The Forge Archives

Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: SlurpeeMoney on May 20, 2004, 07:34:31 PM



Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 20, 2004, 07:34:31 PM
I have not read the whole of the discussion on gender based rules creation, but it seems to me that the point in basing attribute decisions on gender is being missed altogether. I, personally, game with a group that is evenly divided between men and women (something of a rarity, I hear), and whenever the idea of making modifiers to attributes along "gender lines" comes up, the girls tend to be quite in favor of it.

And why shouldn't they be? Both men and women have a lot of strengths that they should be free to explore in-game. To use a strong generalization, women tend to be more flexible than men. Men tend to have more upper body strength. Women tend to have greater lower body strength. Men tend to have faster reflexes. Women tend to have more accurate reflexes (an important distinction, particularly in combat-oriented games)... And that's just the biological trends that can be established easilly. The sociological and anthropological differences are astounding and have been the topic of hundreds of  books on how men and women relate with one another and with members of their same sex. To simply blanket men and women under the same sets of mental, physical and social attributes would be a disservice to both.

I don't want to categorize women into the field of "young and pretty and completely helpless in the real world," though I will grant you that there will be certain social understandings in which that will be the norm. I simply think that the differences between men and women have become such an ingrained aspect of our culture that to overlook it in a hobby as personal as role-playing seems a gross oversight. The girls in my group like being girls. I say, let them be the best girls they can be.

Here is how I think it could be done:

First and foremost, it would have to exist primarilly in random character creation systems. This would be to, occasionally, break the stereotypes. After all, as one girl so vehemently pointed out, she is good at math and science, the traditional realm of "male thought." There are guys who are young and pretty and completley helpless in the real world that make great characters just as surely as there are girls who are big and tough and don't shy away from a good fight. Literary examples would be Jaqueline Carey's Alcuin (Kushiel's Dart) and Robert Jordan's Bridgitte (The Wheel of Time), respectively.

The inherent strengths of gender would have to take the form of bonuses to attribute rolls. After the attributes are rolled and set, the bonuses are added. This would be something akin to the racial attribute bonuses in the D20 system.

(Also of possibility would be a "Gender Meter." This would measure a character's leaning towards the traditional aspects of one gender or the other. This would be a measure of Masculinity in girls (I've met some pretty masculine girls), and Femininity in boys (One of my friends was a homosexual so feminine, some would have refered to him as "flaming.") This is merely a toss-in, something you could do in a point-based system like Vampire or Witchcraft.)

And it's that simple. Using D20 as an example:
Girls get a small bonus to Dexterity (+1), Charisma (+1) and Reach (an extra 5 feet; the reach bonus is for the leg-strength, as it is easier to "lunge" into an attack with strong legs). Boys get an equivilent small bonus to their Strength (+1), Constitution (+1) and Initiative (+2 for faster reflexes; for added realism, a -2 to strike would be appropriate, while a girl's first attack may recieve a +2. This could also be added to the Armor Class, blah blah blah blah blah).

It is possible to adjust attributes to accomodate the strengths of both genders. With enough time and some patience, we may even be able to discuss some of those sticky social situations (i.e. gender roles in particular societies in particular times). Really, leaving out differences between the sexes can leave out a whole aspect of the game. Attributes are just the start.

SlurpeeMoney
"Girl's tend to play differently than boys, too. But we'll not get into that..."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 20, 2004, 08:14:51 PM
Hi, welcome to the Forge! We tend to go by first names around here, I'm Ben, what's your name?

Quote
I have not read the whole of the discussion on gender based rules creation, but it seems to me that the point in basing attribute decisions on gender is being missed altogether.

Well, this topic came up just recently. In fact, it was brought up by me! It was very controversial. Alot of people got very heated, names were called, stones were thrown... all that stuff. Not good. Also, here at the forge we like to avoid saying the same things twice, so we try to make sure that we all read what has been said before (in this case, only last week), and that way we can ensure that any discussion is forward moving, and not just retreading old ground. That said, here are the most recent relevant links:

Mechanical Gender Differences (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11095) (bought up by me, the one that sparked the fire)
Mechanical gender differences II [Mongrel] (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11126)
Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed) (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11148)
Let's Do This Now (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11196) (this one is mostly a response to the attacks made against me personally, but does include some relevant scientific references to gender differences)
Gender: Dead horse flogging! (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11217)
[Eclipse] Gender and Social Class (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11111) (example of an actual game (my game) and how gender may be applied)

I'm sure you'll find that they are all rivetting reads, with alot of good points made in them, both for and against the inclusion of gender in games. At the very least, if you read them, at least you won't be saying the same things as have already been brought up.


Now, with that out of the way, I'm curious where you get your information about female lower-body strength. I ask because I've never encountered this in the literature, and it seems incongrous with the facts concerning running speed and my personal experience with how hard a girl can kick. Also, your faster/more accurate reflexes seem strange, and again I've not seen them represented in the literature.

Also, regarding your d20 example, as I noted in the first link, any attempts to introduce gender into a game focused on a gender biased thing like combat (like d20 is), will result in what I term "The Problem", which is basically that because of the focus of the game and the nature of the gender differences, one gender will become less suited for the game overall, and this is a Bad Thing.

Quote
With enough time and some patience, we may even be able to discuss some of those sticky social situations.

You may find that "those sticky social situations" aren't nearly so sticky as any suggestion that there is an innate difference between the genders (as attributes imply). The reason is thus: If a social bias exists, then this can be dealt with and removed if it's basis is merely superficial sexism. However, if the bias exists because of inherent differences, then it is justified in it's existance, and thus much harder to remove. Hence much of the discussion about gender is very focused on claiming that differences are not innate, and are merely a social construct.

Quote
Really, leaving out differences between the sexes can leave out a whole aspect of the game. Attributes are just the start.

I agree fully with both of these statements.

I hope those links and my comments help you decide how you want to focus this topic. And again, welcome to the forge.

-Ben


P.S. Be very careful about making such claims as "Girls tend to play differently to boys", because, whilst I and a few other people will agree with you, they are based entirely on anecdotal evidence, and you need to be sure to clearly qualify your statements, like saying "In my personal experience, I've noticed that girls tend to approach situations in X, Y, Z ways, whilst boys tend to approach those same situations in A, B, C ways.". Furthermore, some people don't like the implication that boys are the standard against which girls are measured as different to. I think that this is stupid PC nonsense, because the sentence has the same meaning if it were phrased "boys tend to play differently to girls", but some people like to find hidden meanings in such statements and make assumptions about you based on how you word things. So just bear that in mind.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 20, 2004, 08:52:25 PM
Hi. I'm Kris.

I read much of the first few pages of the articles mentioned; the tone became quite argumentative, rather than constructive, and the posts were growing exponentially in length, to the point of tediousness. Slogging through what seemed more argument than constructive criticism is, or has been to me, an indication that, while the subject does warrant further discussion, it is time to take a breath and get back to the issues. Hence the New Topic, rather than the reply.

I cannot recall, exactly, where I heard that women have more accurate reflexes than men; it simply struck me as odd that, while men react, on the whole, faster than women, when a woman reacts, it tends to be more accurate. I believe it was one of the many sexual documentaries I watch, many of which focus on the differences between men and women. I believe the reference to stronger lower body strength was made vis a vis an article I read on the topic more moons ago than I care to count. In it, a young lady was championing much the same cause I am: gender bias based, not on the respective weakness of a given sex, but on the comparative strengths of both. As I recall, she had a very interesting bit regarding the favored weapons of women based upon their strengths, and I suddenly find myself wishing I had the article. I believe it was on RPG.net, and should I find it, I will link it here.

Combat is not a gender biased topic. Women are just as capable in combat as men, if not more so. Taking into consideration the greater range of attack a woman has available to her, as per her ability to lunge, it would be quite a simple matter to keep a man at an appreciable distance where weapons designed to make use of his greater upper body strength (which tend to be quite a bit smaller) are of little or no use. Taking the time required to change your weapon to something more suitable produces a unique opportunity for a woman to attack while the man is basically defenseless. There are, of course, maneuvers to get into close range against a pole-arm weilding individual, and certainly those would be used, in which case daggers and swords relying on finess and speed, rather than strength, come into play. Women are warriors of equal versatility and strength as men, given the opportunity.

Quote
If a social bias exists, then this can be dealt with and removed if it's basis is merely superficial sexism.


I find this statement very difficult to reconcile with the way that the world actually works. You could pass off gender bias in society as superficial sexism, yes, but any attempt at a study of it would require digging into the social contexts in which that sexism is accepted and, more importantly, engendered into the mainstream consciousness. And sexism may not be so nearly as superfiscial as some would give it credit. Men and women are different animals. Were we any different than we are, I might go so far as to say we are Sexocialy Dimorphic. Sexism could be a designed cultural trait meant to maintain sexual drive through competition with our mates. Still, that's a discussion for another day. I digress.

As for focusing the topic, I think I already know how I would like it to be focused; I want to discuss sexual strength rather than weakness as a way to dissemble men and women in a role-playing medium. So much of the discussion in your linked posts seems to be dominated by women feeling distressed that men want to degrade them in game terms, and men fighting back with "well that's the way it really is." For this, I think I would like everyone to consider the strengths of the opposite sex: physical (as has been done with combat), mental, social and emotional. Perhaps, if we can see the good in differences between men and women (and believe me, without those differences, there would be bad), we can better understand the desire/neccessity of differentiating them in our games.

SlurpeeMoney
"Everything said in quotes after my name is sarcastic... Even this..."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 20, 2004, 10:38:35 PM
Hey Kris,

Firstly, it is not possible to focus on strengths without also at least implicitly focusing on weaknesses. If you say "men have more upper body strength", then you are saying "women have less upper body strength". There are only two genders, and so any advantage that one might have, is an advantage only over the other.

Quote
I believe it was one of the many sexual documentaries I watch, many of which focus on the differences between men and women.

I, personally, wouldn't trust anything on my TV as far as I could throw it. Especially any show dealing with any topic that is controversial, regardless of who's side they come down on.

Quote
I believe the reference to stronger lower body strength was made vis a vis an article I read on the topic more moons ago than I care to count. In it, a young lady was championing much the same cause I am: gender bias based, not on the respective weakness of a given sex, but on the comparative strengths of both. As I recall, she had a very interesting bit regarding the favored weapons of women based upon their strengths, and I suddenly find myself wishing I had the article. I believe it was on RPG.net, and should I find it, I will link it here.

By "article" do you mean a peer-reviewed article published in a scientific journal? Or something someone wrote once on RPG.net? If the former, could you please post a reference? If the later, I, personally, would discount it as someones opinion. This is why I always try to back up what I say with clear references sourced from reliable resources. It's not necessary in a lot of topics, but in things such as gender I feel it is.

Quote
Combat is not a gender biased topic. Women are just as capable in combat as men, if not more so. Taking into consideration the greater range of attack a woman has available to her, as per her ability to lunge, it would be quite a simple matter to keep a man at an appreciable distance where weapons designed to make use of his greater upper body strength (which tend to be quite a bit smaller) are of little or no use.

I'm not an expert, but from my research into the topic, and from my knowledge of the world, I would not believe this to be so. Men are, on average, significantly taller than women. This gives them greater reach with both arms and legs. Combined with the greater muscle mass and weight, we are talking significantly more power in every strike. I've done a few forms of martial arts, including training with a few weapons, and as is usual, these classes were about 50% female. I have noticed that in all forms of martial arts that I have trained in, a male will beat a female of the same rank nearly every time. I also don't see much of this "lunging" you talk about. I've also yet to see a non-firearm weapon that isn't designed to take advantage of upper-body strength. Even things like chains benefit from greater muscle co-ordination and strength in accelerating and maintaining a fast spinning speed. Actually, tell a lie, there are those little daggers you stick in your shoes to kick people with, but I don't think that's what you are referring to. If you mean spears, then you are mistaken if you believe strength is not important, or at least doesn't give an advantage.

But this is anecdotal evidence.

Here is some "proper" evidence:
Pre-pubescent children show no gender differences in upper-body or lower-body strength. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12580672&itool=iconabstr) (suggesting that the biological change of puberty may be where gender differences, if any, emerge.)
Males have almost twice the hand-grip strength of females even when forearm muscle area was controlled. Women have lower rates of decline in sustained strength, suggesting greater skeletal muscle endurance. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=10643144&itool=iconabstr) (combat is not about sustained strength)
Women have around 52% and 66% the strength of men in the upper and lower body respectively. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=8477683&itool=iconabstr) (this one is perfectly relevant to your suggestions.)

So IMHO, combat is a gender biased activity. Women are not just as capable as men in combat, and certainly not more so.

However, this is "reality". Games are a whole nother story. If, in your game world, you want things to work differently, that is perfectly acceptable. Just qualify your claims with "...in my game world", and you'll be fine. Just don't say "this is realistic".

Quote
I find this statement very difficult to reconcile with the way that the world actually works. You could pass off gender bias in society as superficial sexism, yes, but any attempt at a study of it would require digging into the social contexts in which that sexism is accepted and, more importantly, engendered into the mainstream consciousness. And sexism may not be so nearly as superfiscial as some would give it credit. Men and women are different animals. Were we any different than we are, I might go so far as to say we are Sexocialy Dimorphic. Sexism could be a designed cultural trait meant to maintain sexual drive through competition with our mates. Still, that's a discussion for another day. I digress.

Ah, but there is a problem here. See, you are saying that this doesn't fit with "the way the world actually works...men and women are different animals", but on these two premises, alot of people will disagree (I don't, but alot do). Ever heard of essentialism and constructivism? These are the core arguments for and against (repectively) the destruction of all gender biases in society. On one hand, people claim differences are real and are biological, which then carries over into social, and on the other hand people claim differences are social only, and thus they exist for no good reason. You may not think it's a controversy, but believe me, it is.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 20, 2004, 11:20:09 PM
Quote from: Ravien

Ah, but there is a problem here. See, you are saying that this doesn't fit with "the way the world actually works...men and women are different animals", but on these two premises, alot of people will disagree (I don't, but alot do).


Who?


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Emily Care on May 21, 2004, 05:11:56 AM
Hi Kris,

Just for the record,

Quote from: You
So much of the discussion in your linked posts seems to be dominated by women feeling distressed that men want to degrade them in game terms, and men fighting back with "well that's the way it really is."

but actually, looking at the threads, the speakers on both sides of the argument are quite likely to be men.  This has most definitely not been an argument between the men & women of the Forge, but has been between various members of the Forge, most of whom happen to be male.

Yrs,
Emily


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Andrew Morris on May 21, 2004, 06:26:16 AM
Kris, I hate to burst your bubble here with some facts, but (as Ben has pointed out) women do not have greater lower-body strength. That's just a cultural myth unsupported by actual fact. In addition, men do not have faster reflex times. I can't reference any particular studies, since it's been several years since I was in college and I don't have my gender studies texts anymore, but I am drawing these statement from highly reputable studies in gender differences.

From my personal experience and observation, I have to agree with Ben that in the real world women and men are not equal in terms of combat -- for whatever reasons, men are better at it. Now, of course there are exceptions, I'm just talking averages and trends here. I've been involved in martial arts most of my life, and, yes, I've had my ass thoroughly handed to me by men and women alike. Heck, I've got a permanent injury from a particular female martial artist who got pissed that I wouldn't attack her in a sparring match (I thought I was being chivalrous, she thought I was being sexist -- go figure). So, I'm not saying women can't become good at fighting, I'm just saying that given the same amount of training and dedication, a male fighter will (on average) be better than a female fighter. Whether that needs to be represented in a game is the important question, at least to me. In a very detailed game that tried to model reality as thoroughly as possible, I think gender differences make sense. In pretty much any other type of game, I don't think they add anything, unless gender differences are the focus of the game.

Emily makes a good point here -- most of the commenters in these topics are men. That seems kinda funny to me, though it does tend to confirm my personal experiences. Can we get some more opinions on this topic from some Forge women?


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 21, 2004, 06:34:26 AM
Hello,

Kris, welcome! You're raising a feature of the gender issue that I think is long overdue, and it's full of potential for powerful RPG implications. I agree with you entirely about the threads that have been referenced, and I consider most of them to be pretty poor examples of the kind of discourse that goes on here most of the time.

Ben (Ravien), I'm gonna ask you to take a long walk for a while. Bluntly, you are too emotionally close to the issue to discuss it well at the Forge, at least in a hit-the-keys-now sort of way. If you absolutely have to contribute, I want you to focus on role-playing issues alone, and to restrict yourself to one post on the topic per day.

The issue is not what relative strengths men and women actually have. The issue is to recognize that game design and play might focus on their relative strengths, as perceived and believed by the author or role-players, and to use those features as central mechanics or other aspects of the role-playing experience.

I suggest that several games have already forged into this territory very effectively: Orkworld, HeroQuest (most especially the Thunder Rebels supplement), first among them. I suggest furthermore that the general "neutering" effect of most RPG settings and character creation processes has some pretty negative consequences on play itself. I've written about most of these issues as best as I know how in the supplement Sex & Sorcery, and my game Trollbabe essentially seizes the issue and hands it to the role-playing group to eat without salt.

Kris, are you familiar with any of these?

Best,
Ron


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Emily Care on May 21, 2004, 06:47:18 AM
Quote from: Andrew Morris
Emily makes a good point here -- most of the commenters in these topics are men. That seems kinda funny to me, though it does tend to confirm my personal experiences. Can we get some more opinions on this topic from some Forge women?

Considering how large the male to female ratio is here, we've actually had decent representation of women(Claire and Dana, at least, spoke up).

Kris,

I'm curious about the title you've given to this thread. Are you implying that as long as the attribute differences do not make it sucky to play a female character (ie gender bias), that gender based diffrences can enhance play?

I think it's non-controversial to say that if it creates an effect that matches the creative aesthetic of the game, it may make sense to distinguish characters mechanically by gender.  Ron's post about comparing Mongrel with Eclipse was (IMO) an attempt to encourage people to talk about ways that had been done and the effects it would have on play, rather than using essentialist/nonessentialist arguments to bolster arguments that it should/should not be done at all.

There is disagreement, plain and simple about whether differences in males and females are inherent.  Using either side of this question in a debate about whether or not to mechanically represent gender difference is non-constructive.  If we set it aside, can we get to questions of real interest for designing games?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The issue is to recognize that game design and play might focus on their relative strengths, as perceived and believed by the author or role-players, and to use those features as central mechanics or other aspects of the role-playing experience.


Yes, please. Let it be discussed from this perspective.

Yrs,
Emily


Title: Shorter "gender difference..."
Post by: KingstonC on May 21, 2004, 02:37:21 PM
Given that a truly androgynous society is a utopian dream, men and women will always play different roles in society. Premises revolving around how we create an equitable society given this fact are very powerful. But often, when game designers try to create mechanics that facilitate the addressing of this premise, they are accused of sexism. These accusations are not accurate, and they silence discussion about a question that should be at the center of thinking about feminism.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: John Kim on May 21, 2004, 03:06:57 PM
Quote from: Ravien
  Ever heard of essentialism and constructivism? These are the core arguments for and against (repectively) the destruction of all gender biases in society. On one hand, people claim differences are real and are biological, which then carries over into social, and on the other hand people claim differences are social only, and thus they exist for no good reason. You may not think it's a controversy, but believe me, it is.  

Sigh.  Alright, let me clarify a bit on essentialism and constructionism.  An extreme essentialist position is that all observed differences between male and female populations are caused by genetics.  i.e. Men have a higher suicide rate in American society, therefore men are genetically predisposed towards suicide.  i.e. Society has no effect.  The extreme constructionist position is that all observed differences (aside from genitalia) are cause by social conditioning.  

Both of these are clearly wrong.  Extreme essentialism is demonstrably wrong: i.e. if you go to Saudi Arabia, say, and repeat the same tests that you do in Canada, then you will get different results.  Extreme constructionism is equally false.  Everyone of repute in science is agreed that there are genetic differences between men and women beyond genitalia.  

However, you will still find people arguing over details and degrees.  For example, some people point to things like this strength study that Ben cited, and suggesting that it proves an essentialist genetic position.  But the study just took 8 men and 8 women and looked at the differences between them.  It doesn't prove anything about nature vs nurture.  

What makes this a feminist issue is that for the past century, people have used the essentialist position to say that there was no need for social change.  i.e. When women didn't advance in universities as far as men, the essentialists of the past would say that this is because women genetically tend to be tempermentally unsuited for it, or somesuch.  Now, at some point the essentialists may be right, but because of this pattern I don't trust it.  

To bring this back to RPGs, the suggestion that gender be reflected in attribute modifiers implies an essentialist vision.  The constructionist alternative would be to have gender-differentiated classes or packages (i.e. have separate classes for Nobleman and Noblewoman, for example, to reflect that they are raised differently).  Now, it is possible to mix both of these, of course -- but doing so isn't neutral, but rather represents a particular stance on the scale of essence vs construction.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 21, 2004, 05:45:47 PM
Quote
I'm curious about the title you've given to this thread. Are you implying that as long as the attribute differences do not make it sucky to play a female character (ie gender bias), that gender based diffrences can enhance play?


Yes. That is precisely what I am implying. Insofar as I have seen, gender-based character creation standards have, typically, placed women in an inferior position. And, I feel, this is one of the key reasons we're having this debate.

Quote
... the suggestion that gender be reflected in attribute modifiers implies an essentialist vision. The constructionist alternative would be to have gender-differentiated classes or packages (i.e. have separate classes for Nobleman and Noblewoman, for example, to reflect that they are raised differently). Now, it is possible to mix both of these, of course...


I think, as yet, this is the most inspiring thing I've seen on this topic. A system in which the attribute modifiers are different (without disparity) based on gender, and in which gender determines aspects of one's character character class. More impressive would be a collection of Lifepath-esque character history notes that are based on both gender and culture. After all, a woman born and raised in Afganistan is going to have had completley different past experiences than a man in the United States; exploiting the differences in cultural reactions to gender could be just as interesting as exploring the percieved inherent differences between the sexes.

The purpose for this would be, of course, to establish a much more fluid, culture-based setting than we have seen previously, especially in fantasy games, where culture tends to be so lacking. How a society of female-dominated orcish warlords would percieve strong fighting men could be an integral and interesting aspect to a game. How a society of male-dominated, socialist humans would percieve strong fighting women would also be interesting, adding, in my experience, a whole new level to the game.

I will do much thinking on this...

Quote
Kris, are you familiar with any of these?


I've occasionally flipped through Orkworld, but have not yet had the chance to give it a full read-through. Saddly, I live far, far away from the nearest game store, so my opportunities to go through a book at length tend to be rather limited. HeroQuest is another I've flipped through, but not read. I am afraid I've not heard of, nor seen your work, Ron, though I would certainly be interested in reading how you tackled the issue.

Another point I would like to bring up is this: while combat may be an important factor in the game, and many of the attribute adjustments that would be made to reflect the differing prowesses of the two genders would indeed affect combat, comparing men and women with combat as the measure would be like comparing apples and oranges using a sledgehammer.

Quote
In a very detailed game that tried to model reality as thoroughly as possible, I think gender differences make sense. In pretty much any other type of game, I don't think they add anything, unless gender differences are the focus of the game.


Gender differences aren't always a matter of reality or simulation. More often, the differences tend to be emotional. The point, to me, is that if you can make it possible for each gender to exploit its strengths, you make the playing of an individual of that gender more engrossing, more endearing, and you are more likely to empathize with that character. If you ingrain those equitable but indeniably different stances straight from character creation, the gender differences may never become the focus of the game, but they would at least be noticably present. You plant the seed for conflicts along gender lines. You make a true "Battle of the Sexes" all the more likely, as you have common lines upon which to draw. Hell, if you really wanted to, you could base an entire sub-plot on a Person vs. Self conflict based on gender strengths.

This post has become entirely too long. I am now, officially, rambling.

Kris
"Bringing the Battle of the Sexes to an even playing field."


Title: Re: Shorter "gender difference..."
Post by: M. J. Young on May 21, 2004, 07:23:14 PM
Quote from: KingstonC
Given that a truly androgynous society is a utopian dream, men and women will always play different roles in society. Premises revolving around how we create an equitable society given this fact are very powerful.

This is a really great idea for a game. Unfortunately, I think it's doomed to failure.

The problem is not that we don't agree that men and women are different, or that they will always have slightly different roles in society because of those differences. It's that we aren't going to agree in the century ahead as to what those differences are.

The premises that would be raised in such a game really go to the heart of just how different men and women are; but given character generation that incorporates gender construction rules, those differences are not really at issue--we know exactly how different they are, and in what ways, because the character generation mechanics tell us.

I'd really like to hear an idea of how to get out of this dilemma, because I think such a game would have tremendous potential, but I don't see how it can be developed.

--M. J. Young


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Callan S. on May 21, 2004, 08:53:24 PM
It'd be interesting for a game to have a list of gender effects, but with no gender associated with each one. Then each player chooses two effects and says ones for male characters and ones for females (or they can even decline the option if they feel none of the effects represents one gender to them). Once you've gone through all the players (I wonder if it'd be good for the GM to choose two as well?), that's it (unless you want a set amount of effects in play which isn't dependent on player numbers).

I think it'd be interesting as gender has various interesting and powerful effects in sentient societies (and even non sentient). As such, its a subtle but very powerful authorship tool put into players hands. It's also sort of intimate, between what one does know about ones own gender (indeed, do you really know?) and what you believe about the other gender.

Might even be a cool party game, somehow, if its presented in a light way.

Sadly, Ron already hinted at an idea like this in his post and beat me too it. But I thought I'd eat bandwidth anyway.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 22, 2004, 05:25:53 AM
I'm going to go back to one of my previous suggestions and say "Use a scale." Or "Use a few scales." Using a variable scale with the polar ends being Masculine and Feminine would work, allowing you to look at how each character fits along those that scale, and it takes the controversy of having male and female attributes out of the equation. Also having a small group of scales, one for masculine, one for feminine and one for anything else you can think of, in which the middle of the scale defines neuter and the ends of the scale represent different extremes of a mixture of gender-related qualities. I would suggest a grid to give a more even representation of how it could be done (the left would be masculine, the right feminine, the top physical, the bottom emotional), but it would be near impossible to fit on a nice-looking character sheet. ^__^

Just some random thoughts first thing in the morning.

SlurpeeMoney
"I wish I was a neuter. Then I would say 'My alignment is Neuteral.'"


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Jonathan Walton on May 22, 2004, 08:59:07 AM
Okay, so I have a whole ton of strong concerns about this thread, but I'll just focus on the major ones:

John's right that you're dealing with essentially the "nature vs. nurture" issue here, as it applies to biological gender, social gender roles, and, at some point or another, sexuality (which is, itself, a wacky combination of biological impulses and social conditioning).

Here's the problem, if you're after that mythical thing called "accuracy" or "realism":

Biology isn't just a male/female thing.  If you're going to go that route, you might want to think about the huge variation in the biological makeup of all the men or all the women you know.  Some people are built like tanks, some people like twigs.  Some people are really tall; some people are really short.  Some people have a much easier time gaining (or losing) mass (muscle, fat, etc.).  Frex: my ex-girlfriend is built like a wrestler.  She has more muscle in her right arm than is in my entire body, and this is largely due to her body type (subclass: tank) and mine (subclass: twig).  She also used to be a hardcore rock-climber, so that helps some too.  However, the kinds of systems you're talking about would probably give me a strength bonus, because I'm a guy.  That's ridiculous.  None of the men in my family (at least on my dad's side) deserve a strength bonus.  We deserve "Walton genes: STR -2."  

So all these arguments that "guys and girls are different in X way" are baloney.  In roleplaying, at least at the level of individual character creation, generalizations about biological gender don't matter because they don't apply to individuals, just to massive groups of people.  If I were making my ex-girlfriend and myself in some sort of generic atttribute-based system, she would get the biological bonus for strength and endurance and I would get the penalty, based on our individual body types, not gender at all.  If you're talking about individuals, do something that's based on individuals work.  If you're talking about groups, do something that's based on how groups work.

I have more concerns, but that's a start.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Halzebier on May 22, 2004, 10:30:48 AM
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
In roleplaying, at least at the level of individual character creation, generalizations about biological gender don't matter because they don't apply to individuals, just to massive groups of people.  If I were making my ex-girlfriend and myself in some sort of generic atttribute-based system, she would get the biological bonus for strength and endurance and I would get the penalty, based on our individual body types, not gender at all.  


I don't feel up to fully addressing your point, but consider random character generation for a second.

Let's say men get Str=3d6+1 and women 3d6. If I roll low for a male character, I'll explain that he has a weak physique, possibly due to malnourishment, possibly due to individual genetic predisposition.

Would you consider this problematic?

Regards,

Hal


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: wicked_knight on May 22, 2004, 02:58:17 PM
I'm kinda amused.

Why is it, that within the conversation of gender mechanics, there seems to be a tendency to assume that the result of the mechanics will always favor the male? I don't think anyone actually suggested this but the arguments for and against both seem to make this assumption.

Maybe because it's the type of game that is usually played. (the go out and kill something game) Maybe it's the overuse of the word reality... we're trying to hard to justify everything against a percieved notion of whats "real" which is way to subjective. Anyway reality really doesn't have a lot to do with anything... I prefer my games to be fantasy games.

So if i was going to do this. I would create a world where all  the men were brutish, warlike, and not all that smart. The woman were bright, social, and dexterous. To make it interesting I wouldn't bother about the characteristics. I would make the differences apparent in the skills that one is able to learn. Very easy for women to learn things like reading, crafting, bartering, thieving and of course magic.. Since it's my world all women are taught at the age of thirteen a spell to make men do their bidding.  The men would find it easy to learn husbandry, smithing, riding, and of course all the slashing, bashing, male bonding stuff.

Now it wouldn't be impossible for one to learn the others skills... it would just be easier for them to do certain things. This would make for an interesting dynamic in the role playing. Especially if you have a male character that goes against the grain and does something radical in the world.. like learning how to read.

just some thoughts


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 24, 2004, 01:05:18 AM
Quote from: Halzebier

Let's say men get Str=3d6+1 and women 3d6. If I roll low for a male character, I'll explain that he has a weak physique, possibly due to malnourishment, possibly due to individual genetic predisposition.

Would you consider this problematic?


I would not particularly.  But this then just raises that same old question: if you are going to post-facto rationalise the die roll, then why have the modifier at all?  Why would it not work to just roll 3d6 regardless, and reationalise the results for every character?  Then if you got a women with 18 strength you could rationalise it as magic or steroids, say.

Quote
Why is it, that within the conversation of gender mechanics, there seems to be a tendency to assume that the result of the mechanics will always favor the male?


a) because they generally do
b) because thats the historical pattern of this sort of discrimination


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Rob Carriere on May 24, 2004, 02:28:11 AM
Quote from: Halzebier
Let's say men get Str=3d6+1 and women 3d6. If I roll low for a male character, I'll explain that he has a weak physique, possibly due to malnourishment, possibly due to individual genetic predisposition.

Would you consider this problematic?
I would. Not because of your fine rationalization, but because of the +1. I've seen people bandy about scientific studies pointing to factors of 2 (average) to 4 (upper limit) difference in strength between males and females, and this gets modeled as a +1?!

If the game is going to address gender differences, there better be in-your-face differences, or they'll just get house-ruled under the carpet and all the effort will have been in vain.

I would also avoid a statistics-related approach. I think a statistical approach is going to inevitably raise the whole bugaboo about what averages do and do not say about individuals and you're going to be spending your energy teaching Stat 101 instead of explaining your cool game. As the movie quote goes, if you're gonna shoot, shoot, don't talk. Don't just twiddle a dial somewhere, set up the whole system so that play cannot get around the gender differences.

Finally, integrate the whole mess into the setting. See, for example, Valamir's wonderful interpretation of Mongrel here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11126).

SR
--


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 24, 2004, 04:07:54 AM
Quote
I would also avoid a statistics-related approach. I think a statistical approach is going to inevitably raise the whole bugaboo about what averages do and do not say about individuals and you're going to be spending your energy teaching Stat 101 instead of explaining your cool game. As the movie quote goes, if you're gonna shoot, shoot, don't talk. Don't just twiddle a dial somewhere, set up the whole system so that play cannot get around the gender differences.

This is half a great point, and half not. The half that is good is the "set up the whole system so that play cannot get around the gender differences" part. The part that isn't is the "avoid a statistics-related approach". This is mainly for two reasons. Number 1, is that statistics is largely how characters are defined in many games. If your character sheet is a bunch of statistics, then it makes sense to make gender influence these. In fact, if you didn't, then you wouldn't be fulfilling your point. Number 2 is that statistics are pretty much the only way to compare any two (or more) things. We can add qualitative layers on top as much as we want, but saying "object X is different in aspect A to object Y" is in all ways a statistic.

Now, that that point is out of the way, I think this thread is really going all over the place. So I'll try to deal with Kris's latest point.
Quote
I'm going to go back to one of my previous suggestions and say "Use a scale." Or "Use a few scales." Using a variable scale with the polar ends being Masculine and Feminine would work, allowing you to look at how each character fits along those that scale, and it takes the controversy of having male and female attributes out of the equation.

Hmmm. I'm curious about how you are seeing this scale thing, and how it might work in-game. For example, since everyone loves strength so much (probably because it is the simplest to give examples for), let's say I have a character with Strength (Feminine)=+5, and you have a character with Strength (Masculine)+=5. What would be the difference? How would you work it? Why the hell would you need the masculine/feminine labels there if they serve no purpose?

Now let's pretend that your scale will be a -/+ scale, so that on the strength attribute, maybe feminine is the negative side and masculine is the positive side. This may solve the mathematical problems and actually be able to differentiate between them, but it is making an incredibly strong statement about strong women, ie: claiming that they are masculine. The reverse is also true of weak men. I don't think this gets us any closer to avoiding controversy. In fact, I think it makes any controversy that much more obvious.

But in the end, all you are doing is labelling gender modifiers with "masculine" and "feminine", and that really doesn't do much to disguise the fact that at it's core, the mechanics are based on gender modifiers, which we have already repeatedly established as "a Bad Thing".

Also, your suggestion of the "grid" with two axes: "masculine/feminine" and "emotional/physical" really would prevent alot of valid character concepts. For example, you could never have a big strong and caring emotional person (like Perrin from the WoT).

Quote
Insofar as I have seen, gender-based character creation standards have, typically, placed women in an inferior position. And, I feel, this is one of the key reasons we're having this debate.

On this point I would disagree. I think the key reason any debate exists is not so much an issue of inferiority, but more an issue of difference. See, it is nigh impossible to say "different" without 500 people interpreting one side of the difference as superior and the other side as inferior. If I say "Lamborghinis are different to Ferraris", people who love Lamborghinis might think that the difference reflects well for Lamborghinis and poorly for Ferraris (or vice versa, depending on what they see as the "norm" view). People do this shit all the time with all sorts of junk, from breakfast cereals to tv shows, from clothes labels to music. So you can imagine why gender, a thing which is far more salient and impermeable than what you eat for breakfast, can get so many people so worked up. As I think was shown rather clearly with what I tried to do with Eclipse, and as a few people noted explicitly, it makes no difference if gender modifiers are perfectly balanced and social class is taken into consideration as well, because the fact remains that there is a difference, and that difference is subject to value judgements. This is where the problem lies, in the subjective and irrational nature of emotional reactions, not in the objective in-game measure of gender.

-Ben


Title: Re: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: wicked_knight on May 24, 2004, 07:25:15 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
First and foremost, it would have to exist primarilly in random character creation systems. This would be to, occasionally, break the stereotypes. After all, as one girl so vehemently pointed out, she is good at math and science, the traditional realm of "male thought." There are guys who are young and pretty and completley helpless in the real world that make great characters just as surely as there are girls who are big and tough and don't shy away from a good fight. Literary examples would be Jaqueline Carey's Alcuin (Kushiel's Dart) and Robert Jordan's Bridgitte (The Wheel of Time), respectively.


I believe that making gender a dynamic of the character is an interesting concept and based on the setting and play of the game, worthy of being included. However as obviously noted, people seem to have an issue when it comes to applying modifiers especially to character creation.

So my question is, is there another way?

There's an unlimited number of ways to create characters and worlds. Why don't we come up with suggestions on HOW to incorporate gender instead of just naysaying and saying it won't work.

Kris has asserted that the differences need to be in a random character creation system during the assignment of attributes.  I'm going to disagree.

Here are some of my alternatives:

1) Different character creation system based on inclinations. Before assigning attributes roll on a table for inclinations that this character will have.. are they warlike, caring, paternal, social, destructive, artistics etc..
have a seperate table based on gender.. all the same inclinations just different chances of getting them. Hence if your a guy your more likely to have an inclination to destroy things then to socialize.  Then allow the person to determine the level of their stats. The inclinations will effect you during game play.. if you perform an action against your inclination you will suffer a penalty, if you perform an action in line with your inclination you will get a bonus.  But in no way are you restricted in what you want to become.

2) Skill assignment: different genders can do different things better then others.  Stat creation stays the way you like it. It just easier for one gender to do a particular skill then the other. However in isolation this concept isn't that effective.. it needs to be incorporated into  a world view that supports the differences.

3) Change the world.  Make it a compelling reason that one should play a specific gender. Since this is a male dominated game I would suggest reversing stereo types. Make the women the warriors, make the men the stay at home healers.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 24, 2004, 11:41:36 AM
The system of "Inclinations" sounds an awful lot like R. Talsorian's Lifepaths, which I suppose would be one of the easiest ways to incorporate gender differences in-game, as the variety of options available in Lifepaths allow both the game designer and the players a change to create systems and characters in ways that best suit their perceived notions of gender difference.

Changing the world, however, to me seems all the more interesting. In the Wheel of Time role-playing game, it makes more sense to be a female channeler than a male channeler, speaking solely from the point of safety. So far as I've been a player, it is the only game I've seen that makes the decision to be male or female an important part of character creation, based almost entirely on the needs of the setting rather than percieved differences in gender. Saddly, though, I felt that the Wheel of Time deserved even more attention to gender differences, given Robert Jordan's tyrranical and impassable gap between men and women in the fiction.

The point of my scale has less to do with attributes and more to do with personality, culture and perception. I personally tend to "think like a girl." I am much more strongly suited to the studies of English and History than to Mathematics and Science, and there are aspects of my emotional makeup that are distinctively female. On the personality scale of Masculine-Feminine, I would lean towards the feminine. The far feminine would be the stereotypical girly-girl (which nearly no one is at), and the opposite end would be a manly-man (which, again, nearly no one is at). Most folks sit somewhere in the middle.

It could also work with physique, though. I weight in at 220 lbs, mostly work-muscle and gut. I have broad shoulders, big arms and a torso as thick as a tree. I have a very distinctively male physique, and would therefore lean very heavily on the male side of the scale. My chest is nowhere near as developed as I would like, though, so I would not be on the body-builder/weight-lifter end of the male physique scale.

It has flaws (rather large gaping ones), but it is an idea.

Setting up the whole system so that one cannot get around the differences in gender is a great idea. Personally, though, I think it is more appropriate to build the setting around the gender differences than the system. People will build house rules to circumvent them, or simply not use the system. If the setting reinforces the system's assumptions of gender-differences, however, even a change of system would mean adjustments would have to be made in order to accomodate those gender differences.

Avoiding statistics is, saddly, impossible; character sheets are just a pile of statistics jumbled together with some rules to make those statistics playable in-game. We make assumptions on race based on statistics (orcs big and strong, humans average, blah blah), so it only follows that gender differences follow the same suit. This is not to say that we look only at real-life statistics; those are too finite for the games I want to play. If everything in a game were realistic, I'd not play them. I'd not have to. I could simply go out and adventure myself. I have all the neccessessary attributes. The statistics tell me so. I prefer to play where the statistics are more internally consistent than externally.

Were the grid truly feasable (and I don't think it is, but I'll talk about it anyway), it couldn't have just one dot to make it work. There would have to be a few points, each representing an attribute. On top of that, I think the grid would need to have more than four quadrents in order to cover the whole of our attributes. Intellectual, Social, Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, would all need to be adressed, in most cases broken down into seperate attributes defining aspects related to the broader categories, as well as gridded masculine to feminine. It's all a matter of degrees and grey areas, and a grid could help define those grey areas into game-friendly statistics. It would, however, be entirely too complicated for any game I would ever play...

More Random Thoughts,
SlurpeeMoney
"Gender (Circle One): Male  |   Female  |   Mongoose"


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: wicked_knight on May 24, 2004, 03:14:45 PM
Theres a lot to reply to but I'll just hit some key points right now

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Setting up the whole system so that one cannot get around the differences in gender is a great idea. Personally, though, I think it is more appropriate to build the setting around the gender differences than the system. People will build house rules to circumvent them, or simply not use the system. If the setting reinforces the system's assumptions of gender-differences, however, even a change of system would mean adjustments would have to be made in order to accomodate those gender differences.


I'm a form=function, system=play type of person. If you are making the decision to implement gender differentation in the character generation the setting better support it. But thats true with all aspects. I would even say that one of the problems with accepting gender differences is that the settings don't make a good enough case to do it. But you can't make someone use your system. If people are going out and modifying your rules.. then theres probably a good reason for it. Like the rules aren't good.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Avoiding statistics is, saddly, impossible; character sheets are just a pile of statistics jumbled together with some rules to make those statistics playable in-game. We make assumptions on race based on statistics (orcs big and strong, humans average, blah blah), so it only follows that gender differences follow the same suit...


No, No, nope, a thousand times no. Rolling dice for character generation is an artificial construct to create balance when the systems own rules are percieved not to support it.   The term "race" is also used inappropriately here. The differences between the different pc creatures is large enough that to scale in gender differences would almost make them a mute point. To say that gender differences should follow along because of differences between orc and man (per your example) holds no logic or reasoning.

Not that I don't support gender differentation, but not on those grounds.

So to restate. I agree with you on principle. but not on the specifics. I feel the setting needs to adequately support gender diversity before we can make it a factor. I also believe the system needs to be balanced enough to support those differences.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 24, 2004, 09:54:53 PM
The differences between humans and orcs (perhaps they're species? I've never bothered to consider it.) may be much more distinct than the differences between men and women, but consider it hyberbole. The differences may not be as distinct, but there is certainly room to compare. If an orc is entirely different from a man, and a woman is less different, but still different, than a man, they are still both different from a man. If one deserves its own set of modifiers in the determination of its attributes, to me, it stands to reason that the other does as well. It is a question, I suppose, of degree. How different something is from the established norm determines the neccessity of seperate modifiers.

On that note, it would make sense to me that most species/races/phili would require their own sets of attributes for both the male and female genders, which could lead to some interesting opportunities in play. What if dwarves got no such differences? It's been stipulated in many a game that female dwarves and male dwarves are much alike, right down to the hair on their chins; you could express that quite well by expressly not seperating them. I can only imagine what an orc female would be like (personally, I like the idea that an orc woman could kick her husbands' asses). What about creatures that are truly sexually dimorphic? There have to be a few of them.

Again, random thoughts when I should be asleep.
SlurpeeMoney
"I'm sexually dimorphic."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 25, 2004, 12:16:59 AM
Quote
But in the end, all you are doing is labelling gender modifiers with "masculine" and "feminine", and that really doesn't do much to disguise the fact that at it's core, the mechanics are based on gender modifiers, which we have already repeatedly established as "a Bad Thing".


No, we have not.  We have established that they are unecessary most of the time, and like any other rule, only used when a specific effect is intended.

Quote
Number 2 is that statistics are pretty much the only way to compare any two (or more) things. We can add qualitative layers on top as much as we want, but saying "object X is different in aspect A to object Y" is in all ways a statistic.


Why do you WANT to compare the two?  Once you identify the underlying reason, you may be able to come up with alternative methods.

Quote
This may solve the mathematical problems and actually be able to differentiate between them, but it is making an incredibly strong statement about strong women, ie: claiming that they are masculine. The reverse is also true of weak men. I don't think this gets us any closer to avoiding controversy. In fact, I think it makes any controversy that much more obvious.


No not really.  Examining or discussing the differing quantities of oestrogen and testosterone in a particular system seems to me more reasonable than a blanket modifier.

SlurpeeMoney wrote:
Quote
On that note, it would make sense to me that most species/races/phili would require their own sets of attributes for both the male and female genders, which could lead to some interesting opportunities in play. What if dwarves got no such differences? It's been stipulated in many a game that female dwarves and male dwarves are much alike, right down to the hair on their chins; you could express that quite well by expressly not seperating them.


Now that seems to me a legitimate topic to explore systematically.  Yes, if that is the particular point or issue you wish a game to address - and it seems interesting to me - that would be a perfectly apporpriate way of doing it.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 25, 2004, 04:08:07 AM
Quote
Why do you WANT to compare the two? Once you identify the underlying reason, you may be able to come up with alternative methods.

This makes absolutely no sense at all. So if I examine the REAL underlying reasons why I want to compare froot loops to corn flakes, then somehow that realisation of my motives will magically open up non-statistical methods of comparison?

It is human nature to explore and learn. This is a good thing. We explore differences because they exist, not because we have some vested interest in them. Indeed, we cannot have a vested interest in anything that we cannot acknowledge because we haven't yet explored it. The very fact that a difference exists between comparable things warrants investigation into those differences. This is how we advance in science. No amount of internal analysis of our motives will ever help us understand differences better, because the differences do not exist in our internal motives. This is the fundamental reason why ad hominem is a fallacious argument, ie: because our internal states do not represent or reflect objective external reality.

Quote
No not really. Examining or discussing the differing quantities of oestrogen and testosterone in a particular system seems to me more reasonable than a blanket modifier.

Sure why not. But that's not what a masculing/feminine scale is doing is it. It is merely applying those labels to different ends of a spectrum for an abstract attribute like strength. It says that a female character cannot become strogner without compromising her femininity and becoming more masculine. It is saying, very clearly, that being strong is being like a man. A "blanket modifier" only says that males are more likely to be stronger. There is a very clear difference in what these things say and how they say it. A female character can escape a blanket modifier for strength and become stronger without having her femininity questioned. This is impossible on a scale such as Kris mentioned.

Quote
Now that seems to me a legitimate topic to explore systematically. Yes, if that is the particular point or issue you wish a game to address - and it seems interesting to me - that would be a perfectly apporpriate way of doing it.

I personally find this amusing. See, if one were to take any system that does not differentiate between the genders, then performed the sort of analysis that Ralph (Valimir) performed on Mongrel, one would determine that in the settings for these games, males and females were identical except for those gender labels and genitalia. In other words, what you describe as "perfectly legitimate" is exactly what most games do already. The funny part is that doing otherwise, by making gender important, is somehow less legitimate, despite your ascertions in many of your posts that you agree the genders are different.

Having a species with no gender differences only becomes an interesting play oppurtunity when other races/species have gender differences. Otherwise it is the norm, and thus not really adressable in play. Don't believe me? Look at AD&D and tell me how it allows gender to be addressed in play. I tried this with Eclipse, by having two of my species ignore gender modifiers. It made no difference to people's perceptions of the races that did have gender differences.

But my own opinion on making both genders the same in a given race is that doing so makes a strong statement about gender conformity. In your dwarves example, I would argue that the "female" dwarves are no such thing... they are males with breasts and vaginas. That does not sit well with me, and I would be offended that males were the "default". Likewise, I would be offended if a race made all males into females. Doing so does not abolish gender differences, it merely scoops one gender under the carpet of the other. To abolish gender differences you really need to create a race that is truly androgynous, either having no identifiable gender traits or having all identifiable gender traits. Both of these would be hard to accomplish, with the former risking being entirely boring to play and the later threatening to be almost impossible to play.

Similarly, doing such superficial things as saying "all males are really very feminine and all females are very masculine" insults my intelligence. It does not challenge my perceptions of gender differences, it only highlights them by giving them the opposite label. You don't challenge a person by telling them that a red car is actually blue, and a blue car is actually red, you only annoy them, and highlight just how red that "blue" car looks.

In short, I've yet to see any good suggestions for how to address gender in RPGs without pissing people off. We all seem to be (emphasis on "seem") in agreement that gender issues can provide interesting avenues of play, and can be addressed in non-offensive ways, but I've yet to see any suggestions of exactly how to do this successfully. It's like we like the idea, but not the implementation. I could be wrong about what "we" like, but then again, I'm only going from what has been posted, so I apologise if I am grossly misrepresenting "us".

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 25, 2004, 04:49:07 AM
Quote from: Ravien

This makes absolutely no sense at all. So if I examine the REAL underlying reasons why I want to compare froot loops to corn flakes, then somehow that realisation of my motives will magically open up non-statistical methods of comparison?


Umm, surely you kust realise that a comparison of fruitloops and cornflakes is essentially meaningless and valueless unless you intend to demonstrate some point or draw some conclusion.  So my point is: worry less about the methodology of the analysis, and explore again the question you are trying to address; maybe this method is not the optimum for your goals.

Quote

The very fact that a difference exists between comparable things warrants investigation into those differences.


Sure I can buy that.  I'm just not sure what it has to do with RPG; RPG is entertainment, not science.  Just becuase it warrants investigation in abstract does not imply that that investigation must happen at my gaming table.

Quote
It says that a female character cannot become strogner without compromising her femininity and becoming more masculine.


I'm afraid this makes no sense: sex is a fucntion of body chemistry, how can said chemistry 'compromise' one of its own manifestations?

I read recently that people in love behave more like the other sex than usually; men generate greater quantities of oestrogen, women greater quantities of testosterone; in both cases this is accompanied by a "criticism suppression" effect.  Does this imply being in love 'compromises' a persons gender?  I suggest that makes no sense at all.

Quote

There is a very clear difference in what these things say and how they say it. A female character can escape a blanket modifier for strength and become stronger without having her femininity questioned.


If its a modifier, I can't see how they escape it at all.

Quote

I personally find this amusing. See, if one were to take any system that does not differentiate between the genders, then performed the sort of analysis that Ralph (Valimir) performed on Mongrel, one would determine that in the settings for these games, males and females were identical except for those gender labels and genitalia.


But would you?  You see, it seems to me that the error you make is presuming the system is going to describe 'everyone in the world', that it is a normative statement about a fictional place and the people that inhabit it.  But it does not have to be that way at all.  Seventh Sea, along with a cluster of other games, specifically downgrades most NPC's in terms of systematic effectiveness by comparison to the PC's.  The system has no pretensions of being prescriptive.  Gender differences are essentially social in Seventh Sea... but it would be absurd to conclude that because there are no systematic differences in the 7th Sea mechanics, that a survey of inhabitants would find the same degree of musculature in men and women.  There simply is no reason to expect that, and likewise with mongrel: you are attributing a function to the system that does not exist.

Quote
The funny part is that doing otherwise, by making gender important, is somehow less legitimate, despite your ascertions in many of your posts that you agree the genders are different.


You will recall that in PM's I proposed several different approaches using harsh differentiation; such as giving female characters a Beauty stat and not giving an equivelent stat to men at all.  This would be a particular decision for a particular effect, rather than a claim to "realism".  So I contradict your claim; I have repeatedly supported the idea that gender can indeed be important, and an appropriate subject for play, if appropriately addressed.

Quote

Having a species with no gender differences only becomes an interesting play oppurtunity when other races/species have gender differences.


Yes; I was actually more interested in the "having two sets of attributes for each species" part.  That could potentially be a way to do something interesting.

Quote

But my own opinion on making both genders the same in a given race is that doing so makes a strong statement about gender conformity. In your dwarves example, I would argue that the "female" dwarves are no such thing... they are males with breasts and vaginas.


What is it that constitutes maleness and femaleness then?

Quote

In short, I've yet to see any good suggestions for how to address gender in RPGs without pissing people off.


Well go back to the first question: what is it about gender differences that you want to say?  Why go to the trouble of "addressing" this issue if you have no point to make?  If you do have a point, what is it?

Quote

 We all seem to be (emphasis on "seem") in agreement that gender issues can provide interesting avenues of play, and can be addressed in non-offensive ways, but I've yet to see any suggestions of exactly how to do this successfully.


I note you have not responded to my suggestion that if 3d6+1 can be rationalised, 3d6 can also be rationalised.  What is it that you find unsatisfactory about this proposition?


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: iambenlehman on May 25, 2004, 05:02:09 AM
Quote from: Ravien
Quote
Why do you WANT to compare the two? Once you identify the underlying reason, you may be able to come up with alternative methods.

This makes absolutely no sense at all. So if I examine the REAL underlying reasons why I want to compare froot loops to corn flakes, then somehow that realisation of my motives will magically open up non-statistical methods of comparison?

It is human nature to explore and learn. This is a good thing. We explore differences because they exist, not because we have some vested interest in them. Indeed, we cannot have a vested interest in anything that we cannot acknowledge because we haven't yet explored it. The very fact that a difference exists between comparable things warrants investigation into those differences. This is how we advance in science. No amount of internal analysis of our motives will ever help us understand differences better, because the differences do not exist in our internal motives. This is the fundamental reason why ad hominem is a fallacious argument, ie: because our internal states do not represent or reflect objective external reality.


BL>  I think that, while the quoted passage definitely overlooks some things, there is an important point that is going by the wayside here.
  This is a game design forum, and I'm going to advance the humble suggestion that we are all game designers here.  Yes?
  The thing is, a game design is not, avidly, a scientific or statistical model of reality.  In saying that we are game designers, we are at the same time also saying that we are primarily game designers, and not actuaries or scientists.  If we were actuaries or scientists, we would take a very different approach to modelling and knowledge.
  Game design and, more importantly, the game play that it is intended to assist in, is primarily a form of creative work, as opposed to the analytical work of an actuary or the analytical/creative work of a scientist.  Do I have agreement on this one too?

  So saying that game *design* is, in any way, primarily about about exploring real, objective truth in an analytical sense is well, unclear on the conept of what a game is -- a tool to help in a creative endeavour.  As with any creative endeavour, game playing can, ultimately, only explore the internal worlds that we construct for ourselves, comparing and contrasting them, and arriving at a very different sort of truth than the objective one arrives at via years of hard data gathering and analysis.

To say that gender modifiers should be included in the game because they are realistic misses the point.  Relativistic effects of large energy are also realistic, as are the laws of thermodynamics, and they are regularly ignored by game designers -- with good reason.  They are not part of the creative agenda (in a loose sense, not GNS) that the game supports.

So, give women -50 strength and +10i beauty, and 555 lumens, every one.  It doesn't matter.  What matters, I would say, is how that interfaces with your creative goals in a significant way, and for that, you will need to look internally at why you are interested in comparing them.  Only after this can you understand what mechanics should be used.

I would suppose, with the caveat that I have no idea if this is true, that if you look at your goals, realize them in a significant way, and write mechanics that really reflect this and not any baggage carried in from "realism."  Your game will never be realistic, praise be to God.  Leave realism to actuaries and scientists.  But, if your willing to put the work in, it will be fun and worthwile to play.

yrs--
--Ben[/img]


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 25, 2004, 05:59:48 AM
Quote
I'm afraid this makes no sense: sex is a fucntion of body chemistry, how can said chemistry 'compromise' one of its own manifestations?

How can adding shades of black to white compromise the whiteness of the white? How can adding white to black compromise the blackness of the black? When you put femininity on a scale with masculinity, it's quite easy, really.

Quote
The system has no pretensions of being prescriptive. Gender differences are essentially social in Seventh Sea... but it would be absurd to conclude that because there are no systematic differences in the 7th Sea mechanics, that a survey of inhabitants would find the same degree of musculature in men and women. There simply is no reason to expect that, and likewise with mongrel: you are attributing a function to the system that does not exist.

I'm afraid you are misunderstanding the core point. It isn't that a survey of the inhabitants would/wouldn't reveal differences, it's that the mechanics themselves, when you take them as being rules for the setting, prescribe the differences therein. This is what Ralph did with Mongrel. He looked at the mechanics, and derived the setting from them. Ron had not provided the setting which Ralph was finding. There was no survey of inhabitants. Only a deduction of what the inhabitants would be like based on the rules of the world. This is the core of my meaning.

Quote
I note you have not responded to my suggestion that if 3d6+1 can be rationalised, 3d6 can also be rationalised. What is it that you find unsatisfactory about this proposition?

Really? I thought I had. See, 3d6 can be rationalised. It is all the time. But as I just mentioned, 3d6 makes a statement about the world. It says that whilst there are individual differences (according to the random factor), there are no gender-based differences. Sure, a female character in such a system may very well be typically feminine and a male character may very well be typically masculine, but this would be no more common than the reverse. As you love to remind me, the mechanics you choose to use make a definate statement. Why is the statement of "3d6" more satisfactory than the statement of "3d6+1".

Quote
Sure I can buy that. I'm just not sure what it has to do with RPG; RPG is entertainment, not science. Just becuase it warrants investigation in abstract does not imply that that investigation must happen at my gaming table.

Of course. But who said I care what happens at your gaming table? What I care about is why you care what happens at mine.

Sorry if I haven't addressed all of your points, I'm not ignoring them, nor am I unable to address them, but I am trying to adhere only to points which are relevant to RPGs and the design thereof.


Ben (I love the new screen name btw, made me chuckle).
Good point. So RPGs are a creative endeavour. This is true. So is art. But the fact that art is a creative endeavour does not prohibit artists from attempting to recreate reality as best they can. In fact, some of the greatest artists are those who have been able to do so very well. Of course, you also have artists who make fantastic works that are entirely abstract. But can anyone claim that abstract art is inherently "better" than realistic art? What I, as an artist myself, try to do, is to find the pieces of the subject that are most representative of the subject, and focus on them, and I find that doing so allows me to create drawings that sometimes seem more realistic than had I not highlighted those features. Sometimes it's the eyes, sometimes it's the pose, sometimes it's the lighting, more often than not it is many things. I approach games the same way. When I look at humanity, I ask myself "what is it about humanity that really helps define it?", and one of those things is gender (amongst many others). To me, leaving out gender is like not painting the arms on your subject. You might be able to make a statement like that, but it starts to look less human (which is sometimes exactly what you want).

So yes, a game is not an avid portrayal of reality. A drawing is not an avid portrayal of a person (or landscape or whatever). But the closer they resemble their respective subjects, the more we can identify with them. A drawing will never be 3d, and a statue will never move or talk. They aren't human, but they portray what we see as aspects of humanity. For me, gender is an important aspect of humanity. I don't care how it is portrayed, whether it be picasso or rembrandt, so long as it feels like gender (sorry for mixing metaphors mid-sentence, I'm sure you can see my point). But if you leave it out, then I'm left with a statement, and to me, that statement says "gender is irrelevant to humans". If you don't want gender, and you don't want that statement, don't use humans in your game. If you want humans, then IMHO, they need to feel like humans.

In summary, yes, I agree 100% that games are about creativity, and that "realism" should not get in the way of your creativity. But I differ in also believing that "realism" can be a perfectly legitimate approach to creativity. But your overall point seems perfectly true to me: that designing games is about achieving a creative goal in the best way you can. This is true of all forms of creative expression.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 25, 2004, 07:39:30 AM
Quote from: iambenlehman
So, give women -50 strength and +10i beauty, and 555 lumens, every one.  It doesn't matter.  What matters, I would say, is how that interfaces with your creative goals in a significant way, and for that, you will need to look internally at why you are interested in comparing them.  Only after this can you understand what mechanics should be used.


I agree, this is central. If you look at the vast variety of people (NPCs, I suppose) that you will see in a game setting, the game mechanics will usualy only create a small subset of that variety. Certainly this is true of most fantasy games such as D&D. There are vast numbers of people in a typical D&D game setting that can't be created as starting characters using the D&D character creation rules. Therefore the character creation ruels are there to create the characters our players are likely to want to play. The only population dynamic the character creation rules actual address is the population of beginning player characters.

Perhaps you do want to skew that population in certain ways, but in doing so you're making a concious decission - not about what is possible in the game world - but about what you want to allow to happen in the gaming group. It's quite possible in the game world for the strongest female figher the world has even seen to fall in with a bunch of middling-to-average men, so if that isn't possible in your character generation rules you're making an artistic judgement call that you're simply not interested in playing that situation out in your game. Or as a game designer, you're not interested in allowing your customers/audience to do so either, even if they want to.

RuneQuest 3 handled this explicitly. The rules stated that average females had a reduced Strength roll (but perhaps higher CON, i forget), but tha since player characters aren't necessrily average female PCs could have strength rolled the same as male characters.

Simon Hibbs


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Eric J. on May 25, 2004, 03:47:34 PM
Um... Maybe I've misread the last 3 pages but maybe I'm not even identifying the issue.

Are we instituting gender modifiers to make the setting more interesting?  Are we on some damned fool idealist crusade to simulate reality?

In the former, why can't we just change the rules for rolling up stats for the pleabs and get on with it (how many times has anyone ever used stats from 'average townspeople' except for hitpoints or something to see if they die from the raining fire or that aarow?  I mean, come on.

In the latter you should also insitute lots of other stuff.  Give men their +7 strength bonus and some special skills.  They get +10 to dirty politicians and when they have enough money they have to make resistance checks to make sure they don't go out and buy that sports car.  Let's give them a +20 into mathematics but they have make a non-absent minded check to put the seat down.  Then they both have special properties... Men know how to fix cars and women are always right.

I'm sorry, but instrumental philosophys versus Aristotilian have little to do with this.  What's the point in complicating the system like that?  If you want to make a system for it, do it.  Arguing generalities like this seems kindof pointless.

I'm just not seeing a viable reason.  If you give them gender modifiers you change character identity.  People might play a gender for the bonuses instead of having viable reasons.  That would seem to be the only implication because both genders could ulitmatelley be used for the same things.

This actually becomes an issue with things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I've never watched it or played it so I may be wrong).

I'm not sure what this thread is talking about at all.  If I have an issue I can try to do something here.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 25, 2004, 04:30:04 PM
<Taking a step back>

Again, the tone has reached one of an argumentative pitch, and that was one that I would have prefered to have avoided. In all of the previous threads on the topic of gender, there was argument (not discussion, or debate, argument, which carries with it a much more agressive tone). Saddly, I'm seeing that on this post as well. Let's all take a step back for a minute and look at what is being presented.

I'm not a great game designer. I come up with rules-tweaks on the fly to fit my game, and that's pretty well what I am doing here too. I'm comming up with stuff on the fly to address the issues that are being brought up. Some of them are pretty flawed. Others have, I believe, some merit. None of my tweaks have a very realistic feel to them; I'm not a very realistic gamer. Much more a dramatist, me.

This does not sit well with more realistic gamers/designers in the group, who are looking to differentiate male and female characters along lines that reflect the statistics without getting people's backs up. They are looking for a way to scientifically seperate the genders without having to worry about people thinking them sexist for that design choice, or finding a way to circumvent that assumption.

Saddly, I don't think you can. There are too many factors to take into consideration, and any time a person states an assumption about one of those factors, people are bound to get up-in-arms. And so far, here, they have. So perhaps it is time to put science and drama away and try to look at this from other angles.

Take a step back. Think. Breathe really slowly three times. Then come back to the computer and see if we can't find a way to tackle gender differentiation in an unbiased, strengths-rather-than-flaws, calm sort of way. We all play one of the world's only non-competitive group games. Let's try to get along. Saying "This makes no sense" and "That makes no sense" in this debate is as useful as saying "Let's make buscuits" in the middle of surgury. Let's try to make sense of it.

SlurpeeMoney
"The voice of Vodka."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 25, 2004, 04:31:28 PM


SlurpeeMoney
"Apparently Vodka isn't all..."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on May 25, 2004, 05:28:28 PM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
In all of the previous threads on the topic of
gender, there was argument (not discussion, or debate, argument, which
carries with it a much more agressive tone).

Well, I will tell you why I try hard to avoid this type of topic.  I try to avoid
it because of what you've seen happen here.

Believe it or not, the people on the Forge are far, far, far more polite and
open-minded than the posters in many other online gatherings.

In real life, I have a Ph.D. in gender : the social side, the biological side,
the literary side, the whole nine yards.  But I have found that almost any
topic which involves things which can not be definitively reduced to mere
mathematical quantifications usually devolves into personal opinion given
forth at great volume in most online gatherings.

(No one assumes that the location of the liver or the tensile strength of steel
can be discussed by way of only personal opinion, anecdotal experience, and
philosophical attitude, yet many people assume that gender, theme, ethics,
and other intangibles require neither training nor education, and they often
assume themselves to be without training the automatic equals of experts in
these fields while never making a similar presumption about experts in the
fields of medicine or metallurgy.  Oy.)

Actually, this particular topic hasn't had that much problems, so don't be
discouraged.  Just be aware that even those of us who have studied gender
rigorously find this topic to be a volatile one at best.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Eric J. on May 25, 2004, 05:54:04 PM
I'm not trying discount anything that's being said.  I'm not trying to be volitile towards anyone.  I'm just looking for a focus.

I'm aware that discussing the differences in male and female society averages can be controversial or irritating.

I'm just looking for a focus.  So far I haven't seen any of it as far as it has to do with game design.  We have "It would be interesting if we had a society that..." and "Males and females...<place study here>" and maybe how it could be related to play.  I think that we could make it more constructive if we made this topic more specific.

If you're making a <some type of game> what modifiers would be appropriate?  Are they appropriate?  Or... how would a mechanic like this appeal to an audience?

In my last post I explained my stance on the subject of simulating reality.  It's pointless on most levels.  It restricts player freedom.  People are fragile individuals.  Movies are unrealistic.  People don't act anything like they do in roleplaying games. At least not the ones I play.

Basically I'm saying that you have the huge potential to deprotagonise your players (the worst possible thing IMHO) with little benefit.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: John Kim on May 25, 2004, 07:39:39 PM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
  Again, the tone has reached one of an argumentative pitch, and that was one that I would have prefered to have avoided. In all of the previous threads on the topic of gender, there was argument (not discussion, or debate, argument, which carries with it a much more agressive tone). Saddly, I'm seeing that on this post as well.  

Actually, I think there has been some good discussion on the subject of gender.  For example, the thread on Feminist Game Design was a pretty good one, IMO.  It seems to me that the particular problem comes up in the case of discussing gender in the form of gender-based attribute modifiers.  I think the issue of essentialism vs constructionism is at the heart here, because it digs really deeply into how we think about gender.  

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
  Then come back to the computer and see if we can't find a way to tackle gender differentiation in an unbiased, strengths-rather-than-flaws, calm sort of way. We all play one of the world's only non-competitive group games. Let's try to get along. Saying "This makes no sense" and "That makes no sense" in this debate is as useful as saying "Let's make buscuits" in the middle of surgury. Let's try to make sense of it.  

If you think there is a way of picking your attribute modifiers that will smooth over objections, I don't think there is any such choice.  It is completely wrong to say that the objections are dismissed by making the genders mechanically "different but equal".  Giving females bonuses to beauty, agility, and intuition do not automatically make it acceptable -- regardless of how large those bonuses are.  The problem here is that by modifiers to presumed-inherent qualities, you are taking a specific stand on nature-vs-nurture -- and people have very different and very heart-felt beliefs regarding this.  For example, consider a game which gives blacks major bonuses to Strength and Dexterity but penalties to Intelligence and Charisma.  

The problem here is that the modifiers are being passed off as essential genetic qualities -- when many people regard them as being to a large degree socially-created or even simply false stereotypes.  

If you want non-controversial approaches to this, then you have to get rid of the implied nature-vs-nurture stance.  I suggested having gender-differentiated classes or skill packages.  For example, you could have a different class for Nobleman (i.e. knightly fighting skills, oratory, etc.) and Noblewoman (i.e. crafts, diplomacy, etc.).  Of course, there are many more possibilities -- but let's consider them rather than continually butting up against the issue of attribute modifiers, which I think have very clear reasons why they are controversial.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 25, 2004, 10:24:00 PM
I'm not sure if I'm seeing what you are saying John, but it looks to me like you are saying "let's forget this whole 'nature vs nurture' deal, and just accept that nurture is the way to go".

Doctor Xero wrote this over in that topic John linked to:
Quote
By focusing on social more than physical, it also neatly bypasses essentialist-vs-constructivist arguments over the origins of gender roles.

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]

See, the controversy only really exists in the nature side of things. Despite John's claims that extremist essentialists and constructionists are rare, I'm seeing a hell of a lot more extremist constructionists... in fact, I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.

My position? Some things are entirely socially constructed, some things are entirely genetically constructed, but the vast majority are a combination of both, and gender falls in here. Does my position matter? Not one iota.

So my question is, why do mechanics that hint at a nature side (even in the presence of a social side) encounter such strong opposition as this? Why don't purely social mechanics encounter any opposition? Why can't someone make a game that explores gender in a way they think is suitable without running into a wall of opposition? Game design is, as I think we all agree, an art. It is a form of creative expression. If someone makes a crappy painting, we can look at it and say "Gee, that's pretty crap", and that's all good. But can we look at a painting and decide that the artist should have chosen a different medium simply because we don't like guache? I think to do so is rather pretentious. Can we say "they should have chosen a different subject? Do we have any ground to stand on in a debate with them about what they choose to paint and how they choose to paint it?

If an artist paints a portrait and claims it to be realistic, the painting will be scrutinized for how closely it resembles reality. If they say "this is abstract", then the painting will be judged on purely aesthetic merits. Both of these are perfectly fine.

Which brings me back to something which I have said early, and which has been said by a few other people too: "make gender an issue in your game if you want, and if you claim the mechanics represent reality, be prepared to justifiy the claims, otherwise, just say 'it's only a game', and be prepared to tell critics to fuck off". Ok, so I elaborated a bit, sue me.

Quote
Actually, this particular topic hasn't had that much problems, so don't be discouraged. Just be aware that even those of us who have studied gender rigorously find this topic to be a volatile one at best.

Doctor Xero is right. Whilst a PhD does not an expert make, I would agree that Doctor Xero has expertise in the constructionist side of the gender debate, and it really is a shame that he chooses not to benefit us with his knowledge. I do not claim expertise in either side, but I am far from ignorant of the facts. Unfortunately, unlike metal or the location of one's liver, there is much contention between even PhDs about this issue, so consulting any single expert is not enough to form the basis of a solid conclusion.

Quote
Basically I'm saying that you have the huge potential to deprotagonise your players (the worst possible thing IMHO) with little benefit.

If implemented poorly, any mechanic can do this. Some mechanics do nothing but this (like the ability to die). However, in theory, this can be avoided by successfuly addressing what I originally outlined as The Problem. However, it seems that deprotagonization of characters takes a back seat to personal feelings when gender is introduced.

Quote
If you're making a <some type of game> what modifiers would be appropriate? Are they appropriate? Or... how would a mechanic like this appeal to an audience?

This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


But Kris, this is your topic, where do you want it to go? I don't believe that any focus on "strengths, not weaknesses" is possible at all, for reasons I have outlined previously and others John mentioned above. As I see it now, all that can be achieved from this impass is to decide to implement gender through every definition of your characters, risking controversy at every level, or to either avoid it completely or implement it in a solely constructivist way. This issue goes way beyond RPGs though, so despite how beautiful your works of art become, if they are portraying something that it's cool to hate, they will be burned.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 25, 2004, 11:41:26 PM
Quote from: Ravien

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]

This makes no sense; why should constructing a game mechanic on a particular basis NECESSARILY say something about reality or be taken as such?  If you constructed a SYSTEM on this basis, all you will have constructed is a system - why does this imply you necessarily had to adopt the constructionist position in order to do so?

Quote

I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.


So you keep saying, although you never seem able to identify these instances.

Quote

My position? Some things are entirely socially constructed, some things are entirely genetically constructed, but the vast majority are a combination of both, and gender falls in here. Does my position matter? Not one iota.


Then we agree, fundamentally, about the nature of reality.  What we are disagreeing about is game systems.

Quote

So my question is, why do mechanics that hint at a nature side (even in the presence of a social side) encounter such strong opposition as this?


Because I regard your mechanism as unrealistic, and there not for realism purposes but something else.

Quote

Why don't purely social mechanics encounter any opposition?


The nearest I can think of to a "purely social" mechanism would be HeroQuest... do you have an actual particular example you would like to present to us for analysis?

And, how do you know they encounter "no opposition"?

Quote

Why can't someone make a game that explores gender in a way they think is suitable without running into a wall of opposition?


I would contend that several people have.  Take a look at Nicotine Girls for a very specific example of focus.  This does not "explore differences", as it were, but that is only one topic among many to explore.

Quote
But can we look at a painting and decide that the artist should have chosen a different medium simply because we don't like guache? I think to do so is rather pretentious. Can we say "they should have chosen a different subject? Do we have any ground to stand on in a debate with them about what they choose to paint and how they choose to paint it?


Regardless of our opinions of Leni Reifenstahl as a person or a film-maker, she neverthless was a Nazi propagandist.  Her work, some argue, has not received the credit it deserves due to the surrounding politics.  Is that too surprising, though?

Art cannot become a stalking horse behind which bigotry and prejudice hide; so yes I am entitled to advance such criticisms.  Or more accurately, I can suggest a piece contains a political agenda without impugning its artistic virtues or the skill with which it was executed.

Quote

This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


Oh it is.  Thats why you have been repeatedly pressed to explain why you are particularly interested in this aspect of the world and in this particular way of representing it.  So far you have not chosen to explain this to us.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 25, 2004, 11:52:59 PM
I'd thought we'd gotten over talking about me Gareth, I suggest we stick to Kris' topic from now on, or the broader topic of RPGs in general. In case you haven't noticed, I am pointedly avoiding any comments made by you addressing me or my opinions specifically. That's what PM's are for.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Erling Rognli on May 26, 2004, 12:01:38 AM
Quote from: Ravien
See, the controversy only really exists in the nature side of things. Despite John's claims that extremist essentialists and constructionists are rare, I'm seeing a hell of a lot more extremist constructionists... in fact, I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.


(Slightly off topic, perhaps...)

I would think that many find the notion of socially constructed gender differences easier to accept than biological ones, because they believe that while you can liberate yourself from social conditioning, you are stuck with your biology. Personally, I disagree, believing that a certain level of liberation from both are possible. But to many people, socially based gender differences are far easier to accept within their views on the nature of humanity.

Erling


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Rob Carriere on May 26, 2004, 12:05:20 AM
From observing the recent threads about this topic, I would say that there are at least two higher-level issues that would have to be resolved before we have common ground to stand on and have a good conversation.

1. As John Kim has pointed out, there is the issue of essentialism vs constructionism and especially how someone's position on that issue can influence their perception of a game design. You could try to skirt the issue by modeling effects only and leaving the cause to the players' opinion, but, as has already been proven by demonstration, such a design could easily be misconstrued as supporting nurture over nature.

I think any game that wants to enter this arena will have a stand on this issue (If the game cannot afford a stand, a stand will be gleefully assigned to it by its audience.)

So, what take do we make here, and why? Several people have stated their real-world opinion, but the question I want to ask is, what position will we take for the purpose of designing a game? (Note that `My real-world stance, of course' is a perfectly valid answer, I just think it should be explicit.)

2. What design philosophy do we use? Are we attempting to simulate reality as well as we can (meanings of `reality', `well' and `as we can' to be defined!) or are we pursuing a specific kind of play (what kind?).

This is another point that has torqued the debate out of shape several times. It is impossible to intelligently discuss design aspects when you have fundamental disagreements about the design goals.


So, I think that rather than going around in circles re-stating our positions, we ought to decide, for the specific purpose of this thread, what answers we want to give to (1) and (2) above and then go from there. Kris, it's your thread. Am I making any sense, or am I full of it?

SR
--


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 26, 2004, 02:47:27 AM
Quote from: Ravien
I'd thought we'd gotten over talking about me Gareth, I suggest we stick to Kris' topic from now on, or the broader topic of RPGs in general. In case you haven't noticed, I am pointedly avoiding any comments made by you addressing me or my opinions specifically. That's what PM's are for.


Actually, I would prefer it if you addressed the substantive points.  I would also suggest that if you wish to keep it impersonal, its probably best not to start out by poisoning the well.  It appears to me that you are using such to evade responding.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: komradebob on May 26, 2004, 06:16:42 AM
Cuple of quick thoughts, slightly off topic...

I've read a couple of these types of threads now, and I think there are a couple of things things that need to be noted when creating mechanics for gender recognized differences. In their own way, they also may apply to other differences, such as ethnicity/culture/race.

1) Accentuate the positive:
One possible easy fix is to only give positive modifiers for each gender, without counterbalancing negatives.

If you were to give males a +1 strength and females -1, their really two points apart on average. In a small range of possible stats, like in old D&D, that's fairly large. If, instead, you give males a +1 but simply fail to modify that stat for females, you have a lesser difference in range. The same then holds true for whatever stat or stats you give bonuses to females for.

Note, I personally don't think this is the best solution, but I do think it smoothes some of the rough edges off the controversy.

2) Make modifiers optional by PC.

If you have male/female modifiers, allow each player to choose to take or not take the mods. Basically, make it an optional sub system. Perhaps it always applies to NPCs, but not PCs. Why? PCs are almost certainly special cases, somewhat different from your run-of-the-mill inhabitants, regardless of the NPCs social class.

3) Watch out for mods that wash each other out.

If you say that women tend to be physically weaker (-1), but working class milkmaids tend to be stronger (+1), for a net result of +/-0, you may be creating controversy to no good end. Do you really need the headache?

4) Expect people to use the bonuses you give them.

Males strong (+1)= expect them to fight.
Females socially wily(+1)...um, uh-oh.

Have you considered what a female character played by a really competetive player might do with those bonuses? I can. It's scary.

5) PCs are a cut above the rest.

In fiction pieces, and occasionally in real life, you are likely to find characters that simply do not meet your expectations for the general public in a given setting. It is very likely that your player will want to play these remarkable individuals, and for good reason: People that go against the grain abit tend to be at the center of interesting events. Are you sure that applying modifiers will make these characters more or less likely to want to go against the grain?

6) Focus on what is relevant.

This can be hard to do depending on your game system.

What I mean is this: If everyone in a given setting has about an average strength (say 9-12 under old D&D rules), do you even need to know that? For that matter, do you really even need to know, beyond some background color, whether they are only slightly above (13) or slightly below (8) average, since minor modifiers will tend to be irrelevant anyway? For gaming purposes, don't you really just need to know the areas where someone is particularly strong or weak, and to what extent? After all, only the really extreme cases on either end are going to have much impact.

7) Exceptions are important.

Especially in RPGs. Watch out for cases that, even though statistically small, do blow your numbers all to hell. As mentioned above, players are likely to want to play those exceptions as PCs. For that matter, a GM probably wants major antagonists to break the mold as well.

Just some thoughts. Thanks for listening,
Robert


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 26, 2004, 07:43:36 AM
Quote from: Ravien
Quote
By focusing on social more than physical, it also neatly bypasses essentialist-vs-constructivist arguments over the origins of gender roles.

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]



Not at all. In a game without gender modifiers I could quite happily create a character and say 'She inherited his great strength from her mother who was a defencted Russian Shot-Putter' or 'She spent 4 hours a dauy in the gym to develop her great strength'. It's perfectly possible for the game system to take a neutral stance.

On the other hand I could write a game system similar to yours where females got lower strength scores and justify it 'because in the game world women are socialy pressurised to deprecate physical strength'. However in that case I'd be limiting the game system to modeling a specific cultural situation.

Quote
I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.
Quote


Well eprsonaly I don't consider nature vs nurture or constructionalist vs essentialist ideas to be at all relevent to my possition. The fact is that strong women realy do exist out there because individuals are not averages, they can be present in adventuring teams and can make interesting characters to play (or play with in a group) so therefore I see no reasonable reason or motive for eliminating them from a game.


Quote
Why can't someone make a game that explores gender in a way they think is suitable without running into a wall of opposition?


They can, but in the case of your game it's not obviously about gender issues. the section on characetr concept says pretty explicitly tat people can make up whatever they like, and doesn't mention gender issues at all so far as I can recall.

Quote
This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


That's fine and dandy. Where in your game does it say that it's about exploring the consequences of the statistical physical dimorphism in the poulation due to gender? Are you intending to state this prominently on the back cover or something? makign a game about a topic is one thing, slipping it in under the audience's radar as a personal designer's quirk is quite another. Also RPGs are a very interactive art frm. You're not just creatign a work of art, but also creating a toolkit with which your audience create their own art and so the relationship between author and audience is quire different form, say, painting.

Simon Hibbs


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: John Kim on May 26, 2004, 08:44:07 AM
Quote from: simon_hibbs
 
Quote from: Ravien
See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]  

Not at all. In a game without gender modifiers I could quite happily create a character and say 'She inherited his great strength from her mother who was a defencted Russian Shot-Putter' or 'She spent 4 hours a dauy in the gym to develop her great strength'. It's perfectly possible for the game system to take a neutral stance.

Actually, Simon, I agree with Ben here.  Having no gender modifiers is itself a statement just as strong as having gender modifiers.  By the way, you were right to chide me on this, Ben -- i.e. having gender-differentiated "classes" is indeed constructionist and is only "less controversial" in the sense that at least moderate constructionism seems more common (at least around this forum).  

What I was trying to suggest was having a different mechanics structure which doesn't imply being able to separate out social and genetic factors.  i.e. Having a set of modifiers for gender, a set of modifiers for race, and a set of modifiers for social class implies that you can distinguish between those.  But you could have a package -- perhaps called a "template" -- which includes the combined effects of all three.  i.e. The "elven commoner woman" package includes both the influences of elven society on women and the genetic dimorphism of elves.  This is what I was trying to suggest earlier, but on reflection I agree that calling it a "class" puts a constructionist spin on it.  

A nice touch might be having fantasy races with different gender roles.  i.e. You could have a "Hyena-folk" race where the females are stronger than the males and dominate society.  

Quote from: simon_hibbs
 The fact is that strong women realy do exist out there because individuals are not averages, they can be present in adventuring teams and can make interesting characters to play (or play with in a group) so therefore I see no reasonable reason or motive for eliminating them from a game.  

To be fair, gender-based attribute modifiers don't eliminate strong women from the game.  They may make them more costly, and they may cap women's strength at a lower level than a man's strength -- but proponents would say that is realistic (i.e. in the real world there are a number of men who are stronger than the world's strongest woman).


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: KingstonC on May 26, 2004, 08:52:13 AM
1) Most game systems do not attempt to formally assign diferent stats, or skills, or lifepaths, or whatever, to men and women. Ruleswise, most games are androgynous. There is no difference between men and women, mechanically, in most RPG's.

2) However, in the shared creative spaces that most RPG's create, the world is decidedly NOT androgynous. The differenciation of men and women in the game world still occurs, but through DRAMA mechanics, rather than through Karma or Fortune. So it's not as if you don't use a formal mechanical means of assigning men and women different roles in the game world, then the game is somehow sexually egalitarian. It's just that the gender differencation has moved from the expicit in the form of mechanics, to the implicit, in the form of drama.

3) Making somthing explicit in a games rules is a powerful way to focus player and GM attention on it. So if you want to address gender related premices, such as a game in which all of the PC's are women in talaban ruled Afganistan, it would powerfully focus player understanding of the premice if you, for example, ruled that no character could take the literacy skill, or gave each character a haram score to measure how far from their societies role for women they have strayed. And it would make no sence for male NPC's in such a game to be bound by the same rules, in fact, it would ruin the game if they were.

So, just because a game doesn't use gender based mechanics doesn't mean the game is sexist, and just because a game does use these mechanics doesn't mean a game is sexist.

-K


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Eric J. on May 26, 2004, 11:45:20 AM
Okay, in this thread we've discussed:

Essentialism vs. Constructionism

Female and Male attribute modifiers in D&D

Female and Male attribute modifiers in general.

System Premise.

Game design and its model of society

Game design and its model of people

How audiences react to differences in Essentialism and Constructionism

How many Clefairies can dance on the head of a pin


So... The way I see it, we need to bring transgender issues into it.



Sorry, all of that was my attempt at humor.  Mr. Monkey needs to give this thread some direction.  For clarifiication on my previous points:

Quote
Quote:
Basically I'm saying that you have the huge potential to deprotagonise your players (the worst possible thing IMHO) with little benefit.  

If implemented poorly, any mechanic can do this. Some mechanics do nothing but this (like the ability to die). However, in theory, this can be avoided by successfuly addressing what I originally outlined as The Problem. However, it seems that deprotagonization of characters takes a back seat to personal feelings when gender is introduced.


I meant that this type of mechanic can be especially, since you could possibly give players negative incentive to play the type of character they want (i.e. if female or male is in the characters premise and the system discourages the type of female or male that they want to play).  I'm not sure what you mean by "However, it seems that deprotagonization of characters takes a back seat to personal feelings when gender is introduced."

Quote
Quote:
If you're making a <some type of game> what modifiers would be appropriate? Are they appropriate? Or... how would a mechanic like this appeal to an audience?

This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


Er... I was just wondering if that's what we were discussing.  I wasn't advocating that people let their personal freedom become corrupted because of a gender issue.

Anyway, I agree with pretty much everything you've said Ravien.  

Quote
This is another point that has torqued the debate out of shape several times. It is impossible to intelligently discuss design aspects when you have fundamental disagreements about the design goals.


So, I think that rather than going around in circles re-stating our positions, we ought to decide, for the specific purpose of this thread, what answers we want to give to (1) and (2) above and then go from there. Kris, it's your thread. Am I making any sense, or am I full of it?

SR


Because it deserves being restated.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 26, 2004, 06:11:09 PM
Wow. I started this thread as, basically, a way to discuss a topic in which I am interested without the long arguments that stemmed from it in previous attempts to do so. Now, as tempers are beginning to again heat up over it, people are looking to me for direction in the topic. I feel slightly intimidated.

In my current group of players, which numbers as few as 3 and as large as 6, depending upon circumstances, we have three women. Each of them has, at different times, indicated that they feel stifled in a neuter game in which the benefits of being a woman are not represented by the system. I simply thought that adding mechanics that would allow people to make better use of the gender-based strengths they know and use in real life would be of benefit to them, and thought that this would be a good place to start looking for ideas on how to handle it.

So let's go from that. How do you add gender-based strengths (regardless of where they come from, society, biology, entemology, whatever) into a game fairly? In fact, let's even take the "fairly" out. Let's be as unfair as needed to get the point across; what things should women be incredibly good at in a game? What things should men be incredibly good at in a game? How would you make the rules and the setting reflect on those strengths? At the same time, what should they be really bad at? What can men do that women can't do? What can women do (other than the obvious and game-unrelated "Give birth") that men can't do?

One thing I want to stop seeing in this thread are the following words: "This/that/you/whatever makes no sense." Let's stop trying to tear down other people's theories and thoughts; it's not constructive and leads to people defending themselves, which in turn leads to fighting. Let us instead try to build upon the ideas presented by others, so that we can begin to construct a series of inter-related thoughts, rather than a discourse on Essentialism or Constructivism. If something rubs you the wrong way, ignore it. If it's an integral part of something you want to build on, change it. Note the change, let us know why you changed it (to suit the statistics, to better fit a particular type of setting, what have you), and be done with it.

And that's it. That's the direction this thread should take. Let's talk about the differences between men and women, regardless of how they develop. Let's talk about how those differences can factor in our games. Let's talk about how to bring those differences into our games. And lets build on eachother's statements and ideas without having to qualify them first.

Will that work?
Kris
"Someone send me money. I must buy a slurpee."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 26, 2004, 11:22:50 PM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney

And that's it. That's the direction this thread should take. Let's talk about the differences between men and women, regardless of how they develop. Let's talk about how those differences can factor in our games. Let's talk about how to bring those differences into our games. And lets build on eachother's statements and ideas without having to qualify them first.

Will that work?


No.  Because we still have not asnwered the first question, to whit, "why are we doing this?"

I still don't understand the POINT of the question.

Quote
In my current group of players, which numbers as few as 3 and as large as 6, depending upon circumstances, we have three women. Each of them has, at different times, indicated that they feel stifled in a neuter game in which the benefits of being a woman are not represented by the system.


Lets take this.  I have no proffered multiple examples of neuter systems that would, IMO, facilitate the expression of any or most character concepts of either sex.  As KingstonC pointed out, all of these systems are invariably used to produce game worlds that  are not androgynous.  So perhaps you could expand for us on exactly what it is the players feel is missing?

To me, it all feels a bit like "I want to be special too, just like everyone else".  So, what systems have you been using, and what is it that these players feel is missing?

Quote
What can women do (other than the obvious and game-unrelated "Give birth") that men can't do?


Again, I find this baffling - here IS a major difference between men and women and you choose not to address it!!!  Absolutely, where are the childbirth rrules in RPG?  In fact, there are some, mostly in the games that make an attempt to be generational.  MOST games ignore these aspects of reality though because they are focussed on other matters, however.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 27, 2004, 12:11:36 AM
Ok contracycle, consider combat.

Many games do not mechanically distinguish between combat and other actions. In such games, the mechanical difference between selling bread and choppng someone's head off is zero. In effect, all actions are metaphorically "androgynous". But some people (like me), want to be able to explore the difference between baking bread and killing people. Such systems flatly do not allow this. They don't place barriers in your way, they just don't pave the road. These systems do facilitate the creation of any character concept for sure. But why then, do some people not like them? Why don't we all play GURPS, FUDGE, or HQ? Because some people like to be able to distinguish between things and see that distinguishment taken advantage of. That is what the players feel is missing: the ability to explore avenues that they wish to explore. You are saying, flat out: "there is no reason for you to want to explore that". I am saying, flat out: "you have no ground to stand on in making such a claim".

Regarding pregnancy in games, I see no reason why someone shouldn't include them, but I also see no reason why they should, except that they wish to. If I say "I want to model realistic warfare, but I don't want to model grenades", then how is that different to saying "I want to model realistic gender differences, but I don't want to model pregnancy"? Why is one wrong and the other acceptable? Personally, I'd love to see pregancy implemented in a game providing it opened up interesting avenues of play. Don't believe me? Look here, bottom of my post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11297&start=38). Like everything, there's no point in including anything at all unless it is interesting and can serve to enhance the play experience. You may think that gender can never do that, I think otherwise. Some people agree with you, some agree with me, some have totally different opinions, and no-one is wrong.

Quote
I still don't understand the POINT of the question.

I don't know how much more clearly it can be said: "to open up interesting avenues of play for exploration and enjoyment."

Quote from: Eric J.
Er... I was just wondering if that's what we were discussing. I wasn't advocating that people let their personal freedom become corrupted because of a gender issue.

Sorry if it seemed like I was attacking you or questioning your opinions/motives, I merely found that last question amusing. Sorry if it seemed like I assumed you were advocating people conform, I never made that assumption, I just thought the point needed re-stating.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 27, 2004, 01:59:26 AM
OK, I'd like to start here:
Quote
I don't know how much more clearly it can be said: "to open up interesting avenues of play for exploration and enjoyment."


Thats a fair enough statement in isolation; the problem is that it applies equally to so many things.  I might introduce either pregnancy or breadmaking equally for the same motive.

Quote
 You are saying, flat out: "there is no reason for you to want to explore that". I am saying, flat out: "you have no ground to stand on in making such a claim".


I'm sorry but I really must insist that I have not said that at all.  I have said that, without a specific intent, it looks suspiciously like a knee-jerk.  What I have said is that the response 'because reality is like that' is not adequate in and of itself.

So lets focus more closely on this:
Quote
Ok contracycle, consider combat.


OK, great.  Let me paraphrase: "This is a game that explore melee combat.  For such a topic, the material differences between male and female musculatures are within both the systematic scope and the degree of resolution and are reflected accordingly".

I have to say that this still does not IMO necessarily lead to the conclusion that the method you have chosen is necessarily called for on this basis; as we discussed by PM, I still consider descriptive rather than prescriptive systems to be superior.  But at least now we have a REASON for the interest your system demonstrates.

But also note that now it is not gender differences that are the subject of exploration... gender differences are ancillary to the primary focus of exploration, which is (melee) combat.

Quote

Like everything, there's no point in including anything at all unless it is interesting and can serve to enhance the play experience.


Yes absolutely agreed.

Quote

 You may think that gender can never do that, I think otherwise. Some people agree with you, some agree with me, some have totally different opinions, and no-one is wrong.


In fact I have posted numerous examples of how sex and gender can be very interesting to explore.  But moving swiftly on...

Quote
Don't believe me? Look here, bottom of my post.


I believe you; I also quite like the structure you propose.  I'm very keen on more attention being paid to generational games and and systems that bring much more of the human experience into play rather than just combat simulations.  If you would like to discuss the proposal further, I would be happy to contribute.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 27, 2004, 03:28:22 AM
Why are we doing this? Because all of my female players have expressed the concern, and I want to enable them to have as much fun as they can at my table. And, because I want to, which, in an entertainment media like role-playing is all that can really be asked.

We play Palladium Fantasy quite a bit, but have been steadilly moving away from it in favor of Witchcraft and Vampire, with a bit of The Wheel of Time, some Tribe 8, some Exalted and some 7th Sea.

SlurpeeMoney
"Having to go to work may result in short posts."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 27, 2004, 04:05:56 AM
Quote
Thats a fair enough statement in isolation; the problem is that it applies equally to so many things. I might introduce either pregnancy or breadmaking equally for the same motive. (bold emphasis mine)

I fail to see how that is a problem at all. If you think a game about the exploration of breadmaking is interesting and enjoyable, then where does the problem come in?

Quote
OK, great. Let me paraphrase: "This is a game that explore melee combat. For such a topic, the material differences between male and female musculatures are within both the systematic scope and the degree of resolution and are reflected accordingly".

Ummm, correct me if I'm wrong (I know you will), but I think you've misinterpreted my point. My point was to look at combat itself, in isolation, and completely regardless of gender, and to see that as an analogy to gender, itself, in isolation, completely regardless of combat. The two things, can, of course, be mixed, but my point, I think, was lost in your response.

Quote
I'm sorry but I really must insist that I have not said that at all. I have said that, without a specific intent, it looks suspiciously like a knee-jerk. What I have said is that the response 'because reality is like that' is not adequate in and of itself.

I apologise for the misinterpretation then, but that is exactly how I have percieved your comments. All in all though, I agree that "because reality is like that" is inadequate. I think you'll find I never said otherwise (nor has anyone else, to my knowledge). Indeed, many other reasons have been given, not least of which is the one I gave earlier which you agreed with. I believe that the only instances where that reason has been given, are in response to questions of the sort "but why those particular differences", as opposed to "but why any differences". For the former, I would argue that such a response is entirely adequate, along with "because I like it that way", and pretty much any other reason you care to add.



Kris, you mentioned that your group has played The Wheel of Time. I love Jordan's novels (though I wish he would hurry up about finishing the damn series), and my impression of the game was that it totally failed to address the very strong theme of gender in his novels. As such, I have never played it because I feel it would not allow me to "live the story" in any meaningful way, basically forcing me to play AD&D as a different character. Of course, I also had a problem that despite the taint on saidin (saidar? I can't remember which is which) being removed in the novels, there was no such allowance in the game, which really destroys any sort of parallel to the chronology. How did you find it? What were the problems (if any) that you and/or the other members of your group had with it? Did gender become an issue in your sessions (for better or worse)?

Perhaps if you give us all a bit of info about the sorts of problems that you and your group have had specifically regarding gender, and how you think those problems might be addressed, we may be able to keep this discussion safely held at arms length in a little box that is your group's experiences and expectations. With a little luck, if we can successfully address those problems we may all walk out of here with a little bit more than we came in with. It's your call though, just a friendly thought.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 27, 2004, 05:26:39 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Why are we doing this? Because all of my female players have expressed the concern, and I want to enable them to have as much fun as they can at my table. And, because I want to, which, in an entertainment media like role-playing is all that can really be asked.


Can you be more detailed about the specific concerns they expressed?


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: jrs on May 27, 2004, 06:08:38 AM
I'm going to echo contracycle's request and add the following:

1.  What are the "benefits of being a woman" that your fellow players identify?

2.  How do they want to see these benefits applied in the game?

3.  Can you give an example from play that illustrates the current dissatisfaction?

I think that dealing with the specific needs of your group would be the most useful place to start.  

Julie


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Andrew Norris on May 27, 2004, 07:17:38 AM
Wow. I have to admit I find the newly (re)introduced topic much more captivating. Can I get a trip over to a parallel universe where this much time and thought has been spent discussing how to give those players what they want from the game? :)

In order to discuss this, though, we'd need to know their specific concerns and desires.

My gut reaction is that what would be more useful, rather than trying to figure out the mechanical benefit of being a female character, would be to address what the positive (or negative, for that matter) aspects of being female are to them.  I've been doing just that in the modern-day occult game I run.

In my current campaign:
- For one female player with a female character, being female is about being an object of desire and having carte blanche to be capricious because she's so desired.

- For a male player with a female character, being female is about being stylish and smooth, always having the proper bon mot for a situation. A career woman, if you will, who feels the need to always be "together" to go against stereotype. (It's also an open question as to whether the character, an amnesiac, was originally born in her current body, and gender, at all.)

- Finally, for our new player, female with a female character, it's about how being a mother and wife brings into center stage the conflict between personal fulfillment and providing for those you love.

Each of those characters addresses being female, but it's all about what it means to them. If I were to introduce objective mechanical modifiers that applied to them all equally, they'd express total disinterest.

But then again, you can replace "being female" with "being human" and it still means the same thing, so it may be this isn't the kind of thing you're looking for. (But it's why I skip most of these discussions -- I want the statements about character (including gender) to come from my players, and to be tailored to their interests.)


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: wicked_knight on May 27, 2004, 11:00:18 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Each of them has, at different times, indicated that they feel stifled in a neuter game in which the benefits of being a woman are not represented by the system.


In and of itself that really isn't helpful. The reason it isn't is that we could sit here all day coming up with "solutions" and they still won't feel satisfied because we don't know what they had in mind. But the way you phrase can be taken in several different ways. Are they stiffled because the game is gender neutral, or are they stiffled because the game doesn't give them advantages that they normally expect from being female?

And are you asking this in the right place? I mean, the majority of people who are responding are males.  A males concept of what is equal or advantageous could be drastically different from what a females view is.

What you might consider doing is getting answers from your players.. questioning other woman roleplayers and then when you have an idea of what they want... then ask how you can implement their ideas.


Quote from: SlurpeeMoney

What things should men be incredibly good at in a game? How would you make the rules and the setting reflect on those strengths? At the same time, what should they be really bad at? What can men do that women can't do?


Without context there isn't an answer here.  I don't think this really about  gender basing. I think it's making the game more appealing to your female players, and I believe theres a distinction between the two.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on May 27, 2004, 02:13:44 PM
Okay. My last post was written in the five minutes I had before I had to rush myself to work. So I'm quite sure it was disatisfactory for all involved; I just wanted to ensure you all knew I was still listening. ^__^

So it's gone from "Where do you want to go?" to "Why do you want to go there?" And the specifics of my answer were, in my previous post, because my female players feel stifled in a neuter game, not being able to benefit from womanhood as distinct from other neuter characters. To them, a neuter system denotes "male" more often than female in the spirit of the rules. Even in systems like Vampire, where pronoun use is switched per topic, or in some of Steve Jackson's games in which female pronouns are used throughout, the lack of distinctive femininity, to them and to myself, seems prevailent.

What were their problems? Honestly, should I ask them, I doubt they could give me a straight answer. Perhaps they do simply want the rules to favor women instead of men, though they've said as often that they want the rules to reflect male strength as well; some of the girls play guys a lot, and find that neutering the characters often has the effect of non-differentiation. It's no different playing a neuter man than it is a neuter woman, so they always feel like they're playing castratos.

Still, this doesn't affectively address the issue. Let's look at some specifics and see what we can do. Keep in mind, this is all conjecture and opinion; no facts back up anything said from here on in, so let's not talk about what is realistic; let's talk about what we can do with it, how we can play with it, and different ways we can look at it.

Strengths:

Sexuality: In western culture, at least, women dominate sexuality in culture. If ad companies want to sell something to men, the put hot chicks in the comercial. If they want to sell something to women, they have hot chicks use their product in the comercial. This isn't always true of every culture; there are, I'm sure, cultures in which men are the objects of lust and attraction. I've no experience with those cultures, though, and so I stick to what I know. Women should be sexier than men. That's their thought. What's yours?

Strength: Again, this goes down more to perception than to actual scientific fact, but the girls think that they should benefit from leg strength in combat. Perhaps we should not even be comparing this to men. Women are, typically much stronger in their legs than in their upper body, and would learn to fight to make best use of this, would they not? Also, this new style of fighting, one would think, would have most men (who would be fighting other men more often than women) off guard.

Socialization: Women tend to be more outwardly social than men. Perhaps this is some throwback to our caveman days when two men would stare eachother down and wait for one to back off, or maybe it's something we're raised to accept ("Dad... Why don't you just ask for directions?") but women simply don't seem to have the problems men do in working their ways around social circles. Do women get a bonus to social activities? Do men deserve a penalty? On the flipside, women are more likely to act in maternal, 'Mother Hen'-style ways, and annoy the living hell out of people while doing it. Should the bonus/penalty go the other way?

Intuition: Women rely much more heavilly on their intuition and their gut than men do. Men like to reason things out, think them through, and while we'll usually have a good idea of what's going to happen before we do something, our wives have usually beaten us to the punch. Then again, women can be wrong just as often as they can be right. In fact, are there any good "Intuition" rules written up anywhere? I have yet to see any...

Pain Tolerance: I read somewhere (more than likely a very unreliable source; you guys know everything, you can tell me whether or not it's true), that the amount of pain that a woman endures during childbirth would be more than enough to cause a man to go into severe shock, or even kill him. The girls have taken this to mean that they are capable of shaking off more pain than men can, though in practice those same girls nearly die when pinched really hard. *shrug* Maybe they just mean serious, life-threatening pain. Men, on the other hand, are harder to beat to death, so we'd get more hit points.

Reflexes: Again, no scientific proof whatsoever, but the girls are quite keen on the idea that, while men react more quickly to a given situation, women are more likely to react with precision equal to what they would have normally.

Weaknesses:

Pregnancy and Children: Quite a few of my players' characters have gotten pregnant and had children. I know that there is a netbook on the topic already, but it is really quite a bit more difficult than the Book of Unlawful Carnal Knowledge makes it out. How does one continue to adventure with children? Taking them along is so bothersome she might leave the kid in the ditch after breaking camp, but staying home to watch the kids while your buddies go off and vanquish evil seems like an awful way to retire a character, particularly when the pregnancy was unexpected.

The Menstrual Cycle: How does one deal with this in-game? I mean, the girls are all psyched because their characters are PMSing (they feel this entitles them to bonuses a la carte), but when they have to deal with the penalties incurred from cramps, discomfort and the other fiddly bits of one's period, they'd rather just pass over it. Again, *shrug.*

Feminine Concepts:

I know this sounds rather sexist, but I have noticed that the girls in my group game differently from the guys in my group. When I first started gaming, my group was all guys, and there were established personal goals that were cool to go for: get enough money for that nifty Hackmaster +9, kill Mr. Wizard, get revenge for the death of your sister, blah blah. So I start gaming with women (it started with a girlfriend, way back when), and suddenly there is a whole new slough of goals that we're looking at. Romance with NPCs. Marriage. Children. Establishing the world's greatest whore-house (actually a goal). And I had no idea how to deal with them as a Game Master. The girls invest a lot more emotion into their playing, and expect a lot more back. They want long relationships to develop and stay true (not without complications; they just don't want their favorite NPC beaux to suddenly become a jerk). They want plots that not only have the opportunity for integration of those topics, but that actually revolve around them. Systematically, they are difficult concepts to deal with. Even working without a system, I've had difficulty with it.

Interestingly, the game in which this is most prevailent is in The Wheel of Time. While the gender-differentiation is much less accented in the game than it is in the books, there is still something that makes women obviously special. They can Channel safely, men cannot. For my girl players, this is something that makes playing a woman, even a girly-girl, enjoyable. And so they play up feminine topics and make me whip the D20 System until it screams for mercy in order to deal with some of them. And then, I'm sure I've done it all wrong. It's a difficult thing to do, make up systems for things you've not thought about on the fly, especially in a system so well-defined as that of Dungeons and Dragons.  Wheel of Time has been a great game for us, though, and I'm quite happy that I spent $50 to get it (Before you gasp at the price, I'm Canadian). My only problem with it is the lack of suplimental material. The Wheel of Time world is huge and it seems to have been painted in huge broad strokes with little attention to detail. The only supliment for it was an adventure book that really wasn't that good. I would have liked worldbooks.

Just so everyone knows, I'm not sure talking about my group in specific is going to be as direction-setting as everyone would like it to be. My group is one small, specific group of people interested in doing small, specific things; I was rather hoping we could brainstorm ideas that could help everyone, not just me. I'm sure many a female gamer has lamented the same as my players, but just as many would just like to see a fair system for differentiating men and women in-game. Personally, that's what I'm most after. Ideas on how to impliment fair differentiation.

SlurpeeMoney
"All generalizations stated in this post are inherently false. Including this one."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: simon_hibbs on May 28, 2004, 03:21:29 AM
Quote from: John Kim
Quote from: simon_hibbs
Not at all. In a game without gender modifiers I could quite happily create a character and say 'She inherited his great strength from her mother who was a defencted Russian Shot-Putter' or 'She spent 4 hours a dauy in the gym to develop her great strength'. It's perfectly possible for the game system to take a neutral stance.

Actually, Simon, I agree with Ben here.  Having no gender modifiers is itself a statement just as strong as having gender modifiers.


I completely fail to see why. You guys remind me of the criticism of Joseph Campbell, that even randomly generated or arbitrary stories can be deconstructed in terms of mythic archetypes - Supposedly one of his critics convincingly deconstructed Campbel's life as a Solar Myth. Just because you can choose to read a constructionist/essentialist agenda into te decision to not have gender modifiers doesn't mean that any such agenda is in fact present.

Quote
To be fair, gender-based attribute modifiers don't eliminate strong women from the game.  They may make them more costly, and they may cap women's strength at a lower level than a man's strength -- but proponents would say that is realistic (i.e. in the real world there are a number of men who are stronger than the world's strongest woman).


And again, I must ask why that's at all relevent to _these_ characters in _this_ in-game situation? Suppose that Scottish people are on average stronger than English people, or Cumbrians tend to be stronger that Londoners, or Caucasians tend to be stronger than Chinese, or Stock Brokers tend to be more athletic than Acountants (statisticaly more of them go to the Gym at luch breaks, perhaps).

I've yet to see a modern RPG that included modifiers based on these kinds of ethnic or demographic trends becaue frankly even if these are true, who cares? It doesn't make any difference to the fact that if a random assortment of people from around the world get stuck in an adventuresome situation it's quite possible tha the strongest person tere will happen to be Chinese, or an Accountant from London because we're only actualy interested in these people in this situation. Given that, do we want to penalise the player of the Accountant Londoner? If so, why? What aspect of the game designer's creative agenda is being challenged? Is it realy apropriate to punish such deviation from the designer's concept?

Well, if the game concept is about typicaly representative people in unusual situations then there's a reason. You want a game in which the characters are representative and weight the character generation system because you want to make sure the players don't generate screwy, odball, overly 'interesting' characters. You want 'ordinary' averaged out kinds of people as the starting point for your creative agenda for the game. However if you want to give the players freedom to generate odballs and come up with whatever character concept they want it seems to me to be a bit contrary to then turn around and impose penalties or set caps to make that harder or in some cases impossible to do.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: M. J. Young on May 28, 2004, 06:10:32 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
In my current group of players, which numbers as few as 3 and as large as 6, depending upon circumstances, we have three women. Each of them has, at different times, indicated that they feel stifled in a neuter game in which the benefits of being a woman are not represented by the system. I simply thought that adding mechanics that would allow people to make better use of the gender-based strengths they know and use in real life would be of benefit to them, and thought that this would be a good place to start looking for ideas on how to handle it.

So let's go from that. How do you add gender-based strengths (regardless of where they come from, society, biology, entemology, whatever) into a game fairly? In fact, let's even take the "fairly" out. Let's be as unfair as needed to get the point across; what things should women be incredibly good at in a game? What things should men be incredibly good at in a game? How would you make the rules and the setting reflect on those strengths? At the same time, what should they be really bad at? What can men do that women can't do? What can women do (other than the obvious and game-unrelated "Give birth") that men can't do?


I'm going to point to Multiverser as an example of a game without any gender modifiers that I think can and does bring out gender-based strengths of player characters. In essence, it asks the player to define who the character is and what the character can do, without any restrictions or limitations beyond what is reasonable for the character concept. If the player thinks that the character can predict the future, we'll give the character precognitive abilities that fit the nature of such predictions. If the player thinks that the character can fight powerfully with feet, we'll devise a set of body-based combat attacks that powerfully use the feet. Crafting the individual character to be exactly what the player envisions is one of the strengths of the game.

On the other hand, if what is meant is that such gender differences are not adequately represented within the society of the world generally, that's an entirely different problem, and one which very few games even attempt to address. Sure, D&D says that elven females are weaker than elven males; but when you roll up a community of three hundred elves, do those mods even make it to the page? (Probably they do if they are represented through hit points, and not if they are mods to attributes.)

If your players are bothered by the notion that their characters are not getting the benefits of being female, individually, that they perceive as benefits associated with being female, whether these are genetic or cultural, providing the ability for players to customize character strengths in whatever way suits those perceptions and making those choices meaningful in play is not that difficult to accomplish. If what the players mean is that the world is not so constituted that female characters are universally distinct from males in both strengths and weaknesses, you may have to let them tell you how the world should be designed.

Also, I don't know that there is anything one gender can do that the other absolutely cannot. Even pregnancy is within the realm of possibility for the male, and nursing, given the use of advanced medical/surgical techniques (none of which are approved for use, as far as I'm aware). What you're really asking is what can one gender do more easily than the other as a generalization. I know that there are some, and that all generalizations are false (including this one). Men tend to excel at space relations and abstract reasoning; women tend to excel at multitasking and linguistic tasks. There are a lot of other trends, but trends by definition mean that there are exceptions. There are a lot of men in the world stronger than the strongest woman, but there are a lot more women in the world stronger than me, and I'm stronger than my wife, who has no trouble picking up a fifty pound bag of horse feed and carrying it from the car to the barn when she wants to, or shifting a three hundred pound patient sufficiently to change the sheets on the bed beneath him and give him a sponge bath. How much impact does that really have on the nature of your game world? Most likely, it means that the majority of non-player character "extras" will fall into stereotypical roles, and the exceptional characters will break them.

As has been said, unless you know what it is your players actually perceive as the advantages of being female, you can't really address them very effectively. Without knowing those things, you can set up systems that allow individualization of characters across the board, which then can be used by those who believe in gender differences to create characters they perceive as consistent with their personal gender expectations--or not.

Quote from: In suggestion a solution, Komrade Bob
1) Accentuate the positive:
One possible easy fix is to only give positive modifiers for each gender, without counterbalancing negatives.

If you were to give males a +1 strength and females -1, their really two points apart on average. In a small range of possible stats, like in old D&D, that's fairly large. If, instead, you give males a +1 but simply fail to modify that stat for females, you have a lesser difference in range. The same then holds true for whatever stat or stats you give bonuses to females for.

This will work for the inattentive; a moment's reflection will show the problem.

Let us suppose that we have a system in which all scores are non-negatively modified. We'll make it easy, and say that for every score you roll 3d6 and then add a number from 0 to 5. Those numbers are derived from gender, race, and class.

Now let's say that for strength, dwarfs get +1, fighters get +2, and males get +2; so a male dwarf fighter gets +5, a scale of 8 to 23. Let's suppose that females get +1; a female dwarf fighter gets +4, 7 to 22. Now, you didn't give a female a -1 penalty; you gave the female a bonus--but because of the system, this is a penalty. By providing a bonus to one character type that is not available to another, you have penalized that other type.

Years ago I was invited to play in a D&D game that had some modifications. It was the first time I would be a player (I had been a Dungeon Master for a decade and played characters in other role playing games, but never had the opportunity to take a character in a D&D game). I chose to be a kensai. I chose the kensai in part because I wanted to be a Winged Folk, and so armor was a disadvantage. The kensai could not wear armor, but made up for it with such strong skill in combat that he improved his own armor class slowly, increased his innate chance to hit above that of most other classes, and otherwise became the most effective melee combatant in play with ordinary weapons. There were other disadvantages to this, including that he could not use magic weapons, and that he had to stand against challenges by other great fighters in order to establish himself at each level.

After the game had started, it was made known to me that one of the modifications to the game was hyperspecialization in melee weapons. Ordinary fighters could spend up to ten slots in a single weapon, and in doing so could pick up almost every weapon ability the kensai had plus several the kensai did not have. They could also wear armor and use magic weapons, further advancing their abilities, and never had to prove themselves. This had been done in an effort to strengthen the abilities of the fighter against the magic-using classes at higher levels. It had effectively eviscerated my character's abilities--every advantage he had was taken away from him, not by penalties to him but by bonuses to another character class.

Every bonus you give to any character type in the game is a de facto penalty to any character that does not qualify for that bonus. If game balance is an issue (as it is in D&D), this requires very careful crafting of bonuses so that no type is underpowered.

Even where game balance is not an issue, it should be clear that giving a bonus to one gender will be perceived as giving a penalty to the other, and in mechanical terms that perception is correct.

--M. J. Young


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on May 28, 2004, 07:12:48 AM
There may be abnother angle to exploit though.  Taking the lower body strength claim for example, you could set up something like:
+1 Strength to men when using upper body musculature
+1 Strength to women when using lower body musculature
Base strength used for any combined or other circumstances

That would allow differentiation without establishing one sex as a baseline from which the other 'deviates'.  Also, this allows greater definition than blanket penalties and bonusses.


Slurpeemoney wrote:
Quote
Sexuality: In western culture, at least, women dominate sexuality in culture. If ad companies want to sell something to men, the put hot chicks in the comercial. If they want to sell something to women, they have hot chicks use their product in the comercial. This isn't always true of every culture; there are, I'm sure, cultures in which men are the objects of lust and attraction. I've no experience with those cultures, though, and so I stick to what I know. Women should be sexier than men. That's their thought. What's yours?


I think this confuses cause with effect.  I do not think women dominate sexuality - men dominate it.  Men can and do exercise effective demand, and so what we are seeing is male interest in looking at women answered by advertising (and sundry 'lifestyle' products).  Why then do adverts to women show attractive women too?  Because its aspirational advertising in a culture in which womens value is largely determined by their attractiveness to men.  So, this is not one that I would endorse, as it appears to reinforce a pernicious stereotype; I donlt think there is anything inherent in feminity or masculinity that gives one a superior quantity of attractiveness.

Quote
Pain Tolerance: I read somewhere (more than likely a very unreliable source; you guys know everything, you can tell me whether or not it's true), that the amount of pain that a woman endures during childbirth would be more than enough to cause a man to go into severe shock, or even kill him.


Hmm, I'd be surprised by that myself.  Again, the questions is twofold: does the phenomenon actually exist or is it urban myth; and second, even if it exists, does it exist to a degree of significance that is worth representing systematically?  I remember reading many years ago that blue-eyed people have lower pain thresholds than brown-eyed people.  I have no idea, really, so I'd not be confident embedding this systematically myself.

Quote
Pregnancy and Children: Quite a few of my players' characters have gotten pregnant and had children. I know that there is a netbook on the topic already, but it is really quite a bit more difficult than the Book of Unlawful Carnal Knowledge makes it out. How does one continue to adventure with children?


Good question.  However, surely this is the same topic as the RW argument for universal childcare.  IMO, the only solution is a non-'adventuring' mode of play which is geographically local and generational.  On that note, I think this presents great opportunities, becuase the default mode of RPG is largely detached from concepts of community, society and politics.  One of the major drivers in these concerns is exactly 'what will we leave to our children', and IMO RPG is robbed of much significance and import by leaving these concerns off stage.  But, I don't have an off-the-rack solution either.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: jrs on May 28, 2004, 08:23:15 AM
Kris (aka SlurpeeMoney),

I am restricting my comments to your last post where you describe the interests of your gaming group.  

The Good

Kudos to you for engaging your players based on their interests and goals for their characters.  I am not surprised that your group is more interested in game play that revolves around meaningful relationships.  I cannot say that is a gender specific issue, but it certainly reflects my gaming interests.  I am not familiar with The Wheel of Time or D20 so I cannot speak to this particular system or setting and how it may contribute to this type of game play.  If you are interested in looking at other systems, you may want to check out HeroQuest and its use of relationships to augment skill rolls, or the use of spiritual attributes in The Riddle of Steel.  Also, Ron mentioned, back on page 1 of this topic, his Sorcerer supplement Sex & Sorcery, in which he describes distinct male and female stories.  A synopsis is at [Sex & Sorcery] Male and female story types

The Bad

Based solely on the description in your recent post, it seems to me that "gender" is being used by your players as a superficial excuse to be more effective in the game.  The specific female strengths that you mention--lower body strength, socialization, intuition, reflexes, pain toleration--are all debatable and as has been pointed out multiple times creating attribute modifiers based on assumptions in these areas will not necessarily generate a fairer gender differentiated system.  A blanket, my character is automatically better at this because she/he is female/male, is bogus.  I suggest the application of class and gender to skill sets, rather than physical and mental attributes.  If a player wants a character to be effective using lower body strength, have them take a skill in leg sweeps and throws.  If you must, have gender define the experience and opportunity to learn and advance in such a skill.  I also want to add that I particularly appreciate M. J. Young's recent comments about this issue.

And, a bonus for PMS?  What--the gamers claim that this makes them more ferocious in combat?  Please.  I call bull-shit on that.  If a group insists on including it in play; I would make certain that bear, shark, vampire, and Audrey attacks target the menstruating character.  Jeez, that is one element of real life that I have absolutely no interest in modeling in a game system.  

The Ugly

Quote
Sexuality: In western culture, at least, women dominate sexuality in culture. If ad companies want to sell something to men, the put hot chicks in the comercial. If they want to sell something to women, they have hot chicks use their product in the comercial. This isn't always true of every culture; there are, I'm sure, cultures in which men are the objects of lust and attraction. I've no experience with those cultures, though, and so I stick to what I know. Women should be sexier than men. That's their thought. What's yours?


Ummm.  I have serious doubts about the above statement and how it might be applied in a game.  This is objectification, and the depiction of women as sexual objects in itself does not engender greater sexuality in women per se.  Maybe your gaming group is more interested in defining women as having the ability to manipulate men through sex.  Or, an interest in more sexualized interactions between women and men.  It is impossible for me to say.  I can imagine game play in a setting where women garner power through the sexual manipulation of men and that men are so easily led, with all the corresponding elements of competition, distrust, and resentment.  I would tread lightly here and make certain that this avenue of play is of interest to the entire gaming group.  

I disagree with your claim that it is possible to create a generic gender differentiated system that can be applied to any game or gaming group.  I think it is important to recognize that this issue will be perceived and embraced in disparate measures by different groups.  I encourage you to work with your own group to define how to incorporate gender differences in play.  My comments above represent my own preferences, nonetheless, I hope they are of some use to you.

Julie


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: KingstonC on May 28, 2004, 09:27:18 AM
Kris,
Two suggestions:

1) Switch from a skill and stat based system like D20, which makes the players fit their character concepts to the game mechanics, to a trait based system in which the players themselves define their characters abilites, such as HeroQuest, or Over the Edge. That way, instead of you, the GM, defining what feminine advantage means to the player, the player defines what it means to themselves. Also, because bolth of those systems have a fixed number of points to be alloted to traits, you won't be shortchanging male players by giving all sorts of special female centered powers to the female players.

2) Read the GNS essays over in the articles section. It sounds as though the addition of female players may have created Creative Agenda conflicts that you are merely perceving as gender based. Are your female players Naritivists trying to get their agendas met in a Gamist/Simulationist game, and you are merely perceving this as a gender/sex issue?


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on May 28, 2004, 09:20:52 PM
I second most of what Julie said concerning your post.

I disagree with Gareth's (contracycle's) points about men dominating sexuality. The "market" is mostly women. Consider playboy. Until fairly recently, playboy marketed solely to men, because that's where they thought the market was. Then the internet came along, and sales plummeted. But now they are on a (slow) comeback, for one reason: they began marketing to girls. The playboy "bunny" symbol now appears on a huge range of female products, from bumper stickers, to underwear and everyday casual clothing. It is now "cool" to be a playboy bunny. Additionally, women's magazines, which are arguably targeted solely at women, have on their covers pictures of women. One magazine (Cleo I think), once ran an issue with Brad Pitt on the cover, and it was one of their poorest selling issues that year (they've tried men on covers before, with the same results). These magazines are run by companies which are run and edited by women. In short, advertising "objectifies" women, because it sells to women. Men are now a fairly small slice in most consumer goods markets, and advertisers know that the best way to sell to either gender, is through females.

And that pain thing is urban myth, I've had this discussion before, but I couldn't be bothered diggin up anything right now. In short, pain experience is entirely incomparable and socially mediated, making any objective analysis meaningless.



I'm not a big fan of trait based games. It just seems odd to me that two players can be playing the same game where one's character sheet looks entirely different to the others'. Like that age old "who would win: superman or batman?", where the question is meaningless because they are really incomparable (the answer is both kriptonite and superman).

So here's my alternative suggestion, which may work for all groups. Get each of your players to write down all the bonuses they want their gender to have, and then all the bonuses they think the other gender should get. Then get all these things together and either a) keep only the bonuses that are duplicated between players, or b) average them all out, then tweak to make sure that neither gender is overall more mechanically advantaged over the other. Get everyone's agreement, then proceed to play. I guess it should take about 10 minutes before your first session.

If they try to do anything stupid, like giving ridiculously high bonuses (like +10 in a d20 system) to pull up the average, then reduce it to the lowest possible bonus (+1 in d20) before averaging it all.

At least in this way, I think, there should be no problems with any member of the group feeling "cheated", regardless of gender.

One more thing, if your female (or male?) players want a way to "use their sexual prowess" or whatever, and perhaps feel frustrated that few systems out there accomodate the plethora of social interactions between people, then may I point you to a module (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=10431) that I made a little while ago for a game I've since scrapped. It is pretty much entirely self contained, and I have a version that has been scaled to work perfectly with d20 systems (and has also been re-written to be easier to follow). If you'd like, I can email you the .pdf and you can incorporate it into your games, thus allowing your PCs to actually have mechanical input into non-combat that isn't a crude brushtroke. Once you are familiar with it, it shouldn't take long to work out aspects that can be "genderised", like bonuses to the skills Charm and Coerce for girls and bonuses to Affront and Discipline for guys (or, to be more interesting, allowing more than one attribute to contribute, like letting strength and intelligence boost Affront for guys, and intelligence and charisma boost Charm for girls). I've found that in my play-tests my players loved waging social war with each other perhaps a bit too much, because they often spent long periods of time trying to manipulate, insult, and charm each other to the detriment of pursuing the adventure, but as a GM, it's pretty easy to stop that (I just let it go to see how it worked, being that I was testing it and all).



-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 10:09:31 AM
Quote from: Ravien
Doctor Xero wrote this over in that topic John linked to:
Quote
By focusing on social more than physical, it also neatly bypasses essentialist-vs-constructivist arguments over the origins of gender roles.

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]

Actually, you take my comment out of context and thereby misrepresent it.

Understood within the context of the discussion from which you snipped my words, it becomes obvious that I was suggesting that if we focus more on the extant differences between conventionally-socialized American men and American women, we neatly bypass arguments over whether those differences have their origin strictly in nature (essentialist arguments), strictly in nurture (constructivist arguments), or somewhere in-between.

By quoting me out of context, you are able to misconstrue my words as advocating a totalitarianism of thought in favor of constructivism.

Quote from: Ravien
Whilst a PhD does not an expert make, I would agree that Doctor Xero has expertise in the constructionist side of the gender debate, and it really is a shame that he chooses not to benefit us with his knowledge.

Since I cite a number of researchers in that thread (and was blasted by a few Forge posters for it), I assume this was also sarcasm?

Quote from: Eric J.
So far I haven't seen any of it as far as it has to do with game design.

In games which attempt to replicate certain genres, a number of commercial works specifically address the depiction of women and men (and occasionally the depiction of non-heterosexuals, ethnic or religious minorities, etc.) within that genre.

For example, the old Justice Incorporated noted that women in pulps often had more freedom than did women in real life of the time.  Campaign supplements for campaigns in Arthurian settings and Viking settings often give options both for replicating historical gender roles and for ignoring said gender roles.

In those cases, the game is not taking a stance over the degree to which constructivism or essentialism explain gender differences but merely taking a stance on how differences between men and women have been depicted within the specified genre.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 10:14:35 AM
Quote from: Ravien
I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development

I have met many and read even more who do just that.

Take a look at some of the angrier writings of essentialist feminists.

Also, look at some of the writings of later acolytes of John Gray's interpretations of gender differences.

Take a look at gender as understood within the field of sociobiology.

Read some of the anti-feminist conservative evangelical fundamentalist Christian writings in which various writers declare that gender roles were ordained by God and are hardwired into the soul.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 10:34:04 AM
Quote from: Rob Carriere
Several people have stated their real-world opinion, but the question I want to ask is, what position will we take for the purpose of designing a game? (Note that `My real-world stance, of course' is a perfectly valid answer, I just think it should be explicit.)

Well, I suspect that if a designer does not actively think about gender within his/her game, since gender roles are so strongly encouraged in this society, he or she will work off his/her default essentialist/constructivist opinion.

It seems to me that designers who wish to challenge prevailing gender roles are more likely to focus on the nurture perspective because of U.S. assumptions that socialization is easier to reverse than "genetic destiny".

It seems to me that designers who wish to reinforce prevailing gender roles are more likely to focus on the nature perspective since, in this country at least, the default assumption is that biology mandates whereas society suggests.

I assume this because such is the pattern found in sociopolitical arguments which invoke gender.

Thus, if I want to reinforce the idea that men are genetically predetermined to be ill-suited for raising children (an actual argument put forth by some essentialist feminists in their arguments involving child custody cases), I would design a game in which only female characters may purchase childcare skills.

If I want to challenge the idea that women are incapable of matching men in terms of strength, I would design a game in which male and female characters roll the same dice to determine strength value.  (Compare Villains & Vigilantes in which women have fewer dice to roll up for a certain attribute which controls muscular prowess with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in which male and female fighters both used three six-sided dice for rolling up the Strength attribute).

If memory serves, I believe GURPS suggested that women and both male and female ethnic minorities take Social Disadvantage to represent their historical oppression in campaigns which attempt a veneer of historical accuracy (for example, during U.S. slavery it was illegal to teach a Black man or woman how to read, and in the 1600s in England it was illegal to allow a woman to manage property).

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 10:52:38 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
In my current group of players, which numbers as few as 3 and as large as 6, depending upon circumstances, we have three women. Each of them has, at different times, indicated that they feel stifled in a neuter game in which the benefits of being a woman are not represented by the system.

Years ago, I had to deal with a new player, a woman who was an essentialist feminist, who insisted that it was impossible for her to suspend disbelief in my campaign if women were not represented with their "natural superiority" to men (although she expressed it more colorfully than that).  Aside from my own constructivist leanings, I was appalled by her self-righteous female chauvenism.  I hadn't entered a doctoral program yet, so I didn't have the background necessary to intellectually dispute her, and the issue was more emotional than intellectual for her anyway so hearing what facts I did have at hand only irritated her.  In the end, I had to accept that she and I would never game together.  She reminded me all-too-clearly of a player who once demanded that I stop having Black NPCs simply because he disliked Blacks.

However, I have also had two female players ask me to run a fantasy campaign in which women were indeed oppressed so that they could play female characters in active rebellion against a sexist society.  After I made certain they understood how nasty this would be if I honestly replicated it, I ran it, and they had a wonderful time risking life and liberty by violating social norms.

To be candid, the situation you describe is one of the reasons why I prefer genre-based campaigns to campaigns which allege to depict real life.  I have found that many people find rational arguments about their gender role beliefs annoying, but I've never yet had anyone dispute the gender roles found in certain genres.  For example, I recall one light-hearted pulp campaign in which female characters had access to "purses of holding" since so many pulp movies depict women who always have whatever is needed in their voluminous purses -- they also convinced me to allow them to use bobby pins as surrogate masterworks lock picks.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 11:53:15 AM
( editted out computer hiccough )


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 11:53:47 AM
( editted out computer hiccough )


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 11:54:18 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Sexuality: In western culture, at least, women dominate sexuality in culture. If ad companies want to sell something to men, the put hot chicks in the comercial. If they want to sell something to women, they have hot chicks use their product in the comercial. This isn't always true of every culture; there are, I'm sure, cultures in which men are the objects of lust and attraction. I've no experience with those cultures, though, and so I stick to what I know. Women should be sexier than men. That's their thought. What's yours?

I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that this is still true.

I can sum it up in one currently popular word : metrosexual.

Or Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, etc., if you want examples of male objects of lust whom heterosexual men fantasize about emulating.

Right now, I'm reading a marvelous scholarly study about male vanity.
(And you're completing ignoring gay culture for that matter.)

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Strength: Again, this goes down more to perception than to actual scientific fact, but the girls think that they should benefit from leg strength in combat.

There are a number of studies which suggest that women who have been raised identically to men have identical levels of strength.

The problem, of course, is that there are so few women that appear to have been raised identically to men that it's impossible to tell how far one dares generalize from these findings -- it could be completely statistically irrelevant.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Socialization: Women tend to be more outwardly social than men. Perhaps this is some throwback to our caveman days
---snip!--
Intuition: Women rely much more heavilly on their intuition and their gut than men do. Men like to reason things out

These both involve a horrible stereotype which is responsible for a tremendous amount of male and female suffering in our nation.

Studies by Dindia, Ares, Wood, and others have shown that the percentage of intuitive/holistic individuals versus logical/sequential individuals is virtually identical for men and for women.

What the studies have shown, however, is that men are shamed for being intuitive (e.g. called "sissies" or "effeminate") just as women are shamed for being logical (e.g. called "frigid" or told by Barbie dolls that "math is hard") and therefore self-describe themselves as fitting the gender stereotypes even when ability tests determine that they do not fit said stereotypes.

Because of the prevalence of this stereotype, many men who have a natural flair for poetry or language or socializing are mocked and otherwise harrassed as perverse (e.g. "band f**" as a nasty epithet for musically inclined men), just as many women who have a natural flair for computer programming or science are even today dismissed as "unnatural".

Those of us who are male who dared to prefer language and literature to mathematics, who are intuitively gifted rather than restricted to analytic logic, and who are skilled at interpersonal reaction are made to feel deviant throughout public schooling by teachers, peers, and sometimes even our parents.

I still recall one woman who told me I must be either a freak or perverse (although she used a homophobic epithet) because I had asked for directions.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Reflexes: Again, no scientific proof whatsoever, but the girls are quite keen on the idea that, while men react more quickly to a given situation, women are more likely to react with precision equal to what they would have normally.

So far it sounds as though they object to your  game for its failure to enforce upon both male and female players their particular gender stereotypes.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
The Menstrual Cycle

I have read some marvelous nutritionist/bio-chemist papers proving that PMS is a purely social entity which results entirely from the nutritionally messed-up modern urban diet.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
I know this sounds rather sexist, but I have noticed that the girls in my group game differently from the guys in my group.

In one of my Referee, Protagonist, Antagonist posts, I recounted a situation in which roleplaying males were lambasted as "immasculine" and "effeminate" for doing the very things you ascribe to female players.

About a decade-and-a-half ago, the gaming community was wracked by a "roleplayer vs. power gamer" dichotomy which was actually more of a battle between those who wished RPGs to be more theatrical and those who wished RPGs to return more to their wargaming roots.  At the time, RPGing  was still almost an exclusively male passtime.

The argument was frequently framed in terms of gender role allegiance : the "power gamers" would claim that "roleplayers" lacked proper masculinity and were ruining gaming by "womanizing" it while the "roleplayers" would respond by claiming that "power gamers" were sexist primitives with no respect for art, culture, or women.

It seems to me that echoes of this argument remain in the generalization.  I have found that one of the first things I have to do when helping a new male player understand roleplaying is to convince him that there is nothing perverse or unnatural or effeminate about his doing so.

Men do not "naturally" automatically play as you describe -- but men are pressured to conform to that style regardless of personal preference.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
To them, a neuter system denotes "male" more often than female in the spirit of the rules.
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
the lack of distinctive femininity, to them and to myself, seems prevailent.

I will be candid : as soon as I read the above, I cringed.  It hies back to Cixous and Irigaray's inheritors who claim that syntax is inherently masculine and therefore women must develop alternative linguistic forms or be forever subjected to oppression.  It also begs the question of what the definition of "femininity" might be.

It seems to me that the primary purpose of gendering human behavior -- of categorizing certain activities as "feminine" and certain as "masculine" -- is to deny people access to certain activities if they possess the "wrong" genitalia.  To insist that certain behaviors are "feminine" is to imply something deviant about a male who engages in said behaviors.

One of the primary motives I had for pursuing gender studies as one of my  Ph.D. fields is my desire to acquire the understanding necessary to defend women scientists, men who caretake children, women who can get angry, men who can cry, logical women, intuitive men, etc. from the vilification, condemnation, and social dismissal inherent in strict gender norming.

I found serendipitously that pursuing folklore studies as one of my Ph.D. fields reinforced my gender scholarship in that it enabled me to more accurately recognize the pernicious urban legends and tales which reinforce gender stereotypes and promote them as the "natural" way of things.

I honestly think you would be better off running these women in games which challenge their reification of gender roles rather than in games which humor them.  Either that, or accept the idea that you will be running games which marginalize and dismiss men who are intuitive, socially adroit, and otherwise tread upon the territory these women would set aside for women only.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 12:00:50 PM
Quote from: simon_hibbs
I've yet to see a modern RPG that included modifiers based on these kinds of ethnic or demographic trends becaue frankly even if these are true, who cares? It doesn't make any difference to the fact that if a random assortment of people from around the world get stuck in an adventuresome situation it's quite possible tha the strongest person tere will happen to be Chinese, or an Accountant from London because we're only actualy interested in these people in this situation. Given that, do we want to penalise the player of the Accountant Londoner? If so, why? What aspect of the game designer's creative agenda is being challenged?

Well, I do recall different dice-rolling methods in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in which fighters would almost always come out as stronger than magic-users.  It reinforces class archetypes.  Whether that is a good thing or not would depend upon the designer's intentions and the genre, I imagine.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 02, 2004, 12:03:15 PM
Quote from: M. J. Young
Also, I don't know that there is anything one gender can do that the other absolutely cannot.

In gender scholarship, this is known as the argument of
Difference of Degree
vs.
Difference of Kind

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: SlurpeeMoney on June 02, 2004, 01:43:02 PM
Holy wow. Doctor Xero has been busy on a post I had thought of as long dead. And now he has so much information down I feel rather intimidated even trying to reply to his points.

And so, instead, I'll simply thank him for his insight and his deep look at social gender issues. I think he's covered, rather fully, any of the issues I would have liked to have brought up.

Kris
"Holy wow."


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on June 02, 2004, 07:47:55 PM
Quote
Actually, you take my comment out of context and thereby misrepresent it.

Understood within the context of the discussion from which you snipped my words, it becomes obvious that I was suggesting that if we focus more on the extant differences between conventionally-socialized American men and American women, we neatly bypass arguments over whether those differences have their origin strictly in nature (essentialist arguments), strictly in nurture (constructivist arguments), or somewhere in-between.

By quoting me out of context, you are able to misconstrue my words as advocating a totalitarianism of thought in favor of constructivism.

Actually, I've re-read that post of yours and the context of that quote does nothing to provide the explanation you just gave of it. I would also argue that simply focusing on extant differences does not bypass their origin, except from the designer's perspective. Any players of said game will automatically assume the differences came from somewhere, and will form their own opinions and attribute them to the designer. Thus, by not making it clear what your position is, you leave yourself open to have your position misidentified and potentially attacked. Simple example, in AD&D 3e: "There are no differences between males and females", possible responses: "Good, that's how it should be/Oh yeah?/What the fuck?".

But I don't think the context of your post provided the explanation you gave, thus I don't think I was quoting you out of context, merely out of your intended meaning, which I had no way of knowing.

Quote from: Doctor Xero

Quote from: Ravien
Whilst a PhD does not an expert make, I would agree that Doctor Xero has expertise in the constructionist side of the gender debate, and it really is a shame that he chooses not to benefit us with his knowledge.

Since I cite a number of researchers in that thread (and was blasted by a few Forge posters for it), I assume this was also sarcasm?

No, not at all. Two points here, one: citing researchers in no way proves a point. It merely provides evidence. As I'm sure you are aware, I could cite many researchers who have found contrary results to those you cite. And two: I was not being sarcastic at all. I honestly feel that despite my disagreements with your opinions, your arguments would be helpful for this topic.

But although I may have misinterpreted your words, I sensed a tone of superiority in your arguments stemming from your PhD background in Women's Studies (which I personally feel is a biased course itself, considering for all your arguments on gender equality, I can't seem to find a course entitled "Men's Studies", though I may have found the ideal middle ground of "People Studies", otherwise known as "Psychology"), and I felt it prudent to state that when even the "experts" disagree about something, then the "commoners" have every right to form an opinion without first consulting such experts, a thing which doesn't make sense when all experts agree.

Quote
I have met many and read even more who do just that.

Take a look at some of the angrier writings of essentialist feminists.

Also, look at some of the writings of later acolytes of John Gray's interpretations of gender differences.

Take a look at gender as understood within the field of sociobiology.

Read some of the anti-feminist conservative evangelical fundamentalist Christian writings in which various writers declare that gender roles were ordained by God and are hardwired into the soul.

Really? These people would actually argue that being poor was a result of genetics? That becoming a criminal is hardwired into your genetic code? Surely even within the confines of gender such people can see that stating "all females are biologically/theologically predestined to be feminine" is instantly disproven by the existence of females who are not feminine. Without a substantial social component, such occurances would be impossible. They may be arguing for "should be", rather than "are", but this acknowledges the effect of society in defying the "should", and thus they cannot be construed as arguing in favour of extreme existentialism.

Maybe these people you suggest are that stupid, but I doubt it. Instead, because of your inclusion of "sociobiology" within that context, I think you are interpreting "extreme existenialism" as suggesting "a strong biological component", which is not how John Kim explained it nor how I see it. Indeed, looking at sociobiology, one can instantly see the importance of both social and biological factors to that field, hence "socio" and "biology".

On the other hand, as I originally stated, I got the impression (read: I may be wrong) from pm's with you that you hold the extreme constructivist side, by stating that any and all differences are purely social. Perhaps you mean that there are biological differences, but that these can be completely bypassed by social development, but the effect is the same and so is the conclusion. I have also seen this opinion held by many other people, in all walks of life, concerning all matters of humanity (not just gender), whereas I have never met a single person who would deny the social factors as many deny the biological factors.

Quote
If I want to challenge the idea that women are incapable of matching men in terms of strength, I would design a game in which male and female characters roll the same dice to determine strength value. (Compare Villains & Vigilantes in which women have fewer dice to roll up for a certain attribute which controls muscular prowess with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in which male and female fighters both used three six-sided dice for rolling up the Strength attribute).

I agree completely. This is why John has stated many times that not including gender differences is a statement all on it's own, and no less valid than a statement of including gender differences.

Quote
I have read some marvelous nutritionist/bio-chemist papers proving that PMS is a purely social entity which results entirely from the nutritionally messed-up modern urban diet.

I disagree with your use of the word "proving" from a scientific perspective. Though I do think those papers would be interesting.

Quote
I honestly think you would be better off running these women in games which challenge their reification of gender roles rather than in games which humor them. Either that, or accept the idea that you will be running games which marginalize and dismiss men who are intuitive, socially adroit, and otherwise tread upon the territory these women would set aside for women only.

I would suggest otherwise. Instead of you, the GM, deciding to "challenge your players", you should humor them. Two reasons. One, the games you are playing already do "challenge" them, which is exactly why they have a problem with them. If I see a game that says "magical fireballs cannot set fire to objects because the fire is magic", it doesn't "challenge my conceptions of magic and fire", it pisses me off and I won't want to play it. If I can't take advantage of things which I feel my character should have as strengths, I get annoyed, and I think, Kris, that this is what your players may be feeling. It doesn't matter why I feel they should be strengths, only that I can't use them.

Two, games are meant to be fun. If my players say "I wanna ride a dragon", then I let them, and build an adventure out of it for them. If they say "I wanna be cooler because I'm a girl/ I'm an elf/ I'm rich/ I'm blonde/ whatever" then let them, because the important part is "I wanna be cooler", and this really means "I wanna have more fun with this game", and why would you want to deny them that?.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: M. J. Young on June 02, 2004, 11:48:52 PM
Quote from: Ravien
Surely even within the confines of gender such people can see that stating "all females are biologically/theologically predestined to be feminine" is instantly disproven by the existence of females who are not feminine. Without a substantial social component, such occurances would be impossible. They may be arguing for "should be", rather than "are", but this acknowledges the effect of society in defying the "should", and thus they cannot be construed as arguing in favour of extreme existentialism.

Maybe these people you suggest are that stupid, but I doubt it. Instead, because of your inclusion of "sociobiology" within that context, I think you are interpreting "extreme existenialism" as suggesting "a strong biological component", which is not how John Kim explained it nor how I see it. Indeed, looking at sociobiology, one can instantly see the importance of both social and biological factors to that field, hence "socio" and "biology".

Not to speak for the good doctor, but I think there is another possibility. My exposure to sociobiology is limited to a smattering of information about E. O. Wilson from twenty years ago, so I'm not presuming to speak for that field--only to recognize a possibility.

There are those who believe that homosexuality is entirely genetic; there are those who believe it is entirely conditioned. This is not the place to have that debate, only to recognize it.

Clearly, some people have no inkling that they even might be homosexual in their younger years, but when they are older they turn to same-sex relationships. Also, there are cases of people who are involved in homosexual activities in their younger days who eventually settle into a heterosexual relationship as they mature.

Those who claim a genetic foundation for homosexuality do not claim that these people don't exist. They claim that those who are genetically homosexual are unhappy living heterosexual lives, as they have to repress their natural inclination, and if they were freed from societal pressures they would express their natural preferences.

To take it to the gender differences, the argument would be that those who are acting in roles that are contrary to their genetic structure have been forced to do so by societal pressures, but have not actually been changed in their innate desires and preferences. All working mothers, it would be claimed, would rather be home caring for their children, and all child raising fathers would rather be working to support their families. The preferences are fixed by our genes, but our conduct may be forced to be contrary to it.

I won't say the argument is spurious, but I do think it weak. In any event, it is possible to regard the empirical evidence for social impact on these aspects of character as demonstrating only forced conduct and not changed personality, and thus to maintain the position that the characteristics themselves are genetically fixed.

Difficult to disprove, really, particularly if someone wants to believe that.

--M. J. Young


Title: Article from rpg.net
Post by: greedo1379 on June 03, 2004, 02:20:33 AM
I remember someone posted a while ago about an article they read on rpg.net about women and men's differences as the related to fighting and such.  I stumbled across it today.  The address is below.

http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/vecna19jun01.html

Just FYI.


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 03, 2004, 11:02:16 AM
Quote from: Ravien
your arguments stemming from your PhD background in Women's Studies (which I personally feel is a biased course itself, considering for all your arguments on gender equality, I can't seem to find a course entitled "Men's Studies", though I may have found the ideal middle ground of "People Studies", otherwise known as "Psychology")

Actually, I have never claimed to have a Ph.D. in Women Studies ; I have always stated that I have a Ph.D. in Gender Studies.  (I've made reference to my experiences in Women's Studies as part of my Gender Studies program, but that is a very different thing.)

Gender Studies is the study of gendering, both gendering based on the anatomical sex (male, female, intersexed, etc.) and gendering based on sexuality (mostly homosexual, mostly heterosexual, ambisexual, pansexual, asexual, etc.).  It is a multidisciplinary field which utilizes both scholarship and science, incorporating insights from humanities, anthropology, history, psychology, sociology, genetics, general biology, and so forth.  Furthermore, there have been universities which have Men's Studies coursework as well as Women's Studies coursework -- Gender Studies is a conflation of those two (and Gay and Lesbian studies) into one field of study with the understanding that one can not effectively study womanhood or manhood in a vacuum.

Ravien, your decision to reword my statement about my Ph.D. in Gender Studies as a statement about a Ph.D. in Women's Studies is yet one more of the many examples of your choosing to misinterpret my words.

Quote from: Ravien
I felt it prudent to state that when even the "experts" disagree about something, then the "commoners" have every right to form an opinion without first consulting such experts, a thing which doesn't make sense when all experts agree.

Not all experts agree on how weather occurs, the nature of gravity, implicate order theory, quantum theory, how bees fly, the proper interpretation of various Holy Writ, and the exact birthdate of Alexander the Great, for example -- but this does not mean that I will assume a 20 year old slacker stoned out on the sidewalk automatically has an opinion equal in validity to that of a meteorologist, physicist, mathematician, entomologist, theologian, or historian.

The use of the term "commoner" is silly ; an expert is someone who is more learned in a particular field, not some ridiculous elite figure.  I am not a scholar of history except as it applies to my fields, so I will rely on the judgements of historians when it comes to the Fall of the Roman Empire, but that doesn't mean I will turn to an historian for insights into the functional value of my duodenum.

Quote from: Ravien
Surely even within the confines of gender such people can see that stating "all females are biologically/theologically predestined to be feminine" is instantly disproven by the existence of females who are not feminine.

Not really.  Rather than explain it in detail, I suggest you read up on the concepts of the statistical outlier and of the history of the concept of deviation.

As for evangelical fundamentalist conservative Christians, I have read the argument that deviation from the norms they propose does not disprove said norms but rather proves the existence of Satan and proves the accuracy of the notion of Original Sin.  And I am not referring to mindless fanatics but intelligent individuals with, however, an airtight paradigm through which they interpret all data.

Just as some essentialists interpret all data to reinforce their reification of gender roles, particularly ones which ascribe intrinsic superiority to their gender in ways they find comforting.

I am trained to recognize both sides.  However, since the essentialist arguments have been taken up by others, such as yourself, I need only present the constructivist perspectives.  I have pointed out the occasional essentialist point when talking with extreme constructivists.

Quote from: Ravien
(read: I may be wrong) from pm's with you that you hold the extreme constructivist side, by stating that any and all differences are purely social.

If they were Private Mailings, why bring them up in public?  Bad form, Ravien.

Either way, however, you will notice that we no longer mail one another ; it became obvious to me that I was failing to communicate effectively with you, so I saw no reason to further annoy either of us.  I wasn't cutting you off, just trying to keep from annoying you needlessly.

Quote from: Ravien
I would suggest otherwise. Instead of you, the GM, deciding to "challenge your players", you should humor them. Two reasons. ---snip!-- If I can't take advantage of things which I feel my character should have as strengths, I get annoyed, and I think, Kris, that this is what your players may be feeling. It doesn't matter why I feel they should be strengths, only that I can't use them. ---snip!-- If they say "I wanna be cooler because I'm a girl/ I'm an elf/ I'm rich/ I'm blonde/ whatever" then let them

The problem is that by your logic I should have humored that player of mine who insisted that Blacks should not be able to hold positions of authority.

When I have players who insist that Whites should have +1 to Intelligence and +1 to Wisdom and Blacks should have -1 to Intelligence but +1 to Strength, or that anyone who is 1/4 Jewish or more should have a bonus to financial skills, or that people who intend their characters to "erupt into homosexuality" later on in the game must start out with a -1 to Strength and -1 to Willpower to reflect their genetically ordained sexual fate, I have no interest in humoring them.  Furthermore, Ravien, I have no ethical qualms with annoying racists, anti-semites, or homophobes.  Their why does matter.

Quote from: Ravien
why would you want to deny them that?.

There may be those who would enjoy playing RPGs titled  Sexwolf: The Joys of Rape or Gaybashers and Other Role Models, but I see every reason to deny them that enjoyment.  I have had too much experience in the Real World academically and interpersonally with those sorts of people to lionize or celebrate them -- or indulge them.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 03, 2004, 11:03:04 AM
Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Holy wow. Doctor Xero has been busy on a post I had thought of as long dead. And now he has so much information down I feel rather intimidated even trying to reply to his points.

My deepest apologies, Kris.

I had misread my computer (I turned to the Forge for a break after a very long teaching schedule) and thought there were postings between my postings.

Please, don't feel intimidated.  I include so much information only so that you can see that I am not spuriously shouting attitude on this topic.

There is much I do not know, which means that I can still have the joy of learning further.  I look forward to opportunities from people such as you to learn, and I am glad that the Forge has only a few posters from whom there is little to learn.

I look forward to your future postings, Kris.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Ben O'Neal on June 03, 2004, 06:50:18 PM
Quote
Ravien, your decision to reword my statement about my Ph.D. in Gender Studies as a statement about a Ph.D. in Women's Studies is yet one more of the many examples of your choosing to misinterpret my words.

Decision? Choosing to misinterpret? If I misinterpreted your words I apologise. I only read your post once so perhaps I was mistaken in my placing of "PhD" with the wrong course stream. I am human, I make mistakes. If I have come across as hostile towards you I apologise also, it was not my intention, I just call things as I see them, and when I'm wrong I accept it. But from the above I get the impression you are responding aggressively to your perception of me attacking you. I attack arguments, not people.

Quote
Not all experts agree on how weather occurs, the nature of gravity, implicate order theory, quantum theory, how bees fly, the proper interpretation of various Holy Writ, and the exact birthdate of Alexander the Great, for example -- but this does not mean that I will assume a 20 year old slacker stoned out on the sidewalk automatically has an opinion equal in validity to that of a meteorologist, physicist, mathematician, entomologist, theologian, or historian.

To a degree, your point is valid. However, suppose this 20 year old stoner was actually right about something. Should you dismiss his opinion because he is not an "expert"? What if, one day, he takes a trip and comes up with a theory on how to explain quantum entanglement with time travelling particles. Should we just ignore him cos he is a stoner? This point ties in with this one:
Quote
an expert is someone who is more learned in a particular field, not some ridiculous elite figure.

Unfortunately, the two are seldom seperate. If an expert is standing next to a stoner, and is putting forward an argument for a false conclusion, whilst the stoner puts forward an argument for the truth, the "expert" will be believed simply because he is seen as superior (ie: elite). And to think that there is no elitism within science or any other field is preposterous.

The fact is, the expertise of a speaker has no impact on the truth of a claim. Truth is independant of everything. If said stoner says A, and said expert can refute A with B, then A can be shown to be false without the need to resort to rank and title. Everyone's arguments are valid until proven otherwise. An expert may be one whose theories are simply harder to disprove.

Quote
Not really. Rather than explain it in detail, I suggest you read up on the concepts of the statistical outlier and of the history of the concept of deviation.

Perhaps I am misinterpreting you here, but I take that as a slight. I won't parade my statistical prowess but I know statistics rather well. However, an outlier does disprove an absolute. A statement "All females are genetically destined to be feminine" is disproven by the existence of masculine females, regardless of how far out these masculine females may lie from the norm. This is because of the nature of the word "all". I don't want to get into linguistic semantics though. On the other hand, outliers do not disprove rules and tendencies (only absolutes). If I say "all balls in this bag are red" and then pull out a green one, then my statement was false. If I say "most balls in this bag are red" and then pull out a green one, then my statement still stands.

Quote
If they were Private Mailings, why bring them up in public? Bad form, Ravien.

I don't think so. I never brought out the content, only my conclusions on your stance. Feel free to air your conclusions about my stance if you wish. I honestly wouldn't be bothered in the slightest, because I feel I have nothing to hide.

Quote
Either way, however, you will notice that we no longer mail one another ; it became obvious to me that I was failing to communicate effectively with you, so I saw no reason to further annoy either of us. I wasn't cutting you off, just trying to keep from annoying you needlessly.

Wow. I thought I could have said the exact same thing. Freaky.

Quote
I have no interest in humoring them.

The thing is, Kris does have an interest in humoring his players. Because he feels they are all on the same page as he is. Your statement basically boils down to "play with people who share your opinions about controversial matters". You may not want to humor his players, but perhaps he does want to. Are you going to tell me that he shouldn't want to? If not, then I really don't see how you can refute that.

Quote
There may be those who would enjoy playing RPGs titled Sexwolf: The Joys of Rape or Gaybashers and Other Role Models, but I see every reason to deny them that enjoyment. I have had too much experience in the Real World academically and interpersonally with those sorts of people to lionize or celebrate them -- or indulge them.

What about an RPG entitled Kill Everything that Looks at You Funny? I've had experience in my life with attempted murderers and violent people, and I've seen the damage they can do. Should we not celebrate violence in games? Should we not indulge the violent streaks of people? My 16 yr old sister, who is rather religious, wanted to play a murderer who tortured her victims. Should I have denied her that character concept simply because I felt it was in poor taste? Or is being a gaybasher worse than being a torturous murderer?

Quote
I have no ethical qualms with annoying racists, anti-semites, or homophobes

Why? Are they not people too? So, because they discriminate against other people based on race/religion/gender/sexuality, then it's ok for you to discriminate against them based on their discrimination? Is it ok if I discriminate against you based on your discrimination against them? How about we all just stop discriminating completely? Or is this one of those "you drop the gun first" deals, where we all kill each other?

I apologise if it seems like I'm playing the devils advocate; philosophy has the effect of making me question everything. In one of our classes we looked at animal rights, and the topic came up about that german guy who ate another german guy who he met over the internet. Both men were entirely concensual with the idea, and the victim had every oppurtunity to leave at every point right up until his final breath (the killing took many hours). Whilst we might all balk at the idea of slowly eating another human, we came to the conclusion that ethically, this situation was the ideal, where both eater and eaten are willing. Analogously, raping someone up the ass is unethical, but concensual anal sex is perfectly alright (though far from my own tastes). So if eating another human or having anal sex is ok so long as all involved are willing, why is it wrong to play an RPG exploring anything at all when all the players are willing? Just because you may disagree with the subject, doesn't mean that your opinions should hold sway over other people's choices. This is very nearly a censorship issue, and I am firmly opposed against any form of cencorship for numerous reasons.

Hence my conclusion stands. If Kris wants to explore gender differences from any perspective at all, and all his players are in complete agreement, then I say "go for it" in whatever way helps them all have fun.

-Ben


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: Doctor Xero on June 03, 2004, 07:38:13 PM
Quote from: Ravien



I disagree with your most recent thoughts ethically and artistically and, from the perspective of debate and communication, I disagree with your way of presenting them here.

I imagine that, if you want to, you could tit for tat return my sentiments.

Although we could argue about this all day, and we might both even benefit from the experience if we could actually communicate with one another, doing so provides nothing of value to Kris's thread nor to anyone reading it.

Kris's thread involves taking gender into account in game mechanics.

I still maintain that one should never cater to prejudice, not even "just gender stereotypes", but since you seem to consider catering to it acceptable if players enjoy the prejudice, and since I don't feel like starting a new thread on the topic merely to argue with you, in the interests of amity, I will withdraw from further clarifying my statements to you.  I imagine you may well do the same.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Slogging through what seemed more argument than constructive criticism is, or has been to me, an indication that, while the subject does warrant further discussion, it is time to take a breath and get back to the issues.

I agree, Kris, and I regret that even statements against prejudice may be seen as controversial when gender and sexuality are involved.

Good luck with your topic, Kris.  I have enjoyed your postings.

Doctor Xero


Title: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased
Post by: contracycle on June 03, 2004, 11:10:19 PM
Quote from: Ravien

Unfortunately, the two are seldom seperate. If an expert is standing next to a stoner, and is putting forward an argument for a false conclusion, whilst the stoner puts forward an argument for the truth, the "expert" will be believed simply because he is seen as superior (ie: elite). And to think that there is no elitism within science or any other field is preposterous.


One of your buddies has collapsed on the ground and appears to be having difficulty breathing. Next to you is an ER practitioner and a stoner.  The ER practicioner advises placing your buddy in the recovery position and applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; the stoner recommends letting 'em sleep it off.

Now, if you were in that situation, which course of action would be most prudent to follow?

I make no bones about the right of anyone to challenge the experts, but based on the fact that "commoners" have the same intellectual faculties, not that daily experience is equivelant to serious research.  Without thatdegree of effort, such arguments will be demolished by those who have already trained in the discipline and quite probably have encountered such challenges before.  Standing on the right to have an opinion achieves nothing.

Quote

Quote

I have no ethical qualms with annoying racists, anti-semites, or homophobes


Why? Are they not people too? So, because they discriminate against other people based on race/religion/gender/sexuality, then it's ok for you to discriminate against them based on their discrimination?


Yes, it is.  By analogy, we treat accused and convicted criminals differently from citizens not so accused or convicted.  Your argument is sophistry.