I was recently pointed to a post on Slashdot where it is suggested that women are “too smart” for tech careers, rather than “not smart enough”, as common and misguided wisdom seems to suggest. To wit, “only ‘boys’ are stupid enough to go into a field that’s globally-fungible, where entry-level salaries are declining, and it’s common to think that staying up all night for a company-paid pizza is a good deal.” This is actually a suggestion I’ve heard more than once regarding the unicornification of women in the game industry; maybe, just maybe, it’s not a matter of women actively being denied entry, they say, but a matter of them simply having better things to do with their lives. Right?
People who make this particular suggestion tend to think they’re giving women as a group some kind of compliment, but I feel uncomfortable with it for a number of reasons. For one thing, it implies that women who do work in games, such as myself, aren’t as “smart” as other women, which I, quite frankly, find insulting — and I’m sure many readers and contributors to this blog will feel similarly. Second of all, it does male game developers a great disservice. The truth is, many of us in the industry, regardless of gender, are passionate about game development but also care very much about quality of life issues. I personally do believe that companies with good work/life balances generally do better at attracting greater diversity in employees, and indeed, the stereotype that all game developers must be overworked and underpaid appears to be changing, in this post-ea_spouse climate. Slowly, I’ll admit, but we’re getting there.
Sadly, the kind of comment I usually get on this subject isn’t made with the implication that we should change the way our industry works, but with a more “that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s always going to be” kind of mindset. Game dev, like many careers in the arts, is known for being highly competitive to get into, and indeed, many people see difficult working conditions as a way of “weeding out” the competition. As such, the implication that anyone who’s “smart” would stay away is something of a backhanded compliment, meant to exclude rather than include. Instead of questioning why we’re suckered into believing that the only way to make good games is to push ourselves to exhaustion for little in return, we’re essentially being told to ignore and avoid the problem so that the same old people can keep on churning out the same old games with the same old lack of different perspectives. Convenient, isn’t it?