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Gender and the spirits

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NinjaMonkey
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Gender and the spirits

<Split off from Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 2: Vital Strength of the Earth>

 

Eric R wrote:

I'm loving reading these!(Small nit: all the Spirits are gender-neutral - or more accurately, gender-NA. "His" should be "its", or optionally "their".)(That Unrelenting Growth combo sounds phenomenal. Do you recall how big a game it was?)

Small observation: Except for maybe Thunderspeaker, who judging by the evident mammary glands on the artwork is quite female. 12 gender-neutral spirits, 1 female, 0 male, Yay equality.

That nit pik aside, loving these guides PS. Vital Strength of the Earth is the next spirit on my list to try out. I've only played the game once so far using River who at first seemed weak until I figured out the power of the Dahan.

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Thunderspeaker takes human form, it may dress up as a human female, but that neither makes it human nor female.

Eric R
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phantaskippy wrote:

Thunderspeaker takes human form, it may dress up as a human female, but that neither makes it human nor female.

Yup, this.

(IIRC, it's manifested as male on at least one of its Unique Power Cards. It doesn't have a familial relationship with the Dahan, so its gender expression isn't especially important in its dealings with them.)

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Btw, Ninja Monkey's count yield 13 spirits. Am I missing one?

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Referee wrote:
Btw, Ninja Monkey's count yield 13 spirits. Am I missing one?
Nope, I think they miscounted. There are 12 total spirits published: 8 in the base game, 2 in Branch & Claw, and 2 promos.
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dpt wrote:

Referee wrote:

Btw, Ninja Monkey's count yield 13 spirits. Am I missing one?

Nope, I think they miscounted. There are 12 total spirits published: 8 in the base game, 2 in Branch & Claw, and 2 promos.


Miscounted. I may still be a little irked by the Kickstarter backers who railed against the masculine invaders but completely ignored the fact there were 11 gender neutral spirits and 1 gender specific, female, spirit based on the artwork alone. The idea that equality can be achieved through inequality has always irked me.
I had an issue with the masculine invaders. But my issue wasn't the fact they were male. My issue was that yet again men were being portrayed as the aggressor. I've honestly had enough of men in media being portrayed as overly aggressive or as man childs.
As a father of 2 women in training and 1 man in training I'm a strong proponent for true equality not equality of the moment.
Look no further than the latest Kickstarter for Sentinels of Earth Prime for an example of equality of the moment. Outrage over Siren's outfit but, until called out, no outrage over Dr. Metropolis' outfit. Both needed to be changed, no question. But the focus immediately went to Siren.

I'm off my soapbox now.

As a person of Hispanic heritage, don't get me started on La Capitan and the offensive stereotype of her names which I don't see mentioned on these forums.

Ok, now I'm really off the soap box. I really do love these games even though some aspects may offend me personally. I try not to believe people are intentionally trying to be offensive.

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NinjaMonkey wrote:
dpt wrote:
Referee wrote:

Btw, Ninja Monkey's count yield 13 spirits. Am I missing one?

Nope, I think they miscounted. There are 12 total spirits published: 8 in the base game, 2 in Branch & Claw, and 2 promos.

Miscounted. I may still be a little irked by the Kickstarter backers who railed against the masculine invaders but completely ignored the fact there were 11 gender neutral spirits and 1 gender specific, female, spirit based on the artwork alone. The idea that equality can be achieved through inequality has always irked me.
I had an issue with the masculine invaders. But my issue wasn't the fact they were male. My issue was that yet again men were being portrayed as the aggressor. I've honestly had enough of men in media being portrayed as overly aggressive or as man childs.
As a father of 2 women in training and 1 man in training I'm a strong proponent for true equality not equality of the moment.
Look no further than the latest Kickstarter for Sentinels of Earth Prime for an example of equality of the moment. Outrage over Siren's outfit but, until called out, no outrage over Dr. Metropolis' outfit. Both needed to be changed, no question. But the focus immediately went to Siren.

I'm off my soapbox now.

As a person of Hispanic heritage, don't get me started on La Capitan and the offensive stereotype of her names which I don't see mentioned on these forums.

Ok, now I'm really off the soap box. I really do love these games even though some aspects may offend me personally. I try not to believe people are intentionally trying to be offensive.

As one of those complainy Kickstarter people, I see it as "redressing the balance" rather than "equality through inequality". There's a huge abundance of games where you can chose any flavour of character as long as it's male (or occasionally a single cookie-cutter hypersexualised female), and this game is a mere drop in the ocean compared with them.

I mean in principle I'm all for balanced representation, but honestly I think there are a lot of male players out there who need to know how it feels to be forced to pick a character of a gender they don't identify with like females often have to. The same (male) players who tell women "you don't have to play as female, it's just a game, get over it!" are also the ones who get extremely upset about games which have predominantly female representation so they can't play as male. I don't think we'll get proper equal representation until they see things from the other side, so to speak.

Apart from all that, even Thunderspeaker WAS female, 1 female vs 0 males isn't exactly a massive imbalance.


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Men aren't the aggressors. COLONIALISM is the aggressor. This is not a game about fighting men, it's a game about fighting faceless empires, and if you want to defend colonialism then that's a whole other discussion.

EDIT: Oh, and inasmuch as men are the enemy, that's pretty much par for the course historically. I can get on board with arguing against historical accuracy when it promotes inequality, but when you don't like that history makes you look bad I have less sympathy.


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Mods, part of this thread needs split off at this point as we are no longer discussing strategy for Vital Strength of Earth anymore.  

 

As to my own thoughts on it.  We are talking colonial times and realistically invaders would have been male.   However, I don't think looking at the Explorers pieces I would say they appear as one gender or the other they seem like soulless figures holding tiny flags.  Now in the artwork it would be more male but still would be expected for the majority of people invading during that timeframe.  


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What Powerhound said. The big issue I had (and I think others as well) with the original explorer design was not so much that they were male so much as that they were/are meant to symbolically represent how threatening/scary the invaders are, and they were using male design elements to represent this.

I'm all for mixed representation for miscellaneous figures in games, but this is a game where it would have been reasonable to have entirely male figures because they represent a male dominated profession. But the symbolic link between 'male' and 'threatening' isn't doing our society any favors. The explorers aren't scary because they are male, they are scary because they are different, and I think that the current scuplts do an excellent job of conveying that.


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NinjaMonkey wrote:

 
Miscounted. I may still be a little irked by the Kickstarter backers who railed against the masculine invaders but completely ignored the fact there were 11 gender neutral spirits and 1 gender specific, female, spirit based on the artwork alone. The idea that equality can be achieved through inequality has always irked me.
 

 
If you have driven off a road by taking a hard right, you do not get back on the road by pointing your steering wheel straight.
 
When a thousand games depict mostly men, you do not achieve equality through raising average female representation towards 50% in a subset of games on the market. (Confounded by the fact that newer games see on average more play, but still.)
 
Honestly, I see Spirit Island as mostly "not making the problem worse"; Thunderspeaker having female panel art is a drop in the bucket. Titles like One Deck Dungeon are doing a lot more in actually rebalancing things.
 

Powerhound_2000 wrote:

 We are talking colonial times and realistically invaders would have been male.



For conquest-style invaders, certainly, but not for the immigrate-and-colonize invaders shown in the base game. Eg: the 13 colonies of America were hardly all male!


(The fact that conquistadors feature so frequently in the artwork is a disconnect between the game design and the art direction. Strangling Firevine's art - which has a farmer being flung through the air - is, broadly speaking, more accurate. Explorers represent not just pith-helmet types and military forces but any homesteader bold enough to seek out new lands, and Towns are, well, towns.)

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Initial groups venturing into the land would have mostly been male.  They would need females to maintain any further population for sure.  


Crush your enemies, drive them before you, and laminate their women! - Guise, Prime Wardens #31

 
Eric R
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Mmm, but those initial groups were all during the 5 years of initial Invader contact that predates the start of the game. Blight didn't show up until the farming started.

During game, Explorers are as likely as not to be homesteaders feeling the potential is greater if they set up shop somewhere less populated. (Which might be an entirely new land, or different portions of an existing land - why Explore affects lands with Invaders.)

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I have to laugh when we're arguing historical accuracy in a game where a magical spirit can wash entire cities into the ocean.

If you can get behind magic you can surely get behind the occasional non-male settler.


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Silverleaf wrote:

I have to laugh when we're arguing historical accuracy in a game where a magical spirit can wash entire cities into the ocean.If you can get behind magic you can surely get behind the occasional non-male settler.

People care about accuracy in lore for SotM as well when it's all contained within the minds of two people.  There are lots of fandoms where magic and supernatural stuff is involved where pope care about accuracy even if it might seem silly.  Overall, I don't care whether it's male or female but based on the game description about the timeframe and artwork we have the impression I would have is that primarily human males from European countries are the main antagonists in this game.   Based on what Eric has commented on that was a disconnect on the artwork as it was supposed to show more females from the invader side.  


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That disconnect is prevalent.

 

Most people I ran demos for connected invaders to soldiers and blight to pollution, so I made sure I included things like diverting the river to irrigate crops, fencing off land for domestic animals, introducing foreign flora and fauna, or digging out rocks to use for foundations, streets and buildongs as things that would anger spirits and cause blight.

The threat to natives and the land from early, mostly male, invasions were looting and slave plantations.  Once settlers came (which were families, and often communities, because one person can't start a farm) the risks of disease, war, land land loss became the big threats, and those are the main threats of Spirit Island.

 

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phantaskippy wrote:

Once settlers came (which were families, and often communities, because one person can't start a farm) the risks of disease, war, land land loss became the big threats, and those are the main threats of Spirit Island. 

Yeah, that certainly makes more sense overall.  I often forget that the an entire round is meant to represent a year or longer in time not days, weeks, or months.  


Crush your enemies, drive them before you, and laminate their women! - Guise, Prime Wardens #31

 
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Yeah, I always make sure that when I talk about blight I mention it's terrible and horrible and it wrecks all our stuff because they are destroying the land, then I lean over and stage whisper "They're farming". It generally gets a laugh and I think helps cement that this game clearly has a perspective and the invaders see this whole situation vastly differently than we do.

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Powerhound_2000 wrote:
Silverleaf wrote:
I have to laugh when we're arguing historical accuracy in a game where a magical spirit can wash entire cities into the ocean.If you can get behind magic you can surely get behind the occasional non-male settler.

People care about accuracy in lore for SotM as well when it's all contained within the minds of two people.  There are lots of fandoms where magic and supernatural stuff is involved where pope care about accuracy even if it might seem silly.  Overall, I don't care whether it's male or female but based on the game description about the timeframe and artwork we have the impression I would have is that primarily human males from European countries are the main antagonists in this game.   Based on what Eric has commented on that was a disconnect on the artwork as it was supposed to show more females from the invader side.  

I'm not just talking about Spirit Island - I've seen so many examples of people complaining about a fighty female character in one game or another, arguing about how women can't fight with swords or how it's unrealistic for a woman to be a blacksmith or wear pants or whatever, but ignoring the fact that the game also features dragons, or goblins, or talking armadillos or sentient lettuce or impolite Canadians* and is therefore not exactly historically accurate in general. You don't get to complain about females being competent in a game that has dragons - it's not silly, it's offensive, because you're saying that a competent female is less likely than a fire-breathing monster that doesn't even exist in the real world.

I'd be interested to see what part of the description of SI says "male" to you, because I'm not getting that at all myself. Card art? Perhaps. I haven't really paid much attention to it, and I remember the arguments about the genders of invaders came way before anyone saw all the art.

 

* I may have made up a couple of these examples for comedic effect.


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Quote:
You don't get to complain about females being competent in a game that has dragons - it's not silly, it's offensive, because you're saying that a competent female is less likely than a fire-breathing monster that doesn't even exist in the real world.

There are some issues with that argument.  Literature generally follows the convention of Like Reality Unless Noted as part of the Law of Conservation of Detail.  Creators don't have the space to fill in every piece of information, so the gaps in the world building are filled by the assumption that anything not mentioned is identical to real life, or a change that derives from the inital noted change.  So it's totally fine to have a world with both dragons and goblins - but creating a world with dragons does not necessarily imply the existence of goblins, so if the author wants to use both then both need to be revealed while the world is still being established in the readers' minds or create an expectation that there are parts of the worldbuilding that haven't been explicitly mentioned, but might include goblins (e.g. A world which has been established to have "humans, elves, gnomes, and more" can later include goblins as part of the "and more").

This is still true in otherworld fantasies where the cultures are not based in fact and the creators have free reign to create whatever they want.  They still use cultures that are analogous to Earth cultures to decrease descriptive strain, and they therefore have to establish a baseline for how much those cultures differ from their templates, and story-relevant differences must be specifically noted.

The bottom line is internal consistency.  A created world that has magic in it still has rules, it's just that those rules are different from the rules of regular reality, so the creator has to define what those rules are.

 

Now, none of this applies to arguments about fighty women, because women being blacksmiths and going to war and generally doing hard labor is already part of this world and falls under the category of "things that readers should be assuming in the first place."  The fact that they don't falls under a different trope, Reality is Unrealistic


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Silverleaf wrote:

I'm not just talking about Spirit Island - I've seen so many examples of people complaining about a fighty female character in one game or another, arguing about how women can't fight with swords or how it's unrealistic for a woman to be a blacksmith or wear pants or whatever, but ignoring the fact that the game also features dragons, or goblins, or talking armadillos or sentient lettuce or impolite Canadians* and is therefore not exactly historically accurate in general. You don't get to complain about females being competent in a game that has dragons - it's not silly, it's offensive, because you're saying that a competent female is less likely than a fire-breathing monster that doesn't even exist in the real world.

Speaking from experience, it's less about people thinking women can't be competent, it's that stuff like being a blacksmith that creates weapons/armor or swordfighting or invaders is violent and everyone including people against sexism has a hard time with the idea that it is possible for women to be violent and cruel and destructive.

(My experience being that I am a woman who got frequently physically assaulted as a kid by bullies who were other women, but everyone acts like I'm a weird alien being when I try to talk about it or otherwise espouses the general narrative that women are inherently peaceful and non-violent and it's only men who perpetrate violence.)


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One of the underlying themes of Spirit Island is that of viewing the world from the perspective of the Spirits, not the invaders, and how the spirits view the world in a very different way. I would not be surprised if most spirits didn't even have a notion of the concept of genders. *We* might see it in some pieces of art, because the art depicts humans and humans tend to have a recognizable gender. But by and large, gender isn't a thing a Spirit would notice, and because the players are supposed to be thinking like spirits, it's not something the game is calling attention to. The explorers look very gender neutral to me, for example.

You can see an analogous instance of this type of thinking in the graphic design for Dungeon Lords, by the way. It's another trope reversal game where you play the "Evil" Dungeon Lord trying to fend off the hordes of adventurers who are attacking your dungeon and trashing the place. For this game, all the monter tiles are very lovingly and delightfully illustrated. But the adventurers? Kind of bland and featureless. You can generally tell which wizard is more powerful than the others, but they don't have any personality or character to them. And that's by intent, because of the player perspective the game is trying to generate.

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Chaosmancer wrote:
Yeah, I always make sure that when I talk about blight I mention it's terrible and horrible and it wrecks all our stuff because they are destroying the land, then I lean over and stage whisper "They're farming". ...
Oh, that's awesome. I usually mention that they are farming, but not in nearly as dramatic a way.

(I feel like there probably are usually battles going on when the Dahan get affected.)

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Considering that there's a reasonable chance that they're utilizing slash-and-burn farming techniques...


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Different Spirits would have different blight as well.  Diverting part of the river for irrigation or water power would be blight to River Surges in Sunlight, clearing weeds and preparing a field to farm (removing the big rocks and likely fencing it off) would upset Spread of Rampant Green, Vital Strength of the Earth and Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves.  Loss of trees would upset Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds, Sharp Fangs and Shadows Flicker like Flames.  While making coastland safe for docks would actually make it harder for Ocean's Hungry Grasp to reach inland.

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Arcanist Lupus wrote:

Quote:

You don't get to complain about females being competent in a game that has dragons - it's not silly, it's offensive, because you're saying that a competent female is less likely than a fire-breathing monster that doesn't even exist in the real world.

 

There are some issues with that argument.  Literature generally follows the convention of Like Reality Unless Noted as part of the Law of Conservation of Detail.  ....

There are some issues with this exception.

First, it replies to someone saying "this is offensive, here's an illustration of why" - which is about how something comes across - with an argument about why a writer might practically do such a thing. It's a hair's-breadth away from saying "your perception of what offends you is wrong or irrelevant"(†).

Second, even in a novel that (a) is historical and (b) is concerned more with "womens' place in society" than the competence of individuals, any text including dragons has such a huge "not-like-reality" budget that not spending the pittance required to make womens' status slightly different than a historical norm is a choice on the part of the writer, not something they were forced into by necessity.

This isn't to say there's no place for historically - or ahistorically - sexist societies in literature, but doing so is a choice on the writer's part, and it should be done thoughtfully, not out of laziness. It seems fine to me when Harry Turtledove portrays gender roles from a particular culture accurately in one of his alt-histories; or when a fantasy writer posits a kingdom rife with sexism and prejudice when it's clear that it's that kingdom, not some sort of universal norm, and the text doesn't explicitly or implicitly portray those views as normal / acceptable.

(†) = There totally needs to be room in society for saying "OK, you see that as offensive / inappropriate, but I don't agree" - but I find that pure intellectual dissection tends to be the wrong tool for that job, unless there's up-front buy-in from both parties. Among other things, it leaves empathy out in the cold.

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Arcanist Lupus wrote:

Considering that there's a reasonable chance that they're utilizing slash-and-burn farming techniques...

Oh, yes.

(The Dahan did, too, when they first arrived.)

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Eric R wrote:

There are some issues with this exception.First, it replies to someone saying "this is offensive, here's an illustration of why" - which is about how something comes across - with an argument about why a writer might practically do such a thing. It's a hair's-breadth away from saying "your perception of what offends you is wrong or irrelevant"(†).


You make an excellent point. That was not my intent. Especially as I agree that the specified offensive item is offensive, and merely disagree on why it is offensive.

And doubly agree on the difference between assuming an offensive culture and exploring an offensive culture.


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Arcanist Lupus wrote:

 

Eric R wrote:
There are some issues with this exception.First, it replies to someone saying "this is offensive, here's an illustration of why" - which is about how something comes across - with an argument about why a writer might practically do such a thing. It's a hair's-breadth away from saying "your perception of what offends you is wrong or irrelevant"(†).

 

You make an excellent point. That was not my intent. Especially as I agree that the specified offensive item is offensive, and merely disagree on why it is offensive.

And doubly agree on the difference between assuming an offensive culture and exploring an offensive culture.

 

These are great points.


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I don't think I have much to add to the gender discussion, but I'm reading with interest. Keep it up!

dpt wrote:

Chaosmancer wrote:

Yeah, I always make sure that when I talk about blight I mention it's terrible and horrible and it wrecks all our stuff because they are destroying the land, then I lean over and stage whisper "They're farming". ...

Oh, that's awesome. I usually mention that they are farming, but not in nearly as dramatic a way.(I feel like there probably are usually battles going on when the Dahan get affected.)

We're just starting to teach people Sprit Island, and I described Blight as "unsustainable farming practices and kids graffiti-ing National Parks and so on."

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Yeah, in my demos at Gen Con, I described it as farming, clear-cutting, and mining, but slash-and-burn farming clearing definitely sounds appropriate. 


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Rabit wrote:

Yeah, in my demos at Gen Con, I described it as farming, clear-cutting, and mining, but slash-and-burn farming clearing definitely sounds appropriate. 

<nod> All of those are right / reasonable / plausible!

(It also depends on the Adversary - different ones are after different things.)

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I don't want to take away from all the great responses here, but my heart went aflutter at Eric's dagger footnote. 

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If you have driven off a road by taking a hard right, you do not get back on the road by pointing your steering wheel straight.

I love this quote. Is this original? I tried to google it, and couldn't find any other references to it.


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PeterCHayward wrote:

If you have driven off a road by taking a hard right, you do not get back on the road by pointing your steering wheel straight.

I love this quote. Is this original? I tried to google it, and couldn't find any other references to it.

Me too, it says exactly what I wanted to say but much better than I could possibly say it.

I am totally stealing this quote.


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PeterCHayward wrote:

If you have driven off a road by taking a hard right, you do not get back on the road by pointing your steering wheel straight.

I love this quote. Is this original? I tried to google it, and couldn't find any other references to it.

So far as I know it's original! (There's always that small chance I thought of the metaphor because I once heard it elsewhere and forgot about it or something.)

The metaphor does presume a certain amount of directionality / momentum / persistence in the domain being discussed. In some areas, this is more obvious - eg, if you're talking about honoring women + men equally via a city's monuments, which currently number 100 men and 0 women, it's a matter of simple math to show that adding 5 men + 5 women each year will never actually reach parity.

But in other areas, it's something that might be challenged, particularly with social dynamics rather than physical icons - eg, some folks don't see how poverty or societal disadvantage due to race self-perpetuate, and if they don't see that, the metaphor may strike them as wrong. Or maybe not! But it's good to be aware of the metaphor's assumptions when using it.

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If you have driven off a road by taking a hard right, you do not get back on the road by pointing your steering wheel straight.

Honestly, it doesn't make sense to me. If the goal is for different groups of people (race, gender, religion, etc.) to be represented more evenly in games, then I think we should start representing them more evenly. How do we know how far right we've drifted? How do we know how far left we need to go? It think trying to correct the problem by overcompensating the other way just opens another can of worms.

For example, it bothers me when in a rule book or RPG book it refers to the player/GM/DM as “she”. It also bothers me when it refers to the player/GM/DM as “he”. Why not just use “they” and be done with it?

But hey, my degree is in Computer Science, so I know very little on this subject.

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My own weird relationship with the idea of representation is that I have a lot of personal traits that are coded masculine by society and especially in fiction, so often even if a work is swimming in female characters I'm still going to feel represented by the male character they gave all of my actual personal traits to.


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Bunston wrote:

Honestly, it doesn't make sense to me. If the goal is for different groups of people (race, gender, religion, etc.) to be represented more evenly in games, then I think we should start representing them more evenly. How do we know how far right we've drifted? How do we know how far left we need to go? It think trying to correct the problem by overcompensating the other way just opens another can of worms.

The key, in my opinion, is that equal representation is not the goal here. The goal is to deprogram our culture of several thousand years of toxic attitudes and stereotypes. Equal representation is both a tool to achieve this goal and a partial metric for how well we are doing, but it's just a part of a larger issue.


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Bunston wrote:
For example, it bothers me when in a rule book or RPG book it refers to the player/GM/DM as “she”. It also bothers me when it refers to the player/GM/DM as “he”. Why not just use “they” and be done with it?
This is 100% the way to write rulebooks! Of course it's still tricky to make sure it's clear who your pronouns are referring to, but that's part of the general issue that rulebook-writing is hard.
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For anyone who's interseted (or at least, anyone who has access to the IPlayer - maybe just people in the UK), there was a really interesting programme on a week or so ago which looked at gender and the way children view it based on the way that adults (subconsciously or otherwise) have led them to think. It was a two-parter (I think each part lasted about an hour) and was called "No More Boys and Girls". They did an experiment with a class of Year 3 (aged seven) children, looking at how they viewed themselves and each other with regard to being male or female, and then worked to try and teach them to view things in a more gender-neutral way. I think stuff usually stays on the IPlayer for about a month so you should still be able to check it out for a while. I found it really interesting 'cause I'm into psychology and all that.


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Yeah, unfortunately BBC's IPlayer is UK-only. crying

We (in Indiana, USA) used to have a VPN that allowed us to get to it, but they started blocking VPNs a couple years ago, killing our access. sad


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Feel free to pay the licence fee that lets the BBC make the programs they do, and that we need to pay to access the iPlayer!


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Matchstickman wrote:

Feel free to pay the licence fee that lets the BBC make the programs they do, and that we need to pay to access the iPlayer!

I didn't know you could do that! surprise Will definitely have to look into that... yes


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Arcanist Lupus wrote:

Bunston wrote:

Honestly, it doesn't make sense to me. If the goal is for different groups of people (race, gender, religion, etc.) to be represented more evenly in games, then I think we should start representing them more evenly. How do we know how far right we've drifted? How do we know how far left we need to go? It think trying to correct the problem by overcompensating the other way just opens another can of worms.

The key, in my opinion, is that equal representation is not the goal here. The goal is to deprogram our culture of several thousand years of toxic attitudes and stereotypes. Equal representation is both a tool to achieve this goal and a partial metric for how well we are doing, but it's just a part of a larger issue.


Eric's metaphor still works even if the goal is equal representation. The problem comes from the fact that you already have a bunch of examples of unequal representation, and adding new items that do represent equally doesn't get rid of the already-existing unequal ones. I would say that the key is actually that the goal isn't just to make sure there is equal representation in games produced going forward, but to work towards a total body of games that has equal representation.
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Ameena wrote:

For anyone who's interseted (or at least, anyone who has access to the IPlayer - maybe just people in the UK), there was a really interesting programme on a week or so ago which looked at gender and the way children view it based on the way that adults (subconsciously or otherwise) have led them to think. It was a two-parter (I think each part lasted about an hour) and was called "No More Boys and Girls". They did an experiment with a class of Year 3 (aged seven) children, looking at how they viewed themselves and each other with regard to being male or female, and then worked to try and teach them to view things in a more gender-neutral way. I think stuff usually stays on the IPlayer for about a month so you should still be able to check it out for a while. I found it really interesting 'cause I'm into psychology and all that.

There's gotta be more to it than just this, though.

Because for instance, I grew up in super-liberal, super-social-equality Western Mass, and yet I'm still the only lady geek I know offline. When I was younger I often got mocked by the other girls for liking "stuff only weird gross boys like". Even around friendly girls I was still treated as a hopeless dweeb who needed to be taught proper girly stuff like makeup & fashion, in my gal pal's bedrooms generally full of teenybopper magazines and posters. Nowadays other women act amazed that I'm a "woman who knows computers", comment that they're personally hopeless with tech, and act like I'm a genius for being able to do things like download and install Android apps.

It's not discouragement that did this, because it didn't exist. My father is the one who initially taught me to be a geek in the first place. (My mother, meanwhile, can barely operate a cordless phone properly.) The teachers & other authority folk always talked about how "girls can do anything" and otherwise never were anything other than encouraging towards the idea that your gender didn't matter. Whenever I wanted to hang out with guys and do whatever they were doing they were always like "sure whatever go for it", and often were even glad I was a "girl who likes geek stuff". When I was the only girl working in a software/video game store because I was the only woman who applied (!), the male employees and customers treated me like it was 100% normal for me to be there, while it was the female customers who were surprised and astonished.

There's a lot of other things in general where I have problems and personality traits that seem to only be talked about as being experienced by men, or only show up in men I meet or male fictional characters. I've also spent a lot of time online being misgendered both accidentally and maliciously. I occasionally half-joke that I feel like I'm really a transman except I'm the only one who didn't get the memo on that being the case.

There's gotta be something there that the folks in my area all listened to the exact same socially equal and supportive messages I did growing up, and the guys all got the memo that girls should be allowed to do anything, and yet I'm still the only girl I know offline that didn't turn out ultra-girly AND the other girls frequently tried to police me into joining them in being ultra-girly both in friendly and unfriendly ways.

Even online this often crops up. Even in fandoms where I've never seen the men be anything other than friendly to women or even actively express and promote progressive ideas, I'm still often one of the very few ladies or the fandoms segregate themselves by gender and I'm one of the few women who hangs out in the "male" side of the fandom too.

So I don't think it's as easy as "just give more gender-neutral messages and be more supportive to women who want to be in male spaces" because even in places where that already happens, women still heavily cling of their own volition to feminine pursuits and women spaces. There's something else we're missing.

I mean I will say getting everyone everywhere to be more encouraging about equality will certainly help pick up more of the already-masculine-inclined women like me, to be sure, since I almost certainly would have been pushed off from my geeky or other "guy" pursuits had the guys gender policed me as much as the other girls did. But I don't think that alone will make any real inroads in women in general.


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If the goal is for different groups of people (race, gender, religion, etc.) to be represented more evenly in games, then I think we should start representing them more evenly. How do we know how far right we've drifted? How do we know how far left we need to go? It think trying to correct the problem by overcompensating the other way just opens another can of worms.

At the risk of getting into dicey political areas (other mods, feel free to delete or edit this) I think "how far right we've drifted" when it comes to representation in games is extremely easy to measure. Open up basically any game, and count the relative number of women and men represented.


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PeterCHayward wrote:

If the goal is for different groups of people (race, gender, religion, etc.) to be represented more evenly in games, then I think we should start representing them more evenly. How do we know how far right we've drifted? How do we know how far left we need to go? It think trying to correct the problem by overcompensating the other way just opens another can of worms.

At the risk of getting into dicey political areas (other mods, feel free to delete or edit this) I think "how far right we've drifted" when it comes to representation in games is extremely easy to measure. Open up basically any game, and count the relative number of women and men represented.

I feel glad I'm an adventure game and RPG fan, since life's always been pretty good there. Especially growing up with Sierra Entertainment which had a lot of ladies doing the creating as well.


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PeterCHayward wrote:

At the risk of getting into dicey political areas (other mods, feel free to delete or edit this) I think "how far right we've drifted" when it comes to representation in games is extremely easy to measure. Open up basically any game, and count the relative number of women and men represented.


It's true that gender representation in board games is easier to measure than most other media because of the prevalence of characters with very little defining them which can therefore be cast as any gender with no other effects. But it's also measured in the art direction for the game and the verbiage of the rulebook.

(By art direction I mostly mean things like how scantily clad the female characters are. But it also means things like the fact that Thunderspeaker, who appears as different genders on different cards is seen as female because its primary art shows a female body. I'm not sure where that stands as far as measuring gender equality goes, but it's definitely part of the equation. )


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Jeysie wrote:

So I don't think it's as easy as "just give more gender-neutral messages and be more supportive to women who want to be in male spaces" because even in places where that already happens, women still heavily cling of their own volition to feminine pursuits and women spaces. There's something else we're missing.

Since having kids, I've become extremely aware of just how many very-low-level messages about gender they're being constantly bombarded by from their first year of life.

Eg: Kids' books - not all kids' books, but on average - seem to skew towards showing certain types of activities enjoyed by boys, and others more by girls. (Assuming they show girls at all - again, many do, but on average the # seems lower.) The longer ago the book was printed, the more pronounced/likely this effect is, so if you've gotten hand-me-down books from parents or friends with older/grown kids, that makes it more pronounced.

Eg: Kids' clothing - how many boy toddlers do you see wearing frills (let alone tights + skirts)? Or pink? Not "none"... but not a lot, either. People on average don't just have different standards for dress, but *pay attention* to clothing in different ways based on gender. (Our son routinely got called "she" at playgrounds while young simply because he liked purple.)

Eg: The words people use when complimenting kids, and what they compliment them for.

Eg: Whether people perceive a given level of noise / aggression as too much, or within normal bounds.

Eg: What sorts of toys people buy as gifts - or what they get offered in a waiting room, or when over at someone's house to play.

Eg: What pronouns people use for people of unknown gender, or "generic person".

The list goes on and on - and it all starts far younger than I think is commonly believed.

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Eric R: Yeah, but... I mean, I was also that kid getting the same messages. I was in the same city, went to the same schools, watched the same Saturday Morning Cartoons. I also grew up in the 80s and 90s which was definitely a rah-rah women era in media even outside of where I live. But I still turned out differently, in a way that caught me a lot of flak as a kid and still leaves me often left out in the cold in discussions of gender dynamics that bear little to no resemblance to my own experiences.

And honestly a lot of gender studies stuff just leaves me scratching my head in confusion because I'm like "That is literally nothing at all like what me or my friends of both sexes went through or thought."

And me being curious about how everything works and why it all works the way it does always makes me wonder what is producing the massive discrepancies I keep stumbling into and occasionally breaking my leg over. I feel uncomfortable whenever I can't figure out why stuff doesn't gel.


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