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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: am on May 03, 2005, 05:36:53 PM



Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: am on May 03, 2005, 05:36:53 PM
Hello, my name is Anna. I've been gaming for around 2 years. I am working on my masters degree, & I plan on analyzing role playing games from a performance/literary/rhetorical standpoint for my final thesis project.

So here are some questions for as many of you who want to answer:

1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative? Which rpgs in particular?

2. Are there any rpg systems written/created by a minority, woman, or homosexual? (The only system I am familiar with is Nobilius, created by a woman)

3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there? Also, if anyone is willing to share, sexual orientation? (If this question is too private, I understand. I am not trying to out or insult anyone. Only answer this question if you feel comfortable doing so.)

These questions are not limited to pen & paper games; LARPing & computer/online games can be included, but keep them to a minimum. My primary interest is currently pen & paper gaming.

I am aking these questions becuase it has been my (limited) experience that most gamers are white men, as I am one of the four women gamers I know, and I know only one African American male gamer and three homosexual gamers.

I do not seek to demonize white male gamers or system writers, I am interested in just the opposite.  I am attempting to argue in my thesis that the RPG form is open to a more diverse participation, and I need more information in order to formulate that argument.

I would truly appreciate some thoughts from any of you out there. Since this site primarily deals with independent systems, I thought that it would be the most apropriate forum for my questions. This would help my research out immensely. Thanks!


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Bankuei on May 03, 2005, 09:28:44 PM
Hi,

You might be interested in checking out this mail list:

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/RoleplayersOfColor/

Some of the folks there will be able to help you, also I believe a few of them are also aware of some women's list groups that serve the same purpose.

Chris


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Ben Lehman on May 03, 2005, 09:55:38 PM
Welcome to the Forge, Anna

There was a recent thread about women game designers RPGs being design by women.

As far as minority game designers go, the two famous ones I can think of are MAR Barker (Tekumel) and Mike Pondsmith (Cyberpunk, Castle Falkenstein, Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space.)  I know we have others here at the Forge, too.

This is a fascinating topic, and I wish I had more to say about it.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: John Kim on May 03, 2005, 10:04:23 PM
1) I don't see there is any problem with RPGs as a form being diverse.  However, the current gaming (sub-)culture is not.  I did a study of this recently, in my article Gender Roles in RPG Texts.  

2) Very few RPGs have female authors, but there are a few.  The few include "Darksword Adventures" (co-authored by Margaret Weis); "Nobilis" (by Rebecca Sean Borgstrom); and "The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men" and "Run Robot Red" (by Annie Rush).  Several games from White Wolf include female co-authors.  "Changeling: The Dreaming" includes by Jackie Cassada, Angel Leigh McCoy, and Nicky Rea among 12 authors.  "Exalted" includes Dana Habecker and Sheri M. Johnson among 9 authors.  "Orpheus" includes Genevieve Cogman and Ellen Kiley among 11 authors.  "Vampire: The Dark Ages" has co-author Jennifer Hartshorn.  This is going only by names.  There may, of course, be female authors using only initials or male names.  

It's much harder to tell whether an author is homosexual, of course.  Steve Kenson (author of Mutants & Masterminds) is openly so, I think (at least, his website reports that he lives with his partner Christopher).  I'm not aware offhand of others, but it's not information which is readily available.  

3) I know of some gender data on gamers, but none on sexual orientation or ethnicity.  See my website article on demographics:
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/whatis/demographics.html

I'd love to do a survey with more demographics, but it should be done on a large scale with many purposes in mind.  A small survey doesn't say very much.  For what it's worth, I'm a more-or-less straight, half-Asian/half-Caucasian male.


Title: Re: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: greyorm on May 04, 2005, 05:00:51 AM
Quote from: am
1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative?

I'm not certain precisely what you mean by "multi-voiced discourse". Could you provide an example of what such a thing/game/narrative would look like?

Quote
2. Are there any rpg systems written/created by a minority, woman, or homosexual?

For "minority", are you only considering ethnic minorities, or is (for example) religion also a factor?

Quote
3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there?

Standard hetero white male. My gaming groups post-high school, however, have always consisted of more females to males, and at one time the ratio was higher than 2:1 (we had a very large group with seven+ members, only two of whom were female).

Honestly, however, those games, despite the gender difference, have never been noticably different from standard gaming fare (hence my opening question). Dovetailing with that, there is also a thread here from some time ago where we discussed and concluded that the idea of gender making a difference in manner of play was sexist (and I note it was the women who brought that point up and supported it).

I believe that thread may have been Gender Based vs. Gender Biased (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11310), or one of the threads referenced therein.

Finally, I know and am (or have been) friends with a number of ethnic minority gamers, African Americans and Asian, as well as homosexuals. One of the latter was a member of my group for a number of years, and another number were friends I had outside of gaming whom I knew also role-played (though we never did game together).


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: jrs on May 04, 2005, 06:09:37 AM
Anna,

If you are up for a bit of reading, here is a link to a post where Ben Lehman has compiled a list of many of the gender discussions at the Forge.  None of these topics will directly address your questions, but they may be of interest to you.

Julie


Title: Re: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: TonyLB on May 04, 2005, 06:13:36 AM
Quote from: am
3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there?

Can I recommend going to a good-sized gaming convention with a notebook and making a lot of check-marks?

Yes, you're going to have selection bias (i.e. you're only sampling people who went to the con), but substantially less so, I would think, than asking the question here.

I feel bad kibbitzing... it's your project after all.  But this just seems like such an obvious way to get a mass of data quickly.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Michael S. Miller on May 04, 2005, 06:22:46 AM
If looking specifically at RPG creators, you could also go to Pen & Paper's Creator database (http://www.pen-paper.net/rpgdb.php?op=creatorlist&letter=A) and look for feminine names. Not scientific, but a place to start.

Also, reveiws of Green Ronin's Blue Rose (http://bluerose.greenronin.com) indicate that it addresses homophobia and related gender concerns within its game world. Not sure if that will help you.

Emily Dresner had a series of articles on women in gaming in Pyramid Online back in the late nineties. They'll still be accessible in the archives of Pyramid Online (requires subscription).

Finally, for commentary on real world sexual issues and their impact on gaming, you should read the Sex & Sorcery for Sorcerer (http://www.sorcerer-rpg.com). Ron knows his stuff.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 04, 2005, 06:38:10 AM
Thanks to everyone for such great referencing!!

I request that answering the call for personal descriptions be confined to private messaging, and that the discussion here be focused on AM's questions #1 and #2.

However, obviously, if personal information is relevant to either of these issues, then sure, toss it in. I'm not barring its presence, but rather keeping the thread from becoming a list of "I'm X" announcements based on question #3.

Best,
Ron


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on May 04, 2005, 07:01:37 AM
Hi am,

I'm fascinated by question #1.  Like greyorm, I'm looking for a clarification on this.

My brain gets stuck on this: painting, as a form, "are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities." Same with film, plays, novels and so on. I'm curious what you see about the nature of RPGs makes this a viable question.

Also, with the second half of the quesion, ("Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative?") -- it seems to me that to have people of different voices (and, even white males have different voices) playing in the same game, is to a discourse, setting, game and narrative shaped by these different voices.  

Thus, all you would need is a bunch of players along the spectrum of your agenda (and I've played with lots of women (often at a 1:1 ratio) gays and minorities -- so yeah. I think as a form it can do what you're asking. But I can't be sure yet, because I may not be grasping what you mean.

Now, whether or not everyone at the table feel comfortable bringing up issues that they feel most passionate about, or reflect their points of view and so on -- is another issue.

I think some games do this better than others. (And here I would say that many of the games in the Indie Game Forums below are the games I'm speaking about -- because the majority of them are designed to put into motion issues the players care about.)

But the other great factor would be the group itself. The RPG experience begins with the people and why they want to play together. This gets funneled through RPGs "as a form."

You might really want to check out The Provisional Glossery ( http://indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html ), and look over the discussion of The Big Model in particular. (note the link to the PDF file which shows The Big Model.)

I think you'll find that The Big Model my provide you with clues for what you're digging for in new ways.

Christopher


Title: Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Post by: am on May 04, 2005, 07:25:19 AM
I plan on doing most of my major research over the summer, so everyone's reading suggestions will help a great deal.

To anwser greyorn: multi-voiced discourse or narrative would be exactly like a campaign: multiple voices represented in a story as in people with different backgrounds, genders, races, the GLBT community, and yes, even religions & socioeconomic factors. I am interested in how role-playing could put some of these diverse people in discussion with each other, using fantasy/sci-fi as a setting.

I got this term from Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian literary theorist who wrote in the 1930s. He uses multi-voiced, or polyphonic discourse, to discuss the novel as a form, stating that the novel, as opposed to drama, or poetry, allows for multiple voices to be represented through the voices of the characters. The only problem I have with this theory is that there is only one author of a book (usually). I wanted to explore this theory using RPGS because they have multiple authors creating a story with diverse characters.

The problem I came up with was from my limited experience playing with mostly straight white men, which limits the scope of this type of multi-voiced discourse. I wanted to ask more experienced gamers their opinion regarding diversiry in campaigns, and to find out more information to add to my limited gaming experience.

I hope that answers some questions, and that everyone gets where I'm coming from.

Again, thank you all for your opinions, information, and especially the reading list that's being formed on this forum! This is exactly what I needed!
~ Anna


Title: Re: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Matt Wilson on May 04, 2005, 07:28:55 AM
Quote from: am
1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative? Which rpgs in particular?


Some games have that potential, sure. Except what the heck is a form?

The hobby, I think, is kind of a 'boys club,' and it has some baggage attached. I don't think very many people who play roleplaying games would be averse to including a minority or minorities in their group, of color, gender, preference, whatever. But people aren't often consciously aware of the things they do that come across as exclusionary, in gaming or anywhere else, so you have the same struggles.

I could name a bunch of games written by people who frequent these boards as appropriate for what you're looking for. I personally made anti-racism and anti-sexism part of my game design mission statement, but I know it's something that matters to many other people here.

Quote
3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there? Also, if anyone is willing to share, sexual orientation? (If this question is too private, I understand. I am not trying to out or insult anyone. Only answer this question if you feel comfortable doing so.)


I'm white and straight, and I don't know if I've ever played a roleplaying game with someone who didn't self identify as white. I've played with two people I can think of offhand who were openly gay, though maybe I'm forgetting someone else. My current group includes 4 men and 1 woman, but most groups have just been guys.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Danny_K on May 04, 2005, 07:39:08 AM
You might want to also take a look at the forums on RPG.net, particularly Roleplaying Open (for RPG questions) and Tangency (for personal questions).  RPG.net seems to have quite a few gaymers.

As far as your question about game designers goes, I know of Cynthia Celeste Miller (of Cartoon Action Hour fame).  White Wolf has a long tradition of being (mostly) gay-friendly, but I can't speak to specific writers or artists.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: xenopulse on May 04, 2005, 07:59:58 AM
Quote
These questions are not limited to pen & paper games; LARPing & computer/online games can be included, but keep them to a minimum. My primary interest is currently pen & paper gaming.


The difference is big in this regard, I believe. I've found that in chat roleplaying forums, women often outnumber men by a small margin. However, most P&P game groups I know tend to be all or mostly male; same with attendance at P&P conventions (though I haven't been to one in a few years, so that might be changing).

This might have to do with the lingering roots of RPGs in wargames and the associated geek-factor. That's why some lines of games, namely White Wolf's and others, have done quite a bit to draw in more female gamers as they try hard to build a separate image and provide a different roleplaying experience. So once you build up your statistics, I bet you'll find many more women playing Vampire than D&D.

Women are a very different issue than minorities, however--because they are not in the minority. While it makes sense that you'd find fewer minority gamers than caucasian/heterosexual gamers (there's just so many more of the latter, which is why they're called the majority :), men and women are roughly equally present in the population.

Among all the gay people I know, I can't say that their ratio of roleplayers to non-roleplayers is smaller than among my heterosexual acquaintances.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on May 04, 2005, 09:39:07 AM
Hi Anna,

Thanks for the explantion of your first question. (And clearly I misunderstood it completely on my first post.)

I'd have to say, then, that RPGs are unique in their ability to contain and present many voices and points of view -- if only because, if the group wants it, so many voices can be heard clearly.

I'd add that it seems strange to me that a novel would be considered better at this than a play. Some novels have only one limited narrator -- while plays are full of characters with their own agendas.

But as far as RPGs go, yes.

Christopher


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Adam Cerling on May 04, 2005, 10:36:21 AM
Anna,

Will you be considering how this discourse is affected by the particular way in which roleplaying games allow you to walk in somebody else's shoes? I know I've learned a lot about different ethnicities simply by making the effort to play a non-white character and do a little research for the role.

My weekly P&P group consists of three men (two caucasian, one pacific islander) and two women (caucasian).


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: paulkdad on May 04, 2005, 11:19:15 AM
Anna,

Whiterat brought up a point that makes me wonder how the word "performance" is intended in your initial post.

Are you talking about performance in the feminist sense of gender as a social construction, in which our notions of "man" and "woman" are performed? Personally, I find a lot to like in the theory of performativity, and it brings up an interesting question: If, for instance, a male roleplayer chooses to play a female character, does he in fact become more aware of his everyday performance of a gender role, or is the roleplaying experience somehow kept distinct from his constructed identity?

One other thing: in your first question, you used the word "form" (RPGs as a medium) but on a practical level you seem to be interested in the social contract between roleplayers. Isn't that going to vary from group to group (and from game to game within the same group)? It seems to me that you're really looking for trends in roleplaying; in which case I'd agree with Tony--GenCon or Origins would be good places to conduct your research.


Title: Re: Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Post by: John Kim on May 04, 2005, 11:25:20 AM
Quote from: am
To anwser greyorn: multi-voiced discourse or narrative would be exactly like a campaign: multiple voices represented in a story as in people with different backgrounds, genders, races, the GLBT community, and yes, even religions & socioeconomic factors. I am interested in how role-playing could put some of these diverse people in discussion with each other, using fantasy/sci-fi as a setting.

I got this term from Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian literary theorist who wrote in the 1930s. He uses multi-voiced, or polyphonic discourse, to discuss the novel as a form, stating that the novel, as opposed to drama, or poetry, allows for multiple voices to be represented through the voices of the characters.

I think you would be interested in Liz Henry's paper, Group Narration: Power, Information, and Play in RPGs.  She analyzes some of the power structures within the group in light of Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford's work, "Singular Texts/Plural Authors" -- a book about writing collaborations.  A relevant quote:
Quote from: Liz Henry
Ede and Lunsford point out that most of the collaborations they studied depend on a rigidly structured hierarchy, which results in high efficiency in producing a final textual result. According to Ede and Lunsford, in collaboration that is focused on productivity and efficiency, "the realities of multiple voices and shifiting authority are seen as difficulties to be overcome or resolved." They associate this hierarchical structure in part with male gender, calling it "a masculine mode of discourse."

Ede and Lunsford assert the existence of an alternate method of collaborative writing which exemplifies Bakhtin's concept of the dialogic; in dialogic mode, the group is loosely structured, authority and goals are fluid, and the process or experience of writing and collaboration is valued over the result, end goal, or textual product. Ede and Lunsford think of this mode as predominantly feminine (133).

An interesting topic which she only touches on is how the masculine and feminine discourses correspond to features or styles in a role-playing session.


Title: Hey
Post by: zephyr_cirrus on May 04, 2005, 12:53:33 PM
I am latinó, so I assume that there are other people out there that are interested in pen and paper RPGs.  However, I live in NC, and there aren't really any other people in my community interested in RPGs (that I know of).


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Larry L. on May 04, 2005, 03:33:14 PM
Um... Trollbabe (http://www.adept-press.com/trollbabe/)? I'm hard pressed to come up with a game that's more blatantly feminist.

White Wolf, to my knowledge, was the first company to aggressively alternate between masculine and feminine personal pronouns in cases of indeterminate gender, realizing that pendantically correct English usage was rather less important than actively inviting female gamers. I think this is a more significant milestone than it might seem. Many other texts have since followed suit.

I've seen reasonably diverse participation in RPGA (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=rpga) events, should you not be able to locate a gaming convention.


Title: clarification of form & other things
Post by: am on May 04, 2005, 06:38:56 PM
What I mean by form could maybe be understood as system.
I am not talking about diverse groups and their particular experiences of swocial contracts, but more so looking at RPGs as a form of literature; i.e. as opposed to a novel, a play, or a poem.
I think that RPGs can be seen as a literary form, similar to a novel, but very different at the same time.
Does that clarify what I meant by form?

To Whiterat: yes, walking in someone else's shoes is something I would consider for a possiblity for RPGs to play with.

To paulkdad: yes yes yes! I am very interested in my other studies  separate from roleplaying in how gender is performed in our everyday lives. I am in Performance Studies and that is a huge part of our studies, especially Judith Butler and her notions of performativity.
Gender & performativity are not the only things that attract me to RPGs. I love studying the performance of literature. The construction of a shared story through a sort of performance (players talking out, or performing, what the characters say) attracts me just as much.
And your question regarding cross gender role playing...well, I don't know. I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean. I have played men in theater, and that does draw attention to how I perform my gender in my everyday life (not to stray too far from topic). Since I've had that experience in theater, I do not doubt the relevance it would have in RPGs. I may have to experiment with that.

Damn, these posts are awesome y'all! Thanks so much!


Title: Re: clarification of form & other things
Post by: Adam Cerling on May 04, 2005, 08:30:26 PM
Quote from: am
To paulkdad: yes yes yes! I am very interested in my other studies  separate from roleplaying in how gender is performed in our everyday lives. I am in Performance Studies and that is a huge part of our studies, especially Judith Butler and her notions of performativity.
Gender & performativity are not the only things that attract me to RPGs. I love studying the performance of literature. The construction of a shared story through a sort of performance (players talking out, or performing, what the characters say) attracts me just as much.


I'm surprised you're not more interested in Live-Action Roleplaying. Have you had only limited or negative exposure? I see more "performance" in my weekly LARPs than I see around the gaming table.

I LARP with about 20 to 30 people, all caucasian, and about 1 in 6 female. The group includes at least four homosexual men, and one woman who roleplays a male character.


Title: Re: clarification of form & other things
Post by: Michael S. Miller on May 05, 2005, 03:02:08 AM
Quote from: WhiteRat
I LARP with about 20 to 30 people, all caucasian, and about 1 in 6 female. The group includes at least four homosexual men, and one woman who roleplays a male character.


How odd. Most of the LARPs I've seen (that is, at gaming conventions) are closer to 35%-45% women. I think the fact that so much of LARP resolution is based on the player's social skills makes it more appealling to women generally.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: am on May 05, 2005, 03:35:43 AM
WhiteRat:
I've never LARPed, because of limited exposure. I only know one person where I live who does it, and I have considered joining, but I barely have enough time anymore to play even pen & paper.
I'll have to look into it, cause I'm really curoius.
~ Anna


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: paulkdad on May 05, 2005, 08:07:06 AM
Anna,

Given this:

Quote from: am
What I mean by form could maybe be understood as system ...I think that RPGs can be seen as a literary form, similar to a novel, but very different at the same time.

And this:

Quote from: am
1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative? Which rpgs in particular?

I'd have to say that any inference of "homogeneity" in RPGs is bound to be mistaken. RPGs as a form are as multi-voiced as their players, which is why I was seeing this as a question of trends. There are different ways to look for an answer to this:
[list=1]
  • Are the rules presented using inclusive language?
  • Do illustrations in the rulebook sexually objectify female characters?
  • By looking at the examples and illustrations, do the rules seem to be witten with white males in mind?
  • Do the options for player characters encourage or discourage diversity?
  • [/list:o]
    Of these four questions, only the last one deals with
system. The first three are related to presentation. But just looking at this last question, I'd be hard pressed to find a game that I felt actively discouraged diversity. Even if I were looking at D&D, what do I make of the presence of Elves, Gnomes and the like? Do these options encourage multi-voiced discourse, or are they simply there to give more system options to Gamist roleplayers?

On the other hand, questions related to setting certainly abound. For instance, if the game is set in the "Wild West", how does it portray Native Americans? That genre hasn't interested me thus far, so I can't answer this question, but it wouldn't be difficult to generate a list. Many online RPG shops let you search by category, and I know that RPGnow lists "Western" as an option. Obviously, any setting that is even loosely based on an historical Earth equivalent is going to lend itself to this sort of examination (for example, any fantasy setting that uses medieval Europe as a template).

I'd like to say that options are improving, in this regard, but I am not well read enough to know for certain. I can readily point out one example: Sengoku has received rave reviews for its presentation of feudal Japan in a roleplaying game. You might also look at timfire's The Mountain Witch, which IIRC is going to be released very soon.

To the degree that a game reflects a literary genre, I'd say that it tends to inherit all the influences (and potential problems) from that genre. For instance, in OVA (Open Versatile Anime RPG) the first image in the book is a young elf-like woman lying on her bed in panties and silky blouse. On the other hand, the book uses inclusive language and does a great job of presenting examples of female (and even androgynous) characters. It's also one of the only RPGs I know of that provides examples of characters that young girls could easily identify with. Do the images sexually objectify female characters? Sometimes. Is the game inclusive of female gamers? Absolutely. I don't think it's an either/or situation.

It might reflect my choice of games, and then again it might reflect a trend in RPGs, but most of the games on my shelf use inclusive language. OTOH, I also avoid the one system that most people play: D&D/d20. Still, inclusive language is just a first step, and doesn't guarantee anything.

Quote from: am
I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean. I have played men in theater, and that does draw attention to how I perform my gender in my everyday life

I think the difference here is that in theater you have a director to answer to. If you aren't playing your character well, the director will step in and do something about it. In roleplaying games, I think there is a sense of individual expression in the way a player plays a PC, and other players would be loathe to step in and say, "Oh, a [insert gender here] would never react that way!" And even if they did, it wouldn't have the authority that a director has.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Wysardry on May 05, 2005, 08:35:38 AM
You might find this list of Studies About Fantasy Role-Playing Games (http://www.rpgstudies.net) useful.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: J. Tuomas Harviainen on May 06, 2005, 01:31:01 AM
The list Wysardry mentions is good, but lacking prcatically all material from the Nordic area (Kellomäki's thesis, the Nordic larp studies yearbooks, etc.) some of which may be very useful on this issue: Works like Hutchison's article in Dissecting Larp (2005), "Larp organizing and gender in Norway", provide actual statistical info on gender divisions, some of which might be good for comparison, if nothing else.

DL should be online within a couple of months, the previous years' yearbooks are already available on the net (http://www.ropecon.fi/brap).

-Jiituomas


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 06, 2005, 12:21:29 PM
Quote
I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean.
Fer real? This is such a common phenomenon, that prominent folks here have been prompted to write that they think that it's a bad idea, and that they can't get into it when people play this way.

I think that your question still needs refining. I think it's quite obvious that minorities and women do play RPGs. And it's obvious that they can, in theory, play regarding issues that are important to them. A possible question might be something like, "Do women and minorites have a proportional voice in the overall output of RPG play."

The answer there is obviously no, however. Compare the phenomenon to, say, golf. Invented by white males (Gygax and Arneson are about as white male as you can get), and transmitted as an activity culturally, it's not particularly surprising (nor even really all that objectionable) that white males play more RPGs in proportion to their numbers than any other demographic.

That said, I don't see why this has to continue as a trend. I'd say that RPGs have been far more open to minorities and women coming aboard than, say, golf has. Not that it's completely egalitarian, not by far. Cheesecake covers and Wild West games where the Indians are there to shoot still do exist.

It seems to me that the real question would be how egalitarian the form is as compares other such forms with similar origins. To the extent that worldwide it's still "a man's world" to some extent, and that's only getting fixed slowly, RPGs are just another case of these things changing for the most part. Given how far it's come in only three decades of existence, I'd say that it's done better than most forms. But that may simply be a sign of our times.

Have I grossly missed your point? Can you see how, if I have?

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: John Kim on May 07, 2005, 09:01:18 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I'd say that RPGs have been far more open to minorities and women coming aboard than, say, golf has. Not that it's completely egalitarian, not by far. Cheesecake covers and Wild West games where the Indians are there to shoot still do exist.

It seems to me that the real question would be how egalitarian the form is as compares other such forms with similar origins. To the extent that worldwide it's still "a man's world" to some extent, and that's only getting fixed slowly, RPGs are just another case of these things changing for the most part. Given how far it's come in only three decades of existence, I'd say that it's done better than most forms.

While RPGs have undoubtedly progressed in their three decades, I don't think it's very impressive overall.  Around 1980, Gary Alan Fine estimated that the number of women players was between 5 and 10%.  The 1999 Wizards of the Coast survey, which found 19% women through more accurate methods.  On the other hand, James Kittock's 2001 Internet survey found only 9% women, and only 4% of DMs were female.  This had less controlled methods, but Fine's sources (mainly conventions and magazine surveys) were similar.  According to Fine, in The Dragon's 1979 referee list, 3.8% (19) were female (excluding non-sex-typed first names).  

So overall female participation has probably doubled over two decades.  But the rough estimates of the number of female GMs are closer to constant between 1980 and 2001.  

The broader question is how well RPGs support non-dominant voices.  For example, if a minority of females are participating, does the nature of the discourse let them be proportionately expressed, or does it suppress minority voices.  Ede and Lunsford describe the latter as "hierarchical".   Hierarchical to them means a collaboration that is focused on productivity and efficiency, "the realities of multiple voices and shifiting authority are seen as difficulties to be overcome or resolved."  So strict GM dominance is obviously hierarchical, but I think a competitive narration approach like Pantheon is also hierarchical.  But that's a pretty long topic.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: jrs on May 07, 2005, 01:06:37 PM
I have to admit that I'm a little jaded about the issue of whether or not RPG's allow room for women to participate.  (I cannot really address the issue of minorities, since I am not one.)  I have seen this question raised multiple times with varying arguments and explanations.  Since I'm a gamer, it seems to be a moot point for me.  One of these days I'd like to see someone address the issue of why gamers perpetuate the existance of single sex play groups.  That to me seems to be a more interesting issue.

Julie


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 09, 2005, 06:14:12 AM
The question, Julie, cannot be whether or not females are allowed to participate, but whether or not they feel that they have a voice to say "female" things when playing. You play with Ron, and so undoubtedly this is the case for you. So, again, the question can't also be whether or not there are some small number who have a voice in RPGs (this is also obviously true) but whether RPGs overall have a 50% female voice. And, for minorities, whether they have a proportional voice.

John, as it happens (and I don't know if you're a member or not), the subject of male/female ratios is being discussed on the CAR-RPGa list recently, and some folks, Paul Cardwell included, pointed out how all of the methods used to identify female gamers that you mention have been badly skewed. And how more accurate sources show larger percentages of female players. This also depends on your definition of RPGs to some extent - does it include LARP? Freeform? Online play? If it includes the latter, the numbers go up pretty substantially. On the recent thread about Freeforms somebody estimated that female players are more than 50% of the population (annecdotal, of course, but to even have a limited experience in that range seems telling).

I'm certainly not saying that I think that a broad look at RPGs as a whole comes up 50% female - I think it's still far less than that. But any assessment of whether or not this is a good rate of advancement or not is neccessarily relative. I'm sure we can both point to fields (forms to use the poster's term) where females and minorities have come to be proportionally incorporated, and others where they have very little voice. Sans hard data on the subject, I think we'll be relegated to such generalities.

As a note: one of the things that I observed about the male/female split is that females, in my admittedly very limited and anecdotal observation, tend to prefer what might be termed low "points of contact" RPGs. That is, highly "geeky" RPGs, those with tons of rules for the sake of simulation and such, tend to be the purview of males who use the "superiority" of their rules systems as a source of ego. Women just don't have the group conformity genes that require as much system for this purpose.

The point being that, yes, such systems do have a lower proportion of women who have a voice in them. But less because they are not informed that they cannot have a voice in them, but because they self-select for other sorts of games. Hence my explanation for the higher percentages in, say, LARP games (also corresponds with the presupposed female advantages in verbal communications).

So it may simply be that older, more traditional male-created RPGs simply don't appeal to women as much as some other versions of RPGs. I think that the increases in women participating are, to some extent, the result of games shifting to included them. V:TM, of course, being a watershed point in gaming with regards to this.

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: GameLoft on May 09, 2005, 08:46:47 AM
Quote from: jrs
One of these days I'd like to see someone address the issue of why gamers perpetuate the existance of single sex play groups.  That to me seems to be a more interesting issue.

Julie


I agree completely Julie.  This is the issue we need to truly study.  I run a teen center devoted to non-electronic gaming, especially rpg's.  When I arrived there four years ago there were very few girls in the program.  In fact, the ones that were there were being abused verbally and socially in my opinion.  I decided that one of my goals was to change this.  

I began to ask the adults with the program why this was the way it was.  They gave me answers like "Its a boys hobby (one of them was a women)"  and "having a female in the group really complicates things."  This last answer was geared both as an in game and out of game comment.  I disagree with this.  I use the games I run as tools to help shape these youth as well as explore the stories they want to experience.  This can't be done by not having full interaction of the genders.   I worked hard to integrate and invite female gamers.  We went from 10% female membership to about 40% in three years.  

The hardest part about this was integrating the gaming groups. The boys did not want girls.  Or would not think of them as good gamers.  The groups we have now, I call them 2nd and 3rd generation, have been gaming intergender for most of their time at the Loft and I do not see that issue, as much.

I still get it with adult volunteers though.   They tell me they will not run a game with girls in it.  Their not comfortable, or have never dealt with that situation before and don't know if they could handle it.  The best was a man who informed me that:
 "Girls are different. "  
I said yes they are but that has nothing to do with gaming.  
And he responded , "Yes it does.  How would I do a rape scene?"  
I said you wouldn't even if their were no girls in your group here at the Loft.  You also won't be volunteering here.  He proceeded to argue with me that conflicts like that are important story drivers and he would not want to GM here if he was going to be controlled in his style.  I should also point out his play group was going to be 12-15 year olds.

I personally have used an abduction and rape scene as a, what would be called here bang, character catalyst. (an NPC dear to a player had been abducted) I am not opposed to this when used appropriatly.  We touch on many dark themes wth our teens, its what their fascinated by, but we do it in a way to show all of the sides.  the other important thing is we leave the specifics up to their imaginations, which are much scarier then anything we come up with.  It was clear to me he was not going to do this.  He wanted to be able to use every lurid detail in this context for his own enjoyment.  He didn't want to elevate his story telling to a new level and I thus didn't want him in my program.

I think this fear to expand the hobby and its role in how we use it to tell about the world around us and within us is the core root problem taking place.  Fear of new horizons constricts the growth of the medium.  I personally think that is the greatest strength of this site.  I don't always agree with everything said but that fact that this discourse occurs is vital towards pushing this powerful medium ahead.

Quote
Quote:
I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean.
Fer real? This is such a common phenomenon, that prominent folks here have been prompted to write that they think that it's a bad idea, and that they can't get into it when people play this way.


From my own experiences on this.  It doesn't work well.  I have seen women play passable men but rarely if ever do I see a man play a passable women.  In fact, in my program I have a rule that you may not play a member of the opposite sex unless you and I feel you are ready to explore that.   It was a problem when I first got there, every guy( the ones who verbally and socially abused the girls) tried to play a female and I had to keep saying no.  Now ones who have realy experienced the program under me, the 2nd generation, don't ask.  They know they are not ready to do it justice.  Recently, I had someone ask if he could.  I said do you feel your ready and he said I do but I would feel better if another good gamer who I am confortable with tried it as well.   So he asked a female friend to play a male.  They have been playing their characters for about four months and constantly give each other critiques and thoughts.  Healthy conversation and gender exploration in a group setting.

Wow, I had one more story to tell about cross gender play but I'll post it somewhere else since this is a lot longer then I thought it would be.

Ian[/quote]


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 09, 2005, 09:04:49 AM
I think that we're going off on a tangent here. But generally, one could ask "why do men have all male poker games?" The answer is remarkably simple, people find associating with people who are similar easier than associating with people who are different than they are. So the tendency is to select for those who are similar.

Is there really any mystery in that? Is it a good reason to exclude anyone? Of course not. But it's very standard human behavior. How easy is it for somebody to say, "Oh, this game is just for my friends," when it just so happens that the person only has same-sex friends. Consider how typical this is for adolescents who are societally pushed into same-sex social frameworks - sports teams, locker rooms, bathrooms, even single-sex schools. Given that this has traditionally been when people started playing RPGs most typically, and that RPG groups tend to be eternally perpetuating, it's no surprise to me.

To whit, I have one group of gamer friends who go back to grade school some 25 years ago. Heck, when I started playing D&D, I literally didn't know how to speak to girls, much less get them to play a game that was considered extremely geeky. Not proud of that fact, but it wasn't RPGs that caused the problem, it was purely a general societal thing.

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: GameLoft on May 09, 2005, 09:08:05 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
The question, Julie, cannot be whether or not females are allowed to participate, but whether or not they feel that they have a voice to say "female" things when playing.


True Mike but if they are not permitted in to a group, or are but do not feel they can speak freely OOC, why would they feel like they could IC.  I know we would all agree that the dynamics of our medium mean that both IC and OOC go hand in hand.

So if we can deal with the root social issue in the gaming group itself then we will see, by group dynamics, a change in the game.  That is where I am coming from when I agree with what Julie.  

I think another way to address it is by creating game setting and mechanics that promote equality of females and all players in the group.  This can only really make a difference though if at least the GM has bought into the idea.  If the Gm does not believe in the idea then the setting or mechanic becomes a mockery of social commentary.
Look at the Drow, as someone else posted, they are a matriarchy.  They are evil, backstabbing and really at their root, vile.  Yet they are very popular.  Why?  One reason is they are the bad guys... errr gals. (Although I believe that the successful book character is male)  I know that at least one of the young women I work with loves them because they are a matriarchy.  That's who she needs to pick as a role model for a young female gamer.  The industry has provided her nothing better.  That's just sad.  I know there are better things out there in gaming (Danuvians in Tal, 7th Sea females, Arthurian Ladies, Trollbabe) but I can't get her to try them.  So, its another example of OOG effecting IG.  

My point here is that these are both the issues and Julie's is more vital because it effects both the real world dynamics of the group and the fake world dynamics of the group.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 09, 2005, 09:16:36 AM
We cross-posted, obviously. But to clarify, my point to Julie was simply that her personal satisfaction as one player who does have a voice in RPGs doesn't answer the original poster's question. Which can't be whether some few women have a voice, obviously they do. It has to speak to the larger question.

As to the same-sex problem, well, I agree that it's a problem as my subsequent post points out. I wasn't speaking to that at all in my first response to Julie.

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: John Kim on May 09, 2005, 09:50:42 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
John, as it happens (and I don't know if you're a member or not), the subject of male/female ratios is being discussed on the CAR-RPGa list recently, and some folks, Paul Cardwell included, pointed out how all of the methods used to identify female gamers that you mention have been badly skewed. And how more accurate sources show larger percentages of female players. This also depends on your definition of RPGs to some extent - does it include LARP? Freeform? Online play? If it includes the latter, the numbers go up pretty substantially. On the recent thread about Freeforms somebody estimated that female players are more than 50% of the population (annecdotal, of course, but to even have a limited experience in that range seems telling).

No, I'm not a member, but I agree with you in general.  I hinted at this but was not explicit in my prior answer.  I note that James Kittock's online survey in 2001 found only 9% women -- while the much more controlled Wizards of the Coast survey in 1999 found 19% women in tabletop role-playing.  That's a substantial difference, and given the substantial controls I think WotC's 19% is fairly accurate.  I suspect that Fine's sources (convention participation and magazine response surveys) may have similar bias to Kittock's survey.  They are looking only at more dedicated gamers who follow specific forums.  

On the other hand, other forms like LARP and freeform and/or online play are relevant, but I don't think they should just be averaged in.  If freeform roleplaying has much higher percentage of women than tabletop, I think we should ask why that is.  

I don't have data on American LARPs, but there was a great article in the Knutepunkt 2005 book, Dissecting larp, entitled "Larp organizing and gender in Norway" by Ragnhild Hutchison.  In brief, she documents the rise of female participation in Norwegian larps from roughly 20% in 1989 to nearly 40% in 2004.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I'm certainly not saying that I think that a broad look at RPGs as a whole comes up 50% female - I think it's still far less than that. But any assessment of whether or not this is a good rate of advancement or not is neccessarily relative. I'm sure we can both point to fields (forms to use the poster's term) where females and minorities have come to be proportionally incorporated, and others where they have very little voice. Sans hard data on the subject, I think we'll be relegated to such generalities.

Well, Hutchison's article is a great test case of rise.  I also know some data from graduate school where I looked at women in physics in comparison to other fields.  Physics is also a field where female participation has not risen much (it remains at close to 10% in grad school), while biology and chemistry have shown substantial rise.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
As a note: one of the things that I observed about the male/female split is that females, in my admittedly very limited and anecdotal observation, tend to prefer what might be termed low "points of contact" RPGs. That is, highly "geeky" RPGs, those with tons of rules for the sake of simulation and such, tend to be the purview of males who use the "superiority" of their rules systems as a source of ego.  Women just don't have the group conformity genes that require as much system for this purpose.

I've heard that before, but I am rather doubtful about it.  For example, the Wizards of the Coast survey found that female participation in miniature wargames to be equal to (actually slightly higher) than female participation in tabletop roleplaying games.  And miniature wargames are highly geeky and simulationy.  Outside of tabletop RPGs, we see substantial female participation in games like "The Sims" which are highly complex.  In my opinion, complex rules are a barrier to entry for any new player, male or female.  If the game doesn't appeal to a group, they will tend not to learn the rules.  But this isn't a problem with the rules.  Rather it is a lack of draw to learn the rules.  

I think Vampire: the Masquerade is a good case.  Its rules are just as complex as most other mainstream games, but anecdotally it has had substantially greater female participation.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: komradebob on May 09, 2005, 09:59:36 AM
I'd be interested in the commonalities found among gamers of all genders/ethnic groups/economic backgrounds. While folks seem to be agreed that the majority of ttrpg players are white, male and middle class, I don't think that the reverse ( that the majority of white, middle class, males are ttrpgers) has been shown to be true, even anecdotally.

So what then are the traits that draw folks to gaming?


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 09, 2005, 10:42:11 AM
Quote
For example, the Wizards of the Coast survey found that female participation in miniature wargames to be equal to (actually slightly higher) than female participation in tabletop roleplaying games. And miniature wargames are highly geeky and simulationy. Outside of tabletop RPGs, we see substantial female participation in games like "The Sims" which are highly complex. In my opinion, complex rules are a barrier to entry for any new player, male or female. If the game doesn't appeal to a group, they will tend not to learn the rules. But this isn't a problem with the rules. Rather it is a lack of draw to learn the rules.
If participation levels in two geeky forms of play is about the same that would tend to prove my point rather than refute it, wouldn't it? In any case, as Ron points out, the geekyness of RPGs is always higher, because it's harder to understand what the out put is in many cases. In a wargame, at least you have a winner and a loser, which is easily grasped.

Quote
I think Vampire: the Masquerade is a good case. Its rules are just as complex as most other mainstream games, but anecdotally it has had substantially greater female participation.
I disagree. That is, at the time of it's inclusion, V:TM was considered a "lite" game (derided by some as such, in fact). So, relatively speaking, it's got less points of contact. And the output is, in theory, very clear. It's a "storytelling" game. The clarity of the statement (whether or not the rules follow the statement) is appealing. It seems to do away with incoherency of previous games.

With a game like, oh, say, Aftermath! the goals of play are far from clear. Meaning that only the a male with a very male attitude like, "Well I get what it's about, so I'm better than you" will enjoy such a game. For a female who doesn't put their ego into the activity, who just looks for some fun with the least amount of inscrutable work required to get it, a game like Aftermath! is just odd.

Vampire improved on that tremendously. And yes, obviously they were catering to material that was already marketed at women (Anne Rice) to some extent. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Vampire got women to play only because of it's relative ease. I'm saying it was part of a gradual movement in a direction that was effected by a lot of techniques.

As for "The Sims" I think that it's also has more approachable subject matter but that, in fact, it does not have high points of contact. You have a Sim. They can do a lot of the things that a human can do. So you have them do those things. Easy. As opposed to an RPG where you might have to understand a plentitude of "feats" in order to resolve a simple fight satisfactorily. Simple to learn, hard to master. Nobody is saying that women aren't into strategy - they just understand that you can have it without lots of extra rules that exist solely to make the activity "superior" in the male ego sense of the term. "We to it more/better!"

Check this out. I know men who will have their Sims do all sorts of really odd things just to see where they can push the game engine. Can I get it to break? and that sort of thing. I never see women abusing a system that way in the name of being the only person to discover this flaw in the system or to get some extreme to occur.

It's precisely this difference that I think repels most women (and many males, too) from most RPGs.

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: John Kim on May 09, 2005, 09:43:17 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Check this out. I know men who will have their Sims do all sorts of really odd things just to see where they can push the game engine. Can I get it to break? and that sort of thing. I never see women abusing a system that way in the name of being the only person to discover this flaw in the system or to get some extreme to occur.

It's precisely this difference that I think repels most women (and many males, too) from most RPGs.

I'm ponder that one.  First, I don't think that's contradictory to my statement.  This isn't about high vs. low points of contact in the design, but rather about style of play.  As I system-abuser myself, though, I'm interested in this.  I think it's true that system-breaking (or rebellion in general) is considered un-feminine.  So a woman who breaks the system will tend to be judged much more harshly than a man who does the same.  Since politeness and keeping-to-system is considered more of a feminine value, women will tend to less system abuse.  

Both high and low points-of-contact are open to abuse, just abuse of different forms.  But this is pretty off-topic to am's point, and should probably go to a thread of its own if we're going to keep discussing it.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 10, 2005, 05:16:19 AM
John's right. As I feared, this thread has swiftly hit a "men are women are" exchange which serves no useful purpose.

Back on track, folks. Post in order to help Anna, not devolve into a "gee an interesting chance to insert my views" fest.

Best,
Ron


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 10, 2005, 05:52:44 AM
(Note that I'm using women here without addressing minorities just to make the overall arguments simpler. I'm not ignoring the part of the question that deals with minorities. I'm just focusing on certain angles by addressing one part of the question.)

The part that remains pertinent to the thread's question (I think, I could be wrong) is whether or not the women in question self-select out of RPGs, or are pushed out of RPGs. There are subtle differences. Do women not play American Football because of the social context surrounding it, or because they generally lack the upper-body strength to do so without injury? And by extension, is the fact that our society generally prevents women from gaining upper body strength a limiter here.

Sure, one could argue that RPGs are an activity that has been designed in such a way that it's not attractive to women. Which could be spun as it being an anti-women form. But generally you might have to so radically alter the activity to make it women-friendly that the original form disappears. For example, you can play tag football - but it's really not the same sport. To discuss whether or not RPGs have a voice, I think we have to look at them as they are in a positive sense. As a form in which somebody wants to have a voice.

So are RPGs an activity in which men seek actively to eliminate female participation? Or is the lack of female participation due to women just not being interested? I'm sure it's some of both, actually. I mean, there are obviously groups that seek to eliminate female participation either by not inviting women, or less actively by making game sessions intolerable to women players. But I'm just as sure that "otherwise equivalent" females select out of playing certain RPGs because RPGs do have some elements that are designed to appeal to people who are canalized by society as males.

So I think you have a bit of each - social level pressure against female participation, and game design militating against female participation. Where neither of these is true, however, I think that females do have an equal voice in participation. This is Julie's case, for instance.

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: contracycle on May 10, 2005, 06:25:23 AM
Ok, well I'm going to come out and say "no".

And then, kinda, yes maybe.

We have previously touched on wether RPG is a viable vehicle for any sort of activism, and I argued against that proposition becuase of the expectation-fulfilling aspect of RPG.

That is, perceptions of a thing being realistic or otherwise are dependant on the persons understanding of reality.  It is precisely that understanding of reality that really empowered alternate voices can challenge.

But, without an actual empowerement of these voices, their claims will be subject to the same process by which all claims are vetted, comparison against the hearers internal model of the world.  Where the claims and the perceptions contradict, the claims will be discarded, as there is no authority by which this dissident voice can be empowered, precisely due to the voluntary, and often implicit, nature of the social contract.

Now, the "yes maybe" part arises from the fact that the game author does carry a sort of non-local credibility to make authoritative statements.  Thus, a game designed to explore a particular point, and directs such exploration, could purposefully include a dissident speaker.  But, this still requires the buy-in of the group as a whole to that particualr form of exploration.  Conceivably, RPG could theoretically be used as a sort of "walk a mile in my shoes" thought experiment, but I think we are a very long way from there.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 10, 2005, 07:10:47 AM
Good points. Yes, I think that many games do "throw" (to use a programming term) their own statements about how things are and the players can't do much to alter that other than to change the rules and be playing a different game. One of my favorite examples is that the National Security Decision Making game run by the War College folks at cons and such use an economic model that basically runs on the trickle down theory. That is, if you tax more to have more points to spread around, then your economy goes down, and you get less points and more unrest.

Sid Meier's Civilization games for the computer have a very definite world view built into them that you have to play to in order to do well. In this way such games teach their agendas, I agree.

For RPGs you find games that point out the relative lack of upper body strength for females to males and make that important. Lots of people report that this single rule in early editions of AD&D was what put them off roleplaying (to say nothing of lesser known and much more restrictive games). Just as a starter, and to say nothing of the other ideas that the games promote.

I think that it's interesting that the medieval model for fantasy RPGs usually includes, for "realism's" sake, an assumption that women are second-class citizens (as though any less technological civilization would be incapable of making the same leap that we have to assuming that women are equals). That's not to say that it can't be interesting to explore such themes even if to only say that such ideas are wrong. It's just that often this limits women to making feminist statements when, in fact, that's just the beginning of what they have to say.

But I think that there are some few games out there that do challenge these notions and, at the very least, do not include the biases in question. Female characters purchased with the same metagame points, for instance, in generic worlds. I mean, let's look at Hero System. Won't a system like that reflect mostly the biases of it's players more than anything else? Or is it's combat focus somehow inimical to it's use by women making statements when using it?

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: paulkdad on May 10, 2005, 07:14:14 AM
Quote from: contracycle
But, without an actual empowerement of these voices, their claims will be subject to the same process by which all claims are vetted, comparison against the hearers internal model of the world. Where the claims and the perceptions contradict, the claims will be discarded, as there is no authority by which this dissident voice can be empowered, precisely due to the voluntary, and often implicit, nature of the social contract.

Bingo, in my opinion. And it would only take one person "discarding your reality" to sour the entire experience.

Let me draw an analogy from my own experience. For the past three years I have been a stay-at-home dad for my daughter. Last year, for several months, my daughter and I were part of a play group (of which I was the only adult male member). Play groups serve two purposes: child play and adult conversation. For me, this group only served one (child play), because there were a couple of women in the group who were unwilling to entertain the notion that a man could be anything other than a "Dagwood" in the domestic sphere.

I could have confronted it, but their notions of gender were tied into their religious beliefs, so I deemed that a lost cause. I could have tried to "out-mom the moms", but that would have driven me crazy. Or I could have done what I did: went there and played with the kids.

I don't think this analogy is off-base at all, when it comes to what female players can encounter in RPGs. The only difference is, as a face-to-face activity there would be nowhere to hide. It would only take one regular male player who always thought of her as a "Blondie" (from the same comic strip) to taint the entire experience. Even if the male players regularly asked questions like, "What am I rolling for?" the female player wouldn't dare ask the same question for fear of it making her look clueless.

And it has nothing to do with the men trying to be unwelcoming. They might be fully open to female participation (as the moms in the play group were with me as a SAHD), but they start from a basic "assumption of difference" that is impossible to overcome. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's not so subtle, but it's always alienating.

BTW, I am not trying to suggest that all groups are like this. I'm simply pointing out one possibility, based upon an experience I had where gender differences came into play. Note that this has nothing to do with the "form" of RPGs at all, or even with the type of game or habits of play. It just has to do with a certian lack of awareness regarding gender role questions, which I imagine is a fairly common thing.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 10, 2005, 07:30:46 AM
Ah, from Paul's response, I see the angle here. Yes, RPGs are group activities, and as such nobody really can make an individual statment, expept, perhaps, in some cases where the GM has tons of power.

But if the GM is a woman, or if all the players are women, then can't they make a female statment? Or is the point that nobody playing RPGs can ever make an individual statement? I think that might be true, but then, again, you'd have to look at another form to ask the question of individual statements.

Mike


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: BrennaLaRosa on May 10, 2005, 08:12:14 AM
I think a woman can make a female statement in gaming, it's just a question of boldness and venue. At the same time, what's the definition of a female statement?


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: paulkdad on May 10, 2005, 10:59:32 AM
If we're talking about form/system, I think the ability of RPGs to hear diverse voices has everything to do with an implicit vs. an explicit social contract. If the social contract is implicit, then it is either a matter of established gaming habits or it is an unexamined extension of the larger cultural (or subcultural) setting. I doubt either of these is a great way to make certain that everyone's voice is heard.

With an explicit social contract, even if the system doesn't say, "Discuss gender issues," it does create a space where this conversation could take place. Creating this space is important, and I'm not sure you could answer "yes" to Anna's first question without it. With mainstream RPGs, though, discussing the social contract seems limited to such things as "Who's going to bring the chips?" This basically takes the SC back to the implicit level, and doesn't allow for multi-voiced discourse.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: contracycle on May 10, 2005, 11:35:39 PM
Indeed, well said Paul.

And the distinction that you raise between the explicit and implicit social contract is very important, IMO.  Becuase it is only recently, and pretty much only really here, that the concept of the social contract in RPG has been explored.

It is precisely the potential for an explicit, exploratory social contract that is not about "me making a statement" but is instead about "me subordinating my own perceptions to those of the game" that suggests to me that RPG could conceivably be used as a kind of experiment in subjectivity.


Title: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?
Post by: Mike Holmes on May 11, 2005, 07:55:52 AM
Well, I think that even if it's been extremely rare, that some implicit social contracts previously have allowed for such statments. That is, you might have a GM using their influcence to create an agenda where people can and do make statements.

I'd agree that making these things explicit would allow for it to happen with a lot more regularity, however.

Mike