The following is a guest post from Jillian Schaar:
Jillian Scharr is a recent graduate of Vassar College and a lifelong daydreamer. She floats between jobs and cafes in the greater NYC area, writing about videogames and computers and fictional characters.
Panel 5 of this year’s NY Games Conference was entitled “The Power of Community—Integrating Social Design in Creating, Promoting, and Distributing Games.” Moderated by gameLab’s CEO Eric Zimmerman , the panel had men from Signus Labs, Scopely, GSN Digital, and Stardoll. When Marcus Gners, VP of business development for Stardoll, introduced himself and his company, the largest producer of social games for teen and tween girls, as “probably the oddball in the room today,” Zimmerman’s response was “This is a safe space for oddballs.”
It was a brief, well-meaning exchange that drew some laughs from the audience. But I couldn’t help being miffed by the assumptions beneath the inclusive language.
Gender was not a subject of conversation, at least at the panels I attended, but the scattered allusions and references were usually awkward. Nothing like a “girlfriend-mode” gaffe. Just little things like Gners’ and Zimmerman’s “oddball” comment: casual correlations between female gamers and casual gamers and stories from developers who had switched from triple-A companies to social games talking about how “now even my mom/sister/grandmother/wife plays my game.”
Look, I’m not trying to start a fight. We all know that men make up a larger demographic of game players than women (or are at least perceived as such), and it just makes business sense to tailor your game to the largest population. And if NYGC was about one aspect of the games industry it was about business. But I would encourage developers who say this, think this, plan for this, to reconsider what they mean when they say they’re making games for men, or making games for women. What is the difference? What assumptions are you carrying into your game design? What are the perceived points of mutual exclusivity? And what makes you think women aren’t interested in playing your Infinity Blades, your Halos, your Rage of Bahamuts?
NYGC was a great conference, and I had a great time attending it. I’m just getting a little tired of being treated as a peripheral gamer, of being welcomed “despite” being an oddball. A.K.A., a woman.