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Subject: Equality of the sexes for board games characters rss

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Metäl Warrior
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I'm curious what does the BGG crowd think of equality of the sexes for playable characters in board games? This in the context of an dungeon crawler where each playable character has different stats, such as strength, intelligence, action points, etc.

Most video games view the sexes as the same, and females are essentially just a reskin of the male character (almost always in this order). On the other hand, many pen and paper RPGs make adjustments to stats based on the sex of the character.

I'm inclined to think that some variety would be desirable. For example, male human characters would get a strength and dexterity bonus over female characters, while females would get more action points and wider variety of skill cards (bigger deck) to bring to combat. The goal would be to have a net neutral effect, so that no one feels they are weaker just because of the sex they choose to play.

But I appreciate some consider this to be discriminatory, or even sexist, no matter what science says about muscle mass and hand-eye coordination, or the ability to multi-task.

Any thoughts? There's also a poll.

Poll
Can males and females have different stats? Examples: intelligence, strength, dexterity, action points, number of skills available, etc.
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Sexes must always have same stats
22.2% 34
Sexes may have differing stats, but net effect must always be neutral (e.g. +1 Strength, -1 Dexterity)
42.5% 65
Sexes may have differing stats, and in some cases one sex may be objectively better than the other (e.g. +1 Dexterity, +1 Action Point)
35.3% 54
Voters 153
This poll is now closed.   153 answers
Poll created by Jaffeli
Closes: Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:00 am
 
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K S
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I would think that for a well-balanced game, you wouldn't want any characters to be objectively better than others, otherwise, what's the point of having the inferior character? Functional equivalence would be okay, I guess, but I would find net-neutral variation between characters most strategically appealing.
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Matt D
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I think you are more likely to offend folks by doing that than you are gaining folks by "innovatively" making genders asymmetrical.

It's also flat out not true. I'm a guy, and I am pretty sure that Simone Biles could out bench press me, or really out perform me in literally every measure except ability to reach the top shelf at the grocery store. And I bet she'd even find a way to do that.

If you really want to do that I'd suggest coming up with roles/classes that simulate it, and if you REALLY want to make gender play a potential role, make some classes that are one gender only. An Amazon has to be female, a eunuch has to be male, etc.

Women make up a huge part of the board game audience, and I'd dare say you'll find more getting offended at being pigeon holed into being "versatile but not strong" than you will win friends this way.

There's a reason why almost all games just reskin female characters as male characters. Unless you are telling a real story, and I mean narratively in the level of Tales of the Arabian Nights (where, btw, gender plays a huge role, and can actually be altered), I think you are better off using some other distinction to make your asymmetric model. Class or race are good if fantasy. Instead of making men strong and women agile, use orcs and elves, or such.

Just my two cents.
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K S
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hestiansun wrote:
It's also flat out not true. I'm a guy, and I am pretty sure that Simone Biles could out bench press me, or really out perform me in literally every measure except ability to reach the top shelf at the grocery store. And I bet she'd even find a way to do that.


...probably involving a couple backflips.
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wamsp wrote:
I would think that for a well-balanced game, you wouldn't want any characters to be objectively better than others, otherwise, what's the point of having the inferior character?


    There's good reasons for inferior characters. They can be more fun to play, and can be used to handicap. Some of us don't min/max in our play. That's not a particularly male/female thing, but it certainly can add to the fun of a game. I have a D&D character with a strength of 3 that I've gotten up to 12th level. It was a lot of fun.

    It's stupid to have women that are brutishly strong, and it's stupid to have men that are stupider simply because they're men. That's not reality. Like it or not, an average male has a physical advantage over the average female.

    If you're talking about characters taking the field in nothing but their boxers then the sexes are going to be unequal. But -- if you're outfitting characters, giving them names and particular traits, then you can equalize them in other ways. Specific characters can bring specific capabilities if you write the proper backstory to support it.

    Ignoring gender differences is naïve and breaks the spell. You end up looking stupid instead of "fair". Find other ways to bring interest to the physically inferior characters if you think there's a need for absolute balance. I don't think there is, but it is an option.

            S.

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Dimitri Sirenko
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Jaffeli wrote:
I'm curious what does the BGG crowd think of equality of the sexes for playable characters in board games? This in the context of an dungeon crawler where each playable character has different stats, such as strength, intelligence, action points, etc.

Most video games view the sexes as the same, and females are essentially just a reskin of the male character (almost always in this order). On the other hand, many pen and paper RPGs make adjustments to stats based on the sex of the character.

I'm inclined to think that some variety would be desirable. For example, male human characters would get a strength and dexterity bonus over female characters, while females would get more action points and wider variety of skill cards (bigger deck) to bring to combat. The goal would be to have a net neutral effect, so that no one feels they are weaker just because of the sex they choose to play.

But I appreciate some consider this to be discriminatory, or even sexist, no matter what science says about muscle mass and hand-eye coordination, or the ability to multi-task.

Any thoughts? There's also a poll.

Poll
Can males and females have different stats? Examples: intelligence, strength, dexterity, action points, number of skills available, etc.
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Sexes must always have same stats
22.2% 34
Sexes may have differing stats, but net effect must always be neutral (e.g. +1 Strength, -1 Dexterity)
42.5% 65
Sexes may have differing stats, and in some cases one sex may be objectively better than the other (e.g. +1 Dexterity, +1 Action Point)
35.3% 54
Voters 153
This poll is now closed.   153 answers
Poll created by Jaffeli
Closes: Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:00 am


In my opinion it is not offensive but only if the characters are balanced. In real world, men and women do have certain characteristics making each sex adept at certain things. Generally, men do possess greater raw physical strength and its honestly mostly because of their hormones which allow for thicker bone structure, bigger muscle mass and overall heavier frame. But sure, if you compare an average joe sipping on a beer and watching TV to some UFC female fighter, she would almost certainly destroy him in any physical competition. But that is not a fair comparison as we are not comparing two professionals. Compare a male UFC fighter to a female fighter, and thats when you can definitely see why men don't fight women in the ring or most other sports in general. Anyway, i know you didn't really ask to hear that. So while i think it is okay to make a female character that may be less strong but more agile than male, my question is: why? Is your game mainly about sexes and the stigma around them? If not, then you can differentiate characters better by their experience and class. If you really really absolutely still want to play off of real world general knowledge about differences in sexes then attach sex to character class to mask it more. For example, a rogue or an archer type of character really fits an agile person and thus you can make that a female while a bulky big man would obviously be a berserk or barbarian.
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Matt D
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Sagrilarus wrote:
wamsp wrote:
I would think that for a well-balanced game, you wouldn't want any characters to be objectively better than others, otherwise, what's the point of having the inferior character?


    There's good reasons for inferior characters. They can be more fun to play, and can be used to handicap. Some of us don't min/max in our play. That's not a particularly male/female thing, but it certainly can add to the fun of a game. I have a D&D character with a strength of 3 that I've gotten up to 12th level. It was a lot of fun.

    It's stupid to have women that are brutishly strong, and it's stupid to have men that are stupider simply because they're men. That's not reality. Like it or not, an average male has a physical advantage over the average female.

    If you're talking about characters taking the field in nothing but their boxers then the sexes are going to be unequal. But -- if you're outfitting characters, giving them names and particular traits, then you can equalize them in other ways. Specific characters can bring specific capabilities if you write the proper backstory to support it.

    Ignoring gender differences is naïve and breaks the spell. You end up looking stupid instead of "fair". Find other ways to bring interest to the physically inferior characters if you think there's a need for absolute balance. I don't there is, but it is an option.

            S.



Would you advocate a board game where human characters of different skin tones have varying speeds or movement abilities than each other depending upon surface? You know, one that runs faster but swims slower, etc? Stereotypes don't necessarily translate to "everyone".

Not sure what "spell" it breaks to have a strong female or a slender quick male.

And I dare you to tell Holley Mangold that it is "stupid to have women that are brutishly strong".

Seriously. I double dog dare you.
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Sagrilarus wrote:
It's stupid to have women that are brutishly strong... That's not reality.

Haven't been watching the Olympics recently, I take it?

Sagrilarus wrote:
Like it or not, an average male has a physical advantage over the average female.

I'm not quite sure that boardgame characters are usually intended to represents average men and women. They tend to be more heroic types, yeah? One doesn't come to be e.g. a wandering adventurer by virtue of being typical.
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    You can quote a specific example if you like, but the differences between the genders is dramatic. This isn't a fractional difference in the mean, it's more like an 80-20 split. We don't understand that because we've become accustomed to a 110 pound woman catching a 220 pound man's fist mid-swing in the movies, when in real life he'd pound right through her. Reality doesn't make for good film. There is a dramatic difference in the sexes.

    As I said, if the game presents a character that brings specific skills or items that even the odds, provides some amount of leveling, that's fine. I don't think that's necessary to have a good game, and I'll still answer the original question the same way -- you don't need to make all characters equal in all stats to make good game.

Quote:
I'm not quite sure that boardgame characters are usually intended to represents average men and women. They tend to be more heroic types, yeah? One doesn't come to be e.g. a wandering adventurer by virtue of being typical.


    You could argue that that would exacerbate the problem.

             S.
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Dimitri Sirenko
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wamsp wrote:
Sagrilarus wrote:
It's stupid to have women that are brutishly strong... That's not reality.

Haven't been watching the Olympics recently, I take it?

Sagrilarus wrote:
Like it or not, an average male has a physical advantage over the average female.

I'm not quite sure that boardgame characters are usually intended to represents average men and women. They tend to be more heroic types, yeah? One doesn't come to be e.g. a wandering adventurer by virtue of being typical.


for the sake of fueling the fire lol: 2 heroic figures: a female boxing champion; and a male boxing champion. Who is gonna win? If you must bet money on one, wouldn't it be the male?
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Francisco Gutierrez
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Remember the late 70s, when Advance Dungeons and Dragons made female characters inherently weaker than male characters?

There is a reason why that rule isn't in 6th edition Dungeons and Dragons (or in any other edition for that matter).

I could care less why you would want that in the rules, I just know what you look like when you do.
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K S
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Okay. I'll keep playing balanced, strategically interesting gender-equitable games while y'all stick to "realism".
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I understand the desire for asymmetry across players/characters. I know that art is expensive but, if you desire to allow players to play either a male or female character then have a flippable mat with one side per sex but the same stats on both sides. Different player boards could have different stats and abilities.
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jay
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Jaffeli wrote:

Most video games view the sexes as the same, and females are essentially just a reskin of the male character (almost always in this order). On the other hand, many pen and paper RPGs make adjustments to stats based on the sex of the character.


2 things. Males and females have one special ability in video games. Males have the power to prevent you from looking at their butts while females have the power to force you to look at theirs.

Secondly, I have over a hundred rpg's and not a single one I can recall has special rules regarding stats of female characters. It is currently a negative point against a game in our current social climate. I'm curious to which ones you are referring to as I believe such practices went out of style in the 80's.
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Sagrilarus wrote:
It's stupid to have women that are brutishly strong, and it's stupid to have men that are stupider simply because they're men. That's not reality. Like it or not, an average male has a physical advantage over the average female.

I don't find it stupid for fantasy, especially not in terms of letting players find characters they enjoy playing. (Especially kids, who tend to be more sensitive about gender assignments.)

Even in other genres, I would be wary of falling back on stereotypes or selective comparisons of people.
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If you invent a bunch of characters, they're are going to have lots of qualities that aren't reflected in mechanics, right? Some of them have trouble sleeping enough; is there a rule that underslept characters have lower dexterity? Some of them had parents who were better at encouraging their interests; is there a rule that they are better at learning new skills? Some of them used to live in another country; is there a rule that their spoken language skills are penalized except when talking to other ex-pats?

You aren't going to express every single thing about the world through character stats, even if it's something that would make a real difference in adventurer stats. Why does gender need to be one of the things you express? Do you have something interesting to say about it?
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I'm with Matt D with this one. If you really want to go asymmetrical, then simply do it by means of including other species (as in the "orcs vs. elves" example), or let there be options for both sexes: in real life one can find either strong or weak men or women, so it's perfectly fine to have weak and strong characters in both sexes for a game. Making it strictly sex-related, as previously said, would probably be a turn-off for young girls, so why do this?
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Dave
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Dumbfounded that this is even a question. Disgusted by the poll results. Cavemen.
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IMO, there's no call for it. Odds are your game is not seeking to simulate sexual dimorphism, making the effort merely an impressing of prejudice onto the game like a seal on hot wax. Just don't.
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lifelesspoet wrote:
Males and females have one special ability in video games. Males have the power to prevent you from looking at their butts while females have the power to force you to look at theirs.

Not only there: In beach volleyball it seems female butts causes camera lenses to extend their focal length for a closer-up look. Magic!

Using "realism" as excuse for having weaker females is a cop-out because it's just an abstraction; and do you also add to wisdom scores based on age? Do you add to constitution for blacks? Gender is not the only variable if you start down that road...
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You're safest if you don't generalize. Make specific characters with unique names and artwork and vary their stats. So then you're not saying that men are stronger than women but that Jhork the Barbarian is stronger than Arcadia the Priestess.
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Well with board game characters you're typically talking about a relatively small set of characters rather than a generalised method for making characters.

When writing characters you don't care if men are stronger than women on average. You only need to care about whether Garthak is stronger than Kyree or not - which will come far more down to the individual attributes of those characters than their genders.

If you are writing a generalised system, then it comes down to whether it adds something to your game. If you're priding yourself on the most accurate possible simulation then it may have a place, but I can't think of a game that does simulate gender dimorphism that doesn't fail as a simulation on a much more basic much more critical to the game level. That's not to say that it couldn't exist, but I've not seen it and I suspect it'd be deeply tedious to play if it did.

If you're not going out of your way to be simulationist then all choices come down to what they add or subtract from your game. Implementing it has some inherent downsides, people tend to play their own gender and don't like being told they can't access some parts of the game (or access them as effectively). The choice to implement it will be viewed as a projection of your own bias unless you've got a cast iron reason for why you needed it. Some number of your players will be able to think of specific episodes where people making the assumptions that your game is supporting has made their lives worse and will enjoy the game less for it. I would strongly default to "no" with respect to this question, only shifting from that position if there is a really really good reason that the game benefits significantly for it being implemented.
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Jeroen Paardekooper
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Quote:
Jhork the Barbarian is stronger than Arcadia the Priestess.


Or that Arcadia the Warrior Princess is stronger than Jhork the Priest...
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Tomáš Sládek
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Sex is something that imo should not be toyed with much - people like to roleplay as their sex more often than not so much so it's not even a choice, so you'd be imposing restrictions on players they may not be feeling comfortable about. Same reason why "human" tends to be jack-of-all-trades as a race in RPGs. Something bland, default to fall back on to without any discomfort.

Creating a character is in a way fulfilling a fantasy, and players may have some real wild fantasies. This gets easier in PnP RPGs where the GM can just adjust on-the-fly for whatever players desire, but in strict closed systems like board games or video games you have to make a design decision what to allow. Personally I don't mind differentiation and I voted for that option just for the sake of variation (if you make it something more clever than +1 str / +1 cha), but I think generally - if you're worried about this kind of thing - it's best to not have any. Why? Any single individual breaking the stereotypes can exist and why would you say the players' character cannot be that one? special case?

Starting character differentiation makes sense for major stuff, like beings where sexual dimoprhism is much much more pronounced than in humans (where one sex can do stuff the other almost can't), or among races. One of the few sex adjustments permissible for humans is the stereotype stuff you're modelling your world with - the outside perception of sexes. If you want it like our world - give women a bonus to persuasion against men. Give men a bonus to negotiation for quest payments. That kind of stuff. There will be people who may not like it, but at the same time, it's a thing your character cannot change. You want to be an 'x' in this world? Well that's the shit they have to deal with from other people.


namrevo wrote:
Quote:
Jhork the Barbarian is stronger than Arcadia the Priestess.


Or that Arcadia the Warrior Princess is stronger than Jhork the Priest...


I've seen too many replies in the vein of "I identify as an attack helicopter and this offends me" to find these reactions funny anymore.
 
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Heroes aren't "normal" or "realistic", anyway, so do whatever gets your game sold to your target audience. Gender equality or chainmail bikinis. Whatever gets the game sold! bag
 
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