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Subject: Male vs Female characters rss

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Mike Strickland
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In a game that has characters, does it matter to you whether they are all male or female? Specifically, if you are a woman, do you mind playing a male character in the game and vice versa for guys? Right now I have six characters in a game that are still in the developmental stage. I have 4 males and 2 females, and the game is for 2-6 players. Should I make it 3 males and 3 females, or does it even matter?
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Dan Likos
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Can you "flip" the character card like in Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island so you have 6 of each?

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T. Nomad
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Without more details, I see no reason not to go 3/3.
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David Sevier
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Yeah, generally speaking it's best to go 50/50 for Male/Female unless you have a particular reason not to. But it depends a lot on the game in question.
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Nate K
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As a feminist, I almost always choose to play as a strong female character.
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Allison Macrae
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I think the best way to answer questions like the is to ask yourself why the gender divide is 4/2 in the first place. There are some contexts in which gender equality don't make sense, such as some faithful historical board games. Is there a good reason for your 4/2 split? Or is it currently 4/2 because you find it easier to imagine a wider diversity of male characters because that's what gets portrayed in the media?

Players shouldn't have to defend their desire to see female representation in games reflect reality, designers should be able to defend their decision to uphold the fact that women make up %50 of the population, or not. I'm quite willing to accept a game that has a 6/0 gender split, if there's a good reason for it, or I can be upset at a game, even if it has a 3/3 split, if the female characters are all portrayed poorly.

But, historical accuracy aside, bear in mind the fact that there are plenty of people who want the opportunity to play a woman in a game, and you should feel that there is a particularly compelling reason to deny them that opportunity. I'd suggest, playtest a game or two where you switch the genders of all your characters, and see how that leaves you feeling about them. Is there a problem with it, or are you just not used to seeing the heavy combat character as a woman and the sexy spy as a man?
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Makes no difference. The only person I play with who cares about such things is my son (he wants to play a boy).

Make 'em all girls, all boys, or split 3 of each. Who cares, unless it's a kid's game?
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Rachel Poulos
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Desiderata wrote:
Makes no difference. The only person I play with who cares about such things is my son (he wants to play a boy).

Make 'em all girls, all boys, or split 3 of each. Who cares, unless it's a kid's game?


I care. It is not any particular instantiation of gender imbalance that gets me riled, it's the trend. I think any thought, "gender isn't important to being an interesting character, so why does it matter that all interesting characters are men?" is quite frankly, a stupid argument. If it doesn't matter to the men of the world the gender of their characters; I will accept their offer to now make the balance 70% women and 30% men.

Seeing yourself reflected in the world represents your standing in the world. The media (including board games), at current, shows us women are not of equal consideration.

As far as kids goes, it is especially important because they are currently being molded by these messages. I did have a little girl go through all the characters of a game I brought out, say "ugh! These are all boys!" and decide not to play. She understood that the game was not made for her.

How does being older change that message?
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Hello!

Personally, I try to romantisize (not in the sense of love) the stories my characters experience in the games. Being male myself, I prefer to use female fictional characters as I find it easier to project desirable traits into them as they are farther away from my reality (I am not looking for a representation of a real life person but rather for representations of ideals and ideas). Thus, having female characters available makes it easier for me to experience the escapism I am looking for in my games.

Therefore, I am in favour of having female characters available, and given that there are probably also people who view it the other way around or simply differently, I suggest to try to keep male-female ratios balanced (and personally, I do not like historic games, so I don't mind if the original Tales of the Arabian Nights unhistorically offered a 50:50 ratio).

Yours,
Deathworks
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Rob Harper
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Hi Mike. Good on you for raising the question!

Personally I don't mind if my character is male or female (though if it's an actual roleplaying game I feel uneasy playing a female). However, I really do like to see a gender mix of characters in games. And furthermore, it's great to see female characters that aren't in stereotypically female roles.

On major reason for this is that I have a 7 year old daughter who loves playing games. Where there are characters to choose, she likes to play a female. In many games this restricts her choice to "witch" or "princess" or something like that. In games where the female roles extend beyond that, there are still cliches: female warriors are scantily clad, etc. I know your question has nothing to do with sexualisation, but be wary of it.

On a more general note, do we want our games to be inclusive and appeal to a wider audience?

Without knowing more, your 4+2 mix sounds not-too-bad, but it depends on the roles given to the female characters. 3+3 would probably be better.

For bonus credits, though, would it be feasible to have alternate male and female identities for the characters? If you can decide to be a female barbarian just by flipping the character card, that would be awesome. A few games do this sort of thing already, but if this became the norm, I for one would be celebrating.
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Filip W.
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I also care.

In fact, I've specifically avoided buying games that feature gender or race stereotypes, especially the fantasy "humongous dude" and "semi-naked chick" stereotypes.

If you can, make the characters flippable and let players choose what to play. If back story is important, make up separate back stories for both sides (if you can't use the same one).

The investment in time and money is very small, but the advantages of a player finding a character he/she loves are huge.
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John
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Since a few people have suggested it here is a random character from Robinson Crusoe:



I've never seen this before but I like it and it's a reasonably good solution. The only possible downsides I can think of are:

It'd allow all male or all female players even with 4+ players (which a 3/3 split wouldn't) - it'd be possible that there might be some game play reason why this might matter (The Mystic Wood being a game where the gender of your character occasionally matters)

People could always chose a character who matched their gender and might feel some social pressure to do so (whereas with a 3/3 split with differing player abilities gives a reason to chose different characters).
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John
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Another option would be to go for a 4/4, 5/5 or 6/6 split, with all the characters not being used each time. Whether that was practical would probably depend on how many other cards your game needed, and it'd make more sense if the characters differed in game powers, win conditions etc.
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Maya
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goatsarecool wrote:
Desiderata wrote:
Makes no difference. The only person I play with who cares about such things is my son (he wants to play a boy).

Make 'em all girls, all boys, or split 3 of each. Who cares, unless it's a kid's game?


I care. It is not any particular instantiation of gender imbalance that gets me riled, it's the trend. I think any thought, "gender isn't important to being an interesting character, so why does it matter that all interesting characters are men?" is quite frankly, a stupid argument. If it doesn't matter to the men of the world the gender of their characters; I will accept their offer to now make the balance 70% women and 30% men.

Seeing yourself reflected in the world represents your standing in the world. The media (including board games), at current, shows us women are not of equal consideration.

As far as kids goes, it is especially important because they are currently being molded by these messages. I did have a little girl go through all the characters of a game I brought out, say "ugh! These are all boys!" and decide not to play. She understood that the game was not made for her.

How does being older change that message?


I was all set to spend half an hour writing something that would have looked very much like this. Thank you for saving me the time.
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Shawn George
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Personally, I wouldn't care if it were all male, all female, 50/50, or some other split. As long as it makes sense for the theme of the game, and doesn't attempt to change what's logical in order to appease the "PC" crowd, I'm happy.
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Asger Harding Granerud
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What if I was making a cycling game. A sport where all publicity and sponsorship is centered around the male athletes in real life.

It is themed in the 1930-40s, which only makes any gender bias even more explicit.

Yet I'm still considering making a gender split in the 10 riders. I'm leaning to 6/4 with the majority going to the males.

Regards
Asger Granerud
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Mike Strickland
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Thank you all very much for the feedback, this really clarifies to me the consensus! I have always wondered what the general population thinks about this, so I know what I need to do now. I will make it 50/50 or 3/3. I certainly want to be fair and represent the population as it is. On another note, these characters will be mostly alien, but not so far off that you can't tell what gender they are. Having that said, I also think the suggestions for flipping the cards and having a male on one side and female on the other are a great idea, but wouldn't work for my game because of the way it's set up. But I will keep that in mind on my next game Here is an example of my first alien character card, as you can see, there will be information about that character on the back of the card. This particular one is a male.



Thanks again for each of your feedback, much appreciated! By the way, the name of this game is Tau Ceti, I should have a page on here set up pretty soon and will begin play testing (probably via printplaygames.com) sometime before the summer in case anyone is interested. It will involve miniatures, space travel, mining, trading, resource management, economic manipulation, battle, technology development, and.. a special twist!
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AsgerSG wrote:
What if I was making a cycling game. A sport where all publicity and sponsorship is centered around the male athletes in real life.

It is themed in the 1930-40s, which only makes any gender bias even more explicit.

Yet I'm still considering making a gender split in the 10 riders. I'm leaning to 6/4 with the majority going to the males.

Regards
Asger Granerud

Sometimes there is a very good, valid reason for a gender imbalance in a given game (or movie, or TV show, etc). And there's nothing wrong with any particular game being skewed more one way than the other.

But when you look at all the games in existence, you start to notice an overall trend: in general, there is much more focus on men than on women. The fact that the question of gender balance is always framed in terms of "how many women should I add to this game to make it feel even?" shows that the default focus is male.

And again, it doesn't matter that one individual game is weighted to one side. You could make an all-male cycling game and it would make sense for the theme that you've chosen, and there wouldn't be anything biased about it when viewed by itself. But the game wouldn't exist in a vacuum, and it would be contributing to the overall imbalance.
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Bobb Beauchamp
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It matters. I have no problem getting my son to play games with me. He doesn't care about gender.

My daughter is a completely different case. The first thing she looks for is whether there are any girl figures/characters she can play. She won't always play them, but if she sees none, she has zero interest in even trying the game.

It doesn't matter to everyone, but for the people that it does matter, it can mean everything. There may be those odd few people that won't play a game because there's gender equality presented in the characters, but I really don't think there's enough that it will make any impact. There are, however, a lot of people that won't even touch a game if they don't see any effort made to give them an avatar they can relate to. And it's usually such an easy matter to be more inclusive, I don't understand why every game designer working today hasn't embraced this approach.
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Rachel Poulos
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kingbobb wrote:
It matters. I have no problem getting my son to play games with me. He doesn't care about gender.

My daughter is a completely different case. The first thing she looks for is whether there are any girl figures/characters she can play. She won't always play them, but if she sees none, she has zero interest in even trying the game.

It doesn't matter to everyone, but for the people that it does matter, it can mean everything. There may be those odd few people that won't play a game because there's gender equality presented in the characters, but I really don't think there's enough that it will make any impact. There are, however, a lot of people that won't even touch a game if they don't see any effort made to give them an avatar they can relate to. And it's usually such an easy matter to be more inclusive, I don't understand why every game designer working today hasn't embraced this approach.


Of course your son doesn't care about gender imbalance as much as your daughter. He's represented. This is confirmation bias.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Consider this: what would happen if ALL the characters are female?

I would still play it. In fact, 15 years ago, I started making as many of my RPG characters female, if I had a chance to do so. I've certainly met many MMORPG players who do the same, for various reasons.

I guess it depends on target audience.
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Shawn George
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goatsarecool wrote:
Of course your son doesn't care about gender imbalance as much as your daughter. He's represented. This is confirmation bias.


And this is an ad hominem. Just because his son is male, doesn't make his viewpoint on gender representation invalid.
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Rachel Poulos
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Putts wrote:
goatsarecool wrote:
Of course your son doesn't care about gender imbalance as much as your daughter. He's represented. This is confirmation bias.


And this is an ad hominem. Just because his son is male, doesn't make his viewpoint on gender representation invalid.


Your right, your son's gender is irrelevant to your son having a view point or its validity, but that was not the argument I was making - thus you are making a straw man argument. My point is that unless your son is a feral child (which we have established he is not), gender affects his perception of himself, and the world. It has nothing to do with what gender he is, gender effects all of our perceptions, and our coping with the world.

Consider the last 10 characters your son has played. Even further, consider the last 10 protagonists your son has encountered in books, television, movies, ect. I'm going to ballpark that for each the split is at best 30% female 70% male. The exact split is irrelevant other than accepting that it is skewed male.

Your son and your daughter and all of us encounter the world within this narrative. The difference is that it is less likely to bother your son. Not out of maliciousness, but because of his socialization.

I've posed this experiment before, and I would be interested in the result. For the next 10 games, force your son to play female characters for every single one. This would help mimic the experience of unavailable female characters to young women. Also, repeat this for books and movies. Hide this experiment from your son. Tell us if he notices a pattern. If not, perhaps I can more readily accept that gender does not matter to your son. If he does notice the pattern, see if he raises an objection.

None of us exist inside a bubble. Gender affects how we are seen in the world and how we see ourselves in the world. The message reflected back to us is that women do not make up an equal amount of the world.

Your son may say that gender doesn't matter to him, that he sees men and women as the same, but that is not possible in a world where they are not presented to him as such. His viewpoint is valid, but we live in a world where that particular explication of his viewpoint is impossible/absurd. Once again, it doesn't reflect any malicious character trait unto your son, it just means he lives in an inequitable world. It also mean he can cope with the world without much conscious attention to gender. That is part of his male privileged.

So what are we to make of his willingness to play female characters when they are available? It is a good start to incorporating women into his narrative of the world. No doubt I wish all young men and women had a similar attitude towards playing female characters. However, those narrative are necessarily incomplete without comprehending non-representation on a perpetual basis. When he plays a female character today, there is no sense that tomorrow a male character will be unavailable. You can attempt to articulate that to him, but he will not be able to grasp the experience. Not because he won't want to, but the conditions are such that he can't. What he can understand is that male and female experience is different, and that that has consequences.
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ICONOCLAST

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Why not just have six of each available in the game? Let players choose for themselves. End of controversy.
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Mike Windsor
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All you need to know about character gender is this:

1. A male character may be strong and have any type of look or personality.

2. A male character may be weak, but he must be smart.

3. A male character may not be weak and dumb.

4. A male character can be "average" if everyone knows that he is being passed off as the "Average Joe" character.

5. Any male character can be of any age.

6. A female character must be attractive with a lager than average bust.

7. To be politically correct, your female character should be smart and/or athletic.

8. Your female character can only be old if she is a witch, sorceress, druid, or some other respectable position of authority.

9. A female character cannot be "average." Sorry, but slightly overweight and sort of attractive don't make the cut. This rule even applies to characters who are "soccer moms."

10. Unless you female character is a hag, a whore, a monster, or a minion, she should not be overweight, ugly, or stupid.

11. The above rules do not apply to children.

I don't agree that this is the way it should be, but that's just the way it is.

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