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Kagematsu: Torrid Samurai Romance!

Started by hardcoremoose, March 14, 2007, 08:24:32 AM

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Simon C

My hope is that although the game panders to and even mechanically reinforces typical gender stereotypes, the players themselves, with the twist that the rules put on gender roles, will see through it and not allow it to just be about that.  I believe there's room for nuance and revelation within the structure of the game.

This is the crux of it.  You've really given me a lot to think about.  A lot of your design decisions make a lot more sense to me given your explanation.  I want to give this a lot more consideration before I reply, because these are some important issues.  Thanks for taking the time to give such an in-depth explanation.  This is a fascinating game.

Simon C

I had a really long conversation with my wife about your game last night.  I guess we could both see both sides of the issue.  Here's some of what we talked about:

The game seems to be a really interesting tool for giving male players an experience of a female role, and a female player an experience of a male role.  By making Kagematsu's judgements explicity subjective, you're really making the player think about what works for them.  By giving the "Girls" limited avenues by which to gain power over Kagematsu, and  by strictly defining the ways in which they can conduct their seduction, you're really forcing the girls players into a feminine role.  That's really cool.  I totally understand where you're coming from about how cisgendered women learn to be feminine, and that for transgendered women, learning femininity is a major challenge.  How to overcome a lifetime of learned masculinity?

Where it gets problematic for me is that your game presents a very essentialised feminine role.  There's no non-sexualised roles for female protagonists in your game, and that's a problem.  Also, the "acts of desperation" imply a fairly passive role in the seduction of Kagematsu.  There's no way to play a woman in the game as anything other than a sexual object for Kagematsu's approval.  The fact that Kagematsu is played by a woman is mitigating to some extent, but I don't think it's really significant, since, as above posters have pointed out, both men and women can carry oppression.  (As an aside, is it your intention that the Kagematsu player be a cisgendered woman? Does a transgendered woman fit the bill?)

I don't think it's fair to say that your game is recreating a situation that existed in medieval Japan, and that the game is a critique of that situation.  That's pretty broad stereotyping of Japanese culture and of women.  I think that young Japanese women (and girls) are sexualised to an even greater extent than women in "western" cultures, and your game could be seen to reinforce this.  The use of the word "girls" to describe your player characters is unfortunate for this reason.  It's not appropriate to infantalise women by calling them girls, especially in the context of the sexualisation of Japanese youth.

QuoteMy hope is that although the game panders to and even mechanically reinforces typical gender stereotypes, the players themselves, with the twist that the rules put on gender roles, will see through it and not allow it to just be about that.  I believe there's room for nuance and revelation within the structure of the game.

This comment you made at the Forge really hits the nail on the head.  I think the game, as it stands, it clearly able to be read as re-enforcing gender steotypes, and I'm not convinced that there is sufficient scope within the game to challenge that. That said, I think there's clearly the potential there.  That you're attempting to address these issues now is really important.  I think, as some others have pointed out, giving the women goals beyond the seduction of Kagematsu is key, and might also make for tighter gameplay, if there's intersecting competition and cooperation. 

What would be the effect, I wonder, of letting the "girls" be male or female?  Another approach would be to give the women their own currency for doling out approval or dissaproval.  I think your game could become a really interesting feminist critique if the "girls" were simultaneously trying to save their village by gaining Kagematsu's approval, and avoid the dissaproval of the other women in the village by being a "slut".  If the women could dish out "scorn" to those who were seen to go too far, I think this would underline the fact that the role given to the women in the game is not a natural one, but rather one that is thrust upon them by their society, and by the game. 

I don't want to come across as condemning your game.  It's a great concept with a lot of potential to explore gender roles.  I think it bneeds a little more work.


I was in a playtest of Kagematsu, playing the title role, back at GenCon.  I am still hunting down my notes from play.  I want to respond briefly to this comment:

Quote from: hardcoremoose on March 20, 2007, 01:30:48 AM
Mechanically, the rules put Kagematsu in the role of judge, but he/she is also supposed to be mentor to the other players...will the women out there, when playing Kagematsu, reach out to the players and help nudge them towards the Love ...

This is an admirable goal.  I am a little concerned that the game as written may hamper the players in achieving it.  The problem I see is the secrecy component of the GM's judgements and her ability to adjust her dice roll by subtracting the appropriate Love score.  It is these actions themselves that can be instructive, but they are deliberately hidden from the other players.




Paul and I were talking about this a few days ago.  One of the problems I have is that I didn't realize what I was writing, or why, until very recently...and by that time, the game was playing pretty well.  The secrecy component is fairly important to the play dynamic.

I spent the day thinking about this.  Probably I'll need to spend several more days on it.  But my instinct tells me that the best way to accomplish my goal while preserving the existing play experience would be to eliminate the mandate that Kagematsu can only be played by a woman, and then take the gender-specific reward mechanism up a level, to the audience level.*  That is, during play, women - whether they're the Kagematsu player or not - would have some special way of reaching out and saying "yes, that's good".

This might also dovetail with what Simon is talking about...a way for the players to make an in-game statement about the game's content.  We'll see...

The notion has its own, what do the women get in return for their "mentorship" (I could think of a few things, but none of them seem satisfying)?  I'll let it twist for a few days and see how I feel about it.

* This is actually a mechanic I envisioned for a different game, but it occurs to me that that game might never get written, and this might be a good vehicle for it.