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Author Topic: Do RPGS allow for diverse participation/discourse?  (Read 17353 times)
am
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Posts: 5


« on: May 03, 2005, 05:36:53 PM »

Hello, my name is Anna. I've been gaming for around 2 years. I am working on my masters degree, & I plan on analyzing role playing games from a performance/literary/rhetorical standpoint for my final thesis project.

So here are some questions for as many of you who want to answer:

1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative? Which rpgs in particular?

2. Are there any rpg systems written/created by a minority, woman, or homosexual? (The only system I am familiar with is Nobilius, created by a woman)

3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there? Also, if anyone is willing to share, sexual orientation? (If this question is too private, I understand. I am not trying to out or insult anyone. Only answer this question if you feel comfortable doing so.)

These questions are not limited to pen & paper games; LARPing & computer/online games can be included, but keep them to a minimum. My primary interest is currently pen & paper gaming.

I am aking these questions becuase it has been my (limited) experience that most gamers are white men, as I am one of the four women gamers I know, and I know only one African American male gamer and three homosexual gamers.

I do not seek to demonize white male gamers or system writers, I am interested in just the opposite.  I am attempting to argue in my thesis that the RPG form is open to a more diverse participation, and I need more information in order to formulate that argument.

I would truly appreciate some thoughts from any of you out there. Since this site primarily deals with independent systems, I thought that it would be the most apropriate forum for my questions. This would help my research out immensely. Thanks!
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Bankuei
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2005, 09:28:44 PM »

Hi,

You might be interested in checking out this mail list:

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/RoleplayersOfColor/

Some of the folks there will be able to help you, also I believe a few of them are also aware of some women's list groups that serve the same purpose.

Chris
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2005, 09:55:38 PM »

Welcome to the Forge, Anna

There was a recent thread about women game designers http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=14879">RPGs being design by women.

As far as minority game designers go, the two famous ones I can think of are MAR Barker (Tekumel) and Mike Pondsmith (Cyberpunk, Castle Falkenstein, Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space.)  I know we have others here at the Forge, too.

This is a fascinating topic, and I wish I had more to say about it.

yrs--
--Ben
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John Kim
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2005, 10:04:23 PM »

1) I don't see there is any problem with RPGs as a form being diverse.  However, the current gaming (sub-)culture is not.  I did a study of this recently, in my article http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/gender/gametext.html">Gender Roles in RPG Texts.  

2) Very few RPGs have female authors, but there are a few.  The few include "Darksword Adventures" (co-authored by Margaret Weis); "Nobilis" (by Rebecca Sean Borgstrom); and "The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men" and "Run Robot Red" (by Annie Rush).  Several games from White Wolf include female co-authors.  "Changeling: The Dreaming" includes by Jackie Cassada, Angel Leigh McCoy, and Nicky Rea among 12 authors.  "Exalted" includes Dana Habecker and Sheri M. Johnson among 9 authors.  "Orpheus" includes Genevieve Cogman and Ellen Kiley among 11 authors.  "Vampire: The Dark Ages" has co-author Jennifer Hartshorn.  This is going only by names.  There may, of course, be female authors using only initials or male names.  

It's much harder to tell whether an author is homosexual, of course.  Steve Kenson (author of Mutants & Masterminds) is openly so, I think (at least, his website reports that he lives with his partner Christopher).  I'm not aware offhand of others, but it's not information which is readily available.  

3) I know of some gender data on gamers, but none on sexual orientation or ethnicity.  See my website article on demographics:
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/whatis/demographics.html

I'd love to do a survey with more demographics, but it should be done on a large scale with many purposes in mind.  A small survey doesn't say very much.  For what it's worth, I'm a more-or-less straight, half-Asian/half-Caucasian male.
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- John
greyorm
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2005, 05:00:51 AM »

Quote from: am
1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative?

I'm not certain precisely what you mean by "multi-voiced discourse". Could you provide an example of what such a thing/game/narrative would look like?

Quote
2. Are there any rpg systems written/created by a minority, woman, or homosexual?

For "minority", are you only considering ethnic minorities, or is (for example) religion also a factor?

Quote
3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there?

Standard hetero white male. My gaming groups post-high school, however, have always consisted of more females to males, and at one time the ratio was higher than 2:1 (we had a very large group with seven+ members, only two of whom were female).

Honestly, however, those games, despite the gender difference, have never been noticably different from standard gaming fare (hence my opening question). Dovetailing with that, there is also a thread here from some time ago where we discussed and concluded that the idea of gender making a difference in manner of play was sexist (and I note it was the women who brought that point up and supported it).

I believe that thread may have been Gender Based vs. Gender Biased, or one of the threads referenced therein.

Finally, I know and am (or have been) friends with a number of ethnic minority gamers, African Americans and Asian, as well as homosexuals. One of the latter was a member of my group for a number of years, and another number were friends I had outside of gaming whom I knew also role-played (though we never did game together).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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jrs
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2005, 06:09:37 AM »

Anna,

If you are up for a bit of reading, http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=147955#147955">here is a link to a post where Ben Lehman has compiled a list of many of the gender discussions at the Forge.  None of these topics will directly address your questions, but they may be of interest to you.

Julie
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TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2005, 06:13:36 AM »

Quote from: am
3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there?

Can I recommend going to a good-sized gaming convention with a notebook and making a lot of check-marks?

Yes, you're going to have selection bias (i.e. you're only sampling people who went to the con), but substantially less so, I would think, than asking the question here.

I feel bad kibbitzing... it's your project after all.  But this just seems like such an obvious way to get a mass of data quickly.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2005, 06:22:46 AM »

If looking specifically at RPG creators, you could also go to Pen & Paper's Creator database and look for feminine names. Not scientific, but a place to start.

Also, reveiws of Green Ronin's Blue Rose indicate that it addresses homophobia and related gender concerns within its game world. Not sure if that will help you.

Emily Dresner had a series of articles on women in gaming in Pyramid Online back in the late nineties. They'll still be accessible in the archives of Pyramid Online (requires subscription).

Finally, for commentary on real world sexual issues and their impact on gaming, you should read the Sex & Sorcery for Sorcerer. Ron knows his stuff.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2005, 06:38:10 AM »

Thanks to everyone for such great referencing!!

I request that answering the call for personal descriptions be confined to private messaging, and that the discussion here be focused on AM's questions #1 and #2.

However, obviously, if personal information is relevant to either of these issues, then sure, toss it in. I'm not barring its presence, but rather keeping the thread from becoming a list of "I'm X" announcements based on question #3.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2005, 07:01:37 AM »

Hi am,

I'm fascinated by question #1.  Like greyorm, I'm looking for a clarification on this.

My brain gets stuck on this: painting, as a form, "are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities." Same with film, plays, novels and so on. I'm curious what you see about the nature of RPGs makes this a viable question.

Also, with the second half of the quesion, ("Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative?") -- it seems to me that to have people of different voices (and, even white males have different voices) playing in the same game, is to a discourse, setting, game and narrative shaped by these different voices.  

Thus, all you would need is a bunch of players along the spectrum of your agenda (and I've played with lots of women (often at a 1:1 ratio) gays and minorities -- so yeah. I think as a form it can do what you're asking. But I can't be sure yet, because I may not be grasping what you mean.

Now, whether or not everyone at the table feel comfortable bringing up issues that they feel most passionate about, or reflect their points of view and so on -- is another issue.

I think some games do this better than others. (And here I would say that many of the games in the Indie Game Forums below are the games I'm speaking about -- because the majority of them are designed to put into motion issues the players care about.)

But the other great factor would be the group itself. The RPG experience begins with the people and why they want to play together. This gets funneled through RPGs "as a form."

You might really want to check out The Provisional Glossery ( http://indie-rpgs.com/_articles/glossary.html ), and look over the discussion of The Big Model in particular. (note the link to the PDF file which shows The Big Model.)

I think you'll find that The Big Model my provide you with clues for what you're digging for in new ways.

Christopher
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am
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2005, 07:25:19 AM »

I plan on doing most of my major research over the summer, so everyone's reading suggestions will help a great deal.

To anwser greyorn: multi-voiced discourse or narrative would be exactly like a campaign: multiple voices represented in a story as in people with different backgrounds, genders, races, the GLBT community, and yes, even religions & socioeconomic factors. I am interested in how role-playing could put some of these diverse people in discussion with each other, using fantasy/sci-fi as a setting.

I got this term from Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian literary theorist who wrote in the 1930s. He uses multi-voiced, or polyphonic discourse, to discuss the novel as a form, stating that the novel, as opposed to drama, or poetry, allows for multiple voices to be represented through the voices of the characters. The only problem I have with this theory is that there is only one author of a book (usually). I wanted to explore this theory using RPGS because they have multiple authors creating a story with diverse characters.

The problem I came up with was from my limited experience playing with mostly straight white men, which limits the scope of this type of multi-voiced discourse. I wanted to ask more experienced gamers their opinion regarding diversiry in campaigns, and to find out more information to add to my limited gaming experience.

I hope that answers some questions, and that everyone gets where I'm coming from.

Again, thank you all for your opinions, information, and especially the reading list that's being formed on this forum! This is exactly what I needed!
~ Anna
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2005, 07:28:55 AM »

Quote from: am
1. Do you think that rpgs as a form are open to minorities, women, & the alternative sexualities? Do you think that as a form, RPGS can lead to a multi-voiced discourse/setting/game/narrative? Which rpgs in particular?


Some games have that potential, sure. Except what the heck is a form?

The hobby, I think, is kind of a 'boys club,' and it has some baggage attached. I don't think very many people who play roleplaying games would be averse to including a minority or minorities in their group, of color, gender, preference, whatever. But people aren't often consciously aware of the things they do that come across as exclusionary, in gaming or anywhere else, so you have the same struggles.

I could name a bunch of games written by people who frequent these boards as appropriate for what you're looking for. I personally made anti-racism and anti-sexism part of my game design mission statement, but I know it's something that matters to many other people here.

Quote
3. Can I get a survey of the gender & ethnicity of some gamers out there? Also, if anyone is willing to share, sexual orientation? (If this question is too private, I understand. I am not trying to out or insult anyone. Only answer this question if you feel comfortable doing so.)


I'm white and straight, and I don't know if I've ever played a roleplaying game with someone who didn't self identify as white. I've played with two people I can think of offhand who were openly gay, though maybe I'm forgetting someone else. My current group includes 4 men and 1 woman, but most groups have just been guys.
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Danny_K
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Posts: 198


« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2005, 07:39:08 AM »

You might want to also take a look at the forums on RPG.net, particularly Roleplaying Open (for RPG questions) and Tangency (for personal questions).  RPG.net seems to have quite a few gaymers.

As far as your question about game designers goes, I know of Cynthia Celeste Miller (of Cartoon Action Hour fame).  White Wolf has a long tradition of being (mostly) gay-friendly, but I can't speak to specific writers or artists.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2005, 07:59:58 AM »

Quote
These questions are not limited to pen & paper games; LARPing & computer/online games can be included, but keep them to a minimum. My primary interest is currently pen & paper gaming.


The difference is big in this regard, I believe. I've found that in chat roleplaying forums, women often outnumber men by a small margin. However, most P&P game groups I know tend to be all or mostly male; same with attendance at P&P conventions (though I haven't been to one in a few years, so that might be changing).

This might have to do with the lingering roots of RPGs in wargames and the associated geek-factor. That's why some lines of games, namely White Wolf's and others, have done quite a bit to draw in more female gamers as they try hard to build a separate image and provide a different roleplaying experience. So once you build up your statistics, I bet you'll find many more women playing Vampire than D&D.

Women are a very different issue than minorities, however--because they are not in the minority. While it makes sense that you'd find fewer minority gamers than caucasian/heterosexual gamers (there's just so many more of the latter, which is why they're called the majority :), men and women are roughly equally present in the population.

Among all the gay people I know, I can't say that their ratio of roleplayers to non-roleplayers is smaller than among my heterosexual acquaintances.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2005, 09:39:07 AM »

Hi Anna,

Thanks for the explantion of your first question. (And clearly I misunderstood it completely on my first post.)

I'd have to say, then, that RPGs are unique in their ability to contain and present many voices and points of view -- if only because, if the group wants it, so many voices can be heard clearly.

I'd add that it seems strange to me that a novel would be considered better at this than a play. Some novels have only one limited narrator -- while plays are full of characters with their own agendas.

But as far as RPGs go, yes.

Christopher
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