A Toy Chest for Game Design
Twilight Saga and Gay Marriage

A Game of Gender

Here’s a game for you.

Let’s pretend gender fiction can be understood as having just three dimensions – behavioural, sexual and physical. Now let’s say that we have three values in each dimension. ‘Ma’ for male-esque, ‘Fe’ for female-esque and ‘Ni’ for any ambiguity therein. (For the sake of this game, behaviourally male-esque means something like ‘butch’ or ‘masculine-behaving’; sexually female-esque means ‘attracted to men’ and physically male-esque means having a penis).

You can now make a word to describe your gender in glorious 3D – by combining these three syllables (‘ma’, ‘fe’ or ‘ni’) three times, once each for your behavioural, sexual and physical circumstances in that order, and then adding the suffix ‘le’ at the end.

So if you are a butch lesbian your 3D Gender is “mamafele”. If you are a behaviourally neutral bisexual with a penis your 3D Gender is “ninimale”. If you are a feminine-behaving person who is attracted to men and have no penis your 3D Gender is “fefefele”. While if you are masculine-behaving man-lover with a penis your 3D Gender is “mafemale”.

What 3D Gender are you today?


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27 genders. Interesting. Tell me, what is the purpose of this game? It will not replace the current binary games in terms of how we see society, because it's way too complicated. And I don't see much theoretical value coming from something so shamelessly built on stereotypes (e.g. "butch=male").

@Mory: I assume the purpose of this game is to invite players to reflect on their self-perception with regard to the word "gender". While the the three dimensions offered do make some sense the use of only three crisp (and stereotypically extreme) values on these dimensions seems hardly convincing ;-)) What this proposal does demonstrate to me is that the attributes we use (such as "male") with regard to gender are indeed complex and multi-facetted and therefore not easily reduced. Best!

@Chris: Obviously, the "behavioural" dimension is the first to take issue with ... anyway, one ad- hoc augmentation could be to split each dimension into subdimensions: " x as perceived by myself" and " x as commented upon by the people I live with..." Best!

Mory: translucy is absolutely correct - my purpose in suggesting this game is to invite players to reflect on their perceptions of gender. This isn't a philosophical or a political proposal, just a game intended to ask people to consider their gender assumptions from somewhere beyond the binary.

Best wishes!

Hi Chris :)

I am an avid reader of your site, and this post interested me because I recently wrote an essay on gender roles in games. If you'd like to check it out I posted it here http://yueproject.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/ludology-paper-1-females-shouldnt-play-games/ - hopefully you might find it interesting ;) thanks for the read

Hi Emma (is that the right name?)! Thanks for your comment - always delighted to hear from "avid readers" of the Game. ;) I'll check your essay, and leave comments at your site.

Best wishes!

"What 3D Gender are you today?"


Failing that, nimamale, today at least and according to these terms. But why not go a stage further and generate a Traveller-esque Universal Gender Descriptor, with 0-F in each category? Why stop at a mere 27 categories when one can have >4,000 without trying? ;-)

Peter: "Why not go a stage further..." Are you asking why I didn't take an already over-complicated idea and make it even more over-complex? ;)

Yep. Why force people to choose from a mere three alternatives for each component of gender, when (to me) almost all of the interesting gradations and variations are within the area you lump under "ni".

There's definitely a lot of interesting territory in between! I really just wanted to put a sketch into the sand for further thinking about gender... I feared what I had written was already too complex for most people. :)

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