[MUD-Dev] Sexism in design

Sean Kelly sean at f4.ca
Wed Dec 21 06:43:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


Louis d'Ambra wrote:
> On 11/20/05, Lydia Leong <lwl at black-knight.org> wrote:

>> It's about creating gender differences in games, and how inferior
>> women are to men.

>> The earnest debate going on in that thread is an interesting
>> example of how MUDs-for-experimentation can differ from
>> commercial gaming projects -- but also a worrisome illustration
>> of how far embryonic future game designers still need to go in
>> their thinking.

> Of course there are a lot of clich=E9s, like the female spellcaster
> that heals everybody and has more dexterity than males, but gender
> discussions should appear more often in my opinion. It's a very
> interesting question that may draw the lines of the next king of
> MMOs.

It is, but it's also a touchy subject and therefore quite subject to
unintended side-effects.  It's also worth noting that game mechanics
are just that: game mechanics.  In the current crop of games,
mechanics has an impact on combat and little else.  There is nothing
stopping people from forming a sexist social structure in game.  In
fact, I've heard stories from people with female avatars that would
claim this social climate already exists.

> Women and men are different, aren't they ? Are women gamers and
> men gamers different ? My personal feeling (based on maybe 10
> years of online gaming) tells me : yes. There are always
> exceptions to confirm to rule, maybe like you, Lydia ?

> When it comes to design, i'm not fond of the "box approach" that
> puts everyone erm... in a box. If you're a girl, why should you
> play some kind of inferior and uninteresting avatar ? Still,
> there's a lot of work to be done when it comes to gender in
> persistant worlds. It should remain an open topic :
> politicaly-nerfed and science-boosted.  Using personal philosophy
> and feelings is not a rational or valid approach to any
> sociological concept.

I agree.  Which implies to me that the game mechanics should not
confer any benefits to one gender over another.  After all, that
would be using personal feelings (those of the game developers) to
define unbreakable game rules.  And as you have said, while there
are certain qualities that are generally attributable to one gender
vs. another (sex vs.  gender identity is a somewhat messy topic so
I'm assuming they're the same thing for the sake of this
conversation), these are only generalities and they are rooted in
experiences from only one culture.  Personally, if game designers
were to include gender qualities in a game I would much rather see
it done in a fantasy setting where new social ideas could be toyed
with.  Spiders, for example, tend to have a dramatically reversed
set of gender differences from what it seems we're used to.  Why not
create a hypothetical world that challenges stereotypes?  In this
vein, Ursala LeGuin wrote a book that's basically a species/culture
study of a hypothetical asexual human-like race (The Left Hand of
Darkness).  I would love to see something like this made into a
game, even a single-player one.

Sean
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