#1ReasonWhy – Sexism in the Gaming Industry

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I admit, it took me a while to understand why the hashtag #1ReasonWhy was trending on Twitter, and why so many of the female gamers I stay connected to were spreading it so intensely. It was insane and sickening to read some of these tweets and to comprehend what these women had been through during their journeys inside their jobs in the gaming industry. It was a smack to the face, a moment of extreme realization where I seriously questioned if journalism in the video game field was what I wanted to do.

Sexism is a massive problem everywhere, and one I naturally try to avoid. But to hear of such occurrences inside a field that I’ve desperately wanted to be in was frightening to discover.

There are several things I’ve wanted to try, most of them dominated by males. I understood that encountering some form of sexism was inevitable, but I’ve always reiterated to myself that if it’s something I truly want to pursuit, something I really love, that I would stick it out and make the most out of it. But (for some reason) it never really occurred to me that this would be a major problem inside the gaming industry.

I’ve learned to expect the vicious and demeaning comments online. Unless I constantly mute everyone, it’s something I frequently hear, and honestly it doesn’t personally bother me anymore. But to learn of things like this happening in a professional field… it’s absolutely insane! I couldn’t imagine working at a convention and being groped by men. I couldn’t imagine being ridiculed about my work and ideas in the workplace.

David Gaider, lead writer of the Dragon Age series, recently wrote his own personal blog about the female perspective in game development. “We were sitting down to peer review a plot… some stuff was good, some stuff needed work, etc. etc. Then one of the female writers went, and she brought up an issue. A big issue. It had to do with a sexual situation in the plot, which she explained it could easily be interpreted as a form of rape.

“It wasn’t intended that way. In fact, the writer of the plot was mortified. The intention was that it come across as creepy and subverting… but authorial intention is often irrelevant, and we must always consider how what we write will be interpreted. In this case… it was no longer good-creepy. It was bad-creepy… And this female writer was not alone. All other women at the table nodded their heads, and had noted the same thing in their critiques.

“If this had been a team with no female perspective present, it would have gone into the game that way. Had that female writer been the lone woman, would her view have been disregarded as an over-reaction? How often does that happen on game development teams, ones made up of otherwise intelligent and liberal guys who are then shocked to find out that they inadvertently offended a group that is quickly approaching half of the gaming audience?

“For the girls reading that, I imagine a bunch will roll their eyes and say ‘well, duh, pretty damn often.’ But what about the guys? Will the idea make them uncomfortable? Will they come up with excuses, or go right to hostility? Guys, particularly in game development, are a pretty privileged bunch. That’s not meant as an insult; it’s just the way it is. The teams consist primarily of white guys and (shockingly) that’s who we assume our audience is— almost exclusively. But the gaming audience is changing, just as the nature of our games is changing, and perhaps there’s value in appreciating the fact that greater female representation in game development teams has a more practical benefit than equality for equality’s sake alone.”

A very bitter part of me is simply resigned to the fact that maybe this is just the way things are. Video games have always been dominated by males, and within a forever-changing world, thoughts and assumptions have seemed to remain static and unwavering. I can only hope that this issue lightens in the future.

What do you think about sexism in the gaming industry?

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