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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences  (Read 16494 times)
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« on: May 06, 2004, 07:56:35 PM »

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

Now, this issue has cropped up before I know, but AnyaTheBlue hinted in this thread with this quote...
Quote
What is your goal in Simulating these real or perceived gender differences? How and why does it make the game more fun? Is it 'really real', is it based on a bias or misconception, or is it wish-fulfillment?

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

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

The reason I ask is because my game, Eclipse, incoporates gender differences into chargen. You can read about Eclipse chargen in this incomplete version of my play-test rules.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

So, questions to spark discussion:

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


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

-Ben
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John Kim
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2004, 09:24:36 PM »

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

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

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

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

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

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

This could alternately be represented, say, as skills rather than a dichotomy in attributes.  This would make it more explicit as a socially-learned difference.
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- John
clehrich
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2004, 09:31:05 PM »

Ben,

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

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

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

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

My question, then, would be why you want attention drawn to this issue, in your game.
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Chris Lehrich
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2004, 10:06:24 PM »

Hi.

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

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

Now:

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

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

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

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

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

Yeesh.

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

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

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Silmenume
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Posts: 467


« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2004, 10:07:24 PM »

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

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

Italic emphasis mine.


I am a little confused on two issues here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aure Entaluva,

Silmenume
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Aure Entuluva - Day shall come again.

Jay
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2004, 10:14:33 PM »

John and Chris, quite a few points, and good ones all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote
why bother?

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


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


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

Posts: 294


« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2004, 10:27:27 PM »

Ok, three posts got cross-posted because mine was long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote
fantasy characters, in a fantasy world

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

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

-Ben
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beingfrank
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2004, 10:31:38 PM »

Quote from: Ravien
So, questions to spark discussion:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

** Note: extremely rough ball park figure.  I couldn't be bothered digging out actual studies.  If anything I'm being generous to your suggestion by several orders of magnitude.
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2004, 10:35:16 PM »

Chris, Ravien, both your posts are a little hot under the collar. Please relax.

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

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

Edited to add:

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

In one version of Snow From Korea, I incorporate cultural gender differences, by providing characters of different genders with different skillsets, agendas, and Currency mechanics, which are intended to make them feel very different in play. I'm not sure how well this has succeeded, since SFK is still in a semi-RPG state and hasn't been really playtested.
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2004, 10:41:06 PM »

For the record, I read the post.

For the record, I read the rules.

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

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

"Why?"

And yes, it is YOUR FANTASY.

... and so, I'm still fascinated... Why is this Your Fantasy?
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Ben O'Neal
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Posts: 294


« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2004, 11:04:40 PM »

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

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

Quote
Why Bother?

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

-Ben
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2004, 11:22:33 PM »

In SFK, the reason was simple: the gender line provided a fairly obvious division that let me hang various mechanical doodads on it. Has nothing to do with issues at all. (Though it does reflect some observations I have made about the source material, this was more happy coincidence than something deliberate.)

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

In the two-gender version, players actually play both members of a couple, and their characters can interact in limited ways; the point in either case is to explore the number game that the interacting Currencies create.
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John Kim
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2004, 11:57:14 PM »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that is one mechanical difference.  A Lagakin shaman cannot be female, and a Vinlander shaman cannot be male.  (It is possible I could be persuaded to make an exception, but it would have consequences and drawbacks.)  But mostly the influence has been through background and NPCs.
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- John
contracycle
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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2004, 12:30:13 AM »

Quote from: Ravien

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Thats why I would NOT include gender in an way that is just a reproduction of pop-psyche media tropes - becuase its largely bollocks, IMO.  So, looking back at the rape fantasy variance you noted, one hypothesis for this phenomenon is that this fantasy of being a purely impersonal sexual object fulfills a socially imposed desire to be desirable as outlined in the presumption that women are more beautiful than men.
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beingfrank
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« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2004, 12:30:41 AM »

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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