Monday, 12 December 2011

Dear Men, Please Listen. Love, Man


To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends

I‘m going to talk about something I am evidently unqualified to talk about. Women. I have met some and they seemed very nice people on the whole. I read, seemingly more and more often with every passing day, about the way that women are treated online, particularly in the game community and their lack of representation in the game industry. It makes me angry. So here, I will write about that.

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you
I will not be accused of being a shrill moaning harpy. I won’t be asked to make anyone a sandwich, nor will I be accused of being a lesbian, asked to suck anyone’s cock or be threatened with rape. Partially, this is because those who have met me understand that I view other humans as lunch with a temporary stay of execution. Let the Wookie win, as they say. Mostly, it’s because I’m a man and so people will read what I have to say rather than switching off their brain and spewing out some astonishingly unimaginative sexist bullshit. 

It strikes me as incredibly bizarre to think that men talking about the mega-sexism in the game industry, pointing at it and screaming and banging their ham-sized fists on the metaphorical game-table and bellowing that “this will not stand!” could have more effect than the same outrage expressed by the women actually suffering it. However, it seems very likely true. So here I will stand and bellow.

I am bellowing

So first up, is this a problem at all? Yes. Yes, this is a problem. The gaming community contains an incredible number of idiots. Go here and read this article about Saint’s Row 3 by Emma Boyes. It’s a good article, well reasoned and the complete opposite of anything aggressive or hectoring or provocative. It defends a game that has been attacked for sexism. It’s a great piece.

Then read the comments and it’s just a roll-call of complete fucking bullshit. Angry, shouty, stupid, illogical, emotional, insecure ranting, brought forth from the depths of the internet’s prick cabinet. If that exact same article had been written by a man, not a single one of those comments would have been written. That’s because they have absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s said in the article and, more importantly, because men don’t get handed this shit. That said, it didn’t stop The Hulk coming under attack for daring to call a sexism a sexism. 

and to hear the lamentation of their women

The even worse part are all the articles I can’t link to because they were never written. There is a gathering number of smart and interesting women who state that they don’t write what they want to write because of the abuse they will get for doing so. Read this to see what I mean. When they do write, they don’t speak their minds because of the abuse they will get for doing so. There are even more smart and interesting women who don’t admit to doing this, but secretly self-censor to keep themselves out of the crosshairs of the legion of poisonous clowns that would otherwise ladle depressing filth upon their good work.

It’s really bad for the game industry to have an atmosphere where women have to self-censor in order to avoid or placate a bunch of duck-brained super-ninnies. How can it be good for games to have the opinions of half the entire world cut-short or cut-out entirely, because the other half are peppered with socially-handicapped dick-weasels, determined to spoil everything for everyone because fuck you, that’s why. I remember when trolling was a art. On this subject, in this arena, it’s a disease, and not a very good one at that.

But but but but but but but but but

‘Ooh, if you can’t take it, get off the internet’ comes the call from over clutched handbag. Well if you can’t speak to a woman without resorting to wholly unimaginative sexist copypasta, how about you get off the internet? He who repeats sexist tropes wins? I think not. Sexism can be funny, same as racism, homophobia and so on. But only when it’s used to actually say something. You look at Stewart Lee or Louis CK and they will take sexist concepts and wield them to carve great ideas, explain great truths. They won’t use them to make women feel bad for no fucking reason, they usually use them to make men feel like shit for being fattening idiots. Just as it should be. But if you get it wrong, then face up to it. Don’t do this.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

And if you’re thinking ‘well I’ve never said anything like that’ then I don’t care. What have you done to stop it? When this happens, what will you do? What have you done to help the tiny handful of women in the game industry that you do know get their point across without being swamped in blandly, endlessly iterating threats, insults and bile? It’s really bad for the game industry that women don’t feel able to talk openly, so it’s now your job to help them do that, however you can. That’s your job, that’s what you have to do, because that’s what a decent person who cared at all about either women or games would do.

ur a fag

On a completely different note, this shit doesn’t even make any sense from a commercial perspective. From the perspective of a lizard-like being that cares not for people and only for money, the sexism that rides the industry like a pernicious, whispering, idiotic jockey is still a really bad thing.

Social games are often played by more women than men. PopCap reports about 54% women playing its games. But the number of women employed in the industry is, depending on who you listen to, between 7% and 15%. I suspect the 7% is probably closer to the truth.

The game industry is happy to lobby for tax credits, happy to lobby for better computer science teaching in schools (something that will probably help address the gender gap, admittedly) but seem to be doing close to nothing to get more women involved. 

Every day I'm levelling.
And this isn’t some white knight bullshit. This is just business. The more diverse your team, the more diverse your products, the more attitudes and angles will be considered and the better your product will be. The more money you will make. In a world of freemium, of mass-market gaming, of digging out those few whales that will bring money and fame to your game, you need to have as broad an appeal as possible. More diversity in your company will bring more diversity to your product. So form a more diverse team. And if the people just aren’t there for you to hire, make damn sure you’re pressuring everywhere you can to ensure that these people do exist in the future.

Diversity doesn’t mean women making games for women, by the way. I don’t believe that you have to be your customer. But more diversity just makes everything better, more nuanced, more knowing, more understanding. Better.

Even if you don’t think that fairness and equality are intrinsically valuable things to fight for, it’s still by far a better idea to be as inclusive as possible just to make more money. There is simply no excuse, beyond laziness and fear. Don’t be scared and lazy, it’s not very manly.

It just sort of vandalised itself

And worse still, if we don’t do something about this ourselves, one day the big bad government will get involved and make us do it. Norway already insists on quotas of women at the highest ranks in companies. It might not be the last place to do so. Hate speech will come to include sexist language and censorship will weigh heavy on the internet. If you won’t moderate yourselves, eventually people with guns and courts and locks and keys will come and moderate the shit out of you. 

The city this hero deserves.
So men, this is important and it needs you to do something about it. Of course women need to keep doing what they’re already doing, but we should be helping them and we are not doing enough. This is me trying to do something about it. It may not be quite the right thing, it may be very small, but I’m damn well going to find out.

This is my straw. I hope the camel is suffering.

123 comments:

  1. Aww, I was almost hoping the first comment would be some ranting sexism nonsense. Thank you, of course.

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  2. Ta! Just hope maybe at least I can actually hold myself to this stuff when I hear it in real life. And keep saying unspeakably unpleasant things to make people laugh. And retain my more colourful sexual perversions.

    I am mostly sure these ideas are not at odds with each other.

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  3. ur a fag.

    (Totally kidding. Great piece! My husband works in community and comes home often depressed and beat down from having to deal with the aforementioned Socially Handicapped Dick Weasels.)

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  4. I count myself very lucky for not having to worry about the same. Well you can tell him from me that's he's doing a thankless but super-important task.

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  5. No we shouldn't feel ashamed. That's the easy way out.

    Intelligent men shouldn't feel ashamed for the actions of idiots. They should rise above them and ensure that it does not go on in their own area. I've chatted with various people about this, both on my own magazine and twitter.

    I'm not criticising the piece as it's a very good article which coveres a lot of good points. (excluding that piece by Nicole Leffel, who is a wannabe Radical Feminist champion who is actually a complete hypocrit and as such very little she has to say has as much worth, follow her twitter for a week and see what I mean)

    But the issue stands that it's impossible to stop morons from being morons on the internet. That most of the morons are adolescent teenage boys who are sexist cannot be helped by preaching to the choir in a liberal left wing echo-box.

    Also complaining about getting sexist abuse on Xbox-Live is ridiculous, probably 70% of the chat on xbox Live is abuse, if you're a woman it'll be sexist, if you're foreign it'll be that. Hell if you sound remotely like you have any 'otherness' it'll be commented on. This isn't new; as this brilliant timeless article shows: http://www.alwaysblack.com/blackbox/bownigger.html

    I gave up chatting online with strangers in any non-team game after 10 minutes of being called "faggot, dick, shitbox, pussy" worse still, with no context to make it amusing, simply for the crime of playing against someone on Streetfighter. I was an opponent so I received a torrent of hate.

    I accept that some women will be put off writing and contributing because of their fear of being a target, but there is no stopping being a target on the internet. I wouldn't be surprised if some lackwits volley abuse at this piece for it's content, (I'll be even more surprised if no-one labels me sexist or "part of the problem" for writing this comment)

    I simply don't think that there is much that can be done without people simply having more stringent moderation on comments and more banning on xbla. That might encourage more females to come forward and write, but will do nothing to educate the perpetrators.

    This is an issue with no answers.

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  6. That's a fantastic post Mark. And all the more powerful from coming from a man - sad but true. Will share as widely as possible. The articles you link to are great as well.
    PS: I do occasionally choose my football team on EA FIFA according to chest width. But then they lose.

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  7. gstrachan, I'm going to have to disagree, the way we all react to this stuff does matter. I'm not disputing that the large part of online game related chat is abusive, I'm denying that we should throw our hands up and say that it's fine. It's not fine.

    I am amazed that the need to not piss off users by allowing them to spout this stuff unquestioned is considered more important than women's rights not to be treated like cunts. That most of the comments on that IGN post weren't deleted is amazing. Hey, this is a great place to come and chat, if you're a bigoted idiot without two wits to rub together.

    It might be impossible to stop people behaving like idiots on the internet, but it quite definitely isn't impossible to try. And that's what you and me and everyone has to do.

    So you shouldn't be surprised at being labelled part of the problem when, unless you're willing to show a bit more fight than your comment suggests you're willing to put up - you are part of the problem. Men need to complain not about the difficulty of dealing with abusive behaviour but that abusive behaviour is left unchecked.

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  8. Mark, reaction isn't the problem. However I simply don't see what you think this will accomplish.

    Without wanting to sound overly appreciative but I don't think your reading audience are the sort of brainbeaten imbeciles who spend their time lambasting women about their sex, or indeed anyone as regards any perceived 'otherness'. Which is what I meant by the "liberal left-wing echobox" comment. The people reading this will love the sentiment, they will cheer it, and will spread it to likeminded people. What is achieved? The idiots still don't change their mind or their actions.

    Now you mentioned unwillingness to show fight, I offered two possible routes of action but gave the caveat that neither would actually fix the problem.

    As to fighting myself, I don't allow such comments on my site, and we encourage female writers whenever possible with a perfectly safe and supported space to write in.

    I also like to test people. Which is why Nicole doesn't like me. Too many of her arguments didn't hold up to scrutiny. Apparently pointing out flaws makes me a troll in her eyes.

    so it goes.

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  9. I'm a little iffy on some of your language choices Mr. Sorrell, but I really appreciate the overall tone and spirit of this post. Good job!

    Nicole
    @devilherdue

    PS. One day I hope to level up into a Prestige Class Radical Feminist Champion.

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  10. gstrachan, all I'm asking is that when you see or hear it, you point it out to those responsible. I know I'm not talking to the people who do it, or at least not initially, which is why I've said that it's about how you react. If you're already doing everything you possibly can, I see no reason to have complaint with what I've written. If you don't, then get on with it. I still see no reason to have complaint with my article.

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  11. Mark,

    I have no complaint with your article. I said that in my first comment. I even retweeted it becuase I enjoyed it.

    Don't believe that simply because I don't shout high-five and agree all round that I don't see the merit. However I believe it's a deeper and more complex issue.

    I simply said that men as a rule shouldn't feel ashamed about the actions of others. the whole "Sins of the fathers" doesn't wash with me.

    I simply see no great solution to the problem. Moderate all you wish, it simply means the hate will channel itself to different places and fester there. However, as you've possibly guessed I don't buy into people shying away from challenge. If someone calls me out on something I will stand up to them, if someone says something I disagree with I will call them on it. If I was just a troll and my aim was to upset or cause offence, then I would hardly do so using my own name.

    I do what I can, when I can. That however isn't enough, as the problem remains, my issue is how to deal with the illness, not how to make the symptoms bearable.

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  12. I like this post, but I think in most cases and particularly with this issue, talk is very much the cheap option.

    Part of it is editorial ambivalence and the problem that comments = pageviews and ad serves, which is, I often suspect, a much deeper imperative than ideals like freedom of speech. Another part is simply the age-old problem of the rebellion of hormone-infested young males. Whatever society does to mitigate bigotism, it'll still be a key fascination for a demographic that prizes the ability of an individual to cause outrage.

    I understand Gstrachan's viewpoint and see worth in it - it's a fairly unsurmountable problem with the current levels of moderation and the vague morals of Internet media, but that doesn't mean you just stand idly by. If I really gave a shit, I'd be lobbying for more labelling methods for comments - not just numerical karma, but something more akin to Canv.as's stickers, but then they're just as prone to abuse I guess and it's incredibly easy to get apathetic, especially if you're a well-balanced male over 25.

    Ultimately, I think the best way forward is action and not ranting. This is something that fatuglyorslutty absolutely excels at.

    Likewise, http://www.reddit.com/r/ShitRedditSays/ does a similar job - and I think both are far more powerful than "awareness of the issue" or merely "standing up and being counted". But again, it runs the risk of becoming a firefighting name-and-shame exercise with no real end goal, much like the reviled SHOP A PAEDO blitzkreigs of the tabloid press. Should we really be falling back on giving offenders a day in the stocks to manage offensive behaviour?

    In terms of the Feminist challenge for games in general, I think the answer lies with the females and, regrettably, I sink into the more lazy position that change is inevitable.

    However, I do believe that we're already seeing transition starting to occur in games (particularly in race representation - gender has a LOOONG way to go).

    At the same time, I don't think that transition is *driven* by outrage columns like this (even though Mark does make some great calls to action). I think they're more indicative effects of a general shift across the entire spectrum of modern culture - and I think the heightening base response of the most eager-to-offend youngsters has precisely the same root, you know?

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  13. It's really not only men's fault, although they certainly add to it. I am only going to talk from a competitive game standpoint (and by competitive gaming, I mean games with paid pros and frequent tournaments, since that is the only viewpoint I know.) There is a small percentage of women participating in competitive gaming, and because the percentage is so small, the behavior of certain women who take advantage of the male-dominated community reflect back upon women as a whole.

    For example, women who "attention-whore" and post pictures of themselves playing video games to garner male attention. Quite simply, it works. But it also gives women as a whole a bad name, implying to men that they only play games for "attention." It doesn't matter if they're attractive or not, it's attention. But of course, some don't. These are probably the ones that know that they are playing the game for fun and know that their gender has nothing to do with it, yet the stereotype is already there BECAUSE men only see the scantily-clad women licking their controllers or whatever it is that they do. So suddenly, all female gamers = attention-whores.

    And that's not all. Recently, there was a girl who took advantage of Starcraft II players, flirting with them online, saying she loved them, promising them sex or whatever, and many of these players fell for it and bought her a plane ticket to stay with him. Stupid, right? (Think about a close female friend you only know online. Would you want to meet her?) Once she got there, she'd spend a night or two, and then take off without warning with valuables (laptops, headsets, money, etc.). Of course, this is a serious case, but you know it happens in online games with virtual items as well. WoW. MapleStory. Any game with items, guys will often give to girls for free, which is why guys will create female characters, no? So girls get a bad rep for being virtual gold-diggers as well. :P

    And so, women who already chose not to reveal their gender definitely don't have any reason to do so, lest they also be stereotyped.

    I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but I do know that women are also to be blamed. But men can make a start by telling women not to "get back in the kitchen," or calling them sexist names and making sexual comments. Women can a) grow a spine because that's what you're going to need in the world of gaming/industry until it equals out and b) block the offensive assholes of the internet.

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  14. On the one hand, all this is completely true ...

    ... on the other hand, go to a conference of any female-dominated profession and you will observe the speakers getting cheap laughs out of misandrist jokes about their stupid husbands, unreliable boyfriends, etc. and the audience joining in wholeheartedly; just the exact mirror image of the situation females describe encountering at male geek groupings.

    So the idea that sexism is in any way specific to gaming doesn't hold up to any scrutiny; it's just a bog standard example of how any mostly homogenous group bonds itself.

    Not that this excuses it in any way, mind you. Just points out that as long as gamers are human beings, it's most likely going to be impossible to eradicate. At the very least, it'll be no easier to eradicate than jokes about husbands leaving toilet seats up and the like at an elementary school teachers' convention ... not to mention the constant snide insinuations that any male elementary school teacher present is not only obviously out of place, but is probably a pedophile. Which is, in my estimation, far worse than the vast majority of the sexist behaviour women deal with at geek conferences.

    You figure out how to eliminate misandry from that industry; well then you've got a decent shot at eliminating misogyny from the gaming industry. Good luck with that!

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  15. Interesting that talk is viewed the cheap option in the war against talk.

    Advertising is fond of saying that it's impossible to change attitudes, you change behaviours, the attitudes follow. Hence why I'm suggesting a change in behaviour. A 'don't let it slide, get up and call bullshit' approach. A doing something approach. That thing is talking, but it's talk against talk. Seems a sensible approach to me.

    That money is at the core of some of this isn't surprising and isn't something that I haven't considered. When it comes at a heavy price for, at the very least the frank discussion of videogames, and far more importantly, the self-respect of 50% of the world's population, then it's not something to stand by and watch either.

    I'm not under the impression that writing on a game blog is about to change thousands of years of sexism. But I am hoping that a couple of people might examine their own behaviour and question that of those around them. It's exactly that, on a grand scale, that does change things.

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  16. Seriously, don't even think about attempting to come here and say that women are just as bad or that men get it too. Seriously, I'm not even going to entertain such complete bullshit.

    Women have it a million times worse than men. Not all of the time, not in every case. Some women are dickwolves of the most horrendous kind, some feminazis deserve the title in spades.

    But on the whole women have it much worse than men - and in the game industry they have it much much worse than men. 7%! Did you read that bit? The bit about 7% of people in the game industry being women?

    There's some serious self-examination required to get to a point where you accept that maybe women have a point when they get angry about this stuff. Coming here with examples of women being twats means that you are one of the people that needs to do that self-examination.

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  17. "But I am hoping that a couple of people might examine their own behaviour and question that of those around them. It's exactly that, on a grand scale, that does change things. "

    Ysee Mark, I genuinely think this is magical thinking. The dicks that cause the fuss aren't going to stop being dicks because of a well-reasoned column, or because someone lectures them about how wrong and offensive they are. They're deliberately trying to be wrong and offensive, innit!

    Pls bear in mind this is the same thinking that frames anti-drug literature and the hilarity of "well if arresting a million people saves one life, then it's all ok". Worked like a charm, obviously.

    Also, this talking/awareness/dictatorial approach has had zero effect in other contexts, like Skepticism or Atheism, or the battle against psuedoscience like Astrology or Homeopathy, which have much more serious and sustained campaigns of activism. In fact, studies show entrenched attitudes only get more entrenched when directly attacked - and that the offensive will only get more offensive if they're told they're being offensive and must stop.

    I'm much more of the opinion that talk vs talk is just fire vs fire. With respect to the issue in question, I'd much rather see Females subvert the Male hegemony than try to attack it directly.

    I hope you can agree that this subversion approach has worked marvelously for the cosmetics industry and its huge influx of men's moisturisers and the like, which subverts traditional gender roles by making men just as afraid of aging as females - that is probably an attitudinal shift, but it's a complex process that also involves many societal factors - and, I guess I can argue, evidence of a generalised shift in all society.

    I have no idea what subversion of the male hegemony in videogames would look like. Probably because I'm a man, but I can't wait to see it.

    But even if that does happen, there will still be nuff immature boys talking offensive shit on the Internet because they think it's funny or deserves kudos - and this is the biology of the beast as far as I can tell.

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  18. To me, this is just holding your hands up and sighing, wrapped in a layer of ever so reasonable.

    Declared atheism is on the rise in the US. And that seems largely to have come about from people talking about it. Attitudes to women have changed Just not far enough) and a lot of that is to do with talking about it.

    I'm not going to accept that 'ooh, boys are just pricks, so forget about it' being anything other than cowardice, laziness or anther lack or self-awareness. The 'I can't do anything, so no-one can' attitude and the 'so I won't even try' behaviour to go along with it is exactly the bullshit I'm trying to point at.

    Your points about feminising men's toiletry consumption is a case of attitudes changing because behaviours did. Moisturising is nice! It feels good! Pampering yourself is nice! It feels good! You get a few men to try it and they like it and do it again. Slowly their attitudes start to change. Eventually , you have an industry. Behaviour fist, attitude second.

    You may think change is impossible. I do not.

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  19. I read it, but those who need to read it probably won't get it, or won't care to read it.

    It comes a lot of times to creating a culture of acceptance. In my guild we joke around with each other but it's nothing is ever said to be hurtful. And we all know that.

    To generate this kind of thinking in games is going to take some very creative community management, and some very thick skinned individuals to stick to their guns and bare the brunt of the abuse until it goes away or the kids get tired of not getting a response and move on to something else.

    How can you create a safe environment? 0 tolerance. A game company has to come out with the staff who are willing to enforce a 0 tolerance mindset when it comes to offensive behaviour. Not just suspension but straight 100% banning of anyone who displays this behaviour and they can then plead their case back to be allowed back in.

    That will start to cause players individually to monitor their own actions but to further the case often it's guilds that are created of like minded individuals who fester in a community that promotes this thinking. If some kinda guild bonus were put into place where the longer your guild went without getting actionable reports on any of the members then perhaps your guild got a % gold drop increase and/or % xp increase or perhaps a % rare drop increase for raids. This would encourage guild leadership to monitor it's members and better police themselves.

    For real lasting change to come it has to come from the top down and bottom up. I don't tolerate any kind of abusive behaviour in general chats or private chats. I've been gaming for 15 years in MMO and had to go through a LOT of racist behaviour _(black people don't own computers, or pretty liberal use of the n-word)_ and I've grown used to it. I've grown a thick skin and it doesn't bother me any more but that doesn't mean anyone else should have to grow a skin to deal with it.

    So players need to be encouraged to develop their own community, and players to be 100% discouraged so if they exhibit any sort of abusive behaviour companies need to be willing to 100% ban someone forever or for the minimum a month.

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  20. Also on the behaviour of the "attention whore" yeah that's a problem in the industry as well. There are a lot of women who are bad at gaming who will do anything to get attention and are not helping the cause whatsoever.

    There is a real difference between posting screenshots of you gaming and how good you do, and posting screenshots of yourself constantly and begging for attention.

    These women are not helping bring validity to female gamers at all.

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  21. "I'm not going to accept that 'ooh, boys are just pricks, so forget about it' being anything other than cowardice, laziness or anther lack or self-awareness."

    But that's banging your head against a brick wall AND strawmanning the fuck out of anyone who tells you such. I suspect that many of the commenters on the IGN piece aren't remotely sexist in real life. I bet a lot of them are *terrified* of women, so maybe the problem isn't really sexism, but the management of anxiety, the urge to rebel and the dischordian tendencies of youth. Nature of the beast, like them damn rioters, non? In a deeper sense, you can surmise that they're just reacting to the pressure to be egalitarian when perhaps their hormone-moderated behaviour fucks them over for it. Maybe it's got more to do with what happens at school than on their 360s, too. So sexism isn't really the issue - it's just a symptom.

    Don't feed the trolls might be the wisest comment to make, too - would they post such shit if they thought no-one cared? Maybe that's why IGN's keeping them up, because to be truly stoic in the face of abuse, a good strategy is simply DNGAF and carry on.

    To be the most objective you can about the whole online sexism furore, you can't actually determine if any of it's real, or if it actually corrolates to real-world discrimination. Unless I'VE MISSED A STUDY OR SOMETHING.

    Which is why I say make change through products and through subversion. If Kim Swift can be a non-sexualised figurehead for a game where the protagonist and antagonist are both female, and there's not a single bit of THE cleavage-midriff-arse combo on display between them, and yet nuff boys vote it as an amazing game, then perhaps something GREAT is already happening.

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  22. "Seriously, don't even think about attempting to come here and say that women are just as bad or that men get it too. Seriously, I'm not even going to entertain such complete bullshit."

    No where in my post did I say that women are just as bad as men. I only pointed out that they are to blame as well for the way they are treated in the gaming world.

    "But on the whole women have it much worse than men - and in the game industry they have it much much worse than men. 7%! Did you read that bit? The bit about 7% of people in the game industry being women?"

    Why don't you look into why women aren't interested in gaming or jobs in the gaming industry? If there were a lot of women who wanted jobs in the gaming industry and were denied, then yes, it would be a much bigger deal.

    "There's some serious self-examination required to get to a point where you accept that maybe women have a point when they get angry about this stuff. Coming here with examples of women being twats means that you are one of the people that needs to do that self-examination."

    ... I am a woman. And I get pissed off at the girls who do dumb shit that give us a bad name so that we can't ever reveal our gender online without being expected to show tits (which some some girls agree to to get free stuff in games.)

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  23. If you were proposing anything specific, I'd have an easier time with your claims that what I'm saying and doing is pointless.

    With bullies, you have two choices. Ignore them or fight back. I'm suggesting a fight back approach is a better option as things are.

    That you can point to a single game that features as non-sexist set-up as Portal is exactly one step up from having none. So that, while a great start, is also a sign that we have an incredibly long way to go.

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  24. Effie - that women have a job to do here is beyond question. Women have a longer, bigger fight than men. Men need to change, so it's women that will undoubtedly have to do most of the heavy lifting.

    SInce I'm a bloke, I find it hard to say that, so I haven't I'm interested in what men can do. As such, not acting up to attention seekers and fraudsters is part of the deal, for sure, but I'd rather concentrate on trying to get men to question their own behaviour.

    And there is also a big bit of me that's pissed off with the excuses. Boys are aggressive. Women bring it on themselves. It's only a joke. It's just trolling. It's also shitty and damaging and it needs to stop.

    So yes, you may be technically right (the best kind of right!) but the points you make are outside the scope of what I'm trying to say and do.

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  25. "If you were proposing anything specific, I'd have an easier time with your claims that what I'm saying and doing is pointless.

    With bullies, you have two choices. Ignore them or fight back. I'm suggesting a fight back approach is a better option as things are."

    Never said what you were doing is pointless. It is helpful, and I'm glad you wrote this because it's at least taking a step in the right direction. Of course, you should already see that I do fight back. ;) Which is why I pointed out that women will have to become stronger to run with guys in my first post.

    I don't know if you've read this one: http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/misc/22786_To_My_Someday_Daughter.html but I think it would interest you if you haven't.

    Good luck. I never meant to come off as condescending or rude or even to disagree with anything you said, but you seem to be on the defensive for some odd reason so I have nothing left to say.

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  26. Also, I forgot to mention the point about women not wanting jobs in the game industry. That in and of itself is a problem and suggests that 'something' is wrong. Videogames are/can be a wonderfully creative and rewarding endevour, I don't see any inherent reason for women not wanting to work with them.

    I am thus sore tempted to suggest that there's something extrinsic rather than intrinsic that pushes women away. The issue needs serious thought and action from the industry itself.

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  27. Generational stuff is the big changer, though. I can't remember the strict numbers, but Alice Taylor's BBC survey on gaming a few years ago pointed to this huge explosion of girls playing games over the PlayStation 1 era. It kinda rode the wave into the DS's cycle too. If they were born in 1997, they'll be going to Uni very soon and I'll bet the influx of female gamedevs will rise irrespective of any incentives for them to do so.

    But with games as a whole, a lot of people ignore the publishing side, which I believe has a much higher diversity just by default. Surely it's the publishers that drive gender representation from the top and with marketing-led design and whatnot. I dunno if they'll change much, or if the attitude change will be even more glacial. Or are we all too apathetic about big-biz's ability to change full stop?

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  28. Effie - The 'pointless' comments are aimed at Tont not you. And part of a long running discussion about how things change.

    Thanks for the link, it's a great and incredibly in-depth article.

    And sorry for coming off defensive, this is a hard subject to discuss and I'm extremely wary about saying the wrong thing!

    ReplyDelete
  29. "Seriously, don't even think about attempting to come here and say that women are just as bad or that men get it too. Seriously, I'm not even going to entertain such complete bullshit."

    Correct. In woman-dominated industries, women are worse and men get it worse. Google "The endangered male teacher..." and you should find the first link shows that 13% of such have been wrongly accused of pedophiliac contact.

    When you can show that 13% of women in the gaming industry have been subject to something as life-destroying as accusations of pedophila, then you have a case that it is as bad as a female-dominated industry. However, in the real world with real facts, that is not the case.

    "%! Did you read that bit? The bit about 7% of people in the game industry being women?"

    Funny, that. The equivalent number for male elementary school teachers is ... wait for it ... 7.4%. What's bigger, the game industry or the elementary school industry? Why yes, yes that would be the elementary school industry.

    "where you accept that maybe women have a point when they get angry about this stuff. Coming here with examples of women being twats means that you are one of the people that needs to do that self-examination."

    No. If you think there's nothing wrong with 13% of men in a female-dominated industry being wrongly accused of pedophila, but you get your knickers in a twist about boob jokes in a male-dominated industry, it is YOU that needs to examine your priorities.

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  30. 6f50d396-24e7-11e1-add3-000f20980440 - this is a post about the game industry, that's why it's concerned with what is going on in the game industry.

    You are however, trumpeting an edge case. I don't dispute anything you're saying, but I do feel that bringing a 'but men have it bad too' argument to this is wholly missing the point. Women have it worse then men and often in insidious ways. Your argument is strong and correct, but not in this context.

    Yes men have to deal with some shit just because they are men. Women have to deal with a whole lot more.

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  31. Generally agree strongly, but not ecstatic about the description of "bad" women as Dickwolves and Feminazis in the comments. Because, really, nobody deserves the kind of fallout from the dickwolves fiasco that, for example, Courtney Stanton got, and I don't know any feminists who resemble Nazis even a little bit.

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  32. You're going to have to give me a free pass on colourful language. That's the only way I know how to communicate.

    I am anxious not to cover old ground. Some women are assholes, some misandrists call themselves feminists. It is completely true, but it doesn't matter.

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  33. I agree with you Mark.  There is a concept that my women's studies professor in college called passive sexism. As an example, it would be like watching someone say or do something sexist and not speaking up. And even though we might not be able to affect large changes, we can certainly affect our friends and co-workers by standing up to them and voicing our opinions when we know something isn't right. Peer-pressure does work and it doesn't stop after high school. And the cumulative effect of those small changes might eventually lead to something bigger.  At least, that's the hope.

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  34. Here's an interesting point. You wrote the following:

    "The even worse part are all the articles I can’t link to because they were never written. There is a gathering number of smart and interesting women who state that they don’t write what they want to write because of the abuse they will get for doing so. Read this to see what I mean. When they do write, they don’t speak their minds because of the abuse they will get for doing so. There are even more smart and interesting women who don’t admit to doing this, but secretly self-censor to keep themselves out of the crosshairs of the legion of poisonous clowns that would otherwise ladle depressing filth upon their good work."

    Now I know that this is the case, (however, technically it's a point which is highly difficult to verify other than anecdotally, or indeed apocryphally) My question is, how can this be remedied? The only possibility I can see is to have more women write more articles, however in my experience far fewer women than men WANT to write for videogame publications.

    I don't think it's fair to say this is entirely or even mainly due to sexism in the VG industry. In the main, videogaming is still a far more male-subscribed pursuit. Whilst recent developments such as social network gaming, the Wii, DS and the ever increasing popularisation of videogaming in the media as a social norm, there is still the bare fact that for the first 10-20 years of home videogaming history it was almost completely a male hobby.

    Until that evens out (which it will eventually) AND women start to get more heavily involved in the VG industry, in programming, setting up companies and into the higher echelons of Game Dev in greater numbers then they will always feel marginalised.

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  35. There are women who want to write about games (or want to write 'other' things about games) and don't. So why?

    The best I can come up with (from reading things and asking) is physical safety, fear of labelling and, umm, emotional strength/weariness.

    Physical safety is very serious and way beyond my comfort zone for discussion. It's too fucked up a way to behave for me to understand. I don't think I'm capable of saying anything without feeling like a patronising idiot.

    Fear of labelling - that one is a feminist and/or whore - and not repeating the same old arguments to distraction are both areas where 'normal' men can make a difference just by being thoughtful and questioning their own beliefs once in a while. Women have a right to an opinion, a right to express it without their womanhood being an issue and a right to be as sexy/feminist/other as they like while doing it.

    Frankly, all it takes is for men to look at the content of the message rather than the qualities of the messenger and that would be a grand start.

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  36. Someone hasn't had any in a while and is after a sympathy shag if you ask me. <-- Was this the truth you want to hide? Maybe a shower and a shave will sort that out Mark.

    As an industry "veteran" of 10 years, I believe that my experiences within it are somewhat more valid than yours.

    Sorry if you dont like this particular truth.

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  37. @ElCapitan: Ad Hominem arguments don't prove your point in the least. I have my doubts about you being an industry veteran. And, even if you are, anecdotes about your experiences, while they may be true, are not the best source of evidence.

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  38. However, even if all the things you assert are true, that doesn't excuse this type of behavior towards women. Just because they are a minority in the field of gaming (both creating and playing) doesn't give anyone the right to threaten them. Additionally, there is no reason to believe that those women who are interested in gaming know anything less about it than men who are just as interested.

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  39. I've been in the industry for 10 years too! Woo, well done everyone!

    Your opinions are old and endlessly debunked. When you talk about women and sexism, you sound like a politician describing Grand Theft Auto.

    This is not somewhere you are allowed to behave like that.

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  40. I did read your piece as I got the email notifications about it. You are correct that you didn't say anyone had the right to threaten women, but it seems that your solution to the problem is "We can't do anything about it because that's the way it is." And the reason sexist exists is because people are sexist. The problem doesn't just go away if no one talks about it.

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  41. Additionally, publishing your resume still doesn't lend credibility to your argument. That's just argument from authority.

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  42. That was my resume. Well, the part of it that's on Linkedin.

    Elcapitan, I'm not going to provide you with a soapbox for views that have been comprehensively dealt with a thousand times already. Stop, unless you have a sliver of a new or interesting thing to say.

    Also, posting part of my resume is pretty fucking creepy.

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  43. Sexism in games will (hopefully) start to disappear once women play an equal part in the procurement and playing of games. For this to happen, there must be a demand for main stream developers and publishers produce female orientated AAA titles. For this to happen, there has to be a fairly seismic shift in gaming habits of women, which I am pretty certain will never happen.. not because they feel "Femasculated", but simply the majority aren't interested in playing XBOX / PS3 or 95% of Wii titles (whatever anyone says). Yes, females may make up a large percentage of Farmtown-ville users, but when have SERIOUS gaming sites ever really been interested in such blandness. Have a look at marketing spend from the big publishers over Xmas.. Only Microsoft with their Kinect are trying to capture an incredibly hard market, and minority groups will never generate the bottom line that publishers require to get their ROI on campaigns.

    For this reason, women will (shamefully) always be regarded as second class citizens to the sad 13-18 year old "virgin".

    You know who possibly the biggest loser in all of this is.. young males. If they embraced females playing games, they might improve their social skills, meet similar minded members of the opposite sex and who knows.. even fornicate in real life rather than simply threaten such actions anonymously on youtube etc.

    Mark, I can post the rest if you like.. I was 1) surprised you didn't include the rest given you are head of gaming, and 2) making a point that nothing is sacred on the internet, so let's not pretend it is.

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  44. Maybe more women don't play games because they feel objectified whenever they play a game where all the female characters are just sex objects. You mention that many women are farmville/sims players, but where's the evidence? The majority of women that I know play mainstream games like Skyrim and Modern Warfare 3. As I said before, anecdotes do not make good arguing points.

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  45. Do you really need me to fish data out for you? Good God... start with this.. http://gigaom.com/2010/02/17/average-social-gamer-is-a-43-year-old-woman/

    "According to the survey, women make up the majority of avid social gamers, with 38 percent of female social gamers saying they play social games several times a day, vs. just 29 percent of males. Women are also more likely to play social games with their real-world friends than men are (68 percent vs. 56 percent) and are nearly twice as likely as men to play social games with relatives (46 percent vs. 29 percent). The vast majority (95 percent) of social gamers play multiple times per week, and nearly two-thirds play at least once a day."

    Nothing anecdotal about that.

    RE: Sims Data - without divulging company info, I can confirm that a higher percentage of Sims players are females, NOT that a large percentage of females are SIMS players, there is a difference, and as the SIMS division of EA was run by a lady (Nancy Smith), this would make perfect sense.

    My sister plays MW, she loves Zelda (nice avatar ;) ) but she is certainly the exception that proves the rule. Times are definitely changing, I see more women than men playing games on their mobile phones, yet I rarely see females playing on NDSs / PSPs..

    I actually think that this issue is FAR, FAR deeper than just the games industry, and to single it out as a case study doesn't really ask any questions that should be asked in other industries - motorsports, football / Soccer, perfumes / lingerie.

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  46. Yes, you should have to dig it out for me because you were the one who used that argument, so you should be the one to back it up with evidence.

    Sexism does go much deeper than just the gaming industry. It's everywhere and that's what the author of this blog was getting at. A good way to start dealing with the sexism is to actively oppose it.

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  47. Good. Very good. Approve. Cheer!

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  48. Yes, yes and yes again!

    Only comment, can we steer clear of 'manliness' as a reason to do this? I guess you mean we are men and we ought to be aware of this. But manliness comes with too much baggage - idiot things 'men ought to be'. You're talking about one of the few things men *ought* to be.

    Ah Sorrell you made me think more carefully about manliness too you devious swine.

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  49. It is the worst, most shameful brand of cowardice for someone with overwhelming inherent social and structural power to sit around scrambling madly for a way, any way, to frame themselves as some kind of a victim.

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  50. ^^ I made the post above by 'wut', but my blogger profile was using a really old username. I've changed it so if you see responses from me, it's the same as that guy up above.

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  51. Ptp - sorry for deleting the post you replied to, but that kind of shit does not fly here. I think your point still stands :)

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  52. Jared - on my blog, you have no rights.

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  53. Obviously these next messages are just one on one to you mark. Seeing as you are afraid of letting others read my comments. Thousands of people around the world could benefit humanity in far greater ways that your current attempts. You have failed to utilise your unique position within the internet to its fullest extent. Im 18 years old and have an extremely limited influence over other peoples view and opinions. Your views and opinions reach hundreds of people across the globe and yet you choose to indulge yourself. People like you anger me greatly. Such a waste.

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  54. Great article! I must say it really upset me to read a few of the comments on here and reddit. To say that women say sexists comments in conferences, etc. and using that as justification makes no sense. As a woman of color, I know that there are people making racists jokes in their homes, social functions, etc. What I do not expect is to hear demeaning comments when all I want to do is play online. It's supposed to be MY time to relax. I have actually never heard a racist comment while playing online, but I sure have heard sexist ones. And when you hear my voice, well you may not know I'm hispanic but sure as hell know I don't pee sanding up.

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  55. "The game industry is happy to lobby for tax credits, happy to lobby for better computer science teaching in schools (something that will probably help address the gender gap, admittedly) vut seem to be doing close to nothing to get more women involved."

    Why is it that some outside force must always get women involved in things? Why can't women get involved themselves? I keep getting told that women are strong and independent etc., yet at the same time I'm led to believe they can't tie their own shoelaces without affirmative action or some other form of intervention. These can't both be true, so which is it?

    "And this isn’t some white knight bullshit. This is just business. The more diverse your team, the more diverse your products, the more attitudes and angles will be considered and the better your product will be. [...] But more diversity just makes everything better, more nuanced, more knowing, more understanding. Better."

    This is just magical thinking. There's no reason to think any of this is true.

    "There is simply no excuse, beyond laziness and fear. Don’t be scared and lazy, it’s not very manly. [...] If you won’t moderate yourselves, eventually people with guns and courts and locks and keys will come and moderate the shit out of you."

    If you need to employ shaming language and threats to get people to back you up, it just might be possible that your ideas are terrible and will never be accepted on their own merits.

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  56. @Jesus Christ SuperCop

    I think what people have been continuously trying to express here is that it's not for lack of trying that women aren't more immersed in the industry but rather there are so many hurdles they have to climb, sexism, objectification and general condescension from their so called "peers". Which is why you rarely hear a ladies voice when playing online, just PS.

    Mark this article is fantastic and women who are fans of video games everywhere appreciate you. Also thanks for the link to the Valkyrie article, you've given me a heck of a lot more reading to do this week.

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  57. @Jesus Christ SuperCop - I'm only leaving your first post up because boomturkey took the time to reply to it. Despite it not being in any way worthy.

    @boonturkey, thank you very much

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  58. @Jesus Christ SuperCop - I'm not deleting your comments because they are a truth that needs censorship, I'm deleting them because they are incredibly bad.

    If you have something to say that isn't an excuse for sexism that we've all heard a thousand times before, then feel free to post.

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  59. Awesome post. It makes no sense to me why the gaming industry doesn't bother their arse holes targeting games for women, decent games. Being a female gamer and knowing a fair few women who game, I can tell you we are willing to throw our money at the gaming industry as long as it's worth it. You really have no idea how much profit can be made from screaming fan girls =D

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  60. I liked most of this article, and as a gaming woman in the industry, keep on bellowing good sir.

    The one thing I did disagree with, however, is the notion that women need to be in the industry. I've heard a large number of people make this argument, and its one of my biggest pet peeves.

    I can tell you, as a woman, with 4 years of industry experience behind me, that the only people I've ever felt remotely heckled by were recruiters. (And if I'm being completely honest, you can just go over their heads in the applications.) Developers CHERISH me, and they LOVE that I share their passion. They are downright charmed by it; it makes networking cake.

    The reason women are so rarely employed in our industry is because the majority of women I've met are sincerely interested in different things than men. Most women I've met are producers, plain and simple. In the hardcore dev world (I could write a book on why I feel producers are unnecessary bullshit who are the scourge of game development) they tend more towards the art end. I've met a very small handful of female programmers, and I can tell you, they are a very RARE and SPECIFIC personality type that doesn't arise very often.

    The reason I want to go toe to toe with a pair of brass knuckles against the lobbiests for women in the gaming industry is because I don't WANT to work with women. I want to work with a PERSON who is a total fucking baller. My ideal co-worker has spent at least 5 years busting their ass every bit as hard as I have (and I regularly work 2 jobs minimum, and am constantly reading textbooks. No I'm not in school.) I want someone who can wow me with their in depth knowledge of connective shader nodes, or pymel, or speed painting.

    IF person(woman=TRUE):
    print('cool!');
    IF person(man=TRUE):
    print('wicked!');
    IF person(cylon=TRUE):
    print('groovy!');
    ELSE
    print ('que?')

    The reason I am so actively against the lobbyists, is because of the potential that their voice might have some effect. What happens when they start pushing women through on the basis of their gender who are unqualified?

    I'll tell you: It's going to put these ladies in highly technically demanding scenarios in which they will not be able to keep up. There are SO few of us and we are SO visible, that every poor performer brings down our cause. EVERY SINGLE OTHER hardcore game dev lady I've EVER met also feels this way.

    If a woman wants to play, make, or eat games... cool. Support that bitch. Otherwise, please, let well enough alone. For the kittens.

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  61. I would just like to say thank you for writing this. As a woman, further more as a person just starting a blog on this very topic, I appreciate this more than you can imagine. This is a well writen and thought out article containing a message that should be shared more often. Thank you.

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  62. Without reading any of the above comments and only half of the article (so yes, I practically don't know whats going on):
    What I think would help men and women work together is culture.
    What I mean is: let women be women and men be men. I see it all the time that men 'need to behave' when women are around, or that women aren't socially allowed (or able) to talk about subjects they like (stereotypical example: makeup?).
    As a guy I would like to be able to behave like an idiot once in a while, without getting griefed for it. I will try to join in typical female conversations as well if the situation calls for it. I can, so why not?

    Simple things which could make huge differences, let each other be who they are! Men and women alike. Also, let people have their opinions! It's their right. Just make sure the decisionmaking is based on reason, not fueds (or whatever emotionally loaded arguments)!

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  63. Almost forgot! Thank you, important topic.

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  64. Great post Mark.

    But one of the ways to combat this is to simply turn off comments.

    We've given unfettered free opinion online a shot, and it turns out what most of us realised long ago - people are fucking jerks.

    People simply like hearing and seeing their own words. They do not care about the opinion of others, especially when in contradicts their own.

    And I write this with full knowledge this absolutely applies to me too.

    But moreover, we've seen what the opinion of others can do to art. Look at what's happened to movies, music, video games and television because fans have direct access to the creators!

    We've given the masses the ability to comment fully on anything and everything, and what we have got is governments full of ignorance and ineptitude, art full of schtick and sickness, music which is vapid and moronic.

    And how the fuck could we have ever thought otherwise?

    We've given it a shot, and you know what, turns out we were wrong about the masses. They don't want to lift themselves above the humdrum - they ARE the humdrum and they revel in it.

    So, turn off your comments. Turn it off here, turn it off on your screenpop website, just turn it off.

    Because if you do, people who will want to respond to you WILL respond on their own sites in a reasonable manner, instead of a bunch of anonymous pricks typing lame comments in the 5 minutes they have between repetitive task #3 and daily monotony #9

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  65. As a female gaming journalist who just started a month ago and had to deal with getting called a slut by one of my editors three weeks after joining, I thank you for this.

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  66. Great piece and I agree with most of what you say? Where I don't agree is your excessive name calling. Almost any argument, no matter how intelligent or well worded, crumbles when name-calling and insults are thrown in. Granted, I have no sympathy for anyone who lacks basic respect for other people (in this case women), but in no way will I contribute to their hate pool or fan the flames Not only is it unnecessary to your argument, but it's detrimental.

    As for your suggestion to fight for the solution, the responsibility doesn't solely rely on men to try and make a difference. Yes, speak up against such sexist comments, but we need the help from the women as well.

    Women, don't stop being vocal. Don't shy away or hide because of the comments. The only way to get past the abuse is to ignore it and rise above. Don't get on the defensive. Also, PLEASE recognize the efforts of the men that try and help win this fight. Too many times have I tried to be the voice of reason, but so readily get lumped into the same category of the shit-talkers. Let's create a positive community that we can have fun in and discuss the topics we enjoy without the internet women-haters getting in the way.

    Men, do NOT tolerate idiocy. Put people in their place, but do it without violence or hate.

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  67. @Funky J - two reasons why I don't and wouldn't turn off comments, here at least.

    First is that people who have relevant and positive stories to share can do so. I think that being able to share is important and I want to allow, if not encourage people to do just that.

    The second is that I am happy to delete bullshit and moderate the place. As I've said, I think behaviour is key and as such, if I didn't let people be assholes, I couldn't then delete their assholery and behave the way I'm asking other people to.

    This boils down to freedom. I value freedom over all. Women should be free to speak their minds and be women on their own terms, without needing the approval of men. Currently, men are such dicks that they often can't.

    It's been hard for me to delete things here, because hey, if I value freedom over all, then I should let people say what they want, right? Well, not when the freedom of one over-rides the freedom of another. If that happens I have to make a judgement call. I choose to call it for those who want to change this mess.

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  68. @Emily - I wish there was more I could do. What a dick.

    Hope things get better and you enjoy doing what you're doing.

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  69. @daft hero - You are never, ever going to change my language or tone and I find it hugely disrespectful that you would try. I disagree completely that is is ineffective or detrimental, I find it often makes a positive impact and either way, I enjoy it very much indeed. So no dice there.

    I'm also not calling for women to do more because I am a man and because women get the short and shitty end of the stick. Women do need to keep doing what they are already doing, of course. But I feel it would be colossally insensitive and ignorant for me to say more than that.

    I absolutely hope that what I've said and what Margaret said in her piece encourages more women to risk it, but it is a real risk, men really will behave like utter cunts, and I don't feel comfortable trying to make that call for other people.

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  70. Have to admit I very much agree with gstrachan far above me. Great read, and I can exactly see where the rage is coming from. But from a practical stand point, getting on the soap box is only going to reach people who already know and care about this issue really. Man-children with emotional problems and ignorant, young teenagers quite frankly don't give two shits about what we think. It's to do with the thinking underpinning society, something that is INCREDIBLY difficult to change.

    And as gstrachan said, these people producing vitriol will always exist. It's just an unfortunate amount is being aimed at women simply because a lot of these men on the internet see them as alien creatures with their primary study being hardcore porn. When you think about how primal this thought pattern and the resultant actions are, it starts to become clear it would require mass lobotomy or genocide to stop this :/. And I say that regretfully, not simply to prove you wrong.

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  71. @olly - If you believe what you just said and act accordingly then you are enabling those assholes. These people will always exist but it is still your personal job to tell them they are being assholes when they are being assholes.

    We don't stop trying to catch murderers just because there will always be murderers.

    You are making excuses. Stop it.

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  72. Although I agree with most of what you say and am totally behind gender equality, I'm not going to go out of my way to help women.

    Here's why: because when there are injustices done against men, they're silent.

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  73. Then you're a petty little shit and are quite definitely not behind gender equality.

    Women have it far, far worse than men. When men have had the balls and wherewithal to help women sort that out then we can all start worrying about men's rights.

    The best way of framing this that I ever heard was - when a man goes out on a date with a woman, the worst thing that could happen is the woman embarrassing him. When a woman goes out on a date with a man, the worst thing that would happen is that the man could rape and kill her.

    I don't question that men suffer, even institutionally. But dude. Seriously.

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  74. Maybe this is a bit off topic: When Skyrim started to release screen shoots of playable characters I noticed they only released pics of male characters. I wrote Bethesda a letter complaining because I wanted to see a female character that wasn't an NPC (they only showed the barmaids at first).

    Of course I never heard back from them so I posted a request to see playable females on their Facebook wall, and I ended up deleting it due to the onslaught of negatives comments. I was told to take my strong female characters and stick it somewhere not so nice. I was even told if I wanted to see strong feminism to go to a Palin or Bachman rally (WTF?) The worst is when a girl comments, "I'm a girl and I don't care." Why shouldn't you care?

    I agree that it is important that men need to do something, make it less of a boys club. Both men and women need to see that almost 98% of video games are done with a 'male gaze'. Diversity? Yes please!

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  75. You might like (want) to read this article ... http://geekfeminism.org/2011/10/13/on-being-harassed-a-little-gf-history-and-some-current-events/

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  76. @107636816159637695355 - I have read that article and, as I've said (and why my answer to Jahlynne was so short), I find it very hard to speak about what women do about this. I'm not one, I try to understand but I obviously never actually will. I am a man, I feel safe and sure in what I say to men.

    Her stuff about moderating was exactly what guided my hand on moderating this bunch of comments. So thank you.

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  77. I'm 34, girl gamer, been gaming since hmm.. 6? Makes me as "experienced" as most of the guys, if not moreso.

    I have one simple opinion.

    In games, we're free to be who we want to be. We have absolute equal opportunity, the kill comes down to our skill and not our gender.

    I don't see why gender ever got a place in gaming and why it continues to do so. It's the one place where we can say that "he beat me because he's better" rather than "he beat me because he's more physically well built by genes".

    I appreciate these articles though, and the ones written by women such as the SR3 one - by the way, bloody AWESOME game where I did absolutely enjoy being the leader of the saints as a hard a$$ chick no questions asked. And I also do like it when game devs got he extra mile to allow girls to represent females in game without restricting us.

    But as for the playerbase? Learnt long ago to ignore the ignorant (who are usually also the young). I don't self censor the fact i'm a gurrrl, but I don't broadcast feminity either. To me it's all quite irrelevent. Depending on the game I'm out to kill you or coop with you and frankly I don't give a rat's ass what you're packing between yer legs.

    Games are one place where we should be able to find unity. Maybe one day.

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  78. @Mark
    Hm, I am generally an excuse maker :P. But I think that's a conscious thing (I'm so going on a massive rant here). It's the utilitarian, realistic approach. Sometimes people like Martin Luther King or Gandhi prove that standing up in the face of adversity can accomplish massive things. But let's face it, how often does that really happen? I'll bet you 99.9% of the time it does Jack Shit. And that's why there are so many people like me.

    Still, despite that I do understand where you're coming from. I don't want to enable people like that, far from it, and neither am I saying it's okay. I'm just musing as to how on Earth you can reach those people. Quite clearly calling them out on being an arsehole will accomplish very little, despite being a sound idea to start with.

    But also, trying to catch murderers? Are you suggesting we should persecute people over this? (I am not questioning your thinking, merely enquiring as to what you meant).

    But yes, I will never support nonsense like this, I hope you understand I'm not saying there's no point to anything at all. Where you can make change, make it. I just feel a little impotent considering the source of most of this vile spew. What do you think we should actually DO?

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  79. Damn I was hoping that the first comment would be sexist.. I was actually smiling as I was scrolling down in anticipation.. Oh well.

    I guess I could try to be sexist as a joke now, but Im not really good at it. I think. I hope.

    "you... you man you. " nah..

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  80. @Oliver Stevenson I have been really very clear about this, but you seem worth the time to do it again.

    1: If you see it, say so. If someone is being a sexist asshole - even if there are no ladies around to hear - say so. This doesn't mean you can't have lengthy and in depth conversations about tits with anyone who wants to join in. It just means that when someone treats a woman badly *because* she is a woman and not *because* she is an asshole, then tell them to cut that shit out. Online and in real life.

    2: Examine your own behaviour. How much do you accept or fail to recognise the privilege society grants you as a male. The more you know your own experiences, the more you see where you can change things, be that your behaviour or other's.

    Privilege is like gravity. Very weak, but also incredibly strong. Each privilege you get is very small, but you get millions of them.

    3: Remember that changing things 0.01% for the better is awesome. It might not work 99.9% of the time, but that one time it does, you have made the world a better place.

    You don't convince someone all in one go. You persuade them 3% today, 1% tomorrow, 9% the day after. So that 0.01% of change is exactly what you should be aiming for. DO that.

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  81. Everything is wrong with this post, but what is most wrong is your threat that the government will get involved if people don't stop hurting your feelings.

    Have you ever tried to convince someone of something, and then brandished a gun when he wouldn't come around? That's what you're doing now, and it doesn't work. You can't force people to agree with you (and seeing as you're wrong, they shouldn't agree with you anyway).

    Note: Deleted first comment because of a typo : P...and second because my italics disappeared -_-

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  82. No-one is hurting my feelings. That's sort of the point.


    Here's what wikipedia has to say about UK Hate Speech laws.

    "Hate speech laws in the United Kingdom are found in several statutes. Expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person's colour, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation is forbidden."

    You'll not that gender isn't currently on that list, but it's a solid list (disability seems another obvious omission, I'm sure there are others)

    Now I am not in favour of Hate Speech laws. As I've said, I'm a freedom guy. I do not want the Hate Speech laws we already have, I certainly don't want any more. And that's exactly why this is important. If men carry on being assholes to women because they are women, maybe that law will expand and then, well wikipedia provides -

    "Any communication which is threatening, abusive or insulting, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress someone is forbidden. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both."

    I'm not threatening anyone with anything. It's a result I would be profoundly unhappy with. What I want is not the point.



    Also! I'm right and you're an asshole. Don't come back.

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  83. When I first started posting frequently online I had a lot of problems with people being rude. Not the kind of "hur dur make me a sammich LOL AMIRITE GUYS?!" posts but people being genuinely threatening. I've had everything from people threatening to rape me to people saying they've got my home address and that they'll post it publicly. One of the strangest ones was a guy on a forum sending me money over paypal (he found the email address I signed up with) to "apologise" for something he'd said to me, saying to other people on the forum that "being a whore I'd obviously take it". Of course I didn't but it definitely set the tone for a good year or so, people constantly making posts like that.

    Now, I usually post with my last name to be gender ambiguous (well let's say Male, really), never post pictures and really, it's kind of strange. I have male friends online insisting that it really isn't that bad, that I should use my proper name (don't get me wrong, I've never been a dark_babexXx or anything, I have never asked for this negative attention). As soon as I change my steam name to have my first name in it, I instantly get shit.

    Now what's kind of funny is that I'm a beta tester. I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember, I think I can safely say I've played 1-3 hours minimum a day for 17 years, so a bit of a fanatic/sadact. Every time I go anywhere online the first thing I get is a rant about how awful GUURL GAMUURZ are, the ones who started playing games with RockBand or whatever for male attention. Now I've only spoken to one or two girls like this and I find them annoying too but it amazes me that the assumption is that this is the majority of women who play games who are like this. I'm sorry but that just simply can't be true. When I was at school, my best friend Hannah used to play SNES and Megadrive games with me and a few other girls. I remember covering my eyes every time she used to fall on the spikes in Prince of Persia. Either way, none of us in the group ever grew out of playing games. I know Hannah plays a lot of WoW, I mostly like FPSs and RPGs and the other girls all play casual games. They've all mentioned things guys have done online when they've been playing (Hannah had a guy track her down through her email on to facebook and stalk her for a while so I think she wins).

    Of course most people don't think that the sexism you encounter online is anything to worry about, go into any game of counterstrike and the first thing you here is "N00B! FAG! PWN! BITCH! FAG! BITCH! PWN! FAG!". Everyone gets insulted all the time for any possible reason. At the same time though, I don't know any guys who've been stalked because they've made a post on the WoW forum.

    I don't want to sound like some whinging woman though, I think online gaming is great. I've got a whole community of friends who I met online, some of which I've met in person (one person I met over a forum turned out to be the housemate of someone I went to school with, it's a small world). I actually met my partner online, he's an amateur game developer which is how I know him, he contacted me when he was looking for testers and it started from there.

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  84. conti-


    The only problem I really have with the normal guys online is that they don't actually get involved if someone is sexist. I'm not saying they should be there, defending women from the big scary jerks or anything like that. Some of us don't need protecting. But at the same time, if it's only women who say "Hey you know what? Fuck this, this has to stop." then you just get a chorus of guys saying you're taking it too seriously, that "u mad". I'm not asking for more whiteknighting from guys because that usually makes the situation worse but if you just had a decent group of women and men tell someone off for making posts like that, it certainly has more power than just a few women posting to complain and you'd be more likely to get listened to.


    I plan on working in the industry in the future, not sure at what capacity currently. I have a "let's play!" channel on youtube but it's private, I only send the videos to close friends because of what people did to my last channel (I'm no iJustine before anyone says so). I've also written a few articles and I've done a bit of voice acting for a few indie games my friends made in college but I prefer testing and designing them myself. At the same time though, it kind of saddens me knowing I'll probably never get the same kind of following that my male counterparts will, at least not any time soon. And I've got no intention of being the next hamburger helper.

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  85. All the arguments I'm ready that are against this article are moot. The simple fact is that if you're standing next to a guy throwing derogatory crap at a woman, you'd be an ass to let it happen without speaking up and defending her.

    Idiots are never going away but if there's enough people calling those idiots out on their actions, women will start feeling that at least they're not alone - that their opinions and participation are both wanted and encouraged within the community.

    Its a pretty basic issue and a straight-forward, if not immediate, solution. If you have something against that approach, then you need to take a good look at yourself, or better yet take a good look at your girlfriend / wife / mother / sister / daughter / friend and ask yourself if you're comfortable someone hurling abuse at them, and how should you react if it was happening to them in person.

    It's not a big deal - if you don't want to confront an abuser, or don't think it will help, then come up with something positive to say to the abused to show them that they're respected by someone that counts. You're probably not going to change others, but we can at least encourage a community where women fell like they belong and are respected.

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  86. It's 4:30am over here, so please excuse my lack of paragraphyness.

    I just wanted to say that both I, and the missus here, are in full agreement. She thanks you for your post!

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  87. @Unknown: Assuming the majority of women do have different interests than men - have you ever wondered how much of that difference is purely biological, and how much is partially due to external influences, such as, cultural expectations, availability of role models, etc.? Yeah, there aren't as many women in Computer Science or Physical Sciences; but, why aren't they interested? Is it just because females are simply genetically predisposed to not liking video games/computers/math/physics as much as males?

    What exactly do you mean by, "a very RARE and SPECIFIC personality type" of those female programmers'? I'm just wondering if the female students in a, say, mathematics program would fit that "type" as well...

    Wanting more women in the industry is not the same as asking for more people to be hired unqualified. It's about changing the overall culture to a more welcoming one for more women, so that more of them would be genuinely interested in being programmers. It's not a bad thing to have a more diverse group of female programmers who don't necessarily fit neatly into a certain "type". :P

    Like the author of this article, I too believe there's intrinsic value in diversity in the workplace. And personally, I'm not a fan of slave labour. I mean, if someone wants to work 2 jobs, more power to them; but I wouldn't *demand*, or expect anyone to do that.

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  88. Loved this. I run the website Not in the Kitchen Anymore (http://www.notinthekitchenanymore.com), and one of my readers linked me to this article. I constantly come into contact with people who deny this kind of behavior (even though obviously, I have hard proof) or downplay it (the typical "THIS IS JUST HOW GAMES ARE" response). Anyway, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for writing it.

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  89. "I'm not deleting your comments because they are a truth that needs censorship, I'm deleting them because they are incredibly bad."

    If they are so incredibly bad, you should have no trouble demonstrating that and humiliating me in public with your superior knowledge and wisdom.

    "If you have something to say that isn't an excuse for sexism that we've all heard a thousand times before, then feel free to post."

    You'll classify anything you don't agree with and can't argue against as "an excuse for sexism," which is itself an excuse for censorship. I didn't advocate sexism anywhere and you know it.

    "Currently, men are such dicks that they often can't."

    So this isn't sexism, then? Lol.

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  90. To be honest, these sort of articles come across as intellectual masturbation most of the time. No one reading them are the people actually making the sexist comments - they would not have gotten past the first paragraph.

    But what's worse is when you funnel your righteous indignation towards the entirely wrong approach. For example, you say:

    "3: Remember that changing things 0.01% for the better is awesome. It might not work 99.9% of the time, but that one time it does, you have made the world a better place."

    And yet you never consider the possibility that any of those 99.9% failures end up being counter-productive. In fact, most of them are. Each time a WhiteKnight shows up, they make a mockery of what should have been something noble. It's embarrassing to watch, and encourages men to be silent, lest they end up looking as pathetic.

    And let's face it: my gut reaction to your questioning of my manhood or willingness to stand up for what's right is "fuck you." It's like telling someone they aren't giving to charity enough; keep it up, and they stop giving altogether.

    I am 100% behind NOT staying silent if your friend is enduring sexist comments IRL; since you have personal connections with the people making the comments, you can use that as leverage to change minds. "Speaking up" on internet forums, on the other hand, is worse than useless - it's harmful. The LAST thing that needs to happen is to give trolls the attention they crave. The more outrage, the more effective the trolling becomes.

    If you want to affect change on the internet, you should be telling people to write to these websites to have them moderate their own goddamn forums. That is the difference between a safe, encouraging community and the Wild West. Pooh-poohing trolls simply gives them more pooh-pooh to work with.

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  91. Mark, this is such an important article. I can see you aren't in the least fazed by lazy, self-justified sexism-enablers, but if you were... there are plenty of us out here who want the gaming world to be so much more inclusive.

    And at heart I think it's for no nobler reason than We Will Make Better Games.

    Never stop bellowing.

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  92. ''What have you done to help the tiny handful of women in the game industry that you do know get their point across without being swamped in blandly, endlessly iterating threats, insults and bile?''

    Actually buy games like Assassin's creed and Portal, which are immensely popular and have female game designers in leading positions in their respective developing teams.
    And I didn't buy those games because I wanted to suck up to a female demographic, I bought them because they are amazing games.

    And now a transaction I (thankfully) don't get.
    People on the internet being related to the game industry.

    I mean, this comes from another guy on the internet (it's almost like we're the main demographic lol).
    We don't exactly have it easy either.
    Have you ever noticed the amount of work a guy has to do to get validated as a human being on the internet?

    Go to omegle for example, say you are a guy and the first 50 people will not even talk to you.
    Now say you are a girl, what happens all of a sudden? All those horny teenagers will worship the ground you walk on solely because they have the idea planted in their feeble little minds they might end up having sex with you.

    And how does this work out for women? Well each of course have their own approach to the subject, some will for example pretend to be guys so people will listen to what they say and move on. There is however also another group of women...

    Meet the ''attention whore'', a lady that is fully aware of the fact that her sexuality in a mostly male area may lead to some strange behavior. To me, she's the scantily clad lady sitting behind a webcam trying to make a buck out of those silly geek guys that worship her.
    Which she manages quite well, take this from an insider from the more dark areas of the internet, but there's a steady amount of women on here, that dodge around 2000 dollars worth of tax monthly by digitally prostituting themselves...

    Now how is this related to people on 4chan saying things like ''make me a sandwich''?
    Well, every two months some of the women from the latter group I just described get a bit audacious constantly being surrounded by a rather gross group of white knights who will stupendously defend them at any cost possible.
    So much so, that they will attempt to take on the internet itself, ever read a ''post ending in 62 decides which part of my clothes I take off'' thread? I think you do, since you accuse us of being a bunch of copypasting newfags.
    Those ladies get the shit they deserve, and the first group (the one with the ladies being on the internet because they like the place, not because they made their full time job out of it)
    How do they react when you tell them to make you a sandwich?

    By showing us their sweet i7 gaming rig we will never have, then laugh at us.

    And that's why I love them.

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  93. @Jesus Christ Supercop - by denying that there is an issue, or that nothing can or shoudl be done, then you are enabling it to go on. And that means you are the big problem. There are many people who will really never change. But their numbers are dwarfed by the people who do nothing to stop it and hence allow it to carry on. Those guys are the real issue and you are one of those guys. At best.

    Also, as I've pointed out, your knowledge on the subject is literally laughably poor.

    Sexism, if you want to get technical, is prejudice + power. So in the larger society, sexism can't be a women giving a man shit. In any one specific situation, that can be reversed (a female boss refusing to promote a male employee on the basis of gender is sexism).

    What you should be accusing me of is prejudice.


    Anyway, more importantly, stop making excuses, flailing around and crying victim. This is a real problem. You need to help. It is genuinely pathetic to see you deny this.

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  94. @sanfrod

    That is a fucking brilliant post and it made me very sad and even more frustrated. How the guys on here denying there is a problem can read that and not want to do something is genuinely beyond my understanding.

    Thank you very much for such a heartfelt and honest post. I hope others get as much from it as I did.

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  95. @Verisasi

    Thank you, good post and a good idea, one hadn't really thought about. Would still rather see those who do this stuff confronted, but this is definitely still a positive thing to do.

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  96. @Azuriel

    A slightly more sophisticated excuse. Very slightly.

    I spent years thinking fuck you when confronted with this stuff. Hell, I've been told by people who know me well and have for years that hearing me say this stuff is a surprise. It's taken a ridiculously long time for me to come round.

    So what if some people get angry? That doesn't mean it hasn't effected them, in fact it means it has. I refuse to believe that people can read the things that, say Sanfrod has written and not admit, somewhere deep inside, that maybe there is actually an issue here.

    I am not concerned that a few people may have their hearts hardened, because I believe to my core that what I am saying, what so many people are saying, is right.

    You are still excusing behaviour that must change.

    Also, don't get too hung up on trolls. It's the atmosphere that the trolls must endure to do their trolling that matters. That's what you set out to change, not the trolls themselves.

    FInally, yes, I agree that getting better moderation on game sites would be a fucking huge thing. Some of the shit that Kotaku US let slide on Margaret Robertson's follow up piece amazed me. They have a hard job though. If you compare the US and AU sites, the AU community all stood behind Margaret and rounded on the trolls themselves. The US site all but encouraged them. It's a perfect example of what I'm talking about. The community can moderate, most of the time, as well as the moderators. Leave them to get the srs trolls and take down the ignorant yourself.

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  97. I really, truly appreciate what you've done here. Judging by the comments on your post compared to the other articles that you've linked to, I'd say your initial point is proven.

    May the camel's back indeed break soon.

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  98. Hi Mark,

    Fantastic article! Your passion, engagement and the import placed into each word really struck a chord with me. I've written a response (more of a companion piece) to it on my (recently renewed) blog.

    It's a long road ahead, but (and I hesitate to use such a cliche), but every journey starts with a single step.

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  99. @Azuriel:

    "And yet you never consider the possibility that any of those 99.9% failures end up being counter-productive. In fact, most of them are. Each time a WhiteKnight shows up, they make a mockery of what should have been something noble. It's embarrassing to watch, and encourages men to be silent, lest they end up looking as pathetic."

    Not sure what specific situations you're referring to here, but I get the impression from your explanation that the men you talk about seem to have quite a bit of an insecurity, what with caring so much about what others might think of them, and being afraid of looking "pathetic" and whatnot. If someone's that insecure, I would simply convey the truth that being a silent onlooker would actually make them appear more "pathetic" than speaking up for the victim ineffectively.

    ""Speaking up" on internet forums, on the other hand, is worse than useless - it's harmful. The LAST thing that needs to happen is to give trolls the attention they crave. The more outrage, the more effective the trolling becomes."

    I don't understand why anyone would make not-appeasing-the-troll their #1 priority, even above doing-the-right-thing and making-myself-feel-better. If the trolling gets a discussion going, that means more people are getting themselves involved in the process at least mentally, and this is extremely valuable for any awareness campaigns. I would personally shake the troll's hand and thank them, as their participation has helped make the campaign more successful and lively, regardless of if getting more people to think about the issue was their initial motivation. The people voicing their opinions would end up feeling better about themselves, and if the trolls also end up feeling better about themselves, then it's win-win. :)


    @Jos van Eekelen: Could you please give a definition or example of "validation as a human being" from the following statement:
    "Have you ever noticed the amount of work a guy has to do to get validated as a human being on the internet?"

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  100. Hey Mark, good read. Overall I think you made a lot of good points and I hope these kind of conversations can keep happening so we can shed some light on this and turn down the flames of hate from boiling to an acceptable simmer.

    There was really only one thing I didn't really agree with fully. The idea of "More diversity in your company will bring more diversity to your product." As we keep releasing more games which are more inclusive to both sexes, more women may want to work in the field of development. But I don't know that bringing in someone of a different gender is bringing in more diversity than other traits individuals may have based on background and interests, especially when most jobs are highly specialized. I guess I have always considered myself someone who tries to think outside the box, but by saying bringing in women creates diversity can seem like conversely I think the same as all other men, which I actually don't and pridefully so.

    I also want to point out that my wife plays a lot of FPS games online and is harassed quite often. But she is often very surprised at how often other guys speak up and tell the trolls to shut up. It's kind of refreshing. Like you think that the world is completely falling apart and completely devoid of compassion, but in the last year I have seen at least 3 horrible traffic accidents on the highway, and in each case there were tons of cars pulling over and rushing to help, and I was never the first person to dial into 911 even though I was sure I was the only one calling. I think it's a fitting analogy.

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  101. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your excellent response! I ummed and ahhed over the attitude v behaviour thing for some time. Behavior can be viewed as an outward expression of attitude, but is not necessarily driven by it, though more generally for pub chat you can get away with drawing a causal link between the two. Having said that though, it is well known - and studied - that by choosing and controlling the way we behave, we can directly affect the way we think and feel.

    Which I think is your point - we ought to be attempting to drive a change in behaviour to bring about the change in attitude. That is definitely something that can be achieved at the top level, but I worry that it be a step too far for the Xbox Live level, where appealing to the attitudes of its players might be a more effective angle.

    Regardless, it is somewhat semantic to work out which is the horse and which is the cart, as in this case, both need to change.

    Which is why I think it is so important to have people out there acting, loudly, in ways that ought to affect attitude changes.

    That lady you spoke to, what she said, the actual words she used, mirrors results from experiments done by Ms. Jane Elliot (Anatomy of Prejudice), which in turn mirrors the article you had read about power and prejudice.

    It saddens me no end to think that there are women (of course anyone for that matter, though this discussion is certainly about the fairer sex specifically) out there in the industry who are self-censoring for those reasons.

    It's a real kick in the guts and makes me a bit fucking mad to think of the energy and productivity that is both being wasted AND untapped due to it.

    Thanks for the link to the larger quote - I had a feeling there was more to it, given the rest of your discourse. And you are right, the quote really /really/ gets the point across that while there is sexism in both directions, it is the combination of all those other factors (power - both physical and metaphorical - position, privilege etc) that men hold over women that makes it so asymmetrical, regardless of the amount flowing in each direction. (Ine)quality over quantity you might say.

    Keep fighting the good fight - you have my sword.

    Trev (elfinke)

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  102. Intrinsic!

    That was the word I couldn't dredge up over lunch.

    Intrinsic factors and intrinsic differences...

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  103. @IvanDashSmith

    Thank you. I agree with your points about diversity, but I do think having women involved in greater numbers and taking their womanly concerns into account would make a big difference to the kind of games that get made and particularly the look and feel of those games.

    The Portal example as a 'good' image for women in games is notable by its singularity. Basically, the portrayal of women in games is incredibly male focussed. That is likely a barrier to women wanting to make and/or play them. That's bad.

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  104. What I'm seeing a lot of is some guys whining about "White Knights" being just as bad - or worse - than threatening assholes that push women and girls out of games. That's ridiculous.

    While White Knights are definitely a problem, it's hardly an issue of the same magnitude as the guys shouting a young woman off of Ventrilo with "Tits or GTFO!" Complaining about White Knights while advocating that "nothing will ever change anyway" just sounds like you're hemming and hawing to defend the idea that you shouldn't be morally obligated to stand up against this bullshit. You're making excuses and redirecting the problem to men who have questionable motivations for taking sexist culture and its active participants to task. You're doing it because someone is suggesting you need to change your lazy, enabling behavior and it's scary to realize you're implicit in this bullshit when you don't stand against it.

    I've seen White Knights in action, and I've seen the damage they can do. It's not insubstantial, but guess what: I'd take the most Valorous Holier Than Thou White Knight over a group of slur-slinging manchild rape-joke-gigglers any day. Every single time.

    Also, someone mentioned that it's not worth standing up for women because they don't stand up for men. Are you kidding me? If you're a guy who doesn't fit into the traditional ruleset assigned to guys, or who isn't comfortable with society's notion of masculinity, feminists are pretty much the ONLY people sticking up for you. If you're throwing your lot in with the asshats that shriek "FAG!" over XBox Live 10 times a minute, you're doing it wrong.

    Nicole
    @devilherdue

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  105. @Mark

    I actually got into a huge debate with a female co-worker one time because I felt a female character we were designing was TOO scantily clad, and she wanted her to slut it up. I am all for taking a woman's concerns into account, I want to be clear on that, and I agree that there are still lots of barriers to women enjoying many games because of how catered to men they are. I guess I just wanted to open my big mouth (and come close to putting my foot in) to argue that hiring women isn't a silver bullet to solving the issue, and that it insults men's(or both genders really) intelligence on being able to think outside our own gender stereotypes.

    A great example of a barrier is when my wife tried playing Lost Planet 2 and was happy to see a female character to play as who didn't have cleavage hanging out, but soon discovered the game had a 3rd person camera and the character had a g-string naked butt pointed at a low angle camera; needless to say she wasn't happy having that butt pointed in her face.

    I don't think "Portal" is alone on this one. Trischka from Bulletstorm was a strong female character, and Tanya Jessen did a great job fighting to not make her a barrier to women. (side note, I was actually pissed off about how they ruined her avatar clothes, wrote about it here http://ivandashsmith.blogspot.com/2011/03/if-its-not-one-thing-its-another.html)

    Also, at WayForward we make a lot of games with women as our heroes. Characters like Shantae, Luna, and Patricia Wagon are all strong female characters who aren't pandering to teenage boys. Even our reboot of Bloodrayne saw her going from an overly hyper-sexualized joke into an angry tough killer (and we were actually dinged by Destructoid for doing so.)

    I often wonder how much of the barrier comes from publisher side versus developer side. Not to draw a blanket statement myself, but how many people in marketing see their audiences as stereotypes and end up perpetuating the cycle. "These girls need bigger boobs, market research says teenage boys like boobs!"

    I really think the shift is coming, and it will be full of ups and downs like a stock ticker, but overall it is on the rise. And these kind of talks are really good to show that there are people like us out there who want to see these barriers stripped away.

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  106. Thanks so much for this post! It's wonderful to be able to link to a well-written post by a male ally and say to gaming men I know, "Look. Right here. This is what you can do. Don't tell me that you can't do anything because here's another man giving you a laundry list."

    A couple of points...
    First of all, in proof of your point about women self censoring, I was led to this post by two women bloggers. They are going to try to stop self-censoring as a second-order result of this post:
    http://replayable.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/writing-about-writing-about-games/
    http://lookspring.co.uk/in-which-i-dont-try-to-write-like-a-man

    So, well done indeed.

    Secondly, I am a female programmer and I call BS on the idea that women simply don't want to be programmers. The number of women in CS programs got pretty high about 25 years ago and has been plummeting ever since. I believe it is the only one of the STEM areas where this holds true. This points to something beyond intrinsic ability or interest. The reasons why continue to be bandied about, but here are some possibilities:

    - A big one is lack of female role models. A lot of women, myself included, go on to be project managers, so younger potential female programmers don't see role models doing the fun stuff. So why are we project managers? Maybe because we are more apt to say yes when asked in order to stay in management's good graces. Maybe because people assume (rightly or wrongly) that we'll have better social skills.
    - Women programmers consistently under-rate themselves and won't push for advancement. I've heard several former programmer HR women say that when it comes to women programmers, they usually assume that a woman has at least 20% more experience than she's admitting to. That means that women come off looking less experienced and less desirable than men, who are generally perfectly willing to boast. Again, I don't think this is intrinsic.
    - The nasty nasty environment. Sure, it would be great if every woman could stick it out in the boys' club, but it's exhausting! There is a pervasive culture of booth babes, misogynistic conference slides, and being ignored in engineering meetings. After a few years of that, who blames women for opting out? A friend of mine made an interesting point about adolescent boys playing online games. These are arenas where young men and their peers can play for hours with no adult intervention or guiding hand. It's Lord of the Flies. Many of our adult programmers are from these bands of boys. It's not too surprising that they don't all play nice with women.

    Thirdly, sure, it would be great if we were all androgynous and gender didn't matter in gaming at all. But it *does*. Simply put, men can put on male gender stereotypes and no one calls them out for it or says they are "attention whores." But women simply can't do the same thing. So, to those women gamers who think it's natural for women to use androgynous names and careful wording choices, why aren't men doing the same?

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  107. Uh, why the completely unwarranted homophobic slur in the middle of this article?

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  108. You're not making a point, you're not being funny, that was completely uncalled for and completely changed the tone of your article.


    Are you suggesting that homophobic slurs are somehow more acceptable? What kind of insane hypocrite are you?

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  109. I'd hope it's pretty clear that I'm trying to do both of the first two and not the last.

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  110. Well, it's not funny and it isn't making a point. It's offensive and undermines everything you wrote.

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  111. @Mark

    I've read the comments here and participated in more than one panel on this very topic. I'd like to address an (admittedly summarized) issue. It goes something like this:

    'There are statistically very few women in gaming; this is evidence of adverse treatment.'

    I find this claim to be very difficult to justify. While working as an instructor for a foreign university, I encountered the common ruckus made regarding the precious few females enrolled in our engineering program (despite extensive and expensive outreach to them for diversity purposes).

    This in no way reflects on a gender bias within the field itself, but rather a difference in preference between the sexes. If you asked any male in the class if he would like to see more women enroll, the answer would invariably be an emphatic "Yes. Dear god, yes." Similarly, women are much more likely than men to choose a career teaching (an example mentioned earlier). This is more than a statistical anecdote - it is a window into very real differences in the psyche not unrelated to gender. Thomas Sowell covers this extensively in a fabulous discussion on gender bias and income disparity - something not to be missed if these issues truly interest you.

    It is certainly unfair to assume that a low representation in a given field unhealthy. I am not claiming you have done so - you have provided a statistic showing that women *DO* have an interest in gaming. But playing casual games and making games are very different creatures, both in practice and in general (regardless of how factual) conception - and issue which matters greatly when it comes time to choosing what you will major in, or what industry to chase.

    A female friend of mine who loves KOTOR and Monkey Island avoids jobs in the game industry, which she believes to be inseparable from late-nighters, red bull and mile-high pizza boxes, and brutal coding. In many ways she is right. In others, she is dead wrong. But the PERCEPTION itself can be a killer for entry for many women long before they can find out if the industry is sexist or not.

    In my experience, women in the industry face the reverse of what you write about: the soft bigotry of low expectations. They are either treated as equals, or treated as a novelty and given much more leniency with regard to their role, due to an inherent (and no doubt sexist, but of a desperate, compensatory sort) doubt of their abilities.

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  112. Had an indirectly relevant thought you might appreciate. It appears the Egyptians have this figured out. This week a large protest march occurred consisting of women speaking out against the violence the military was perpetrating on the women, dubbed "The Million Woman March". The men took an interesting approach in how they participated. They simply stood in a ring around the women to protect them while they marched, so any attack would have to go through them first.

    Seemed like an excellent metaphor for the concepts you expressed here.

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  113. @jdarn and Oleakim - sorry for the delay in getting your comments up, I forgot I had approval turned on for comments on articles over a certain age.

    I've done a lot of research, reading and thinking about this issue since I wrote this piece and, while I'm incredibly glad I wrote it, I wouldn't put things quite the way I did if I did it again, particularly in the comments.

    re: jdarn - The problem of abuse is definitely much more apparent in the game community than the industry, and I didn't make enough distinction between the two.

    I do still think that the simple fact that there are proportionally fewer women in the game industry than there are men in primary school teaching is a pretty damning indication that - for whatever reasons - there are issues that need to be addressed. Soft bigotry, educational choices and anti-family working conditions are three of them.

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  114. @Everyone who keeps talking about how you can’t really change anything with words so why bother, make the claim that women are equally culpable, make the claim that assholes will be assholes

    When I hear/read any variation of "But it's so hard to change people because people are assholes already and will always be and also it's like banging my head against the wall, but I totally understand how it's wrong to be sexist or any other -ism.", I (and perhaps many other women, though I will not put words in anyone else's mouth) actually hear/read "I am too lazy to do anything. The business of making my little space of life be it gaming, real life, or any other culture I participate in is beyond me. I have no agency. I am content with idly laying around while the business of life happens around me. Also, I am part of the problem and is one of those assholes."

    What people who employ this fail to realize is the following: these kinds of articles that complain about the state of comic books, gaming, or any other geek/non-geek pursuit are not talking, specifically, to the guys who will straight up call a woman a cunt. They aren't talking to the guys who will threaten and even follow through with the threat. Everyone knows that vitriol is a problem. Everyone here has acknowledged that, though some then turn it around and say "But women are even more responsible because a handful of them take advantage of men. Also, MAN FEELINGS!".

    These articles are to the fence sitters, the guys who claim, over and over again that they totally and completely think these behaviors are horrendous. Those guys who do nothing. Who are silent. That is the audience here, in my opinion.

    You talk about a sea change? The people most capable of changing are the ones who see the problem and then make a conscious decision not to do anything about. The people who accept it. Who say that they have no power. You are *conceding* that you are useless and have no agency. Why, on this planet, would you *ever* hand over your agency to someone else, in this case the internet assholes? Why would you ever, willingly, say that the business of life is not your business? That the business of stopping abuse is not your business? Because, even if you aren't actually changing someone, you are, absolutely handing over your will and your power and your agency and your ability to meaningfully affect the world around you to assholes. You are becoming weak and you let it happen.

    The greatest gift we, as humans have is to change the decision to purposefully attempt to change the world around us for better or worse. And you are giving that up. So you are opting out of being a human, which is sad. So when you see abuse happening, you stand up and say “not here you don’t”. Because let me tell you this, when you don’t, it gives the people who genuinely believe this even more fortification to abuse any woman in your life who is a gamer. Are you telling me that if a woman in your life came to you and told you about her travails that you would say “Sorry sweetheart, that’s just the culture and there isn’t anything we can do about it.”? Is empathy so failing in you that you can just let that go? But I cannot emphasize the following point enough: even if the only change that happens is the one in yourself, something meaningful has happened; and if it can happen in you, to the point that you are willing to stand against it, then it can happen to others. That is change, ableists. That is what has and can happen.

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  115. Why do you include hate language when fighting for proper treatment of women.

    If you call your audience a fag, expect sandwich jokes. Seriously, otherwise I was on board till I read that.

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  116. I've addressed this issue in the comments already. The word is used ironically, I hoped that would be abundantly clear. I am, again, amazed anyone would read that and think I am calling my audience fags.

    I apologise if I've caused offense.

    If it helps, I am offended you would dismiss the issue on the grounds of a single word, particularly in this context.

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