Life and Travails of Schoolgirls – Panty Explosion

I read this entry on the Atarashi Games site and was quite flattered that my review was linked by the game’s official site! I’d been wondering why the Atarashi Games URL was appearing in my blog’s referrer logs. I just wanted to clarify the contents of the post a bit, as some of the finer points seem to have been… lost. Starting with the title.

“Pan Mote” appears to be Babelfish’s valiant attempt at “Panty” as rendered in Korean. “Ti” in Korean refers to a dust mote, and the fact that I stuck the Korean words for “Panty” and “Explosion” together seems to have confused Babelfish. The “agony” part was pretty funny, too, since it’s far too strong a word for the Korean word–“Komin”–I used. The original title goes more like “Life and Travails of Schoolgirls – Panty Explosion.” The gist of the review is as follows:

I start by stating that Panty Explosion, despite its title, really has nothing to do with pedophilia or fetishism in of itself. I then go on to outline the chargen rules, adding that I would prefer to use the Western zodiac instead of the birth-year animals, and that I’d go back to the traditional fire-water-wood-metal-earth elements.

Through this overview I point out that the rules are well-suited for creating well-rounded and believable schoolgirls, with the added depth of psychological horror that is all the more horrific because it reflects the oppression that schoolgirls live under. (While I’ve left my own schoolgirl days behind, the life of a Korean schoolgirl isn’t all that different from that of a Japanese schoolgirl.)

Then I outline the resolution rules, saying that the system is excellent for recreating the vicious little rivalries and shifting alliances that are the staple of a schoolgirl’s life. I also mention that I like how the rules support self-contained scenarios with a Big Bad apiece, and that it would probably make for clean, well-plotted stories that won’t meander endlessly like more open-ended scenarios can. Finally, I end by saying that I would like to run a scenario with Korean schoolgirls.

Some comments follow, and a surprising number of those who commented (all male) thought that this was a rulebook for women to relive schoolday memories. I hasten to set them straight, pointing out that the creators and some of the playtesters were male. I asked (a little snidely) why these men seemed to think they could play aliens, elves, and bikini-clad Amazons, but not ordinary, everyday girls?

One of them replied to say that it would be hard to play the game with women who had been real live schoolgirls and could tell if the guys’ portrayal of schoolgirls rang false. I conceded it was a fair enough reason. We agreed that it would be difficult but fun, as long as all involved were unafraid to give and take constructive criticism.

I also pointed out in my reply that a rulebook truly geared towards women would have a lot more sex in it than PE does. 😀

So there’s that, hopefully it’s more readable than Babelfish’s offering. As you can tell I like the rulebook a lot and plan on using it sometime. The one downside since posting the review is that, according to my referrer logs, my blog has started to appear in such search results as “panty,” “Japanese schoolgirls,” and “schoolgirl panty.” It pisses me off, but I guess it can’t be helped. At least it’s amusing.

4 thoughts on “Life and Travails of Schoolgirls – Panty Explosion

  1. Jake Richmond

    Hey, thanks for writing this in English. Matt and I puzzled over your original article forever trying to figure out what it said. I’m glad you liked the book.

    I’ve been watching a lot of really great Korean horror films lately and I’m really interested in playing some games set in Korea. We’re trying to decide if the next edition of the game should be set in Korea instead of Japan. I need to do a ton more research first!

    A game geared toward women would have a lot more sex? I totally believe that! It’s the guys who tend to shy away from sex and get really embarrassed! Any suggestions on how we can sex the game up in a non-offensive way?


    Jake Richmond

  2. Matt Schlotte

    Thank you so much for writing this up. We followed your discussions on here but due to Babelfish we didn’t understand much. We just knew there was some important issues being discussed.

    Your comments on the chargen make perfect sense for a game set in Korea. Since we held ourselves to doing Japan in specific we decided to use the Eastern zodiac, though we did modify it by applying it to months instead of years, and using the Japanese variation of the elements. If we do a variant for Korea we’d definitely change the elements and from what your saying I guess the zodiac would have to change as well.

    Korea honestly makes a lot of sense for the psychic horror genre. If we had thought about it more we probably would’ve changed the focus to Korea except for two things.

    1) Neither of us know as much on Korea as Japan by a large amount (I have since read two really good academic texts on Korea but in the same time 12 (not all good) on Japan. My university has a Japan expert but none on Korea in my chosen field).

    2) I was fixated on Mai: The Psychic Girl as the inspirational spark for Panty Explosion. Plus we just weren’t watching or reading much out of Korea. Or at least I wasn’t that year. Oh! Except that summer I watched this wonderful drama television show which I can’t remember the name of.

    Sex is an issue for male gamers. Even as the designers we don’t push for sex within the text and rarely within games. I think we held back for several reasons. Not knowing how to bring up sex so it would be enjoyable for most without being too overt and falling into the trap of just being considered crude. We kind of knew also that we might be labeled perverts and we didn’t want the game to be about being perverted, but about teenagers. Yet teens do have sex or at the very least consider sex so not addressing the issue head on (we talk about pregnancy rates and sexual molestation but its very chaste when speaking of the teens themselves) is not being faithful.

    As we learned though people were going to read into the game and see whatever they wanted. So those who wanted to decide from the title alone it was a perverted and overly sexual game, get to see that and we can’t stop them. 🙂

    We didn’t expect to be called pedophiles. That one took us by surprise.

  3. Eldir

    Wow, great to hear from you guys! PE is a really original game, with lots of interesting ideas. I want to put a game together one of these days. (I will be a happy woman indeed if I can put together an all-guys or mixed game and an all-girls game then compare the two.) It would also be fascinating if there were a game set in Korea–it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as its island neighbor, so it’ll be really different.

    Sex in roleplaying is a pretty touchy subject: Sex as it affects actual people, as opposed to the safe distance of pin-ups and crude jokes. I don’t think men are any less sexual than women (God forbid) but I do think they’re deeply uncomfortable about exploring such themes in a social setting. Terrified about what vulnerabilities they might reveal, if you ask me. And of course, it’s really really easy to offend someone if the material gets too overtly sexual.

    Overall, I think the balance you struck with PE was about right, though on the safe side. The setting, the character issues and such equip each group to sex up their individual games while not making people overly uncomfortable. You could up the ante a bit with play examples and such, but then you might end up with a with a more limited appeal and lots of angry letters. Maybe you could keep the book largely wholesome but get more involved with online support materials, such as actual play examples, suggestions, or maybe even extra rules.

    Anyway, I can understand why the game makes people uncomfortable, despite the fact that it’s actually so tame. And it’s not just the title: The whole setting is so charged! Here you have a bunch of adolescents in that no man’s land between childhood and adulthood, trying to figure out their lives and themselves. Then there’s the juxtaposition of social and educational strictures against that very dangerous, uncontrollable unknown where the feminine meets the supernatural. The whole situation bleeds danger, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and yeah, sexually. It’s even less safe because we all know what that kind of tension is like. Of course there’s going to be a lot of discomfort, even fear and anger. This game was born to be misunderstood, and in that respect it’s aptly titled. 🙂

    So keep on rocking, and if you do make a new game or new edition set in Korea I’ll be happy to help out as much as I can. I’ll be useless with anything scholarly (unless the game involves legal content, heh), but I can check to see if anything would ring false to a Korean. I’m sure many of my readers will be interested, too.

  4. Matt Schlotte

    That is one thing that has surprised me, is that none of our Japanese fans have pointed to some section and said “That’s wrong”. Its a pleasant type of surprise. Also the few highschool girls who have read it seem to really like it and they want to play it. So two surprises really.

    One day Jake, Kim my wife and I were sitting around talking and one of us mused about how most games about teenagers that deal with emotions are all female or mixed, but there are no purely male ones. Kim, commented such a game would be boring. I replied that such a game would have to be about the lies and bravado teen boys use to mask their true self/emotions and how in some those lies and/or bravado eventually takes over how they truly think of themselves. And if such a game were made we might get more hate mail then we did over Panty Explosion.

    However we’re not working on that game. I think making that game would be good for Jake and I having both been teen males in our youth, as it would necessitate us looking critically at how we behaved then. For me, at least that would be a less than pleasant but more than likely very healthy road to go down.

    Instead we are working on an all or mostly male game, but looking at the Boys Love/yaoi genre. Its taking us a while to really get a grip on where to go with that, since its tackling emotions and sex directly. We aren’t sidestepping the issue like we did in PE. In PE we wanted and knew the game would deal with emotional turmoil of the characters but its not an implicit aspect of the rules, which turns out to have worked well for it.

    Your correct though; make a game about teenage women in dangerous and highly stressful situations forces you to deal with a cornucopia of content that will make people uncomfortable. Really if I were to say there is one major problem with PE is violence and shame are the two most used tools to attack other characters (player or NPC). You don’t see as much escalated verbal attacks (screaming matches of a non-comical nature) or shunning. Shunning though is just a hard form of retaliation to do in a role playing game, since such games are by their nature social. Yet as we point out in PE (and this was one of the defining facts we kept going back to) Japanese kids bully through shunning more than physical violence which is one thing that sets them apart from other kids.

    I wish gamers took a more academic view with their role playing at times. It would be interesting as you note to take an all male group, a mixed group and an all female group and run them through the same game or if you wanted to be academic about it (though less fun for the game master/superintendent/whoever) through the same adventure and see how differently they reacted. Would sex show up more often in all female groups? How much do females interact or instigate in mixed groups? Etc…

    We at times get accused of being a game about tentacle porn or in fact for being a game that should be about tentacle porn that lacks said porn. Either way Jake and I are in the wrong for this. Yet the one game I know of that led to tentacle porn, and it was between two monsters, it was player created (the Superintendent did not introduce it) and all the players were female. Still if you search some threads shortly after PE came out, role players would say that PE was offensive to women and that their girlfriend, sister, or other female relation would never play such a game. All of the people who said this were of course male.

    On the other hand its true that the title of the game itself has made more than one woman uncomfortable. Most of these women though went on to examine the game behind the title and only one of them has slapped Jake because of the title.

    I’ve rambled long enough. Let me just add that Korea doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Always dwarfed somehow between China and Japan and you are right it has a rich culture, spirituality and history that could lead to all sorts of interesting play. Unfortunately I know too little of the spiritual and mythological aspects. Enough to in my layman opinion think that the anime Lain was doing Korean shamanistic quest which is probably way off base, but I do know a good overview of Korea’s history which could easily be tapped into for gaming.

    Finally I’d like to apologize for my disjointed comments last night. I was much too tired to be writing a post.


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