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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)  (Read 13099 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #30 on: May 13, 2004, 01:10:51 PM »

John, I just figured that if the root of potential offense is saying such things are based on real world, I figured why not remove that from the equation?

Facts are neutral.
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xiombarg
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« Reply #31 on: May 13, 2004, 01:23:25 PM »

Raven and Maarzan: I understand that realism can be its own end, but the fact of the matter is, mechanics can not simulate everything that realistically exists. Do you dispute this? Otherwise there would be more games with a detailed physics model.

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

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

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

And Raven, to answer your question, even assuming Ben is 100% correct about gender differences, it's just as unrealistic not to include realistic horse charges as it is to not include realistic gender differences. You have to choose where you are unrealistic and where you're not, and there has to be a reason for that, even if it's "it's easy to represent this difference under the system I'm using, as opposed to having a complete physics model, so I do".
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Valamir
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« Reply #32 on: May 13, 2004, 02:04:15 PM »

Quote
Ditto for Ron and Mongrel.


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

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

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


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

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

But if these reasons actually survive as more than my own meanderings...do they meet your qualification for being justifiable to include them in the mechanics.  Or is there still something more you'd want to see?
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Ian Charvill
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Posts: 377


« Reply #33 on: May 14, 2004, 12:52:49 AM »

The problem is Ralph, it would make no difference if Ron confirmed the world details were 100% in line with the mechanics because Mongrel is meant to be a sim game and there's no man behind the curtain there.  That the mechnics/world might be making a comment on the human condition carries no weight in a sim design.  Definitionally, that's not what the sim players would be interested in.  Remember, sim = exploration for its own sake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Ralph - hard question - your extrapolations for Mongrel: do you find them interesting in and of themselves as a venue for exploration of a static system or do you find them interesting because of the potential such a setting holds for narrativist drift?]
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #34 on: May 14, 2004, 06:40:12 AM »

I can't answer for Ralph, and I'll admit I didn't think of Mongrel from that angle until he posted it.  But the world he's describing as being implied in the Mongrel rules sounds like a wicked-cool place to explore, in simulation terms.  So my answer to the hard question is "I don't see where his answers constitute any sort of narrative drift, just exploration of Setting through the lense of System."

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

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

Finally, I'm not sure if I agree that "it's interesting" is sufficient by itself, but I don't think that it, as a reason, should be discounted out of hand.  There are a lot of things that are interesting (and for me, sexual dimorphism is one of them) but the question then becomes is it interesting enough for this game?  'Cause if I just tossed everything I thought was interesting into a single game, well... it'd be one huge, contradictory mush with so many different dice mechanics alone it'd be hell to play.  To counter your anchovies, let's just say I like ice cream and I like motorcycles, but I'm not gonna shove my mint chocolate chip into the gas tank.  (I haven't seen enough about Eclipse to know whether or not sexual dimorphism is ice cream to his motorcycle, I'm just arguing the general "it's interesting" point) in this paragraph.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Valamir
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« Reply #35 on: May 14, 2004, 06:56:23 AM »

Quote
The problem is Ralph, it would make no difference if Ron confirmed the world details were 100% in line with the mechanics because Mongrel is meant to be a sim game and there's no man behind the curtain there. That the mechnics/world might be making a comment on the human condition carries no weight in a sim design. Definitionally, that's not what the sim players would be interested in. Remember, sim = exploration for its own sake.

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


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

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

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


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

What really excites me about Mongrel and makes me think people haven't really given it its due, is that ALL of stuff I came up with is completely related to and supported by the mechanics of the game.  Theres no "cool setting in this box", "generic system in the other box" nonsense going on.  Its all inextricably tied together...which IMO is exactly what game mechanic design should do.
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #36 on: May 14, 2004, 09:32:16 AM »

Ralph, you wrote over in part II of the mechanical discussion:

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


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

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

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

Alex

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

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

Does that make more sense?
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Ian Charvill
Valamir
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« Reply #37 on: May 14, 2004, 10:56:09 AM »

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


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

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


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

Games should have a focus, even Sim games.

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

That's a position I'm actually fairly sympathetic to, having little tolerance for PC sillyness, but it doesn't make for good game design.
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greyorm
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« Reply #38 on: May 14, 2004, 10:59:37 AM »

Quote
mechanics can not simulate everything that realistically exists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Anyways, I've spent way too long on this discussion and far too much time that I should have spent elsewhere, so I must bow out at this point.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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John Harper
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« Reply #39 on: May 14, 2004, 12:31:59 PM »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please note: If Ben's stated reason for the modifiers was "That's the way I want my world to be," then all of this would be moot.
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #40 on: May 15, 2004, 12:24:19 AM »

Ralph

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