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Thread: the thoughtlessness of the anti-tights people in superhero gaming

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    the thoughtlessness of the anti-tights people in superhero gaming

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    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.

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    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?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zedek View Post
    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.

    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.

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    You do realize that gaming is becoming more main stream and no longer open to just us geeks!
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    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! )

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skunkape View Post
    You do realize that gaming is becoming more main stream and no longer open to just us geeks!
    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".

    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 ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Zedek View Post
    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! )
    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.
    Last edited by magic-rhyme; 05-04-2012 at 02:23 PM.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Golden Age Superhero View Post
    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.

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magic-rhyme View Post
    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".

    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.
    I think it is so very sad that people don't read anymore. We seem to be creating a generation of under-educated people.

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    I asked my wife about this and she says that as a woman she thinks men in tights are hot!

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    I have always looked at superheroes as just another fantasy setting. Modern setting but fantasy nonetheless. Also Batman wears a weighted cape that confuses his enemies and acts as a gliding cape and a deflector.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magic-rhyme View Post
    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.
    public education should have resulted in our shifting to a democracy from a federal republic as well, yet it did not, for the same reasons that your shoulds and should nots resulted in what they really did.

    geeks used to be elites in the same way highly educated individuals are elites. why? for the same reason. education. when any piece of knowledge, culture, or learning is re-packaged for the masses, it is unavoidably diluted down. the people who wrote "frodo lives" in the subways of new york were highly educated people, most of whom also had the courage of their convictions to divorce themselves from the "Rat Race" (another historical reference that has passed into popular language, but most do not know the real origins of) and explore other ways of progress. and right there was a test. a geek would either know what i meant by "Rat Race" because they are already educated, or they would have stopped, and gone to look it up. whereas those who are... shall we call them 'casual or young geeks' would have been satisfied with what they think it means or might have mentally shrugged and gone on reading.

    lets look at a couple of famous examples from history:

    1)the bible. setting aside the issue of the fact that whole books, passages, and key words were removed from and/or changed in the text before it could be translated, the end result suffers from numerous translation errors which are further exacerbated by the removals and changes. we have over 800 various sects of christianity alone, all claiming slightly different things.

    2)the lord of the rings and the hobbit: i know quite a few people who love the movies, but can't be bothered to read the books (and a few of those can't be bothered to read any books). we don't need to get into an involved discussion as to the omissions and changes introduced by the movies as compared to the books.

    the culture shift over time is also something that must be taken into account. for example, tolkien's works were out there for quite a while before they became wildly popular in the american renaissance era. in fact, the reason it is such an icon of the fantasy genre is not because it is fantasy, or even because it is considered a well written work (it is not, in fact considered such by most critics). the reason it occupies the position it does, is because of what it represented to the generations that enshrined it as a symbol of rebellion and freedom. THAT is why those books are held in such regard. from the people who thus felt about it, were raised our parents and ourselves. in fact, we hold tolkien's works in high regard for an entirely different reason than those who taught us that it had value. so much so that the original reasons for that regard have been mostly lost and forgotten - subsumed into the current mix of ideologies and values.

    your complaints and observations (while certainly containing value, truths, and meaning) are no different than that of any previous generation regarding and commenting upon the uprising generation.

    yet the converse is also true. one can completely disregard the historical context of tights and capes, dislike them, ban them from games, and still be a true lover of the superhero genre. you risk the same danger as that you claim of those who you complain against when you apply such judgements so broadly. so what if one doesn't know much of the history of the golden or silver (or maybe even the bronze) age of comics. so what if most of one's knowledge of superheroic genre comes from anime and video games.

    their paradigms are just as valid as yours within their own context. as we continue through the information age, which is combining unfortunately with the reoccurring social plague of instant gratification that most so-called first world countries are falling prey to, yet again, this is leading to a new generation of superheroists who define their superheroes not by the "outmoded" and "no-longer-relevant" viewpoints of the 1900s, but by the newly spawned and remixed ideals of their own (and popular media's) devising.

    and yet, there is something to what they say. WHY are the viewpoints on what it is to be an American, and the relevance of the symbols of tights and capes no longer valid or relevant? just as athletes and warriors you cited were revered in their time, and thus the symbols used by and crafted from such by those generations were likewise revered, so it is true that todays athletes and warriors no longer resemble the symbols of old, and new symbols have been crafted to resemble them which are seen as relevant to the modern generation.

    todays heroes are likened to modern military warriors, and popular media 'athletes' such as rappers, gangsters, rock stars, and occasionally an actual athlete. they want heroes to look like them, (which in and of itself might be viewed as part of the endemic shift in cultural focus and yet another aspect of the instant gratification syndrome) rather then be bothered to change themselves to look like someone else... which is rather ironic when you stop and think about how such people figure out what they want to look like.

    thus the "modern" generation reforges heroes to match their "modern" viewpoint, or casts them aside and crafts new ones. hmmm, something about idols comes to mind with that thought - but let's not disturb those who may not be educated in such old-fashioned and outmoded things. (oh wait, that's yet another bible paraphrase... guess humanity really doesn't change much as a whole overall. =P )


    anyhows, just some random thoughts evinced by your speech.



    {{{please note that i am postulating in general, not necessarily presenting my own personal viewpoint.}}}
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
    CrystalBallLite: the best dice roller on the planet! . nijineko the archivist: the 3.x archive

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    Thank you for the very interesting discussion here, it has help out in my understanding of superheros in gaming.
    Elves keep their counsel and sharpen their ears.

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    *gleep*

    did i really go on that long about something that wasn't even posting my own personal opinion?

    oh my, i think i need more sleep. =P
    nijineko the gm: AG16, CoS. nijineko the player: AtG, RttToH; . The Journal of Tala'elowar Kiyiik! .
    CrystalBallLite: the best dice roller on the planet! . nijineko the archivist: the 3.x archive

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    It's amazing how much creativity can result from lack of sleep.

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