lategaming staying up late, playing games

1Mar/0717

If Jesus had tits, would you believe in God?

On mer writes about rpgs we find an opine about how it's such a shame that the pulp-rpg "Spirit of the Century" included archetypes such as:

Gadget Guy, Gentleman Criminal, Jungle Lord, Man of Mystery

and not

Gadget Girl, Lady Criminal, Jungle Queen, Woman of Mystery

Yes. It's a bloody shame. So why don't we create games where sexism and racism are reversed?

Okay, how about we compromise. Let's look at my local gaming club and make some calculations. On Monday night we had about thirty people. And not more than 4 were women. So slightly more than 13%. Let's build games to attract the 13% rather than the 86%!

That doesn't make a lot of sense.

People have wracked their brains in how to attract more women into the hobby and I have to say that I am beginning to see it as futile. There was a huge influx of females (especially hawt gothy babes) when Vampire hit the streets. And now the bubble has popped? They're gone. Or doing other stuff. there's been some releases of anime/manga games which are more feminocentric (that's got to be a new word...) but I look at them and consider them patronising. There are some that even promote love and romance but again, how subtle are they?

I just don't think that gaming means the same to girls the same way that obsessive devotion to an obscure hobby holds attracton to women. What's the percentage of female train-spotters? How about computer geeks (you know, the ones who don't do it for money?). There's a reason why males suffer more from mind-blindness than girls (Asperger Syndrome affects 3-4 times as many boys than girls). Asperger's has been referred to as excessive maleness

I tend to look at the women in gaming with respect to sexism and racism in gaming media with soft focus. For years we've been subjected to pin-up style art of BOTH male and female protagonists wearing nothing but beach-wear for armour while fighting dragons, spiders and immense giants. We don't hear many men complaining about the men. I just think it's a tired, contrived trope.

Does it really spoil your enjoyment of the game if the archetypes are male? Do you find it jarring and upsetting if the pronouns in a game are exclusively male? Does it pain you to your very soul that Wells chose male characters for his books The Time Machine and War of the Worlds? Would Emma have been better if Jane Austen had named the character James and made a comedy of manners about the debut of a young squire? Why the hell wasn't Moses a girl? Would Jesus have been a better saviour if he'd had mammary glands?

It's a male dominated hobby with a target market of males, written by men most of whom have given up trying to attract women in the hobby because, frankly, they're only interested if it's anything but straight tabletop roleplaying. Add in a bit of haemo-eroticism, some corsets and black lipstick and we're flooded with the buggers all happy to play happy families with the one or two male players who wash more than once a week. We're meant to make women excited to play the game by throwing in some token archetypes (voiding the genre I might add) and making more references in the text to fictional female GMs?

What happened to making people excited to play the game because of a compelling background, a system that didn't make me want to push d10s into the eyes of the GM and a player community that didn't just really creep me out with the fact that ten years later, the people at your local club all the same, just older, fatter and still playing D&D.

Sure. Next game I write, I'll add in 50% female archetypes. See how excited everyone gets.

[Yes, this has turned into a rant and I've made the title a good bit more inflammatory than I might have originally. I'd have commented directly on Mary's blog but...I'd have to register on wordpress.com for that and really I can't be bothered. I did have about 40% female archetypes in Qabal....but that was a long time ago]

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About matt

Gamer. Writer. Dad. Husband. Creator of The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO, ZOMBI, Testament, Creed. Slightly megalomaniac
Comments (17) Trackbacks (5)
  1. Wow,

    If you examine the wall behind you, you’ll see the “point” which flew over your head.

    It’s not about whether or not you believe in Jesus, it’s about whether the New Testament would have been better or worse OR THE SAME with a female protagonist. It’s just a book after all. With not very many women. And those who are are in the supporting roles.

    Do you honestly think that Spirit of the Century is sexist propaganda? That it’s someone forcing shit down your throat?

    Honestly, would you describe yourself as a sexist?

    Because that’s exactly the position you’re occupying. The best guideline is to ask yourself:

    Is this person being offensive or am I taking offence?

    If it’s the latter, then I reckon you should re-examine yourself, place yourself under some scrutiny. If the former, then by all means, deliver shit to them in a burning paper bag. I’ll even drive for you.

    I’m more than amused at the idea that the thing that excites women who play RPGs is seeing liberal use of feminine pronouns and female archetypes. That’s the kind of comedy that you just can’t impro!

  2. As if it wasn’t obvious…

    I’m saying don’t waste your time adding in female pronouns and feminine archetypes to excite and attract women gamers.

    Just make good fucking games.

  3. Mer replies:
    It matters what words you use. It matters if you set it in a sexist era. It matters if you use art that shows women not as active or cool as the men. Character class pictures matter. Character class names matter. Because everything that shows women as not as important, says to a women we do not want you here. It lets gm go ‘it fits with the time so you have to put up with it’, it lets gms say ‘it didn’t happen in the time so you cant play that class’.

    To which I reply.

    Utter bollocks.

    If you take offense at pronouns and character archetypes then you’re doing yourself more of a disservice than anythig else. You’ve gone out of your way to look for problems. This victim mentality means we’re forced to be politically correct in order to interact.

    To which I reply:

    Utter bollocks.

    The irony remains. In an RPG you can change the game so that it is female dominated if you want. You can CHANGE the tropes of the genre to suit your own pro-gender tastes. In a novel you can’t, so again why don’t we see Mary picketing the various churches for their portrayal of negative gender roles in the Bible (as a work of fiction). Why was Sherlock Holmes a man? Part of the Masculine Conspiracy?

    I don’t think for a second that TSoY was written to offend women. I don’t think the authors and artists sat brainstorming in their studios about how best to offend the folk in the world who weren’t born with a penis. It might have been written to emulate a genre which, to be authentic, was dominated by dashing heroes and damsels in distress and not dashing damsels and heroes in distress.

    Next, we’ll have to spell women with a y. How far do you want this to go? If you’re going to stand up for such principles then where do you stop?

  4. The title has reminded me of something dreadful: in Germany we even have a bible in politically correct language. Jesus isn’t the Son of God, but the Child of God, the Jews suddenly have Queens, some Apostels are female and God himseld is either female or neuter – rarely male. To use your lovely phrase:
    Utter bollocks.
    I don’t know if I should laugh about it. And just to avoid misunderstandings: I am female.

  5. hi PhrixusCoyote,
    That sort of book has it’s place because I guess a lot of people are insecure about gender roles. I am dismayed that so many people seem to have missed the point. There’s obviously a lot of people who are looking out to take offense at the smallest things. It’s a kind of arrogance as well to assume that I’m deliberately writing to annoy you; to which I say “No, I’m not trying to offend you, that’s just a bonus!”

  6. I’m not sure about that, because it’s historically inaccurate. For example, there were no female apostels and the judaeo-christian god isn’t female either. But as i said, I just had to think f it when I read the title of this post. As a female roleplayer I pretty much think I got the point of your post and I agree with you in nearly any of your arguments.

  7. “…nearly all of your arguments” is what I meant to write. Sorry.

  8. We can’t comment about historical accuracy on a document which has come under such editorial scrutiny. End of the day it shouldn’t change the message what sex the protagonists in a story are. so if you’re changing the sex of the protagonists to suit your own bigoted preferences then it certainly makes you into “that sort of person”. Good to meet you, phrixuscoyote. Wish my German was better!

  9. Hi Matt, as I offered to Merrua, too, I can try to translate some of my articles, especially if they include a link to an English post like yours (or hers). :-) I don’t recommend the use of babelfish, except for fun…

  10. There was a huge influx of females (especially hawt gothy babes) when Vampire hit the streets.

    I’m sure this had nothing whatsoever to do with VtM’s decision to use “she” as the default gender pronoun.

    Maybe the reason women aren’t more interested in RPGs is because the authors have gone to such extensive lengths to exclude them. As a result, the games and the hobby in general largely attracts only its target audience–men. And then the next thing you know, stereotypes are forged about “geeks” and “losers” crouching in dank basements where no female has ever trod. Ever heard the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy”?

    Excluding women from games is foolish. Not only does it cut your potential customer base in half, it encourages a male-only environment wherein women are unwelcome or uninterested, and perpetuates the “pathetic loser who RPs because he can’t get a girl” stereotype. God forbid we make any effort to make games appeal more to women by, you know, including them. That would risk male gamers having to interact with the icky opposite sex! Maybe if those guys spent some time with a few girls in their gaming circle, they’d start seeing them as people instead of scary alien beings, learn that they can talk to them just like anyone else, and become socially comfortable or even *gasp!* successful around them. Horrors! We wouldn’t want to destroy that awesome “loser” stereotype or give up our oh-so-charming social awkwardness, now would we?
    But hey, if you like things how they are and like being seen and portrayed that way, and think other male gamers like it too, then by all means, carry on as you are.

  11. So essentially you’re saying that women feel victimised because of the use of the pronoun “he”?

    Sure.

    I think it’s wrong to assume that there is anything more to the “pathetic loser who RPs because he can’t get a girl” stereotype than simply hormone poisoning. Women may be able to reason during puberty but men are simple creatures and unable to hand the intricacies of social context as well as putting up with things getting hairy. I’m not actually being sarcastic here, I was a loner in my teens because of shyness and awkwardness (and not liking smoking and drinking made me a square too). Men are an easy sell due to their simplicity (and I mean this in terms of “primitive” as opposed to “elegance”.

    I’m seeing divided opinions here. Some women want to see an equal number of gender pronouns. Some want less cheese-art. Some don’t care and just want good plots.

    As I said in this discussion, the next game we make will strive for equality of genders. I’d just be interested in opinions on whether it makes a difference in the long run.

  12. Maybe the reason women aren’t more interested in RPGs is because the authors have gone to such extensive lengths to exclude them.

    How so? It’d be great if you could point out some examples. Most *systems* at least are gender-neutral, in that female and male characters have equal stats. You could play a female D&D elf with the same abilities as a male D&D elf.

    There are also a number of games available aimed specifically at women.

    As a result, the games and the hobby in general largely attracts only its target audience–men.

    This doesn’t logically follow. Women play and watch football thought they even though it’s “target audience” is men. I agree there is a lot of “stigma” around gaming, but I’m not sure it’s because games have attempted to exclude women that’s the cause of it. I think, tbh, it’s the spotty teenager and geeky fandom that’s the cause more than anything else.

    And then the next thing you know, stereotypes are forged about “geeks” and “losers” crouching in dank basements where no female has ever trod. Ever heard the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy”?

    I’m sorry as a man, I take offence at this. I’ve been gaming since a teenager. I am now married with kids. Why am I loser? I think the stereotypes you refer to came about, not from the explicit exclusion of women, but the trials and tribulations of adolescence. We nerds and geeks were shunned by the majority of female population. It’s just the way it was (and probably still is). I think *this* is the reason why you don’t find females crouching with the “losers” in dank basements. I think if those “losers” could get women into gaming, they would jump on it like a new Nintendo gaming console.

    I’ve played in many groups that had women. Unfortunately it is very much male dominated hobby, but I would love to see more women in gaming.

    Excluding women from games is foolish.

    Yes it is. But I’m not convinced that game writers are at fault! Personally, as man, I do like games that cater for strong male *and* female characters. (I even play the occasionally female character.) And to be honest, I’ve yet to see a game that implicitly or otherwise excludes women characters or players. I’d, genuinely, love to hear some examples, because I’m in the process of getting an adventure published and hoping to get a full RPG too and I don’t want to exclude women.

    it encourages a male-only environment wherein women are unwelcome or uninterested, and perpetuates the “pathetic loser who RPs because he can’t get a girl” stereotype.

    *sigh*

    God forbid we make any effort to make games appeal more to women by, you know, including them.

    How are us male gamers excluding women?

    That would risk male gamers having to interact with the icky opposite sex! Maybe if those guys spent some time with a few girls in their gaming circle, they’d start seeing them as people instead of scary alien beings, learn that they can talk to them just like anyone else, and become socially comfortable or even *gasp!* successful around them.

    Sorry but this is highly sexist. You’re claiming that those nerdy geeky losers can become happy and socially comfortable by talking with women?

    Man if only I had know that as a teenager! God you’re so insightful into the minds of men. </sarcasm>

    I’m all for equality, but not when it’s lorded over me as an excuse to say why I’m so pathetic.

    Horrors! We wouldn’t want to destroy that awesome “loser” stereotype or give up our oh-so-charming social awkwardness, now would we?

    But hey, if you like things how they are and like being seen and portrayed that way, and think other male gamers like it too, then by all means, carry on as you are.

  13. Maybe the reason women aren’t more interested in RPGs is because the authors have gone to such extensive lengths to exclude them.

    How so? It’d be great if you could point out some examples. Most *systems* at least are gender-neutral, in that female and male characters have equal stats. You could play a female D&D elf with the same abilities as a male D&D elf.

    There are also a number of games available aimed specifically at women.

    As a result, the games and the hobby in general largely attracts only its target audience-men.

    This doesn’t logically follow. Women play and watch football thought they even though it’s “target audience” is men. I agree there is a lot of “stigma” around gaming, but I’m not sure it’s because games have attempted to exclude women that’s the cause of it. I think, tbh, it’s the spotty teenager and geeky fandom that’s the cause more than anything else.

    And then the next thing you know, stereotypes are forged about “geeks” and “losers” crouching in dank basements where no female has ever trod. Ever heard the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy”?

    I’m sorry as a man, I take offence at this. I’ve been gaming since a teenager. I am now married with kids. Why am I loser? I think the stereotypes you refer to came about, not from the explicit exclusion of women, but the trials and tribulations of adolescence. We nerds and geeks were shunned by the majority of female population. It’s just the way it was (and probably still is). I think *this* is the reason why you don’t find females crouching with the “losers” in dank basements. I think if those “losers” could get women into gaming, they would jump on it like a new Nintendo gaming console.

    I’ve played in many groups that had women. Unfortunately it is very much male dominated hobby, but I would love to see more women in gaming.

    Excluding women from games is foolish.

    Yes it is. But I’m not convinced that game writers are at fault! Personally, as man, I do like games that cater for strong male *and* female characters. (I even play the occasionally female character.) And to be honest, I’ve yet to see a game that implicitly or otherwise excludes women characters or players. I’d, genuinely, love to hear some examples, because I’m in the process of getting an adventure published and hoping to get a full RPG too and I don’t want to exclude women.

    it encourages a male-only environment wherein women are unwelcome or uninterested, and perpetuates the “pathetic loser who RPs because he can’t get a girl” stereotype.

    *sigh*

    God forbid we make any effort to make games appeal more to women by, you know, including them.

    How are us male gamers excluding women?

    That would risk male gamers having to interact with the icky opposite sex! Maybe if those guys spent some time with a few girls in their gaming circle, they’d start seeing them as people instead of scary alien beings, learn that they can talk to them just like anyone else, and become socially comfortable or even *gasp!* successful around them.

    Sorry but this is highly sexist. You’re claiming that those nerdy geeky losers can become happy and socially comfortable by talking with women?

    Man if only I had know that as a teenager! God you’re so insightful into the minds of men. </sarcasm>

    I’m all for equality, but not when it’s lorded over me as an excuse to say why I’m so pathetic.

    Horrors! We wouldn’t want to destroy that awesome “loser” stereotype or give up our oh-so-charming social awkwardness, now would we?

    But hey, if you like things how they are and like being seen and portrayed that way, and think other male gamers like it too, then by all means, carry on as you are.

  14. Nice response, Mark. To be honest the diatribe from Karena reminded me why it was unfashionable to be a “gamer” because of the stereotypes foisted upon us.

  15. I didn’t consider my comment a “diatribe,” but I suppose it did turn into a bit of a rant. I confess, as a female gamer (tabletop, online and video) who’s been playing on and off for over two decades, it’s just a wee bit frustrating to see the same old argument trotted out again and again:
    Women aren’t interested in gaming, therefore there’s no point in writing/programming anything that would appeal to them, let’s just write for an exclusively male audience and then act as if this isn’t precisely the reason women aren’t more interested in games in the first place.

    I suppose I’m touchy on the subject because it’s really rather tiresome to be constantly treated as if you don’t exist at all, or constantly told, you weren’t born with a penis, so you can’t play.

    I happen to agree with you that a well-written game that’s written for a male target audience is still better than a poorly written but fairly-gendered one. I also agree that shifting the default gender pronoun from “he” to “she” doesn’t really do anything except create a reverse of the existing (gender-exclusive) situation. But I don’t see why you feel a 50/50 pronoun split or neutrally-gendered archetypes are such a horrible idea. Your post seems to largely rail against that suggestion, and you appear to defend your position by saying that not enough women are interested, so why bother? The message I, as a female gamer, take from that is, “You’re not worth the effort.”

    So forgive me for being a little frustrated by that.
    I will now dissolve back into nonexistence, like the unicorn that I am. Thanks for listening.

  16. The issue I have with your argument is that I’ve never seen a female turned away from a game (sometimes they are welcomed a little too enthusiastically but that’s a different issue). There’s no barrier to entry. Sure, there’s some cheese-art out there but men are objectified as much as women in games.
    I’d invite you to stick around and maybe tell the tale of how you would like to see games written. Is it the pronouns? The archetypes? Combat? Social Interaction?

    Yeah, I’m asking. What’s right about tabletop gaming?

  17. As someone who’s gamed for 25 years, is married to woman who games a lot, and hasn’t played a single rpg over the past 15 years that didn’t have at least one woman in the group (and I’ve played with majority female groups as well), I’d like to throw my 2 cents in.

    Cheesecake art does bother women, but I doubt it actually stops them from playing. Awkward and shy teenage girls trying to play with awkward & shy teenage boys is a problem. And yes, there probably is a link between playing rpgs and feeling awkward. I don’t view that as a knock against the hobby anymore than the fact that awkward kids are also more likely to be attached to chess, or music, or other non-”Popular Kid” activities . It’s just a different way for them to live their lives.

    At the age when they’re first “discovering” the other sex, kids heads can get messed up which I suspect makes gaming with the other sex more difficult. And if girls don’t pickup the hobby early, they may never learn it. I have two female friends who never felt welcome by local D&D groups when they were teenagers for those reasons.

    But I’m quite positive that the pronouns used in the rulebooks has almost zero effect on whether women play. I’m not at all against balancing the pronouns, but blaming the pronouns for lack of female participation is just off-base. I have two reasons for thinking this. One, how do people actually start playing? Do most people walk down the aisles of a bookstore/gamestore, see a book on gaming, read it, and then decide to play? Nope. 95%+ have a friend introduce them to gaming. Most people have gone to several games and have decided whether they like it or not well before they’ve ever read a rulebook. Most players never read the rulebooks to any extent, so there’s just no way for the pronouns to have much effect.

    I’d bet 90% plus of the “goth chicks” who played Vampire liked it and had already played before they ever read more that 4 paragraphs from the rulebook.

    Secondly, all the WoTC games are careful about gender balance. That covers D&D, Vampire, Werewolf, etc. Between all their games you have a large percentage of the gaming market already balanced. And yet you don’t see any big new influx of female gamers.


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