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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: rafial on May 10, 2004, 11:54:33 AM



Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: rafial on May 10, 2004, 11:54:33 AM
Okay, so let me out myself on the real reason I think mechanically enshrining gender in RPG mechanics just doesn't work for me.

I find it embarrassing.

Here I am, sitting at the table at the Con, ready to run my game, and a woman walks up and wants to play.

"Okay great!  Let's get you a character.  You want to be a warrior?  Okay, now in this game, girls are weak and pretty, so if you want to kick ass, you'd better play a boy..."

And don't get me started on what happens when some Orcs sign up!

"Um, in this game, Orcs are strong but really stupid, so if you want to play a wizard..."


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Jack Aidley on May 11, 2004, 12:36:36 AM
I think you described it perfectly, rafial.


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Maarzan on May 11, 2004, 08:48:57 PM
Quote from: rafial


Here I am, sitting at the table at the Con, ready to run my game, and a woman walks up and wants to play.

"Okay great!  Let's get you a character.  You want to be a warrior?  Okay, now in this game, girls are weak and pretty, so if you want to kick ass, you'd better play a boy..."

..."


Where is the problem?

If the targeted theme of the game was for example a gamist one, then you have choosen the wrong system for the task.
If the aim was to emulate a world with strong feel of a realistic base she is in the wrong game. You wouldnīt let play a guy play a ninja in powerarmor in cuthullu too.

If your game aims at realism, and gender attribute modificators are the one and only variables to influence your performance for gender or other background inputs, then the system is certainly not ready yet to be presented to the publicity.
This means NOT that it has to be a perfect simulation of every facet that could pop up in this context. But a one factor only solution runs against the stated aim of making this gameworld look real.
EDIT:
Another fault would be to make combat that dependent on attributes at all. If only maximum strength would make a warrior armies would be very small indeed.
The second fault is mixing attribute potential and the working attribute itself.
Genetic potential is something that has to be realized by training (80% of 70% STR is still more then 50% of 100% STR - and few males will have 100% potential or/and maxed out training ).


Title: Re: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: rafial on May 11, 2004, 11:00:17 PM
Quote from: Maarzan

Where is the problem?


Right here.

Quote

...she is in the wrong game...


...and here.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 12, 2004, 04:47:10 AM
I'm not sure I'm understanding your last post rafial. Are you suggesting that there is no such thing as the "wrong game".

I think Maarzan's post is valid. If you don't like a game, don't play it. If you do like a game, play it. Don't decide to play a game based on what you think other people might hypothetically think about it.

For example, I've playtested Eclipse with two groups now, one composed of 1 girl, 2 guys, and the other composed of 3 girls, 1 guy. In both cases I never shied away from gender and no-one ever balked at it. It was just another part of the game. Had I approached those groups apprehensively concerning how they might be offended about gender my caution would have shown through and they would have then wondered why I nervous, and this would have led them to think that maybe I had a reason to be nervous. So just like you shouldn't play a game if you aren't confident that you like it, you shouldn't run a game for the same reasons. If there's something you don't like, the players will pick up on it.

And Maarzan, if I'm not mistaken, I think your examples may be in reference to my proposed system. I invite and welcome your comments and input in that Indie Game Design topic. If you have any suggestions about a better way to do such things, I would love to hear them, honestly.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: AnyaTheBlue on May 12, 2004, 12:32:54 PM
Quote
Where is the problem?


Why is a given game making a female character better or worse at something than a male character?  Why is this a priority for the designers?  Why is it a priority for the players?  What does it do to the kinds of settings the game will work well in?  To the kinds of games that will be played with it?

In a purely gamist approach, I can see it as one aspect of a kind of allocation mechanic -- pick your gender in order to maximize the effectiveness of whatever you want to play.

In a purely sim approach, I can see it as an attempt to model a biological or cultural bias or trend.

In a purely nar approach, I can see it as an attempt to enforce a genre convention.

But looking at it from the point of being a woman, I really wonder why you would want to enshrine a particular advantage or disadvantage as an absolute in this particular way.

Let me try and put it another way.  Trollbabe posits different abilities split along gender lines.  But all characters are of one gender, effectively making the playing field, FOR THE PLAYERS, even.  Also, part of the point of the game (I think) is to kind of make a point about the theme of gender in gaming (kind of like Ron talks about in Sorcerer and Sex).

So there are ways to do this kind of gender imbalance, and ways to make it a central theme of the game.  But most gender-weighted mechanics smack less of those lofty ideals, and more of making concrete the gender-stereotypical assumptions of the designers (whatever those assumptions might be).  And since most of these designers are male, I tend to see subtle misogyny.  Male players invariably scratch their heads over this and say, "I don't see what your problem is -- just don't be a girl, or play some other game."  Well, I am a girl.  And maybe I want to play this game because all my friends are, or because aside from this one niggling little detail it's a really cool game.

It's kind of like saying, "Women are or should be good at this thing, men are or should be good at this other thing -- in the real world, and that's why it's in the game".  That may not be why it is in the game, but it sure feels like it sometimes.  Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Trends are trends.  They are not absolutes, and they don't say anything about any individual person.  Just because many women share a particular trait doesn't mean that all of them do, nor does it mean that any specific woman shares it, either.  So why build in arbitrary limits on what traits a character can have solely on what the character's biological gender is?

Just because you want to, or just because "that's obviously the way it really is" aren't really answers as to why the game needs to enforce a specific set of gender-based assumptions in it's mechanics.

Grump grump.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: John Harper on May 12, 2004, 01:10:06 PM
Thank you, Dana, for that post. You articulated my feelings on the subject better than I could have.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 12, 2004, 06:04:54 PM
Quote
Trends are trends. They are not absolutes, and they don't say anything about any individual person. Just because many women share a particular trait doesn't mean that all of them do, nor does it mean that any specific woman shares it, either. So why build in arbitrary limits on what traits a character can have solely on what the character's biological gender is?

Uhuh. You're right. So I guess that no games should build in "arbitrary" abilities for character based on false assumptions such as "all humans can walk", or "all humans have two arms with hands and five fingers per hand", or "all humans have the potential to learn to speak and feed themselves". Thus it would be a mistake to create a game where birth defects aren't taken into account, or accidents that may happen over the course of one's life. Just because most people have arms, doesn't mean that assumption carries to any specific individual. By building a game based on these flawed "arbitrary" assumptions, one may well be offending many disabled people.

The reason I keep placing the word 'arbitrary' in double quotes is because it means "Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle." This definition does not apply, in my mind, to any mechanic included in any game I've seen.

But the point is, if anyone is offended by a game, the answer is really bloody simple: "Don't play it". There are thousands of games out there. Wasting your cognitive energy on making assumptions about the author/GM/players and what a bad person he/she must be is completely futile and only going to have a negative impact on your perceptions of future games. If you really like the game except for the one thing that offends you, then put your feelings on the backbench and play it just like this guy eventually did (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=7322) with TRoS.

Quote
Just because you want to, or just because "that's obviously the way it really is" aren't really answers as to why the game needs to enforce a specific set of gender-based assumptions in it's mechanics.

And what, pray tell, would be a good answer?

Quote
Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Surely you, Dana, of all people, should understand how odd that comment is, coming from you. This is merely an observation, and no offence is intended at all. But the example you are using argues against you.

Quote
So there are ways to do this kind of gender imbalance, and ways to make it a central theme of the game. But most gender-weighted mechanics smack less of those lofty ideals, and more of making concrete the gender-stereotypical assumptions of the designers (whatever those assumptions might be).

I'm sure that any game designers would be happy to hear your suggestions on ways to address the issue without failing to reach those "lofty goals" (address, by definition, means "not ignore"). Any suggestions at all.

Quote
And since most of these designers are male

This is kind of a side note, can anyone point me to games made by females? Any game at all? Just PM me. I also think that the same rules apply to girls as they do to boys: "if you want a game that is perfect for you, go out and make one". Are girls more satisfied with the current selection of games than guys are???

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: rafial on May 12, 2004, 06:52:33 PM
Quote from: Ravien

Quote
Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Surely you, Dana, of all people, should understand how odd that comment is, coming from you. This is merely an observation, and no offence is intended at all. But the example you are using argues against you.


And geeezz Dana, you'd realize that if you'd just think about it rationally and stop being so emotional...

(It's like fish in a barrel I tell you!)

Quote

This is kind of a side note, can anyone point me to games made by females? Any game at all? Just PM me.


Nah, lets leave it out in the open...  Okay just off the top of my head, there's that little thing called Nobilis.  Or how about the DC Universe RPG?  Or the Men In Black RPG?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Andrew Martin on May 12, 2004, 09:27:12 PM
Quote from: Ravien
Quote from: Dana
So there are ways to do this kind of gender imbalance, and ways to make it a central theme of the game. But most gender-weighted mechanics smack less of those lofty ideals, and more of making concrete the gender-stereotypical assumptions of the designers (whatever those assumptions might be).

I'm sure that any game designers would be happy to hear your suggestions on ways to address the issue without failing to reach those "lofty goals" (address, by definition, means "not ignore"). Any suggestions at all.


Basically, Ben, by imposing gender-based modifiers on the characters, you are imposing your sexist views of men and women on your fellow players, and to other people and groups on the web. The best way of not being sexist is to simply not be sexist. You ask an impossible question and demand an answer; when an answer can't be given, you take this as reinforcement for your sexist attitudes.

Is your game so "realistic" that it needs accurate gender-based modifiers? If so, why doesn't your game system have a Size attribute? Size is the  biggest difference between men and women, apart from obvious sexual organs, and the ability to sire or bear children (or not).

Instead, you've got a Beauty attribute that implies in your game setting that women look good to other women, and men are ugly to women. If that is "realistic" and is intended to simulate an average population, then all humans would have died out in the stone age.

Have a look at some real research on Female and Male beauty at:
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=52418
and the biggest one that shows that your game's "realistic" description of "Beauty" is wrong, is the research described here:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s57140.htm
here:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s54904.htm
and here:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s53207.htm
Note that this is in reverse order, because the most important point in reference to our context is at the end of the last article.

Quote from: Ravien
For example, I've playtested Eclipse with two groups now, one composed of 1 girl, 2 guys, and the other composed of 3 girls, 1 guy. In both cases I never shied away from gender and no-one ever balked at it.


Really? Do you really believe that "no-one ever balked at it."? What you needed to do was to give the game system to another GM, play in the game as a player, and resist the temptation to offer helpful "advice" to the players and GM; instead listen to the player's spoken objections, watch for their hesitations and puzzlements.

Based on your responses so far, I'd say you immediately overrode any objections to gender modifiers by the players, by suggesting the preferred outcomes to the players, and by verbal and physical intimidation. I'd also suggest that your players social or peer group was less than yours, so they were "lead" by your example as GM and "teacher".

I hope that helps you to perceive yourself.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Matt Wilson on May 12, 2004, 10:14:31 PM
Quote
Uhuh. You're right. So I guess that no games should build in "arbitrary" abilities for character based on false assumptions such as "all humans can walk", or "all humans have two arms with hands and five fingers per hand", or "all humans have the potential to learn to speak and feed themselves". Thus it would be a mistake to create a game where birth defects aren't taken into account, or accidents that may happen over the course of one's life. Just because most people have arms, doesn't mean that assumption carries to any specific individual. By building a game based on these flawed "arbitrary" assumptions, one may well be offending many disabled people.


Strong or smart woman =/= person with disability. Your post implies that the two are deviations from a "norm," and Dana and many others are saying that that kind of assumption about what's "normal" for women is exactly the problem.

Quote
But the point is, if anyone is offended by a game, the answer is really bloody simple: "Don't play it".


I prefer this answer: "if you think a game or any form of media perpetuates a social injustice,  then it's your right and responsibility to make your voice heard."


Title: What he said.
Post by: AnyaTheBlue on May 12, 2004, 11:05:12 PM
I had a big long (boring) response written up, but I like Matt's much better than mine.  Andrew's is excellent, too.

Quote from: rafial
And geeezz Dana, you'd realize that if you'd just think about it rationally and stop being so emotional...
=)  Are you trying to make milk come out my nose?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: AnyaTheBlue on May 12, 2004, 11:34:10 PM
Quote from: Ravien
Quote from: Dana
Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Surely you, Dana, of all people, should understand how odd that comment is, coming from you. This is merely an observation, and no offence is intended at all. But the example you are using argues against you.


Ben,

I'm not offended, but I think you're showing some unexamined assumptions by making this point.

For what it's worth, there's a growing body of research indicating that male-to-female transsexuals (a group I fall into, and which I assume you're referring to with this comment) have at least some bits of the brain in what would be considered a 'female-typical' configuration.

Quote
(http://www.avitale.com/etiologicalreview.htm) The number of neurons in the BSTc of male-to-female transsexuals was similar to that of the females, while the neuron number of a female-to-male transsexual was found to be in the male range. Hormone treatment or sex hormone level variations in adulthood did not seem to have influenced BSTc neuron numbers. They go on to declare that their " findings of somatostatin neuronal sex differences in the BSTc and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder."


If this is right, then it means I've got a 'girl brain' in a 'boy body'.  So, which contributes more to my being a math-geek?  The brain or the body?

Also, I'm on a course of medication that's maintaining a different balance of various sex hormones in my body, something which also affects how I think and feel (not to mention various other body-related things).  I don't have lots of pointers for this, but This American Life's Testosterone show (http://thislife.org/pages/descriptions/02/220.html) is a good place to start, I think.  The second act, the interview with Griffin, a female-to-male transsexual, and what he went through when going onto testosterone, is illuminating, I think.  But the whole show is fairly thought provoking, from a gender identity point of view.

Gender dimorphism is pretty complicated stuff.  There are obviously genetic components, but there are also hormonal, developmental, anatomical, and sociological components (male and female cultures are different, for example) to it all.  It doesn't cleave into two neat categories, as much as we all like to pretend that it does.

Oh, and as for my math/physics major arguing against me, how about dropping me as a counterexample and using Olga Ladyzhenskaya (http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/ladyzhen.htm)?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 13, 2004, 02:25:52 AM
Rafial, thanks for those games, I'll be sure to check them out.

My point though, was that if 20% of all gamers are female, are 20% of all games made, made by females? If not, why?

Andrew and Matt, I direct you to this thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=119310). You should have a blast with it.

Quote
I prefer this answer: "if you think a game or any form of media perpetuates a social injustice, then it's your right and responsibility to make your voice heard."

So when I watch a sitcom that portrays all male characters as incompetent, insensitive, and stupid, like... I dunno, Everybody Loves Raymond... then it is my "responsibility" to start a public outcry? Shit, I guess I've been neglecting my responsibilities for... I dunno, my whole life! But shit, that show is funny so I look past anything like that and enjoy it for what it is, flaws and all.

Quote
Gender dimorphism is pretty complicated stuff. There are obviously genetic components, but there are also hormonal, developmental, anatomical, and sociological components (male and female cultures are different, for example) to it all. It doesn't cleave into two neat categories, as much as we all like to pretend that it does.

Actually, hormones are controlled genetically (excepting circumstances such as HRT, but even then, the hormones can alter gene expression and it becomes about genes again), anatomy is genetic (excepting things like getting your arm cut off), and development is always in a social context... so basically we can lump things into the two categories: Nature and Nurture, or Biology and Environment (which I prefer). Neither can exist without the other, and neither ever acts alone.

Quote
If this is right, then it means I've got a 'girl brain' in a 'boy body'. So, which contributes more to my being a math-geek? The brain or the body?

Well, not really. It means that part(s) of your brain are "feminine" whilst other parts are "masculine". And just so people know, the BSTc is the Bed nucleus of the Stria Terminals, and is part of the limbic system . It is important in gender identification. However, like the rest of the limbic system, it has no function in mathematics.

-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on May 13, 2004, 03:17:45 AM
Quote from: Ravien
So when I watch a sitcom that portrays all male characters as incompetent, insensitive, and stupid, like...


I like more the sitcoms which include also competent, sensitive and smart male characters. Maybe I just don't like groups of people misrepresented in general.

Quote
Well, not really. It means that part(s) of your brain are "feminine" whilst other parts are "masculine". And just so people know, the BSTc is the Bed nucleus of the Stria Terminals, and is part of the limbic system . It is important in gender identification. However, like the rest of the limbic system, it has no function in mathematics.


You contradict yourself. Limbic system identifies gender, and does not affect mathematics. True. "Math brain" work maths, and does not affect gender. So how can you say the "math brain" is masculine? It doesn't have anything to do with gender or sex. (While there is statistical relevance, the mathematical abilities do not indicate gender on individual level. Nor does f ex empathy; males can be nurturing without being feminine, and women can be cold and still 'girly'.)

Gender or sex is not about groins or math grade. It's about that part of brain that alone can be masculine or feminine (or neither, or both).


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Thuringwaethiel on May 13, 2004, 04:22:12 AM
More on-topic this time.. I've given pretty much thought to the issue (sex/gender based stat difference) and this is my current "solution" to the problem. I've worded the example according to the system I'm most familiar with, MERP:

"Males and females of Middle-Earth are somewhat unlike, as they are in today's world. In a normal case, a male character gets a +10 bonus to his Strength, and +5 both Constitution and Intelligence. A female gets +10 Intuition and +5 Agility and Presence. However, because PC's (and some NPC's) are anything but your average yoke, feel free to distribute that +20 however you wish (and GM approves). The average distribution is just it, an average. Use it as an guideline or when creating somewhat normal NPC's."

(BTW, if someone wonders why the free +20, the answer is simple: if you use the basic MERP stat rolls, most of your characters will suck big time.)

So, the basic solution: define the gender-based stats, use them with NPC's, but allow the PC's to diverse from them if they want an extraordinary character. If you want, you may add some quirks to the most abnormal (woman with high strength might be huge in size, man with high empathy could be easier target to seduction or pleas). Should work in any system and genre, with little work of course.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 13, 2004, 04:48:47 AM
Quote
You contradict yourself. Limbic system identifies gender, and does not affect mathematics. True. "Math brain" work maths, and does not affect gender. So how can you say the "math brain" is masculine? It doesn't have anything to do with gender or sex. (While there is statistical relevance, the mathematical abilities do not indicate gender on individual level. Nor does f ex empathy; males can be nurturing without being feminine, and women can be cold and still 'girly'.)

What? I didn't contradict myself. the BSTc is important in gender identification. NOT in gender per se. Also, the terms: "masculine" and "feminine" when dealing with neuropsych refer to changes that are found more commonly in males than females and vice versa, not that they are found solely in one gender or the other. The "math brain" you refer to would be a masculine trait, due to its increased occurance in males, not because it defines males.

Quote
It's about that part of brain that alone can be masculine or feminine (or neither, or both).

And which part would that be?


-Ben


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: greyorm on May 13, 2004, 05:16:10 AM
Yeah, but the point still stands: you can't sit down and play with orcs because, oh crap, they get this intelligence penalty...

You can give a dwarf +2 to Strength, and a half-orc -4 to Intelligence and no one bats an eye. But the minute you make a case about male and females being different (even though they really provably ARE, physically and psychologically), everyone goes apeshit and it's sexist, the person daring to note it is psychologically disturbed, and etc.

That is, no one complains about the intelligence penalty for orcs, but make a penalty (or bonus) gender based, and suddenly everyone's undies are all twisted around.

I note the mechanics under discussion are modifiers which do not say "men ARE stronger than women" or "women ARE more socially adept than men" (which would be sexist), only that all things considered, statistically, a man has a better chance of being physically stronger, a woman a better chance of being more socially adept. And thus the only thing these modifiers will affect in play will be the upper levels of ability (frex: a perfect female athlete will not reach the same strength as a perfect male athlete).

The randomization of the actual scores will ensure that not every man is strong, nor every woman social...nor will individual women be weaker than men, or individual men less social than women. Individuals will remain, and you will have women stronger than men, and men more socially adept than women. You'll have female athletes who can kick the asses of most men, and even a sizeable portion of the assess of male athletes as well.

The only place the modifier will really, actually, truly affect things is in the overall statistics (averages) across a large group. But, like I said, point that fact of statistical difference out with game mechanics and suddenly you're a pariah among the orcs...I mean people, since no one would have peeped if the original question had been about race (or rather "species") based modifiers in a game.

I doubt Ben would have been cursed at and psychologically cross-examined, either. Male lions tend to be stronger than female lions, so generate their strength scores with a +2. No one blinks. Human males tend to be stronger than human female, so generate their strength scores with a +2. Listen to the furious screams of inequity!

I have a theory: if Ben's modifiers had nothing to do with the Strength score, there'd be much less fuss. I propose there is a subconsicious association of "strength" with "ability to do things," and thus any game which boosts a particular person or group's Strength score compared to another individual or group (let alone penalizing the other group) is viewed as painting that individual or group as "less capable" but not just physically -- thus, giving women a negative Strength modifier or men a positive modifier is tantamount to calling women "weak" in not just a physical sense, stirring up all sorts of negative stereotypes, which are what is actually being reacted to.

I mean, seriously, do you hear anyone ANYONE complaining that men are shortchanged by these rules? "Not social enough?! EGADS! That BASTARD!" It's all, "Oh, that's so sexist! So chauvanistic! How dare you give men a bonus women don't get?" Well, screw that, maybe it's really phallogystic (or whatever the opposite of misogynistic is).

Or more seriously, maybe it's just a reaction to the perception of "inequality" that modifiers create -- since our culture pounds into our heads that everyone, especially men and women, are equal, and can do everything the other can do, the idea is poisoned that things can be inequal and not have it be a "better than" and "lesser than" value judgement.

The whole reaction is ultimately foolish based on the simple fact that the same arguments used as to why it "isn't realistic" or "shouldn't be done" are never applied to assigning modifiers by race.

It's so obviously political when you take a step back.

In fact, hey, how's this, I refuse to consider gender-based modifiers a problem until I see a real thread filled with the same sort of vicious response to race-based modifiers. So, come on folks, lets see you get your steam on about those damn elven intelligence bonuses! And how about until then, you're all a bunch of racists.

(Please, someone label me a sexist jerk now, and totally fail to get my point.)


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: xiombarg on May 13, 2004, 06:10:17 AM
Raven, I totally grok your point.

You know why I don't like racial modifications? I don't see the point. They don't seem to add much to the game experience for most designs. They're boring. Ditto gender modifications.

That said, as Dana implied, in a Gamist RPG like D&D 3.x, this is part of your min-maxing choices, so that's cool. And for a largely Gamist RPG I could be cool with gender modifiers for the same reason, assuming that there was a benefit to being female as well as a disadvantage. In that case, it becomes not unlike choosing between an orc and an elf.

Frankly, my issue with the gender modifiers in Ben's game isn't that they're there, but he won't explain what purpose they serve. "It's interesting" isn't a real answer, because obviously it interests him, or it wouldn't be in the game in the first place. "It's realistic" isn't an answer, because there are a lot of things a game can seek "realism" on -- there has to be a reason one chooses to emphasize one form of realism over another. "It's one thing I want to explore" isn't an answer, because it begs the question: "Why do you want to explore that, and not something else?"

To use Ben's extreme example, I can explain why all of my games feature characters with arms and legs that can walk: Because most humans have arms and legs and can walk, and I want people to be able to identify with their characters somewhat. (Tho most of my games allow people to play a differently-abled character if they really like.)

But you can't use that explanation for the gender modifications -- I don't see how having a strength bonus to my male character helps me, as a male, identify with the character, because personally, I'm a geek and I'm not very strong, I don't identify with strong males at all. My wife is stronger than me.

Also, I'd say 99% of all people agree that the average person has arms and legs. I'm not sure 99% of all people agree that men are stronger than women. Whether you think those people who don't believe men are stronger than women are wrong is irrelevant -- they're going to balk while reading the game. So, there has to be a reason you're willing to exclude such people.

I mean, if Ben could give an answer similar to my reasoning for D&D above, I could help him with his game more, because I'd understand what he's trying to do, and why. As it is, I'm left scratching my head.

That said, there is a small fallacy in the argument about orcs. Orcs aren't real. There aren't any real orcs around to get justifiably upset if I'm playing an orc in a terribly stereotypical way.

However, some people feel awkward playing a character that isn't the same gender. Frankly, given the way race is in America, I'm uncomfortable playing, say, an Afro-American male in a game set in modern America, since I have no idea what it's like to grow up as a black man in America, regardless of whether there is a "Playing Basketball" or "Funky Dancing" bonus (or anything similarly stereotypical) for playing a black man or not in the game.

I have this problem becaues Afro-American males are real, just as women are real. Orcs aren't real, so it's less of an issue. Sure, I don't know what it's like to grow up as an orc, but I can make it up and not worry so much that I'm wrong.

Admittedly this is a highly Sim priority on my part, but I think that's why even highly Gamist games like D&D shy away from gender differences, as the "embarrassment factor" that this thread refers to means that players might not be comfortable making the optimal Gamist choice for social reasons. Now, Ben's response is "don't play the game, then," and there's something to that, but it leads right back to the "why" issue: Why exclude these players from your game? What are you trying to achieve?

For the record,  I have the same issue with Mongrel. I don't understand what Ron is trying to do with the gender-based mechanics, there. I don't a priori oppose them as sexist -- and ditto for Ben's game -- but I can't evaluate the mechanics until I understand the purpose. Again, to use Ben's extreme example, it's much easier for me to figure out why games feature humans with arms and legs, and to evaluate the purpose the mechanics have in assuming they exist, becuase that's a much more baseline and less contentious issue. I don't have to examine evidence, I can just use my own arms and legs as a model. ;-D


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Matt Wilson on May 13, 2004, 06:42:26 AM
Quote
In fact, hey, how's this, I refuse to consider gender-based modifiers a problem until I see a real thread filled with the same sort of vicious response to race-based modifiers. So, come on folks, lets see you get your steam on about those damn elven intelligence bonuses! And how about until then, you're all a bunch of racists.


Most important point: Elves are generally asumed not to exist. There is no perpetuation of social injustice against any real-world party when elves are assigned a +1 Dexterity and -1 Strength.

Second most important point: in-game assumptions are often such that elves are a separate species from humans. That's different from what "race" means in the real world.

You want to create a game where white people get +2 intelligence? You bet I'll speak up.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Matt Wilson on May 13, 2004, 07:02:17 AM
Quote
So when I watch a sitcom that portrays all male characters as incompetent, insensitive, and stupid, like... I dunno, Everybody Loves Raymond... then it is my "responsibility" to start a public outcry?


"Public outcry" is different from "make your voice heard."

But yes, if you think that show or any other show causes harm, then you should say something about it. Maybe someone will make a compelling argument against what you perceive, maybe not.

I think in the case of middle-class white males being portrayed boorishly, there's not a long history of discrimination being fed, so most people who watch the show don't have much reason to take that seriously.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Maarzan on May 13, 2004, 08:08:58 AM
Quote from: xiombarg

You know why I don't like racial modifications? I don't see the point. They don't seem to add much to the game experience for most designs. They're boring. Ditto gender modifications.

You donīt see the difference between a troll and a hobbit and the different problems that arise for each of them. This explains something.

Quote

Frankly, my issue with the gender modifiers in Ben's game isn't that they're there, but he won't explain what purpose they serve. "It's interesting" isn't a real answer, because obviously it interests him, or it wouldn't be in the game in the first place. "It's realistic" isn't an answer, because there are a lot of things a game can seek "realism" on -- there has to be a reason one chooses to emphasize one form of realism over another. "It's one thing I want to explore" isn't an answer, because it begs the question: "Why do you want to explore that, and not something else?"


I think the exerps I have seen from Benīs game show clearly that he is quite interested to create a RPG where society seems real and its elemnts are believeable and fit together and that he has put thought in many facets of game life to add realism. Itīs unimportant if he succeeded or not. He has shown that it is not just a question of gender. And points dealing with the characters that the player will play is a good start for realism to, because it will be the first to influence play. I donīt think that he needs more justification, if he ever needed one.
Calling names for creating rules that donīt fit into ones (warped) view of the world on the other hand ... .

Quote

So, there has to be a reason you're willing to exclude such people.


A person that has just shown that it isnīt willing to fit into the created world, leaves hints that it is ruled by some self esteem or reality problems and willing to include them into the game and is calling for the mind police to press ideologic themes is a bomb waiting to explode during the game. This should be reason enough.

If on the other hand a person would have talked to Ben about certain effects of his rules that are probably not quite right - without drowning the sensible part with the flame thrower- he would be quite happy to change rules if the arguments are convincing. It would only help to achive his goal of a better world emulation which is quite a task for a single person and thus quite endangered for errors.

But with all the postings when dealing with gender modifications and for example never a mentioning about how most systems overvalue high attributes and thus hurt any character concept with more average attributes or neglect that training is a big must to realize the higher attribute I guess it isnīt the resolution or quality of the rules but the political agenda that fuels the flames.

Besides- one pet of mine is games that strive to emphazese that men and women are totally equal in their gameworld and then include amazons that rebel against mens tyranny.

 
Quote from: dana

Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.


While INT rules that end with differing limits arenīt what I have read about men/women distributions of it your major is of no relevance to the discussion. Suppose that (AD&D base) an INT of 13 is needed to study math you could have get away with a imagined modificator of -5 and still be a valid AD&D mathematican. Same goes for female warriors in a real AD&D game. The allowed 18.50 should be quite enough to enlist.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: AnyaTheBlue on May 13, 2004, 08:11:32 AM
Ben,


Quote from: Ravien

Quote from: Dana
Gender dimorphism is pretty complicated stuff. There are obviously genetic components, but there are also hormonal, developmental, anatomical, and sociological components (male and female cultures are different, for example) to it all. It doesn't cleave into two neat categories, as much as we all like to pretend that it does.

Actually, hormones are controlled genetically (excepting circumstances such as HRT, but even then, the hormones can alter gene expression and it becomes about genes again), anatomy is genetic (excepting things like getting your arm cut off), and development is always in a social context... so basically we can lump things into the two categories: Nature and Nurture, or Biology and Environment (which I prefer). Neither can exist without the other, and neither ever acts alone.


As it happens, no, hormones aren't 'controlled genetically', at least not in the way you seem to be suggesting.  It is entirely possible to take two people who have an identical genetic structure, but to have had one experience some hormonally related developmental event which causes significant developmental differences in the resulting person's biology.

Anatomy, too, is not entirely genetic.  The genetic information is a set of blueprints.  There are a bunch of construction workers working off that blueprint, but there are all sorts of mistakes of communication and signalling that can be made, completely unrelated to the individuals genetic makeup, resulting in the wrong stuff being built at the wrong time or in the wrong place.

Nature and Nurture are not the clean-room seperated categories you seem to prefer.

Neither nature nor nurture provides a deterministically determined destiny.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Halzebier on May 13, 2004, 08:15:26 AM
I think that gender modifiers help to reinforce genre.

More importantly, I think that the cliche that women are weaker than men is reinforced by the majority of action- and suspense-oriented genres, including 'weak' ones.

(For the purposes of this post, I define a weak genre as one which does not require much suspension of disbelief. Hitchcock's thrillers are a relatively weak genre, i.e. quite 'realistic', whereas Hong Kong action flicks are a strong one, i.e. 'over the top'.)

(Nevermind that all sorts of other genre conventions might be in place. Hitchcock's movies are notorious for humiliating cool blondes, but seen out of context - i.e., his body of work -, this does not tax our SOD too much.)

(My terminology - genre, realistic, weak/strong, cliche - is on shaky ground here and I'd be grateful if someone provided better terms.)

*-*-*

I'm sure the following examples for physical struggles between men and women will seem familiar:

(1) The heroine gets hysterical (another cliche) and the hero folds her into his arms to calm her while she ineffectually beats at his chest.

(2) The hero grabs the heroine and kisses her. She struggles, to no avail. (Afterwards, she will either slap him or kiss him in turn.)

(3) The heroine tries to kill the hero (or the villain) with a knife etc. He grabs her wrist and forces her to drop the weapon.

If the situation turns out differently, it's considered a surprise and is usually exaggerated (i.e., she applies a judo-throw when he tries to kiss her) rather than handled realistically (e.g., she pushes against him and after a few moments he gives up, embarrassed).

*-*-*

What's more is that these kinds of situations are by no means rare, they happen all the time because the battle of the sexes is a major topic.

Hence, a gender modifier for strength would seem to be spot-on for some strong, action- or suspense-oriented genres, e.g. Swords & Sorcery (which usually features agile female warriors at best).

Moreover, such a modifier would not seem particularly out of place for most weak, action- or suspense-oriented genres - including most fantasy genres.

Which genre, if any, do you consider _Eclipse_ to be, Ben?

Regards,

Hal


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: greyorm on May 13, 2004, 10:35:07 AM
Quote from: Matt Wilson
There is no perpetuation of social injustice against any real-world party

(sigh)

There is no perpetration of social injustice against women by giving them a bonus men don't get (social), or men a bonus women don't get (physical), especially one that doesn't even affect them all as individuals, only as a statistical group and which is representative of the real-world reality of differences between men and women as statistical groups.

Quote
You want to create a game where white people get +2 intelligence? You bet I'll speak up.

And what if I created a game where African-Americans get a +2 intelligence?

I'd put money on it being praised as an enabling, multi-cultural experience, rather than racist tripe. Ultimately, the foundation of these reactions is the same crap we ran into in the whole discussion about race a few months back ("Black orcs?! The horror! It's racist! Racist!").

As I said, politics.
Or more correctly: it's cultural reactionism, based on years of immersion and conditioning to cultural memes. I test my own responses here, and "white people getting a +2 Int" causes both and internal emotional and external physiologic reaction than does "black people getting a +2 Int."

We're sensitive to inequality against certain groups, because it is such a part of our cultural landscape, and that sensitivity bleeds over in to any subject dealing with that group. Unfortunately, it often causes over-compensation.
Quote
Elves are generally assumed not to exist...

Quote from: xiombarg
Orcs aren't real. There aren't any real orcs around to get justifiably upset if I'm playing an orc in a terribly stereotypical way.

While an excellent point...that we are speaking about species which do not actually exist, and there's no room for someone to be offended by this...the problem is that the differences between men and women DO exist in the real world. I cite the following:

    o Men and women think differently, MRIs show their brains function differently on a fundamental level of processing data (and even perception thereof differs).
    o Psychology has long held that women create, maintain, and categorize social structures in their communities differently than men do.
    o Male and female athletes are in different categories because they cannot be compared physically to one another.[/list:u]
    Men and women
are different in a number of areas of daily function, not just appearance, and have different capabilities at the ends of various scales. Yet some folks scream like they've been burned with fire if you dare to point these differences out, or (gods forbid) actually define them in the context of game mechanics.

Matt, when you deny this fact by trying to claim that a modifier to a strength score is unreasonable, that it is continuing or supporting social injustice -- and further, that you are solely focused on the female aspect of the situation, rather than the inequality created by women recieving a bonus where men do not (because you can't tell me there's any perceived social injustice against men being catered to here), tells me right where all this opposition is really coming from.

Because the modifiers aren't sexist, as established in my last post, and if they are, they're sexist both ways (despite the absolute focus on "how girls feel about it")...so all I can do is call "projection" right here in this discussion, from a number of posters (an issue we've apparently been dealing with alot recently).

After all, it isn't as though women are being written off or written up with an unequal (ie: lesser status) treatment, here. It's a representation of noted differences in function applied at a basic level.

Women can't be "weaker" in this system because you aren't rolling anything different for them -- roll up enough characters and, statistically, the female characters will fill a lower end of the scale than will males. Yes. But if that's "sexist" then someone needs to have a chat with the universe and its obvious misogynistic agenda.

And to again note this point: how it is expressing "social injustice (towards women)" and the inequality towards men is just completely forgotten, since, apparently, men being worse socially isn't a big deal or sexist -- but regardless paints this picture of misogyny towards women, where these mechanics somehow paint men as up on a pedestal and women as being treated unfairly. Well, that's all bullshit. Utter crap that isn't even present in the material being discussed. Knee-jerk reactionism. Politics.

So, please answer this: what sort of mechanical effect(s) detailing the real differences between men and women, phsyiologically and psychologically, would you be comfortable with?

(Note, however, if your answer is "none" then I can only judge, for myself, that the problem is not with the depiction of a real world data point, but your reaction to it and your own cultural biases.)
Quote
"It's realistic" isn't an answer, because there are a lot of things a game can seek "realism" on -- there has to be a reason one chooses to emphasize one form of realism over another.

I disagree. I think realism can be, and often is, its own point. That said, given that the choices of what to model are abstract, the choice of realism for its sake becomes muted and can be questioned.

But ultimately, when you get down to it, it's a non-issue. It's another data point used to build characters based on factors that differentiate the various types from each other (including social, genetic, wealth, etc). Does it HAVE to be something more? No.

Here's my question to you: is it realistic NOT to include these modifiers? To assume that men and women are exactly the same, with the same capabilities, and then create them as such in a game, do that the game reality is seriously skewed from what we know to be true?

Quite honestly, I begin to get the feeling that while GNS may have helped us all overcome good/bad judgements about play style and system, we haven't quite figured out behavior regarding judgements beyond that.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: John Harper on May 13, 2004, 11:12:53 AM
Raven and Ravien:

Matt is not arguing that men and women are the same. He never says that, and he doesn't imply it. Men and women are different. We all agree. Let's grant that as a fact and quit "arguing" about it. No one is disagreeing on this point.

Now, how are they different? Brain waves, hormones, muscle mass, endurance, I.Q. score... there is an awful lot of statistical data out there that you can reference. A given study might indicate that the "average" man is stronger than the "average" woman, for a particular type of lift, among a certain population, from a certain sample size. Is that indicative of every woman and every man, everywhere, always? Certainly not.

See, no one is arguing that the data you cite is wrong. The data from a given study is probably accurate. The bugaboo with statistics is the conclusion that one draws from the data. Science is pretty rigorous when it comes to this kind of thing.

The people that did the weight-lifting study, for example, would never presume to say that their experiment indicates men are stronger than women. They would say that, for this population sample-size, with this lift technique, at this social/nutrutional level, among people willing to participate in the study, men were stronger on average. Extrapolating out from that data to every person everywhere at any time is simply bad science. It's not "realistic" at all.

If pointing to real-world science is your entire reason for including these mechanics in your game (as Ravien claims again and again) then your resolution scale is going to have to become very fine, indeed. Because the science you're using as justification for your system refers to very specific tests, conditions, and subjects.

A simple, broad attribute like "Power" just won't do. The strength studies tested certain techniques of weight-lifting. Your stat will have to be split out into Bench Press, Snatch, Clean & Jerk, and Leg Press, at least -- with appropriate modifiers for each based on the statistics available. And that's just for weight lifting. What about hitting power? That's certainly part of your Power attribute, but striking power isn't tied directly to weight-lifting strength. How do we know that men have an advantage here? Where's the data?

As you can see, this quickly gets very complex. Using real-world data to inform your RPG is a fine way to design a game (it's not to my taste, but I wouldn't say it's "wrong") but it's useless if you use very specific data to model very broad mechanics. This same principle applies to the Social bonus for women in the system. I'm not singling this out as a sexist issue because the flaw (IMO) lies at a more basic level of statistical interpretation.

To summarize: Using very specific and controlled data to inform very broad and generalized mechanics is counter to your aim of being realistic. To truly support the real world data you've chosen to reference, the system must reflect the parameters of that data in a meaningful way.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: John Kim on May 13, 2004, 12:00:20 PM
Quote from: greyorm
  While an excellent point...that we are speaking about species which do not actually exist, and there's no room for someone to be offended by this...the problem is that the differences between men and women DO exist in the real world. I cite the following:
    o Men and women think differently, MRIs show their brains function differently on a fundamental level of processing data (and even perception thereof differs).
    o Psychology has long held that women create, maintain, and categorize social structures in their communities differently than men do.
    o Male and female athletes are in different categories because they cannot be compared physically to one another.[/list:u]
    Men and women
are different in a number of areas of daily function, not just appearance, and have different capabilities at the ends of various scales. Yet some folks scream like they've been burned with fire if you dare to point these differences out, or (gods forbid) actually define them in the context of game mechanics.  
 
Quote from: greyorm
 So, please answer this: what sort of mechanical effect(s) detailing the real differences between men and women, phsyiologically and psychologically, would you be comfortable with?  

I can't answer for anyone else, but I expressed before my concern to Ben.  The real-world social injustice comes from looking at statistical  differences between populations, and then assuming from that some sort of essential or genetic quality.  For example, seeing that African countries are less technologically advanced than European countries, some people then conclude that Africans genetically tend to be less good at science and technology.  Now, the data here is absolutely true -- African countries are far behind Europe in science and technology.  But the conclusion that this is an inherent, genetic quality of African people is extremely controversial.  

By expressing statistical differences as attribute modifiers, you are strongly implying that these are essential/genetic differences, as opposed to constructed/cultural ones.  No one sensible denies that men and women are genetically different.  But equally true no one sensible denies that men and women are treated differently.  i.e. The differences between men and women as populations are caused by both genetic and social/cultural forces.  But in the real world the exact balance of how much any given quality is genetic is never clear.  

Personally, I would be more comfortable with a system which does not imply knowing a difference between exactly what is nature vs. nurture.  For example, in his Eclipse design thread, Ben suggests certain modifiers for gender which then stack with certain modifiers for social class.  However, this still implies that the gender modifiers are essential.  

On the other hand, you could have combined packages for race, gender, and social class: i.e. you have a "noblewoman" package, a "peasant man" package, and so forth.  This would further allow you to express social differences that aren't possible in the other system.  For example, I could posit that there is a very large gap in strength between noble men and noble women -- because while noble men are fed and trained to be warriors, noble women are not inclined to need or use manual strength.  In contrast, there might be less of a gap among peasants, because peasant women frequently engage in manual labor.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: John Harper on May 13, 2004, 12:16:30 PM
Quote from: greyorm
That is, no one complains about the intelligence penalty for orcs, but make a penalty (or bonus) gender based, and suddenly everyone's undies are all twisted around.

Let's take these two examples:

Designer: "Orcs get an intelligence penalty."
Player: "Why?"
Designer: "Because I want Orcs to be dumber than humans in my game world."

---

Designer: "Women get a bonus when buying Social points."
Player: "Why?"
Desginer: "Because it's been proven that women are more socially adept in the real world."

---

See the difference? It's not the mechanic itself that's upsetting most people. It's the absolute and total refusal on the part of Ben to acknowledge the difference in the two bold phrases above. Assigning modifiers for fantasy races is fundamentally different than modifiers for real world gender, simply because of the claimed motivation behind it and the justifcations provided. The second bold phrase, above, is far from The Absoulte Undisputable Truth, and yet Ben seems to think it is, and that it's all the reason he needs.

The real answer for example two is this:
Designer: "Because I've read statistics that lead me to believe that women are more socially adept in the real world and I've decided to reflect those statistics in my game."

And no one can argue with that. Ben certainly believes in his gender types and the data behind them. No one can question that. No one is arguing that. The question is: Is Ben right? He seems hellbent on convincing us that he is. And a bunch of posters are equally fired up to prove that he's wrong. This debate, in one form or another, has gone on for centuries. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that no one is budging from their position on gender.

So, Ben, if you're still listening, here's how you put an end to this nonsense. If you can agree to the statement in red, above, then we have nothing left to debate on the issues of gender, nature vs. nurture, sexism, etc. All that's left is, "Do your mechanics support your beliefs and stated goals?" And that's something the Forge can help you with.

My answer to that last question is in my previous post. Best of luck to you.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 13, 2004, 12:37:00 PM
Hey, John

Would this also be acceptable?

Designer: "Because I want women to be more socially adept in my game world."


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: John Harper on May 13, 2004, 12:43:51 PM
Absolutely, Jack. Thanks for pointing that out.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on May 13, 2004, 01:10:51 PM
John, I just figured that if the root of potential offense is saying such things are based on real world, I figured why not remove that from the equation?

Facts are neutral.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: xiombarg on May 13, 2004, 01:23:25 PM
Raven and Maarzan: I understand that realism can be its own end, but the fact of the matter is, mechanics can not simulate everything that realistically exists. Do you dispute this? Otherwise there would be more games with a detailed physics model.

Therefore, there has to be a reason one choose to focus on that particular realistic aspect of things. I can cede that Ben is 100% correct in his view regarding men and women and it is still telling that he chose to highlight this fact, just like if a game includes highly detailed rules for bullet wounds there has to be a reason that aspect of realism was focused on as opposed to, say, detailed social interaction rules.

I don't dispute that men and women are different, it is my claim that there has to be a reason to include that aspect of "realism" in the game. Ben might not be aware of the reason, but there has to be a reason why he's not ignoring it in favor of other, arguably equally important issues, such as an accurate physics model for charging horses. Ditto for Ron and Mongrel.

For example, Hal's reasoning -- regarding genre conventions -- is perfectly acceptable. It explains why you're highlighting that particular aspect of "reality" and not, say, worrying about the physics of horses, which is less important for genre convention.

And Raven, to answer your question, even assuming Ben is 100% correct about gender differences, it's just as unrealistic not to include realistic horse charges as it is to not include realistic gender differences. You have to choose where you are unrealistic and where you're not, and there has to be a reason for that, even if it's "it's easy to represent this difference under the system I'm using, as opposed to having a complete physics model, so I do".


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Valamir on May 13, 2004, 02:04:15 PM
Quote
Ditto for Ron and Mongrel.


Hey Kirt, you've mentioned this a couple times now, but I'm not sure I understand why.  I'm seeing some pretty compelling reasons for the distinction in Mongrel.  Are you not convinced that they are there?  Or are you holding out for official setting information to confirm it?

The way I see it, the interaction of the limitations in the character creation rules create a society of beautiful upper class women and ugly upper class men, because thats what's required to meet social expectations.  

Lower class women and men aren't expected to meet those standards so you wind up with a situation of beautiful lower class men...filling a very Giesha / Moll type role in society (and likely beautiful lower class women filling a similar role for the upper class men); and physical lower class women...indicating that the laboring class is likely pretty evenly distributed between men and women in Mongrel.  


So if we equate beauty with engendering physical lust, you have upper class women fulfilling their lusts with lower class men; and upper class men, being largely unable to fulfill their lust with upper class women who generally find them ugly, fulfilling theirs with lower class women.  Upper class couples are thus likely unions of convenience and heir production; and lower class couples are likely placed in awkward situations trying to be monogamous in the face of upper class advances.

Now I don't know for sure that this was Ron's intent.  May be completely my own speculative invention.  Won't know till Ron decides to weigh in.  

But if these reasons actually survive as more than my own meanderings...do they meet your qualification for being justifiable to include them in the mechanics.  Or is there still something more you'd want to see?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ian Charvill on May 14, 2004, 12:52:49 AM
The problem is Ralph, it would make no difference if Ron confirmed the world details were 100% in line with the mechanics because Mongrel is meant to be a sim game and there's no man behind the curtain there.  That the mechnics/world might be making a comment on the human condition carries no weight in a sim design.  Definitionally, that's not what the sim players would be interested in.  Remember, sim = exploration for its own sake.

Given sim revolves around discovery and curiousity there are only really two things at stake: is it interesting and is it plausible (i.e. is it worth being curious about/discovering and does it hit the cause and effect buttons).

I think Ben's answer of "it's interesting" is kind of infuriating because it's not subject to proof - but contrary to some posters' beliefs it is sufficient.  It's your whole argument for liking Mongrel: the cause and effect stuff coming from the rules produces a game world that you find interesting.  Ben finds worlds with sexual dimorphism interesting.

There is pretty much zero mileage in "I want X in my sim game because X is interesting" vs "No X isn't interesting, so why do you want X in your game".  It's like me saying "I'm putting anchovies in my salad cos they taste nice" and someone coming back with "Anchovies don't taste nice, you must have some other reason for putting them in your salad".

Cos shifting to "the point must be the moral or ethical implications of that choice" is narrativism pure and simple.  I'm not sure of the value in suggesting a simulationist game design ought to, deep down, have narrativist values.

The other answer - it's required for plausibility - I see more mileage in.  The advantage to the argument from plausibility is that not everything has to be equally realistic - only the stuff you know about.  Frex, if I'm watching a martial arts movie I know what a steaming pile of crap that all is.  I know that the three guys could take the one guy down just by mobbing him and the one guy - even if he's the best martial artist in the world - would go down.  No question, no doubt.  But if you show me a guy pretending to play the piano I would have no clue if he's faking it or real.  Just no clue.  So for plausibilty, I'd have very different standards of "realism" depending on what is being portrayed.

So it could be for Ben that, because he knows about sexual dimorphism, it's required for plausibility.  I'm not sure that such a requirement constitutes a moral position.

[Ralph - hard question - your extrapolations for Mongrel: do you find them interesting in and of themselves as a venue for exploration of a static system or do you find them interesting because of the potential such a setting holds for narrativist drift?]


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Lxndr on May 14, 2004, 06:40:12 AM
I can't answer for Ralph, and I'll admit I didn't think of Mongrel from that angle until he posted it.  But the world he's describing as being implied in the Mongrel rules sounds like a wicked-cool place to explore, in simulation terms.  So my answer to the hard question is "I don't see where his answers constitute any sort of narrative drift, just exploration of Setting through the lense of System."

However, I think there's room in sim for "commenting on the human condition."  A "realistic" Sim game about slavery in the 1800s, for instance, where the players are the slaves, would definitely have some sort of comment about the human condition, even without a narrative Premise.  In some ways, ANY simulation about humans would have to have some sort of comment on the human condition - the simulation as documentary, y'know?  Those comments don't have to coalesce into any sort of Premise, though.

And all systems, all rulesets, contain some commentary on the human condition, even if it's just the human condition as it is reflected in the setting.  Cyberpunk has cybernetics reduce a person's humanity - I believe the game is just attempting to simulate itself, but this is still a comment on what it means to be human in the cyberpunk setting.  HERO prices Comeliness at 1/2 a point per level, which says "beauty isn't very important compared to these other attributes."  I dunno, maybe I'm totally off base here.

Finally, I'm not sure if I agree that "it's interesting" is sufficient by itself, but I don't think that it, as a reason, should be discounted out of hand.  There are a lot of things that are interesting (and for me, sexual dimorphism is one of them) but the question then becomes is it interesting enough for this game?  'Cause if I just tossed everything I thought was interesting into a single game, well... it'd be one huge, contradictory mush with so many different dice mechanics alone it'd be hell to play.  To counter your anchovies, let's just say I like ice cream and I like motorcycles, but I'm not gonna shove my mint chocolate chip into the gas tank.  (I haven't seen enough about Eclipse to know whether or not sexual dimorphism is ice cream to his motorcycle, I'm just arguing the general "it's interesting" point) in this paragraph.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Valamir on May 14, 2004, 06:56:23 AM
Quote
The problem is Ralph, it would make no difference if Ron confirmed the world details were 100% in line with the mechanics because Mongrel is meant to be a sim game and there's no man behind the curtain there. That the mechnics/world might be making a comment on the human condition carries no weight in a sim design. Definitionally, that's not what the sim players would be interested in. Remember, sim = exploration for its own sake.

Given sim revolves around discovery and curiousity there are only really two things at stake: is it interesting and is it plausible (i.e. is it worth being curious about/discovering and does it hit the cause and effect buttons).


I don't follow you Ian.  What of the ideas I put forward don't work for supporting discovery and curiousity?  I'm not sure what your comment about man behind the curtain or "human condition" is addressing.

High concept sim requires cool setting, color, and situation to explore.

What of my analysis doesn't qualify as cool setting, color, or situation?


Admittedly, the over the top anime material that Ron's using for source material, doesn't really trip my trigger all that much, but that's just a personal preference thing.

What really excites me about Mongrel and makes me think people haven't really given it its due, is that ALL of stuff I came up with is completely related to and supported by the mechanics of the game.  Theres no "cool setting in this box", "generic system in the other box" nonsense going on.  Its all inextricably tied together...which IMO is exactly what game mechanic design should do.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ian Charvill on May 14, 2004, 09:32:16 AM
Ralph, you wrote over in part II of the mechanical discussion:

Quote
What differenciates Mongrel from Eclipse, is that in Mongrel, this gender and age distinction has a very clear, and very informative reason for existance. Despite repeated inquiries, I have yet to see any similarly profound rationale for the differentiation in Eclipse.


You're looking for a profound rationale - the man behind the curtain - but there doesn't need to be one.  There can be one - and in narrativism there's good reason to say that one is required - but there's no such need for a profound reason w/r/t simulationism.  For it to be interesting is enough.

But both Eclipse and Mongrel don't have that profound reason yet.  If Ron were to finish Mongrel in line with your ideas would that make Eclipse a better or worse game?  If Ron were to finish Mongrel in contrast with your ideas would it make Eclipse a better or worse game?

Of course your extrapolations work in line with the mechanics - they derive from them.  If you performed a similar trick with Eclipse's mechanics what would you get: presumably a society broadly in line with our own.  And maybe that's why they're there: for a point of reference for players from our society.

Alex

You're not really arguing with my position.  I'm not denying sim can do theme - I must have made dozens of posts in the past arguing that it can - I'm saying it doesn't have to.  Only narrativism has to - and only successful narrativism at that.

And your point about interesting is not sufficient in itself echoes the point I was making about plausibility.  Mint choc chip ice cream doesn't make good fuel for a motorcycle - I haven't passed my driving test quite yet and even I know that: it's not plausible that it would.  Hence I wrote that two things were at stake: interest and plausibility.  And hence why I see plausibility as the stronger part of the argument because we simply don't have enough data to judge if the end result is going to be interesting yet (just as with Mongrel).

Does that make more sense?


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Valamir on May 14, 2004, 10:56:09 AM
Quote
You're looking for a profound rationale - the man behind the curtain - but there doesn't need to be one. There can be one - and in narrativism there's good reason to say that one is required - but there's no such need for a profound reason w/r/t simulationism. For it to be interesting is enough.


I hear you, but I don't think I agree.  I don't believe that just because a game is Simulationist that any or all detail  becomes automatically gravy.  Even in hard core sim you have details that are important and details that are superfluous (and I'm saying this as a dedicated gear head and wargamer from way back).

Just like Nar or Gamism, in Sim there is detail worth including and detail that isn't worth including.


Your parameters of "interesting and plausible" touch on this, but I don't think they are sufficient.  There are loads of details that might be considered interesting and plausible and yet still aren't worth while being put into a given game.  

Games should have a focus, even Sim games.

Focus means there are certain elements that you're staring straight at (what the game is about).  

There are other elements that are in the field of vision but not necessarily "what the game is about" themselves.  These elements serve to provide context for the elements being focused on.  

There are other elements out in the periphery.  These elements aren't the focus of the game, and they aren't necessary to provide context, but they can play a supporting role as distractions and foils.  These are things you have to turn your head in order to see clearly (to continue the analogy), but in doing so you lose the focus on what's really important.  This is only good (IMO even for a sim game) if the act of losing focus actually then drives home the importance of that focus.  In other words if the tangental element is not directly related to the focus, but pursueing it serves to highlight and drive home the importance of the focus, such peripheral elements can be quite valuable.

Everything else is superfluous and can and should be freely discarded.  I'm struggling with this very thing in Robot's and Rapiers.  Its not an easy thing to judge what might be a useful peripheral contributor and what is superfluous.  Especially if 1) the element is commonly taken for granted as something your "supposed" to have in an RPG, or 2) a personal sacred cow you're loathe to part with.


When it comes to Mongrel, I see the gender issues (assuming a degree of accuracy in my extrapolation) as being well within the "field of vision".  They provide important context to the true focus of bestial demonic half breeds engaged in various house conflicts.  They are part of the unique framework for that conflict.  The game could select a different framework (by eliminating or reversing the gender/age issues) but this would have a noticeable and significant impact on the conflicts.  Whether they are there or whether they are not there will change the feel of the game...therefor they cannot be superfluous.


In Eclipse, I don't see this.  While one could argue that for Eclipse they serve a valuable peripheral role, I'm not convinced of that.  What situation will arise in play that would play out differently if the modifiers  were not included?  Clearly there is a degree of YMMV here, whether the modifiers are a valuable peripheral element, or entirely superfluous; but right now I'm inclined to the latter.  

Part of the reason I'm so inclined is that there doesn't seem to be a consistant rationale for their inclusion.  Ravien made some good arguements (and some poor ones) but I got the impression that the discussion was more of the nature of thinking out loud while trying to come up with a reason for justifying something already selected for inclusion; rather then a preexisting explanation for why the elements were selected for inclusion to begin with.  

Now maybe that after-the-fact justification winds up working (I've used such justifications myself frequently) but so far it appears to me to be a rule included merely for the sake of including it, with more than a little bit of willfull nose thumbing of Political Correctness as the prime motivating factor..."I will include them because I refuse to bow to the PC thought police who tell me I shouldn't".  

That's a position I'm actually fairly sympathetic to, having little tolerance for PC sillyness, but it doesn't make for good game design.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: greyorm on May 14, 2004, 10:59:37 AM
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mechanics can not simulate everything that realistically exists

I agree, I never said they could; and along those lines, I think John Harper's lengthy rebuttal about the degree of modeling is a red herring. We're talking about game systems, after all.
 
He could make the same arugment about why races (real or not) shouldn't have such abstract modifiers, or why wounds (or wound boxes, or whatever) are too abstract for realistically modeling injury, or how a 20-point scale isn't a "realistic" measure of human ability...but no one ever makes that argument, because we recognize it's a game, and that much detail isn't important, only a subset of it needs to be expressed, an abstraction of it -- even when we're modeling reality and trying to be as realistic as necessary.
 
And that's also why I'm saying most of this discussion has been politics: "Hah, I can overturn that point with this set of extreme but logically-sound counter-examples and observations!"

Quote
it is still telling that he chose to highlight this fact

Is it? Or is it Incoherent design? Like 1st Edition AD&D?
"Here's bunch of rules and crap that doesn't mean anything in regards to what this game is about, but we're including it anyways because it seemed like a good idea."

I don't think it is necessarily "telling" that he chose to model differences in gender and doesn't have a solid reason why. Many games are written that way. To start claiming you know why the designer did something, when even he says there isn't a "deeper" reason for it, is nothing more than bad pop psychology.

Let me share something similar with you, regarding a piece of abstract artwork I created some years ago, which I named "Death of Dreams":

(quoting from the description of the piece in my gallery)
    The original short description of this piece was "A creature of darkness thrusts one of light into the Abyss." When a friend and potential employer observed this image in my on-line gallery a number of years ago and read the title and description, they developed an 'odd' look in their eye and questioned me about the piece, expressing concern that I was despressed or into "gothic" things. That reaction has always bothered me -- the false assumption that I need to be depressed or suicidal, or somehow possessed of a 'dark' nature in order to create works with such a theme or title.

    An episode of "As Told By Ginger" I caught the other night really nailed this situation for me, though. In the episode, Ginger enters a writing contest and produces a breathtaking but depressing and emotional poem. Everyone thereafter believes she must be troubled, must be depressed, and so forth, despite her insistence she is not.[/list:u]
    But, you know why I gave it that title and description? Because it sounded evocative, and it seemed to match the mood and feeling of the piece, what the piece seemed to be doing; that's the story I saw happening with the colors and forms of the image, and it was interesting. That is, I did it because it was cool, not because I was trying to express my deep pain and hopelessness, or some crap like that.

    This is the same thing I'm seeing here, bad pop psychology: "Why'd you do it?" "Because it's realistic." "No! You did it because you're sexist, and that attitude is showing in your work!" "No, I'm not!" "Then why? WHY?"

    Anyways, I've spent way too long on this discussion and far too much time that I should have spent elsewhere, so I must bow out at this point.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: John Harper on May 14, 2004, 12:31:59 PM
Quote from: greyorm
I think John Harper's lengthy rebuttal about the degree of modeling is a red herring. We're talking about game systems, after all.
 
He could make the same arugment about why races (real or not) shouldn't have such abstract modifiers, or why wounds (or wound boxes, or whatever) are too abstract for realistically modeling injury, or how a 20-point scale isn't a "realistic" measure of human ability...

No, actually, I couldn't make the same argument against those things. There was more to my argument than the ultra-simplified version you're discounting here. At least *try* to argue against my actual *point*.

Here it is again, verbatim, from the post:
"Using very specific and controlled data to inform very broad and generalized mechanics is counter to your aim of being realistic. To truly support the real world data you've chosen to reference, the system must reflect the parameters of that data in a meaningful way."

Is that unclear? I can re-phrase it if it doesn't make sense to you. In no way does that statement apply to abstract wound systems, 20-point scales, or race modifiers or anything else in other games, unless those games are claiming their modifiers are based on real-world data.

Let me use an extreme example to illustrate my point since the practical example was confusing. My hypothetical game has one trait: Do Stuff. You roll this whenever your character does something. Now, I read a report online that shows how the average 20 year old has better reaction time than the average 40 year old. I think this means that a 20-something can do stuff better than a 40-something. So, to be realistic, I give 20 year olds a +1 to their Do Stuff trait. Is this sound game design? Am I meeting my goal of being realistic if I do this?

If someone asks me why 20 year olds are more effective at Doing Stuff in my game than 40 year olds, and I answer, "Because that's how it is in the real world," is that a sufficient or correct answer?

No. Of course not. The system is far too abstract to support the incredibly specific differences between 20 and 40 year olds so to include them as modifiers just muddies the game system.

I'm saying the same thing about Power in Eclipse. It covers a very broad range of activities, some of which males can be shown to have an advantage in statistically, and some in which they don't. To cite a particular statistic as the sole reason for including the modifier is the same kind of design error as the Do Stuff mods, above.

So, if Ben wants to continue to design a system that is based on real-world statistical data (which is his stated reason for the modifiers), his system has to either get much more detailed, or he needs to find statistics that show that men are advantaged when performing any strength-based task (which is what Power covers) and women are advantaged in every social interaction.

Please note: If Ben's stated reason for the modifiers was "That's the way I want my world to be," then all of this would be moot.


Title: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)
Post by: Ian Charvill on May 15, 2004, 12:24:19 AM
Ralph

I think we're at an agree to differ point because essentially I think we've got two conflicting underlying methodologies in mind.  I'm thinking more create freely then edit later.  You seem to be edit as you go.  I think what needs to be edited is indeterminate before the thing's finished; you seem hold that when your designing you should have the finished product so clearly in mind that you can always know what's in and what's out.