because it's a sticky issue that has no clear real-world answer.  

Quote from: Ravien
Quote from: John Kim
So I guess here's my question: what are you doing to acknowledge gender-based social roles? In my experience, most fantasy games which have gender mechanics tend to throw in a token Strength modifier, but then go ahead and ignore gender throughout the rest of the game -- even encouraging parties where warrioresses and witches work alongside priests and rogues.

I guess my initial idea was that the commented on why such social roles existed, but I can see how it doesn't acknowledge their permanence. Your point about throwing in a modifier and then forgetting is well taken, and part of what I see to be The Problem.
...
But the gender rules I include are not meant to be reflective of "reality" or the world, but instead are the cause of the world's reality. I feel that the distinction is important to avoid getting the horse before the cart.

I think you're faced with a problem here.  You're trying to answer the question of why gendered social roles existed -- but you're doing it only through the mechanic of small attribute modifiers.  I think you'll find the answer that those attribute modifiers don't make any significant difference.  i.e. I can just as easily play a woman warrior as a male, even with the modifiers.  And I think this answer actually has significance.  

As a bit of evolutionary theory, I would say that the overwhelmingly important difference between the sexes is that women bear and nurse children.  This directly creates the social role that men are warriors, because it is most effective for the social group as a whole.  If a tribe has three-quarters of its men wiped out by war, they will still completely recover within a generation -- because one man can impregnate several women, and can do so at any age.  Indeed, one could say it is evolutionarily desirable that less fit men be eliminated.  Note that this has nothing to do with strength.  

Quote from: Ravien
Also, to help further this discussion, I would be very interested in hearing how you brought about cultural gender differences in your Vinland game.

Sure.  My Vinland campaign is set in a fairly real social context.  It is set in a somewhat mythic alternate history, but is largely true to the historical sagas.  In true viking fashion, the heroes are farmers who sail out in the summers on expeditions and return home to harvest their crops and winter in their longhouses.  So there is a strong emphasis on the clans and family.  

All of the characters (male and female) were unmarried at the start of the game, and came under pressure to marry during the course of it.  Marriages are arranged, but the assuming good relations with one's parents the arrangement can be influenced.  

Then there are the basic social norms.  For one, women cannot directly take part in politics or legal matters.  That is pretty much absolute.  They will not generally be consulted on matters of war, though they may go along on a warring expedition.  They are not restricted from fighting, though it will be looked on as strange.  However, cross-dressing is a somewhat bigger deal and is actively frowned on.  There is also a religious difference -- which is important for one PC (Silksif).  Shamanic practice and sorcery is considered unmanly, and is traditionally the domain of women as "prophetess" (volva) or "priestess" (gydja).  

So that is one mechanical difference.  A Lagakin shaman cannot be female, and a Vinlander shaman cannot be male.  (It is possible I could be persuaded to make an exception, but it would have consequences and drawbacks.)  But mostly the influence has been through background and NPCs.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: contracycle on May 07, 2004, 12:30:13 AM
Quote from: Ravien

Actually, I think I've already provided an explanation. A few actually, in my original post and subsequent replies. One of which can be summarised by "To give credence within the rules to the reality of the world the rules support". I really can't think of any better reason than that for any mechanic to be introduced into any game. As I understand it, it is basically the Lumpley principle restated.


Fine, but that doesn't really answer the question.  Why have you selected this particular distinction for representation in your RPG rules, when you have not selected the much more profound, more significant, differences caused by differing nutrition?

Its not that there is inherently wrong with representing anything; its just that you do have a responsibility to justify the hows and whys of things you do choose to represent.

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Now, this is not a physical difference, and yet it is, in my opinion, not a small one, and clearly indicative of the levels by which males and females can differ.


Which is totally irrelevant.  The fact that one aspect of psychological behaviour has a high variance of appearance does in any way imply that other - in this case physical - differences has anything like the same degree of variability.

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Now, clearly my mechanics are dealing with "large-scale" things in terms of attributes, but instead of just homogenising them, and losing all the detail of the true differences,


But they are not true differences if you have exaggerated their scale by one or more orders of magntiude.  Now they are aesthetic decisions.

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Unfortunately, it seems to me that this discussion is not one of thoughtful reflection on design, but instead has turned out as negative throwbacks to why such a thing might be included. I have yet to see any real reason to not include gender modifiers other than the ones Claire presented, and instead I'm only seeing "why bother" as a question of "why break with the accepted convention", as if this issue really is far more controversial than I ever could imagine.


Actually, the presumption that such differences should be represented is much more common, in my experience.  But then:

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Really people, if you can't see why one should, why the fuck should you NOT include gender? It's pervasive and salient in every day of our lives, in every aspect. Turn on the TV: GENDER, listen to music: GENDER, our language is laced with gender-specific references (chick-flick? brute?), so why is it so hard to imagine a fantasy world where we are, as we are in reality, different genders?


Well, part of the criticism is that much of that media is itself sexist, so imitating it is hardly a step forward.  At beast its non-challenging conformity with a conventional paradigm, at worst its active misogyny.

This, I feel, is the problem with the analysis that women are more looks oriented, and in some way more beautiful, than men.  Fans of David Beckham would argue the opposite; it is indeed quite possible that the PERCEPTION of women as more beautiful than men is itself a cultural construct, an artifact that defines the roles that women may legitimately fill.  So then: does representing this accord with 'reality', or just with a doctrine of 'reality'?

Thats why I would NOT include gender in an way that is just a reproduction of pop-psyche media tropes - becuase its largely bollocks, IMO.  So, looking back at the rape fantasy variance you noted, one hypothesis for this phenomenon is that this fantasy of being a purely impersonal sexual object fulfills a socially imposed desire to be desirable as outlined in the presumption that women are more beautiful than men.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: beingfrank on May 07, 2004, 12:30:41 AM
Quote from: Ravien
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My other issue is scale. A few years ago I was reviewing the literature on differences between the genders (mainly psychological rather than physical) and the overwhelming trend was that there was a significant* different between the genders in some traits, but that it was very, very, very, very small. So that the variation within a gender is vastly greater than the variation between genders.

Really? I'm doing that right now for my next essay. Isn't it fun!?


I'm afraid I didn't find it especially enthralling.  I mean, it just didn't enlighten me very much.  But population trait differences is not my thing.

Quote from: Ravien
However I would question your interpretation of "small differences". As you imply, what is small? As a rather shocking example, approximately 30% of all women (yes, real figures from real studies cited in a meta-analysis) fantasize about being raped (as in being the victim, not doing the raping). Guess how many men do the same? 2%. Now, this is not a physical difference, and yet it is, in my opinion, not a small one, and clearly indicative of the levels by which males and females can differ. A trend that I have found is that the more specific you make your test item, the bigger the differences will be, and the more general the item is, the smaller the differences will be, as inter-gender differneces come into play more. So you are right, it is about scale, but not the scale of the differences, instead it's the scale of the specific item of interest.


And the more specific an item is, the less useful it is for drawing any conclusions about behaviour in such a broad bush context as roleplaying games.  As you say, character sheets are not 2000 inventory personality assessments, and frankly I'm not at all interested in playing a game that involves some attribute about my character's tendency to fantasize about being raped.  That's partly just me, because I like my system simple and small, but I don't think it's simply that tencency in my roleplaying preference.

Quote from: Ravien
Now, clearly my mechanics are dealing with "large-scale" things in terms of attributes, but instead of just homogenising them, and losing all the detail of the true differences, I've highlighted them to show that differences do exist, but unfortunately character sheets are not 2000 inventory personality assessments.


Ok, it sounds like you want the players of the game to be made aware of gender differences, and have thus exaggerated them, as I outlined initially.  Fair enough, as long as you're happy with it being an exaggeration and you and your players want the game to be about (at least in part) those gender differences.  Mechanics is one way of doing this.  But you have made the game about gender differences by doing this.

If you're trying to add to verisimilitude, then my personal opinion is that it will be counterproductive.  You're highlighted very small differences (because a RPG can only deal on the level of traits that have only very small differences) by making them into quite large differences.  The aim of this, as I understand you, is to say 'these differences are real, isn't that neat.'  The result, for me, would be the opposite.  I'd be playing in freaky bizzaro world and it would only serve to bring home to me that the world is not really like that, that I'm damn glad that it isn't, and why am I doing this again?

Quote from: Ravien
This is really similar to how I've approached the rest of the rules, in that all the details of combat are not represented, but are instead collapsed and magnified to "similuate" or rather "emulate" combat. Social interaction is follows the same principle, in order to get the maximum benefit from the minimum detail. Is this really all that unreasonable?


None of it is unreasonable, if it has the effect that you want.  But it can also have other effects, and they may be contrary to what you want.

It's not an approach I'd take myself.  And you asked for personal opinions.

Quote from: Ravien
Unfortunately, it seems to me that this discussion is not one of thoughtful reflection on design, but instead has turned out as negative throwbacks to why such a thing might be included. I have yet to see any real reason to not include gender modifiers other than the ones Claire presented, and instead I'm only seeing "why bother" as a question of "why break with the accepted convention", as if this issue really is far more controversial than I ever could imagine.


I'm reading the 'why bother' questions as 'what are you trying to achieve because there may be a simpler/easier/way I like better way to do the same thing without getting into an area that's almost guarenteed to cause you problems.'  To be honest, I'd think twice or thrice about playing in a game that used a mechanic to exaggerate gender differences and I both happily play in games where the social and economic opportunities for women are limited, and I've been extremely lucky in the people I play with and their general respect for the fellow human beings.  Roleplaying as a hobby has not always had the best reputation for how women are treated (c.f. the many stories female roleplayers have of their female PCs being routinely raped by other PCs and other unpleasentness).  So I do think that you need a reason to include mechanics that will marginalise any particular set of PCs.  That reason can be as simple as 'because we want to see what happens' but I, personally, think that a reason is advisable.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 01:40:30 AM
Ok, lots of points to respond to, and I'm afraid I'll miss some or some will be posted while I'm posting this. ho hum.

John: Thanks for the insight into your game. It has brought up something which I will come back to with reference to the later posts.

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To me, the bigger issue than quibbling over 1% vs 5% is the implication that the observed gender differences in populations indicates only inherent genetic tendencies. This is the age-old problem of nature vs nurture -- expressed in modern-day gender arguments as essentialism vs constructionism. There's no right answer, but I think there are problems with making one or the other inherent in your game mechanics -- because it's a sticky issue that has no clear real-world answer.

Thanks for reminding me that a difference of 1 or 2 on a stat is actually a difference of 5% or 10% on a roll (ignoring if there are any other modifiers). This is important, because this is typically the sort of variance you find... the same sort that Claire would call "very very very small".

Regarding "nature vs nurture", in my first psych lecture 4 years ago i remember clearly my lecturer stating vehemently that that debate is dead, because all respectable evidence finds that both are equally important. However, as I will come back to later, you really can't think that there are problems in using one or the other, as in your Vinland campaign you used only one: nurture (constructionism). That you encountered no controversy is what I will come back to.

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I think you're faced with a problem here. You're trying to answer the question of why gendered social roles existed -- but you're doing it only through the mechanic of small attribute modifiers. I think you'll find the answer that those attribute modifiers don't make any significant difference.

But surely, were they to make "no significant difference", they would not encoutner such opposition! But your point is perfectly valid, unlike your rules for Vinland, there is absolutely nothing preventing any female from being a warrior, and yet, MY mechanics are Bad.

Contracycle:
Thank you for bringing up nutrition so clearly. Indeed, I will incorporate this factor into my Social Classes to account for this fact. Now there are 2 good things that I've picked up from this topic to help me make my game better. Sweet.

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Which is totally irrelevant. The fact that one aspect of psychological behaviour has a high variance of appearance does in any way imply that other - in this case physical - differences has anything like the same degree of variability.

I think you've missed my point. My point was that among the billions of individual specific differences that may exist between genders, the variance between males and females may vary greatly, but that when collapsed and homogenised, these differences are *almost* drowned out. Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. For example, if you were to measure how many serial killers used knives compared to guns, you'd probably find some large differences, but if you collapsed guns and knives into weapons, you'd find practically nothing.

I never implied that a jump to physical was plausible, but it doesn't take a scientist to see that males and females have physical differences beyond genitalia. The strongest woman in the world is no match for the strongest man, hence the olympic events are split into genders.

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But they are not true differences if you have exaggerated their scale by one or more orders of magntiude. Now they are aesthetic decisions.

As John so kindly brought up, 5% is not more than one or more orders of magnitude. it is approximately the same.

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Well, part of the criticism is that much of that media is itself sexist, so imitating it is hardly a step forward. At beast its non-challenging conformity with a conventional paradigm, at worst its active misogyny.

Actually, I based my gender modifiers off the same foundation I based the attributes themselves: my experience in studying psychology. But as John mentioned, seperating something like female beauty from being culturally or genetically based is impossible. Neither culture nor genetics exist without the other.

Claire,
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I'm afraid I didn't find it especially enthralling. I mean, it just didn't enlighten me very much. But population trait differences is not my thing.

I was being sarcastic :)

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I'm not at all interested in playing a game that involves some attribute about my character's tendency to fantasize about being raped. That's partly just me, because I like my system simple and small, but I don't think it's simply that tencency in my roleplaying preference.

Neither would I be, nor anyone I know. I was merely making a point concerning scale of differences. Which I think I made.

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Mechanics is one way of doing this. But you have made the game about gender differences by doing this.

Have I? How is it that a single table with a list of modifiers overrides the pages and pages and continual reference to species, combat, social interaction, and the pursuit of advancement through the avenues the world provides in terms of organisations? Why is it not one of these other things? Why not all of them? Is gender mutually exclusive of everything else?

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I'd be playing in freaky bizzaro world and it would only serve to bring home to me that the world is not really like that, that I'm damn glad that it isn't, and why am I doing this again?

If acknowledging gender differences is "freaky bizzaro", then I'd guess you'd be a modern feminist, right? If so, then the reason you would never play my game is not because it's a freaky bizzaro world, but because it either a) defies your ideal notion of reality or b)see the bottom of this post for discussion of types of rules.

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It's not an approach I'd take myself. And you asked for personal opinions.

Yes I did, thank you for yours, they are appreciated. It's nice to get as many different views expressed as possible.

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To be honest, I'd think twice or thrice about playing in a game that used a mechanic to exaggerate gender differences and I both happily play in games where the social and economic opportunities for women are limited, and I've been extremely lucky in the people I play with and their general respect for the fellow human beings.

Extremely lucky? I guess then that I too, am extremely lucky for not having associated with anyone who does not respect their fellow humans.
This comment segues extremely nicely into what I mentioned earlier that I would come back to.


i have noticed that there is a clear distinction that should be made and acknowledged, which I slap myself on the forehead for not bringing up earlier. That is between what John termed essentialism and constructionism. Essentialism refers, in this case, to mechanics which internally state why something should be so, and constructionism refers to mechanics which are externally imposed and declare that saomething is so. I'm going to refer to essentialism as lower-order functions and constructionism as higher-order.

I see higher-order mechanics as the ones like John mentioned. They are superficial, in that they do not provide a reason, and thus, without a reason for their existence, they can be seen as something which can be removed should you so choose. Like a glass roof over your head.

On the other hand, lower-order mechanics are a reason, and thus inherently resist being removed. Like a ball-and-chain shackled to your foot.

In my studies of philosophy and psychology, I have found that people in general absolutely loath any notion that morals, standards, or societal norms should be based on any other foundation than superficial cultural rules, like the sort that can be abandoned at will. To suggest that there is a "real" reason for morals, standards, or societal norms is to deny them the power to break free. Now, importantly, this attitude does not correlate with actually "breakign free" of these things, only the percieved ability to do so at will. In other words, so long as you CAN leave your room, you are happy even if you never choose to do so. But take away that choice, and you'll have a massive tanty.

Apparently, by using lower-order mechanics which are stating that there is a reason for society dividing up gender roles I am removing percieved freedom, EVEN THOUGH THE FREEDOM IS THERE.

However, if, as in John's example using higher-order mechnics which give no reasons, only rules, then there is no problem because there is no threat to percieved freedom, EVEN THOUGH THE FREEDOM IS NON-EXISTANT.

In other words, I can include higher-order rules that state that no woman can ever be a warrior and no man can ever seduce a woman till the cows come home, but as soon as I say "Ok, you can do whatever you want, but you are just naturally not suited for some things" I get myself into all sorts of trouble.

I'm sorry, but I think this is fucking stupid.


If I am wrong, feel free to correct me, so long as your correction is in-line with the evidence available, and not just a dismissal because of dislike.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: contracycle on May 07, 2004, 02:37:40 AM
Quote from: Ravien

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I'd be playing in freaky bizzaro world and it would only serve to bring home to me that the world is not really like that, that I'm damn glad that it isn't, and why am I doing this again?

If acknowledging gender differences is "freaky bizzaro", then I'd guess you'd be a modern feminist, right? If so, then the reason you would never play my game is not because it's a freaky bizzaro world, but because it either a) defies your ideal notion of reality or b)see the bottom of this post for discussion of types of rules.


Now thats not on.  This sort of attack on Feminism is exactly the sort of thing that makes it look as if you have a covert misogynistic agenda.  Am I to take it you think women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?  Thats a criticism just as exagerated as the stereotype you seem to apply to feminists.

I agree with Claire that in my view of how reality IS (not should be), your emphasis is misplaced and your modifiers exaggerated, and it does not accord with how I think reality actually works.

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In other words, I can include higher-order rules that state that no woman can ever be a warrior and no man can ever seduce a woman till the cows come home, but as soon as I say "Ok, you can do whatever you want, but you are just naturally not suited for some things" I get myself into all sorts of trouble.

I'm sorry, but I think this is fucking stupid.


The difference is this - with what you term the higher order rule, you are not attempting to procure our consent.  We can look at this rule and say "thats fucking stupid - what about the female Viking warriors" or whatever anecdote we have handy.  But when you encode it as an effect naturally arising from cause, you are asking us to agree with your analysis of what Is and how things that are interact.  If we don't agree with your analysis of either, then we will reject the proposed system.  But in many ways higher order rules are easier and less contentious to reject because there has been no attempt to procure buy-in.  They can be used for all sorts of effects because they are not predicated on an alleged actual analysis of actual reality.  I could make a 3 musketeers game that barred female characters and just say "because its genre emulation" and that can be less provocoative than saying "because women are not strong enough to be combatants".  The kind of thing to which I am asking my audience grant consent to is very different in those cases.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 03:34:42 AM
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Now thats not on. This sort of attack on Feminism is exactly the sort of thing that makes it look as if you have a covert misogynistic agenda. Am I to take it you think women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Thats a criticism just as exagerated as the stereotype you seem to apply to feminists.

Attack? I made an observation that Claire would not like my game because it is incongruent with her ideal reality. Her ideal reality is incongruent with mine, does that mean that she is attacking me? Not at all. I feel my observation was valid, and the conclusion, that she would not play my game because it does not correlate with her ideals, is entirely valid also. I apologise if there was some hidden value judgement being made in there.... I can't see one.

Bringing up mysoogyny is kind of a straw man though, unless Not Agreeing with Modern Feminism = Hating Women. By modern feminism, I am referring to the belief that devoid of culture, males and females would be identical. In other words, any differences are higher-order functions and thus negotiable. It's a very pervasive belief, but in my view, one that is simply not supported by the evidence. However, such a topic is neither meant for the forge or what this thread is about.

That said, within the bounds of mechanics in games, how would you define reality? Or are current trends of disregarding all historical fact and psychological evidence concerning gender entirely representative of how you think reality actually works?

Which brings us back to the main topic of this thread: "Is it possible to incorporate gender-based mechanics into games without starting a veritable forest fire?" By mechanics I am referring to system mechanics, which are likely to be lower-order, as opposed to setting rules, which are likely to be higher-order. (BTW, if anyone dislikes my terminology, feel free to come up with more appropriate words). If the answer is no, as the trend currently suggests, then that will logically lead to a discussion about why such things are simply "Not Done", which would almost certianly concern societal attitudes as a whole, but right now, my focus is on games.


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They can be used for all sorts of effects because they are not predicated on an alleged actual analysis of actual reality.

Neither is magic, what's your point?

When I read that, it strikes me that for some reason (actually I know the reason) or other, you can tell people that their HUMAN characters can jump off cliffs with nary a scratch, you can tell them that they can punch holes through concrete walls, you can tell them they can catch arrows, cast fireballs from their hands, use psychic powers to crush the minds of enemies, cut dragons in half, and make love to a difference species and procure offspring, and besides all of this, they will nod and accept that their character is pretty amazing. But tell them that their fantasy female lizard-like alien isn't as strong as the males of her kind despite the fact that she is better at social interaction, and all of a sudden you are infringing on the players view of reality. WHEN THE FUCK DID THIS BECOME ABOUT REALITY??? Since when is any game designed to make ascertions about the players? Since when does +1 Fluid on my character sheet mean that REAL humans in REAL life have +1 Intelligence any more than "Can cast balls of molten lead" means that REAL humans can do this?

What is so special about gender, that makes it so unique among all the other things that anyone could ever comment on, so much so that it alone reaches beyond the realms of the game to include the player's reality?



Remember when I said gender was pervasive and more salient than anything else, so why is it so ignored? Nothing illustrates this better than the fact I just set out above. It is SO salient, that any mention of it regardless of context crosses all bounds that could exist. The same could easily be said of TV.

So let me reiterate: Why is gender so ignored? Is it like the elephant that's sitting in the living room? Everyone sees it, but nobody says a thing.

Please, someone, help me out here.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: contracycle on May 07, 2004, 04:34:57 AM
Quote from: Ravien

Attack? I made an observation that Claire would not like my game because it is incongruent with her ideal reality. Her ideal reality is incongruent with mine, does that mean that she is attacking me? Not at all. I feel my observation was valid, and the conclusion, that she would not play my game because it does not correlate with her ideals, is entirely valid also. I apologise if there was some hidden value judgement being made in there.... I can't see one.


Buit its not her ideals she referred to - it is her experience of reality.  As Chris suggested, perhaps it is YOUR view that is an ideal that does not accord with reality as it actually exists.  For you to state categorically that anothers view is an ideal, as opposed your own pragmatic analysis, is to undermine the credibility of the claim.

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By modern feminism, I am referring to the belief that devoid of culture, males and females would be identical.


Can you point to where this claim is made?  Because I have read several feminist authors who would agree to no such thing at all.  This does not in any way legitimise misogynistic stereotypes of women.

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That said, within the bounds of mechanics in games, how would you define reality? Or are current trends of disregarding all historical fact and psychological evidence concerning gender entirely representative of how you think reality actually works?


The assertion that feminist writers have "disregarded reality" displays a disregard for reality.  I say you are creating a straw version of feminist argument to destroy.  Yes, my view of how reality actually works accords much more closely with feminist analysis than with its counterpoint - I think that gender differences have been substantially exagerated, and I would not be keen to see games duplicate that error.

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They can be used for all sorts of effects because they are not predicated on an alleged actual analysis of actual reality.

Neither is magic, what's your point?


That like magic, your higher order ruling exists only as a rule,a nd everyone can take it or leave it without seeing it as even an attempted remark on reality.  It can be seen as purely fictitious or a 'prop'.

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 WHEN THE FUCK DID THIS BECOME ABOUT REALITY???


As soon as you claimed you were trying to represent the real differences, as you see them.

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Since when is any game designed to make ascertions about the players? Since when does +1 Fluid on my character sheet mean that REAL humans in REAL life have +1 Intelligence any more than "Can cast balls of molten lead" means that REAL humans can do this?


Sure.  And you could also say "in my wholly fictitious world, females are less strong than males by a much greater degree than actual gender dimorphism in humans", that may well be fine. but when you allege this is a correct view of reality, then you are making a statement that may jar with your audiences view of reality.

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What is so special about gender, that makes it so unique among all the other things that anyone could ever comment on, so much so that it alone reaches beyond the realms of the game to include the player's reality?


Six thousand years of systematic oppression, thats what.

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So let me reiterate: Why is gender so ignored? Is it like the elephant that's sitting in the living room? Everyone sees it, but nobody says a thing.


Disagreeing about whether a difference is worthy of a game mechanical modifier is not "ignoring gender".  Making a point of making a particular thing worthy of a modifier when other things - like nutrition - have as great or greater an impact, and are yet ignored, may well suggest that the author has a particular axe to grind.

If you make it your personal business to have a system that displays gender dimorphism, and you further exagerate that degree of dimorphism - as it seems to me - then it seems that it is you, not I, with a special and particular issue with gender.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: xiombarg on May 07, 2004, 05:21:16 AM
Ben, I've been watching this thread, and given your comments so far, particularly those about "feminism"* but not limited to those comments, not to mention the way you assume any female who disagrees with you must be a "feminist", it seems that you do have an axe to grind regarding male/female differences. After all, you did start this thread in the first place.

You claim that you've only instuted these differences to explain your in-game reality (i.e. that armies are mostly made of men), and I understand that, but the thing people are really asking you with their "why bother" questions, which you don't seem to be getting, is this: Why do you feel the need to explain that particular aspect of the game's "reality"? Why do you have to explain why armies are made of men, reather than letting the GM and players come up with a plausible reason that they can accept, anything from "cultural mores" to "men are more aggressive"? Why is it so important to you that the answer is "men are stronger"?

Before you get more defensive and start swearing at me as well, understand that this is where the confusion you're seeing is coming from, and why people don't "just get" what you seem to think is so obvious. We're not attacking you, we're confused that you won't own up to your agenda, when, from the outside, it looks like you have one.

That said, part of the reason you're so frustrated might be you're not even conciously aware of your agenda. If that's the case, this is your chance to reflect on what you're really doing by having these game-mechanical gender differences in your game, and consider what your agenda is. I know you think your agenda is merely explaining in-game reality, but there is a reason that particular in-game reality appeals to you rather than an in-game reality where the genders are equal, just as a fantasy game appeals to you more than a sci-fi game. What is that appeal?



* I put "feminism" and "feminist" in quotes because your concept of feminism is a caricature of actual feminist thought. I mean no offense by this, I'm just saying I don't think of feminism the same way you do.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: clehrich on May 07, 2004, 05:53:54 AM
Quote from: Silmenume
In a world and culture where we are supposed to celebrate diversity (differences), why is the quantification of said differences inherently problementical?

And because there are differences why is that necessarily a negative issue, and one that is drawing attention itself?

If we are supposed to be celebrating diversity would this not present an opportunity to do so?

Differences and the quantification of them mean nothing - that is unless human beings then decides to make other sorts of judgements based upon those inherently neutral differences.
As I said at the outset of my post, I don't have a problem with mechanically instituting divisions of whatever sort.  But you can't model everything -- so why this division?

This is in some ways parallel to one of Mike's Standard Rants, the one about combat systems.  If you write a detailed combat system, you're saying that combat is important to your game.  That's fine, but you need to think about whether combat should be important to your game.  Similarly, if you introduce mechanics to emphasize (however slightly) sexual dimorphism, you're saying that this dimorphism is important to the game.  Why is it important?  And I don't think that Ben has adequately answered this question.

Quote from: Ravien
As a side note of sorts, your example of a "racist" mechanic was good. But here's an exercise: Why would such a mechanic be a bad thing? This question is perhaps made especially harder if the game were actually attempting to depict the reality of that historical period. Would it still be as bad if blacks were the base rate and whites had +2 to intelligence and -2 to strength? What about if blacks had +2 to intelligence and -2 to strength? Are these options equalling unappealing? See, what I would take home from this is that there is nothing at all inherently wrong with such a mechanic, nor is it racist. Instead, I think any problem with such a division is not what that division is, but the fact that there is a division, implying that deep down, no-one wants to be different or "singled-out" from whatever is defined as "the norm", unless it is for praise or something positive. If in such a game blacks were "the norm", whites would not wish to be different from them regardless of "balance". Of course, such an observation is made hilarious by the explicit desire for everyone to be "an individual".
You mistake my point, Ben.  I'm not saying that such a "racist" mechanic is a bad thing at all.  And yes, of course you could reverse it if you liked.  But either way, the question would be: why focus on this?

What doesn't seem to be coming through here is that you cannot model everything.  There is always emphasis.  A game's modeling mechanics always stress certain things and downplay others.  John Kim has brought up the question of social vs. genetic bases for physical characteristics.  So let's suppose you made your mechanics for character generation into a skill-based life-path system, and started with no explicit dimorphism in the traits or attributes.  Then you might construct things such that warriors gain strength, and most women's life-paths tend to weaken them physically.  The end-result, in terms of strength, could be constructed such that it's identical.  But a life-path system would emphasize the social, constructed nature of dimorphism, rather than a natural, intrinsic one.

Now neither system is good or bad as such.  But each emphasizes different things, says different things about sex and gender.  So why have you chosen to model this as you have?

You mention the qualities of beauty being greater for women than men.  I could mention some societies in this world where quite the opposite is believed; the various Enga societies of New Guinea, for example, generally seem to consider women intrinsically less attractive than men.  There's nothing "natural" about it; it's cultural.  Similarly, I suspect that if you asked a lot of gay men, they would tell you that they find men more attractive.  So why have you chosen to make these qualities intrinsic?

I'm not telling you that there is something wrong with your system.  What I'm saying is that your system creates certain effects, says particular things about sex.  And those things do not necessarily have to be said; a great system can be designed without them, with no loss.  The fact that your system opts to include strong sexual dimorphism, and makes it inherent, emphasizes and focuses attention on this issue.

So the question is why you want to focus attention on that issue, and why you want to do so in this way.  Until I understand what effect you are trying to get, in terms of gameplay, there is no way for me to assess whether your mechanics are effective.

Suppose this were a Narrativist game, and the Premise something about sex divisions.  Okay, so what is that Premise?  Suppose again that what you want is a kind of epic fantasy Sim/Gam sort of game.  Okay, so why is sex particularly important to that goal?  I mean, it may well be so, but I have yet to hear you explain that.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Walt Freitag on May 07, 2004, 05:58:30 AM
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What is so special about gender, that makes it so unique among all the other things that anyone could ever comment on, so much so that it alone reaches beyond the realms of the game to include the player's reality?


Very simple. Most players have a strong preference for playing characters of their own gender. (Why they have such preference, or whether they should have such preference, is irrelevant to the point at hand.)

Because of this, any curtailment of players' choices based on character gender is seen (to some degree correctly) as a de facto curtailment of players' choices based on the player's gender.

All the rest of this debate comes out of that. You'll notice that rules about how a character's age affects the character's stats do not inspire vehement debates about the appropriateness, statistical validity, in-game rationale, designers' political motives, or psychological basis of such rules. Players don't generally care very much about the ages of the characters they play, relative to their own ages. If they did, then arguments about character age effects rules would also generate comparisons to institutionalized black slavery and invocations of thousands of years of oppression.

So, I suggest ignoring the smoke and addressing the real issue. Do you believe your suggested rules curtail players' options based on the players' gender, given the widespread preference for playing characters of the same gender as the player? If not, why not? If so, why is that OK?

- Walt


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 06:25:12 AM
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For you to state categorically that anothers view is an ideal, as opposed your own pragmatic analysis, is to undermine the credibility of the claim.

Yes, but I didn't suggest that my view was pragmatic, I said:
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Her ideal reality is incongruent with mine...

Hence "mine", being void of reference, must instead reference the nearest logical point, that being, within this context, ideal reality.

Regarding the difference between "ideal" and "experience", they can arguably be used interchangeabley within certain contexts. One meaning of ideal is simply "standard", whilst perhaps you are interpreting it as "standards of perfection". A person's standards (ideals) are invariably gained through experience, as surely there is no other way to learn anything.

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Can you point to where this claim is made? Because I have read several feminist authors who would agree to no such thing at all. This does not in any way legitimise misogynistic stereotypes of women.

Two points here: 1. Yes, many feminist authors do not hold such a view, indeed, original feminism did not. Unfortunately I cannot point you to where this claim is made, as I do not have a collection of feminist references. But the thing is, whilst several authors may make no such claim, many do. Feminism is remarkably heterogenous, hence my constant qualification of feminism with "modern". If you want to see where people actually hold what I refer to as modern feministic views, you need look no further than this thread (btw, claims to the effect of "yes we are different, but the differences are negligible" are, in my view, no different to "we are the same", if not for content, for ideal underlying meaning).

2. Why is it that Hating Women is always brought up against anyone who expresses disbelief in some form or other of feminism? Most especially, what possible justification exists within this thread for the inclusion of such a term? I refuse to dignify the misusage of this term by defending myself against it's misuse in reference to me.

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As soon as you claimed you were trying to represent the real differences, as you see them.

I think you misinterpreted my meaning, but in truth, the meaning was easy to miss. I didn't mean "what does a game have to do with reality", for surely there must exist a correlate in order for players to relate to and enjoy exploration. I meant "why is it that for this one issue, that the game is taken as a comment and judgement of reality, as opposed to simply a possible interpretative reflection of it (as all other aspects are afforded)?" I know that I've seen combat systems where I look at it and say "shit, that's completely nothing like what I imagine when I imagine attacking somebody", but I still play it, or maybe I don't. But I certainly don't get all steamed up thinking "how dare the creator of this game assume that combat should work this way! what right or knowledge do they have to challenge my beliefs as a gamer?" Big difference there... at least, I see one...

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Sure. And you could also say "in my wholly fictitious world, females are less strong than males by a much greater degree than actual gender dimorphism in humans", that may well be fine. but when you allege this is a correct view of reality, then you are making a statement that may jar with your audiences view of reality.

See above statement.

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Six thousand years of systematic oppression, thats what.

Fuck off.

I apologise if that statement caused offence, but it was not directed at you, only at your statement. I refuse to accept that any human being has lived for 6000 years, nor has somehow accumulated 6000 years worth of psychological oppression. The number of years of oppression could be fifty billlion or thirty, and the result would be the same for a thirty year old. But looking at the world today.... nope, I see nothing of this oppression which has so scarred the minds of women around the world. In fact, they seem to be doing pretty fucking well.

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Disagreeing about whether a difference is worthy of a game mechanical modifier is not "ignoring gender". Making a point of making a particular thing worthy of a modifier when other things - like nutrition - have as great or greater an impact, and are yet ignored, may well suggest that the author has a particular axe to grind.

If you make it your personal business to have a system that displays gender dimorphism, and you further exagerate that degree of dimorphism - as it seems to me - then it seems that it is you, not I, with a special and particular issue with gender.

If you don't acknowledge the existence of the elephant, of course you have no problem with the fact that it's sitting right there next to you. Also, I already mentioned that nutrition will be implemented via social class.

But this whole "there is no difference" thing is really beginning to annoy me. It seems that the only reason that gender mechanics are such a faus pas is because either people don't believe that gender exists beyond genitalia, or because they don't want to believe it exists, both of which have the same result: what I call modern feminism. But you know what? If gender is only defined by genitalia, then perhaps some people could profer explanations for the following things, all of which are facts I have learned through my degree or blatant observations of my world which no sane person could dismiss:

Olympic potential. All events are split into gender. Males consistently run faster and for longer than females. Males can become significantly stronger than females. They can swim faster and for longer. None of these things can demonstrably be caused by any factor other than genetics, as all athletes can reasonably be assumed to have comparable access to nutritious food and hours of training. To imply culture in this difference is to suggest that playing with barbies makes Jane a slower runner.

Women on average consistently score an average of 1-2 I.Q. points higher than average males. This difference exists when all other potentially influential factors such as SES (socio-economic standards), culture, and region are accounted for. However, this "small" (1%) difference is belied by the fact that women typically score around 5% better than males in verbal processing tasks, and males score around 5% better than women in spatial reasoning tasks. 5% is not "small". In fact, as noted earilier, it is 1 in 20.

To make the intelligence picture more interesting, it is a largely unknown fact that male genius' outnumber females 13:1. That's right, thirteen to one. "Genius" for this case means having an I.Q. higher than 150. This fact is actually entirely what one would expect given the genetics involved, but I don't have time to go into that right now.

Far more males are likely to suffer from schizophrenia than females (~9% compared to ~2%). Again, this is not a trivial difference. (I apologise if my figures are not precise, it's been six months since I did abnormal psych)

Far more females are likely to suffer from anorexia than males (~3% compared to ~0.1%). Again, I apologise if figures are not precise.

~30% of females report that their emotional experiences are often very strong and that they find them hard to identify (both cause and actual emotion) compared to ~10% of males. ~30% of males report that their emotional experiences are very weak and that they find them hard to identify, compared to ~10% of females. Males and females were *roughly* equal (within ~10% of each other) in reporting that emotions were strong and easy to identify, or weak and easy to identify. Again, it is very hard to call such differences "small".

Shit, I just realised that I could go on for ages, but I won't. If anyone is interested in verifying any of this feel free to pm me and I'll dig up the papers and send you the pdfs of the articles if I can. If the above is "the author having an axe to grind", then this author's brother fucked a chimp and gave him a monkey nephew.


But somewhere along the line this thread got derailed into being an attack on my justifications for including gender mechanics. Whilst I am perfectly happy to debate this, I was hoping to see how many other people have considered this, and why they have chosen to use/not use such mechanics. John and Sheryas both offered excellent examples from their own games, which provoked me to distinguish between higher- and lower-order mechanics. Both of which I am happy to discuss in this thread.

-Ben


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 07, 2004, 06:29:49 AM
This debate is going all over the place, But I would like to chiop in therefore I'll confine myself to addressign the orriginal post and it's questions.

Ravien, first of all I think I should point out that your orriginal post is very loaded. First of al you reserve the right to call people irrational if they don't agree with you (they have to give 'reasons'). Soon after you imply that people who think men and women should be modeled the same are zealots (any other approach is 'blasphemous'). These are phrased very carefuly, but the inference is clear. It's clear from the beginning that you're setting yourself up for a pretty nasty debate, otherwise why preface your post with such loaded language? I think it's reasonable to comment on this, because it makes up a significant portion of the word count of your post.

As to the main part of the post, I find it a little confusing. I'm not realy clear why you choose to have gender modifiers. In one place you talk about this simply modeling the (fantasy) game world. In other places you seem to at least strongly imply that you think these modifiers also model differences in our world.

You make one point - that you want the way things are in the game world to lead logicaly on from character generation. I think this is a lost cause because surely game world conditions are going to have a big effect on how people develop in their lives before the point of character generation. There's a cause-effect loop here, not just a linear progression, so I think this argument is untennable.

Another assumption of yours is that soldiers are men only because men are stronger. There are many resons why soldiers tend to be men, one of the main ones being that it's somewhat inconvenient for an army if a significant proportion of it's combat troops regularly get pregnant. IMHO this massive logistical problem for ancient armies is so great that it dwarfs any notional attribute differences between men and women. The fact that in most human societies women raise the children also ties them to the home in a way that makes military campaigning inconvenient, so there are solid biological reasons for these social differences that make arguments based on strength modifiers look a bit silly. The fact that women have a womb and breasts are somewhat more important than a cap on Strength. Yet these reasons apply only in general, but need not make any difference to individuals, or even minority groups.

Arguments about whether men or women are inherently more attractive are, to my mind, beside the point. Beauty in both men and women has always been celebrated. Should we argue whether Venus had a higher Charisma stat than Adonis? Is the Venus Di Milo inherently more beautiful art than Michelangelo's statue of David, simply because the subject is a woman? Many animals have strong physical differences between the sexes for evolutionary reasons, but humans bond in pairs for life. For us, attracting and keeping a single partner long term is equaly important for both genders.

It sems to me that games about gender difference, or game worlds in which gender differences play a significant role can be interesting. For example we might play a game set in the Imperial Court of feudal Japan. In such a setting gender roles would play a major part, and whole character life paths and social roles would be heavily gender based. However I could write such a game without making any judgements whatever about the intrinsic differences between male and female human beings, and yet the logic of the game would not suffer one jot.

If you want the game to be about gender roles, that's fine. At least the premise is out there in the open and the game can resonably be judged on it's own terms. However it seems that this game realy isn't, so I'm left somewhat confused.

The game in question uses a points-buy system. To my mind, the main advantage of such systems is that they allow players to play the characters they want to play. By and large, people what to play extraordinary characters, or at least characters that do extraordinary things. A system that limits that using arbitrary ceilings on abilities is at least guilty of incoherent design.

Finaly, a reality check. There's recently been a TV programme in which a group (20 or so I think) of volunteer civilians is put through SAS special forces training. The volunteers were all very fit - fitness instructors, national level athletes and the like, and always included some women. If women had a significant cap on their physical abilities you'd expect that none would ever get through, yet consistently some women usualy managed to stay in through to the last 3 or 4. This even though the SAS chief instruction often copmmented that he didn't realy think women had a place as front line troops - at least a notional bias. So I'm sorry, but your arguments don't stack up, and practical tests of the theory wash out as well.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: quozl on May 07, 2004, 06:35:53 AM
I'm going to be daring and ignore everything else posted in this thread except for the original question.

Quote from: Ravien
Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way to make gender important beyond chargen, so once you've advanced a bit the choice of gender becomes mute....


The above quote is why you shouldn't have sexual (gender is something entirely different) differences in character creation.  If it's not important after character creation, then it's not important during chracter creation.

If you make sexual differences important in your game, then you have a reason for making them important in character creation.

Now, since this thread has gotten quite hateful, I'm not going to read any more of it, so if you'd like to discuss this further, you can either start another thread or PM me.

I hope this helps.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: xiombarg on May 07, 2004, 06:38:12 AM
Quote from: Ravien
But somewhere along the line this thread got derailed into being an attack on my justifications for including gender mechanics. Whilst I am perfectly happy to debate this, I was hoping to see how many other people have considered this, and why they have chosen to use/not use such mechanics. John and Sheryas both offered excellent examples from their own games, which provoked me to distinguish between higher- and lower-order mechanics. Both of which I am happy to discuss in this thread.

It's only an attack because you percieve it that way, Ben. Simon has a point about your loaded language... It looks like you came from Chad's thread with a chip on your shoulder.

John and Sheryas gave accounts of their motivations for their mechanics. But when people ask for your motivations, you spew statistics and avoid the issue. Walt's question is relevant as well. And Chris's comment is very, very relevant: If you have a combat sytem, you're highlighting combat. If you have a system for gender difference, you're hilighting gender. Why?

Why are you doing this? This isn't an attack on you, it's an honest question. Again, "because it's realistic" isn't an answer. There has to be a reason this particular aspect of "realism" appeals to you, just as the "unrealism" of psi powers (which I notice are in your game) appeal to you as well. What's the appeal?

If there isn't really an appeal, then Jonathan is right. Those rules are "fat" that should be cut.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Valamir on May 07, 2004, 06:46:59 AM
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Olympic potential. All events are split into gender. Males consistently run faster and for longer than females. Males can become significantly stronger than females. They can swim faster and for longer. None of these things can demonstrably be caused by any factor other than genetics, as all athletes can reasonably be assumed to have comparable access to nutritious food and hours of training. To imply culture in this difference is to suggest that playing with barbies makes Jane a slower runner.


Ben, you've missed the point to many valid queries on this thread.  So I'm going to try a more specific line of questioning.  For the purpose of this post, lets take as a given that the above quote is actual 100% provable irrefutable genetic fact.  Men are faster, stronger, etc period.

Fine.

The question that has been asked repeatedly and ducked by you repeatedly is this:  what does any of that have to do with your game?

Your game is not the real world.  Therefor why do real world differences have any bearing on differences between males and females in your world? It makes no difference what differences do or don't exist in our world.  What matter is what difference exist in your world and WHY.

"modeling reality" is a cop out, and is factually false.  There is no reality in your world to model.  You could make women stronger and faster than men.  You could make there be no men at all and reproduction is handled purely by chemistry in laboratories.  You get to choose every element that you include in your game, and in good design every choice should be made for a reason.

You are CHOOSING to make women weaker in your world.  Why?  
To provide some lower order rationale for why armies are mostly men?

Thats not a reason, my friend.  That's an excuse.  You could just as easily have chosen to have armies be made up of both men and women.  You could just as easily have chosen to make armies be all women.  

It seems to me that what you've done is take some stereotyped gender perceptions and ported them over into your game and are now attempting to reverse engineer a justification for it.  Why?

Why is it important to the way your game plays to have armies be mostly men?

Why is it important to the way your game plays to have this distribution be based on genetic physical superiority (instead of any number of other potential reasons)?

Why is it important to you to mechanically reinforce in your game questionable real world stereo types, when given that its a fantasy world you're free to reinvent any set of stereotypes for the game you want?

Why stereotypes?  And why these?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 07:16:06 AM
Goddamn it! That's always the way isn't it? You spend ages replying to one post, only to miss 3 more. And then someone else replies while you click "reply". AARGH!. Time to play catch up...

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not to mention the way you assume any female who disagrees with you must be a "feminist

Not at all. Her opinions were what convinced me, just as contracycles do. Feminism is by no means a female-only attitude.

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Why is it so important to you that the answer is "men are stronger"?

Why is it so important that the answer NOT be men are stronger? Is that simple ascertion of strength that untennable?

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Why do you feel the need to explain that particular aspect of the game's "reality"?

Because it is a big part of all human's reality, whether we acknowledge it or not, far more than combat or whatever. Also, with my game's focus on social interaction, it just, you know, fits.

As a side note, I'm beginning to notice a trend in people primariy focusing on strength. This is notable not because it is strength, but because it is a negative for females and a positive for males. No-one so far has any problem with males suffering -1 to their emotional aptitude score, nor their memory score.....

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...but there is a reason that particular in-game reality appeals to you rather than an in-game reality where the genders are equal, just as a fantasy game appeals to you more than a sci-fi game. What is that appeal?

Because my game has a broad focus. Rules for combat, social interaction, economics and trading, moving up the social ladder, differential species cultures... if I included all these things and neglected gender it would be all the more obvious for it's absence. It's appeal is the same as all the things I've included: it's another thing in a long list to explore. Also, I love challenging conventions and inspiring critical thinking of such norms. :)

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This is in some ways parallel to one of Mike's Standard Rants, the one about combat systems. If you write a detailed combat system, you're saying that combat is important to your game. That's fine, but you need to think about whether combat should be important to your game.

I think the issue is more why it shouldn't, which seems to be the focus of posts thus far. If someone says "i'm including combat in my game" people say "why" and they say "because it's a cool thing to do" other people say "cool". But when I say "I'm including gender mechanics" people say "why" and it seems no reason short of declaring myself a mysogynist and thus system dismissable is enough to suffice. Yes, I want people to explore gender, in much the same way as they explore combat. This does not mean I want to make an issue out of it any more than i want combat to be an issue. Only an avenue of exploration.

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Now neither system is good or bad as such. But each emphasizes different things, says different things about sex and gender. So why have you chosen to model this as you have?

Because some things make sense to be natural, not social. As I noted earlier, male olympians are not stronger than females because they played with tonka trucks, nor do average females have higher I.Q.'s because of barbie dolls. These differences are observable across cultures and time.

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Okay, so why is sex particularly important to that goal? I mean, it may well be so, but I have yet to hear you explain that.

Ok, what if I made my game such that players could only choose to be males. Females existed, but they aren't playable. Why does the choice exist if it is purely aesthetic? Shock horror! Because some things can be included in a game without needing justification. Why not make the most of them, giving them more meaning than just what you look like and how high your voice is.

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Because of this, any curtailment of players' choices based on character gender is seen (to some degree correctly) as a de facto curtailment of players' choices based on the player's gender....

Do you believe your suggested rules curtail players' options based on the players' gender, given the widespread preference for playing characters of the same gender as the player? If not, why not? If so, why is that OK?

This is basically what I described as The Problem. But as I have attempted to explain, the game does not curtail the choices at all, it merely implies focus for avenues of pursuit. These choices can be overridden via inevitable advancement. If anything, higher-order rules are the ones which seriously curtail player choice, and yet as was found before, these are not the ones which present The Problem.

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As to the main part of the post, I find it a little confusing. I'm not realy clear why you choose to have gender modifiers. In one place you talk about this simply modeling the (fantasy) game world. In other places you seem to at least strongly imply that you think these modifiers also model differences in our world.

So does combat (model the real world). So does every other rule in the system (even magical fire "burns").

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Another assumption of yours is that soldiers are men only because men are stronger. There are many resons why soldiers tend to be men, one of the main ones being that it's somewhat inconvenient for an army if a significant proportion of it's combat troops regularly get pregnant.

For sure, but try telling a girl that she can't join the army because she might get pregnant nowadays. Why should they accept that reason in a game?

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However I could write such a game without making any judgements whatever about the intrinsic differences between male and female human beings, and yet the logic of the game would not suffer one jot.

See my previous post concerning higher-order functions. Essentially the reason you would have no problem is because you aren't providing an innate reason for the rules, and thus you are implying that they are arbitrary, and only there to define the game. Such things are fine, but apparently as soon as you give a reason things get icky.

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If you want the game to be about gender roles, that's fine. At least the premise is out there in the open and the game can resonably be judged on it's own terms. However it seems that this game realy isn't, so I'm left somewhat confused.

It isn't about gender in the same way it isn't about combat or social interaction. it is about exploration of the setting through these avenues. I can't remember who but someone earlier gave a suggestion for a way to make gender influential during play (as opposed to confined to chargen, which is where it stands atm), and this suggestion I will take up.

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The game in question uses a points-buy system. To my mind, the main advantage of such systems is that they allow players to play the characters they want to play. By and large, people what to play extraordinary characters, or at least characters that do extraordinary things. A system that limits that using arbitrary ceilings on abilities is at least guilty of incoherent design.

The arbitrary ceiling only applies at chargen, and are exaclty the only way I can make species (and gender) affect attributes logically.

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If women had a significant cap on their physical abilities you'd expect that none would ever get through, yet consistently some women usualy managed to stay in through to the last 3 or 4.

Actually, no, that is pretty much exactly what one would expect. ie: that a few women will be stronger than many men, but that the best men are stronger than the best women. It's not like the best women is weaker than the weakest man or anything, no-one is suggesting that.

Also, one TV programme does not even match decades of olympic events.


Phew! This thread is HOT!

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Halzebier on May 07, 2004, 07:16:20 AM
Just a quick note: There's middle ground between "this is irrelevant to my game" and "this is at the center of my game".

If one chooses to specifically include gender modifiers, there had better be a good reason (else why include it at all?), but it need not be the focus of the game.

Regards,

Hal


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: xiombarg on May 07, 2004, 07:28:56 AM
Quote from: Halzebier
If one chooses to specifically include gender modifiers, there had better be a good reason (else why include it at all?), but it need not be the focus of the game.

True. But that doesn't mean the game wouldn't be better if it were more focused on what the author is interested in, and determining what the author is interested in is therefore useful.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on May 07, 2004, 07:29:28 AM
Hey chief,

About the penalties for male PCs in social interactions:

So far in you fantasy world, men, on average, are stronger than women.

And women, on average, are more socially manipulative than men.

You weren't doing your defense against a priori stereotyping silliness any good by bringing that up again.

Christopher


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 07:41:18 AM
I can't keep up with all these posts!

Thank you Hal, you said it better than I could.

Christopher, the term socially manipulative was one used by you, and not me. I intended the meaning that they were more socially adept, as in had greater interpersonal relation skills and empathy. If you view this as manipulation, well, that's your opinion, and one which I had hitherto not considered.

Regarding the reason it's included: I'm having difficulty understanding what the hell could qualify as an acceptable reason.

Gender will be important throughout the game, though not so much so as species or social class.

Gender does not impinge on playability or character effectiveness, it only provides differing potential for success in various avenues of pursuit. Hell, since everyone loves strength so much, a female with a power of 13 and a male with a power of 13 will both have the same options available. If both wish to pursue physical strength, the male will be able to achieve higher in the end. The reverse would naturally be true for other attributes. Since physical strength really isn't the best way to do stuff, neither player would find their enjoyment stifled.

Gender does correlate with the reality of the world. It also shares some correlate to my percieved reality of our world, but this is neither here nor there, any more than combat shares a correlate with my percieved reality.

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The question that has been asked repeatedly and ducked by you repeatedly is this: what does any of that have to do with your game?

Have I ducked it? If so, it surely was not intentional. But you know what? I don't think I could answer that any more than I could answer the same question regarding my inclusion of social interaction mechanics. Let's try:

I included social interaction mechanics because they both provide an avenue for exploration and reflect the reality of the world. The actual mechanics I chose because they conceptualise what I think is happening in the shared imaginative space.

Yep, I've pretty much said the same thing for gender a dozen times now.

So I have a question: how would you answer it? Would you say "Because I want gender to be an issue which is explored?". Well, that's pretty much what I've said though I've been sure to qualify that I don't want gender to be the sole focus of exploration.

So if you can tell me how you would answer the question, perhaps I could follow your example and provide a satisfactory answer.

My apologies to anyone offended, anyone annoyed by the lengthiness of this thread, or anyone whose concerns I have not explicitly responded to.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 07, 2004, 07:46:12 AM
Whoa! Lot's of heated debate going on here. I just thought I'd drop in and address a couple of points.

Going back to the intent of this thread, I would not have a problem with mechanical sex-based differences. While it wouldn't affect the characters I chose to play, it does seem reasonable and logical.

It seems to me Ravien's trying to create a game-specific reality based as much as possible off of real life, and I think sex-based differences work in that model. If anything, I think the modifier is under-representing the strength difference, as shown below.

The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a fitness study a few years back, in an effort to determine male and female overall strength averages. This study used 10,000 participants of each gender, chosen from different countries, ethnicities, ages, and professions. The study used the squat lift as the best overall indicator of strength, and came up with the following results: average male lift was 351 lbs. and the average female lift was 86 lbs. That puts the male average at about 4 times the female average.

That said, I think physical strength has got jack-all to do with armies being composed mostly of men. Okay, maybe that's too far...sure physical stength is a benefit to a soldier, but I'd hardly qualify it as the most important factor. Physical agility, endurance, phychological readiness, ability to endure pain...I think these are all more useful.

I have no agenda here -- feminist or misogynistic -- just addressing the orignal post, and adding a few facts and comments.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 07, 2004, 07:49:47 AM
Quote from: Andrew Morris
Physical agility, endurance, phychological readiness, ability to endure pain...I think these are all more useful.


Oh, and to be clear, I'm not saying these are male traits, either. Or that men are superior in regard to these traits. I was agreeing with earlier comments that biological and social reasons have created the mostly male military.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 07, 2004, 07:59:10 AM
Hey,

This is the polite (first) version of my moderator intrusion on this thread.

Please take a full hour before replying to this thread. That means that between (1) your desire to reply and (2) the actual "submit," a full hour of real time should pass.

"But someone might post my point first!" In which case be grateful.

"But I have to reply! Right now!" No, you don't.

Best,
Ron


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: clehrich on May 07, 2004, 08:08:05 AM
[oops -- x-posted with Ron]

Quote from: Ravien
Quote
Why do you feel the need to explain that particular aspect of the game's "reality"?
Because it is a big part of all human's reality, whether we acknowledge it or not, far more than combat or whatever. Also, with my game's focus on social interaction, it just, you know, fits.

As a side note, I'm beginning to notice a trend in people primariy focusing on strength. This is notable not because it is strength, but because it is a negative for females and a positive for males. No-one so far has any problem with males suffering -1 to their emotional aptitude score, nor their memory score.....
John and I have, in fact, mentioned the issue of beauty.  If you like, I can certainly add the issue of emotional or social aptitude, or memory.  As I mentioned before, none of this is absolute or certain in humanity.  One of the neat things about anthropology, in fact, is that you can pretty much find that there are several examples of every conceivable possibility somewhere in the world.  I've mentioned the Enga of New Guinea, and I'll give a little more detail to explain.

The Enga believe that female qualities are intrinsic, inherent, and basically strong; they are also evil, ugly, and dangerous.  Male qualities are imparted and basically weak; they are also good and beautiful.  Therefore it is fantastically important at all times that women be kept away from other people, usually including other women.  Boys at about age 6 or 7 are taken from their mothers and put through a lengthy (15 years or so) series of initiations to bolster their maleness; without this, they would slide into femininity and die.

According to anthropologists who have spent time among the various Enga peoples, women are generally extremely socially awkward; they have little experience with other people, and live in a perpetual state of partial seclusion.  As a rule, they seem to have little self-esteem (no wonder!).  The men of these societies are commonly quite outgoing and socially adept.  They spend a good deal of time preening themselves, in terms of appearance, trying on feathers, shells, and other decorations and demanding constant attention from other men.  So far as anyone knows, everyone in these societies -- including women -- considers men to be superior in every respect, particularly with reference to physical prowess, personal beauty, intelligence, and social ability.  Women are understood to be essentially reproductive and nursing vessels, a tolerated but unpleasant necessity.

The point being that it is perfectly possible to argue, on solid evidentiary grounds, that social qualities of any kind are in no way intrinsic, but encultured.  In your game, however, these qualities are at least partly intrinsic.  Why have you chosen to do this?
Quote
... my game has a broad focus. Rules for combat, social interaction, economics and trading, moving up the social ladder, differential species cultures... if I included all these things and neglected gender it would be all the more obvious for it's absence. It's appeal is the same as all the things I've included: it's another thing in a long list to explore. Also, I love challenging conventions and inspiring critical thinking of such norms. :)
It sounds as though you are trying to model absolutely everything.  In which case, certainly some sexual modeling would be necessary.  But there are two points here.  First, you will not succeed in modeling everything -- there simply isn't enough space or time in a lifetime to do so.  You will have to make choices, and those choices should have reasons other than "because it's there."  Second, you have chosen to do sexual modeling in a particular way.  So why that way?  I've mentioned an equally possible life-path structure which has no intrinsic qualities whatever, but produces the same divisions at adulthood.  Why do you prefer not to do it this way?  Both produce the same final result, but they say different things about sexual divisions.
Quote
Quote
This is in some ways parallel to one of Mike's Standard Rants, the one about combat systems. If you write a detailed combat system, you're saying that combat is important to your game. That's fine, but you need to think about whether combat should be important to your game.
I think the issue is more why it shouldn't, which seems to be the focus of posts thus far. If someone says "i'm including combat in my game" people say "why" and they say "because it's a cool thing to do" other people say "cool". But when I say "I'm including gender mechanics" people say "why" and it seems no reason short of declaring myself a mysogynist and thus system dismissable is enough to suffice. Yes, I want people to explore gender, in much the same way as they explore combat. This does not mean I want to make an issue out of it any more than i want combat to be an issue. Only an avenue of exploration.
I don't agree with you about what people are saying in their posts; certainly it's not what I'm saying.

You say: "I'm including combat in my game."
I say: "Why?"
You say: "Because it's a cool thing to do" and "I don't want to make an issue out of it."
I do not say, "Cool."  I say, "If you don't want to make an issue out of it, why are you including it?"

And lest this be read as a binary, "include or exclude" approach, let me put it this way.

Combat system, version 1: If you get into combat for some reason, the group should decide immediately, by a show of hands, whether your character wins or loses.  You, the player of the character in question, should very quickly narrate the combat events such that the chosen result occurs.  Then everyone can get back to what's important.

Combat system, version 2: Rolemaster, AD&D, Champions, etc. etc.

Version 2 says, in essence, "Combat matters.  Go do it -- it's cool."  Version 1 says, "Combat is stupid and a distraction.  Don't waste time on it."
And most systems fall somewhere in between.  But both are totally reasonable, and serve different ends.  In designing a system, you need to think about where on this spectrum you want to fall, and why, and how that serves your game.

Now here's a sexual division structure:

Version 1: "On average, men are probably a bit stronger than women.  In Society X, women are conversely thought to be more physically attractive and more socially adept."
Version 2: Yours.

Version 1 says, "This doesn't really matter much, but it's worth mentioning that this isn't a totally egalitarian world."
Version 2 says, "This matters quite a bit."

Okay, so why does it matter?

As I've said several times now, there is no intrinsic reason not to include sexual divisions in a game system.  But you asked, at the outset, whether we thought this was a good idea.  I have responded, repeatedly, that I do not understand why you have chosen to do it.  All I hear from you is, "Because it's there."  This is not a reason.

Here's one last example, deliberately extreme but quite serious.

Do you intend to model and explain the social ramifications of excretion and garbage management?  Do you intend to do this in considerable detail?

This may seem like I'm trying to cause trouble, but let me tell you this: about 20 years back or so, English archaeologists working on medieval and early modern county life suddenly realized that an ancient village dump for faeces was an extraordinarily good indicator of all sorts of things about the society.  You could tell what they'd been eating, a good deal about their medical histories, and even a fair bit about their average ages and lifespans.  You could also determine quite a lot about social organization based on who had the delightful task of carting everyone's crap away, and who had to live relatively near the dump.  In fact, the more we study waste management, the more we discover that it's one of the best indicators of how societies really function, deep down.

So do you intend to model this in detail?  Do you intend to spend as much time and effort on it as you have on sex-divisions?  I suspect not.  So ask yourself, why not?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 07, 2004, 08:19:43 AM
Quote from: Ravien
For sure, but try telling a girl that she can't join the army because she might get pregnant nowadays. Why should they accept that reason in a game?


In the next sentence I specificaly target this comment at ancient world armies. Your game does not appear to have logistical infrastructure that make this problem moot in the developed world here, so it seems to me you're the person best placed to answer your own question.

Quote
See my previous post concerning higher-order functions. Essentially the reason you would have no problem is because you aren't providing an innate reason for the rules, and thus you are implying that they are arbitrary, and only there to define the game. Such things are fine, but apparently as soon as you give a reason things get icky.


WHat I'm pointing out is that you are pretending that your rules choices explain why the world is a certain way, and that this is bogus. There are many far more important resons for the features of society we are discussing, that relegate the physical distinctions your system models to the status of statistical noise.

There is no need to give game mechanical justifications for social structures, any more than there is a need to give game mechanical descriptions of childbirth, or breast feeding.

Quote
It isn't about gender in the same way it isn't about combat or social interaction. it is about exploration of the setting through these avenues. I can't remember who but someone earlier gave a suggestion for a way to make gender influential during play (as opposed to confined to chargen, which is where it stands atm), and this suggestion I will take up.


That sounds interesting and I'd be interested to see how that goes. The best of luck to you.

Quote
Also, one TV programme does not even match decades of olympic events.


That's true, but the game it's not about the Olympics, where by the way the performance of women is rapidly approaching that of men in many sports. Already the medalists in many womens events outstrip the low-end (but still olympic class) competitors in the equivalent mens events. As has been pointed out by others, your game mechanics are orders of magnitude too coarse to model these kinds of distinctions.

Your game is about small groups of characters having adventures. The TV program is about small groups of civilians going off into extreme environments, facing incredibly tough challenges and solving problems. It seems to me that the TV program is just the sort of thing to judge your game against.

If your game rules were going to be the basis of a huge computer simulation of a mass population that's one problem to solve, but it's not. It's a simulation of a small bunch of individuals who nobody could reasonably expect to be either broadly representative or average.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Valamir on May 07, 2004, 08:26:08 AM
Quote
I included social interaction mechanics because they both provide an avenue for exploration and reflect the reality of the world.


What world?  They reflect the reality of what world?  Your fantasy world?

That's just circular reasoning.  You crafted your world...why did you set the reality up that way to begin with?

Quote
The actual mechanics I chose because they conceptualise what I think is happening in the shared imaginative space.

Yep, I've pretty much said the same thing for gender a dozen times now.
 And yet this statement doesn't actually answer anything.

Me:  Why is it there?
You:  Because that's the way my world is
Me: Why is your world that way?
You:  <dead silence>


I find it incredibly telling that you keep persisting in not answering the question.  I'll ask it again.

Why is it important for you to create a fictional world where women are quantifiably weaker than men?


"Because I want gender to be an issue which is explored?" is NOT an answer.  You could explore issues of gender by making women stronger then men, or using cultural differences, or changing the ratio of men to women in society or any of a number of other factors.  

Its your world you could simply declare that in your world men and woman are equally strong regardless of "years of olympic evidence" because real world olympics have nothing to do with your game.  You are CHOOSING to make it an issue.

Please note.  I am NOT saying you shouldn't make it an issue.
I am NOT saying that you're wrong and there aren't any biological differences between men and women.
I am NOT saying that those difference shouldn't be in a game.

What I AM saying is that like any mechanic they shouldn't be in a game unless you have a damn good reason for them being in the game.  At best they're just useless chrome crap that adds nothing.  At worst their ill thought out nonsense that makes the author look ignorant.  To avoid either of those perceptions you need to have a reason as to why it is important to you to mechanically highlight this issue in this manner using this mechanic in this game.

IMO if you can't answer the key crucial question of why this choice is meaningful and important to your game, than it doesn't belong in your game.  Period.  And any protestations of it being "more realistic" is utterly irrelevant.


Quote
So if you can tell me how you would answer the question, perhaps I could follow your example and provide a satisfactory answer.


I don't have an answer to the question.  And since I don't have an answer to it, I don't design games with blanket gender based modifiers.  If you don't have an answer to it, you shouldn't design a game with blanket gender based modifiers either.


If you were to design a game set in 19th century England, for instance, where there where very strongly delineated male vs female roles in society.  And you wanted to highlight how those enforced roles led to different distributions of attributes.  And you wanted to indicate how women of upper social status were physically weaker because their role in society didn't permit them to engage in strenuous physical activity and so they never had the opportunity to develop strong musculature.  And you provided an opportunity for a player character to elect to ignore that negative modifier in exchange for taking on the social stigma of being a non conformist within society's expectations...then yes...THAT would be a valid and viable use of attribute modifiers...especially if one of the goals of the game was to highlight the effects of social stratification.

Similarly if you wanted to design a game set in late 20th century corporate America with gender based personality traits, such that a man who is aggressive and ambitious gets the Trait of "go-getter" while a woman who is aggressive and ambitious gets the Trait of "bitch" then that would be a valid use of gender based mechanics.  Its a controversial issue that you'd be taking a specific stand on, presumeably for a specific agenda that you wish to pursue with it.  Which side of the issue you wanted to argue doesn't matter.  The point is, you have something to say, and so you're saying it.



But I can see at this time no good valid reason for including a blanket attribute penalty (or bonus) based on gender in your game.  If you have one that isn't based on the questionable notion of "modeling reality"; now is your opportunity to share it.

But I hope you can see, and I say this without any antagonism towards you at all, why some might percieve your continued insistance on including such a modifier, without providing such a reason to be based on either ignorance or latent sexism.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 07, 2004, 08:29:07 AM
Quote from: Andrew Morris
study used the squat lift as the best overall indicator of strength, and came up with the following results: average male lift was 351 lbs. and the average female lift was 86 lbs. That puts the male average at about 4 times the female average.


First of all, that's only one very specific measure of Strength.

However even taking this result at face value, it tells us next to nothing about genetic potential, and therefore the results at the extremes of the population, such as adventuring groups.

There may be a million reasons why adult women tend to be less strong than men due to cultural roles and taboos that mean they never reach their full potential, or that lead men to develop more physicaly than they otherwise would. Those reasons may apply across a population as a whole, but whether they apply to a specific individual is a completely different question and the rules are for creating individuals, not populations.

Whether a particular cultural effect infleunces an individual created by these rules is not a random or statistical event because it's a points-buy system and you can define your own character concept, therefore using random-population or statistics based arguments is irrelevent.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: redivider on May 07, 2004, 08:29:24 AM
Quote from: Ravien
... if D&D, a game primarily concerned with combat, included a -2 penalty to STR for women ...


Ravien wasn't claiming that D&D does include gender differences; the quoted statement was a 'for instance' example.

Still, as an aside, this got me trying to remember if or how gender differences were handled in earlier editions of D&D.

There are no gender differences in character generation in the 1978 basic set.

1st edition AD&D set maximum strength for female characters. The maximums weren't modifiers like racial modifiers (you didn't subtract 1 or 2 from your female character's strength, there was just an upper limit.) The max for human females was 18(50) compared to 18(00) for men. Female half orcs could be as stong as 18(75), compared to 18(99) for their male counterparts. Female halflings (max 14) and gnomes (max 15) were disadvantaged the most vis a vis males (17 and 18 respectively.)


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 07, 2004, 08:31:34 AM
Simon, that's ten minutes elapsed between your last post and this one.

This is the harsh moderator post: if y'all don't wait at least one hour before (a) deciding to reply and (b) actually replying, as inferred by me from the timing of your posts, then I'm shutting this one down.

Best,
Ron


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: dragongrace on May 07, 2004, 08:51:46 AM
Not sure why this one caught my eye but, there is little true difference in the actual physical limitations of men and women.  Trace the history of land speed records, weightlifting, and any other physical determinations of the human body throughout history and the records are constantly being broken.

Physically I think women possess more body fat than a man on the average.    This however is not a hindrance.

In the mental attributes, I think history can be somewhat unfair due to the role that women were assigned by their male counterparts throughout said history.  While the (considered) most intelligent person of today is a man,  this is I would argue, not because he is a male.

Beauty is a subjective trait in today's modern world.  In shakespearean times the more corpulent women were the more beautiful while today it is the waif (for the most part).  This is due to cultural shifts, which I think someone mentioned.

In short, physical limitations based on gender when trying to simulate a real world comparison are typically the perception of the game designer towards the real world.  If however you are trying to assert a different kind of reality (which would normally have a proper explanation for the gender difference) then attribute modification based on gender difference is ok.

JOE--


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: contracycle on May 07, 2004, 09:20:05 AM
To address the point about armies and pregnancy, yes there significant differences between the modern day and the ancient world, primarily medical.  We have the pill, of course, but also we have good medical practice that makes surviving childbirth common; mortality in labour I think is a much more fundamental reason for not composing fighting troops of females.  Also of course we know what happened to children born to the camp followers - most were simply exposed to die.  But camp followers could be quite large groups and many children were simply raised with the army, and this group may well, such as with Rome, settle down as a village when the legion was retired.

Back to system.  Conspiracy X uses a heavy Karma system that abstracts all characteristics to 5 levels and they are very broad.  Almost all people will fall into Strength 3; 4 would acocunt for professional or olympic class athletes of either sex; 5 is for extermely heavily built weight-lifters, professional American footballers, wrestlers and sundry aliens and machines.  Going down, strength 2 would be adolesecents and the elderly, and 1 small animals, pre-teens and similar.

Note how wide this scale is, this really does cover the spectrum of human strength.  Every number in the system is meaningful, too.  You have to have a pretty firm character concept to want or need to go to strength 4, and you pay lots for it at chargen; likewise you get lots back for going down to 2.  going to 5 or 1 would probably require a backstory in the Seriously Weird category.

This system doesnt start from inputs like sex and then calculate an output, it merely asks you to describe the character as they are.  It may well be that you or I feel that its less easy or likely whatever for a female character to achieve 5, but that only really changes the weirdness required of the rationale.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 07, 2004, 09:26:45 AM
Ron, I hope I haven't violated the wait time. My computer clock is wrong, and the Forge times don't match up to my watch. I believe I have, but if I haven't, then I apologize. I'll be keeping an eye on my watch from this point on.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
First of all, that's only one very specific measure of Strength.


Well, as I said, but perhaps didn't make clear, they did perform a host of other strength measurements. Based on this, they found that the squat lift aligned almost exactly with an overall measurement of strength.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
However even taking this result at face value, it tells us next to nothing about genetic potential, and therefore the results at the extremes of the population, such as adventuring groups.


Okay, that's a valid point. So, let's go by the maximums, which are closer for the two genders. The current Guinness world record for menís squats is 1047 lbs., compared to the current womenís world record of 508 lbs. It's still showing a much greater difference than some people are indicating.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
There may be a million reasons why adult women tend to be less strong than men due to cultural roles and taboos that mean they never reach their full potential, or that lead men to develop more physicaly than they otherwise would. Those reasons may apply across a population as a whole, but whether they apply to a specific individual is a completely different question and the rules are for creating individuals, not populations.


Agreed. But what is the difference (from a character creation point of view) if the modifier is based on genetics or society? Well, I mean, of course if you believe it's due to the former, it's not open to easy alteration, whereas if you believe it's due to the latter, you can easily say, "Well, my character doesn't conform to the average." On the other hand, if an average exists, whatever the reason, I think it should be hard to move away from that.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
Whether a particular cultural effect infleunces an individual created by these rules is not a random or statistical event because it's a points-buy system and you can define your own character concept, therefore using random-population or statistics based arguments is irrelevent.


Let's say that in a theoretical game, males have an average Strength of 10 and women have an average Strength of 9. Further, let's say that in this game world, men an women have exactly the same genetic potential for Strength. Why then should it cost a player the same amount of points to have a female character with a Strength of 12, as it would cost to have a male character with a Strength of 12? Shouldn't it cost more for the female character, as the score of 12 represents a 3-point deviation from average, whereas the male character has only a 2-point deviation from average? To use another example, if you had a point-buy system, shouldn't it cost a member of a physically weak race (average Strength 6) more to have a Strength of 12 than a physically strong race (average Strength 12)? Just because you have a concept that's different from the norm doesn't mean it's easy to deviate from the norm, and this can be simulated by paying more points.


As a complete anecdotal side note, I mentioned this topic to a female coworker. While I was suprised by the 4:1 ratio of male to female strength, or even the 2:1 ratio, she was not. She then made what I think is an interesting point. Not sure if it's valid or not, but it was interesting. She pointed out that most men can lift another person without much difficulty, while most women can't. Keep in mind this is her experience, not a generalization that I am making. I thought about it and realized that I (as an almost completely average male -- height, weight, strength, etc.) wouldn't even think about lifting another person of my own weight as a difficult challenge. Sure, I wouldn't want to carry that person for any length of time, but getting them off the ground for a few seconds is no problem at all. She, on the other hand (as a women who is notably stronger than average) found the idea of lifting a person to be a daunting challenge. Like I said, just food for thought, is all. I found it interesting to get a female non-gamer's point of view on this, and her response seemed to be something that most people would be able to relate to on a personal level.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: John Kim on May 07, 2004, 12:14:08 PM
I'll try to summarize here.  First of all, let's not kid ourselves that this is political -- on both sides.  The reason why this is political is that this bit of reality (i.e. genetic vs cultural) is a terribly important issue for attitudes and policy regarding sex in the modern world.  Other issues of realism are not generally so charged (i.e. no one cares whether a bardiche is better than a halberd).  

I also have to disagree with some other posters on one point.  There is no "neutral choice" here.  It is not true that no attribute modifiers for sex is the natural choice and any change from it needs to be justified.  OK, it has the advantage of being simpler. But it is still a commentary on gender.  When I chose to have no attribute modifiers and strong social gender typing in my Vinland game, I was making a politically-significant choice just as much as Ben is making in his attribute modifiers. So I don't think it's fair to to say that his sex-based attribute modifiers require more justification than any other choice.  

He's right that lack of inherent mechanical differences between the sexes can be a feminist statement, albeit a mild one.  I mentioned "essentialism" and "constructionism" before, but didn't really explain them.  Essentialism in this context is a position that differences between the sexes are primarily genetic, and observed differences between men and women just reflect this genetic essence.  Politically, it is generally used to argue for the status quo -- because if, say, women earn less than men that is because of an inherent preference for home over career.  Constructionism is a position that observed differences between the sexes are primarily social.  It is used to argue for cultural and political change to address the disparities.  

Quote from: Ravien
  If gender is only defined by genitalia, then perhaps some people could profer explanations for the following things, all of which are facts I have learned through my degree or blatant observations of my world which no sane person could dismiss:

Olympic potential. All events are split into gender. Males consistently run faster and for longer than females. Males can become significantly stronger than females. They can swim faster and for longer. None of these things can demonstrably be caused by any factor other than genetics, as all athletes can reasonably be assumed to have comparable access to nutritious food and hours of training. To imply culture in this difference is to suggest that playing with barbies makes Jane a slower runner.  

But culture does clearly have an effect.  How else do you explain, say, the marked change between the 1950s and today in women's Olympics?  I don't think women have changed genetically.  I think the only reasonable explanation is that the culture of the 1950s inhibited women athletes more than today.  

So I don't think your assumption of equal nutrition and training is reasonable.  There is also the issue of selection.  i.e. If 1 in 10 boys are encouraged to be Olympic athletes, but only 1 in 100 girls are, then you may see a marked difference even if the individual athletes are treated equally once in competition.  In other words, there are many children who genetically have potential to be Olympic athletes but were not properly encouraged and trained.  A disparity can arise in how many potentials are found, encouraged, and trained.  i.e. Many girls who genetically tend to be big and bulky are teased, put on diets, and given advice on how to dress up better rather than being encouraged to be weight-lifters.  

A common answer is "Oh, there used to be sexism in the 1950s, but now it's pretty much gone.  Now culture has no influence -- the remaining differences are purely genetic."  But this same argument has been used for decades.  In the 50s, anti-feminists would say that women had equal education and political power, and the disparities were due to genetics.  But with action, the disparities grew less.  Then in the 70s, anti-feminists admitted there was sexism in the 50s -- but now that was over, and the remaining differences were purely genetic.  And yet still with effort the disparities shrank.  

Maybe at some point in the future we'll get to the point where we really do see only the pure genetic differences.  But I don't accept that just seeing disparities proves that it is purely genetic.  Now, you can disagree, of course.  But I hope I've shown (with the Essentialism vs Constructionism issue) why people think this is important and object.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: talysman on May 07, 2004, 12:59:26 PM
I dunno what to say about Ravien wanting to indicate gender differences mechanically. it's his world, if he wants mechanical gender differences, I suppose that's fine; but he shouldn't expect anyone to agree.

now, as for justifying his mechanical choices by reference to the real world, or addressing the more general question "should RPGs include mechanical gender differences to increase realism?" I have to say that such mechanics are not a good idea, because the supposed physical differences (+1 Strength vs +1 Beauty, or whatever) is just BS. one pound of well-toned muscle produces the same amount of strength in either male or female bodies. a male athelete and a female athelete, both in the top of their class, will have equal strength in proportion to their bodies. and things like "beauty" are such a bundle of subjective statements and cultural biases that it seems pointless to argue for a genetic basis.

furthermore, although the average woman may be weaker than the average man, that's a statistical statement, not a genetic statement. if you want to include city population mechanics that generate the same statistical profile, fine. but when you get to a player generating a character, I'd have no gender restrictions whatever, aside from maybe social restrictions on what different genders are likely to learn.

the reason is because, throughout history, there were examples of women who didn't fit the statistical model. they were exceptional. as far as I'm concerned, RPGs are about playing exceptional people. if someone wants to play a five-foot-something tall woman who can lift a 200-pound man above her head, fine; since such a woman exists in real life, I can hardly see telling a player "NO, you have to subtract 1 from your strength."

the issue of slaves in the antebellum South came up earlier. again, throughout the period, there were examples of highly-educated slaves or ex-slaves; so, although statistically slaves were less educated than the white people around them, what exactly is the point of giving an intelligence penalty to slave PCs? if the game is about the attitudes towards slaves, then play the social side, not the supposed genetic differences. if the game is set in the antebellum South but isn't really about slavery per se, then don't even worry about the social side as far as PC slaves and ex-slaves are concerned -- everyone recognises the PCs as the exception to the rule.

so, to summarize: including gender biases in NPCs is one thing, but I wouldn't build gender biases into chargen for PCs. it goes against the spirit of RPGs.

that's my advice. I'm not going to argue the point, because I think this thread has gone out of control.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 07, 2004, 01:33:45 PM
On reflection, I think my possition is that there are some obvious physical differences between men and women at a statistical level, and even at the extremes of ability within the population (though less so than at the average). Nevertheless, I don't think this is significant enough, or worth enforcing at a game level unless these differences are in some way the subject of the game.

Quote from: Andrew Morris
Let's say that in a theoretical game, males have an average Strength of 10 and women have an average Strength of 9. Further, let's say that in this game world, men an women have exactly the same genetic potential for Strength. Why then should it cost a player the same amount of points to have a female character with a Strength of 12, as it would cost to have a male character with a Strength of 12?


Because game mechanics aren't statistical simulations of the population. They are naratively based simulations of fiction. In the game in question, the characters can have any backstory the players and GM can agree on. These aren't going to be ordinary people, so why adopt a game system limitation that enforces normality?

Are the game mechanics there to enable character concept, or to punish concepts that don't match the game designer's pre-concieved notions of what they should be?

Quote from: John Kim
also have to disagree with some other posters on one point. There is no "neutral choice" here. It is not true that no attribute modifiers for sex is the natural choice and any change from it needs to be justified. OK, it has the advantage of being simpler. But it is still a commentary on gender.


I think it's a commentary on narative freedom. It's saying that the game designer is not making value judgements about the character concept choices of the players.

If the game designer makes female characters with high strengths more expensive, the game designer is saying that character concepts for strong females are poor choices in his game. Even character concepts for moderatley strong felmale characters lead to overall worse characters because the player has less points to spend on other things as a consequence of that choice.

In this game it's not quite that bad because the game designer simply limited character maximum strength, but at a rating of 14 relative to the maximum male strength of 18. That's a 28% difference, which is a hell of  a lot. It appears that characters can improve stats after character generation too, exacerbating this discrepancy. It also means that, even though women can ultimately become significantly stronger than this and perhaps even stronger than starting male characters, in the early stages of the game they are put at a huge disadvantage compared to men regardless of the player's character concept. That's incredibly judgemental.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on May 07, 2004, 02:14:59 PM
Hi Simon,

I was thinking along the same lines you were, and came to a different conclusion.  (Kind of.)

I don't think Ben is concerned with "naratively based simulations of fiction."  He really is striving to create "statistical simulations of the population" -- and then run, kind of a fantasy meets that simulation.  Like predictive weather programming.

Now, whether or not the concerns already named (how valid are Ben's assumptions for the population's progamming, why certain data input but not others, how do exceptional people who beat the norm figure in, will the limits he's working with still be valid in say 50 years and many more) completely invalidate his model is another matter.

But, as far as I can tell, he's going for the Sim Dream: his fantasy world would keep going even the players stopped.  I personally see such an goal as impossible, not to mention not to my taste.  But we have to consider his goal of his work.

And it seems that your goal of RPG play (and mine), are very different from his.

Christopher


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 06:06:04 PM
Ok, quite a few good points. Thanks for that World Records data Andrew, it was exactly what I was going to reach for.

Also, thanks John for your point about including/not-including gender. You managed to articulate exaclty what I wish I could have, but I think it was all the more poignant coming from you.

I've had similar experience as Andrew when discussing this with the girls I know, who all had no problem with the modifiers I included.

Now I have two things I would like to say:

1. Valimir, you said this:
Quote
If you were to design a game set in 19th century England, for instance, where there where very strongly delineated male vs female roles in society. And you wanted to highlight how those enforced roles led to different distributions of attributes. And you wanted to indicate how women of upper social status were physically weaker because their role in society didn't permit them to engage in strenuous physical activity and so they never had the opportunity to develop strong musculature. And you provided an opportunity for a player character to elect to ignore that negative modifier in exchange for taking on the social stigma of being a non conformist within society's expectations...then yes...THAT would be a valid and viable use of attribute modifiers...especially if one of the goals of the game was to highlight the effects of social stratification.

But no matter how many times I read it and play around with it in my mind, I can't for the life of me see how that is any different to me saying "they reflect the reality of the game world, which in turn, reflects the reality of the real world"... which is what I've been saying all along.


2. I'm getting confused with the whole nature vs nurture thing. See, everything I've ever learned confirms that it is never "either/or", only ever "and... but to what degree". I have given as yet undisputed examples of things which all evidence suggests are primarily nature (but because of nurture, there will always be plenty of room to move). For a while there it seemed as though people were only concerned about the lack of nurture in my modifiers, but now, it seems that argument has swung completely against the inclusion of nature at all costs. Do genetics really mean nothing? I cannot fathom such a position, but this is likely because I know a bit about genetics and psycho-biology.

Is a 13:1 male to female genius ratio "not significant enough to include in a game"? Is being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift "not worth enforcing unless the differences are the subject of the game"? (italics mine). Apparently politics is far to strong to surmount with even the biggest and most blatant differences, even though these differences are perfectly relevant to the "exceptional" characters. I guess I'm one of very few who sees the elephant.


So in conclusion, I will remodel my gender mechanics, shifting the focus from what is percieved as implying genetic determinism, towards one which implies the inclusion of social learning, and will be a continuing factor throughout character development. I will create a topic in the Indie Game Design forum about the actual mechanics I will use, because that's where it would belong. I invite all discussion of the effectiveness/problems of the mechanics to that thread, but would ask that anything bordering on underlying reasons or such should be directed here, where I am happy to continue this discussion.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Valamir on May 07, 2004, 07:14:19 PM
Quote
Is a 13:1 male to female genius ratio "not significant enough to include in a game"? Is being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift "not worth enforcing unless the differences are the subject of the game"? (italics mine). Apparently politics is far to strong to surmount with even the biggest and most blatant differences, even though these differences are perfectly relevant to the "exceptional" characters. I guess I'm one of very few who sees the elephant.


It has little to do with elephants from my perspective.

If you were to tell me that the ABC machine gun has a rate of fire 3x higher than the XYZ machine and ask "isn't that significant enough to include in a game?" my answer would be "not unless machine gun use were an emphasized feature of your game worth highlighting."

If you were to tell me that the ABC car gets 13 miles to the gallon more than the XYZ car and ask "isn't that significant enough to include in a game" my answer would be "not unless running out of gas was an emphasized feature of your game worth highlighting."

So when you say "isn't being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift significant enough to include in a game", my answer is again "not unless weight lifting contests or hauling around alot of gear is an emphasized feature of your game worth highlighting."


How is this relevant?  How do you envision inclusion of such rules enhanceing the enjoyment of your game?  Under what set of circumstances will players kick back in their chairs and say, "wow, this game was alot of fun...and it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without those gender modifiers for attributes...those really made the game sing"

If you can't envision players saying that...then the question returns to "why bother".  Superfluous detail is exactly that.  Superfluous.

The reason I keep asking why you think they're important, is because if they had some significant impact on your game or how it plays, then they'd stop being superfluous and start being a valid design element.  But in the absence of such a reason they are pointless.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 07, 2004, 10:33:24 PM
Valimir, I am currently working on making gender far from superfluous.

However, I just realised a noteworthy parallel with this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7322).

No-one could reasonably argue that
Quote
"wow, this game was alot of fun...and it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without those ______ modifiers for attributes...those really made the game sing" (inserted blank mine)

could possibly apply to the topic of that thread now, could it?

In fact, I'd say that the inclusion of the encumberance mechanics in TROS stems from an identical reason to my inclusion of gender mechanics, and follows a similar controversy. ie: they are there simply because they are significantly real enough to make noteworthy, and the whole controversy pretty much stems from dislike of the mechanics and their implications regardless of all factual evidence.

By your definition, TROS should not contain these encumberance rules because they are superfluous, and pointless.

I feel that you are trying to get me to admit that I have no real reason to include these things in any game. I do not agree. I think rules can be included for flavour, realism, color, and just plain ol' "I want to". This would be a bit of all of the above.

From my perspective, given the powerful controversy and obvious significance of gender, it has everything to do with elephants.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 08, 2004, 02:25:51 AM
Quote from: Christopher Kubasik
I don't think Ben is concerned with "naratively based simulations of fiction."  He really is striving to create "statistical simulations of the population" -- and then run, kind of a fantasy meets that simulation.  Like predictive weather programming.


That's not what his game says. it says I as player have a free choice of what my character concept is. Given that, his decision to make some character concepts radicaly more expensive than others, or even completely impractical, needs some justification. Does he realy expect  the population of characters generated with this system to conform to the population of the world?

If 90% of the populatioon are peasants does he expect 90% of player characters to be peasants? Is the game mechanical cost of not being a peasant the same as the game mechanical cost of being in the top 10% of women? Let's assume that 5% of the population are nobles, so therefore being a noble character costs 20 times as many points as being a peasant. Then suppose that 5% of noble women have the social freedom to pursue their own goals. Does that realy mean that the game mechanical cost of being an independent noblewoman should be 400 times that of being a peasant lad? Is that kind of character-concept-restricting cost structure realy what the game designer wants? lookig at the rules, it doesn't seem so. Other parts of the game system don't seem to cost things based on rarety, but on the consequences of the choice for the game effectiveness of the character.

Quote from: Ravien
Is a 13:1 male to female genius ratio "not significant enough to include in a game"? Is being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift "not worth enforcing unless the differences are the subject of the game"? (italics mine). Apparently politics is far to strong to surmount with even the biggest and most blatant differences, even though these differences are perfectly relevant to the "exceptional" characters. I guess I'm one of very few who sees the elephant.


Lets supose that this is true, that geneticaly even if environmental factors were equal for everyone, still 13 out of every 14 Nobel prize winners would be men. Even so sme women are still genuiuses. Your game says I can choose whatever characetr concept I like. If I want to play one of the few Genius level women, why should I be penalised for wanting to do so in the game system? Your game explicitly states that the character concept is a matter of free choice, yet the game mechanics are incongruent with that freedom.

In fact if you were to set maxima for characteristics that limit female potential inteligence you'd be making it effectively impossible to play one of the few genius level women. If the mechanic was just to make female inteligence more expensive at least I'd still be able to swallow the cost and buy up inteligence anyway.

Looking at the rules it seems to me that most of the cost structure does not exist to encourage a statisticaly representative population of characters. Rather it seems to exist as a play balancing system, to make the generated characters balanced from a play point of view. You've made several statements here that seem to support that interpretation. So again this is incoherent game design, because there's no obvious play balance issue with respect to playing strong (or inteligent) women.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 08, 2004, 05:43:16 AM
Quote
That's not what his game says. it says I as player have a free choice of what my character concept is. Given that, his decision to make some character concepts radicaly more expensive than others, or even completely impractical, needs some justification. Does he realy expect the population of characters generated with this system to conform to the population of the world?

Given the terminology of "more expensive", I'm guessing that you ahve read my topic in Indie Design? If not, I apologise for the following: I'm afraid you may have misinterpreted the mechanics as I have presented them. They don't work by making things more expensive, but instead by making it easier to focus in certain areas. It does this because if you raise a +! attribute by 1 point at the standard cost of 3 GP, then you get a bonus 1 for free (that's the +1 part). If you buy points in a 0 attribute, you don't get a bonus. The analogy I gave in a recent post was "kind of like a father who tells his daughter that for every dollar she saves, he will put a dollar in her account. But nothing stops her from spending it instead."

And no, the system is not designed to generate populations of characters, because it is a point-buy system. Doing so would be incrdibly arduous for any GM. Instead I will provide a bunch of templates in the final rulebook and suggestions for modifying them.

Instead, it is meant to represent the biological and environmental influences in play through a character's life. As far as I can see, it does this, but if you disagree, I encourage your comments in that thread.

Quote
Is the game mechanical cost of not being a peasant the same as the game mechanical cost of being in the top 10% of women?...

...Does that realy mean that the game mechanical cost of being an independent noblewoman should be 400 times that of being a peasant lad?

There is no mechinical cost for choosing your social class. They are there for exploration. And what, pray-tell, is the top 10% of women? Are we still talking about strength? Why is strength synonymous with the "top"? I could quite easily create a female character who was in the top 10% of learned women at no cost. In fact, to do so would be easier than pursuing other goals, not because it "costs less" but because my efforts into that area give more in return.

Quote
Other parts of the game system don't seem to cost things based on rarety, but on the consequences of the choice for the game effectiveness of the character.

Nothing is based on rarity. Only on the factors that are in play, and, as you mentioned, characer effectiveness. Sorry, my mistake... the economic aspect is based almost purely on rarity and quality, having nothing to do with character effectiveness.

Quote
Your game says I can choose whatever characetr concept I like. If I want to play one of the few Genius level women, why should I be penalised for wanting to do so in the game system? Your game explicitly states that the character concept is a matter of free choice, yet the game mechanics are incongruent with that freedom.

How so? How would you be penalised for pursuing a genius woman? Fluid is a +1 attribute for women... and a +2 attribute for men. Not even social class affects that (though species will). Where does the penalty come in? how is freedom undermined?

Quote
In fact if you were to set maxima for characteristics that limit female potential inteligence you'd be making it effectively impossible to play one of the few genius level women. If the mechanic was just to make female inteligence more expensive at least I'd still be able to swallow the cost and buy up inteligence anyway.

Then there's no problem, because that's almost how it works (except the "more expensive" part). There are no limits. Seriously, powerful characters can have attributes exceeding 100. Nothing limits this.

Quote
Looking at the rules it seems to me that most of the cost structure does not exist to encourage a statisticaly representative population of characters. Rather it seems to exist as a play balancing system, to make the generated characters balanced from a play point of view. You've made several statements here that seem to support that interpretation. So again this is incoherent game design, because there's no obvious play balance issue with respect to playing strong (or inteligent) women.

No, the "cost structure" exists to represent the biological and environmental factors in play on a person's life. If everyone were to always opt for the easiest (is: most beneficial) options, then they would probably end up with characters who are largely representative of the population. The genders are "balanced" because that's how I see things. Another reason things are balanced should be obvious: gender is controversial enough without me making one or the other "better" overall.

I'm unsure though, how my design is incoherent. Perhaps the answer belongs in the Indie Desing topic (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=118400) though, being that it is specifically about mechanics and their consequences for my design.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 08, 2004, 09:41:35 AM
Quote from: Ravien
There is no mechinical cost for choosing your social class. They are there for exploration.


But 'exploring' the character concept of a strong woman in a world predominated by strong men isn't - or rathr is discouraged. That's an entirely arbitrary game dsign choice, with n systematic justification.

Quote
And what, pray-tell, is the top 10% of women? Are we still talking about strength?


I think predominantly yes, because that's a particular subject you rasied in the orriginal post although you have also raised the issue of inteligence.

Quote
How so? How would you be penalised for pursuing a genius woman? Fluid is a +1 attribute for women... and a +2 attribute for men. Not even social class affects that (though species will). Where does the penalty come in? how is freedom undermined?


You raised the subject of a 13:1 genius ration between men and women, and I'm adressing that point and wether or not I think it should be addressed in character generation rules in general.


Quote
There are no limits. Seriously, powerful characters can have attributes exceeding 100. Nothing limits this.


Then I'm not sure what the modifiers in chaacter generation do. Do they or do they not make some female character concepts less effective choices in the game? In other words takign strength as an example, if I were to have two characetrs one male and one female, surely it's be more expensive and less effective to develop the female character to the same strength level as the male character, all other  things being equal? Surely that's the whole point of these game emchanics, or am I missing the point?

Regarding incoherence, this comes down the the issue of enabling character concept. Reading the section on character concept I as a player am likely to form expectations about the character creation rules in terms of enabling character concept (especialy with respect to female characters) that are at variance with the way the rules actualy direct and channel player choices. In fact the choice of character concept is anything but free, but this isn't made clear.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 08, 2004, 06:12:32 PM
Quote
But 'exploring' the character concept of a strong woman in a world predominated by strong men isn't - or rathr is discouraged. That's an entirely arbitrary game dsign choice, with n systematic justification.

Oh please. Entirely arbitrary? I just pulled that idea out of my ass did I? That choice has the same systematic justification as why my character can wield a sword: Because it parallels reality, and thus provides familiarity for players to explore.

Quote
Then I'm not sure what the modifiers in chaacter generation do. Do they or do they not make some female character concepts less effective choices in the game?

No, they just make some concepts require more effort. A male with strength of 24 is exactly as powerful as a female with strength of 24. Effectiveness is not sexually dimorphic. But there's a point here that I want to come back to.

Quote
Reading the section on character concept I as a player am likely to form expectations about the character creation rules in terms of enabling character concept (especialy with respect to female characters) that are at variance with the way the rules actualy direct and channel player choices. In fact the choice of character concept is anything but free, but this isn't made clear.

For starters, by that exact same token, TROS would be incoherent if it gave expectations of freedom in chargen (I don't own the full rulebook, does it?). According to the quickstart rules, I can't make a totally kickass rich guy. But back to my game, what about gender makes my game incoherent? If it is merely the fact that I claim that you can create any character concept and then play that concept, but my rules make it hard to ahieve some concepts, then hell, gender isn't special. If your character concept was to be a totally awesome sorcerer, who was one of the finest swordsman in the land, could best any person with a bow, and could call on divinity to help him out, then that character concept would be very hard to realise. If you wanted to make someone filthy rich and extremelely compassionate, that concept would also be harder to realise. Hell, if you want your character to be King, then that concept will be hard to realise because you would have to play it out. But in all of these cases, "hard to realise" is not "impossible". The only concept that is impossible is to create a God.

But here's something I have a problem with that I wanted to come back to:
Quote
(especialy with respect to female characters)

Where does the especially part come from? How is it harder to achieve character concepts for females than for males? Their modifiers are balanced. If I wanted to make a character who was extremely agile and dextrous, who could slip inside an enemies guard and stab them, say, under the armpit (something accomodated in the rules), then it'd be much easier for me if I chose a female. This doesn't mean that I couldn't do the same thing with a male, just that to do so would require more effort. But my problem is that no-body cares about this part. No-body cares that some concepts are harder to achieve with a male, and they ignore the fact that the difficulty in achieving those concepts is equal to the difficulty in achieving female concepts. It is very much beginning to look to me as though the only problem that remains is that females require more work than males to achieve the same physical strength. I feel that this point is an impass, as factual evidence has been provided for the reality to justify such a decision. It seems that some people want to see the elephant and play with it, and others refuse to see it and get frustrated that they can't walk in a straight line through the room. I can't do anything about that.

And for the life of me, I can't see how my game is special in making some things require more effort than others. In fact, it has more freedom than many games for pursuit of character concept. Try making a skilled swordsman/sorcerer in AD&D 3e.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Walt Freitag on May 09, 2004, 08:36:59 AM
[stares at stopwatch] 4... 3... 2... 1... time to post!

(Just kidding, actually I started thinking about this post 2 days ago.)

Ben, thereís a point you've asserted repeatedly in this thread:

Quote
The game does not curtail the choices at all, it merely implies focus for avenues of pursuit.


Quote
Gender does notimpinge on playability or character effectiveness, it only provides differing potential for success in various avenues of pursuit.


Quote
Given the terminology of "more expensive", I'm guessing that you ahve read my topic in Indie Design? If not, I apologise for the following: I'm afraid you may have misinterpreted the mechanics as I have presented them. They don't work by making things more expensive, but instead by making it easier to focus in certain areas. It does this because if you raise a +! attribute by 1 point at the standard cost of 3 GP, then you get a bonus 1 for free (that's the +1 part). If you buy points in a 0 attribute, you don't get a bonus. The analogy I gave in a recent post was "kind of like a father who tells his daughter that for every dollar she saves, he will put a dollar in her account. But nothing stops her from spending it instead.


What youíre overlooking here is basic principles of economics as they apply to currency in character creation -- especially, the concept of opportunity cost. Your statements, going back to your very first post about "the problem" and how your system avoids it, appear to be based on the idea that thereís a difference between rewarding players for choosing certain character configurations that you prefer ("providing focus," increasing the potential for success in certain avenues, giving the extra dollar for a dollar spent wisely) and punishing them for choosing character configurations that you donít prefer. That distinction is an illusion. If adding a point of physical strength to a female character costs a dollar, while adding a point to some other attribute for that character costs a dollar plus you get a second point in that attribute for free, the real cost of the strength point for the female character is two dollars, one dollar spent plus a dollar in opportunity cost. You can say the attribute you prefer female characters to have "costs less" or you can say the attribute you prefer female characters not to have "costs more" and thereís absolutely no difference in the reality whichever way you say it. You can say you want to focus on or encourage certain avenues of pusruit by making them require less effort or resources, or you can say you want to punish or discourage the complementary avenues of pursuit (the avenues not in that "encouraged" group) by making them require more effort or resources, and thereís absolutely no difference in the reality whichever way you say it.

Thus your system has exactly "The Problem" that your initial post describes for other systems. Your stating it in terms of plusses and minuses that you start with before adding additional purchased points, instead of as a plus or minus that you apply after the attrtibute is otherwise determined, makes no difference at all. [This is going by what the system document you referred to at the start of this thread says.] Your stating in terms of more "free" additional points given for preferred characteristics, instead of as a higher price for the un-preferred ones, makes no difference at all. [This is going by the mechanics described in the Indie Game Design thread that you brought up later in this thread, which are completely different. Next time can we please discuss one system at a time?]

In either case, you are saying, quite clearly, that you, the game designer, prefer female characters to have lower physical strength, lower analytical ability, higher beauty, higher agility, etc. than male characters do. Your system says it, by rewarding players for creating characters that conform to those preferences. And youíve repeated it numerous times in this thread, every time you talk about wanting to "focus" playersí options or make "certain areas of pursuit" require "less effort." In the end you're rewarding players for making male characters stronger and female characters prettier. Presumably, you're doing that because you want them to be so. (Or else it wouldn't make much sense to reward them that way.)

That the deal might balance out in the end, in terms of overall potential effectiveness, is beside the point. One could similarly argue that a +2 strength for males in AD&D wouldn't be a problem if there were also a +2 in intelligence for females, because magic ability is just as much of a focus of the game as combat ability is. But what if I want to play a female fighter? "That's fine with me, you just have to pay more" is not a valid answer on the designer's part. It is, in fact, an oxymoron. That I have to pay more for the female fighter means that it is not, in fact, fine with you; you've seen fit to penalize me for it.

The point I was trying to make in my previous post is that people have good reason to get more annoyed at gender modifiers than at other types of modifiers that work the same way. If lizard-man character have lower speed (due to cold-bloodedness) and higher constitution (due to regeneration) than human characters do, you wonít see many complaints. If characters from lower social classes have a different cost rate for initial attributes than characters from higher social classes, you wonít see many complaints. The difference is that most players simply donít care as much about the social class or species of the characters they play as they do about the gender. If the costs and benefits of the lizard-man species or the middle class donít conform to what they want their charactersí strengths and weaknesses to be, theyíll make different choices (sometimes a bit grudgingly, perhaps, but without actually taking offense ). But people arenít as flexible about character gender, most of the time. Theyíll object much more to havng to pay more for certain attributes "just because Iím female" than they would "just because Iím a lizard-man."

If Iím female and I want a character whose abilities focus on having a high physical strength (or if I'm male and I want a character whose abilities focus on agility), your system is telling me that I must either:

(1) Change my character concept to focus on a different attribute instead;

(2) Play a character opposite my own gender; or

(3) Accept a penalty in effectiveness because my attributes cost more compared to everyone elseís.

Yeah, sorry, people are going to resent that. The best you can hope for is that most players will ignore the gender modifiers. Few are going to like them or think better of your game because of them. Many will think worse of your game because of them.

- Walt


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 09, 2004, 09:39:21 AM
Reading this post, I'm starting to wonder if the whole problem might be simply that different people like different kinds of games.

What I mean is (and this might be covered in the GNS theory -- I haven't finished reading those articles yet) some people like detailed rules that "make sense." That is, rules that are based on reality. Others like less detailed, cinematic rules. Personally, I prefer the latter. However, if I were playing in a game with detailed, "realistic" rules, I would work within that construct.

For example, I just played in a Sorcerer game where my character was a teenage female cheerleader. She had a high Stamina, which made sense for the character. But that meant that she was better in a fight than most adult males in the game. That doesn't seem realistic (at least to me). But it was fine for the type of game. Accurately mapping reality is not central to Sorcerer.

However, if I were to play the same character in a game designed to accurately map reality, I would expect rules to exist that would avoid this situation. Specifically, in such a game, I would expect a teenage female cheerleader to be good at cheerleading, but not necessarily a good fighter. If I wanted to play this character with high levels of kick-assitude, I'd expect to pay more for it than if I had a male teenage football player character. I wouldn't be offended by such rules in this type of game.

As to everyone who feels that this is limiting to character "freedom," c'mon people. To quote our president (who'd have thought I'd ever do that?), "There out to be limits to freedom." Sure, I could decide that I wanted to play a halfling with the strength of a giant. Is my "freedom" being impinged upon when the GM tells me I'm a crack-smoking idiot and that I need to come up with a more realistic concept? Maybe, but I think that's a good thing. At least in most games. If that were a game which encouraged unrealistic/funny concepts, that'd be another matter. But in a game which makes an attempt to simulate reality, it's perfectly justified for the GM to deny such a concept. Just like it's okay for the rules to limit other unrealistic concepts.

As to gender being a special case, I'd argue that, in fact, it's not. Mechanically speaking, at least. If people have a tough time coming to terms with that, then they need to work out those problems on their own. It's not the designer's duty to make a game where everyone's ideologies are incorporated. If you're offended by a game mechanic, don't play.

On the other hand, having modifiers based on sex, but not on social class, does seem pretty inconsistent to me, from a mechanical point of view.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Halzebier on May 09, 2004, 09:45:40 AM
Quote from: Walt Freitag
You can say you want to focus on or encourage certain avenues of pusruit by making them require less effort or resources, or you can say you want to punish or discourage the complementary avenues of pursuit (the avenues not in that "encouraged" group) by making them require more effort or resources, and thereís absolutely no difference in the reality whichever way you say it.


Yep. However, I'd like to stress that (a) this is in principle a valid concern and way to focus a game, and (b) there may be better ways to achieve this.

[Edited to add: Not that Walt has claimed anything to the contrary.]

A longtime regular on RGFA once formulated the following piece of advice:

Quote from: Mary Kuhner
Never make something expensive when you really want to make it impossible!

If having a character hyper-specialize in something breaks your game,
the best thing to do is set hard limits.  No matter how expensive you
make it, you'll always have to worry that someone will still manage to
get it, and your game will then be broken.


I think this may apply here as well.

If I want to have, say, a game modelled on westerns with John Wayne , I'm probably better off saying "No female gunslingers" or perhaps "No more than one female gunslinger per party", than imposing a penalty.

("No more than one female gunslinger per party" may require a player settlement or could conceivably be handled with a bidding contest, roll of the dice or whatever).

Such a flat-out ban may seem 'unrealistic' at first glance, but is in fact very advantageous:

(1) It is honest. (The game will probably seem *less* sexist because the issue is out in the open.)

(2) It is transparent. (Everybody at the table understands that the absence of female gunslingers is part of the feel of the game, i.e. a design goal.)

and

(3) It is effective. (There will be no female gunslingers.)

*-*-*

That said, I can empathise with the desire to use the same rules for PCs and NPCs. This is an old (and possibly problematic, I dunno) sim aesthetic.

[Edited to add: For *some* sim gamers on RGFA, at least - if memory serves me correctly.]

Would a system work for you wherein a randomly generated female NPC will have - on average - a lower strength than a random male -- but where a female PC can be as strong as a male PC, at no extra cost?

(This would violate the above aesthetic, of course.)

*-*-*

Regards,

Hal


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 09, 2004, 06:48:20 PM
Quote
However, I'd like to stress that (a) this is in principle a valid concern and way to focus a game, and (b) there may be better ways to achieve this.

By all means, I am completely open to any suggestions of a better way to achieve my goals. Any at all.

Quote
Never make something expensive when you really want to make it impossible!

I think this may apply here as well.

Good advice, doesn't apply. There is nothing short of God-hood that I want to be impossible in Eclipse. Should they invest the necessary effort, characters should be able to become truly extraordinary, having the physical strength of a dragon, the wisdom of an angel, the speed of a wraith and the constitution of a rock. Hell, they can even modify their own bodies to have the wings of a falcon, the eyes of an eagle, the ears of a bat, the sense of smell of a condor, talons, fur, tails, whatever. All you need is an excruciatingly rare stone and viola, modify your body to your heart's content. Another even more rare gem (!) let's you trap the soul of any target you wish, to leash and control it at will.

Everything in Eclipse follows the same philosophy: everything worthwhile achieving is difficult to achieve, but the rewards are worth it. You can't become a God, but goddamn it, you can get close.

Quote
Would a system work for you wherein a randomly generated female NPC will have - on average - a lower strength than a random male -- but where a female PC can be as strong as a male PC, at no extra cost?

What would be the point? Players aren't going to make NPCs, they are going to make PCs. If the GM wants realistic female/male ratios of attributes, they can make them without any rules.

Quote
Thus your system has exactly "The Problem" that your initial post describes for other systems.

No, The Problem isn't a matter of differing effectiveness, it is a matter of how that difference impacts the focus of the game. D&D is combat focused, so any difference that impacts combat will face The Problem. Because Eclipse has many foci, the two most important being combat and social interaction, then if one type of thing (gender in this case) is better than the other at combat, but worse at social interaction, whilst the reverse is true of the other type of thing, then there is no Problem. It becomes instead a matter of preferred choice of where you want to focus, and the best choices to achieve that focus.

Quote
That the deal might balance out in the end, in terms of overall potential effectiveness, is beside the point. One could similarly argue that a +2 strength for males in AD&D wouldn't be a problem if there were also a +2 in intelligence for females, because magic ability is just as much of a focus of the game as combat ability is. But what if I want to play a female fighter? "That's fine with me, you just have to pay more" is not a valid answer on the designer's part. It is, in fact, an oxymoron. That I have to pay more for the female fighter means that it is not, in fact, fine with you; you've seen fit to penalize me for it.

I don't see it that way. What if I want to play a swordfighting sorcerer? Looking at the rules of D&D, multi-classing tells me that the designers think that "that's fine with me, you just have to suffer in some areas". Now, D&D is an incoherent game, but that particular aspect is not what does it. Choice at a cost is a valid and useful tool. Without it, a game really ceases to be a game. To change analogies, what if my character decides to get drunk. "thats fine" the GM says, "but you'll suffer penalties to your rolls from now on until you sober up". Is this the GM telling the player that drinking is not fne? No, it's telling him that his choice has consequences.

As a side note, a +2 to strength does a shit load more than a +2 to intelligence in D&D. Sure, magic is important, but your INT really doesn't have anywhere near the same impact as a fighter's STR. Hence why any gender difference (or social difference or any difference) in D&D that included STR would epitomise The Problem.

Also, regarding combat in Eclipse, females are not, as some people believe, combat inept if the follow the "path of least resistance" for their character. Dodging is a very useful thing to do in combat, having the potential to grant free attacks, and attacks that ignore the heaviest armor (ie: requiring much less power to deal damage). Dodging can also be used to avoid missile fire. Females and males alike are basically equal (though different) with their magic potential, which is as good a way to kill someone as any.

Quote
The difference is that most players simply donít care as much about the social class or species of the characters they play as they do about the gender.

If they care so much about gender, why don't they care that gender is a completely meaningless choice? If I care about something, I want it to mean something. I'd hate to choose to play an elemental mage who could command fire at will, and then find that my choice meant nothing and could not be explored within the game. This is where I am coming from.

If I choose to play a female character, I want the game to tell me that she should be played differently than if I chose a male character. I want it to help me see how I should play her. I don't want my game to tell me that females should do typically male things simply because that's what the game is about. Seriously, combat is a "male" thing. Sure, girls can get into it, why shouldn't they. Guys can get into romance as well. But ask a girl if she'd rather play The Sims or Soldier of Fortune 2, and see which one she chooses. I get a blast from both, but goddamn it, those little fucks spend an hour to piss and then miss their goddamn lift to work so often that I just feel an urge to start up SoF2 and let rip. So I don't like the idea that in order to be "good", a girl must be "male". Why can't they be female and still be considered "good". In short, I want all my choices to be meaningful (well, as many as can be reasonably accounted for). [/rant]


-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 09, 2004, 08:16:33 PM
Hello,

Ben, perhaps it's time to review your goals for this thread.

1. Are you looking for agreement? Then I agree specifically with all of the points in your latest post. Fully.

2. Are you looking for approval of these specific mechanics in your game? Then I approve. Yes, actually, I do. Why? Because it's your game and if these features satisfy #1 above for you, then they bloody well do.

3. Are you looking for reasons why people might disagree with you about that? You've found some - but why you seem compelled to defend yourself against such disagreements is completely opaque to me. It even seems masochistic: "Object to my notion X," then, "Your objection is not valid from my standpoint!"

I think that one of the reasons some of the folks posting here might seem argumentative or stubborn to you is that they want their comments acknowledged by you. You did ask for comments. You got them. This obliges you to say "thank you" and to acknowledge your understanding of these points both socially and intellectually. You certainly don't have to agree, and they didn't ask for that: just that you get what they said.

When people offer up their judgments on request in good faith, they are making themselves vulnerable to you. When you rapidly and fiercely attack the judgments or insist that they don't apply to you, it's abusing that vulnerability.

You certainly don't have to defend any of your preferences or goals for the game, or your sense of how the mechanics reinforce them.

So: since I can't see any particular reason for this thread to continue, unless you provide a clear goal for the discussion beyond "You attack me and I'll defend myself," then it'll have to get closed.

Best,
Ron


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Walt Freitag on May 09, 2004, 09:33:13 PM
Edit to note: cross-posted with Ron; (very) roughly similar points made.

Quote from: Ben
No, The Problem isn't a matter of differing effectiveness, it is a matter of how that difference impacts the focus of the game. D&D is combat focused, so any difference that impacts combat will face The Problem. Because Eclipse has many foci, the two most important being combat and social interaction, then if one type of thing (gender in this case) is better than the other at combat, but worse at social interaction, whilst the reverse is true of the other type of thing, then there is no Problem. It becomes instead a matter of preferred choice of where you want to focus, and the best choices to achieve that focus.


In that case, I believe you're wrong about the reason gender modifiers are disliked. It's a mistake that others have made, and keep making. For twenty-five years rpg designers have been defending themselves blue in the face why their particular set of gender modifiers is perfectly okay, because the bonuses you get for being female more than adequately compensate for the penalties of same, given the relative usefulness of various scores in the game (which obviously requires taking the focus or foci of play into account). And for twenty-five years the rpg audience, including most of the female players whose opinions I've heard or read on the matter, have been loudly telling them where to stuff their gender modifiers.

You've asked about the effects of the gender modifiers in your system. I'm telling you that potential players/purchasers will dislike them, that reviewers will compete with each other to see who can condemn them the most forcefully, and that most players who do play your game will ignore them. I've also offered my theory about why they're likely to react that way. You're telling me why you think your system wouldn't deserve such a reaction. To which I can only shrug. If I predict that if you jump off a cliff you'll die, do the reasons why you don't think you deserve to die matter?

- Walt


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Russell Impagliazzo on May 09, 2004, 09:35:07 PM
One thing that could be addressed here (and is, but is being drowned out by the noise of flames) is:  What is a char-gen system for, anyway?  In order to see whether stats for gender differences are appropriate for your game, you should answer this first.  

Some possible goals for char-gen systems are:

A char-gen system is meant to allow specialization while preserving balance, so that
the group has a mix of abilities but no one character overwhelms the others. This allows
the spotlight to move between characters in a way that promotes group cohesion, and allows players to enjoy being in both actor and audience stance.  

For balance, I don't think gender bonuses/penalties are appropriate for meeting this goal, whether or not they reflect real-world differences.  To be less controversial than using gender as an example, a peasant won't get the opportunity to learn courtly ettiquette.  But does that mean that it should COST MORE to be a peasant who knows courtly ettiquette than to be a noble who knows courtly ettiquette?   Since the peasant won't be able to take advantage of this skill nearly as often as the noble would, it would seem from a pure balance issue that if any difference exists, it should be less expensive for the peasant.  

On the other hand, there's also the question of niche creation and preservation.  Maybe
you want the gun-moll to fill a different role in the party than the bootlegger.  That's a legitimate use of gender differences, but again I'm not sure that having different COSTS for abilities is the best way to do this (although it is certainly a common way of enforcing niches, e.g., RoleMaster has different costs for skills based on templates.)  I think absolute prohibitions, like in John's game, are more effective at niche-protection.  If you want to be a Frankish sorceress, then by definition you are female.  Other niches can be either gender, and for those niches there is no mechanical distinction.  

When using gender distinctions for niche creation, though, you might want to think about the following:   Is cross-gendered playing encouraged/typical in your game circles?  If not, are there a variety of niches available for both genders?  Are there niches that would appeal to different tastes available to both genders?  If not, you'll lose players who don't like to play against gender and don't like the options available to them.  

A second role for char-gen is:  A chargen system communicates to the players information about the setting and scope of in-game activities.  If there's a seduction skill, then seduction is a possible event in the game.  If all dwarves have an affinity for stonework, that communicates that mining is important in dwarf culture.  For this, I don't thin a  cost differential is the best way to communicate gender differences in your game.  I think it is simpler to say:  When picking your strength, consult the following
chart.  9 represents the typical strength of an adult woman; 11  the typical strength of an adult male, 16 is the strength of the strongest woman in town; 18 that of the strongest man.  That communicates what's going on in your setting better than giving men a
+1 and women a -1, without limiting player's choices.  

Communicating information about your world is a two-edged blade.  It is communicating your beliefs about gender differences in your world.  If your players then ask, ``Why are
women typically more beautiful than men in your world?'' and you answer, ``Because that's realistic.  Everyone thinks women are more beautiful'' be prepared for arguments.
In my experience, this is simply not a true statement.    If you instead say, ``Because in my world, most men only bathe once a month, but women bathe routinely as part of washing chores'' then you have made it part of your particular setting rather than a claim about real life.  They can then choose to be a clean, beautiful, vain man, but they'll realize that that's not considered ``manly'' in your society.  

A third role for chargen is to enforce genre.  If you want to play in a game that feels like a
faerie tale, players cannot play good-hearted ogres.  So ogres must be evil.  If you want to have your game feel like an Icelandic saga, you cannot have women be heads of households or men be magicians, although you can have strong-willed women warriors.  
Many genres are the reflection of the sexist societies that these genres arose in.  If you want to play in a dramatically sexist genre, like Mickey Spillane PI book or romance novel,  you then need to answer the question:  Why?    Why do you want to play that particular genre, and why should it appeal to a  broad collection of players?  Also, I think prohibitions are more appropriate for enforcing genre conventions than cost differences.  

I'm sure there are many other goals for a chargen system that I haven't thought of.
What are your goals?  Why is price differences the best way of acheiving them?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: John Kim on May 09, 2004, 10:40:00 PM
I agree completely with Russell's post, and I'll add in a bit more specific application:  i.e. making something more expensive point-wise does not linearly result in rarity.  If you have players who are very concerned with cost-vs-effectiveness, then even a minor increase in cost past the c-vs-e ratio of other options will mean they never take it.  Conversely, if you have players who are more experimental or exploratory, they may take options regardless of the cost.  In a real game there is no guarantee this will balance out.  

I have frequently seen this in action.  In some games, the players will all go for the unusual options even with penalties, resulting in a PC group which is a collection of freaks.  Conversely, making the unusual cheap doesn't mean that players will take it.  

For example, in my Vinland campaign I had no strict mechanics regarding attributes and skills based on the sex of the character (other than the magic restriction).  However, the result was not that people made muscle-bound women warriors.  The female PC stats were generally consistent with stereotype.  Even Thorgerd, who passed as a man in disguise for a while and wielded a sword, was only average Strength.  

Quote from: Russell Impagliazzo
  A third role for chargen is to enforce genre.  If you want to play in a game that feels like a faerie tale, players cannot play good-hearted ogres.  So ogres must be evil.  If you want to have your game feel like an Icelandic saga, you cannot have women be heads of households or men be magicians, although you can have strong-willed women warriors.  

As an aside, this isn't accurate.  Women can and were heads of households, such as Aud the Deep-minded who lead the earliest colonization of Iceland.  Saga-era Icelandic women could own property, divorce their husbands, and lead family affairs.  The latter is most common for widows, but there are also many examples of strong-willed wives who lead their families.  Women can't directly take part in legal or political matters, but they can certainly manipulate them.  However, women cannot be warriors per se.  That is, they may bear arms and aren't prevented from fighting (any moreso than others), but they will not be mustered or consulted in matters of war.  Within the sagas, women will rarely take up arms and do violence, but it is always for personal reasons -- typically killing their husband, getting revenge on the killer of their children, etc.  

Within my campaign, Thorgerd was trained in arms and armor because she grew up in exile, and her father was concerned that she be able to protect herself.  When her family was killed, she returned to the Commonwealth in disguise as a man to get her revenge on those responsible for her family's exile and death.  After she was exposed, she married a man whom she had fought alongside.  Since he was open-minded, she largely did as she pleased after that and often would go together with him on expeditions.  But she was definitely a fairly unique oddity, and there is no parallel for her in the sagas that I know of.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 09, 2004, 10:59:09 PM
Russel and John, your comments about chargen are perfectly valid and I would love to address them, but I think they are more relevant to this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11111). So if you copy these posts there I will be better able to answer them and give the response they deserve.

Quote
I'm telling you that potential players/purchasers will dislike them, that reviewers will compete with each other to see who can condemn them the most forcefully, and that most players who do play your game will ignore them.

Indeed, and it's a shame. On no other issue would a game be condemned irrespective of the quality of design.

Quote
Ben, perhaps it's time to review your goals for this thread.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I apologise if it has seemed as though I have not expressed gratitude for the multitude of points raised. In my world, acknowledging an argument by addressing it is acknowledging it's validity and the contribution it brings. It's easy to see how this might not come across though.

To everyone who has posted their opinions and points, Thank You. Your contributions have not only helped me analyse my position and the relevant points more clearly, but more importantly, have led me to develop what I think is a better way of achieving my goals. Some of you will of course disagree with those goals, and that's your right. But you've helped me actualise them nonetheless.

But now that this absolutely behemoth detour from my original focus has petered out, I'd like to restate the original focus of this thread:

1. Has anyone attempted to use gender mechanics in their games? If so, why, if not, why not?

2. Are games typically focused in such a way that gender mechanics invariably result in The Problem?

3. What is your personal attitude towards gender being mechanically salient within a game?

Now, I think we can all agree that 3 has had its run. But 2 and 1 are definately open to discussion. Ron has pretty much taken off with 1 in this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11126), and I will be keeping my eye on it. I, personally, would love to see 2 discussed. But I feel that maybe it might be better if someone else who was interested posted a new topic about them, for a few reasons:

This thread has a lot of baggage in it. It is already very long. And I think it's about time somebody else became crash-test dummy for a while.

And just to reiterate, The Problem occurs when gender issues are introduced into a game which does not sufficiently provide for the effectiveness of both genders in the pursuit of the focus of the game.

Thanks again everyone, it's been a blast.
-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: contracycle on May 10, 2004, 12:54:45 AM
Quote from: Ravien

Indeed, and it's a shame. On no other issue would a game be condemned irrespective of the quality of design.


Not at all; I would take iut as indicative of quality.  It would suggest to me the author has a private agenda distinct from the production of an RPG.  Given some of your remarks, I think that agenda is to 'strike a blow' against 'political correctness'.  I regard this as naive, as a sort of spoilt child behaviour.

Quote

1. Has anyone attempted to use gender mechanics in their games? If so, why, if not, why not?


I consider a purely descriptive, rather than derivative, system such as that outlined for Con-X to be infinitely superior.

Quote

2. Are games typically focused in such a way that gender mechanics invariably result in The Problem?


Yes; because in games you are buying a token not performing an experiment.  The problems with the rigorous application of generalisations to specific individuals have been pointed out to you many times by others.

Quote

3. What is your personal attitude towards gender being mechanically salient within a game?


No problem with it when it is pproprioately done and contextualised.  Lots of problems with it when it appears to emanate from the naive agenda I referred to above.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 10, 2004, 03:38:08 AM
Ok, a few minutes after submiting my last post I requested for Ron to officially close this thread, but it seems I missed him.

Quote
Not at all; I would take iut as indicative of quality. It would suggest to me the author has a private agenda distinct from the production of an RPG. Given some of your remarks, I think that agenda is to 'strike a blow' against 'political correctness'. I regard this as naive, as a sort of spoilt child behaviour.

And I regard this comment as a childish attempt to get your own stab in after I let my gaurd down. But just because that's how I see it doesn't mean that's what it is.

But I'm really tired of this "private agenda" bullshit. You wanna know my private agenda? Really? Fine, do some fucking research. Here, I'll even give you some places to start:

Manning, J. T., Barley, L., Walton, J., Lewis-Jones, D. I., Trivers, R. L., Singh, D., Thornhill, R., Rohde, P., Bereczkei, T., Henzi, P., Soler, M., & Szwed, A. (2000). The 2nd:4th digit ratio, sexual dimorphism, population differences, and reproductive success: evidence for sexually antagonistic genes? Evolution and Human Behavior, V. 20, p163-183. ISBN 1090-5138/00
(This article concerns how in utero androgen exposure can be predicted by the ratio of the length of the index and ring fingers which are controlled, along with genital differentiation, by a group of genes known as Homeobox genes, and how using the 2D:4D ratio we can predict androgen influenced traits and behaviours in adults)

Wade, J. T., Shanley, A., & Imm, M. (2003). Second to fourth digit ratios and individual differences in women's self-percieved attractiveness, self-esteem, and body-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences (In Press)
(This article shows how the 2D:4D ratio can be used to predict how females percieve themselves, through it's power in predicting the fitnes of their genes. I don't know if it's legal to give an excerpt, but here's one: "One's self perception of their attractiveness is also shaped by biology and hormones (Wade, 2000, 2003). Since 2D:4D is an indicator of testosterone and estrogen levels (Manning et al., 2000), which heavily dictate attractiveness (Wade, 2000, 2003), digit ratio should be related to selfperceived attractiveness. Women who have higher 2D:4D should view themselves as more physically attractive than women with low 2D:4D.")

Slumming, V. A., Manning, J. T. (2000). Second to fourth digit ratio in elite musicians; Evidence for musical ability as an honest signal of male fitness. Evolution and Human Behavior, V.21, p1-9.
(Pretty self explanatory, here's an excerpt "Consistent with this, Miller (in press) showed that principal music producers of more than 7,000 jazz, rock, and classical albums were predominantly males (male to female ratio of 10:1) whose musical output peaked at around age 30... Geschwind and Galaburda (1985) suggested that fetal testosterone may compromise the development of the left hemisphere, resulting in impaired fluency and other aspects of language and a tendency toward left-handedness. They also speculate that development of the right hemisphere is facilitated, leading to enhanced musical, spatial, and mathematical abilities.")

Fink, B., Manning, J. T., Neave, N., & Grammer, K. (2004). Second to fourth digit ratio and facial asymmetry. Evolution and Human Behavior, V.25, p125-132.
(This one deals with how prenatal exposure to androgens and estrogens affects beauty through facial symmetry in males and females respectively, and how a hormone/gender imbalance undermines symmetry. Very much a biological account of human beauty).

Manning, J. T., Scutt, D., & Whitehouse, G. H. (1997). Breast asymmetry and phenotypic quality in women. Evolution and Human Behaviour, V.18. p 223-236.
(This one also deals with a biological basis for beauty, and how breast asymmetry can be, and is, used as a predictor of good genes).



Ok, that should be enough to get you started. I'd have covered a broader scope, but those were handiest just now (ie, those are ones that are in the reference list of the paper I'm working on).

So that's my "private agenda": researched and emyrically sound findings. I'm sorry if this post seems harsh, invective, or spiteful, but you can only push a man so far with baseless accusations concerning his person. I don't mean to attack you, so I'm sorry if that's how this has come across, I was merely defending myself from a misconception that has perpetuated too long.


Now, whilst I am not a moderator, I do recall reading somewhere that the topic starter has certain "rights" regarding his topics...

I hereby declare this thread closed. It's been fun, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it's time it got put to rest. Please start a new topic if you wish to bring up anything stemming from this one. Sorry Ron if I have overstepped my bounds or violated Forge etiquette. Feel free to reprimand me if so (though I doubt you need my permission).

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 10, 2004, 06:23:21 AM
Ben's call for closure is now confirmed by me.

Best,
Ron