Women in the industry – or more specifically, the way they’re treated by a combination of gamers and their peers – are in the news again. At GDC, Brenda Romero, the legendary game designer behind the Wizardry series, led a wonderful panel on the #1reasonwhy hashtag, and why that movement was so important. A week later, she had resigned from her position on the board of the IGDA over her disgust at the group authorizing a party that featured scantily clad women who arguably had no artistic reason to be there other than to be sexually objectified1, a party that happened literally hours after the #1reasonwhy panel. Since then, everyone’s had their say about the issue of women feeling unwelcome in what’s always been a male dominated industry. John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun doubled down on reader criticism on their thoughts on the subject, basically telling people that no, it’s not comfortable, and no, it’s not going away. Since then, the debate – as usual – has been divided into two camps, not counting the glorified “male rights” activists who think that every time a woman asserts her rights she’s taking something away from them. The first camp is those who believe that it’s a serious problem that affects the industry as a whole, makes them look worse than they are, and needs to be addressed; this is where 99% of women in the industry, and many males, belong.
The other side is the “bros”. The “bros” – which feature a lot more industry people than I’m comfortable admitting – wonder what the big deal is. There’s women all over the industry! Like that one, and that other one, whats her name, and oh, that one with the tits that works with that company in Montreal! What was the big deal about the party? The women were there as art, and by art, we mean “art to masturbate to at the hotel later”! Besides, we have this one friend, who works as an entry level QA at Bioware, and she says it’s nonsense, so that speaks for the entirety of women in gaming!
The bros insist there’s no problem, but these people are either willfully ignorant, not paying attention, or intentionally glossing over facts to keep the all boys club in place.
Guys, there’s a lot of smoke. Eventually, you’re going to have to admit that something’s on fire. And when almost every woman in the industry on Twitter says that they have either been objectified, stared down, or outright discriminated against, that’s a really big fucking fire
Of course, the argument most of the bros come up with is that it’s a slippery slope. That meaning, it’s a slippery slope between not treating women like they interviewed for their job on a casting couch and eliminating all fun and sexuality from video games, and making the experience sterile. Essentially, these people looked at two or three extreme Tumblr blogs and panicked. This is a pedant’s argument, one step ahead of the guy who says that women belong in the kitchen like they were in the 50s. The women who are in the industry – from developers like Jade Raymond, Anna Marsh and Brenda Romero to press figures like Leigh Alexander, Kim Wallace and even my own former writers in Aileen Coe, Mel Ngai and Lilian Harle – all add a wholly different, unique perspective on issues such as this, but there is a subsection of men who belittle their accomplishments – accomplishments that measure up on any standard, not just in the proverbial “girls’ league” – just because of their gender. These are the same men who often state that women don’t play games as often as guys (wrong), and if they do, all of them are playing simple cell phone games (blatantly wrong), so facts aren’t on their side, just strength in numbers. For now.
Really, there hasn’t been an excuse for the kind of thinking that goes into the IGDA party, and the even more abominable Gameloft party, for years. In 2013, there’s even less than that. The perpetrators of this mindset – both the visible and the hidden, the latter of which infests too many board rooms – are holding back an industry that even Warren Spector recently called “immature”. Until we shun those that are dismissive of the concerns of others, the vast majority of which are entirely justified, we will continue to be regarded as an immature medium – a child to film and music – and will be treated accordingly.
1 – Before anyone calls Brenda Romero a bleeding heart, remember that she worked on Playboy: The Mansion, and wrote a book about the experience.