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Author Topic: Reasons for cross-gender play  (Read 18825 times)
LordSmerf
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« on: September 30, 2004, 05:19:00 AM »

I am a male.  I play female characters in roughly 40% of my games.  I was idly wondering about that the other day when i realized why i do it.  By making a character male, my own gender, i am subtly signaling the GM that i am interested in, or at least open to, romantic stuff involving this character.  My female characters are subtle hints that i do not feel that romance is appropriate to the character concept.  This probably explains why my female characters tend to be emotionally scarred and slightly deranged.

Now, i know that this is not the case for everyone.  There are ample Actual Play posts that illustrate people playing cross-gender and still dealing with romance, so i began to wonder: for what reasons do people play cross-gender?  What kind of differences do people percieve in a character, and how do they react differently, when the character is not of their own gender?  I would be especially interested in input from female players on the subject, but do not let that discourage anyone from chiming in.

Thomas
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Vaxalon
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Posts: 1619


« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2004, 05:44:45 AM »

For me, roleplaying is about (among other things) being people I can't be in real life.  Elves.  Superheroes.  Secret Agents.  Women.  It's just as much of a visit to a "foreign country" to be a telepathic alien with tentacles for arms as it is to be a woman.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
beingfrank
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2004, 06:17:35 AM »

I don't think I've played cross-gender to achieve specific purposes so far.  Mostly I get an idea for a character, or a character in a situation, and they just happen to be male or female.  Sometimes gender doesn't matter, some times it does.  That's mostly down to setting, because in differnt settings, different genders can do different things, and their actions make different statements.  So I may pick a certain gender if I'm wanting to make certain sorts of statements about an issue where one gender is better able to do so than the other, or do things that one gender just doesn't do.  But I don't give it conscious thought, it just happens.

I don't play cross-gender to avoid dealing with romance in a game.  In fact two of my most recent character are a woman who spent two years of the game running away from any sort of romantic involvement because she didn't want that in her life at the time and I wanted to explore other things in the game, and a man who's biggest worry right now is how to tell his girlfriend he accidentally cheated on her ("I was drunk, there were these sexy ladies, next thing I knew.. whooops!") before she finds out anyway.  However, I suspect that the GM of the game in which I play cross-gender started off expecting that I wouldn't want romance to be an important aspect, but that didn't last out the first session, with me and the other (male) player building a friendly rivalry over who's character was going to get laid first.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2004, 06:22:05 AM »

I think that the whole thing about "why cross gender play?" is a bit of a strange question, especially given that it is so pervasive in RPGs.  I, frankly, find it a little bit wierd.

I mean, say that I am writing a story, and there is a female character.  I don't say "why am I writing a female character?" as if there is some sort of secretive motive why I am doing so.  The character is female because... the character is female.  Some characters *have* to be a certain gender, otherwise they don't make sense.  Some character are a certain gender as a matter of pronoun convenience.  Some are a certain gender as a matter of author whim.

I mean, even the GM doesn't second-guess playing female NPCs, even in actor-stance contexts.  I think the whole thing is a red-herring.

yrs--
--Ben
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2004, 06:37:09 AM »

Interesting point Ben.  I am note even sure that i disagree with you on the whole.  I would say that you are right that there is not deeper meaning involved in cross gender play in some or even most cases.  In those cases there is nothing to analyze.  However, in my own experience regarding my own tendencies there is a deeper meaning.  The same is true in most other forms of art.  Sometimes the author is trying to say somtehing, and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

So far it seems that most people just feel that the specific character that they are working with just works better as a female with no ulterior motives.  This may indicate that i am in some sort of extreme minority of people who by and large have some sort of sub-concious reason for playing female characters.

Thomas
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Emily Care
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2004, 07:09:01 AM »

Quote
may indicate that i am in some sort of extreme minority of people who by and large have some sort of sub-concious reason for playing female characters.


Perhaps. But just having subconscious reasons for playing a given character is most liklely pretty common. The specifics would vary.

An interesting follow-up might be a discussion about underlying reasons for character choice in general. You've picked out a reason why you go for female characters, but it could just as easily be about why one would play a married character vs. a single character etc.

What intelligent thing do I have to say on the matter?  For me, the choice of background and relationship of my character to other characters has been important. It's been where I've played out some of my own family history on a symbolic level.  In a charicatured way.  The parens of my character Soraya is a wierd amalgamation of Genma (from the series Ranma 1/2), Happosai and some male relatives of mine.  Gives it more meat for me, but is much more fun than straight psychodrama.

yrs,
Emily
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2004, 07:14:35 AM »

Well, I dunno if I agree with Ben. I mean, regardless of where you think gender sits on the spectrum of biology and sociology, it does exist, and everyone here has assumptions, conscious or unconscious, about what gender entails.

Maybe you say, "ah, what the heck, my character will be a chick," but that character is now different than she would be if she were a dude. You and everyone else at the table are going to view her differently.

I like playing women as characters, especially action-oriented characters, particularly because it's more acceptable as of late for female characters to don what are historically male roles without having to give up a female identity than it is for male characters to do the same. Buffy, Xena, Sydney on Alias: they can all kick ass and be emotionally vulnerable. Male characters who do this aren't really accepted yet. Guys can only be broody like Wolverine, and that's beyond trite.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2004, 07:32:10 AM »

Hey Thomas,

My female characters are subtle hints that i do not feel that romance is appropriate to the character concept.

I have to think that femaleness alone is not enough to deliver that hint. Instead, I suspect you create female characters within a type range, and it is the type range that delivers the hint. Have you read http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=1095">on making the same character over and over? I think you have something you want to say with a specific character type, and that you haven't yet nailed it for yourself in play. "No romance" just happens to be a visible common denominator.

Paul
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DannyK
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« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2004, 07:35:58 AM »

I think it's a complicated issue.  I think the same sex=romance, opposite sex=no romance rule is particularly interesting, because it's not what I would have expected.

Personally, I very much enjoy bringing female NPC's to life. But I can't feel comfortable playing a female character when someone else is GM'ing.  It just feels weird to me.  The closest I've come is an androgynous character once.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2004, 07:38:03 AM »

Quote from: Matt Wilson
Well, I dunno if I agree with Ben. I mean, regardless of where you think gender sits on the spectrum of biology and sociology, it does exist, and everyone here has assumptions, conscious or unconscious, about what gender entails.

Maybe you say, "ah, what the heck, my character will be a chick," but that character is now different than she would be if she were a dude. You and everyone else at the table are going to view her differently.


BL>  Hey, Matt.  Look at my post again.  I'm not saying "gender of characters doesn't matter" at all.  I'm saying "I don't get this 'second guessing the player for playing cross-gender' thing."

I'll say this again:  sometimes, a character needs to be a certain gender, otherwise the concept doesn't make sense.  You playing women that take on male gender roles in times of stress is a part of this.  As another example, if I want to play the classic "empire-destroying beauty" character, I need to play a woman.  If I played the same character as a man, it would be a very different character.  Although also interesting.

yrs--
--Ben
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Dr. Velocity
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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2004, 08:09:23 AM »

I think for some, and for me, its a combination of things:

As mentioned, its the same as playing an Orc or a Vulcan, its a totally alien idea, I do it to be something different - trying to get into the head of a character type I know I simply can't understand, and see how well I am able to do it.

Transvestite? Well, I don't know if I would go that far but who hasn't thought, gee, I wonder what its like to be someone of the opposite sex - you still don't know, but you get to pretend for a brief time, its all in fun.

As mentioned - just because. Sometimes your idea or concept for a character just lends itself to being a female, and you can't argue with your own inspiration.

Nature abhorrs a vacuum, and if there are no female players or characters, might as well have the next bext thing just for even a tiny bit of variety, and if no one else will do it (which they won't), then by golly I will.

As far as a conscious or subconscious angle on romance... I supposed its possible but I'm a pretty private person that doesn't really talk about relationships so I'm not convinced I'm giving subtle hints to the GM or anything if I do or don't play a female - I would not be comfortable RPing an in-game relationship from either end, as I couldn't do either sex justice, plus its vicarious and mock but still a simulated relationship and another player/GM is on the other end and.. thats just too weird for me.
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M Jason Parent
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2004, 08:48:17 AM »

As a long-time game master and a player more rarely, I get into cross-gender play because it is required. A story involving only one sex is somewhat strange. It isn't about playing something alien, to me it is about playing something that works.

If the character concept works 'better' as a man or a woman or a vulcan, or a transgendered person, then that's what I run. I play RPGs to tell stories... and my stories have all sorts of people in them, just like my life.

The romance angle is different for me. I've run characters involved in same-sex and opposite-sex romances, in love triangles and more. These characters have been both male and female, depending on the game. I don't say 'no' to romantic RPing just because I'm running a cross-gender character.

On the other hand, romance has been toned down a LOT in my more recent campaigns, more to a grade-school level, because I run games with grade-schoolers now. I have noticed that cross-gender play is a lot less frequent with grade-schoolers, but that is neither here nor there as it relates to gender-identification roles in our children as opposed to our own approaches to RPing.
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M Jason Parent
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2004, 09:24:00 AM »

I'm male (despite the name "Sydney"...) and yet I've frequently found myself bored playing male characters; my most satisfyingly cathartic characters have been female. Why?

Quote from: Matt Wilson
I like playing women as characters, especially action-oriented characters...they can all kick ass and be emotionally vulnerable. Male characters who do this aren't really accepted yet.


I'd agree with Matt and go one further: Our culture still doesn't seem to accept as wide a range of emotional expression from men as it does from women. Of course it also doesn't accept as wide a same range of activities from women as it does from men. So women are oppressed and men are repressed; but at least in adventure fiction, which is what most RPGs emulate, it's now acceptable for female characters to have both emotion and action.

EDIT: Gross oversimplification here, I know. Please nobody shoot me.
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Roger
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2004, 09:34:31 AM »

Thinking back over the years I've played, I'm struck by one thing:

I can't even remember the gender of most of the PCs and NPCs.  I'm not sure I ever knew it in many cases.

By the same token, I don't remember their eye colour or whether they were left-handed, either.

I do generally remember classes, levels, and races, though.

What's the common theme here?  The remembered elements are all mechanically significant.  They had a direct impact on the statistics of the characters involved.

The trend lately in RPGs has been to reduce sexual dimorphism in player character races to zero.  I'm led to question whether that's necessarily a good thing.

It's a fairly hardcore Gamist way of looking at things.  Elves versus Dwarves, that's important stuff -- ability modifiers are at stake!  But men versus women?  Who cares?  If it's not mechanically significant, then it's not significant at all.  Might as well discuss why blue-eyed people play brown-eyed characters.

It reminds me of a saying I've heard around the boardroom lately:  "Corporations measure what they care about, and care about what they measure."  I'm inclined to think that game systems are somewhat similar.  If your childhood has a profound mechanical effect on your adult statistics, players (or at least Gamists) will care about childhood more.

I kinda rambled there a bit.  To answer the question at hand -- "for what reasons do people play cross-gender?" -- my only sensible answer is: My character has a gender?  Huh.  How about that.



Cheers,
Roger
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2004, 09:34:55 AM »

Hello,

Could someone with a little time on his or her hands please find the dozen or links on this topic that we've seen at the Forge?

This is a great discussion so far but it'd be good to make sure that it advances the topic rather than just brings it up again.

Best,
Ron
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