Sexist game-world balance
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Alayla



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Prague

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
After all, what's the difference between:

(a) Race 'goblin'. Choose from male (improved spellcasting) and female (magic immunity).

And:

(b) Race 'blue goblin' (improved spellcasting), Race 'green goblin' (magic immunity).

From a game design perspective, both have exactly the same result. From a thematic perspective, however, you've suddenly got a race with has some very interesting cultural and background story potential.


While I agree about the potential, and I can see how it would add depth to the background story, it has never worked in practice (with the possible exception of heavily RP muds). You'll get dryads and valkyries who don't even pretend to be female, and you're much better off giving the powers to races or classes that are available to both genders. In your typical hack-and-slash mud, people just won't play along.

If you could make it work - and make it original - it would be great. It's not "sexism" that's dangerous here, after all, but stereotyping.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alayla wrote:
While I agree about the potential, and I can see how it would add depth to the background story, it has never worked in practice (with the possible exception of heavily RP muds). You'll get dryads and valkyries who don't even pretend to be female, and you're much better off giving the powers to races or classes that are available to both genders. In your typical hack-and-slash mud, people just won't play along.


But to be fair, you don't get people playing their races properly in a typical HnS mud, either. Yet the coded benefits and drawbacks still add variety, just as the ideas behind the races can make for a more interesting and colourful gameworld, and I see gender-specific roles as an extention of this idea.

Besides which, as I mentioned in my previous post, PCs are rarely "typical" examples of anything. If Bubba wants to play a troll seductress, or Boffo wants to play a butch mermaid, or Drizzt wants to play a good drow, then I don't really see a problem with that - there are going to be (literally) millions of behind-the-scenes "assume they're there even though you don't see them" NPCs which can be assumed to conform to their racial and gender stereotypes, so why not let the PCs represent the exceptions to the norm?
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kavir wrote:
I want the speed of an elf, the strength of a dwarf, and the hairy feet of a hobbit! Wink

Seriously though, I don't really agree with your mix-and-match theory - particularly as its the whole premise that classes and races are based upon. Sure, people like to customise, but its all about weighing up the pros and cons - and making gender do something simply increases the options available.

I don't think you quite understood what I meant. Making choices, weighing up pros and cons, is a good thing - the problem comes when too many different things hang on the same decision, with too few combinations available.

If you want a player to choose between speed, strength, and hairy feet, that's fine; but if the choice is between:

A: superior strength but not allowed to kill anything, use weapons or armour
B: hopelessly inferior strength but allowed to kill things and use weapons and armour

then you have a problem: if a player wants to play a warrior type, that option isn't actually available - any choice becomes too much of a compromise, and no one is happy. Any decision should involve a trade-off, yes - but if the trade-off is too great, that just frustrates people.

This is the problem with "realistic" gender differences - there are too many different things that hang off the same, single choice.

There is another very important distinction between "race" (in the MUD sense) and gender - gender is a property of the character that relates to day-to-day real-life experience of the player. It is something that is likely to make up a significant part of their identity. They may want a character that is an idealised version of themselves, or they might want to choose a very different character to role-play - but either way, their character's gender is a part of its personality and identity.

This means that you're more or less guaranteed to fall foul of the "too much of a compromise" problem, because you are forcing people to make a choice about both identity and game mechanics with the same decision. To take a crude example, if someone wants to play a male thief, they will sulk about the fact that, in order to be male, they have to have a strength bonus that is no use to them and pass up a dexterity bonus that would be useful.

I think the number of people who would get annoyed about this would far exceed the number who would like it.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...the problem comes when too many different things hang on the same decision, with too few combinations available


Quote:
...if someone wants to play a male thief, they will sulk about the fact that, in order to be male, they have to have a strength bonus that is no use to them and pass up a dexterity bonus that would be useful.


While I agree with the above two comments, they don't really have anything to do with the point I'm making - you're talking about a very specific (and obviously flawed) implementation, while I'm speaking in more general terms.

Is it possible to implement gender differences badly? Well, yes! But the same is true of any feature, and all of the points made here apply just as much to races (which I consider just as important to your identity as gender, if not more so).

As I've said before, there are no bad features, only bad implementations.
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 176
Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amberyl says...
Quote:
Speaking of MudLab, there's a funny thread going on there at the
moment, in a kind of sad, pathetic way:

http://www.mudlab.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=81&start=0

It's about creating gender differences in games, and how inferior
women are to men.

The earnest debate going on in that thread is an interesting example
of how MUDs-for-experimentation can differ from commercial gaming
projects -- but also a worrisome illustration of how far embryonic
future game designers still need to go in their thinking.


-- Lydia


You sad pathetic embryonic designers (wannabes?, newbies?) best git yerself right in the head. It seems Miss Leong finds this discussion worrisome. Saying nothing but saying it well and in lengthy paragraphs is a hallmark style of mud-dev. I can glean no further information and will not venture to speculate what's got her panties all in a knot. ;-P
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Greggen



Joined: 16 May 2005
Posts: 36

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:

After all, what's the difference between:

(a) Race 'goblin'. Choose from male (improved spellcasting) and female (magic immunity).

And:

(b) Race 'blue goblin' (improved spellcasting), Race 'green goblin' (magic immunity).

From a game design perspective, both have exactly the same result. From a thematic perspective, however, you've suddenly got a race with has some very interesting cultural and background story potential.


I would like to re-iterate a point I made earlier in this thread: People have a natural disposition to choosing a certain gender to roleplay as -- typically the gender they are, but not always. I would say that this is often quite a strong disposition.

Can you not see a woman logging into your game and thinking "Why am I being forced to get magic immunity instead of improved spellcasting simply for choosing what comes most naturally to me?".

I think it is much more considerate to your players to leave it as 'blue goblin' and 'green goblin'.
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arrowhen



Joined: 19 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:

There's a huge difference between 'internally consistent' realism and 'real-world' realism. Dragons and lightning bolts may well be 'realistic' within the defined reality of the gameworld.

And so might be women who can physically compete with men. Female warriors are a fairly common occurance in fantasy fiction.

KaVir wrote:

arrowhen wrote:
Adding realism solely for the sake of realism doesn't make a game any better.


Avoiding realism solely for the sake of avoiding it doesn't make a game any better, either.


Nope. And I never said it did. The decision to incorporate or disregard an aspect of reality, like any other design decision, should be based upon whether or not it's going to make the game more fun.

It seems to me that whatever slight realism benefits there might be to making female characters less physically capable than males, they're far outweighed by the drawbacks: potentially alienating players who prefer female characters and possibly female players in general.

Quote:
However my view about the gender issue isn't one of realism, but rather, one of game design. It doesn't sit well with me to have a feature that serves absolutely no purpose - I feel that it's a wasted opportunity.


A character's name serves no purpose aside from identifying that character, but muds still let players pick their own names instead of randomly assigning them. Many muds let you choose eye, skin, and hair color, but those choices don't serve any "useful" purpose.

Just because there's no statistical difference between male and female characters doesn't mean that the choice serves no purpose. Gender is an important part of identity, and allowing players to choose a gender lets them create characters with which they can identify.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tyche wrote:
Amberyl says...


Who?

Quote:
It's about creating gender differences in games, and how inferior
women are to men.


So she hasn't actually read the thread, then?

Quote:
Saying nothing but saying it well and in lengthy paragraphs is a hallmark style of mud-dev.


A worrisome illustration of how far certain embryonic mud-dev posters still need to go in their thinking! Or perhaps I'm just jaded, remembering the days when the mud-dev discussions really were about mud development...but I digress.

I'm sure another reason why 'gender' is usually treated as cosmetic fluff is because of the whole "political correctness" thing, but personally I've never been one to ignore contraversial features just because some wannabe mud admin takes offense. If mud designers only ever pandered to the lowest common denominator, "mud development" would be an oxymoron.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greggen wrote:
I would like to re-iterate a point I made earlier in this thread: People have a natural disposition to choosing a certain gender to roleplay as


And I'll reiterate a point I've made: Many people do the same for races. Does that mean that all races should be identical?

Greggen wrote:
Can you not see a woman logging into your game and thinking "Why am I being forced to get magic immunity instead of improved spellcasting simply for choosing what comes most naturally to me?".

I think it is much more considerate to your players to leave it as 'blue goblin' and 'green goblin'.


Can you not see a "green goblin" fan logging on and thinking "Why am I being forced to get magic immunity instead of improved spellcasting simply for choosing what comes most naturally to me?".

That's perhaps not the best example, because green goblin and blue goblin are pretty meaningless - but the same logic extends to other races. Imagine the player who loves elves, but also wants to play a warrior, or the player who's obsessed with dwarves yet wants to play a wizard.

Ignore your preconceptions for a minute, and really think about it - what is the difference? Is it just that you're used to gender making no difference?
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Greggen



Joined: 16 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The difference is that those races do not exist, but genders do and people are generally one or the other. Choosing a race is an excercise in fantasy, choosing gender not so much.

There will be people who will only play women, and there are people who will only play men. True, there are people who will only play elves -- but I would say these people are quite rare and probably more willing to compromise.

People like to choose characters they can identify with. Can you identify with a goblin any more than an elf? Can you identify with a male more than a female?

Another example: If you gave players a choice between white skin and black skin, would you force black players to play white characters for certain gameplay traits?


Last edited by Greggen on Thu Nov 24, 2005 12:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

arrowhen wrote:
And so might be women who can physically compete with men. Female warriors are a fairly common occurance in fantasy fiction.


Indeed, and I've never suggested that they shouldn't be, or even that they couldn't be just as strong, tough, etc, as male warriors.

All I'm arguing is that "gender" could be used as more than just cosmetic fluff. Take the Wheel of Time theme, for example - female spellcasters have a natural disposition towards air and water magic, while male spellcasters have a natural disposition towards fire and earth magic. Sure, there are exceptions - and each element has its pros and cons - but the result makes gender actually mean something. Would you argue that a Wheel of Time mud should ignore this aspect of the theme?

Quote:
Just because there's no statistical difference between male and female characters doesn't mean that the choice serves no purpose. Gender is an important part of identity, and allowing players to choose a gender lets them create characters with which they can identify.


Once again, the exact same thing is true of race. Do you think that races should be identical?
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greggen wrote:
The difference is that those races do not exist, but genders do and people are generally one or the other. Choosing a race is an excercise in fantasy, choosing gender not so much.


Which was part of the reason why I said "Most muds treat humans as the benchmark, and I can see why some people would want to apply the same logic to both human genders, but the same doesn't have to be true of other races".

Would you object if there was a "drow" race in which the females were generally bigger and stronger, and only the females were accepted as clerics?

Would you object if there was a "troll" race which had no gender at all, as the race 'reproduced' by chopping off body parts and letting them grow into new trolls?

Would you object if there was a "treant" race which changed gender with the season?

Would you object if there was a "wibble" race that had three possible genders?

Would you object if there was a "changeling" race that could change gender at will?

Greggen wrote:
There will be people who will only play women, and there are people who will only play men. True, there are people who will only play elves -- but I would say these people are quite rare and probably more willing to compromise.


Yes, there are those who only play women, and those who only play men. There are those who only play humans, or only play elves, or only play warriors, or only play traffic cones. But these are also possible character options, and making them all identical just takes away the differentiation between characters.

Quote:
Another example: If you gave players a choice between white skin and black skin, would you force black players to play white characters for certain gameplay traits?


In a fantasy world? Sure - I see no reason why a black-skinned elf (aka 'drow') couldn't have darkvision, and be able to cast levitate, faerie fire and darkness once per day, as long as those abilities were balanced against other aspects of the race.

Do you think players should be able to play a white-skinned elf with the innate magical powers of a drow?

Do you think players should be able to play a drow with the abilities of an aquatic elf?

Do you think players should be able to play a white-skinned orc, or a green-skinned dwarf, or a purple-skinned hobbit?
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Greggen



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Would you object if there was a "drow" race in which the females were generally bigger and stronger, and only the females were accepted as clerics?


'Object' is too strong a word, but I might be disinclined to play such a game, especially if drow were the only choice.

Quote:
Would you object if there was a "troll" race which had no gender at all, as the race 'reproduced' by chopping off body parts and letting them grow into new trolls?


Then females playing a troll wouldn't feel any disadvantage to a male playing a troll.

Quote:
Would you object if there was a "treant" race which changed gender with the season?


This is complete fantasy and identification is less of an issue. If a woman chooses to play a troll, the choice between female and male troll might not be such an issue since playing a troll is fantastical to begin with, and there is not much there to identify with -- you could probably get away with making female trolls different to male trolls without alienating anyone.

What I'm saying is that if you give players a choice on identifying features associated with humans (gender, (human) skin colour), these features are typically chosen for identification purposes and you should allow players to treat them as such by not giving them any advantages/disadvantages. (I'm not saying you're evil, or sexist, or racist if you do, in case I came across like that).

Quote:
In a fantasy world? Sure - I see no reason why a black-skinned elf (aka 'drow') couldn't have darkvision, and be able to cast levitate, faerie fire and darkness once per day, as long as those abilities were balanced against other aspects of the race.


This is not so bad because you are accentuating the fantasy over the identification and perhaps avoiding my question a little bit. If you gave players a choice between white skinned human and black skinned human, would you force black players to play white skinned humans for certain gameplay traits?

Sneak edit: Thinking about drow, actually -- if a black person joined your D&D group, how comfortable would you be explaining that the fair skinned elves are good and pure, while the dark skinned elves are evil. I would probably be a little uncomfortable with it, but hey, they're elves, it's fantasy!

How comfortable would you be explaining a setting where fair skinned humans are good and pure, while dark skinned humans are evil?

This makes my point quite gracefully actually -- would you expect a black person to play such a game?


Last edited by Greggen on Thu Nov 24, 2005 1:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Alayla



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Prague

PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What I'm saying is that if you give players a choice on identifying features associated with humans (gender, (human) skin colour), these features are typically chosen for identification purposes and you should allow players to treat them as such by not giving them any advantages/disadvantages.


I agree this is true as long as your gender selection is strictly male/female. If a game offered male, female, neuter, hermaphrodite, alien and foo gender, the distinctions become more blurred, even for the two "realistic" genders, because the context is different.

It is also true that the vast majority of players want to identify with their characters and that most of them identify more easily with a character of their RL sex. For a lot of players, their avatar is an idealised extension of their RL self. Muds, however, have the advantage of NOT having to appeal to the masses, and can exploit this to their advantage, adopting designs that are more controversial or unpopular.

I was never able to play male characters. Not convincigly enough even for me to stick to them. That does not mean I'd never play on a game that would limit my choices by not playing a male. I might try the foo gender, or I might play a female and play along with the designers' vision, to see what their interpretation was like.

It's definitely not an approach that would suit everybody, but it can appeal to some and fill a niche they may have been searching for. As such, the idea has merit.
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2005 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greggen wrote:
This is complete fantasy and identification is less of an issue. If a woman chooses to play a troll, the choice between female and male troll might not be such an issue since playing a troll is fantastical to begin with, and there is not much there to identify with -- you could probably get away with making female trolls different to male trolls without alienating anyone.


If it's complete fantasy and identification is less of an issue, why are you asserting that gender is such a big deal? If you think the troll a fantastical example, you should really meet some of the women I know Wink

I think it's rather narrow to say that identification is less of an issue for trolls than it is for, say, elves or hobbitses. You're presuming that physical appearance is the only thing that people identify with. I'd guess it's much deeper than that (if this so called "identification" effect you're advocating even exists), with a good chunk of the "identification" going on at the mental level. In which case, Troll is not at all fantastical.

It would also nicer explain the observation that some men exclusively play female characters, and some women exclusively play male characters. If they're choosing these genders because they "identify" with them, it sure ain't because of physical identification. As an aside, I actually prefer a different explanation of this phenomenon. If World of Warcraft provides us any insight about this phenomenon, men probably make female characters because they like imagining the boobies. Women probably make male characters because they dislike adolescent sacks of hormones imagining their character's boobies.


Greggen wrote:

What I'm saying is that if you give players a choice on identifying features associated with humans (gender, (human) skin colour), these features are typically chosen for identification purposes and you should allow players to treat them as such by not giving them any advantages/disadvantages.


I highly doubt this. I don't doubt that *some* people do this, but I do doubt that it is the norm. If anything, I'd guess people choose the appearance of their character for the exact opposite reason of identification; when most people make a character, they give a fantasy flesh. They don't necccessarily identify with that fantasy in any way. And unless you're a narcissist, it's probably quite the opposite.
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