Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

November 27, 2012 -

Kotaku has a short article chronicling the Twitter hashtag #1reasonwhy, which has served as a rallying point over the last 24 hours or so on what women in both the video games industry and their female counterparts in games journalism have to put up with and why there are not as many women in both fields.

Thousands of tweets detail how working in the industry with male co-workers is more challenging than it should be and how feedback from female developers is often pigeonholed in terms of "being too bitchy" not understanding the "male demographic" and more. The hashtag highlights how male co-workers and bosses seem to be out of touch with the fact that the industry and the world is changing when it comes to gender, a growing female demographic of gamers worldwide, and that it is no longer the 1960's where women can be told to "be a dear and go fetch a cup of coffee."

You can check out the hashtag here.

And while we highlight the Kotaku story, some in the community have criticized the user commentary over there for engaging in the antiquated thinking and opinions that the hashtag is fighting against...

Source: Kotaku

Image of Jane McGonigal, one of the most recognized women in the games industry and the author of "Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World." Taken from Facebook.

 

 


Comments

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

You know...

Setting aside issues of gender and equality, setting aside culture and humanizing people... as gamers there is at least one critical reason we should all be up in arms for more women in the industry.  As gamers, we want the best games possible, which means having the best people working as possible.

Neurologically males and females are almost identical, meaning talent is pretty evenly distributed (early childhood testing confirms this).  Thus, if only 12% of CS people are women, that means a lot of talented people who could be benefiting our industry went elsewhere.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

When you look at whose time, energy, and money has gone for the last 30+ years into building the game industry up to what it is today, can you really be surprised that that's who is favored and catered to?  Now, I'm not saying women *should* be excluded.  I'm saying that it seems a bit unreasonable to hop on the bandwagon this late in the game and expect everything to instantly, magically realign itself to you.  There's no magic bullet that is going to erase 30 years of momentum.  The cycle reinforces itself, with male-centered games leading to more males being interested in gaming, leading to more males working in the industry, leading to more male-centered games.  Breaking that cycle is going to take time.  There's no shortcut.  And it's going to take an significant amount of effort on womens' part to build up their own numbers.  We endured decades of shunning and ridicule before gaming finally came into its own as a respectable industry and art form.  That wasn't fair either, but that's life.  Continually whining "Hey, we've declared this to be unfair, so why isn't it fair yet?" would have been useless, if not counterproductive.  A chronic self-entitled complainer is going to end up ignored or resented.

Suck it up, keep plugging away at it, and things will get better.  But please, quit with the "Are we there yet?"  It's not getting us there any sooner.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

Also, women are not hopping on a bandwagon. Women have been in the games industry since the beginning. It's just that we've been far fewer for obvious reasons and, save for a minority of exceptions, the victories of the gaming industry are credited to teams, not individuals. So knowing that, you only get one Roberta Williams for every ten Gabe Newell's.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

In some ways it has actually gotten worse.

I do not have the stats for the game industry handy, but I know in computers science in general the percentage of women involved in the industry has dropped from around 37% to only 12%.  So they were more represented in the past and have been slowly pushed out.

Which kinda matches up with CS historically.. the first programmers were all women, but for press releases and such they were not included in photographs... for whatever reason over the decades women have been erased or downplayed in the industry, giving a warped impression that they were never here in the first place.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

Not really. Part of the problem is that men never have to contend with and don't even see it as a problem. So coming out and saying that it is unfair, and exactly what It is, is part of the solution. A lot of the things that are 1Reasons are things that guys would never notice. Being dismissed in group discussions, people assuming you are trying to get male attention just because you work at a game company, people assuming you are someone's girlfriend when you go to an event. Not all sexism is ass-grabs and kitchen jokes. It's the institutional parts that are more insidious and need to be brought to men's attention because otherwise you will not see it because it is not directly your problem.

Furthermore, yeah, it's up to women to learn the skills and apply them like anyone else, but the people with the keys to all the doors are still treating us like novelties. You will turn a lot of people away, both prospective consumers and employees, when you don't stop to think about how you are alienating them. They act as if you can only appeal to one kind of person at a time and it should be 18-35 males because they've been the demographic the longest. But the times, they are a changin'. And it really won't hurt anything to make a main character a person of color or put appropriate outfits on the women. I think it's demeaning to gamers in general to assume we will not play a game unless it follows the same shit, different day formula.

Also, I would argue that gaming as an industry endured years of ridicule in a vast part because of this that we are talking about here. Because it was perceived that the industry consisted of nothing but geeky white guys with no social skills. Now we are coming to a time where people are making the diversity in the demand end more apparent in the hopes that the supply side will keep up. And to do that, they need to hire and foster people who have the perspectives to relate to the broader audience games are finally enjoying.

I'm actually really excited about this because on top of what I hope is the beginnings of a renaissance in the industry, that so many people have the means to make games now, I expect a lot of really interesting things to be made. Things that break out from the mold of male protagonist shooters. I mean, I play those, but variety is the spice of life, you know?

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

While I agree that making it public is certainly a part of the solution, it can't be and isn't the only solution. Part of it is also proving your capabilities in your respective field. This is where crowdfunding and blog systems are both a benefit and a curse. They do allow those in their respective fields to bypass the traditional processes and allow their own work shine through, but also put up the demand of "put up or shut up". If a work doesn't pass muster enough to meet the goals needed the person can't exactly claim it's because they're a woman, especially if no one knew the gender of the person in the first place.

Put simply, crowdfunding and the blogosphere are nice equalizers for the industry. It's easy to me graded on the merits of your work but at the same time it doesn't take well to various claims of -ism to be used as a crutch.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

Of course it's not the end all and be all. Sexism in the gaming industry, and in culture itself, is a far more complex problem than pointing out the things that are being done wrong and hoping the offending party will listen long enough to consider correcting their behavior instead of telling you to stop complaining.

Things like assuming the women who are speaking up don't have the skills and haven't proven themselves in the field.

Most of their grievances, if one is paying attention, are about the assumptions people make about their relation to the games industry, how rarely the projects AAA studios have them work on reflect anything of their own experiences, how the content of such is not only apathetically demeaning to women but also made to cater to the lowest common denominator, and just the obstacles one faces in getting a job as woman in the first place. And all the skills and badass portfolios in the world don't help you convince the publishers to take chances on games that aren't the same formula. Assuming you can even get in on that in the first place. Good luck if HR thinks you're going to be distracting everyone else in the office by simply being female. Not to mention the other assumptions made the second they see you have a woman's name. Like that you might ever get pregnant and need maternity leave. Or that you already have a family and would want to see them then during the all sacred crunch time.

Come to that, crunch time is wildly unhealthy for everyone and the industry itself, but women have a harder time getting jobs because of the presumptions about how they will handle it because crunch time is the golden goose to the publishers. So there's something right there to be done. Eliminate crunch time. Games will be made on a reasonable, if longer, schedule and thus will (hopefully) be of better quality (maybe even, dare to dream, stable releases out of Bethesda) without burning out the people who work on them and forcing them out of the industry. And consequently women would be more fairly considered for jobs because going home to your family at night is something everyone does no matter where in the production schedule the project is.

Re: maternity leave, a revolutionary idea: let men have it too. Aside from the part where one needs to physically recuperate, there's no reason why fathers shouldn't be able to take time off during the months before a baby can enter daycare. Men should and I assume mostly do want to spend time with their new children too. And if men might all the sudden need maternity leave, then there'd be no reason not to hire a woman because she might.

No, pointing out the invisible problems is just the One Small Step for Man to a better, brighter games industry. There will be much to be done. Such that the playing field will be leveled and people really CAN be judged and recognized based on their skills and talents!

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

Which is as it should be.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

I agree that the situation needs to change, but I guess I disagree that whining about it online is helping that to occur.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

I disagree that pointing out things like this is "whining" and I do think it is helping. While there's been a disappointing amount of gb2 kitchen shit in response to it, there's also been a lot of people (mostly guys, but the errant woman too because we are raised to internalize misogyny) if they are being sexist without realizing it and how they can be more aware of and prevent that in the future.

I mean, really, something as simple as consciously telling yourself not to assume a woman at a gaming event is just a booth babe or someone's girlfriend when she could've made one of the games counts for a lot.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

That's very !

I find this tweet from Todd Colby neat because, while not directly related to the sexism of the gaming industry, it points out something really interesting about the effect it has on male gamers too:

"Once designed a set of icons and was told to make them "more masculine," because "idiots and dudes are our bread and butter."

I mean, that's kinda disheartening, ain't it? The developers and publishers assume the people they are marketing to are too stupid to respond to anything but power/erotic fantasies. Idiots and dudes. Not even dudes as in just, you know, guys. Dudes as in dudebros. Guys who are too wrapped up in looking macho to other dudes. And that sucks really because I don't think most gamer guys, and certainly not most gamers in general, are "idiots and dudes" and yet the industry, with some exception, strives to make games with those people in mind first and foremost. On the false assumption that their demographic cannot handle anything more complex than blowup-doll women and power-fantasy men instead of characters meant to seem like actual people. How condescending.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

"How condescending."

Not just that - it's rank stupidity and clueless-ness on the part of these companies. My wife has been gaming as long as me; you know how many games she's just not interested in playing because of the "dominant male" paradigm?

A few games have broken the mold and allowed a female protagonist; like Fallout and others - we have both played them and bought every single one of them.

She was the driving reason I started playing MMO's - why? Because Everquest was advertised when we first bought it (yes way back) as a game you could play as a male or female. She seen that, grabbed it and tried it.

I was playing Baldur's Gate; which I dropped for Everquest after watching her play a few times. Keep in mind, we were playing Baldur's gate just before that - and that game too; she could play as a female.

I can't recall the MANY games from a total male perspective that we passed up; but maybe the only one where it wasn't a huge factor was GTA - and that's because the game play rocked, but we still modded in a Female for her at one point. We don't play that series much now; however.

They might "think" they know it all; but they were dead wrong - if they had any clue how often her opinions influenced my purchases... they'd regret it. Because I know, after talking to many other couples in MMO's - we aren't the only ones - by far.

Actually, I would say that has factored into 90% of our MMO decisions; not just if they have the ability to play as a female, but also to be non "stereotypical" - with it all being T&A centered around the female, that was also a major factor in us passing up games.

Just give the females options, not all of them want to be walking around with 100 lbs on their chest... and heck, not all guys like that either.

We play games as a couple often; have been since the D&D SSI game, so that means we buy as a couple too - usually anyway.

So - stupid companies, keep making your games and icons 'more masculine' instead of more flexible. Oh and us gamers - idiots we may be - but we're still running your flockin' networks.

Re: Twitter Hashtag Highlights Sexism in Games Industry

There's a great routine by Dara Óbriain that talks about how 'depressingly patronising' advertising aimed at men can be. He uses a razor as an example:

'They just took every boy word and rammed them together - it's called the Gilette Fusion Power Stealth. Can you imagine that? "This blade harnesses the power of the atom, but now with new stealth mode; Click, foom, it's gone! Where has my razor gone?! You'll not be seeing it, it's gone deep cover. We'll have to listen for the dull hum of the reactor core!"'

Sooo yeah. Western culture seems to have this stereotype of young men as attention-deficit cavemen. Or intelligent but hopeless shut-in socially maladjusted nerds. AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET.

 
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