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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 83 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?  (Read 20471 times)
Adam Cerling
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Posts: 159

WhiteRat


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« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2005, 10:36:21 AM »

Anna,

Will you be considering how this discourse is affected by the particular way in which roleplaying games allow you to walk in somebody else's shoes? I know I've learned a lot about different ethnicities simply by making the effort to play a non-white character and do a little research for the role.

My weekly P&P group consists of three men (two caucasian, one pacific islander) and two women (caucasian).
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
paulkdad
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2005, 11:19:15 AM »

Anna,

Whiterat brought up a point that makes me wonder how the word "performance" is intended in your initial post.

Are you talking about performance in the feminist sense of gender as a social construction, in which our notions of "man" and "woman" are performed? Personally, I find a lot to like in the theory of performativity, and it brings up an interesting question: If, for instance, a male roleplayer chooses to play a female character, does he in fact become more aware of his everyday performance of a gender role, or is the roleplaying experience somehow kept distinct from his constructed identity?

One other thing: in your first question, you used the word "form" (RPGs as a medium) but on a practical level you seem to be interested in the social contract between roleplayers. Isn't that going to vary from group to group (and from game to game within the same group)? It seems to me that you're really looking for trends in roleplaying; in which case I'd agree with Tony--GenCon or Origins would be good places to conduct your research.
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Paul K.
John Kim
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« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2005, 11:25:20 AM »

Quote from: am
To anwser greyorn: multi-voiced discourse or narrative would be exactly like a campaign: multiple voices represented in a story as in people with different backgrounds, genders, races, the GLBT community, and yes, even religions & socioeconomic factors. I am interested in how role-playing could put some of these diverse people in discussion with each other, using fantasy/sci-fi as a setting.

I got this term from Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian literary theorist who wrote in the 1930s. He uses multi-voiced, or polyphonic discourse, to discuss the novel as a form, stating that the novel, as opposed to drama, or poetry, allows for multiple voices to be represented through the voices of the characters.

I think you would be interested in Liz Henry's paper, http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/liz-paper-2003/index.html">Group Narration: Power, Information, and Play in RPGs.  She analyzes some of the power structures within the group in light of Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford's work, "Singular Texts/Plural Authors" -- a book about writing collaborations.  A relevant quote:
Quote from: Liz Henry
Ede and Lunsford point out that most of the collaborations they studied depend on a rigidly structured hierarchy, which results in high efficiency in producing a final textual result. According to Ede and Lunsford, in collaboration that is focused on productivity and efficiency, "the realities of multiple voices and shifiting authority are seen as difficulties to be overcome or resolved." They associate this hierarchical structure in part with male gender, calling it "a masculine mode of discourse."

Ede and Lunsford assert the existence of an alternate method of collaborative writing which exemplifies Bakhtin's concept of the dialogic; in dialogic mode, the group is loosely structured, authority and goals are fluid, and the process or experience of writing and collaboration is valued over the result, end goal, or textual product. Ede and Lunsford think of this mode as predominantly feminine (133).

An interesting topic which she only touches on is how the masculine and feminine discourses correspond to features or styles in a role-playing session.
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- John
zephyr_cirrus
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Posts: 23


Hey
« Reply #18 on: May 04, 2005, 12:53:33 PM »

I am latinó, so I assume that there are other people out there that are interested in pen and paper RPGs.  However, I live in NC, and there aren't really any other people in my community interested in RPGs (that I know of).
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Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2005, 03:33:14 PM »

Um... Trollbabe? I'm hard pressed to come up with a game that's more blatantly feminist.

White Wolf, to my knowledge, was the first company to aggressively alternate between masculine and feminine personal pronouns in cases of indeterminate gender, realizing that pendantically correct English usage was rather less important than actively inviting female gamers. I think this is a more significant milestone than it might seem. Many other texts have since followed suit.

I've seen reasonably diverse participation in RPGA events, should you not be able to locate a gaming convention.
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am
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2005, 06:38:56 PM »

What I mean by form could maybe be understood as system.
I am not talking about diverse groups and their particular experiences of swocial contracts, but more so looking at RPGs as a form of literature; i.e. as opposed to a novel, a play, or a poem.
I think that RPGs can be seen as a literary form, similar to a novel, but very different at the same time.
Does that clarify what I meant by form?

To Whiterat: yes, walking in someone else's shoes is something I would consider for a possiblity for RPGs to play with.

To paulkdad: yes yes yes! I am very interested in my other studies  separate from roleplaying in how gender is performed in our everyday lives. I am in Performance Studies and that is a huge part of our studies, especially Judith Butler and her notions of performativity.
Gender & performativity are not the only things that attract me to RPGs. I love studying the performance of literature. The construction of a shared story through a sort of performance (players talking out, or performing, what the characters say) attracts me just as much.
And your question regarding cross gender role playing...well, I don't know. I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean. I have played men in theater, and that does draw attention to how I perform my gender in my everyday life (not to stray too far from topic). Since I've had that experience in theater, I do not doubt the relevance it would have in RPGs. I may have to experiment with that.

Damn, these posts are awesome y'all! Thanks so much!
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Adam Cerling
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Posts: 159

WhiteRat


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« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2005, 08:30:26 PM »

Quote from: am
To paulkdad: yes yes yes! I am very interested in my other studies  separate from roleplaying in how gender is performed in our everyday lives. I am in Performance Studies and that is a huge part of our studies, especially Judith Butler and her notions of performativity.
Gender & performativity are not the only things that attract me to RPGs. I love studying the performance of literature. The construction of a shared story through a sort of performance (players talking out, or performing, what the characters say) attracts me just as much.


I'm surprised you're not more interested in Live-Action Roleplaying. Have you had only limited or negative exposure? I see more "performance" in my weekly LARPs than I see around the gaming table.

I LARP with about 20 to 30 people, all caucasian, and about 1 in 6 female. The group includes at least four homosexual men, and one woman who roleplays a male character.
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Adam Cerling
In development: Ends and Means -- Live Role-Playing Focused on What Matters Most.
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #22 on: May 05, 2005, 03:02:08 AM »

Quote from: WhiteRat
I LARP with about 20 to 30 people, all caucasian, and about 1 in 6 female. The group includes at least four homosexual men, and one woman who roleplays a male character.


How odd. Most of the LARPs I've seen (that is, at gaming conventions) are closer to 35%-45% women. I think the fact that so much of LARP resolution is based on the player's social skills makes it more appealling to women generally.
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am
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2005, 03:35:43 AM »

WhiteRat:
I've never LARPed, because of limited exposure. I only know one person where I live who does it, and I have considered joining, but I barely have enough time anymore to play even pen & paper.
I'll have to look into it, cause I'm really curoius.
~ Anna
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paulkdad
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #24 on: May 05, 2005, 08:07:06 AM »

Anna,

Given this:

Quote from: am
What I mean by form could maybe be understood as system ...I think that RPGs can be seen as a literary form, similar to a novel, but very different at the same time.

And this:

Quote from: am
1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative? Which rpgs in particular?

I'd have to say that any inference of "homogeneity" in RPGs is bound to be mistaken. RPGs as a form are as multi-voiced as their players, which is why I was seeing this as a question of trends. There are different ways to look for an answer to this:
[list=1]
[*]Are the rules presented using inclusive language?
[*]Do illustrations in the rulebook sexually objectify female characters?
[*]By looking at the examples and illustrations, do the rules seem to be witten with white males in mind?
[*]Do the options for player characters encourage or discourage diversity?
[/list:o]
Of these four questions, only the last one deals with system. The first three are related to presentation. But just looking at this last question, I'd be hard pressed to find a game that I felt actively discouraged diversity. Even if I were looking at D&D, what do I make of the presence of Elves, Gnomes and the like? Do these options encourage multi-voiced discourse, or are they simply there to give more system options to Gamist roleplayers?

On the other hand, questions related to setting certainly abound. For instance, if the game is set in the "Wild West", how does it portray Native Americans? That genre hasn't interested me thus far, so I can't answer this question, but it wouldn't be difficult to generate a list. Many online RPG shops let you search by category, and I know that RPGnow lists "Western" as an option. Obviously, any setting that is even loosely based on an historical Earth equivalent is going to lend itself to this sort of examination (for example, any fantasy setting that uses medieval Europe as a template).

I'd like to say that options are improving, in this regard, but I am not well read enough to know for certain. I can readily point out one example: Sengoku has received rave reviews for its presentation of feudal Japan in a roleplaying game. You might also look at timfire's The Mountain Witch, which IIRC is going to be released very soon.

To the degree that a game reflects a literary genre, I'd say that it tends to inherit all the influences (and potential problems) from that genre. For instance, in OVA (Open Versatile Anime RPG) the first image in the book is a young elf-like woman lying on her bed in panties and silky blouse. On the other hand, the book uses inclusive language and does a great job of presenting examples of female (and even androgynous) characters. It's also one of the only RPGs I know of that provides examples of characters that young girls could easily identify with. Do the images sexually objectify female characters? Sometimes. Is the game inclusive of female gamers? Absolutely. I don't think it's an either/or situation.

It might reflect my choice of games, and then again it might reflect a trend in RPGs, but most of the games on my shelf use inclusive language. OTOH, I also avoid the one system that most people play: D&D/d20. Still, inclusive language is just a first step, and doesn't guarantee anything.

Quote from: am
I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean. I have played men in theater, and that does draw attention to how I perform my gender in my everyday life

I think the difference here is that in theater you have a director to answer to. If you aren't playing your character well, the director will step in and do something about it. In roleplaying games, I think there is a sense of individual expression in the way a player plays a PC, and other players would be loathe to step in and say, "Oh, a [insert gender here] would never react that way!" And even if they did, it wouldn't have the authority that a director has.
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Paul K.
Wysardry
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Posts: 47


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« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2005, 08:35:38 AM »

You might find this list of Studies About Fantasy Role-Playing Games useful.
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
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Posts: 127


« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2005, 01:31:01 AM »

The list Wysardry mentions is good, but lacking prcatically all material from the Nordic area (Kellomäki's thesis, the Nordic larp studies yearbooks, etc.) some of which may be very useful on this issue: Works like Hutchison's article in Dissecting Larp (2005), "Larp organizing and gender in Norway", provide actual statistical info on gender divisions, some of which might be good for comparison, if nothing else.

DL should be online within a couple of months, the previous years' yearbooks are already available on the net.

-Jiituomas
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2005, 12:21:29 PM »

Quote
I've never known anyone who has played cross gender & I have never tried it myself, in a RPG, I mean.
Fer real? This is such a common phenomenon, that prominent folks here have been prompted to write that they think that it's a bad idea, and that they can't get into it when people play this way.

I think that your question still needs refining. I think it's quite obvious that minorities and women do play RPGs. And it's obvious that they can, in theory, play regarding issues that are important to them. A possible question might be something like, "Do women and minorites have a proportional voice in the overall output of RPG play."

The answer there is obviously no, however. Compare the phenomenon to, say, golf. Invented by white males (Gygax and Arneson are about as white male as you can get), and transmitted as an activity culturally, it's not particularly surprising (nor even really all that objectionable) that white males play more RPGs in proportion to their numbers than any other demographic.

That said, I don't see why this has to continue as a trend. I'd say that RPGs have been far more open to minorities and women coming aboard than, say, golf has. Not that it's completely egalitarian, not by far. Cheesecake covers and Wild West games where the Indians are there to shoot still do exist.

It seems to me that the real question would be how egalitarian the form is as compares other such forms with similar origins. To the extent that worldwide it's still "a man's world" to some extent, and that's only getting fixed slowly, RPGs are just another case of these things changing for the most part. Given how far it's come in only three decades of existence, I'd say that it's done better than most forms. But that may simply be a sign of our times.

Have I grossly missed your point? Can you see how, if I have?

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #28 on: May 07, 2005, 09:01:18 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I'd say that RPGs have been far more open to minorities and women coming aboard than, say, golf has. Not that it's completely egalitarian, not by far. Cheesecake covers and Wild West games where the Indians are there to shoot still do exist.

It seems to me that the real question would be how egalitarian the form is as compares other such forms with similar origins. To the extent that worldwide it's still "a man's world" to some extent, and that's only getting fixed slowly, RPGs are just another case of these things changing for the most part. Given how far it's come in only three decades of existence, I'd say that it's done better than most forms.

While RPGs have undoubtedly progressed in their three decades, I don't think it's very impressive overall.  Around 1980, Gary Alan Fine estimated that the number of women players was between 5 and 10%.  The 1999 Wizards of the Coast survey, which found 19% women through more accurate methods.  On the other hand, James Kittock's 2001 Internet survey found only 9% women, and only 4% of DMs were female.  This had less controlled methods, but Fine's sources (mainly conventions and magazine surveys) were similar.  According to Fine, in The Dragon's 1979 referee list, 3.8% (19) were female (excluding non-sex-typed first names).  

So overall female participation has probably doubled over two decades.  But the rough estimates of the number of female GMs are closer to constant between 1980 and 2001.  

The broader question is how well RPGs support non-dominant voices.  For example, if a minority of females are participating, does the nature of the discourse let them be proportionately expressed, or does it suppress minority voices.  Ede and Lunsford describe the latter as "hierarchical".   Hierarchical to them means a collaboration that is focused on productivity and efficiency, "the realities of multiple voices and shifiting authority are seen as difficulties to be overcome or resolved."  So strict GM dominance is obviously hierarchical, but I think a competitive narration approach like Pantheon is also hierarchical.  But that's a pretty long topic.
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- John
jrs
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Posts: 373


« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2005, 01:06:37 PM »

I have to admit that I'm a little jaded about the issue of whether or not RPG's allow room for women to participate.  (I cannot really address the issue of minorities, since I am not one.)  I have seen this question raised multiple times with varying arguments and explanations.  Since I'm a gamer, it seems to be a moot point for me.  One of these days I'd like to see someone address the issue of why gamers perpetuate the existance of single sex play groups.  That to me seems to be a more interesting issue.

Julie
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