Different Experiences as a Female Character

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Koa
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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby Koa » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:54 am UTC

"You can wear skirts as any race or gender." I distinctly remember wearing skirts as a male character.

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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby Gelsamel » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:10 am UTC

That is not to say that there haven't been good female main characters of course. Portal's main character is female and it is possible for the player to go through the game without even noticing this fact. This is incredibly progressive compared to the famous massive pyramid breasts of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider for example.


I think there is a thread with a lot of discussion on this one.
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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:39 pm UTC

In most games with character customisation, some character customisation will be purely cosmetic, some will be purely functional, some will be both, and some will have almost no effect.

The question raised by this thread is which category gender should fall under - obviously, there's a strong argument for having it provide cosmetic differences - male and female humans tend to have some fairly unsubtle differences in body shape, and there are evolutionary reasons why cultures tend to make it easy, at least some of the time, to distinguish between people you might be able to make babies with, and people you definitely can't, so the clothing choices can sensibly vary too. Arguments about how functional the differences should be can get into deep philosophical waters, but there are pragmatic considerations too - assuming you want to provide a fairly full range of functionality, either you keep the functional customisation non-cosmetic, or you face an explosion in the number of different combinations of cosmetic effects you need to support - one solution is to have the game automatically generate the new looks for the different combinations of options, meaning you only need to manually generate the basic descriptions, but that's not trivial to get looking right - and getting artists to manually design the model for each combination allows you to have quirks rather than being visibly mass-produced from patterns.

Making the cosmetic choices also functional allows the designers to economise on models while still keeping the meaningful choices visible.

There's also, at the role-playing end of things, the distinction between "masculine" and "feminine" behaviour - sure, you can have a main character where the only difference between male and female choices is the amount of bulge in the breastplate, but some people want to be able to choose between a character who solves all his problems with his sword, and a character who finds less... confrontational options - you can do it without using gender stereotypes, but it's much less work to use something the player already understands rather than coming up with another way of explaining it and educating the player about it...

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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby EmptySet » Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:28 pm UTC

liveboy21 wrote:I remember that The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind had a large difference between male and female characters... The one that was more interesting was that the females could wear skirts and the males could not. The skirts would be counted as a seperate equip slot which meant that the female characters could have more clothes and thus more enchants and gain a significant advantage over male characters.


As has been pointed out, this is untrue - both genders could wear skirts and pants in Morrowind. I'd say that the largest difference between the genders in Morrowind has nothing to do with stats or game mechanics at all - it's actually that male characters have a rather lengthy questline and romance VERY special friendship with the Khajiit Ahnassi, while women get a free pass and extra loot from Mistress Dratha in the main quest. I'd say men have it better, since Ahnassi's quests give good rewards and I also found her dialogue amusing.

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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby philsov » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:53 pm UTC

ungendering it is actually superior in that then you can have more than two types.


Why not both? Why not have it where males and females have different starting stats, AND they can twerk stat allocation to reinforce desired aspects (ie, magical type/fighter type/speedy-type, etc)?

This is especially true for any gear. If we have n different possibilities, distributed evenly over two sexes, then allowing women to wear ribbons turns n possibilities into (1/2)n+(1/2)n*2, which is 3/4n, whereas allowing anyone to wear anything just turns it into 2n.


Bouncing off what was said previously -- in the classic state of female-only equips, providing them to males would be the best of both worlds and make females even less viable, or never get equipped by males if it's a caster-centric thing. It's a difficult rope to walk, but I think the inclusion of female-only equips is superior over said female-only equips either never existing OR being equippable by both genders.

Given that the nature vs nurture debate in terms of differences of the sexes is not particularly settled,


Eh, kinda. Females, on average, are weaker than males, on average. That is clearly settled.

If being a female in a game is nothing but a physical penalty, then no one who cares about party/character optimization will ever take a female. Thus, a tradeoff is established to make the females excel in a different area instead. This tradeoff is usually arbitrary (females are smarter, or quicker, or something -- which isn't particularly settled), but I can understand the basis for it.

it's a lot more natural (and less "-ism") to ascribe different characteristics to different species than it is to different sexes.


Yes, but how most games do it (in my experience) is that it paints all the species as identical, in a very Star Trek-like fashion. e.g -- all humans start with 9 STR and 9 INT, all orcs start with 11 STR and 7 INT. If these are the only choices, and humans have human-only equips and orcs have orc-only equips, then it's still the same thing as before. One is still tied to an Orc avatar, no? As far as the game design is concerned, it's the same level of choice and gameplay, it just decouples the scenario away from supposed reality to reduce the level of implications.

I enjoy the opportunity cost such distinctions provide, instead of this blank-slate-be-whatever-you-want-to-be notion. Blank slate provides the most choices, yes, but restrictions can be just as challenging/entertaining as well.
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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:08 pm UTC

philsov wrote:Eh, kinda. Females, on average, are weaker than males, on average. That is clearly settled.

This is fine, and it's fine to recognize it as a given, even in a fantasy world, but we're talking about manipulating arcane forces or harnessing the wiles of demons or accurately tossing a throwing dagger from 50 yards into a charging naga-goblins forehead. Having a female in full plate or a male magic user charming the pants of a djinn is, as I see it, the *point* of fantasy.

In gaming, I find the different career options for males/females to be a cheap way to force player choice. In FFT, for example, if you want to experience all the classes, you have to train both a male and a female up through the choice between Dancer/Bard. Training two characters up the identical job tree for one final difference is rather silly in my mind, especially given how easy it was in that game to switch between jobs.
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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby Zarq » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:20 pm UTC

philsov wrote:Eh, kinda. Females, on average, are weaker than males, on average. That is clearly settled.


I think randomising is a decent solution, like in D&D character generation. Sex and race influence the bonuses, but the basescore is randomised. That way, the average is correct, but it's still possible for a specific female character to have a larger strength score than a specific male character.
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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:58 pm UTC

The Classic D&D experience is that your stats are largely static - if you have an 8 Charisma, then outside of extraordinary measures (ie Magic spells, wishes, etc) or magical equipment, your charisma does not change.

The more recent D&D versions adjusted that, allowing you to increase statistics as you increase in power, but you're still looking at the extraordinary measures or magical equipment to make up for minor deficits.

In the Real World, when speaking of physical attributes or even mental ones, you can do various exercises to increase your abilities. True, the physical ones are far more dramatic, but you can increase memory and cognitive capacity by constantly exercising them.

My point being?

If adopting something closer to the Real World scenario (see: The Elder Scrolls) where a male and female character may start with different statistics but through gameplay can come to the same point (max stats) at the same time (level 80 or whatever) with similar work, then I don't have much of a problem with the initial differences, as they can be overcome relatively quickly. It still bothers me, though, as while it is true that men are, on average, stronger than women... it seems that height has just as much to do, if not more to do with physical strength as gender does.

I do have a problem with the D&D version where statistics are difficult if not impossible to change without extraordinary measures, as.. quite frankly.. there's tons of women out there who are easily physically stronger than I, faster than I, smarter than I and so on, and plenty who I am stronger than, faster than, smarter than and so on... so blindly slapping a -2 Str +2 Wis / +2 Str -2 Wis on a character depending on a gender toggle seems backward and most charitably just trying to create differences for the sake of optimization and at worst being sexist 'cause women is weak amirite?
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Re: Different Experiences as a Female Character

Postby EvanED » Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:33 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:some people want to be able to choose between a character who solves all his problems with his sword, and a character who finds less... confrontational options - you can do it without using gender stereotypes, but it's much less work to use something the player already understands rather than coming up with another way of explaining it and educating the player about it...
I don't really think so... many games already need some kind of character class, and IMO that's where that sort of option belongs (maybe in concert with species; see below). After all, even in the sex-based stats case, you still have to educate the player about what the tradeoffs are (is it str vs dex? str vs magic? something else?) and what the actual point differences are. By that point it might as well be just an option that is for that explicit purpose.

philsov wrote:Why not both? Why not have it where males and females have different starting stats, AND they can twerk stat allocation to reinforce desired aspects (ie, magical type/fighter type/speedy-type, etc)?
If you're going to have the latter, why have the former?

philsov wrote:in the classic state of female-only equips, providing them to males would be the best of both worlds and make females even less viable, or never get equipped by males if it's a caster-centric thing

Now see, this makes me very annoyed. What if I want to play a male caster, and I say "I'll overcome the starting difference over time" (like what happens in real life!). Then that equip would help! Why should I be handicapped by not being able to use it?

If female-only equips are necessary to make females a viable choice, the solution is to fix whatever caused that, not female-only equips.

philsov wrote:If being a female in a game is nothing but a physical penalty, then no one who cares about party/character optimization will ever take a female. Thus, a tradeoff is established to make the females excel in a different area instead. This tradeoff is usually arbitrary (females are smarter, or quicker, or something -- which isn't particularly settled), but I can understand the basis for it.
I'm not saying I don't understand it really. Video games are hardly the only place that makes such distinctions -- just look at basically every sporting contest, with "men's $SPORT" and "women's $SPORT".

philsov wrote: As far as the game design is concerned, it's the same level of choice and gameplay, it just decouples the scenario away from supposed reality to reduce the level of implications.
To be honest, those implications are part of why I'm not a huge fan of giving different stats to the genders. There's enough societal and media pressure about gender roles that I think a concious effort should be made to minimize it.

And while I'm sympathetic to your argument that "restrictions can be just as challenging/entertaining as well", I don't like restrictions that seem arbitrary -- and a lot of the time that's what sex-based stats feel like to me. Maybe it's the degree of difference (even in strength maybe a starting strength of 10 vs 11 would make sense, but not 10 vs 14 or something)? I dunno.

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I'd like to back all of this up. I haven't actually played a game where your stats are static, but in such a game I think gender-based stats are completely inappropriate, as opposed to just mildly discomforting.


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