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Author Topic: Gender Based vs. Gender Biased  (Read 41746 times)
simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #30 on: May 25, 2004, 07:39:30 AM »

Quote from: iambenlehman
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 agree, this is central. If you look at the vast variety of people (NPCs, I suppose) that you will see in a game setting, the game mechanics will usualy only create a small subset of that variety. Certainly this is true of most fantasy games such as D&D. There are vast numbers of people in a typical D&D game setting that can't be created as starting characters using the D&D character creation rules. Therefore the character creation ruels are there to create the characters our players are likely to want to play. The only population dynamic the character creation rules actual address is the population of beginning player characters.

Perhaps you do want to skew that population in certain ways, but in doing so you're making a concious decission - not about what is possible in the game world - but about what you want to allow to happen in the gaming group. It's quite possible in the game world for the strongest female figher the world has even seen to fall in with a bunch of middling-to-average men, so if that isn't possible in your character generation rules you're making an artistic judgement call that you're simply not interested in playing that situation out in your game. Or as a game designer, you're not interested in allowing your customers/audience to do so either, even if they want to.

RuneQuest 3 handled this explicitly. The rules stated that average females had a reduced Strength roll (but perhaps higher CON, i forget), but tha since player characters aren't necessrily average female PCs could have strength rolled the same as male characters.

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Eric J.
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Posts: 396


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« Reply #31 on: May 25, 2004, 03:47:34 PM »

Um... Maybe I've misread the last 3 pages but maybe I'm not even identifying the issue.

Are we instituting gender modifiers to make the setting more interesting?  Are we on some damned fool idealist crusade to simulate reality?

In the former, why can't we just change the rules for rolling up stats for the pleabs and get on with it (how many times has anyone ever used stats from 'average townspeople' except for hitpoints or something to see if they die from the raining fire or that aarow?  I mean, come on.

In the latter you should also insitute lots of other stuff.  Give men their +7 strength bonus and some special skills.  They get +10 to dirty politicians and when they have enough money they have to make resistance checks to make sure they don't go out and buy that sports car.  Let's give them a +20 into mathematics but they have make a non-absent minded check to put the seat down.  Then they both have special properties... Men know how to fix cars and women are always right.

I'm sorry, but instrumental philosophys versus Aristotilian have little to do with this.  What's the point in complicating the system like that?  If you want to make a system for it, do it.  Arguing generalities like this seems kindof pointless.

I'm just not seeing a viable reason.  If you give them gender modifiers you change character identity.  People might play a gender for the bonuses instead of having viable reasons.  That would seem to be the only implication because both genders could ulitmatelley be used for the same things.

This actually becomes an issue with things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I've never watched it or played it so I may be wrong).

I'm not sure what this thread is talking about at all.  If I have an issue I can try to do something here.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron
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SlurpeeMoney
Member

Posts: 69


« Reply #32 on: May 25, 2004, 04:30:04 PM »

<Taking a step back>

Again, the tone has reached one of an argumentative pitch, and that was one that I would have prefered to have avoided. In all of the previous threads on the topic of gender, there was argument (not discussion, or debate, argument, which carries with it a much more agressive tone). Saddly, I'm seeing that on this post as well. Let's all take a step back for a minute and look at what is being presented.

I'm not a great game designer. I come up with rules-tweaks on the fly to fit my game, and that's pretty well what I am doing here too. I'm comming up with stuff on the fly to address the issues that are being brought up. Some of them are pretty flawed. Others have, I believe, some merit. None of my tweaks have a very realistic feel to them; I'm not a very realistic gamer. Much more a dramatist, me.

This does not sit well with more realistic gamers/designers in the group, who are looking to differentiate male and female characters along lines that reflect the statistics without getting people's backs up. They are looking for a way to scientifically seperate the genders without having to worry about people thinking them sexist for that design choice, or finding a way to circumvent that assumption.

Saddly, I don't think you can. There are too many factors to take into consideration, and any time a person states an assumption about one of those factors, people are bound to get up-in-arms. And so far, here, they have. So perhaps it is time to put science and drama away and try to look at this from other angles.

Take a step back. Think. Breathe really slowly three times. Then come back to the computer and see if we can't find a way to tackle gender differentiation in an unbiased, strengths-rather-than-flaws, calm sort of way. We all play one of the world's only non-competitive group games. Let's try to get along. Saying "This makes no sense" and "That makes no sense" in this debate is as useful as saying "Let's make buscuits" in the middle of surgury. Let's try to make sense of it.

SlurpeeMoney
"The voice of Vodka."
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SlurpeeMoney
Member

Posts: 69


« Reply #33 on: May 25, 2004, 04:31:28 PM »



SlurpeeMoney
"Apparently Vodka isn't all..."
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Doctor Xero
Member

Posts: 433


« Reply #34 on: May 25, 2004, 05:28:28 PM »

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
In all of the previous threads on the topic of
gender, there was argument (not discussion, or debate, argument, which
carries with it a much more agressive tone).

Well, I will tell you why I try hard to avoid this type of topic.  I try to avoid
it because of what you've seen happen here.

Believe it or not, the people on the Forge are far, far, far more polite and
open-minded than the posters in many other online gatherings.

In real life, I have a Ph.D. in gender : the social side, the biological side,
the literary side, the whole nine yards.  But I have found that almost any
topic which involves things which can not be definitively reduced to mere
mathematical quantifications usually devolves into personal opinion given
forth at great volume in most online gatherings.

(No one assumes that the location of the liver or the tensile strength of steel
can be discussed by way of only personal opinion, anecdotal experience, and
philosophical attitude, yet many people assume that gender, theme, ethics,
and other intangibles require neither training nor education, and they often
assume themselves to be without training the automatic equals of experts in
these fields while never making a similar presumption about experts in the
fields of medicine or metallurgy.  Oy.)

Actually, this particular topic hasn't had that much problems, so don't be
discouraged.  Just be aware that even those of us who have studied gender
rigorously find this topic to be a volatile one at best.

Doctor Xero
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
Eric J.
Member

Posts: 396


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« Reply #35 on: May 25, 2004, 05:54:04 PM »

I'm not trying discount anything that's being said.  I'm not trying to be volitile towards anyone.  I'm just looking for a focus.

I'm aware that discussing the differences in male and female society averages can be controversial or irritating.

I'm just looking for a focus.  So far I haven't seen any of it as far as it has to do with game design.  We have "It would be interesting if we had a society that..." and "Males and females...<place study here>" and maybe how it could be related to play.  I think that we could make it more constructive if we made this topic more specific.

If you're making a <some type of game> what modifiers would be appropriate?  Are they appropriate?  Or... how would a mechanic like this appeal to an audience?

In my last post I explained my stance on the subject of simulating reality.  It's pointless on most levels.  It restricts player freedom.  People are fragile individuals.  Movies are unrealistic.  People don't act anything like they do in roleplaying games. At least not the ones I play.

Basically I'm saying that you have the huge potential to deprotagonise your players (the worst possible thing IMHO) with little benefit.

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron
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John Kim
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Posts: 1805


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« Reply #36 on: May 25, 2004, 07:39:39 PM »

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
  Again, the tone has reached one of an argumentative pitch, and that was one that I would have prefered to have avoided. In all of the previous threads on the topic of gender, there was argument (not discussion, or debate, argument, which carries with it a much more agressive tone). Saddly, I'm seeing that on this post as well.  

Actually, I think there has been some good discussion on the subject of gender.  For example, the thread on http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9738">Feminist Game Design was a pretty good one, IMO.  It seems to me that the particular problem comes up in the case of discussing gender in the form of gender-based attribute modifiers.  I think the issue of essentialism vs constructionism is at the heart here, because it digs really deeply into how we think about gender.  

Quote from: SlurpeeMoney
  Then come back to the computer and see if we can't find a way to tackle gender differentiation in an unbiased, strengths-rather-than-flaws, calm sort of way. We all play one of the world's only non-competitive group games. Let's try to get along. Saying "This makes no sense" and "That makes no sense" in this debate is as useful as saying "Let's make buscuits" in the middle of surgury. Let's try to make sense of it.  

If you think there is a way of picking your attribute modifiers that will smooth over objections, I don't think there is any such choice.  It is completely wrong to say that the objections are dismissed by making the genders mechanically "different but equal".  Giving females bonuses to beauty, agility, and intuition do not automatically make it acceptable -- regardless of how large those bonuses are.  The problem here is that by modifiers to presumed-inherent qualities, you are taking a specific stand on nature-vs-nurture -- and people have very different and very heart-felt beliefs regarding this.  For example, consider a game which gives blacks major bonuses to Strength and Dexterity but penalties to Intelligence and Charisma.  

The problem here is that the modifiers are being passed off as essential genetic qualities -- when many people regard them as being to a large degree socially-created or even simply false stereotypes.  

If you want non-controversial approaches to this, then you have to get rid of the implied nature-vs-nurture stance.  I suggested having gender-differentiated classes or skill packages.  For example, you could have a different class for Nobleman (i.e. knightly fighting skills, oratory, etc.) and Noblewoman (i.e. crafts, diplomacy, etc.).  Of course, there are many more possibilities -- but let's consider them rather than continually butting up against the issue of attribute modifiers, which I think have very clear reasons why they are controversial.
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- John
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #37 on: May 25, 2004, 10:24:00 PM »

I'm not sure if I'm seeing what you are saying John, but it looks to me like you are saying "let's forget this whole 'nature vs nurture' deal, and just accept that nurture is the way to go".

Doctor Xero wrote this over in that topic John linked to:
Quote
By focusing on social more than physical, it also neatly bypasses essentialist-vs-constructivist arguments over the origins of gender roles.

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]

See, the controversy only really exists in the nature side of things. Despite John's claims that extremist essentialists and constructionists are rare, I'm seeing a hell of a lot more extremist constructionists... in fact, I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.

My position? Some things are entirely socially constructed, some things are entirely genetically constructed, but the vast majority are a combination of both, and gender falls in here. Does my position matter? Not one iota.

So my question is, why do mechanics that hint at a nature side (even in the presence of a social side) encounter such strong opposition as this? Why don't purely social mechanics encounter any opposition? Why can't someone make a game that explores gender in a way they think is suitable without running into a wall of opposition? Game design is, as I think we all agree, an art. It is a form of creative expression. If someone makes a crappy painting, we can look at it and say "Gee, that's pretty crap", and that's all good. But can we look at a painting and decide that the artist should have chosen a different medium simply because we don't like guache? I think to do so is rather pretentious. Can we say "they should have chosen a different subject? Do we have any ground to stand on in a debate with them about what they choose to paint and how they choose to paint it?

If an artist paints a portrait and claims it to be realistic, the painting will be scrutinized for how closely it resembles reality. If they say "this is abstract", then the painting will be judged on purely aesthetic merits. Both of these are perfectly fine.

Which brings me back to something which I have said early, and which has been said by a few other people too: "make gender an issue in your game if you want, and if you claim the mechanics represent reality, be prepared to justifiy the claims, otherwise, just say 'it's only a game', and be prepared to tell critics to fuck off". Ok, so I elaborated a bit, sue me.

Quote
Actually, this particular topic hasn't had that much problems, so don't be discouraged. Just be aware that even those of us who have studied gender rigorously find this topic to be a volatile one at best.

Doctor Xero is right. Whilst a PhD does not an expert make, I would agree that Doctor Xero has expertise in the constructionist side of the gender debate, and it really is a shame that he chooses not to benefit us with his knowledge. I do not claim expertise in either side, but I am far from ignorant of the facts. Unfortunately, unlike metal or the location of one's liver, there is much contention between even PhDs about this issue, so consulting any single expert is not enough to form the basis of a solid conclusion.

Quote
Basically I'm saying that you have the huge potential to deprotagonise your players (the worst possible thing IMHO) with little benefit.

If implemented poorly, any mechanic can do this. Some mechanics do nothing but this (like the ability to die). However, in theory, this can be avoided by successfuly addressing what I originally outlined as The Problem. However, it seems that deprotagonization of characters takes a back seat to personal feelings when gender is introduced.

Quote
If you're making a <some type of game> what modifiers would be appropriate? Are they appropriate? Or... how would a mechanic like this appeal to an audience?

This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


But Kris, this is your topic, where do you want it to go? I don't believe that any focus on "strengths, not weaknesses" is possible at all, for reasons I have outlined previously and others John mentioned above. As I see it now, all that can be achieved from this impass is to decide to implement gender through every definition of your characters, risking controversy at every level, or to either avoid it completely or implement it in a solely constructivist way. This issue goes way beyond RPGs though, so despite how beautiful your works of art become, if they are portraying something that it's cool to hate, they will be burned.

-Ben
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #38 on: May 25, 2004, 11:41:26 PM »

Quote from: Ravien

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]

This makes no sense; why should constructing a game mechanic on a particular basis NECESSARILY say something about reality or be taken as such?  If you constructed a SYSTEM on this basis, all you will have constructed is a system - why does this imply you necessarily had to adopt the constructionist position in order to do so?

Quote

I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.


So you keep saying, although you never seem able to identify these instances.

Quote

My position? Some things are entirely socially constructed, some things are entirely genetically constructed, but the vast majority are a combination of both, and gender falls in here. Does my position matter? Not one iota.


Then we agree, fundamentally, about the nature of reality.  What we are disagreeing about is game systems.

Quote

So my question is, why do mechanics that hint at a nature side (even in the presence of a social side) encounter such strong opposition as this?


Because I regard your mechanism as unrealistic, and there not for realism purposes but something else.

Quote

Why don't purely social mechanics encounter any opposition?


The nearest I can think of to a "purely social" mechanism would be HeroQuest... do you have an actual particular example you would like to present to us for analysis?

And, how do you know they encounter "no opposition"?

Quote

Why can't someone make a game that explores gender in a way they think is suitable without running into a wall of opposition?


I would contend that several people have.  Take a look at Nicotine Girls for a very specific example of focus.  This does not "explore differences", as it were, but that is only one topic among many to explore.

Quote
But can we look at a painting and decide that the artist should have chosen a different medium simply because we don't like guache? I think to do so is rather pretentious. Can we say "they should have chosen a different subject? Do we have any ground to stand on in a debate with them about what they choose to paint and how they choose to paint it?


Regardless of our opinions of Leni Reifenstahl as a person or a film-maker, she neverthless was a Nazi propagandist.  Her work, some argue, has not received the credit it deserves due to the surrounding politics.  Is that too surprising, though?

Art cannot become a stalking horse behind which bigotry and prejudice hide; so yes I am entitled to advance such criticisms.  Or more accurately, I can suggest a piece contains a political agenda without impugning its artistic virtues or the skill with which it was executed.

Quote

This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


Oh it is.  Thats why you have been repeatedly pressed to explain why you are particularly interested in this aspect of the world and in this particular way of representing it.  So far you have not chosen to explain this to us.
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #39 on: May 25, 2004, 11:52:59 PM »

I'd thought we'd gotten over talking about me Gareth, I suggest we stick to Kris' topic from now on, or the broader topic of RPGs in general. In case you haven't noticed, I am pointedly avoiding any comments made by you addressing me or my opinions specifically. That's what PM's are for.

-Ben
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Erling Rognli
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #40 on: May 26, 2004, 12:01:38 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
See, the controversy only really exists in the nature side of things. Despite John's claims that extremist essentialists and constructionists are rare, I'm seeing a hell of a lot more extremist constructionists... in fact, I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.


(Slightly off topic, perhaps...)

I would think that many find the notion of socially constructed gender differences easier to accept than biological ones, because they believe that while you can liberate yourself from social conditioning, you are stuck with your biology. Personally, I disagree, believing that a certain level of liberation from both are possible. But to many people, socially based gender differences are far easier to accept within their views on the nature of humanity.

Erling
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Rob Carriere
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #41 on: May 26, 2004, 12:05:20 AM »

From observing the recent threads about this topic, I would say that there are at least two higher-level issues that would have to be resolved before we have common ground to stand on and have a good conversation.

1. As John Kim has pointed out, there is the issue of essentialism vs constructionism and especially how someone's position on that issue can influence their perception of a game design. You could try to skirt the issue by modeling effects only and leaving the cause to the players' opinion, but, as has already been proven by demonstration, such a design could easily be misconstrued as supporting nurture over nature.

I think any game that wants to enter this arena will have a stand on this issue (If the game cannot afford a stand, a stand will be gleefully assigned to it by its audience.)

So, what take do we make here, and why? Several people have stated their real-world opinion, but the question I want to ask is, what position will we take for the purpose of designing a game? (Note that `My real-world stance, of course' is a perfectly valid answer, I just think it should be explicit.)

2. What design philosophy do we use? Are we attempting to simulate reality as well as we can (meanings of `reality', `well' and `as we can' to be defined!) or are we pursuing a specific kind of play (what kind?).

This is another point that has torqued the debate out of shape several times. It is impossible to intelligently discuss design aspects when you have fundamental disagreements about the design goals.


So, I think that rather than going around in circles re-stating our positions, we ought to decide, for the specific purpose of this thread, what answers we want to give to (1) and (2) above and then go from there. Kris, it's your thread. Am I making any sense, or am I full of it?

SR
--
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #42 on: May 26, 2004, 02:47:27 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
I'd thought we'd gotten over talking about me Gareth, I suggest we stick to Kris' topic from now on, or the broader topic of RPGs in general. In case you haven't noticed, I am pointedly avoiding any comments made by you addressing me or my opinions specifically. That's what PM's are for.


Actually, I would prefer it if you addressed the substantive points.  I would also suggest that if you wish to keep it impersonal, its probably best not to start out by poisoning the well.  It appears to me that you are using such to evade responding.
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komradebob
Member

Posts: 462


« Reply #43 on: May 26, 2004, 06:16:42 AM »

Cuple of quick thoughts, slightly off topic...

I've read a couple of these types of threads now, and I think there are a couple of things things that need to be noted when creating mechanics for gender recognized differences. In their own way, they also may apply to other differences, such as ethnicity/culture/race.

1) Accentuate the positive:
One possible easy fix is to only give positive modifiers for each gender, without counterbalancing negatives.

If you were to give males a +1 strength and females -1, their really two points apart on average. In a small range of possible stats, like in old D&D, that's fairly large. If, instead, you give males a +1 but simply fail to modify that stat for females, you have a lesser difference in range. The same then holds true for whatever stat or stats you give bonuses to females for.

Note, I personally don't think this is the best solution, but I do think it smoothes some of the rough edges off the controversy.

2) Make modifiers optional by PC.

If you have male/female modifiers, allow each player to choose to take or not take the mods. Basically, make it an optional sub system. Perhaps it always applies to NPCs, but not PCs. Why? PCs are almost certainly special cases, somewhat different from your run-of-the-mill inhabitants, regardless of the NPCs social class.

3) Watch out for mods that wash each other out.

If you say that women tend to be physically weaker (-1), but working class milkmaids tend to be stronger (+1), for a net result of +/-0, you may be creating controversy to no good end. Do you really need the headache?

4) Expect people to use the bonuses you give them.

Males strong (+1)= expect them to fight.
Females socially wily(+1)...um, uh-oh.

Have you considered what a female character played by a really competetive player might do with those bonuses? I can. It's scary.

5) PCs are a cut above the rest.

In fiction pieces, and occasionally in real life, you are likely to find characters that simply do not meet your expectations for the general public in a given setting. It is very likely that your player will want to play these remarkable individuals, and for good reason: People that go against the grain abit tend to be at the center of interesting events. Are you sure that applying modifiers will make these characters more or less likely to want to go against the grain?

6) Focus on what is relevant.

This can be hard to do depending on your game system.

What I mean is this: If everyone in a given setting has about an average strength (say 9-12 under old D&D rules), do you even need to know that? For that matter, do you really even need to know, beyond some background color, whether they are only slightly above (13) or slightly below (8) average, since minor modifiers will tend to be irrelevant anyway? For gaming purposes, don't you really just need to know the areas where someone is particularly strong or weak, and to what extent? After all, only the really extreme cases on either end are going to have much impact.

7) Exceptions are important.

Especially in RPGs. Watch out for cases that, even though statistically small, do blow your numbers all to hell. As mentioned above, players are likely to want to play those exceptions as PCs. For that matter, a GM probably wants major antagonists to break the mold as well.

Just some thoughts. Thanks for listening,
Robert
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Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys
simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #44 on: May 26, 2004, 07:43:36 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
Quote
By focusing on social more than physical, it also neatly bypasses essentialist-vs-constructivist arguments over the origins of gender roles.

See what I mean? Apparently, the whole argument can be avoided by just agreeing with the constructivist side! It's so easy and clear now! [/sarcasm]



Not at all. In a game without gender modifiers I could quite happily create a character and say 'She inherited his great strength from her mother who was a defencted Russian Shot-Putter' or 'She spent 4 hours a dauy in the gym to develop her great strength'. It's perfectly possible for the game system to take a neutral stance.

On the other hand I could write a game system similar to yours where females got lower strength scores and justify it 'because in the game world women are socialy pressurised to deprecate physical strength'. However in that case I'd be limiting the game system to modeling a specific cultural situation.

Quote
I've never met a single person who denied the effect of society on development (not that they don't exist, but I've never seen one), but I've seen plenty of people on the opposite end of the scale.
Quote


Well eprsonaly I don't consider nature vs nurture or constructionalist vs essentialist ideas to be at all relevent to my possition. The fact is that strong women realy do exist out there because individuals are not averages, they can be present in adventuring teams and can make interesting characters to play (or play with in a group) so therefore I see no reasonable reason or motive for eliminating them from a game.


Quote
Why can't someone make a game that explores gender in a way they think is suitable without running into a wall of opposition?


They can, but in the case of your game it's not obviously about gender issues. the section on characetr concept says pretty explicitly tat people can make up whatever they like, and doesn't mention gender issues at all so far as I can recall.

Quote
This is amusing because I've seen many forgites give advice to newbies along the lines of "don't worry about what other people want, just design the game that you want". I've given such advice myself, and I think it is perfectly relevant to all design aspects.


That's fine and dandy. Where in your game does it say that it's about exploring the consequences of the statistical physical dimorphism in the poulation due to gender? Are you intending to state this prominently on the back cover or something? makign a game about a topic is one thing, slipping it in under the audience's radar as a personal designer's quirk is quite another. Also RPGs are a very interactive art frm. You're not just creatign a work of art, but also creating a toolkit with which your audience create their own art and so the relationship between author and audience is quire different form, say, painting.

Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
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