Balance in Game Design

Balance in Game Design
PAX South 2018

Balancing games is deceptively difficult. Even worse, there are subtle reasons why even if a game is perfectly, mathematically, demonstrably balanced, players will likely have even LESS fun. From systems like Microsoft TrueSkill or ELO rankings to everyone complaining about how overpowered Hanzo is (he’s not), join GeekNights for an exploration of how and why (and sometimes why NOT) to balance games.

Presented by Rym and Scott at PAX South 2018

MAGFest Edition

Thanks to Caster Semenya we seem to be having the old testosterone levels in women’s sports debate again. If we did this panel again, this topic would definitely be addressed much more.

Obviously I don’t have enough biological knowledge or feminism knowledge to address the core issue. But I do have games and sports knowledge. And thus, I would like to reiterate (I feel like I’ve said this before?) a point that is not being made by anyone else that I see.

The rules of most sports are themselves misogynist. Almost every sport is a game where having a biologically male, testosterone fueled body is an advantage. The sports were designed this way. Most sports are simply a test to determine which athlete is more masculine.

Some dude in ancient Greece at the Panathenean games is like “Yes! I am more manly than the other competitors! I get the prize amphora!”

We need more sports where masculinity levels do not matter, or better yet, where being more masculine is a disadvantage. People would cheat at this hypothetical sport by trying to artificially reduce testosterone levels, or maybe take estrogen? IDK, you get the idea.

Not many sports like this exist today. We know long distance swimming is a sports where being less masculine is a huge advantage. What else? Even ones that might come to mind, like figure skating, are still advantageous to men. Men are expected to be able to do a quadruple jump, but only a small handful of women have ever done it.

It’s really hard to even imagine such a sport or game because it is so ingrained in our ideas of competition that faster, stronger, and more poweful is equivalent to being better.

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What about accuracy/shooting sports? Target shooting, archery, etc.?

Guns, yes. In archery strength doesn’t matter too much, since steadiness and aim are the most important, but it does help. You can pull back a stronger bow, hold a bow of equal strength with more steadiness, and hit targets further away,

Another one is driving cars as well as eSports. Similar to guns these are sports where the strength comes from a machine, and its a contest to see who can best control that equipment. It’s still a sport because it’s still about real-time skills and muscle memory required to control the equipment, just not about the sheer power or endurance of the human muscles.

It’s pretty much more racism with sexism vs sexism with racism, IMO.

If this were a white woman, this would have been a NON issue. If I see any good resources/articles about this from women of PoC, I’ll let you know.

Really sad that people think that testosterone is a male only hormone.


Also some homophobia too since she queer woman as well. It definitely didn’t play as big a factor as racism but likely did have some influence.


You say that, but you’ve also never driven in a race. I remember my first race, I figured that, and I literally puked in my helmet from the physical exertion of it. (And yeah, that’s about as unpleasant as it sounds.) They have the same problem with those “racing game to real racing” competitors that pop up - sure, they can race well in game, and those skills seem to have some transference to actual racing, but every one of those programs now include a huge amount of physical fitness, endurance, and strength training, because they were having problems with people making themselves sick, injuring themselves, and otherwise putting themselves out of the race because they didn’t have the physical conditioning for it. And these people guys who look like they’re trying to do a credible cosplay of The Blob, these are people who are already average-or-slightly-above kinda fitness.

Seriously - most pro racing drivers spend almost as much time in the gym as they spend behind the wheel, if not more.

Yes, there is an amount of strength and endurance needed to not barf in the car and to last for the entire race. But taking a bunch of steroids isn’t going to help win anything. Any fit person of any sex is going to be capable of meeting that fitness level required and then hit the ceiling where greater levels of strength do not confer any great advantage. It will be other physical and metal skills that actually separate the best from the rest.

As someone who is one of the best at a physical activity/sport in the world with world records and number one rankings, I can definitively say that Scott doesn’t know what he is talking about.

But then again, that is what he admitted when beginning this conversation.


Trans people don’t win at sports that much. Transphobes only make a story out of it when they do win.

That reminds me of the lass who went to the Heritage foundation to complain about trans students “Dominating events”, and talking about how the other girls felt they just couldn’t compete - but nobody thought to check if you can just look up the results of these meets(you can) and it turns out the reason she wasn’t taking podiums was because she was only a middling sprinter, albeit one with some potential, and was commonly getting beaten by her cisgender peers too.