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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences  (Read 16484 times)
Walt Freitag
Member

Posts: 1039


« Reply #60 on: May 09, 2004, 09:33:13 PM »

Edit to note: cross-posted with Ron; (very) roughly similar points made.

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


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

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

- Walt
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Russell Impagliazzo
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« Reply #61 on: May 09, 2004, 09:35:07 PM »

One thing that could be addressed here (and is, but is being drowned out by the noise of flames) is:  What is a char-gen system for, anyway?  In order to see whether stats for gender differences are appropriate for your game, you should answer this first.  

Some possible goals for char-gen systems are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm sure there are many other goals for a chargen system that I haven't thought of.
What are your goals?  Why is price differences the best way of acheiving them?
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John Kim
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« Reply #62 on: May 09, 2004, 10:40:00 PM »

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posts: 294


« Reply #63 on: May 09, 2004, 10:59:09 PM »

Russel and John, your comments about chargen are perfectly valid and I would love to address them, but I think they are more relevant to this thread. So if you copy these posts there I will be better able to answer them and give the response they deserve.

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

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

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

I agree wholeheartedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posts: 2807


« Reply #64 on: May 10, 2004, 12:54:45 AM »

Quote from: Ravien

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Quote

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


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

Posts: 294


« Reply #65 on: May 10, 2004, 03:38:08 AM »

Ok, a few minutes after submiting my last post I requested for Ron to officially close this thread, but it seems I missed him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

-Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #66 on: May 10, 2004, 06:23:21 AM »

Ben's call for closure is now confirmed by me.

Best,
Ron
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