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Author Topic: the depiction of women in gaming  (Read 33077 times)
Clay
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« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2001, 10:13:00 AM »

I'm inclined to the Tempest in a Teapot theory myself.  If these were people inclined to real action, they'd get into a game and start changing those stereotypes.    

It also seems that actually dealing with these controversial issues is a matter for the setting, not the game mechanic itself.  I've played quite a bit with both religious and gender tensions in my games, all by working with the setting and the specific story at hand.

In the very first game I ever ran, gender played a very significant role.  The female player, using a female character, could use gender as bait to get people to give her access to information that otherwise could not be reached.  Likewise, only male characters were welcome in certain circles.  In this setting, both genders had advantages, and both disadvantages, that were directly related to the role that society that their gender restricted them to.

As for the artwork, well, it's not just women depicted in cheesecake poses.  As someone pointed out, at least one of the classes in nearly every game is "Supermodel."
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Dav
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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2001, 12:26:00 PM »

Clay:

A tempest in a teapot can still stir up quite a storm (my Grandma used to tell me that one).

Anyway, I think you're right, these are issues for setting and not mechanics (unless you've got some rather unusual mechanics).  I have no problem with statistical or societal differentiation of gender in games, I just think if it is going to happen, a certain degree of attention should be paid to balance both sides.  

Your game is not on trial here, and by my standards, sounds extremely interesting from a purely sociological standpoint.  However, whereas men are inclined to "shrug it off" when confronted with "boy-bashing", women/everyone else tends to react more strongly... for whatever reason (this is not school, I refuse to talk about studies I don't even believe in).  Just because the issue of racism/gender issues doesn't affect you (or me), doesn't mean it isn't a topic that deserves attention.  I know people who refused to play D&D because the only "black" race was the Drow, which was markedly evil (interestingly, one of the few matriarchal societies as well).  Are they out of line?  Maybe.  Do they have a point?  Certainly.  

I've looked at this topic a number of times in the past few years, and without even looking, I could tell you that RP is 80% white male.  Is that coincidence, or perhaps is there something to the notion that gaming, for a long time, has been the province of the white boy with glasses, freckles, and few friends?

I'm trying to play the Devil's Advocate here, and wishing I got paid by the hour like most advocates.  

Dav
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james_west
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« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2001, 12:38:00 PM »

(For anybody who wants debate from someone willing to own up to being more or less PC, I'm willing to do so by e-mail. What it boils down to, though, is when you're dealing with the public regarding sensitive issues, you'll get a heck of a lot more done if you bend over backwards not to be offensive. Actually, I notice that Dav above is willing to be fairly PC as well.)

There are several issues here:

(1) How are women depicted in the artwork ?
(2) How are women treated by the rules ?
(3) How are women treated in actual games ?

The answer to (1) is: like cheesecake, generally speaking. This is bad because it offends many casual observers.

The answer to (2) is (usually): the issue is ignored in explicit terms, but most games are designed with male sensibilities in mind. Explicitly, I think women are usually less willing to put up with complex rules, and while they may enjoy being bloodthirsty, they don't much enjoy spending hours designing minmaxed killing machines (which a lot of male gamers I know enjoy doing.).

The answer to (3) is extremely group specific.

I think the "if they were that interested, they'd do something about it rather than just complain" issue is a little disengenuous. Like it or not, gamers are a homogenous mass to the general public, and it's gonna stay that way. It doesn't matter if you're not a misogynist munchkin, if all the visible examples of gamers are.

            - James

[ This Message was edited by: james_west on 2001-05-23 16:40 ]
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poppocabba
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« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2001, 03:46:00 PM »

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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2001, 04:29:00 PM »

Most RPG's DON'T have cheesecake art (which is a shame!)

Most RPG's don't acknowledge the fact that the characters have sexual organs -- if they do, it's in a historical context (like, "women can't be knights" or whatever) rather than like OrkWorld or Hero Wars treats the subject.

Pick up a copy of Vogue sometime...more T&A than an issue of Maxim.  Seriously.  

And a woman in skimpy clothing = bad, woman in skimpy clothing holding a sword = good?  Uhhh...ooookay.  


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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
james_west
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« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2001, 05:20:00 PM »

Jared,

OK, as an alien from another planet (well, a person with extremely limited contact with popular media who hadn't bought a game book in years before last weekend) I am perhaps not the best person to address any of this.

However, I think the skimpy clothing gives offense, weapons or not (in the example that started the thread, the women had weapons, they just seemed to be engaged in intercourse with them, at least by repute).

poppocabba - I presume that the people who are complaining DO abstain from the behaviors they find objectionable.

                   - James
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Dav
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« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2001, 06:08:00 AM »

Brian:
"From the POV of the indy game designer, he can try to appeal to them or not as he wishes. His is niche game anyway, so he can target whatever niche he likes."

Odd that you use a male pronoun...  (Seriously, I'm not trying to start a fight, just pointing it out... don't hurt me :wink: )

Seriously though, I think that the people we are speaking to are likely the same people to find Vogue offensive.  Personally, there is a difference to me.  

With Vogue, it is one of many, hundreds even, of varied, all-over-the-map magazines.  With RPGs, there is a more limited supply, especially considering genre, and finding one that does not contain "cheesecake art" (which is a term I admit to not understanding... why cheesecake?  Isn't that fattening?).  Between getting your Hollywood gossip and getting into a more intellectual pursuit such as RP (sure, let's go with intellectual...), you expect the skimpy art in Hollywood, but to many, the question isn't as much "is nothing sacred?", as much as "can I escape it for awhile?"  It says something that even in a fantastical world, the sex idol must be featured ever-so prominently.


Dav

PS: This is weird, I'm the most anti-feminist person you can find... no offense to women, I am pretty much anti any interest group.

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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2001, 08:46:00 AM »

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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Zak Arntson
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« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2001, 10:15:00 AM »

Here's a poignant personal story about the depiction of women:

Watching Pokemon with my 6yr old niece.  There is Brock who is girl-crazy.  Brock meets a beautiful doctor and her nerdy girl helpers.  The doctor comes out of the water in a swimsuit dripping wet, and the helpers are there in labcoats and glasses.  Brock gets all hot and bothered and my niece turns to me and says, "Why doesn't Brock like girls with glasses?"

[and people say that environment doesn't shape a child ... I was banned from watching Hulk at that age because I'd tip over furniture and smash things after watching it :]

---

More on topic:
As a consumer, you should follow your personal tastes.  If artwork is a big deal to you, let it be a big deal.  Don't be pressured into buying something you don't believe in.

As a creator, decide who your audience is and where your goal lies.  If there is a conflict between profit and ethics, you've got to figure out _for yourself_ what will make you happy.

As indie creators, our niche is so small that I don't think we should ever resort to cheesecake to sell games.  If it's integral to the setting (like S&M critters from Elves, or the Magdalen concubines from Tribe Cool, include it.  Otherwise, don't stick a chainmail-bikini'd lady with a rifle between her legs in your gritty post-apocolyptic world of survival. By the same token, we shouldn't resort to "hipness" to sell games (we've got Goth!).

We should use the strengths of the GAME to sell the game.

I think our Indie position of style over profit allows us to be much truer to our own selves (whatever that self is) than a consumer-driven market.
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poppocabba
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« Reply #24 on: May 31, 2001, 08:15:00 AM »

here is an rpg net article on the subject
http://RPG.net/news+reviews/columns/vecna22may01.html
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Clay
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« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2001, 09:39:00 AM »

I'm inclined to think that Ms. Doda may have too much time on her hands.  Of course, I read the whole thing, so I may suffer from the same affliction.

My only question is: Why does anyone find it surprising that men like to look at boobs?

Clay
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2001, 09:59:00 AM »

Hey,

Clay, your comment might be a tad flip. There are some valuable insights coming out of that article, and I respect anyone who's willing to go the videotape, so to speak, and get some data to address their points.

My big reaction, though, is this: the author clearly has a set of values and standards to which she expects RPGs - or any medium, presumably - OUGHT to conform.

This is fine as a personal value system, or consumer standard, or anything of the sort. However, as I stated earlier on this thread, that's ALL it can be. There's no immediately-obvious, all-encompassing REASON that any publisher OUGHT to conform to that value system, independently of agreeing with it.

Again, to repeat, the only such reason I can come up with is to attract female customers ... and at this point, whether depicting women in certain ways will achieve that is a big unknown. My guess is a qualified yes, that getting out of Image-Comics-mode would be a good move for this purpose. However, I also suspect that "neutralizing" gender (which seems to be the preferred goal of the article) would not be the effective tactic for the commercial purpose either.

This thread has wandered a lot, partly because it never did get a Key Question established. Poppocabba, what would that Question be?

Best,
Ron
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poppocabba
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« Reply #27 on: June 01, 2001, 03:43:00 AM »

wow Ron-
I wish I had you on my game developement team. you are one of the few people brave enough to attempt the thankless and impossible task of keeping me organized!
 I think we may be rambling a little more the usual because I have a profound lack of an ideological axe to grind on this topic. I find Jessica Rabbit physiology appealing, and the bulging bodice / chainmail bikini are the only fantasy cliches that have any zip left for me.
but what I am interested in is examining how the concerns over the depiction of women in gaming will effect the future of the hobby, and how it could be used by indy rpg designers as an edge over the high gloss commercial products that are out there. I would also like to find related research. or info that would be able to predict or back up any assertions that could be made on the topic.
 let me follow that up with yet another presumption. that this whole horrible pokemon mess is a phenomenon that is going to gradually bring a good deal of people into gaming indirectly. I would also contend that it is more cross-gender then any historical precursor, including magic, so what happens when we are rolling 20 siders in adult diapers at the retirement home, and the next generation starts to game? it will most likely be more mixed then it was with us, and how will they deal with our beloved chainmail bikini? even if we agree that it is a small percentage of women that find this thing unacceptable , with vast numbers of them entering the hobby the numbers of upset people could become significant
I would also contend that focusing on evening the gender ratio would be the fastest way to grow the hobby, citing the pokemon example, and even if the very core of gaming is changed many of the problems of gaming might be solved.

o.k. Ron- so let me provide some direction for our discussion..
how have changing gender dynamics / considerations effected the hobby since you started, and what changes do you predict in the future?
 
 james- abstaining from an activity you would otherwise enjoy is considered by me to be an act of utter contrition in comparision to dealing with the problem, be it real or perceived.
 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: June 01, 2001, 08:15:00 AM »

"how have changing gender dynamics / considerations effected the hobby since you started, and what changes do you predict in the future?"

These are dangerous waters for me to enter. For one thing, that's a pundit-question; it's very broad and lends itself to generalizations which are NOT valid. I can't claim any authority to answer without specifying way down.

For another thing, my take on gender issues and politics WILL be misunderstood. I won't go into its foundations here at all, and therefore any comments of mine regarding a question like this will appear fragmented and ungrounded.

PART ONE
My first task is therefore to specify. I'll speak only of what indie-RPG designers might consider in order to draw more women toward these games. I'll narrow it down further, into two categories - presentation vs. play.

I think way too much time has focused on presentation. Yes, it's important; it's the first hurdle for drawing interest. The cover of Lace & Steel has a riveting effect on women role-players in my presence; the cover of BESM does not.

But I would prefer to focus on the only hurdle that will SUSTAIN a person's commitment to and interest in a given RPG, which is one's actual experience during play.

PART TWO
My second task is to make some claims. I foresee some awful debate arising from "you can't say that!" type of objections. I'd prefer that such things be taken to private messages here on the Forge or through e-mail, but I doubt we'll be that lucky. Here goes - Ron's rather brutal claims.

1) If "mainstream" is divorced from its connotations of "superficial," then it strictly means "what people tend to buy." I suggest that women's buying preferences - speaking in terms of trends, not individual variation - play the most basic, driving role in defining those tendencies.

In other words, women constitute the fundamental market for nearly all products, either directly or indirectly, via either straightforward demand or tacit disapproval/avoidance.

2) Competitive gaming does not tend to appeal to women consumers. Narrative does - and I think this means that designs based on either Simulationism with a strong "fixed" story (e.g. metaplot) or Narrativism provide more powerful draw and sustained interest than those based on Gamism.

3) Women, in my opinion, understand and focus on the "real people" interactions of a social gathering better than men do. Therefore RPGs which acknowledge and promote specific interactions of this kind provide more powerful draw. One aspect of this would be "social focus," a game that acknowledges what it expects the PEOPLE to DO together.

This conclusion also lends strength to LARPing and similar activities as a good draw as well.

So these three points break into the following ideas:
- Including women in the consumer role for role-playing is economically and socially very wise.

- Focus on "story" angles of role-playing, from any of several perspectives, is recommended. The most fruitful angles seem to be Simulationism with strong metaplot, LARPing, and Narrativism.

- Honest and up-front statements about social behavior and opportunities during role-playing, system design that promotes such things, and graduating from the "cops & robbers" lie are all recommended.

PART THREE
We should take a look at some other activities which face the same conditions: (1) rapidly evolving medium, (2) multiple individuals contributing multiple products, (3) a range from full-indie to full-corporate ownership and policies, and (4) transition from fringe to more of an average-consumer status, but probably NEVER any hope of being fully "mainstream."

The obvious example is comics. Even aside from the remarkable tendency for RPGs' marketing and economics trends to follow those of comics at a 2-5 year lag, I think we have incredible lessons to learn there.

Another example is martial arts. Another is creator-owned film.

Extensive literatures exist about all three of these phenomena, among which I perceive astounding similarities, and if I were to embark on a "women and RPGs" endeavor of any kind, I'd spend a lot of time learning from all the work that's been done regarding them.

Whew!

Best,
Ron
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Clay
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« Reply #29 on: June 01, 2001, 08:51:00 AM »

In an attempt to get back on the track here, let me see if I can draw some specifics out of what I've been reading.

First, I think we can safely ignore suggestions that scantily clad women should not be depicted in gaming books.  Women gleefully buy Cosmopolitan and other grocery store magazines that are just rife with women who are wearing outfits so small you have to have faith to really believe in them.  What probably is important is that the artwork be directly relevant to the game.  It's the lack of relevance of the scantily clad females that seems to tweak some women off.

Second, the opposition aspects of the game's design should be played down.  The GM isn't the person who controls the monsters (although she is), the GM is more like the host of a party, providing events and opportunity for social interaction via the game.  Likewise, an emphasis on physical combat is probably less relevant than a good system for encouraging and resolving dramatic conflict.


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Clay Dowling
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