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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences III (I'm Embarrassed)  (Read 12804 times)
rafial
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Posts: 594


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« on: May 10, 2004, 11:54:33 AM »

Okay, so let me out myself on the real reason I think mechanically enshrining gender in RPG mechanics just doesn't work for me.

I find it embarrassing.

Here I am, sitting at the table at the Con, ready to run my game, and a woman walks up and wants to play.

"Okay great!  Let's get you a character.  You want to be a warrior?  Okay, now in this game, girls are weak and pretty, so if you want to kick ass, you'd better play a boy..."

And don't get me started on what happens when some Orcs sign up!

"Um, in this game, Orcs are strong but really stupid, so if you want to play a wizard..."
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2004, 12:36:36 AM »

I think you described it perfectly, rafial.
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- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter
Maarzan
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2004, 08:48:57 PM »

Quote from: rafial


Here I am, sitting at the table at the Con, ready to run my game, and a woman walks up and wants to play.

"Okay great!  Let's get you a character.  You want to be a warrior?  Okay, now in this game, girls are weak and pretty, so if you want to kick ass, you'd better play a boy..."

..."


Where is the problem?

If the targeted theme of the game was for example a gamist one, then you have choosen the wrong system for the task.
If the aim was to emulate a world with strong feel of a realistic base she is in the wrong game. You wouldn´t let play a guy play a ninja in powerarmor in cuthullu too.

If your game aims at realism, and gender attribute modificators are the one and only variables to influence your performance for gender or other background inputs, then the system is certainly not ready yet to be presented to the publicity.
This means NOT that it has to be a perfect simulation of every facet that could pop up in this context. But a one factor only solution runs against the stated aim of making this gameworld look real.
EDIT:
Another fault would be to make combat that dependent on attributes at all. If only maximum strength would make a warrior armies would be very small indeed.
The second fault is mixing attribute potential and the working attribute itself.
Genetic potential is something that has to be realized by training (80% of 70% STR is still more then 50% of 100% STR - and few males will have 100% potential or/and maxed out training ).
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rafial
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Posts: 594


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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2004, 11:00:17 PM »

Quote from: Maarzan

Where is the problem?


Right here.

Quote

...she is in the wrong game...


...and here.
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2004, 04:47:10 AM »

I'm not sure I'm understanding your last post rafial. Are you suggesting that there is no such thing as the "wrong game".

I think Maarzan's post is valid. If you don't like a game, don't play it. If you do like a game, play it. Don't decide to play a game based on what you think other people might hypothetically think about it.

For example, I've playtested Eclipse with two groups now, one composed of 1 girl, 2 guys, and the other composed of 3 girls, 1 guy. In both cases I never shied away from gender and no-one ever balked at it. It was just another part of the game. Had I approached those groups apprehensively concerning how they might be offended about gender my caution would have shown through and they would have then wondered why I nervous, and this would have led them to think that maybe I had a reason to be nervous. So just like you shouldn't play a game if you aren't confident that you like it, you shouldn't run a game for the same reasons. If there's something you don't like, the players will pick up on it.

And Maarzan, if I'm not mistaken, I think your examples may be in reference to my proposed system. I invite and welcome your comments and input in that Indie Game Design topic. If you have any suggestions about a better way to do such things, I would love to hear them, honestly.

-Ben
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AnyaTheBlue
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2004, 12:32:54 PM »

Quote
Where is the problem?


Why is a given game making a female character better or worse at something than a male character?  Why is this a priority for the designers?  Why is it a priority for the players?  What does it do to the kinds of settings the game will work well in?  To the kinds of games that will be played with it?

In a purely gamist approach, I can see it as one aspect of a kind of allocation mechanic -- pick your gender in order to maximize the effectiveness of whatever you want to play.

In a purely sim approach, I can see it as an attempt to model a biological or cultural bias or trend.

In a purely nar approach, I can see it as an attempt to enforce a genre convention.

But looking at it from the point of being a woman, I really wonder why you would want to enshrine a particular advantage or disadvantage as an absolute in this particular way.

Let me try and put it another way.  Trollbabe posits different abilities split along gender lines.  But all characters are of one gender, effectively making the playing field, FOR THE PLAYERS, even.  Also, part of the point of the game (I think) is to kind of make a point about the theme of gender in gaming (kind of like Ron talks about in Sorcerer and Sex).

So there are ways to do this kind of gender imbalance, and ways to make it a central theme of the game.  But most gender-weighted mechanics smack less of those lofty ideals, and more of making concrete the gender-stereotypical assumptions of the designers (whatever those assumptions might be).  And since most of these designers are male, I tend to see subtle misogyny.  Male players invariably scratch their heads over this and say, "I don't see what your problem is -- just don't be a girl, or play some other game."  Well, I am a girl.  And maybe I want to play this game because all my friends are, or because aside from this one niggling little detail it's a really cool game.

It's kind of like saying, "Women are or should be good at this thing, men are or should be good at this other thing -- in the real world, and that's why it's in the game".  That may not be why it is in the game, but it sure feels like it sometimes.  Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Trends are trends.  They are not absolutes, and they don't say anything about any individual person.  Just because many women share a particular trait doesn't mean that all of them do, nor does it mean that any specific woman shares it, either.  So why build in arbitrary limits on what traits a character can have solely on what the character's biological gender is?

Just because you want to, or just because "that's obviously the way it really is" aren't really answers as to why the game needs to enforce a specific set of gender-based assumptions in it's mechanics.

Grump grump.
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
John Harper
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flip you for real


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« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2004, 01:10:06 PM »

Thank you, Dana, for that post. You articulated my feelings on the subject better than I could have.
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Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2004, 06:04:54 PM »

Quote
Trends are trends. They are not absolutes, and they don't say anything about any individual person. Just because many women share a particular trait doesn't mean that all of them do, nor does it mean that any specific woman shares it, either. So why build in arbitrary limits on what traits a character can have solely on what the character's biological gender is?

Uhuh. You're right. So I guess that no games should build in "arbitrary" abilities for character based on false assumptions such as "all humans can walk", or "all humans have two arms with hands and five fingers per hand", or "all humans have the potential to learn to speak and feed themselves". Thus it would be a mistake to create a game where birth defects aren't taken into account, or accidents that may happen over the course of one's life. Just because most people have arms, doesn't mean that assumption carries to any specific individual. By building a game based on these flawed "arbitrary" assumptions, one may well be offending many disabled people.

The reason I keep placing the word 'arbitrary' in double quotes is because it means "Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle." This definition does not apply, in my mind, to any mechanic included in any game I've seen.

But the point is, if anyone is offended by a game, the answer is really bloody simple: "Don't play it". There are thousands of games out there. Wasting your cognitive energy on making assumptions about the author/GM/players and what a bad person he/she must be is completely futile and only going to have a negative impact on your perceptions of future games. If you really like the game except for the one thing that offends you, then put your feelings on the backbench and play it just like this guy eventually did with TRoS.

Quote
Just because you want to, or just because "that's obviously the way it really is" aren't really answers as to why the game needs to enforce a specific set of gender-based assumptions in it's mechanics.

And what, pray tell, would be a good answer?

Quote
Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Surely you, Dana, of all people, should understand how odd that comment is, coming from you. This is merely an observation, and no offence is intended at all. But the example you are using argues against you.

Quote
So there are ways to do this kind of gender imbalance, and ways to make it a central theme of the game. But most gender-weighted mechanics smack less of those lofty ideals, and more of making concrete the gender-stereotypical assumptions of the designers (whatever those assumptions might be).

I'm sure that any game designers would be happy to hear your suggestions on ways to address the issue without failing to reach those "lofty goals" (address, by definition, means "not ignore"). Any suggestions at all.

Quote
And since most of these designers are male

This is kind of a side note, can anyone point me to games made by females? Any game at all? Just PM me. I also think that the same rules apply to girls as they do to boys: "if you want a game that is perfect for you, go out and make one". Are girls more satisfied with the current selection of games than guys are???

-Ben
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rafial
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Posts: 594


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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2004, 06:52:33 PM »

Quote from: Ravien

Quote
Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Surely you, Dana, of all people, should understand how odd that comment is, coming from you. This is merely an observation, and no offence is intended at all. But the example you are using argues against you.


And geeezz Dana, you'd realize that if you'd just think about it rationally and stop being so emotional...

(It's like fish in a barrel I tell you!)

Quote

This is kind of a side note, can anyone point me to games made by females? Any game at all? Just PM me.


Nah, lets leave it out in the open...  Okay just off the top of my head, there's that little thing called Nobilis.  Or how about the DC Universe RPG?  Or the Men In Black RPG?
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Andrew Martin
Member

Posts: 785


« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2004, 09:27:12 PM »

Quote from: Ravien
Quote from: Dana
So there are ways to do this kind of gender imbalance, and ways to make it a central theme of the game. But most gender-weighted mechanics smack less of those lofty ideals, and more of making concrete the gender-stereotypical assumptions of the designers (whatever those assumptions might be).

I'm sure that any game designers would be happy to hear your suggestions on ways to address the issue without failing to reach those "lofty goals" (address, by definition, means "not ignore"). Any suggestions at all.


Basically, Ben, by imposing gender-based modifiers on the characters, you are imposing your sexist views of men and women on your fellow players, and to other people and groups on the web. The best way of not being sexist is to simply not be sexist. You ask an impossible question and demand an answer; when an answer can't be given, you take this as reinforcement for your sexist attitudes.

Is your game so "realistic" that it needs accurate gender-based modifiers? If so, why doesn't your game system have a Size attribute? Size is the  biggest difference between men and women, apart from obvious sexual organs, and the ability to sire or bear children (or not).

Instead, you've got a Beauty attribute that implies in your game setting that women look good to other women, and men are ugly to women. If that is "realistic" and is intended to simulate an average population, then all humans would have died out in the stone age.

Have a look at some real research on Female and Male beauty at:
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=52418
and the biggest one that shows that your game's "realistic" description of "Beauty" is wrong, is the research described here:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s57140.htm
here:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s54904.htm
and here:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s53207.htm
Note that this is in reverse order, because the most important point in reference to our context is at the end of the last article.

Quote from: Ravien
For example, I've playtested Eclipse with two groups now, one composed of 1 girl, 2 guys, and the other composed of 3 girls, 1 guy. In both cases I never shied away from gender and no-one ever balked at it.


Really? Do you really believe that "no-one ever balked at it."? What you needed to do was to give the game system to another GM, play in the game as a player, and resist the temptation to offer helpful "advice" to the players and GM; instead listen to the player's spoken objections, watch for their hesitations and puzzlements.

Based on your responses so far, I'd say you immediately overrode any objections to gender modifiers by the players, by suggesting the preferred outcomes to the players, and by verbal and physical intimidation. I'd also suggest that your players social or peer group was less than yours, so they were "lead" by your example as GM and "teacher".

I hope that helps you to perceive yourself.
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Andrew Martin
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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student, second edition


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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2004, 10:14:31 PM »

Quote
Uhuh. You're right. So I guess that no games should build in "arbitrary" abilities for character based on false assumptions such as "all humans can walk", or "all humans have two arms with hands and five fingers per hand", or "all humans have the potential to learn to speak and feed themselves". Thus it would be a mistake to create a game where birth defects aren't taken into account, or accidents that may happen over the course of one's life. Just because most people have arms, doesn't mean that assumption carries to any specific individual. By building a game based on these flawed "arbitrary" assumptions, one may well be offending many disabled people.


Strong or smart woman =/= person with disability. Your post implies that the two are deviations from a "norm," and Dana and many others are saying that that kind of assumption about what's "normal" for women is exactly the problem.

Quote
But the point is, if anyone is offended by a game, the answer is really bloody simple: "Don't play it".


I prefer this answer: "if you think a game or any form of media perpetuates a social injustice,  then it's your right and responsibility to make your voice heard."
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AnyaTheBlue
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2004, 11:05:12 PM »

I had a big long (boring) response written up, but I like Matt's much better than mine.  Andrew's is excellent, too.

Quote from: rafial
And geeezz Dana, you'd realize that if you'd just think about it rationally and stop being so emotional...
=)  Are you trying to make milk come out my nose?
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
AnyaTheBlue
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2004, 11:34:10 PM »

Quote from: Ravien
Quote from: Dana
Me and my double major in math and physics gets real tired of hearing about how girls are "obviously" not as good at math and science as boys are.

Surely you, Dana, of all people, should understand how odd that comment is, coming from you. This is merely an observation, and no offence is intended at all. But the example you are using argues against you.


Ben,

I'm not offended, but I think you're showing some unexamined assumptions by making this point.

For what it's worth, there's a growing body of research indicating that male-to-female transsexuals (a group I fall into, and which I assume you're referring to with this comment) have at least some bits of the brain in what would be considered a 'female-typical' configuration.

Quote
(http://www.avitale.com/etiologicalreview.htm) The number of neurons in the BSTc of male-to-female transsexuals was similar to that of the females, while the neuron number of a female-to-male transsexual was found to be in the male range. Hormone treatment or sex hormone level variations in adulthood did not seem to have influenced BSTc neuron numbers. They go on to declare that their " findings of somatostatin neuronal sex differences in the BSTc and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder."


If this is right, then it means I've got a 'girl brain' in a 'boy body'.  So, which contributes more to my being a math-geek?  The brain or the body?

Also, I'm on a course of medication that's maintaining a different balance of various sex hormones in my body, something which also affects how I think and feel (not to mention various other body-related things).  I don't have lots of pointers for this, but This American Life's Testosterone show is a good place to start, I think.  The second act, the interview with Griffin, a female-to-male transsexual, and what he went through when going onto testosterone, is illuminating, I think.  But the whole show is fairly thought provoking, from a gender identity point of view.

Gender dimorphism is pretty complicated stuff.  There are obviously genetic components, but there are also hormonal, developmental, anatomical, and sociological components (male and female cultures are different, for example) to it all.  It doesn't cleave into two neat categories, as much as we all like to pretend that it does.

Oh, and as for my math/physics major arguing against me, how about dropping me as a counterexample and using Olga Ladyzhenskaya?
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2004, 02:25:52 AM »

Rafial, thanks for those games, I'll be sure to check them out.

My point though, was that if 20% of all gamers are female, are 20% of all games made, made by females? If not, why?

Andrew and Matt, I direct you to this thread. You should have a blast with it.

Quote
I prefer this answer: "if you think a game or any form of media perpetuates a social injustice, then it's your right and responsibility to make your voice heard."

So when I watch a sitcom that portrays all male characters as incompetent, insensitive, and stupid, like... I dunno, Everybody Loves Raymond... then it is my "responsibility" to start a public outcry? Shit, I guess I've been neglecting my responsibilities for... I dunno, my whole life! But shit, that show is funny so I look past anything like that and enjoy it for what it is, flaws and all.

Quote
Gender dimorphism is pretty complicated stuff. There are obviously genetic components, but there are also hormonal, developmental, anatomical, and sociological components (male and female cultures are different, for example) to it all. It doesn't cleave into two neat categories, as much as we all like to pretend that it does.

Actually, hormones are controlled genetically (excepting circumstances such as HRT, but even then, the hormones can alter gene expression and it becomes about genes again), anatomy is genetic (excepting things like getting your arm cut off), and development is always in a social context... so basically we can lump things into the two categories: Nature and Nurture, or Biology and Environment (which I prefer). Neither can exist without the other, and neither ever acts alone.

Quote
If this is right, then it means I've got a 'girl brain' in a 'boy body'. So, which contributes more to my being a math-geek? The brain or the body?

Well, not really. It means that part(s) of your brain are "feminine" whilst other parts are "masculine". And just so people know, the BSTc is the Bed nucleus of the Stria Terminals, and is part of the limbic system . It is important in gender identification. However, like the rest of the limbic system, it has no function in mathematics.

-Ben
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Thuringwaethiel
Member

Posts: 17


« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2004, 03:17:45 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
So when I watch a sitcom that portrays all male characters as incompetent, insensitive, and stupid, like...


I like more the sitcoms which include also competent, sensitive and smart male characters. Maybe I just don't like groups of people misrepresented in general.

Quote
Well, not really. It means that part(s) of your brain are "feminine" whilst other parts are "masculine". And just so people know, the BSTc is the Bed nucleus of the Stria Terminals, and is part of the limbic system . It is important in gender identification. However, like the rest of the limbic system, it has no function in mathematics.


You contradict yourself. Limbic system identifies gender, and does not affect mathematics. True. "Math brain" work maths, and does not affect gender. So how can you say the "math brain" is masculine? It doesn't have anything to do with gender or sex. (While there is statistical relevance, the mathematical abilities do not indicate gender on individual level. Nor does f ex empathy; males can be nurturing without being feminine, and women can be cold and still 'girly'.)

Gender or sex is not about groins or math grade. It's about that part of brain that alone can be masculine or feminine (or neither, or both).
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