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BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: The Realism Excuse rss

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Greg
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This article is from my design blog, a few years ago I used to cross-post all of the time to get a wider variety of opinions. I'm not sure why I stopped doing it - I think it's good to hear from more people, so I'm going to get back into it - but only for posts that get a lot of thumbs or comments on the main blog (which is hopefully the most interesting stuff )

Original BGG post

Earlier I saw a question about whether a game should model gender dimorphism. The answer is "99.9% of the time it should not" but it got me thinking about different levels of simulationism and when a factor that exists in the real world is represented in a game.



Think of D&D as an example. Comparing a halfling (A creature 4 feet tall depicted with muscle proportional to its stature) and a human (A creature with poor foresight and an over-inflated opinion of itself) the average difference in strength is two points. So if two points represents the difference, essentially, between a child and an adult then anything less than half of that difference isn't making a difference on the scale that the game models and doesn't need to be included in the game.

So it doesn't need to represent gender differences because they're essentially insignificant on the scale that the game cares about. (Side note: Gender differences are typically much smaller than the average person estimates) So it's not included in that context and isn't relevant to any game operating on a similar scale. Case closed.

Except that's not quite true. Examining the system in more detail it's apparent that the it's not simply a simulation of the world that doesn't care about any effect below a certain size. There are plenty of examples of this, I'm personally a fan of the observation that most things can become more Charismatic by setting themselves on fire, but keeping to the "Strength" theme - compare the range to the modifier. A +2 difference for halfling vs human would imply that a halfling will be stronger than a human about 28% of the time.

Call me cocky, but I'm confident that I can beat up a child in the 28th percentile.

So it's not so much that it's not simulating below a certain level of detail as that it's not simulating accurately in the first place. Most things in the game try to bear some relation to realism: More dexterous people are less likely to fall off things, poisons kill slower than stabbings, swimming is harder in plate mail etc. However in the comparisons between these things the simulation is not consistent and has stayed that way through several editions despite millions of players.

In short, it simply doesn't care if it's wrong.



Which demonstrates a point that I wanted to make with this article. The average games does not have a single abstraction layer, beneath which details do matter and above which are all of the ones that do. They actually have three:

The first is gross effects. These are truths that are undeniable and ingrained to the part that a game feels deeply counter intuitive if you contradict them. Stuff like "If you walk towards a thing you get closer to it." Where these are relevant they'll either be implemented or the game will need to do something to lampshade why they are not.

The second is observable effects. These are things that could affect the outcome and most people observing a situation would be aware of them. If a character is firing a gun you might expect it to matter how close the target is, what cover they're behind, what sort of gun it is, how well trained the shooter is, how long they've had to take their shot, what the weather is, what the lighting is like etc. The average game simulates only a very small number of observable effects. It's generally taken as red by most players that it's okay for a game to focus on the most important or most interesting of these.

The third is tiny effects. These are things that don't make enough of a difference to register on the scale that the game has established. Generally these are ignored and when one is allowed to have an impact it tends to be jarring to the players.



So a lot of the time when a game talks about "realism", you're moving two lines around to define what this game is going to simulate. Importantly everything in the gap between the lines (i.e. between "So obvious it must be included" and "Too small to ever be included") is included at the game designer's discretion.

A good designer will exercise this discretion to include factors that create a better game. Exactly how that's done will depend on the game and you'd expect the process of playtesting to cause a designer to switch up the factors that they choose to attend to, based on how it effects the visceral experience of the game. Ultimately everything that's included at this level should be on the basis of "This will make the game more enjoyable/competitive/whatever", it's a red herring to pursue being more realistic.

There is a tendency for some designers to want to insert particular things because they would like the game to act as a vehicle for their beliefs. I have no inherent problem with that - games are a cultural medium and affect and display out thinking as much as any other - but it should be honest. A person standing up and saying "This is what I believe." I don't think it's good to hide behind a pretense of realism. If nothing else you'll muddy your message by not being clear about your intention to project it.

If you ever feel that you must insert something "because it's realistic" ask whether there's anything else that has a greater influence on the factor you're examining that hasn't been modeled. For example if you're considering modelling the impact on gender dimorphism on strength have you already accounted for regional variation, genetic qualities of individual parents, available diet in the region and socioeconomic class the character grew up, level of activity in daily life and so on. If the answer is "yes" then the factor you're considering is in the discretionary zone and there's no "realism" argument supporting it.



The main argument for such factors must boil down to "Does this make the game better or worse?" Be prepared to think in those terms and to discuss in those terms. More often than not, realism is an excuse. Whether that's to avoid making a technically difficult change when what you've got is okay. Or to insert an opinion that you want to share but don't want to admit. Or to defend a mechanism that you're attached to emotionally but has done poorly in playtesting. It's an excuse. To yourself as well as to others.

We make better games when we don't make excuses.
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Michael McElroy

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x_equals_speed wrote:


Call me cocky


Cocky!
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Greg
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Headlines from the future: "Local Game Designer Punches Child. Claims 'Someone was wrong on the internet'"
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Yaron Davidson
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Why are you assuming that halflings would be equivalent (in matters of strength) to human children? Just because they look generally humanoid, have a similar general size, and when looked at they don't look muscular?

The ideas that their muscles would behave the same, be identically placed in the body and similarly constructed, and that the impression of muscle strength would have the same visual impact from outside, already relies on the assumption that they're physically exactly humanoid. Are you sure this isn't a baseless assumption? They're not human, there's no justification to assume they'll be physically identical.

As a more obvious example of different and potentially unrealistic things are different, it's extremely rare to see a vampire in any setting not extremely stronger than a human, and similarly very rare to see a depiction of a muscly vampire. And most types of vampires do come from humans so there's already a guaranteed large physiological overlap to begin with, unlike halflings.

Mind you, not disagreeing with the main point of your post. But the example you keep dragging through it is bad. The strength of the (non real and so non realistic) race of halflings doesn't match what you'd expect from (real and realistic) human children, ergo they're not modeled realistically (in as far as you can realistically model something that isn't in any way real)? There's a missing step on the chain there.

[edit:typo]
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Pete
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Quote:
Except that's not quite true. Examining the system in more detail it's apparent that the it's not simply a simulation of the world that doesn't care about any effect below a certain size. There are plenty of examples of this, I'm personally a fan of the observation that most things can become more Charismatic by setting themselves on fire, but keeping to the "Strength" theme - compare the range to the modifier. A +2 difference for halfling vs human would imply that a halfling will be stronger than a human about 28% of the time.

Call me cocky, but I'm confident that I can beat up a child in the 28th percentile.


Why did you go straight to child strength, though? A child with the strength of an adult human in the 28th percentile might be something to be reckoned with.

Pete (would hate to mess with his own 7-year old with that kind of strength)
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Andrew Brown
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relevant video

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Richard Keiser

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plezercruz wrote:
Quote:
Except that's not quite true. Examining the system in more detail it's apparent that the it's not simply a simulation of the world that doesn't care about any effect below a certain size. There are plenty of examples of this, I'm personally a fan of the observation that most things can become more Charismatic by setting themselves on fire, but keeping to the "Strength" theme - compare the range to the modifier. A +2 difference for halfling vs human would imply that a halfling will be stronger than a human about 28% of the time.

Call me cocky, but I'm confident that I can beat up a child in the 28th percentile.


Why did you go straight to child strength, though? A child with the strength of an adult human in the 28th percentile might be something to be reckoned with.

Pete (would hate to mess with his own 7-year old with that kind of strength)


(Would pay to see that fight)
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Pete
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plezercruz wrote:
Quote:
Except that's not quite true. Examining the system in more detail it's apparent that the it's not simply a simulation of the world that doesn't care about any effect below a certain size. There are plenty of examples of this, I'm personally a fan of the observation that most things can become more Charismatic by setting themselves on fire, but keeping to the "Strength" theme - compare the range to the modifier. A +2 difference for halfling vs human would imply that a halfling will be stronger than a human about 28% of the time.

Call me cocky, but I'm confident that I can beat up a child in the 28th percentile.


Why did you go straight to child strength, though? A child with the strength of an adult human in the 28th percentile might be something to be reckoned with.

Pete (would hate to mess with his own 7-year old with that kind of strength)
Also, the fact that any given halfling will be stronger than any given human 28% of the time does not mean that the upper limit of halfling strength is the 28th percentile of human strength.

Pete (thinks you fudged something there)
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John Burt
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Shorter version: the validity of a realism argument can be assessed using a Lowest Common Realism Denominator rule. For example, if a game has halflings, then varying PCs based on gender because "realism" is pretty damn lame. I'll buy that.
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Ryan Keane
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What's the opposing view you are arguing against?

Is there a designer saying I have to include gender differences in stats because I want to simulate the real-world?

Or is the designer saying I want to incorporate variation in characters and a very easy way to do that and that is easily relatable to players is to have player cards with male and female versions on different sides, with males good at some things and worse and other things, and vice versa with the females, so players get to make a choice how they want to specialize, rather than having socioeconomic status, diet, or whatever as the characteristic difference between the 2 sides?

I agree don't use realism as an excuse to include or keep a game mechanic or design feature that doesn't make it more fun and enjoyable. But you should use realism to support the game mechanics that do improve the game so that is easier to understand and relate to, and give players choices about things they care about.

I am all for designers thinking outside the traditional paradigms and thinking more carefully about the variation in people, elves, halflings, whatever, that really matter in the real or your imaginary world. I mean, you title the thread realism and then your first example is whether halflings are modeled realistically?! Where are these halflings you speak of? If there are orcs and halflings walking around in your world, can't female humans be significantly smaller than male humans in that same world. Maybe female halflings have 4 arms and super-human strength in your world! The designer doesn't have to come out and say "I believe in extreme gender differences in halflings and am sticking it in my game." It will be a surprise when you flip over that halfling card and are like "Dude! 4 arms!" and you roll with it.

How many times have you played a game and said "I want to play a female today - her stats look interesting and I can role-play differently."? I would assume a lot of players have. Conversely, how many times have you said "I wish this game allowed me to play a vegan, who should have overall better stats than a meat-eater slowly dying of cancer and heart disease." I have, but I'm weird.
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Francisco Gutierrez
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Ryan Keane wrote:


How many times have you played a game and said "I want to play a female today - her stats look interesting and I can role-play differently."? I would assume a lot of players have.


What? Males and females don't have different stats in mainstream roleplaying games. Perhaps more importantly, roleplaying your stats itsn't roleplaying.

If you want to play as a woman in an RPG, go for it, but don't use "I'm a woman" as your main character trait...
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Yaron Davidson
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Ryan Keane wrote:
What's the opposing view you are arguing against?

Is there a designer saying I have to include gender differences in stats because I want to simulate the real-world?

I think he used this as a (realistic) example for a general case. It is pretty common to see design decisions of the sort being explained/justified by "this is to make things realistic".

And this example does happen. Not, that I'm aware, in the main/common pen&paper RPGs, but certainly in video game RPGs (less these days) and in boardgames. Heck, there were plenty of cRPGs where as a part of character creation you chose between male or female, with a fixed difference of 1 or 2 points less STR for female, compensated for by 1 or 2 points extra in CHR (or DEX?).
This could also be done less explicitly, when the playable character set is limited. In those cases stats vary between characters, of course, but usually the male characters would all (or vast majority) have higher STR than the female ones.

Ryan Keane wrote:
I agree don't use realism as an excuse to include or keep a game mechanic or design feature that doesn't make it more fun and enjoyable. But you should use realism to support the game mechanics that do improve the game so that is easier to understand and relate to, and give players choices about things they care about.

No arguments from me here. Again I think that the point was going against a very real (heh) response to some criticism of design decisions (esp. in socially/politically relevant subjects such as gender, race, and such) in games by "this is more realistic". Examples from gender come in the strength issue used by OP (though again I think not in mainstream pen and paper RPGs), in mere existance on some settings (e.g. medieval-like fantasy battlefield doesn't include any female characters, because "it's not realistic", while having orcs and wizards), and plenty of others.

Ryan Keane wrote:
I mean, you title the thread realism and then your first example is whether halflings are modeled realistically?! Where are these halflings you speak of?

Yes, that seemed a bit odd to me as well. I suppose there was an intent to mix with the "there are imaginary halflings there and you still insist on justifying all women being weaker due to realism??" notes, but that didn't happen in the post.

Ryan Keane wrote:
If there are orcs and halflings walking around in your world, can't female humans be significantly smaller than male humans in that same world.

Sure, they can also be bigger and stronger. Or about the same. Thing is, there are no realistic cases of games where in-game female humans are presented as all stronger than the males, and if there was any I'm pretty sure the explanations won't include "realism". Yet there are a lot of cases where all in-game females are modeled noticeably weaker than males, and explanations/excuses are often "this is because in real life women are weaker", never mind the care taken (or lack thereof) to keep realism in the existence of orcs or wizards or sentient robots, and never mind that (point sort of attempted to be made of by OP) the real life statistical difference is much much weaker than other things that the game design doesn't bother to explicitly model (and probably should have been if the important part was "we want the design as realistic as possible up to a threshold" rather than (in the example) "we want women to be weaker because women are weak and men are strong, dammit!".

Ryan Keane wrote:
It will be a surprise when you flip over that halfling card and are like "Dude! 4 arms!" and you roll with it.

No, that would probably result in a lot of complaints because halflings are, at this point, a relatively well established and known fantasy race, and while there are a lot of variations they don't include 4 arms so these aren't "real fantastical" halflings.
Which of course will stop being a big problem if this was picked up, or what used it was popular enough (see sparkling vampires), but there would absolutely be a lot of initial complaints about the far (And not quite explainable because why do this with established halflings rather with a new fantasy race or an established 4-armed fantasy race?) deviation from the expectation.

Ryan Keane wrote:
How many times have you played a game and said "I want to play a female today - her stats look interesting and I can role-play differently."? I would assume a lot of players have.

This I assume is for fixed pre-made characters? Yes, it does happen.
But usually these stats would have lower strength than in male characters.
And the more real-world example would be actual cases in various computer games of me really wanting to play male/female characters but choosing the other one because for the style I wanted to play the associated stats were more important.

Ryan Keane wrote:
Conversely, how many times have you said "I wish this game allowed me to play a vegan, who should have overall better stats than a meat-eater slowly dying of cancer and heart disease." I have, but I'm weird.

What better stats would those be? The higher difficulty in finding food on missions that the character is willing to eat? The lack of calories in many of those foods requiring the spend more time eating higher amounts? The iron deficiencies or time/money spent trying to compensate?
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Ryan Keane
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joetaco wrote:
Ryan Keane wrote:


How many times have you played a game and said "I want to play a female today - her stats look interesting and I can role-play differently."? I would assume a lot of players have.


What? Males and females don't have different stats in mainstream roleplaying games. Perhaps more importantly, roleplaying your stats itsn't roleplaying.

If you want to play as a woman in an RPG, go for it, but don't use "I'm a woman" as your main character trait...


I've played board games where the female character had different stats. Yes, these are usually paired with a different class as well (e.g. male fighter, female cleric), but you could argue either way if the differences in stats is because of gender, class, who has the letter I in their name , whatever.

By roleplaying, I meant things like I want to be married to the other male character, or I want to be a lesbian, or I want to personify Boudicca.... not that I'm pretending to be weaker or stronger than the stat on my player sheet.
 
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Ryan Keane
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yarondav wrote:

Ryan Keane wrote:
Conversely, how many times have you said "I wish this game allowed me to play a vegan, who should have overall better stats than a meat-eater slowly dying of cancer and heart disease." I have, but I'm weird.

What better stats would those be? The higher difficulty in finding food on missions that the character is willing to eat? The lack of calories in many of those foods requiring the spend more time eating higher amounts? The iron deficiencies or time/money spent trying to compensate?


Higher constitution and hit points because you're eating a healthier diet. Greater charisma for the opposite gender because of your more healthy complexion, lower charisma for the same gender because they think your diet choices are weird.

You don't have to make a food poisoning roll when you eat at inns. You don't have to make "premature death from preventable disease" rolls once you hit level 10.

More money spent at towns on food before adventures. Greater pack weight from carrying food. Greater knowledge of wild edible plants. No time wasted hunting animals. Ogres won't smell all the animal grease on your clothes.
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Rob Doupe
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x_equals_speed wrote:

The main argument for such factors must boil down to "Does this make the game better or worse?" Be prepared to think in those terms and to discuss in those terms. More often than not, realism is an excuse. Whether that's to avoid making a technically difficult change when what you've got is okay. Or to insert an opinion that you want to share but don't want to admit. Or to defend a mechanism that you're attached to emotionally but has done poorly in playtesting. It's an excuse. To yourself as well as to others.


I disagree. Some designers and players want to incorporate historical reality into their games because they find history engaging and interesting. The whole genre of wargames often involves researching and accurately representing real-life units, real-life maps, and real-life personalities. Someone could design a U.S. Civil War game with half of the generals depicted as women. That doesn't mean someone who chooses to make all of the generals the men, as they were in reality, is using realism as an excuse to insert an opinion they don't want to admit.

Or someone could design a game about the exploration and conquest of the New World. He could make the conquistadors generic rather than historical, and make half of them women. Perfectly legitimate design choice. It's also a perfectly legitimate design choice to make them all men, as was the case historically. If a designer gets inspiration from source material - in this case history - then it's presumptions for anyone else to criticise them for showing fidelity to that inspiration.

Designers are inspired by what they're inspired by. History, fantasy, science, art. If a designer's presentation of that theme doesn't accord with your own sensibilities about the subject, then feel free to consider whether you want to play it or not. But there's no need to tell designers (or players) which thematic treatments are legitimate and which aren't.
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nat tact
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I find this thread very interesting but I am not sure what anything posted means.
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Chris Williams

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A number of "euro" style games are really just abstract strategy games. You have choices you can make that only make sense in a puzzley/mechanically interesting sense. Why does a knight move like an L? Why can I only perform an action within 3 spaces on a circle?

From a purely technical standpoint, these don't matter, just whether the mechanism is interesting and balanced for play.

But most people, shopping for games, when they pick up a game which advertises itself as being about trekking through the jungle, they're expecting to find something when they open the box that will exude the aura of trekking through the jungle. If they open it and are instead presented with a game that's little more than Stratego, they're probably not going to be too pleased with the purchase. Some don't and are perfectly happy to find a Stratego-like game, regardless of what the color palette is that's been applied to it. But, in general, there should be some link to the theme.

But similarly, when most people pick up a game, they're expecting a set of rules that could mostly fit on a single page of paper. (A 20-30 page manual should mostly exist to solve ambiguities and present examples and diagrams.) If they open it and encounter 200 pages of stereo instructions, in the name of "realism", they're not going to be too impressed. Again, there's someone out there who's going to think that's the best thing ever. But, in general, that's not ideal.

Realism is good, to the extent that it brings out the theme of the game. Streamlined, interesting mechanisms are good, to the extent that they keep the game interesting and not too crazy to learn.

There's probably some game where it would be interesting to model halflings and gender dimorphism, but it would really need to be integral to the theme. And, outside of a Phil Eklund game, that's probably not very likely.
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Rob Doupe wrote:
x_equals_speed wrote:

The main argument for such factors must boil down to "Does this make the game better or worse?" Be prepared to think in those terms and to discuss in those terms. More often than not, realism is an excuse. Whether that's to avoid making a technically difficult change when what you've got is okay. Or to insert an opinion that you want to share but don't want to admit. Or to defend a mechanism that you're attached to emotionally but has done poorly in playtesting. It's an excuse. To yourself as well as to others.


I disagree. Some designers and players want to incorporate historical reality into their games because they find history engaging and interesting. The whole genre of wargames often involves researching and accurately representing real-life units, real-life maps, and real-life personalities. Someone could design a U.S. Civil War game with half of the generals depicted as women. That doesn't mean someone who chooses to make all of the generals the men, as they were in reality, is using realism as an excuse to insert an opinion they don't want to admit.

Or someone could design a game about the exploration and conquest of the New World. He could make the conquistadors generic rather than historical, and make half of them women. Perfectly legitimate design choice. It's also a perfectly legitimate design choice to make them all men, as was the case historically. If a designer gets inspiration from source material - in this case history - then it's presumptions for anyone else to criticise them for showing fidelity to that inspiration.

Designers are inspired by what they're inspired by. History, fantasy, science, art. If a designer's presentation of that theme doesn't accord with your own sensibilities about the subject, then feel free to consider whether you want to play it or not. But there's no need to tell designers (or players) which thematic treatments are legitimate and which aren't.

I think you are arguing with a different post than the one you quoted.
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Greg
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Quick roundup of points:

I was talking about a child in the 28 percentile of their age group. As in the toughest 28 children selected from a sample of 100.

The geek science video is amazing It draws pretty much the same conclusion I did in terms of raw strength (Though uses the more scientific muscle cross section where I just observed little arms). Didn't consider that a halfling can jump hella high because of their strength relative to their weight. Though that applies equally to the video.

Don't buy "The game has halflings" as an argument against realism. Generally it's acceptable to take that sort of thing as premise without becoming unrealistic. I think in general players would observe a detailed model of a world which took elves and dwarves as axiomatic to be more realistic than a game set in the real world but with rules that allowed someone to bisect a tank with a katana. Realism in games is generally thought of more in terms of internal consistency - Given the world of this game does it make sense?

Original post was in response to reading a specific thread, but as observed, it's not like it's a particularly rare thread. You see it pop up from time to time.

"Does it make the game better?" includes being more accurate if the point of the game is to be really accurate and that's the designer's measure of quality. Indeed if you want to perfectly model a particular conflict on every level go for it - some games do and some players love that.

My claim is that a game sets its abstraction layers at some points and making realism claims outside of them is bullshit. A super realistic depiction of some piece of history needs to fit that just so. But once someone starts deciding that it's okay to be unrealistic on a bunch of levels, but not for representations sake I call shenanigans.
 
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At the end of the day, a game is a model of.....something. Insert those factors you feel to be key to your model.

If sexual or gender differnces are key to your game model, put them. I cant imagine how a game like Blood Royale, a game about medieval dynastic politics, could exist without them.

On the other hand, Formula De probably doesn't need such distinctions.

But at the end of the day, a game is about what the designer says its about. He or she might be wrong....

....but that is what critics are for!

Darilian
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Ryan Keane
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x_equals_speed wrote:

Don't buy "The game has halflings" as an argument against realism. Generally it's acceptable to take that sort of thing as premise without becoming unrealistic. I think in general players would observe a detailed model of a world which took elves and dwarves as axiomatic to be more realistic than a game set in the real world but with rules that allowed someone to bisect a tank with a katana. Realism in games is generally thought of more in terms of internal consistency - Given the world of this game does it make sense?


My Silver Samurai character can cut tanks like butta with his adamantium katana. Seems equally realistic in my superhero world as elves and dwarves in your fantasy world.

My point was for an imaginary world, realism is whatever you make it. I was being extreme with my 4-armed super-strong female halflings, but designers don't need to, and in my opinion shouldn't, follow fantasy tropes like they're a mandate. It might seem stupid to call a race of green-skinned scaly 7-foot tall beings as halflings, but what if there's another race of green-skinned scaly 14-foot beings? What do they call their shorter brethren?

I'm not really disagreeing with you, I just feel both sides of this argument ("Gender differences are necessary for realism sake" or "Gender differences are not realistic") are circular arguments that can't be supported either way. Male chauvinism is a problem in the fantasy genre in general, stats in many fantasy games reflect that chauvinism, and we should push designers to avoid following chauvanistic tropes regardless of what excuses can be made to include them. European Americans used to believe Africans and Native Americans were inferior in intelligence, and from a European academic perspective they were generally less educated, but I don't really want or need my games that take place in colonial America to reflect this (and there are wargames that unfortunately portray Indian units as weaker, disorganized, low morale, ready to flee, etc.)
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Greg
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A game set in the real world doesn't have superheroes.

Unless you know something I don't?

My point was about internal consistency - if your game is set in the real world having the tank-katana thing would be considered unrelaistic. If your game is set in a world with super heroes it could be considered realistic - but again as long as it were consistent. It'd feel weird if you could cut the tank in half but that it wouldn't work on (say) a postbox due to some rules quirk.

What feels relistic in a game depends upon the context established by the premises of that game.

I'm all up for sidestepping fantasy tropes to do something cool and original
 
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Peter Karis
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A year, or maybe two years ago there was a lengthy thread where I objected against casually making human female warriors physically as strong as human male warriors in games (rpg's, computer rpg's, or games in general utilising character stats) Some people went ballistic because, I assume, a lot of people are so far removed from the world of combat sports or physical exercise in general, that they actually think women on average are as strong as men! After all, that's what the extreme feminists on tumblr or where-ever keep telling us, and a lot of people seem to buy it at face value. Someone suggested that if I "went to the gym, I'd see some pretty strong women there!", probably blissfully unaware that I have actually been to the gym, unlike the majority of boardgamers I take it, and despite my regular visits there and witnessing the custom of some very fit female individuals, I'm yet to see a single woman who looks like they could handle themselves in an actual fight - especially if the opposition consisted of beasts the size of a man or larger, as is usually the case in the typical fantasy setting. The strength and weight difference between men and women is a biological fact I'm afraid, and if a game designer wants to ignore that because "hey it's fantasy, there are dragons and orcs there already so why not strong women too?" then I say go for it, but I personally find it silly and dispelling. Silly and dispelling in the same way as having an encounter with a vampire who's wearing a propeller hat and riding a moped.
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I've definitely come across women who can definitely handle themselves in an actual fight - two come to mind, one's ex-military and the other's a martial arts instructor.

Certainly in those fields they represent minorities, as you say, the averages are not the same. That's pretty demonstrable.

My challenge is that a game that insists on modelling that average while failing to model things at the same level of abstraction is probably not insisting for the sake of fidelity. I'd argue that the vast majority of rpgs, computer rpg's and games in general do not model at a level that the average gender difference is more significant than other factors they choose to ignore.
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Peter Karis
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Ryan Keane wrote:
European Americans used to believe Africans and Native Americans were inferior in intelligence, and from a European academic perspective they were generally less educated, but I don't really want or need my games that take place in colonial America to reflect this (and there are wargames that unfortunately portray Indian units as weaker, disorganized, low morale, ready to flee, etc.)


I don't own any games with such a theme, but just to comment on your last sentence there: military organisation is not something that's somehow inherent in the blood of people. The European-style military organisation is (and was in the 18th-19th centuries) a product of centuries of military science and development. It is more than plausible that a unit of a military force whose technology is something like 600 years behind that of its adversary, is also a lot less organised if measured using the same metrics. The same overwhelming technological headway that the colonists had against the natives would also very plausible cause the natives to have comparatively lower morale and make them "weaker".
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