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June 6th, 2006


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11:30 am - "Gender in Gaming" Panel at WisCon 30
So more recently, I attended WisCon 30 -- a feminist science fiction/fantasy convention in Madison, Wisconsin. Beside brushing shoulders with an intimidating set of authors, I was on several panels. Relevant to my RPG blog was the one I moderated: "Gender in Gaming". On the FemSF wiki, there are descriptions of many of the panels.

FemSF Wiki Report on "Gender in Gaming (WisCon 30 Panel)"

Also, vito_excalibur posted a WisCon 30 Post where she commented on the "Gender in Gaming" panel. From my point of view, I talked a fair bit about different gender-explorative parts of games: including the Swedish larp Mellan Himmel Och Hav created by Emma Wieslander; as well as a few examples from my own games. It helped that whumpdotcom was also on the panel. But I plan to post some more retrospective on the Buffy campaign (which recently ended) in the near future. There were many interesting points that other people made during the panel...

cabell made a very interesting point that the anonymity of online play (such as MMORPGs) could be very normative. So, I had come from the point of view of someone whose primary play is tabletop RPGs and occaisional LARPs, and experimenting in MUDs seemed intriguing that you didn't know the actual gender of the players. To me, I could see how people reacted differently depending on whether I was logged in as a male or female character. However, for most people it is different. Since people don't know the gender of who is really playing, they can dismiss the actions of female players who do not act according to their preconceptions. (i.e. If you don't act girly, then you aren't really a girl.) So it's supports holding your preconceptions of gender more than playing face-to-face with the opposite sex. Still, since getting back from WisCon, I heard had a fairly horrifying story about gender assumptions in gaming from zdashamber. So it's not like face-to-face gaming with the opposite sex necessarily breaks preconceptions, since people can cling pretty hard to their preconceptions.

Another insight I had on gaming at WisCon came from the "Masculine vs Feminine Magic in Fantasy" panel which I was on. So I had written a while ago an article I called "Breaking Out of Scientific Magic Systems". I hadn't seen it as having anything to do with gender at the time. But then on the panel I referred to Margaret Wertheim's non-fiction book "Pythagoras' Trousers" which postulates how science in general and physics in particular were cast as a masculine, monastic pursuit. And suddenly I had an insight that the way magic and even other aspects of role-playing games could be cast in a masculine manner without any overt reference to gender. It's something I'll have to ponder about more later.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:chgriffen
Date:June 6th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)
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However, for most people it is different. Since people don't know the gender of who is really playing, they can dismiss the actions of female players who do not act according to their preconceptions. (i.e. If you don't act girly, then you aren't really a girl.) So it's supports holding your preconceptions of gender more than playing face-to-face with the opposite sex.

That hasn't been my experience. People I've seen watched characters, made their assumptions about the player's gender, and then sometimes those assumptions got shattered and the players were impressed. That often led to changed assumptions. Not always, but I've seen it quite a bit.
[User Picture]
From:jhkimrpg
Date:June 7th, 2006 12:00 am (UTC)
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Interesting. Where has your experience online been? I've only had brief experience running on a MUD ("Arcane Nites"). There, people rarely asked your real-life gender, so it seemed like there was little chance to shatter anything per se. Then again, when someone's gender did come out it seemed to travel quickly around the rumor mill.
[User Picture]
From:chgriffen
Date:June 7th, 2006 01:24 am (UTC)
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I spent six years playing pretty much daily on CompuServe forums (mostly chat, some PbP), with some MUSH and MUD experience along the way. Also some on IRC. Recently (past 4 years) I've been playing less frequently in web-based communities.
[User Picture]
From:kaenne
Date:December 28th, 2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
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I can't put something in opposite to your words. But sometimes people play their roles such that you can't recognize who is it.
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From:cpxbrex
Date:June 6th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC)
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For what it is worth, my wife has a masters in science teaching with a concentration in astronomy, and a lot of the issues that were raised in Pythagoras' Trousers are being addressed by the physics education research community (tho' there are also others both inside and especially outside physics education research that are quite conservative, of course). Which is, of course, a good thing. Consciousness of how gender, race and class have effected "legitimate" physics research is being discussed both nationally and internationally, through the methods of education and scientific socialization.
[User Picture]
From:jhkimrpg
Date:June 7th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)
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Yes, I'm familiar with at least some of the research as of a few years ago. I remember going to the AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) conference in 1999. I haven't kept up, though, since I left academia in late 2000. The topic of gender often came up obliquely, and sometimes was even tackled directly. On the other hand, my impression was that active physicists had very little consciousness of these issues.
From:simadrienne
Date:June 7th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
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Hey, this is the aforementioned wife--I hope you don't mind me dropping in, but cpxbrex and I were talking about your post, and gender issues in science and gaming interest me. The other disclaimer is that I haven't read Pythagoras' Trousers, although it's now on my list.

I think it's sorta inaccurate to say that active physicists aren't paying attention to gender issues, because most physics education researchers ARE active physicists (they have to be, or else they'd never be taken seriously by physics professors). And, my admittedly limited experience is that PER people are more likely to be at least somewhat conscious of gender questions; there's also some evidence to suggest that women and minority students do better in "reform-based" classes.

On the other hand, PER has limited (though growing) acceptance in the physics community at large, and within PER the "social justice" crowd can be treated very dismissively. So, I guess my point is that even though there's a long way to go, there is a growing group of active physicists who are aware of gender concerns in their classes.
[User Picture]
From:jhkimrpg
Date:June 8th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Hi. Good to hear that things are getting better. I didn't mean to say that no physicists were conscious of the issues. Just that when I was working in physics in the ninetes (at Fermilab and at HE conferences, specifically), it seemed like most physicists that I met were not. However, I did go to the AAPT conference where there was general consciousness of the issues, and there was some in the Fermilab Graduate Student Association which I was a part of.

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