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Author Topic: the depiction of women in gaming  (Read 33090 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #30 on: June 01, 2001, 09:51:00 AM »

Clay,

One minor tweak of your final comment. In my experience, women role-players have no special tendency to dislike, avoid, or find alternatives to combat as a form of resolution. I tend to lean toward the "underground consensus" that women make for bloodthirsty role-players, although officially, I'll say WE DON'T KNOW whether women prefer or don't prefer combat in role-playing, or do or don't find it fun, or whether there is any meaningful difference between these preferences and those of men.

Again, all of the below being based on my own observations rather than any widely-based data, in order to make combat satisfying to women at the role-playing table, I think that these elements should be heightened:
- explicit relevance of the combat to the more general conflict
- unequivocal effectiveness - women players get immensely and immediately frustrated by the "whiff factor" inherent to many RPG designs

Best,
Ron
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JSDiamond
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« Reply #31 on: June 01, 2001, 11:54:00 AM »

Just for fun, I asked my wife about:
    1.) The combat factor of rpgs and what it means to her in the course of a campaign.
    2.) Women portrayed in rpgs.
Her answers:

1.) "I want a brawl every ten minutes. I hate games where people sit around in taverns or spend hours in town buying supplies.  Same goes for RPing the sleeping and eating parts, -say we did it and carry on."

2.) Just don't make every female adventurer look like Barbarella or Lady Death.  Especially if you are a guy running a female character and there are girl players in the group, it's just annoying."

There you have it.
Jeff Diamond
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[ This Message was edited by: JSDiamond on 2001-06-01 15:55 ]

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JSDiamond
Clay
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« Reply #32 on: June 03, 2001, 01:20:00 PM »

It is true that some of the more stunning combat actions in our group have been done by the lone female player.  I should be particularly ashamed of myself for suggesting that females weren't interested in combat, since one of the things that my girlfriend and I enjoy doing most together is shooting.

I'll have to agree on the importance of making the combat relevant.  It's personally irksome to me as well to have a meaningless fight.  That's probably more a feature of GM style than game design though.  
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Clay Dowling
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #33 on: June 04, 2001, 09:20:00 AM »

I think women gamers run the gamut of gamer-types just as much as male gamers do.  I've seen my wife play super competitive Paranoia, and other women play generic D&D, power gaming Vampire, run games, etc. etc.

So I think the main issue would be to keep it from appearing to be a boy's club.  If you've got women gamers, you don't have to worry about this.  But many book covers and many guy gamers (at least whenever I go into my local shop) fit the guys-who-draw/buy-what-they'll-never-get-(or-what's-physicall-possible) a la Simpsons Comic Shop owner.
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Cameron
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« Reply #34 on: June 23, 2001, 12:46:00 PM »

My wife is a gamer. Although I have played rpgs with a large number of female gamers over the years (to the point of having women outnumber men 3 to 1 in one game I ran), I'd never really had to address what makes for a hospitable gaming enviornment for women until recently.
My wife has no problem with cheesecake art, or representation of women in the gaming settings we've used, or even the personal hygiene of the male gamers we play with. What she does have a problem with is how, when men outnumber women in any event, they subconciously act like a good old boys network.
I don't think my gaming group realizes it, because I didn't notice it until she brought it to my attention. But objectively, it's hard to deny that the male gamers are chewing up the scenery with their scene-stealing gaming antics while largely relegating my wife to "sidekick" status.
There are a few other factors at play. First, my wife has ADD and so isn't as focused on the game as the other players. Second, she's been forced to bail out of the game sessions a little early every night because she has to wake up early the next morning. While these may contribute to the other players glossing over her character as uninformed or unimportant, they also get caught up in one-upping each other in "guy"ish behavior and talk over her when she is trying to do something in character.
I don't think there is any way for game designers to create a woman-friendly roleplaying game because players are the ones that are ultimately responsible for putting the design into action and they have bad habits. There is nothing in Vampire: The Masquerade that says "watch reruns of The Highlander and play this game like superheros with fangs," yet there are a lot of gamers out there who run it like D&D with sunglasses despite every dark, brooding, atmospheric suggestion that White Wolf publishes.
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greyorm
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« Reply #35 on: June 24, 2001, 09:01:00 AM »

Quote

the other players glossing over her character as uninformed or unimportant, they also get caught up in one-upping each other in "guy"ish behavior and talk over her when she is trying to do something in character.

Hrm, I wonder if this is really even an issue of the sexes.  I had the exact same experience in the last tabletop group I was in, and I'm not female.

Mainly, despite the fact that I was sitting right next to the GM and was thus hard to miss, everyone seemed to forget my character was there (let alone me), almost without fail interrupted any actions I was taking and never once listened to anything I had to say (talking right over me whenever I opened my mouth to speak...hell, one of the plans they made up was something I'd suggested ten minutes previous to their thinking it up).

Basically, they made me feel stupid and unimportant by treating me as such.  I left the group after three sessions because of it, though the GM and I are still close friends (notably, he quit playing with the same group shortly thereafter).

Now I don't know what the problem actually was, as I seemed to get along with the group pre and post game. However, I'd never gamed with this group before and never met any of them (other than the GM) prior to the first game, while all but one of them were apparently long-time friends.  A couple of them were tech-heads and Senior programmers and apparently didn't like the company I'd gotten my own training through.
Somewhere in the midst of all that, I'm sure, is a glimpse into the real face of the problem.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Jamie Thomas Durbin
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« Reply #36 on: July 06, 2001, 07:17:00 PM »

Okay, since everyone seems to be giving the anecdotes as a good means of discussing this, here goes:-

Being in a Role Playing Society (with the awful acronym of BURPS), We actually do have a couple of female players, although not as many as we'd like to have in the name of variety... However, these few ladies are wildly different in their approaches...

Firstly, we have Sarah... Sarah seems to come under the roleplayer stereotype (yes, we do have them... quite a few, actually!) of 'conniving b****'... she will quite gladly try and sleep with an NPC if she feels it would get her character what she wants, has nearly always, no matter what the adventure, played a thief who ended up stealing all the party's most important items, and, despite being a thief, has often been the most bloodthirsty out of the entire party (she invariably plays D&D, by the way)

Then, we have Imogen... Imogen is the direct opposite. If we were to label her with a stereotype, it would be 'shy unassuming person who often gets ignored in games because it takes too long for her to decide what to do'. And she is, to a T.

How are people, pray tell, going to make an RPG 'for women', when women are just as varied as men, coming under the same category of 'person', or 'human being'?

Thusly, I agree with the "storm in a teapot" stance...
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greyorm
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« Reply #37 on: July 11, 2001, 02:46:00 PM »

Over in the Orkworld forum, scantily-clad women at gaming conventions and gamer reactions to their dress were being discussed, and Peter stated the following:

Quote

However; I'm one of those. I don't like looking at them, because.. I dunno. I'm a little embarrassed for a lot of them. Provided these girls/women get older and have the opportunity to look back on their lives, I think they might even be embarrassed for themselves.

My question is "Why?"
Why would they be embarassed because they aren't dressed in Mormon-style, shapeless black dresses looking dour and homely all the time?  Or rather, why should they be embarassed?

In my considerable experience, being both married and having far more female friends than male, women WANT to look good, they want to look sexy, even the married ones *gasp* (just ask my wife), and even especially the ones who culture tells us "are unattractive."

I have a number of overweight female friends who "flaunt it" specifically because they've chosen to take a stance that they ARE sexy, and screw anyone who says otherwise, screw anyone that says they are unattractive or ugly or worth less, because they aren't.  In the face of constant negative perceptions, they are trying to maintain positive self attitudes.

This seems like a no win situation.  Some are saying, "Women shouldn't dress like that!" or "We shouldn't depict women like that!" and the women are out there saying, "But I WANT to be seen as attractive and sexy."

Certainly, women don't want to be judged against an unreachable standard any more than a man, but they, individually, want to look GOOD and be found attractive.

So it is a bit of a double-standard: they want to appear attractive and/or sexy, but yet depicting women as attractive/sexy or dressing attractively/sexily is somehow wrong.

Hands up, boys, who here wants to look plain and unattractive?  Don't lie.  Don't we all want to be described as "handsome" or "attractive" and have women oogling our butts?

I don't know anyone who honestly wants to be perceived of as unattractive.  Looking good is a driving urge in human psychology, even if we don't always manage it.

Of course, there's a big difference between accepting or not minding that you are unattractive, and wanting to be unattractive or not minding becoming attractive.

I know that in male company, even, I want to look good or "well-dressed" or however it might be described.

Why should anyone be embarassed for desiring to look attractive, especially as they get older and look back at having done so?
Is it supposed to be something we all desire and deny to ourselves?  Why?

Desiring to look attractive, or being confident enough to dress sexy says to me "healthy self-image", which is nothing to be embarassed of, though I know our culture dearly loves to make such a thing into one of the seven deadly sins.

So flaunt it, ladies.

Honestly, there's a lot of psychology under this whole issue of scantily-clad women that has nothing to do with gaming specifically, it is really a broad social issue of which this is just a subset.

Are scantily-clad women a problem?
Only if you make it one...ahh, the American love-hate relationship with sexuality.

I do honestly wonder, are we embarassed for them or are we embarassed for ourselves?  Because we don't have the balls to do it, because we're content to just sit back and hope to gain attention, or because they don't meet our criteria for "proper" behavior...sinking to our level for our comfort?

Seems that way to me, considering some of my female friends reactions and reasons for dressing the way they do.  They certainly aren't embarassed, and why should they be?
They don't find the depictions of chain-mail bikinis horrid or objectifying...why should they?  

They're comfortable enough with themselves that it isn't "competition", that these depictions don't bother them because they're comfortable with attractiveness.

Whew...hope that doesn't stir up hornet's nest.

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Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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[ This Message was edited by: greyorm on 2001-07-11 19:24 ]
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Cameron
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« Reply #38 on: July 14, 2001, 11:04:00 AM »

You have to love America: a hedonistic society founded on puritanical ideals.


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-Cameron

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[ This Message was edited by: Cameron on 2001-07-14 15:05 ]
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kwill
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« Reply #39 on: July 18, 2001, 03:14:00 PM »

nobody has mentioned: Macho Women With Guns

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d@vid
contracycle
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« Reply #40 on: July 19, 2001, 03:39:00 PM »

Righty.  First, the terms of debate: I am more or less a  card carrying feminist, or would be were there such a thing.  

The feminist critique of society is that prescribes (or let us say, strongly tends to prescribe) certain modes of behavior for women which are based on the sexual status as women, not according to their ability.  This is usually expressed as a moral obligation or religious requirement, an obligation which falls upon the women to fulfill despite the fact that their sex is natural, necessary and not a matter of choice - the "impurity" of menstrual blood is a good example.  Secondly, that male-dominated society enjoys a hypocritical  relationship to the role that it casts women in.  It first demands compliance with male sexual demands (and I do mean demands) and then condemns this behaviour as morally corrupt.  Because this double standard, in mens interest, is implemented at a social level (frex, in the way that codes of censorship may state that nude women are not obsecene where a nude man is, or in the way a woman promises to obey in the marriage ceremony) both men and women can be and are socialised into a form of beahviour which is discriminatory, and often physically dangerous, to women.  Lastly, because a womens work is valued artificially lower due to their artificially less-worthy social status, they don't recieve due recompense for their labour or economic activity, a feature which certainly persists in modern western economies.

Thats the pocket version.  To the point at hand:
In the context of this critique, RPG cheesecake falls squarely into the category of sexist behaviour.  Feminists argue that the that the constant repetition of art depicting woman AS SEXUAL OBJECT, rather than woman as person, propagates and perpetuates the meme, if you like, of the "appropriate" role of women.  Note that this is not an objection to a DIFFERENT role for women than that of men - it merely questions why this role should centre so frequently on their sexual attractivness or availability, express or implied.  This is what gets up many peoples noses - its hard enough competing against the white noise of the ubiquitous model in the ubiquitous advertising, but to have to compete against an artists fetish-prone imagination or the dream-babe of some cross-gender playing male geek is hardly an appealing prospect for many.

Sermon over.
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greyorm
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« Reply #41 on: July 19, 2001, 09:49:00 PM »

Quote

but to have to compete against an artists fetish-prone imagination or the dream-babe of some cross-gender playing male geek is hardly an appealing prospect for many.

Certainly I agree that some people are offended by depictions of such, but I have to wonder at the reasoning behind such offense.

Consider, my wife and her fellow women of the nearly all-female gaming group I've been a part of for the last four years have consistently played what would be best described as "cheesecake women": sexy, scantily armored women with lots of leg.

Two of my wife's characters: high Charisma, petite, big-eyed elven red-head; and her twin sister, who prefers dyeing her hair black and wearing only enough tight black leather to cover the "important bits."

Another individual's character was based on Xena, armor, whip and all (and I don't think I need to explain the sex-appeal there).

Yet another player had a blond, green-eyed beauty, a wizardess is thigh-split robes.  She later played an amazon warrioress clad in typical native garb (ie: beads and two strips of animal skin).

Another player ran a big-eyed, pretty country girl who had to learn to fight just to keep the boys away.

And there was a woman who played the beautiful elven princess in white leather, the one which flirted with any man of any race she could find  (Unfortunately, her other character was just a repeat on this theme).

And so on (the above were the examples that immediately sprung to mind).

This doesn't exactly scream "We women find these depictions demeaning" to me.

As a counter-point to the female perspective of sex and society: what about the sexual status of males among women?  I don't really want to venture too deeply into that ugly territory, other than to say it isn't much better on the other side of the fence.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #42 on: July 20, 2001, 06:21:00 AM »

Everyone,
This discussion has gone grossly off-topic.

The role of sexism, gender roles, and related matters in role-playing is an excellent topic, but its different aspects need to be represented in new threads, in the appropriate forums, with explicit questions of their own. This one has become a kind of free-association thread, and it must end.

In those future threads, people should be aware that their viewpoints CANNOT be expected to over-ride those of others except on the basis of rigorous comparison. I do hereby state that politicized viewpoints are important and relevant, and need to be considered on their merits - the feminist perspective (more specifically, second-wave feminism, a la K.D. Lang and Naomi Wolfe), for instance. Again, arguments from those perspectives cannot be bullied from speaking, nor may they bully others into submission on moral grounds. The two priorities at the Forge are (1) respect for the speaker and (2) utter dissection of the idea.

But all of those threads should still address specific role-playing issues. Please take discussions of the VALIDITY of politicized viewpoints (feminist, hard-line conservative, or anything else) into private e-mail.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #43 on: July 20, 2001, 07:03:00 AM »

:smile: Indeed

As other posters on this thread have offered, I would be happy to discuss the idea in more detail by personal email.  However, to return to the question posed by the thread: how should RPG's respond to this criticism, and is any response necessary?

My answer is "yes".  I too am actively embarrassed by the kitsch cover and internal art which frankly appears frozen at the aesthetic level of "Conquest of Gor" or whatever those terrible novels were called.  It certainly is a detriment to attempts to make the hobby a mature, adult pastime with a mixed sex membership.  I perfectly understand how and why women may be and are repelled by the highschool locker-room atmosphere that is exemplified by the chain-mail bikini.  I'm unhappy about this because it is a long, long time since my gaming circle was male enough, or adolescent enough, not to raise an eyebrow, and this is certainly a factor in my purchasing decisions.

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greyorm
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« Reply #44 on: July 20, 2001, 09:02:00 PM »

Quote

This discussion has gone grossly off-topic.

Color me confused.  How is discussing how the female players in the games I have been a part depict their own characters grossly off-topic? (note the topic title)

Particularly as a response to the claim that women or mature adults find it offensive, or that it is in some manner detrimental to the hobby as a whole?

I'm putting experience out on the table, because my experience doesn't appear to reflect the "common sense" politics of the situation.  What new thread title do you suggest, Ron?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
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