The Hotness
Games|People|Company
The Hotness has gone cold...
Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
 Hide
139 Posts
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [6] | 

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design

Subject: Use of "Singular they" on game's rules rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jorge Arroyo
Spain
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi all,

This is something that nags me whenever I write a set of game rules in English. I don't really want to assume a player is male (or female), so without really thinking about it I used what seems to be called a "singular they" instead.

I finally tried researching this to see if what I was doing was incorrect, and found this wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

So, what do you think? How do you write your rules?

Thanks!

-Jorge
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
badge
Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
When I'm reading rules, I'll substitute gender-neutral language where I can.

The singular "they" bugs me, but it has hundreds of years of usage behind it.

(My preferred solution to the pronoun mess? Write sentences that don't need third-person singular pronouns in the first place. Not the best solution either...)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David G.
United States
Moorpark
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I like the 'singular they'. Being a dude 'he' doesn't bother me, but when people use 'she' it's distracting.

What I really hate is that 'Cingular' (a cell phone company here in the States) has spent so much money on advertising that I thought you'd made a typo.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
I simply don't bother. I'll use the singular 'they' without quibble and will use 'him' and 'he' as the neuter pronoun with even less pause.

And no, I really don't buy it that 'him' and 'he' when used as the neuter pronoun implies male. Yes, it has the same spelling as the word for the gendered pronoun, but there are two pairs of words here with two different definitions, one male and one neuter. They just happen to share a spelling.

10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Vance
United States
Augusta
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
"They" is plural, regardless of its colloquial usage over the years. I very much dislike seeing it used anywhere in place of a singular pronoun, but it certainly has no place in game rules, where precision can make the difference between playing a game correctly and playing it incorrectly. If you say "they," then you are referring to more than one (player, piece, or whatever), and if you really mean one, then the reader must go back and find the antecedent and be happy with an assumption rather than clarity and precision.

As suggested above, reword to avoid the situation, if need be. So: Instead of "The player places his scoring marker on the scoring track" try "Players place their scoring markers on the scoring track" or the passive "Scoring markers are placed on the scoring track" (what does it matter WHO places them there anyway?).

I cringe over misuse of "they" the same as I do when I read "the player rolls a dice" or "the player rolls two die." I would discourage its use.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Christopher Young
United States
Fort Collins
Colorado
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm going to go with clearclaw. English does have a neutral gender; unfortunately, it has the exact same spelling as the masculine gender. It's not elegant, but it's what we've got.

If you really don't like that, most people have very little problem with using "they" or "their," if you do a quick check to make sure it's always clear that you're referring to one singular person in that context.

The worst possible solution is to use the awkward and unsightly term "s/he," which is arguably legitimate but really, really unpleasant looking. In fact, forget I mentioned it.


edit: Most people have very little problem with using "they" or "their," but grouchy gives a darned good explanation of why to avoid it anyways.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Todd McCorkle
United States
Anderson
Indiana
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I doubt I'll ever write game rules. If I did, I'd be tempted to do something silly like alternate the use of he and she and throw in the occasional 'it' in case the cat decides to play.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Giles Schildt
United States
Leavenworth
Kansas
flag msg tools
I dislike singular they.

I don't mind using he as neuter at all, and most of the style guides I've seen take that approach.

If people want to make a stink about language flaws, there are so many things it would be more productive to fix. My kingdom for a human language as syntacticly precise as Fortran!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Daniel Karp
United States
Rockville
Maryland
flag msg tools
admin
Developin' Developin' Developin'
badge
100 geekgold for OverText, and all I got was this stupid sentence.
Avatar
mb
I'm all for the singular use of they. It generally conveys the intended meaning with very little chance of misunderstanding. Now I have the wikipedia entry to back me up!
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
MSV Burns
United States
Olympia
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Personally, I'd like to see the 'singular they' become the default solution to English's silly pronoun problem. It's not perfectly satisfying, but is light years better than most of the alternatives.

It's not clunky (like using 's/he', for example, or the made up pronoun 'per' which I've seen proposed. Bleh.) and it is backed up by nearly ubiquitous usage in spoken English.

It still doesn't look quite right to see it in writing though, and pedants and grammargeeks will always bristle. If you do use it, your writing will always look 'wrong' to some. In the end though, usage will rule the day, as it always does, and I say join the vanguard!

P.S. How do you solve this problem in Spanish? How would you say something like, 'The active player moves his/her/its/their token three spaces'?

P.P.S. Oh, and to directly contradict clearclaw above, I think 'he' and 'him' imply maleness in all contexts. There's really no way around it. The fact that a generic being, in English, defaults to male does present a legitimate and interesting issue to modern thinkers. It's a relative of the idea that in America, the default person is white ('that guy over there,' as opposed to 'that black guy over there.')

And look at what davebo said above. He said it's distracting for him to see 'she' used generically. Is it distracting because the usage is unfamiliar or because he's not seeing himself reflected in it?
21 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gláucio Reis
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
RJ
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
The fact that a generic being, in English, defaults to male does present a legitimate and interesting issue to modern thinkers.

Not only in English, but also in many other languages. If it is the "default", then let it be. Anything else than "he" sounds artificial to me. I have seen the use of "she" and that just looks like some sort of silly political correctness. It should be noted that English is not my first language, though.

An interesting point is that there is nothing like the "singular they" in other languages, such as Portuguese. Indeed, even the concept of a neutral gender does not exist in Portuguese. Besides, most nouns and adjectives have gender flexing. Using a form of "s/he" is simply annoying. And even then, the default form of those nouns and adjectives is still male, and you just add "(a)" at the end of the word to indicate the female form.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
United States
Astoria
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
English does have a neutral gender; unfortunately, it has the exact same spelling as the masculine gender.


I'd like to see a citation from a female linguist. I've certainly never heard anything of the sort.

It's not surprising in a male-dominated society (and an even more male-dominated tiny niche hobby in that society) that the masculine pronoun would be considered "neutral". Don't make it right, though.

Singular "they" has been in use for hundreds of years and works fine.
13 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Engelhardt
United States
Champaign
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I vote with Marqos.

The singular they has centuries of use behind it, so you'd be on solid ground for precedent.

Alternating he and she would allow you to work around the plural they. And seeing a "she" reminds me that women might be playing the game as well. It would certainly help me convince my wife to play.

And let me wish you the best of luck in developing and publishing a new game!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
the High Hierophant of Nihilism
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Once you get used to the singular "they", it becomes quite elegant.

When one of the players picks a card from the Event Deck, they must immediately play it. If one of the other players is adversely affect, they must lose their next turn.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brad Miller
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Funny how all those that have replied saying that "he/him is A-OK" by them are males...
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Fraser
Australia
Melbourne
flag msg tools
admin
designer
Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
badge
Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Osiris Ra wrote:
Once you get used to the singular "they", it becomes quite elegant.

When one of the players picks a card from the Event Deck, they must immediately play it. If one of the other players is adversely affect, they must lose their next turn.


Yeah, but no.

It may not be the fault of the word "they", but in your example who must lose their next turn? The player who picked the card or the or the one who was adversely affected?

As someone brought up on wargame rules, that is not an elegant rule, it is way too open to (mis)interpretation meeple
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This shouldn't be an issue. Use your gender when writing the rules, whether you be male or female.
I'm not offended by the use of female pronouns in rules or instructions. And there are plenty of games that use only female pronouns now, instead of the awkward he/she.
This is done because invariably it's easier to do and no one complains about only using female pronouns.
And no one should. Nor should using male pronouns engender complaints. Pun intended.

It's silly, if not downright stupid, to get upset over what gender of pronouns get used in rules for games.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
Tucson
Arizona
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's odd. "Man" can also be neuter. The "wo" on "woman" was originally a qualifier that specifies that a particular man is a female.

English seems to have a very small issue in this regard compared to other languages. I'm curious about the political-correctness arguments that take place in countries where every word has a gender associated with it, not just a few pronouns.

You could always use the singular neutral pronoun "it".
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
Tucson
Arizona
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
sdiberar wrote:
Quote:
English does have a neutral gender; unfortunately, it has the exact same spelling as the masculine gender.


I'd like to see a citation from a female linguist. I've certainly never heard anything of the sort.

It's not surprising in a male-dominated society (and an even more male-dominated tiny niche hobby in that society) that the masculine pronoun would be considered "neutral". Don't make it right, though.

Singular "they" has been in use for hundreds of years and works fine.

Why does the linguist have to be female? She would be just as prone to bias as a male linguist.

Merriam-Webster says this (see: http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/he):
Quote:
he
...
2 —used in a generic sense or when the sex of the person is unspecified


Interestingly enough it has this to say about "she"

Quote:
3 —used as an alternative to he to refer to a person of unspecified gender
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
A L D A R O N
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
A L D A R O N
badge
----[---->+<]>++.+++++++++++.--------.---.>-[--->+<]>---.---.-.
Avatar
mb
Osiris Ra wrote:
When one of the players picks a card from the Event Deck, they must immediately play it. If one of the other players is adversely affect, they must lose their next turn.

I think you meant:

Osiris Ra wrote:
When one of the players picks a card from the Event Deck, he must immediately play it. If one of the other players is adversely affected, he must lose his next turn.

The folks who contributed to that Wikipedia entry have thought way to hard about the subject and have missed the point. There's simply no solid logical grammatical, linguistic, syntactic or philosophical defense for using either "he" or "they". It is simply a matter of taste. Using "they" is bad taste and to those of us who use "he" (or "he or she") it screams sloppy thinking and sloppy writing. When I come across "they" I have the same reaction that I have when I encounter Business English, or IT English, or other forms of bullshit—I want to lie down and go to sleep. I feel like some part of the life of the sentence has been drained away, and I blame its author. Why should I listen to someone who can't say what he means?

Use "he", unless it would offend, in which case use "he or she", especially in rules, where use of "they" can lead to ambiguity.

10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexander B.
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
mbmb
I love singular they, but some people I've worked with refuse to accept it. I ask them what they like from: s/he, he or she, she or he, changing between he and she (either by section or literally back and forth with each use), only he, or only she.

The mere fact that there are so many funky variations should tell everyone that there is a problem here, and only one really good solution: "they"!


"When one of the players picks a card from the Event Deck, that player must immediately play it. If one of the other players is adversely affected, that player loses their next turn."
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
William Wood
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One way to get around this problem is to default to the second-person ("you") whenever possible and avoid pronouns when it's not.

For example: You have the choice of drawing a card or stealing one from the player on your left. The player on your left can immediately retaliate by taking four of your gold coins.

Or you can use "him or her" and "he or she," which is a bit long-winded, but not too bad.

Or you can alternate examples (he, then she, then he) -- or make up a sample game and name the players (Bob, Lucy, Frank, and Tina), then use them in all the examples.

Anything but "they" singular. It just sounds wrong.

yuk
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Neil Carr
United States
Barre
Vermont
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Singular they all the way!

Singular-they doesn't even register to me. Ever since childhood I was using it and I'll continue using for the rest of my life.

Language evolves and in 100 years it won't be an issue. Just another one of those weird quirks of the english language. Logic oriented children will ask their teachers why it is used in that manner and the teacher will just say that is how the language is used.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Bigney
United States
Kingston
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I always love hearing non-linguists air out their proscriptivist biases. It's just so cute.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
diamondspider wrote:
The mere fact that there are so many funky variations should tell everyone that there is a problem here, and only one really good solution: "they"!


No, it just indicates the confusion is present. It says nothing about there also being a problem.

In contrast to the above thread I give you the ftp://ftp.kanga.nu/users/claw/odd/games/prototypes/OhanaProa..." target="_blank" class="postlink" rel="nofollow">rules to 'Ohana Proa, which just so happen to have no singular pronouns, no singular 'they', and in fact a general lack of pronouns or proper nouns of any form. I made no special effort in writing those rules; that's just the rules writing language that comes naturally to me. While they're not perfect, my playtesters have all praised their clarity and precision.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [6] | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.