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Darksbane

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abUse the Force - Gender Blender

Star Wars abUse the Force divinityofnumber

Yes, this is a bit of a sidestep for a column usually dedicated to exploring the Jedi and Sith affiliations for the Star Wars LCG. But, given the recent release of Edge of Darkness, with so much non-Jedi and non-Sith card content, I decided to put the reviews on hold briefly and post some nontraditional and hopefully conversation-starting content.

Our interviewee preferred to remain nameless, so we will refer to her here as Female Card-Gamer (FCG). She is 30 years old, holds multiple college and graduate degrees, is a working professional, and has been a lifelong video- and card-gamer.


INTRODUCTION

abUse the Force (ATF): Welcome to abUse the Force. To start off, tell me a little bit about your history with card games. Feel free to go back as far as you want to; did you ever play cards as a kid?

FCG: In my family, card games were always a part of gatherings. People in my family played Canasta, Poker, and a lot of other common card games. In my immediate family, when I was a kid, we always played things like Kings in the Corner, Crazy 8’s, and other similar games. Cards were always around.

ATF: When did you get into the nerdier, geekier, type of combat-style card games?

FCG: I wish that I would have known that they existed when I was younger. I had no clue about Magic or any of those games when they were starting back in the day. One day, while dating the man who was my boyfriend at the time, now my husband took out an old shoebox full of Pokemon cards. That was the gateway drug. We had fun, and I sat down and learned what the dynamics were with combat-type card games like that. I immediately loved it, and thought that it was super fun.
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After playing Pokemon from time to time casually, I wondered about other card games that might be more complex and even more fun. Then, one day while at the mall we stopped into a game store and I bought Cho-Manno’s Resolve, a pre-made White Magic: The Gathering deck. We played casually for a while, and I would buy random singles to add to my deck, which eventually grew to between 80 and 90 cards. I added any card that I liked, and thought that nothing would ever beat Calciderm. We learned together at the kitchen table, laughing and playing casually for fun. Eventually, thinking that we were getting pretty good, we went to a local Friday Night Magic event, and I did win two games that first night I played, with my 80+ card white deck. We really didn’t know what we were doing [laughs].

I think that first Friday Night Magic (FNM) was in the summer of 2007. I kept going to FNMs, and kept getting better and better. I developed a great deck over time. The next summer, in July of 2008 I won every FNM of that month at our local game store, which drew a large FNM crowd. I was the only girl in that meta-game to ever do anything like that.

ATF: We talked a little bit about this already, but what types of tournaments have you played in? What types of things have you won?

FCG: My first competitive play and tournaments was playing FNMs. But, my first large-scale tournament was the Magic State Regional Championship in 2008. I think that I was one of maybe two girls in the entire event, and there were hundreds of people there. I didn’t do too well. I won some games and held on for a while, but I had not been up against that level of competition before, and don’t feel like I took it seriously enough. I was playing in a very friendly and casual way, and that event was a rude awakening as to what large event competitive play is like. In the later rounds it gets intense and people are fierce. It was still fun; the hours go by like minutes at big tournaments like that. Over the years I have won playmats, lots of alternate art and special edition cards, etc.

ATF: What eventually led you away from Magic: The Gathering?

FCG: After a while, I came to realize that Magic was a “Rich Kid Wins” game, and I didn’t enjoy knowing that the other people that I met that were really great players, often very talented younger people, had no chance because they were playing with janky cards and couldn’t afford the good playsets. It just made me bitter over time.

A friend-of-a-friend, who, at the time, worked for Fantasy Flight [Games] learned that my husband and I were competitive card players who were getting sick of Magic, and suggested that we try out A Game of Thrones, which we did, and we loved it. We slowly turned a group of our Magic friends over to A Game of Thrones (AGoT) and everyone loved it. When we first started the AGoT LCG, we hadn’t read the books yet; we just saw that these Stark people had these dogs, and that there were different families and houses, with no idea what any of it was about. After playing the card game for a while, I couldn’t resist reading the books to learn more about all of these people on my cards, and so I quickly read through all of the books that were out at the time, and loved them. I think that Fantasy Flight has done a good job making the cards relevant and interesting for people who have read the books, but not giving enough away on the cards to ruin the books for people who have not read them all yet. I have always played Stark. I love the card-dynamics of that house, and it is my go-to deck.

ATF: So, you have played in many FNM events and a state championship for Magic, and I understand that you have also played in many Days of Ice and Fire events?

FCG: Yes, I played in the 2010 Days of Ice and Fire (DoIaF), which George R.R. Martin attended, and also played in DoIaF 2011 and 2013, which were all Game of Thrones regional tournaments. I have also played in the A Game of Thrones world championship.

ATF: And most recently you played in the Star Wars LCG Regional Championship that was held at the Fantasy Flight Event Center in Minnesota, the May The 4th Be With You event, correct?

FCG: Yep; Star Wars is my main game right now. I still play other games, but my main focus is on Star Wars. I am really impressed with the game. The dynamics and mechanics of it are excellent, and it just clicks with my cognitive style and my card-gaming style.

ATF: That event drew the largest crowd of the first Star Wars LCG regional season. You made the cut to Top 8. How was that?

FCG: I didn’t go thinking that I would place even in the Top 16. I had no idea what the competition would be like. I knew that within my group of friends I would usually win, but I didn’t have a grasp of what the wider community was like. Right away in that tournament I found that I was up against very, very good players, people from all over the country. There were many people at that event who were really passionate about the game, so it felt good to place.

ATF: The match that marked the cut to Top 4 was rough for you I hear, having been paired against a long-time friend?

FCG: Yes, that was difficult. I was undefeated until that matchup, except for one true tie against the person who went on to take 2nd place. The thing that I walked away feeling good about in the end was the fact that, earlier in the day, I gave the guy who went on to win the entire event his only loss of the day.


GENDER

ATF: Now let’s talk more specifically about gender, and about gender as it relates specifically to the Star Wars LCG. What type of reactions do you get from people in the wider world when you tell them about this hobby?

FCG: Most people just don’t understand it, most women especially have no clue what I am talking about when I try to describe these types of card games. When I tell people that I am a competitive card player, or that I am going to a card tournament, they always think that I mean Poker. Most girls don’t understand it, guys get it if you explain it, but most people don’t really understand what these games are. It seems like there are a lot of ex-Magic players in the world; they know what I’m talking about, but are often unfamiliar with LCGs.

ATF: Tell me about your experiences playing in tournaments against essentially only male competitors. I do see girls/women at events, but usually they are on their phones or sitting with crossed arms waiting for the man in their life to hurry up and be done. I very rarely see a female actively playing, maybe a few at really large events. What is that like?

FCG: I think that it works to my advantage, at first. When I sit down, the first thought that people have is that they’re going to get an easy win. They initially think free win. I think that it differs exactly at what point they start to take me seriously. Sometimes even by my shuffling they can tell that I am playing like a guy already, though. When I say, “like a guy”, I mean in a stereotypically masculine fashion, the ultra-quick pile-shuffling, the quick-cutting, the meticulous way that I have the game materials arranged, sometimes my playmat, my custom game materials, things like that.

In Star Wars, when people flip over objectives, they start to describe for me very slowly what they do, when I already know by sight the exact wording on them. I just nod my head and smile.

ATF: How do you think that your games play out differently than male-male games?

FCG: I’m not sure. I think that it is just that initiation piece that is different. They usually start out I think assuming an easy win, reading me slowly what all of their cards do, and things like that. Then, a few plays into the game I can see them straighten up their shoulders and back; that is the moment when they realize where they are, that they are in that same competitive zone that they would be playing against a veteran male player.

ATF: Does gender go out the window at that point?

FCG: Yes. At that point they are no longer viewing me as female, especially at the top tables. My history of competitive play has made me very strict about my game etiquette and insistence on there being no “take-backs”, because I don’t feel that that’s fair to either competitor. In competitive play, if a game piece or a card leaves your hand, you played it, and if something is spoken, it has to happen, plain and simple. Competitive players play like that anyway, and appreciate that demeanor, but most players don’t expect that from a girl. I don’t care if I lose, as long as I lose fairly. I have seen myself make huge play mistakes that cost me games, but I would never try to take them back or be shady about it, because I don’t want to win that way. For example, if someone forgets to take a focus token off of Luke at the beginning of my turn, that’s too bad; reactions are optional and I won’t allow them to go back and do that.

ATF: Have you ever experienced blatant misogyny, people making negative comments such as, “I can’t believe that I lost to a girl”, etc.?

FCG: No, not at all. I’ve experienced much the opposite, especially among the Fantasy Flight crowd. I think that most people wish that more girls/women played, and find it refreshing to play against a female. Of course, I don’t know what they say after the games are over, but my personal experience has been a positive one.


STAR WARS LCG AND GENDER
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ATF: As far as Star Wars LCG goes, and I know that AGoT is different with this, what do you think of the male-gendered wording on all of the cards and game materials, rule book, etc.?

FCG: I was really shocked by this. Especially since it seems like it was such a conscious choice. Things could have easily been made gender-neutral. I was especially surprised because I have met some of the makers of these games; the Fantasy Flight guys are such nice people, and it was surprising and shocking that they would make conscious choice to have the game’s wording explicitly exclude female gamers. It sends the message that women are not supposed to be playing this game; the message is being clearly sent that this is a man’s game.

I understand where they are coming from, and know that most people who play will be male, especially most competitive players, but why choose to exclude females when it would be so easy to use different wording? Given that I love this game so much, it is pretty disheartening.

ATF: Often cards refer to a specific game mechanic and mention a card’s controller or owner. But the Star Wars LCG, when referring to the player generally, uses the male gender exclusively. For a good example just take a look at Confronting the Terror.

FCG: I guess that means that those cards don’t apply to me until there is an errata [laughs]? Like I said, the male-oriented language saturates the entire game. Anger, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the rule book, all of it.

True, words like man or mankind used to refer to both genders and were generic terms, but with the evolution of the English language and also the push for gender-neutral language, that isn't the case anymore, and it isn't what is going on with the game text.

ATF: It seems to perpetuate the view that these games are only for men.

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FCG: The most bizarre part is that it is so rampant and consistent across the game materials that it must have been a conscious choice to make things gender-specific. It sends the message to women that they aren’t supposed to be playing. One of the very first people that I ever saw playing this game and touching these cards was a woman – I don’t know her name; she is the really pretty and nice lady that works for Fantasy Flight that often did the demos and tutorials for this game.

ATF: I haven’t played every game that FFG has put out, but I do know that AGoT doesn’t suffer from this problem. I can’t say for a certainty that there is no gender-specific wording on any AGoT card ever printed. But, a quick scan of those cards shows that it isn’t a big issue.

FCG: Yes, the AGoT cards have a very different feel with respect to gender. I hope that the gendered language is something that is changed when the Star Wars LCG materials progress through future printing editions.


CONCLUSION

ATF: As we wrap up, what advice do you have for other women and girls who either play or are thinking of playing competitive card games?

FCG: Don’t expect or encourage special treatment based on gender. Take it as a compliment when a male opponent is angry or bitter when they lose to you, or when they don’t tell you what all of their cards do; they are treating you like a true competitor of a game and not based on your sex.

ATF: Last question. What are some of your all-time favorite cards, by game? These don’t have to be cards that you think are the best power-wise; they can be just cards that you enjoy the style of, or have fun with.

FCG: With Star Wars, I would have to say Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Trust Your Feelings (especially with Han or Luke already on the board), Vader’s TIE Advanced, and Darth Vader, obviously. With Vader’s TIE Advanced, I like the mystery of how it could be augmented with whatever comes off of the top of the deck, and that Talon Roll works with it. It causes your opponent to be less certain of their decisions about defending. It is a better card than people give it credit for, I think. Depending on the build, you never know if you’ll be adding the icons from Devastator, the Emperor, or maybe adding no icons at all. It’s just a fun card. My favorite affiliation is Jedi. They may not always be the fastest, the most powerful, or the most competitive decks, but I like the play-style that they bring and the deck dynamics.

With AGoT, I have always liked the Lords of Winter Catelyn Stark (the jumping Catelyn), Meera Reed, and Northern Calvary Flank. House Stark has a lot of amazing cards. Meera is probably my all-time favorite. When she enters the game, things can get complicated and the board can change dramatically.

ATF: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. It is always interesting to examine gender-related issues with these types of card games, and to get a female perspective on things.

FCG: My pleasure, thanks for choosing me for the interview.


Please post your thoughts about gender and card-gaming in the comments. For the men, what type of relationship do the women in your life have with your card games? Do they share the passion? Do they reluctantly help you playtest? Do you have female gamers in your local meta? For women, tell us about your experiences as a card-gamer!
  • Toqtamish, HappyDD, Midian and 8 others like this


28 Comments

Nice article, thanks. My wife is, in fact, the ONLY opponent I've had in AGoT. She's new to the CCG/LCG format altogether, doing quite well, and really enjoying it!
    • Midian likes this
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Ironswimsuit
Jul 25 2013 05:44 PM
I stopped reading when you referred to someone being upset to losing to a girl and vocalizing it as such as blatant misogyny.

I stopped reading when you referred to someone being upset to losing to a girl and vocalizing it as such as blatant misogyny.


You cannot link “I can’t believe that I lost to a girl” to "blatant misogyny?"

Oh you poor, misunderstood person. You mean denigrating someone based simply on their gender (by implying that they shouldn't be able to win and therefore they didn't win, you lost) isn't a form of hatred of the feminine?

Go back to r/MRA, but first I suggest you learn to read an article to its conclusion rather than hitting the eject button when something doesn't mesh with your delicate lily white masculine sensibilities.
    • Toqtamish and Tomdidiot like this
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divinityofnumber
Jul 25 2013 06:06 PM
The commas were meant to set off a list, not a string of appositives, but that is a little unclear, given the sentence structure; my apologies for that. Et cetera translates to "and other things" not "or other things", so I take the blame for that confusion. In text, we lose vocal prosody; when I asked the question in interview, my vocal tone expressed things more as a list than in apposition.

I also was not referring to misogyny in the sense of actually hating women. I used the word to try to evoke a more nuanced and detailed response from the interviewee. If it was a usual article, I would just edit it. But, since that is what I actually asked her, I can't edit it post factum.

I certainly would not claim that someone upset about losing to a girl/woman is a die-hard misogynist. The example is "blatant" in the sense that the individual would be vocalizing it directly and in-person. I was trying to find out if anyone had ever said anything really mean or offensive to her.
I really enjoyed this article. Very interesting.

As a male, I definitely feel it would be an odd choice if all the cards in the star wars lcg had the opposite gender wording (whenever a player does x "she" does x) but I don't think it would be terribly off-putting.
He or she (Basically 9 characters including spaces) is a lot of card real-estate for inclusive language, when in a lot of card games clarity is the primary goal. (For rules text at least.) 'The player' (10 characters), 'that player' (11), and 'that opponent' (13) are all a lot more text space than 'he'.

Now, does that mean the language at face value is exclusive and gender biased? Yes. Did ffg miss an opportunity to make girls and women more welcome and included into this game? Yes, probably. Do I think its a bad precedent that purposefully excludes women? Not really no.
A little preamble in the core rules that basically says that the game uses masculine terminology (or non gender neutral) for the sake of being clear and concise regardless of the gender of players might have been in order, but I am not pc pr guru so what do I know. :P
    • Midian and Jeeps like this
FFG could have very easily made references to the DS and LS players as 100% mono-gendered without problem. Of course, cue the internet **** storm when DS is referred to as 'he' because it would be 'reverse sexism.'
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Ironswimsuit
Jul 25 2013 07:09 PM

You cannot link “I can’t believe that I lost to a girl” to "blatant misogyny?"

Oh you poor, misunderstood person. You mean denigrating someone based simply on their gender (by implying that they shouldn't be able to win and therefore they didn't win, you lost) isn't a form of hatred of the feminine?

Go back to r/MRA, but first I suggest you learn to read an article to its conclusion rather than hitting the eject button when something doesn't mesh with your delicate lily white masculine sensibilities.


Are you trying to win the internet? You didn't. Disbelief and exclamation that one failed to defeat someone of the opposite gender does not inherently make the statement hateful or negative any more than an exclamation that someone of the opposite gender engages in a certain activity.

There are several cases in which products note that "he" is the pronoun of choice and that no sexism is intended.

I don't know what r/MRA is. I apologize, but you have no idea what you are talking about.
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MercyStreet
Jul 25 2013 07:42 PM
Great article. No lost points for the lack of clarity in the written language.
    • Midian likes this
Really like this article. I really think more women should get involved in the hobby. My wife enjoys Ascension and Small World. She also has won every game of AGoT we ever played.
    • Midian, Archrono and celric like this
i always count the number of ladies at a big tournament and i am surprised when the total is greater than two. there definitely needs to be more ladies playing card games. men can do their part to encourage female participation by doing the following:
1) be nice and fair to everyone (both genders)
2) be welcoming and reach out and say Hi to new people (both genders) instead pow-wowing inside your own clique
3) f*cking shower!!! most tournaments smell like BO. wear deodorant and bring some in your backpack in case you sweat through it
4) wear a clean t-shirt that covers your plumber butt crack and hairy-ass arms. no one (either gender) wants to see that ****
    • Midian likes this
Sweet article. I think most girls don't play because they just aren't interested, and those that are, do. In my experience girls that do play are warmly welcomed and treated equally, I don't think I have experienced any negative gender interaction. My gf has played magic, LotR and agot with me. She enjoys playing them, but at the end of he day doesn't give sh*t about the games and plays to make me happy. In saying all that I can appreciate it would be hard for a girl to show up to a gaming night by herself if she didn't know anyone else, heck it was weird for me when I did it.
This is overall a good article and I'm glad to see that people are welcoming to female players. I personally play SW with my girlfriend and there are other women in my circle of friends who play games (not as numerous as the guys, unfortunately, but that's the point of this article, no?).

The only nitpick I have with this article is making an issue out of masculine language. I was surprised by the conclusion that it was maliciously (or negligently, at least) done and gave the message that this game was only for men. This was further surprising when it was acknowledged that words such as "man" or "mankind" are gender neutral (or more accurately, all encompassing).

I've had this discussion before, and there are valid points on both sides, but the way English is structured you have the following choices if you wish to be all encompassing in your gender pronouns and in other similar situations:
1) Use "he." While it may not seem like it, like "man" or "mankind," "he" is all encompassing, not just masculine, depending on context. In the context of directions to an unknown gendered person, it is all encompassing. That *is* the structure of English and dates back to its roots.
2) Use "she." There was a push in recent days to use "she" as an all encompassing, but it was adopted poorly. It is understood in context the same way as "he" is in option #1. Unfortunately (mostly due to centuries of momentum and the pushback of "why does it matter; let's use what we have?" it went nowhere).
3) Use "(s)he," "he/she," or "he or she." These options, while valid, look clumsy and worse, read even more clumsily. This usually excludes them from any situation where text space is limited and what text you have is important (such as card games).
4) Use "they." "They" is truly gender neutral (which is an important distinction compared to all encompassing terms). The problem is that, in English, using "they" in the context of direct directions can come accross as rude and is generally not taught to be acceptable. Card text is generally direct directions. In less direct circumstances, such as "They may do X," it is more typical to use "you," such as, "You may do X."

So of these choices, #3 and #4 are generally considered non-starters. Choice #2 is viable, but poorly adopted and its only benefit over choice #1 (which *is* the structurally and historically correct choice for the all encompassing choice) is that it mollifies people (both men and women) who think (incorrectly) that "he" is not all encompassing (in context) and therefore we should give women a turn. I find that choice to be wrought with fallacy.

In some ways we are fortunate that English is not a gendered language (like say, Spanish). Because it is not a gendered language and because a polite, gender neutral pronoun set does not exist, one of the two gendered pronoun sets must be picked to also be the all encompassing pronoun. In English (and most, but not all, other languages) it happens to be the male set. This has it's roots in patriarchal societal structures, but that doesn't make it any less valid as part of the rules of the language (any more than it would be insulting that many of the words that are female form in gendered languages tend to be diminuative words).

If we want to address gender exclusion (or race exclusion, or any other form of exclusion) from any group (not just gaming) you have to address root causes, be they lack of information and exposure, lack of acceptance, sex/race/whatever-ism, and exclusionary bias, to name a few. What we don't want to do is create issues out of either small things, or in this case, out of things that aren't actually issues if you take the time to really research the subject matter and then educate others around you. All this does is polarize people and lessen the chances of solving the actual issue at hand (namely, bring more of group X, Y, or Z into the fold).

To be clear, I don't care how they word the cards as long as they are clear. To that end, I strongly prefer choices #1 and #2. I have no preference for either, but I do acknowledge that both are valid and that choice #1 is the historically correct choice. What I do care about, however, is when people (male or female) accuse others of exculsion, bias, or malice without just cause when they use the (as I have repeatedly pointed out by this point) valid choice #1. While some people do use the masculine pronouns for negative reasons, it's not fair, nor right, to assume such when you have no cause to. In this particular case, it was even mentioned that the designers were nice people, so why would you attribute a negative motive when that is your characterization of the person(s)?
    • Darksbane, Archrono, celric and 2 others like this

I don't know what r/MRA is. I apologize, but you have no idea what you are talking about.


r/MRA is reddits Mens Rights Assoication subreddit, but this isn't the proper place to discuss mens rights.

I quite enjoyed the article too, but I totally agree with AntaresCD. Although I do think it is odd that they used simply he when in their other games they do use he or she, I don't think it was meant as a slight against female gamers. If it was actually a conscious decision it was likely done to save card space. I actually prefer in cardgames when they stick to a single pronoun as it keeps the text more concise and to the point.
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divinityofnumber
Jul 26 2013 04:50 AM
I think the idea she meant to convey was that the gendered wording was more shortsighted and perhaps negligent, not necessarily malicious. Using male-gendered wording does give the message that the game is only for men implicitly, does it not? It is relatively easy to use "his or her" combined with things like "your opponent", "your opponents", etc. And, when you look at the other games mentioned in the article, that is the precedent.

A quick scan of the Pokemon card database shows that that game has used "his or her."The same conventions can be found in Magic: The Gathering. Search the database of A Game of Thrones cards, and you see the same thing. For instance, the card Penny's text reads, "…The controller of that character chooses to either kneel that character or choose and discard 1 card from his or her hand."

It is true that card real estate is precious, and the number of words must be considered. But, perhaps nowhere is that more relevant than the A Game of Thrones LCG, where cards often contain large paragraphs of text. And, even that game has managed to use gender-neutral or both-gender-inclusive language. So, the fact that there must have been a conscious decision to use the male gender exclusively, when some other FFG games have not done so (LoTR uses some gendered wording), seems odd. I think that was the main point that was meant to be taken.
    • celric, db0 and admiralacf like this
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divinityofnumber
Jul 26 2013 04:50 AM
To bring up fallacy, there are three that we can discuss specifically. The first is the informal fallacy termed the false dilemma, in which a set of options are presented as being collectively exhaustive, when there is at least one other option. As other games have shown, with a little bit of linguistic finesse, the gender issue can be remedied.

But, even granting that those four options were collectively exhaustive, choosing based on previous structure and historical custom presses toward the fallacy of precedent, essentially asserting that nothing should happen for the first time.

Lastly, primarily for fun, is the fallacy fallacy, in which one assumes that, because an argument is fallacious, its conclusion is not true. For example:

P1: Socrates is a man
P2: Socrates is mortal
C1: The sum of the deviation scores about the mean for a given distribution of values will always equal zero

A non sequitur (i.e., the conclusion does not follow from the premises), yet a true and valid conclusion. :)

Just because you find that something was born of fallacy does not render it untrue de ipso facto.

Using a male set of pronouns does indeed have its roots in patriarchal societal structures; this is the reason that we have not traditionally used the female forms as the all encompassing versions. But, language evolves, conventions die, and that type of language is obviously becoming archaic rather quickly. Furthermore, it isn't about finding the "valid" choice, it is about finding the more inclusive, progressive, and considerate choice, which was not done in the case of the Star Wars LCG. Someone decided to use exclusively male wording for this game, which I think the interviewee found surprising, given her background in Pokemon, MTG, and AGoT, which have all made efforts to avoid that.
    • db0 and admiralacf like this
I acknowledge that there are more than 4 choices. I left out less viable ones such as the use of "it," for example. My mention of fallacy was a personal opinion derived from the rabit hole that the discussion I mentioned in that paragraph launches people down because the entire discussion started from a premise not derived from the correct historical understanding of the use of "he." This discussion, quite frequently devolves into calls of sexism (or worse) on both sides, which is why I did not wish to go there.

You can sum up my entire post with the following points:
-"He" (or "she") is correctly all encompassing in English. English is not a gnedered language. If you study a gendered language or ask someone who knows one, this can be put into a very clear perspective.
-Claiming a person A did X for a negligent, malicious, whatever reason when characterized oppositely and with lack of evidence to support a non-generous motive is unfair at best, prejudicial most likely, and can be called (definitionally) sexism if the reason is that person A is of a particular gender. To be clear, I am *not* saying it was sexist. That would in turn be me attributing negative items without just cause. I merely point out that it can be interpreted that way and cause the degeneration of the discussion I mentioned above (and the polarization I mentioned in my first post). I prefer to believe a more generous viewpoint (supported by the evidence I do have) that this characterization derives from a lack of understanding/education of the matter at hand, none of which is malicious nor negative.
-Making an issue out this word choice does nothing constructive towards attempting to gain more women in gaming.

I also pointed out that things have changed. The use of "she" as an all encompassing *is* a change in English. Stating that you are attempting to find the more "inclusive, progressive, and considerate choice" implies that using "he" is less or non-inclusive (structurally incorrect in English), less progressive (by the common use of "progressive" in the present day, you are correct there), and less considerate (while perhaps true, that again begins down the slope of attributing negative motives with no evidence where a less negative or a positive motive exists that is just as, if not more, viable).

I do, quite honestly, understand your point. I can, and have, debated both sides of this issue. I just find it a microcosm on the expanse of the gender equality issue. I further believe that anyone who wants gender equality (or any other equality) fights for it on both sides and doesn't allow any side or any member to prejudge (or worse).

Let's put this in perspective. Can you honestly say that you believe a major contributing factor to women in general not playing this game is because they picked up the cards, saw the word "he" being used, and therefore felt this game excluded them? What other more important factors should be addressed first? Societal pressure against "nerd" or "geek" culture, especially for women? The (unfortunately) common viewpoint that science fiction (and science in general) is for men and women are not encouraged to pursue it, or worse, discouraged from pursuing it? How about, the men who treat women horridly that have become one of the common stereotypes for members of "nerd" or "geek" groups? Or even the fact that women (for whatever reason) are less likely to indulge in an entertainment medium that involves or portrays action, fighting, and other such things?

I will concede that it may be an issue, but if it is, it is a very small one, especially in light of those above. Factor in that the fact that it is an issue involves a misunderstanding of the English language. Factor in that this issue can deeply polarize people (as it implicitly starts drawing lines as "sexist" gets thrown about). To me, and you are of course free to disagree, this makes this issue an exceedingly low priority, if an issue at all, when it can be either corrected with education or ignored in favor of more pressing issues, ones which fighting for will be more likely to have a positive effect as opposed to a negative one.
In terms of card real estate, can you not also make the conclusion that in their older games, they found the use of "he or she" to be an issue in AGoT because they do have paragraphs of text, but that they were stuck with that format for consistency? Seeing as how SW is their newest game, perhaps they decided to go with the shortest, valid choice to prevent that issue? Or maybe a Lucas Arts representative gave them that directive after reading an earlier set of card text? We don't know, but there are clearly multiple possible reasons why they might have done this.

I'm with Darksbane on this. If it was a concious choice, I feel it was for brevity and nothing more and that a single pronoun (whichever is chosen) keeps the text concise.
"They" is the simplest and most elegant solution. It fits most situations and you make do when it doesn't. It's not perfect but it's better than assuming everyone is a male.
    • Danthulhu, stephftw, divinityofnumber and 1 other like this

Really like this article. I really think more women should get involved in the hobby. My wife enjoys Ascension and Small World. She also has won every game of AGoT we ever played.


I liked this article. My girlfriend's first experience with any type of card game is Star Wars. She loves playing Sith and locking me down with Palpatine. I also like that the interview gave perspective on tournament play. Well done.
This is great, I love hearing the perspective of other female players. I've been playing AGoT for less than a year, but the community has been very welcoming and inclusive in that short time. In the two regionals I particpated in (got top 8 in one!), every single opponent was respectful and friendly.

As for the use of gendered pronouns on cards, I understand why FFG would choose to use "he" to save card space, but I still really prefer the way that AGoT cards are worded. It just feels more inclusive. I don't think that the use of "he" or "his" would stop me from playing a game that I would play otherwise, but using "he or she" shows me that the creators of the game appreciate the fact that women in their audience want to feel included. I know it takes a bit of extra space and possibly some extra effort to word things in a gender inclusive way, but I do truly appreciate it.
    • admiralacf likes this
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divinityofnumber
Jul 30 2013 04:07 AM
@AnteresCD:

To address your first point, I think that the discontent comes from a quite correct understanding of the historical use of "he." The use of he, which, as we have discussed, is rooted in ancient societal structures, which were entirely dominated by men. An early example is the pater familias of Ancient Rome, and the patria potestas that accompanied this gender-based auctoritas, a sort of domestic imperium. But, one can reference Ancient Greek or any other ancient culture and find much the same. Many who argue against the use of the masculine pronoun set as the all encompassing have a quite firm grasp on history, and that is exactly what drives the call for change, not ignorance. One could say, "Don't you know, use of the masculine as all encompassing is the proper English method, proper in that it has been established by historical precedent", to which a quite valid reply would be, "Yes, I understand that the use of the masculine as the all encompassing is the historical precedent, and that is exactly why I argue that it should be abandoned." It is not that talking about the historical convention devolves into calls of sexism, the historical convention is sexist; it is a manifestation of an antiquated and archaic societal power dynamic. One cannot insert a claim of sexism against the convention; the convention is undoubtedly and clearly sexist. But, even aside from that fact, arguments from historicity or precedence are quite fragile, for obvious reasons.

I would say that the claim of negligence is justified in this case; it can certainly be argued for robustly. If we define negligence as the failure to take proper care or precaution when doing something, then I would assert that using the masculine pronoun set as the all encompassing in the 2010's (long after such usage has been considered outdated, antiquated, and archaic; states have even amended bodies of law to update them and gender-neutral language is much the norm in contemporary life) when other long-standing and successful games (e.g., Magic, Pokemon), some of which are produced by the company in question (e.g., AGoT), have used gender-neutral language is indeed negligent. It might save space or be technically correct, but that technical correctness is based on quite outdated language conventions. Technically, thou is used to refer to a person being addressed, and thee is the form used when the person is a direct object, but we don't use those things anymore either; most of the declension of English nouns has faded away over time. The masculine set as all encompassing is a thing of the past. I would argue that continuing to use it is negligent.
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divinityofnumber
Jul 30 2013 04:08 AM
I am all too familiar with gendered languages; I have studied both Latin and Greek, and read, write, and speak Latin with high proficiency (I dare not say fluently, as no native speakers live today). Not only do those languages rely on relatively strict gender conventions, but they decline nouns, and use a much different word order than English, namely they tend to arrange sentences in a subject-object-verb pattern, whereas English uses subject-verb-object constructions. The nouns come with their own gender baggage, but the nice thing is that the third person singular form of verbs covers he/she/it. Choosing nouns (e.g., opponent, player, enemy) would be the tough choice there, since the verbs would end up the same regardless of gender (they change based on mood, voice, tense, person, and number), and the pronouns would match the gender of the initial noun chosen.

About the other point, I do agree that the gendered-wording may be a relatively small issue. But, I think that it is a battle worth fighting. The women that I know that have played the game have all noticed the gendered language, saying something like, "Hey, these all say 'He' on them." I would argue that education would not "correct" this issue; it would make the issue even more apparent. In an archaic, technical sense, the masculine has precedent as being used as the all encompassing. But, this is a dying convention, and for good reason. Education about why the masculine came to be used as the all encompassing should lead the modern person to wish that the convention be abandoned.
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divinityofnumber
Jul 30 2013 04:09 AM
I haven't argued that the gendered wording is a major contributing factor to women in general not playing the game, and I don't see the interviewee as having argued that either. Rather, the wording reaffirms the message that is already being broadcast by wider society. There is the message that women don't play games like these. And then, when they do, for them to see "he", "his", "he", "his", over and over can be awkward and disheartening, as the women that I have talked to who play attest to. Some other comments brought up the point of the cards saying "she." Some have said that they don't care how the cards are worded, so long as they are clear. But, when we take a moment to empathize as men, we have to admit that if all of the cards said "she" and "her", it would feel odd. It creates a cognitive and emotional space between the player and the game that doesn't need to be there. It is easy to use gender neutral language, as Magic, Pokemon, AGoT, and others have done. The SW:LCG should have followed that lead. It is easy to do and is the most progressive choice.

Your points about the general pressures against "nerd" or "geek" culture are excellent and important. There are of course other larger issues, but, as I have said, I think that bringing up the gendered wording is worthwhile. Even us discussing it here will show female gamers that it is something that is on our minds, and that our aim is to make them feel like welcome members of the overarching card-gaming community. Furthermore, of the women that I know and have known who play cards, and those here in the comments, the unanimous sentiment is that they definitely prefer gender inclusive language.

Thanks to all for the insightful and thought-provoking comments! I hope that the discussion and comments continue; that was part of the point of doing the article.

@AnteresCD: Thank you for the in depth back-and-forth. You make some great points. I usually don't comment much. This has been excellent.
A very interesting read. However, I am very sad that gender issues start to mess with things like games. As someone above has pointed out, English is not a gender oriented language thus using a "he" does not have to be referred to a form of any kind of sexism. Still the article is provocative with an insight from another player (in the first place) and a girl (in the second place).
@divinityofnumber:

Your points are valid. Although the historical root of a convention or word sufficiently removed from its time period no longer necessarily propagates the underlying societal view; so it ultimately comes down to personal opinion in that case, I guess. When I argue for abondoning the historical patriarchal viewpoint, I find that arguing for "she" has the issues I stated above. There really isn't a "right" solution. "He or she" and its variants are clunky. What English needs is either "he" and "she" to both become equally common that the choice of either no longer matters, or we need a new, short pronoun that fulfills the all-encompassing role.

Thank you to you as well. I'm sure we could continue this discussion endlessly, as you seem intelligent, educated, and willing to consider different viewpoints, but I think there are better places to have such discussions.

I guess we interact with very different female gamers. Most of the women I brought this up to stated the sentiment of, "Why does this even matter? I know that 'he' refers to both men and women in this context and it doesn't bother me at all." Most of them also stated a lack of exposure to such games as another reason there are so few female gamers.

To answer your other point, I've played numerous games of varying mediums that use "she" as their pronoun of choice. I have never had issue with it in the slightest. Maybe I'm in the minority there.