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Author Topic: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased  (Read 41740 times)
Jonathan Walton
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Posts: 1309


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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2004, 08:59:07 AM »

Okay, so I have a whole ton of strong concerns about this thread, but I'll just focus on the major ones:

John's right that you're dealing with essentially the "nature vs. nurture" issue here, as it applies to biological gender, social gender roles, and, at some point or another, sexuality (which is, itself, a wacky combination of biological impulses and social conditioning).

Here's the problem, if you're after that mythical thing called "accuracy" or "realism":

Biology isn't just a male/female thing.  If you're going to go that route, you might want to think about the huge variation in the biological makeup of all the men or all the women you know.  Some people are built like tanks, some people like twigs.  Some people are really tall; some people are really short.  Some people have a much easier time gaining (or losing) mass (muscle, fat, etc.).  Frex: my ex-girlfriend is built like a wrestler.  She has more muscle in her right arm than is in my entire body, and this is largely due to her body type (subclass: tank) and mine (subclass: twig).  She also used to be a hardcore rock-climber, so that helps some too.  However, the kinds of systems you're talking about would probably give me a strength bonus, because I'm a guy.  That's ridiculous.  None of the men in my family (at least on my dad's side) deserve a strength bonus.  We deserve "Walton genes: STR -2."  

So all these arguments that "guys and girls are different in X way" are baloney.  In roleplaying, at least at the level of individual character creation, generalizations about biological gender don't matter because they don't apply to individuals, just to massive groups of people.  If I were making my ex-girlfriend and myself in some sort of generic atttribute-based system, she would get the biological bonus for strength and endurance and I would get the penalty, based on our individual body types, not gender at all.  If you're talking about individuals, do something that's based on individuals work.  If you're talking about groups, do something that's based on how groups work.

I have more concerns, but that's a start.
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Halzebier
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2004, 10:30:48 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
In roleplaying, at least at the level of individual character creation, generalizations about biological gender don't matter because they don't apply to individuals, just to massive groups of people.  If I were making my ex-girlfriend and myself in some sort of generic atttribute-based system, she would get the biological bonus for strength and endurance and I would get the penalty, based on our individual body types, not gender at all.  


I don't feel up to fully addressing your point, but consider random character generation for a second.

Let's say men get Str=3d6+1 and women 3d6. If I roll low for a male character, I'll explain that he has a weak physique, possibly due to malnourishment, possibly due to individual genetic predisposition.

Would you consider this problematic?

Regards,

Hal
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wicked_knight
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2004, 02:58:17 PM »

I'm kinda amused.

Why is it, that within the conversation of gender mechanics, there seems to be a tendency to assume that the result of the mechanics will always favor the male? I don't think anyone actually suggested this but the arguments for and against both seem to make this assumption.

Maybe because it's the type of game that is usually played. (the go out and kill something game) Maybe it's the overuse of the word reality... we're trying to hard to justify everything against a percieved notion of whats "real" which is way to subjective. Anyway reality really doesn't have a lot to do with anything... I prefer my games to be fantasy games.

So if i was going to do this. I would create a world where all  the men were brutish, warlike, and not all that smart. The woman were bright, social, and dexterous. To make it interesting I wouldn't bother about the characteristics. I would make the differences apparent in the skills that one is able to learn. Very easy for women to learn things like reading, crafting, bartering, thieving and of course magic.. Since it's my world all women are taught at the age of thirteen a spell to make men do their bidding.  The men would find it easy to learn husbandry, smithing, riding, and of course all the slashing, bashing, male bonding stuff.

Now it wouldn't be impossible for one to learn the others skills... it would just be easier for them to do certain things. This would make for an interesting dynamic in the role playing. Especially if you have a male character that goes against the grain and does something radical in the world.. like learning how to read.

just some thoughts
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Jason
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2004, 01:05:18 AM »

Quote from: Halzebier

Let's say men get Str=3d6+1 and women 3d6. If I roll low for a male character, I'll explain that he has a weak physique, possibly due to malnourishment, possibly due to individual genetic predisposition.

Would you consider this problematic?


I would not particularly.  But this then just raises that same old question: if you are going to post-facto rationalise the die roll, then why have the modifier at all?  Why would it not work to just roll 3d6 regardless, and reationalise the results for every character?  Then if you got a women with 18 strength you could rationalise it as magic or steroids, say.

Quote
Why is it, that within the conversation of gender mechanics, there seems to be a tendency to assume that the result of the mechanics will always favor the male?


a) because they generally do
b) because thats the historical pattern of this sort of discrimination
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Rob Carriere
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2004, 02:28:11 AM »

Quote from: Halzebier
Let's say men get Str=3d6+1 and women 3d6. If I roll low for a male character, I'll explain that he has a weak physique, possibly due to malnourishment, possibly due to individual genetic predisposition.

Would you consider this problematic?
I would. Not because of your fine rationalization, but because of the +1. I've seen people bandy about scientific studies pointing to factors of 2 (average) to 4 (upper limit) difference in strength between males and females, and this gets modeled as a +1?!

If the game is going to address gender differences, there better be in-your-face differences, or they'll just get house-ruled under the carpet and all the effort will have been in vain.

I would also avoid a statistics-related approach. I think a statistical approach is going to inevitably raise the whole bugaboo about what averages do and do not say about individuals and you're going to be spending your energy teaching Stat 101 instead of explaining your cool game. As the movie quote goes, if you're gonna shoot, shoot, don't talk. Don't just twiddle a dial somewhere, set up the whole system so that play cannot get around the gender differences.

Finally, integrate the whole mess into the setting. See, for example, Valamir's wonderful interpretation of Mongrel here.

SR
--
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #20 on: May 24, 2004, 04:07:54 AM »

Quote
I would also avoid a statistics-related approach. I think a statistical approach is going to inevitably raise the whole bugaboo about what averages do and do not say about individuals and you're going to be spending your energy teaching Stat 101 instead of explaining your cool game. As the movie quote goes, if you're gonna shoot, shoot, don't talk. Don't just twiddle a dial somewhere, set up the whole system so that play cannot get around the gender differences.

This is half a great point, and half not. The half that is good is the "set up the whole system so that play cannot get around the gender differences" part. The part that isn't is the "avoid a statistics-related approach". This is mainly for two reasons. Number 1, is that statistics is largely how characters are defined in many games. If your character sheet is a bunch of statistics, then it makes sense to make gender influence these. In fact, if you didn't, then you wouldn't be fulfilling your point. Number 2 is that statistics are pretty much the only way to compare any two (or more) things. We can add qualitative layers on top as much as we want, but saying "object X is different in aspect A to object Y" is in all ways a statistic.

Now, that that point is out of the way, I think this thread is really going all over the place. So I'll try to deal with Kris's latest point.
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I'm going to go back to one of my previous suggestions and say "Use a scale." Or "Use a few scales." Using a variable scale with the polar ends being Masculine and Feminine would work, allowing you to look at how each character fits along those that scale, and it takes the controversy of having male and female attributes out of the equation.

Hmmm. I'm curious about how you are seeing this scale thing, and how it might work in-game. For example, since everyone loves strength so much (probably because it is the simplest to give examples for), let's say I have a character with Strength (Feminine)=+5, and you have a character with Strength (Masculine)+=5. What would be the difference? How would you work it? Why the hell would you need the masculine/feminine labels there if they serve no purpose?

Now let's pretend that your scale will be a -/+ scale, so that on the strength attribute, maybe feminine is the negative side and masculine is the positive side. This may solve the mathematical problems and actually be able to differentiate between them, but it is making an incredibly strong statement about strong women, ie: claiming that they are masculine. The reverse is also true of weak men. I don't think this gets us any closer to avoiding controversy. In fact, I think it makes any controversy that much more obvious.

But in the end, all you are doing is labelling gender modifiers with "masculine" and "feminine", and that really doesn't do much to disguise the fact that at it's core, the mechanics are based on gender modifiers, which we have already repeatedly established as "a Bad Thing".

Also, your suggestion of the "grid" with two axes: "masculine/feminine" and "emotional/physical" really would prevent alot of valid character concepts. For example, you could never have a big strong and caring emotional person (like Perrin from the WoT).

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Insofar as I have seen, gender-based character creation standards have, typically, placed women in an inferior position. And, I feel, this is one of the key reasons we're having this debate.

On this point I would disagree. I think the key reason any debate exists is not so much an issue of inferiority, but more an issue of difference. See, it is nigh impossible to say "different" without 500 people interpreting one side of the difference as superior and the other side as inferior. If I say "Lamborghinis are different to Ferraris", people who love Lamborghinis might think that the difference reflects well for Lamborghinis and poorly for Ferraris (or vice versa, depending on what they see as the "norm" view). People do this shit all the time with all sorts of junk, from breakfast cereals to tv shows, from clothes labels to music. So you can imagine why gender, a thing which is far more salient and impermeable than what you eat for breakfast, can get so many people so worked up. As I think was shown rather clearly with what I tried to do with Eclipse, and as a few people noted explicitly, it makes no difference if gender modifiers are perfectly balanced and social class is taken into consideration as well, because the fact remains that there is a difference, and that difference is subject to value judgements. This is where the problem lies, in the subjective and irrational nature of emotional reactions, not in the objective in-game measure of gender.

-Ben
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wicked_knight
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2004, 07:25:15 AM »

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
First and foremost, it would have to exist primarilly in random character creation systems. This would be to, occasionally, break the stereotypes. After all, as one girl so vehemently pointed out, she is good at math and science, the traditional realm of "male thought." There are guys who are young and pretty and completley helpless in the real world that make great characters just as surely as there are girls who are big and tough and don't shy away from a good fight. Literary examples would be Jaqueline Carey's Alcuin (Kushiel's Dart) and Robert Jordan's Bridgitte (The Wheel of Time), respectively.


I believe that making gender a dynamic of the character is an interesting concept and based on the setting and play of the game, worthy of being included. However as obviously noted, people seem to have an issue when it comes to applying modifiers especially to character creation.

So my question is, is there another way?

There's an unlimited number of ways to create characters and worlds. Why don't we come up with suggestions on HOW to incorporate gender instead of just naysaying and saying it won't work.

Kris has asserted that the differences need to be in a random character creation system during the assignment of attributes.  I'm going to disagree.

Here are some of my alternatives:

1) Different character creation system based on inclinations. Before assigning attributes roll on a table for inclinations that this character will have.. are they warlike, caring, paternal, social, destructive, artistics etc..
have a seperate table based on gender.. all the same inclinations just different chances of getting them. Hence if your a guy your more likely to have an inclination to destroy things then to socialize.  Then allow the person to determine the level of their stats. The inclinations will effect you during game play.. if you perform an action against your inclination you will suffer a penalty, if you perform an action in line with your inclination you will get a bonus.  But in no way are you restricted in what you want to become.

2) Skill assignment: different genders can do different things better then others.  Stat creation stays the way you like it. It just easier for one gender to do a particular skill then the other. However in isolation this concept isn't that effective.. it needs to be incorporated into  a world view that supports the differences.

3) Change the world.  Make it a compelling reason that one should play a specific gender. Since this is a male dominated game I would suggest reversing stereo types. Make the women the warriors, make the men the stay at home healers.
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Jason
SlurpeeMoney
Member

Posts: 69


« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2004, 11:41:36 AM »

The system of "Inclinations" sounds an awful lot like R. Talsorian's Lifepaths, which I suppose would be one of the easiest ways to incorporate gender differences in-game, as the variety of options available in Lifepaths allow both the game designer and the players a change to create systems and characters in ways that best suit their perceived notions of gender difference.

Changing the world, however, to me seems all the more interesting. In the Wheel of Time role-playing game, it makes more sense to be a female channeler than a male channeler, speaking solely from the point of safety. So far as I've been a player, it is the only game I've seen that makes the decision to be male or female an important part of character creation, based almost entirely on the needs of the setting rather than percieved differences in gender. Saddly, though, I felt that the Wheel of Time deserved even more attention to gender differences, given Robert Jordan's tyrranical and impassable gap between men and women in the fiction.

The point of my scale has less to do with attributes and more to do with personality, culture and perception. I personally tend to "think like a girl." I am much more strongly suited to the studies of English and History than to Mathematics and Science, and there are aspects of my emotional makeup that are distinctively female. On the personality scale of Masculine-Feminine, I would lean towards the feminine. The far feminine would be the stereotypical girly-girl (which nearly no one is at), and the opposite end would be a manly-man (which, again, nearly no one is at). Most folks sit somewhere in the middle.

It could also work with physique, though. I weight in at 220 lbs, mostly work-muscle and gut. I have broad shoulders, big arms and a torso as thick as a tree. I have a very distinctively male physique, and would therefore lean very heavily on the male side of the scale. My chest is nowhere near as developed as I would like, though, so I would not be on the body-builder/weight-lifter end of the male physique scale.

It has flaws (rather large gaping ones), but it is an idea.

Setting up the whole system so that one cannot get around the differences in gender is a great idea. Personally, though, I think it is more appropriate to build the setting around the gender differences than the system. People will build house rules to circumvent them, or simply not use the system. If the setting reinforces the system's assumptions of gender-differences, however, even a change of system would mean adjustments would have to be made in order to accomodate those gender differences.

Avoiding statistics is, saddly, impossible; character sheets are just a pile of statistics jumbled together with some rules to make those statistics playable in-game. We make assumptions on race based on statistics (orcs big and strong, humans average, blah blah), so it only follows that gender differences follow the same suit. This is not to say that we look only at real-life statistics; those are too finite for the games I want to play. If everything in a game were realistic, I'd not play them. I'd not have to. I could simply go out and adventure myself. I have all the neccessessary attributes. The statistics tell me so. I prefer to play where the statistics are more internally consistent than externally.

Were the grid truly feasable (and I don't think it is, but I'll talk about it anyway), it couldn't have just one dot to make it work. There would have to be a few points, each representing an attribute. On top of that, I think the grid would need to have more than four quadrents in order to cover the whole of our attributes. Intellectual, Social, Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, would all need to be adressed, in most cases broken down into seperate attributes defining aspects related to the broader categories, as well as gridded masculine to feminine. It's all a matter of degrees and grey areas, and a grid could help define those grey areas into game-friendly statistics. It would, however, be entirely too complicated for any game I would ever play...

More Random Thoughts,
SlurpeeMoney
"Gender (Circle One): Male  |   Female  |   Mongoose"
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wicked_knight
Member

Posts: 9


« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2004, 03:14:45 PM »

Theres a lot to reply to but I'll just hit some key points right now

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Setting up the whole system so that one cannot get around the differences in gender is a great idea. Personally, though, I think it is more appropriate to build the setting around the gender differences than the system. People will build house rules to circumvent them, or simply not use the system. If the setting reinforces the system's assumptions of gender-differences, however, even a change of system would mean adjustments would have to be made in order to accomodate those gender differences.


I'm a form=function, system=play type of person. If you are making the decision to implement gender differentation in the character generation the setting better support it. But thats true with all aspects. I would even say that one of the problems with accepting gender differences is that the settings don't make a good enough case to do it. But you can't make someone use your system. If people are going out and modifying your rules.. then theres probably a good reason for it. Like the rules aren't good.

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
Avoiding statistics is, saddly, impossible; character sheets are just a pile of statistics jumbled together with some rules to make those statistics playable in-game. We make assumptions on race based on statistics (orcs big and strong, humans average, blah blah), so it only follows that gender differences follow the same suit...


No, No, nope, a thousand times no. Rolling dice for character generation is an artificial construct to create balance when the systems own rules are percieved not to support it.   The term "race" is also used inappropriately here. The differences between the different pc creatures is large enough that to scale in gender differences would almost make them a mute point. To say that gender differences should follow along because of differences between orc and man (per your example) holds no logic or reasoning.

Not that I don't support gender differentation, but not on those grounds.

So to restate. I agree with you on principle. but not on the specifics. I feel the setting needs to adequately support gender diversity before we can make it a factor. I also believe the system needs to be balanced enough to support those differences.
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Jason
SlurpeeMoney
Member

Posts: 69


« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2004, 09:54:53 PM »

The differences between humans and orcs (perhaps they're species? I've never bothered to consider it.) may be much more distinct than the differences between men and women, but consider it hyberbole. The differences may not be as distinct, but there is certainly room to compare. If an orc is entirely different from a man, and a woman is less different, but still different, than a man, they are still both different from a man. If one deserves its own set of modifiers in the determination of its attributes, to me, it stands to reason that the other does as well. It is a question, I suppose, of degree. How different something is from the established norm determines the neccessity of seperate modifiers.

On that note, it would make sense to me that most species/races/phili would require their own sets of attributes for both the male and female genders, which could lead to some interesting opportunities in play. What if dwarves got no such differences? It's been stipulated in many a game that female dwarves and male dwarves are much alike, right down to the hair on their chins; you could express that quite well by expressly not seperating them. I can only imagine what an orc female would be like (personally, I like the idea that an orc woman could kick her husbands' asses). What about creatures that are truly sexually dimorphic? There have to be a few of them.

Again, random thoughts when I should be asleep.
SlurpeeMoney
"I'm sexually dimorphic."
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #25 on: May 25, 2004, 12:16:59 AM »

Quote
But in the end, all you are doing is labelling gender modifiers with "masculine" and "feminine", and that really doesn't do much to disguise the fact that at it's core, the mechanics are based on gender modifiers, which we have already repeatedly established as "a Bad Thing".


No, we have not.  We have established that they are unecessary most of the time, and like any other rule, only used when a specific effect is intended.

Quote
Number 2 is that statistics are pretty much the only way to compare any two (or more) things. We can add qualitative layers on top as much as we want, but saying "object X is different in aspect A to object Y" is in all ways a statistic.


Why do you WANT to compare the two?  Once you identify the underlying reason, you may be able to come up with alternative methods.

Quote
This may solve the mathematical problems and actually be able to differentiate between them, but it is making an incredibly strong statement about strong women, ie: claiming that they are masculine. The reverse is also true of weak men. I don't think this gets us any closer to avoiding controversy. In fact, I think it makes any controversy that much more obvious.


No not really.  Examining or discussing the differing quantities of oestrogen and testosterone in a particular system seems to me more reasonable than a blanket modifier.

SlurpeeMoney wrote:
Quote
On that note, it would make sense to me that most species/races/phili would require their own sets of attributes for both the male and female genders, which could lead to some interesting opportunities in play. What if dwarves got no such differences? It's been stipulated in many a game that female dwarves and male dwarves are much alike, right down to the hair on their chins; you could express that quite well by expressly not seperating them.


Now that seems to me a legitimate topic to explore systematically.  Yes, if that is the particular point or issue you wish a game to address - and it seems interesting to me - that would be a perfectly apporpriate way of doing it.
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #26 on: May 25, 2004, 04:08:07 AM »

Quote
Why do you WANT to compare the two? Once you identify the underlying reason, you may be able to come up with alternative methods.

This makes absolutely no sense at all. So if I examine the REAL underlying reasons why I want to compare froot loops to corn flakes, then somehow that realisation of my motives will magically open up non-statistical methods of comparison?

It is human nature to explore and learn. This is a good thing. We explore differences because they exist, not because we have some vested interest in them. Indeed, we cannot have a vested interest in anything that we cannot acknowledge because we haven't yet explored it. The very fact that a difference exists between comparable things warrants investigation into those differences. This is how we advance in science. No amount of internal analysis of our motives will ever help us understand differences better, because the differences do not exist in our internal motives. This is the fundamental reason why ad hominem is a fallacious argument, ie: because our internal states do not represent or reflect objective external reality.

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No not really. Examining or discussing the differing quantities of oestrogen and testosterone in a particular system seems to me more reasonable than a blanket modifier.

Sure why not. But that's not what a masculing/feminine scale is doing is it. It is merely applying those labels to different ends of a spectrum for an abstract attribute like strength. It says that a female character cannot become strogner without compromising her femininity and becoming more masculine. It is saying, very clearly, that being strong is being like a man. A "blanket modifier" only says that males are more likely to be stronger. There is a very clear difference in what these things say and how they say it. A female character can escape a blanket modifier for strength and become stronger without having her femininity questioned. This is impossible on a scale such as Kris mentioned.

Quote
Now that seems to me a legitimate topic to explore systematically. Yes, if that is the particular point or issue you wish a game to address - and it seems interesting to me - that would be a perfectly apporpriate way of doing it.

I personally find this amusing. See, if one were to take any system that does not differentiate between the genders, then performed the sort of analysis that Ralph (Valimir) performed on Mongrel, one would determine that in the settings for these games, males and females were identical except for those gender labels and genitalia. In other words, what you describe as "perfectly legitimate" is exactly what most games do already. The funny part is that doing otherwise, by making gender important, is somehow less legitimate, despite your ascertions in many of your posts that you agree the genders are different.

Having a species with no gender differences only becomes an interesting play oppurtunity when other races/species have gender differences. Otherwise it is the norm, and thus not really adressable in play. Don't believe me? Look at AD&D and tell me how it allows gender to be addressed in play. I tried this with Eclipse, by having two of my species ignore gender modifiers. It made no difference to people's perceptions of the races that did have gender differences.

But my own opinion on making both genders the same in a given race is that doing so makes a strong statement about gender conformity. In your dwarves example, I would argue that the "female" dwarves are no such thing... they are males with breasts and vaginas. That does not sit well with me, and I would be offended that males were the "default". Likewise, I would be offended if a race made all males into females. Doing so does not abolish gender differences, it merely scoops one gender under the carpet of the other. To abolish gender differences you really need to create a race that is truly androgynous, either having no identifiable gender traits or having all identifiable gender traits. Both of these would be hard to accomplish, with the former risking being entirely boring to play and the later threatening to be almost impossible to play.

Similarly, doing such superficial things as saying "all males are really very feminine and all females are very masculine" insults my intelligence. It does not challenge my perceptions of gender differences, it only highlights them by giving them the opposite label. You don't challenge a person by telling them that a red car is actually blue, and a blue car is actually red, you only annoy them, and highlight just how red that "blue" car looks.

In short, I've yet to see any good suggestions for how to address gender in RPGs without pissing people off. We all seem to be (emphasis on "seem") in agreement that gender issues can provide interesting avenues of play, and can be addressed in non-offensive ways, but I've yet to see any suggestions of exactly how to do this successfully. It's like we like the idea, but not the implementation. I could be wrong about what "we" like, but then again, I'm only going from what has been posted, so I apologise if I am grossly misrepresenting "us".

-Ben
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #27 on: May 25, 2004, 04:49:07 AM »

Quote from: Ravien

This makes absolutely no sense at all. So if I examine the REAL underlying reasons why I want to compare froot loops to corn flakes, then somehow that realisation of my motives will magically open up non-statistical methods of comparison?


Umm, surely you kust realise that a comparison of fruitloops and cornflakes is essentially meaningless and valueless unless you intend to demonstrate some point or draw some conclusion.  So my point is: worry less about the methodology of the analysis, and explore again the question you are trying to address; maybe this method is not the optimum for your goals.

Quote

The very fact that a difference exists between comparable things warrants investigation into those differences.


Sure I can buy that.  I'm just not sure what it has to do with RPG; RPG is entertainment, not science.  Just becuase it warrants investigation in abstract does not imply that that investigation must happen at my gaming table.

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It says that a female character cannot become strogner without compromising her femininity and becoming more masculine.


I'm afraid this makes no sense: sex is a fucntion of body chemistry, how can said chemistry 'compromise' one of its own manifestations?

I read recently that people in love behave more like the other sex than usually; men generate greater quantities of oestrogen, women greater quantities of testosterone; in both cases this is accompanied by a "criticism suppression" effect.  Does this imply being in love 'compromises' a persons gender?  I suggest that makes no sense at all.

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There is a very clear difference in what these things say and how they say it. A female character can escape a blanket modifier for strength and become stronger without having her femininity questioned.


If its a modifier, I can't see how they escape it at all.

Quote

I personally find this amusing. See, if one were to take any system that does not differentiate between the genders, then performed the sort of analysis that Ralph (Valimir) performed on Mongrel, one would determine that in the settings for these games, males and females were identical except for those gender labels and genitalia.


But would you?  You see, it seems to me that the error you make is presuming the system is going to describe 'everyone in the world', that it is a normative statement about a fictional place and the people that inhabit it.  But it does not have to be that way at all.  Seventh Sea, along with a cluster of other games, specifically downgrades most NPC's in terms of systematic effectiveness by comparison to the PC's.  The system has no pretensions of being prescriptive.  Gender differences are essentially social in Seventh Sea... but it would be absurd to conclude that because there are no systematic differences in the 7th Sea mechanics, that a survey of inhabitants would find the same degree of musculature in men and women.  There simply is no reason to expect that, and likewise with mongrel: you are attributing a function to the system that does not exist.

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The funny part is that doing otherwise, by making gender important, is somehow less legitimate, despite your ascertions in many of your posts that you agree the genders are different.


You will recall that in PM's I proposed several different approaches using harsh differentiation; such as giving female characters a Beauty stat and not giving an equivelent stat to men at all.  This would be a particular decision for a particular effect, rather than a claim to "realism".  So I contradict your claim; I have repeatedly supported the idea that gender can indeed be important, and an appropriate subject for play, if appropriately addressed.

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Having a species with no gender differences only becomes an interesting play oppurtunity when other races/species have gender differences.


Yes; I was actually more interested in the "having two sets of attributes for each species" part.  That could potentially be a way to do something interesting.

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But my own opinion on making both genders the same in a given race is that doing so makes a strong statement about gender conformity. In your dwarves example, I would argue that the "female" dwarves are no such thing... they are males with breasts and vaginas.


What is it that constitutes maleness and femaleness then?

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In short, I've yet to see any good suggestions for how to address gender in RPGs without pissing people off.


Well go back to the first question: what is it about gender differences that you want to say?  Why go to the trouble of "addressing" this issue if you have no point to make?  If you do have a point, what is it?

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 We all seem to be (emphasis on "seem") in agreement that gender issues can provide interesting avenues of play, and can be addressed in non-offensive ways, but I've yet to see any suggestions of exactly how to do this successfully.


I note you have not responded to my suggestion that if 3d6+1 can be rationalised, 3d6 can also be rationalised.  What is it that you find unsatisfactory about this proposition?
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
iambenlehman
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Posts: 18


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« Reply #28 on: May 25, 2004, 05:02:09 AM »

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Why do you WANT to compare the two? Once you identify the underlying reason, you may be able to come up with alternative methods.

This makes absolutely no sense at all. So if I examine the REAL underlying reasons why I want to compare froot loops to corn flakes, then somehow that realisation of my motives will magically open up non-statistical methods of comparison?

It is human nature to explore and learn. This is a good thing. We explore differences because they exist, not because we have some vested interest in them. Indeed, we cannot have a vested interest in anything that we cannot acknowledge because we haven't yet explored it. The very fact that a difference exists between comparable things warrants investigation into those differences. This is how we advance in science. No amount of internal analysis of our motives will ever help us understand differences better, because the differences do not exist in our internal motives. This is the fundamental reason why ad hominem is a fallacious argument, ie: because our internal states do not represent or reflect objective external reality.


BL>  I think that, while the quoted passage definitely overlooks some things, there is an important point that is going by the wayside here.
  This is a game design forum, and I'm going to advance the humble suggestion that we are all game designers here.  Yes?
  The thing is, a game design is not, avidly, a scientific or statistical model of reality.  In saying that we are game designers, we are at the same time also saying that we are primarily game designers, and not actuaries or scientists.  If we were actuaries or scientists, we would take a very different approach to modelling and knowledge.
  Game design and, more importantly, the game play that it is intended to assist in, is primarily a form of creative work, as opposed to the analytical work of an actuary or the analytical/creative work of a scientist.  Do I have agreement on this one too?

  So saying that game *design* is, in any way, primarily about about exploring real, objective truth in an analytical sense is well, unclear on the conept of what a game is -- a tool to help in a creative endeavour.  As with any creative endeavour, game playing can, ultimately, only explore the internal worlds that we construct for ourselves, comparing and contrasting them, and arriving at a very different sort of truth than the objective one arrives at via years of hard data gathering and analysis.

To say that gender modifiers should be included in the game because they are realistic misses the point.  Relativistic effects of large energy are also realistic, as are the laws of thermodynamics, and they are regularly ignored by game designers -- with good reason.  They are not part of the creative agenda (in a loose sense, not GNS) that the game supports.

So, give women -50 strength and +10i beauty, and 555 lumens, every one.  It doesn't matter.  What matters, I would say, is how that interfaces with your creative goals in a significant way, and for that, you will need to look internally at why you are interested in comparing them.  Only after this can you understand what mechanics should be used.

I would suppose, with the caveat that I have no idea if this is true, that if you look at your goals, realize them in a significant way, and write mechanics that really reflect this and not any baggage carried in from "realism."  Your game will never be realistic, praise be to God.  Leave realism to actuaries and scientists.  But, if your willing to put the work in, it will be fun and worthwile to play.

yrs--
--Ben[/img]
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This is Ben Lehman.  My Forge account is having problems, so I have registered this account in the meantime.  If you have sent me a PM in the last week or so and I have no responded to it, please send it to this address.  Thank you.
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #29 on: May 25, 2004, 05:59:48 AM »

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I'm afraid this makes no sense: sex is a fucntion of body chemistry, how can said chemistry 'compromise' one of its own manifestations?

How can adding shades of black to white compromise the whiteness of the white? How can adding white to black compromise the blackness of the black? When you put femininity on a scale with masculinity, it's quite easy, really.

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The system has no pretensions of being prescriptive. Gender differences are essentially social in Seventh Sea... but it would be absurd to conclude that because there are no systematic differences in the 7th Sea mechanics, that a survey of inhabitants would find the same degree of musculature in men and women. There simply is no reason to expect that, and likewise with mongrel: you are attributing a function to the system that does not exist.

I'm afraid you are misunderstanding the core point. It isn't that a survey of the inhabitants would/wouldn't reveal differences, it's that the mechanics themselves, when you take them as being rules for the setting, prescribe the differences therein. This is what Ralph did with Mongrel. He looked at the mechanics, and derived the setting from them. Ron had not provided the setting which Ralph was finding. There was no survey of inhabitants. Only a deduction of what the inhabitants would be like based on the rules of the world. This is the core of my meaning.

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I note you have not responded to my suggestion that if 3d6+1 can be rationalised, 3d6 can also be rationalised. What is it that you find unsatisfactory about this proposition?

Really? I thought I had. See, 3d6 can be rationalised. It is all the time. But as I just mentioned, 3d6 makes a statement about the world. It says that whilst there are individual differences (according to the random factor), there are no gender-based differences. Sure, a female character in such a system may very well be typically feminine and a male character may very well be typically masculine, but this would be no more common than the reverse. As you love to remind me, the mechanics you choose to use make a definate statement. Why is the statement of "3d6" more satisfactory than the statement of "3d6+1".

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Sure I can buy that. I'm just not sure what it has to do with RPG; RPG is entertainment, not science. Just becuase it warrants investigation in abstract does not imply that that investigation must happen at my gaming table.

Of course. But who said I care what happens at your gaming table? What I care about is why you care what happens at mine.

Sorry if I haven't addressed all of your points, I'm not ignoring them, nor am I unable to address them, but I am trying to adhere only to points which are relevant to RPGs and the design thereof.


Ben (I love the new screen name btw, made me chuckle).
Good point. So RPGs are a creative endeavour. This is true. So is art. But the fact that art is a creative endeavour does not prohibit artists from attempting to recreate reality as best they can. In fact, some of the greatest artists are those who have been able to do so very well. Of course, you also have artists who make fantastic works that are entirely abstract. But can anyone claim that abstract art is inherently "better" than realistic art? What I, as an artist myself, try to do, is to find the pieces of the subject that are most representative of the subject, and focus on them, and I find that doing so allows me to create drawings that sometimes seem more realistic than had I not highlighted those features. Sometimes it's the eyes, sometimes it's the pose, sometimes it's the lighting, more often than not it is many things. I approach games the same way. When I look at humanity, I ask myself "what is it about humanity that really helps define it?", and one of those things is gender (amongst many others). To me, leaving out gender is like not painting the arms on your subject. You might be able to make a statement like that, but it starts to look less human (which is sometimes exactly what you want).

So yes, a game is not an avid portrayal of reality. A drawing is not an avid portrayal of a person (or landscape or whatever). But the closer they resemble their respective subjects, the more we can identify with them. A drawing will never be 3d, and a statue will never move or talk. They aren't human, but they portray what we see as aspects of humanity. For me, gender is an important aspect of humanity. I don't care how it is portrayed, whether it be picasso or rembrandt, so long as it feels like gender (sorry for mixing metaphors mid-sentence, I'm sure you can see my point). But if you leave it out, then I'm left with a statement, and to me, that statement says "gender is irrelevant to humans". If you don't want gender, and you don't want that statement, don't use humans in your game. If you want humans, then IMHO, they need to feel like humans.

In summary, yes, I agree 100% that games are about creativity, and that "realism" should not get in the way of your creativity. But I differ in also believing that "realism" can be a perfectly legitimate approach to creativity. But your overall point seems perfectly true to me: that designing games is about achieving a creative goal in the best way you can. This is true of all forms of creative expression.

-Ben
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