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Oh -- a question: how does people's discomfort or comfort with gender switching relate, or not, to playing children or childlike characters? I know there are groups that have real problems with people who play children, or even characters that more or less act like children (kender, malkavians, pookah).
And, of course, how does this relate to playing gender-switched children? Is it different for a guy to play a little girl (or a woman to play a boy) than a woman?
And, for that matter, how does this relate to going the other question -- playing characters much older than the players? Isn't this even less believable (except when done very well) than gender play?
I don't have problems with those who play children, so long as they do it with some kind of positive agenda or thought. I'm an elementary school teacher though, so those who just "act childish" without a plan often end up irking me. Not reaonsable, I know, but it happens anyway.
Childlike adults and "magical retards" really, really, really, really piss me off. I've worked with special needs children and adults on and off for years, and the ways that other supposedly mature human beings portray them -- even when they think they are being positive and uplifting -- drives me towards rage faster than someone using the word "literally" wrong.
I think its worth noting that both of those are due to specific things I've done/political issues that I've dealt with IRL. Back before I taught I used to play in groups with childlike PCs all the time, and the only time it annoyed me was when it was used as an excuse to Prima Donna, Mary Sue, and otherwise steal spotlight time. That was always irksome, but is (I think) something people do with it rather than something inherent to the form.
Oh, and when people play kids I probably pay less attention to gender than with adults. Though I suppose it depends on the specific age of the kid. Those under 8-9 and those 10 to teen have different psychologies, and teens are their own whole thing....
This is another discussion that I think is fascinating. Aside from all of the immortal or extended life kinds of folks (immortals, vampires, altered humans) who most often even to *appear* young, the vast majority of PC's I've ever (been or) interacted with were teens or twenty-somethings. I've often wondered if it has to do with self projection, wish fulfillment, concepts of virility or capability or beauty or all of the above.
I played an elderly man who was a grump Nocker in a Changeling LARP who was intentionally as old as he was because he was created for me to explore a "Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light!" theme. I've played very few of these kinds of characters, and never, I think, have I chosen one just incidentally. Nor have I chosen to play someone middle aged. Funny that.
By default, most of my characters end up in their middle 20's. When I was in my middle 20's, I thought that's just cause I was defaulting to my own status quo - the age didn't matter so it might as well be my own age. Now that I'm in my middle 30's, while a number of my characters are middle 30's, the majority still turn out to be in their middle 20's.
Why? Maybe because I had my most vibrant energy at that age and my characters often have a kind of vibrant energy. Maybe because standards of beauty trend that way and many of my characters play with concepts of beauty. Maybe it's because I underwent some of my greatest emotional evolution in my middle 20's and emotional evolution of character is fascinating and "F" fulfilling to me. Maybe I'm just copping out.
Yet, I find it funny that in 1000 Stories when we started playtesting chargen almost all of the test characters that I created were elegiac 30, 40 and 50 year olds. So maybe it's not entirely the players, maybe it's the games. How many of them encourage us to move beyond the decade of our adult youth? How many reward or encourage not being strong, or fast or traditionally lovely? How many reward caution and wisdom over courage and impulsiveness? How much do we tell ourselves that our best, most epic, most worth-telling stories are the stories of our youth?
God, I sound old don't I... and is that a bad thing?