the thoughtlessness of the anti-tights people in superhero gaming
I get very tired of the unthinking bias against superhero tights shown by many players when they first decide to join a superhero campaign. If they are really that ignorant about superhero fiction as a thriving subgenre with its own legitimate history and its own logical bases for its tropes and traditions, why would they pretend to want to play in a superhero campaign?
The original superhero tights were worn in imitation of the professional athletes of the time. For example, in the first half of the 20th century, macho wrestlers wore tights and then shorts on the outside for modesty's sake (and to camoflauge from the public any protective gear they wore over their "unmentionables"). Superman's original tights and shorts was similar to that of professional athletes in part to demonstrate his raw virility and masculine prowess.
The shorts worn by wrestlers of the time were just like the shorts many modern men wear when jogging or working out at the gym. Deriding those shorts as "underwear" is juvenile; it's like mocking professional basketball uniforms and baseball uniforms as pajamas!
All people who outlaw tights in their superhero games might as well outlaw the shorts of professional bicyclists, the tight wetsuits of SCUBA divers, the outfits of professional wrestlers, of baseball players, of basketball players, of soccer players, of rugby players, of weightlifters, of bodybuilders, of fencers, and of Olympic level acrobats, as well as the speedos and bikinis of Olympic level divers. They might as well outlaw the tight pants and tight uniforms of many military branches throughout history and the tight outfits of many professional martial artists. Any other response would be hypocritical.
Some people will claim that superheroes are warriors not athletes, but as I have pointed out, tight outfits are also found in many militaries and many martial arts competitions. In fact, in many martial arts competitions, tights are considered preferrable to loose clothing because tights provide nothing for your opponent to grab.
I have yet to witness anyone win an Olympic medal wearing a trenchcoat, and I can recall no professional basketball or rugby team wearing denim trousers instead of shorts during a serious game. Anyone who thinks poorly of men who wear tight pants needs to attend a Marines training camp.
On a related subject, some people also mock capes, specifically because they might be grabbed. They forget one major real world truth: that most capes if worn in battle at all were designed to be immediately detachable. Someone who grabbed a person's cape didn't end up inconveniencing the former cape-wearer but instead ended up with a faceful of cape entangling himself or herself. The jokes about capes in The Incredibles were amusing, but they were based on a fundamental ignorance about the workings of capes that appeared on military uniforms. Such capes were always instantly detachable!
Historically, in Europe, the rare cape-wearer who did not put aside his (sometimes her) cape just before a sword duel was bragging to his opponent that he was so skilled that his opponent would never even get the chance to pull off his cape. Thus, an opponent who lost the duel but managed to yank off the cape managed to attain coup against the cape-wearer.
The major reason The Batman wears a cape is that it looks cool, of course, and the major reason Superman wears a cape is that it reminds us that he is something of a modern paladin, but another early reason they wore capes was to show that they were so awesome they could get away with it.
Obviously, if the game is not a superhero campaign but instead a military bughunt campaign with superpowered PCs or a campaign about a biker gang with superpowers fighting an evil cyberpunk empire, to list only two possible examples, none of the above necessarily applies.
Additionally, some of the grittier superhero comic books have turned away from capes and tights as a statement against idealism -- but they have done so to make a statement, not as a thoughtless reaction against something they failed to understand. Again, in those cases, the above does not apply. Yet on the other hand, the classic gritty superhero has been The Batman, who has yet to abandon his cape and who could probably clean Rorschach's anti-cape clock without sweating.
Whenever I meet a potential superhero player who mouths this kind of anti-tights, anti-cape inanity, I find it hard to imagine that player could be anything better than a disruption in any authentic superhero campaign. Does this person really know anything about superheroes at all?
Sometimes such players simply don't know any better (I've met players who think Wolverine was created before Superman!), but more often, this is a player who has absolutely no interest in superheroes but only wants to hack and slash in a modern city. (Often, the same player also scoffs at capes on superheroes -- but loves the cape on his D&D or WoW character!) This is great for a superpowered hack'n'slash campaign, but what about those of us who want to game actual superheroes?
Last edited by magic-rhyme; 04-25-2012 at 01:10 PM.
Thank you for the lesson on superhero tights, magic-rhyme. I honestly didn't know much of what was said. Any chance you might be looking to dm a superhero game?
I've GMed a superhero campaign almost every year since I started gaming more than a decade ago. More than once I have run several superhero campaigns the same season, each for a different group of players.
Originally Posted by Zedek
I know I was a little rantish in the way I expressed myself, but honestly, what happened to the age when geeks held themselves to higher standards than the mundanes? I miss the days when the pre-game session chatter included not only movie quotes and gossip about the latest SF or fantasy novel but also eager discussions of Aristotelian virtue ethics and good-natured debates about the latest scientific theory touching on human nature -- and gamers cared enough about such topics that no one needed to consult some online cheat sheet (especially not one that oversimplified thoughtlessly) to remember who Aristotle is or what counts as science.
I remember once when a DM assigned a would-be player to read LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea before he would allow the player to join his campaign, and the player felt grateful to be initiated into the community. These days, the player would probably whinge "Uncool!", sulk, then either give up tabletop for World of Warcraft or skim a wikipedia article and lie about having read the book -- whichever took the least thought and effort. We used to expect our friends to help us become more than we already are, but these days, many people expect their friends to make it easier for them to slack.
If someone wants to play in my superhero campaigns, I expect him to know about superheroes! When did that requirement become controversial among gamers?
Last edited by magic-rhyme; 05-02-2012 at 07:25 PM.
You do realize that gaming is becoming more main stream and no longer open to just us geeks!
If you do so deem to start a Play-by-Post superhero game anytime soon, color me interested. I've been looking for a suitable game for ages now, and I would appreciate any alert you might give me(specifically PM ME PLEASE! )
Yes, and I have met too many people who claim to be major fantasy devotees and then boast they have never read a single fantasy book or short story in their lives because "ah, that's too much effort".
Originally Posted by Skunkape
Giving the mainstream access to geek culture should have resulted in large numbers of mainstream mundanes rising up to greater levels of intellectual engagement, sophisticated literacy, and imagination. It should have meant even the average person could access the insights of philosophy, physical science, social science, scholarship, art, literature, culture, and basic reason and evaluation in their discussions and political activities.
It should have democratized and popularized learning, intellectual growth, and development of the imagination so that everyone could and would benefit from them and not simply a lucky minority of people.
It should not have resulted in large segments of geek culture sinking down to a slacker level of indifference to reading, to learning, and to any engagement with life and the world that might take an effort.
---------- Post added at 05:26 AM ---------- Previous post was at 05:23 AM ----------
I'm flattered, but I have never enjoyed PBM or PBEM gaming. I prefer the intimacy and immediacy of face-2-face RL tabletop roleplaying. Sorry.
Originally Posted by Zedek
Last edited by magic-rhyme; 05-04-2012 at 02:23 PM.
I think it is amazing that players will accept such foolish and silly things in a fantasy but complain that a supers game is "unrealistic". As far as I am concerned, a superhero game is just another type of fantasy game and yes some people just want to play a D&D game with guns and complain that they have actually act like a heroic character instead of a murdering hobo.
Take a look at any representative sample of films from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and today, and you will notice the "cool guy" is always the one with a three-foot-thick cast-iron psychological shell of feigned indifference because he's so desperately terrified that he'll get hurt or embarrassed or tricked if he ever lets anyone see his honest humanity and capacity for compassion. The "cool guy" is just the guy who's most afraid of human warmth.
Originally Posted by Golden Age Superhero
In the same way, it's far emotionally safer for most guys to play an ersatz sociopathic "cool guy" out for himself and incapable of recognizing any commonality with his enemies, i.e. the typical hack'n'slash campaign found in some D&D and in some cyberpunk/spacepunk, whereas the courage needed for the idealism and optimism of classic superhero campaigns is too frightening a breach of their real life comfort zones.
I don't think it's a coincidence that, when one of my gaming groups decided for a group project to help out in real life at the local soup kitchen, it was only the players who could enjoy the occasional superhero campaign who showed up. As one of the hack'n'slashers (who later "forgot" to show up) said when he was arguing against the idea, "It's depressing enough knowing there's poor people without having to look at them. Let's stick to killing orcs and being heroes" (close approximation of his words) without ever noticing the irony.
Last edited by magic-rhyme; 05-09-2012 at 10:26 PM.