30 August, 2012

A Gaming equivalent of the Bechdel Test.

There has been a bit of talk lately about ethnicity and gender in roleplaying games.

On one side you get the die hard "cultural appropriation" fanatics who think that any time a non-white culture is included in a game, it is an attempt to rape the cultural heritage of the people depicted (either explicitly or implicitly).

On the other side you get the people who are desperate to break gaming across the global spectrum of societies, these people decry the presence of exclusively white-male strong figures depicted throughout the illustrations and examples.

But gaming isn't the only aspect of "nerd-culture" where issues like this are playing out. Comics have long suffered from the same issues, with the vast majority of super heroes being male and/or caucasian. This has been highlighted in recent situation when there was a huge uproar about turning Spiderman into a half negro/hispanic kid, and the ongoing rants about there being few if any females on staff at DC comics (I haven't been keeping up to date onthis one, but I know it was a big issue discussed around ComicCon last year when a female audience member kept asking the hard questions at several panels).

Movies are the same, but in this case there is a group of individuals who apply the Bechdel Test to see if gender issues have been addressed. All sorts of movies fail the Bechdel Test, including action movies, thrillers, even romantic comedies.

The basic rules of the Bechdel Test are:

 It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

Movies are already mainstream fare, so they are expected to cater to audiences of all different types. Sure there are some genres of movie that tailor their market to specific demographics, but on the whole the category of "movies" usually has something to offer virtually anyone. Studio executives go out of their way to market their movies to maximise the potential revenues (successfully or otherwise).

Comics have suffered from being stigmatised as "teenage white male" fare. This isn't entirely true, but it what the comic book company executives seem to eternally think. I like some of the indie stuff like "Strangers in Paradise", which would regularly pass the comic book equivalent of the Bechdel Test, there are plenty of great female characters each strong in their own ways.

But is there any roleplaying game that passes the Bechdel Test (or some equivalent)?

A game where there are illustrations of two or more female figures, and no male figures in sight. A game where two or more females engage scenes that don't revolve around a man. Kagematsu comes close, most of the characters ae female...but those females are plotting against one another to win the affections of a man.

Can the same apply to race? Pictures of two non-pale-skinned characters enaged in some kind of activity other than looking menacing toward the reader (or toward some pale skinned hero).

If you can hink of any examples, let me know.
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