Tag Archives: 1reasonwhy

The Fantastic #1ReasonToBe session at GDC 2013

This week I was fortunate enough to attend the Game Developers Conference and sit in the crowd for the #1ReasonToBe session.  It was arranged as 6 smaller microtalks, filling up its hour long time slot to the brim with interesting, passionate, and emotional personal presentations from the panelists about women and diversity in gaming.

The speakers were Brenda Romero (Wizardry, Loot Drop), Robin Hunicke (thatgamecompany, Funomena), Kim McAuliffe (Microsoft Game Studios), Elizabeth Sampat (Storm8), Leigh Alexander (game journalist) and our own Mattie Brice (game critic, student).  Each one took the time to talk about their experiences in and around the game industry.  The best summary of the session that I’ve found was by VentureBeat, but if anyone has the liveblog or slides from the presentation please share them in the comments.

I just want to comment about the session from an experience perspective.  First off, anyone who has been to a diversity-related talk in previous GDCs is probably familiar with the small room in the corner that they normally occupy.  This session, on the contrary, was in a large room that was mostly full.  And instead of being two rows of people who all know each other, the session will packed with a variety of new people outside the feminist gaming criticism circle including many men.  The talk generated a standing ovation to the speakers, along with a healthy amount of tears from many in the crowd (including me).  It was phenomenal.  The electricity in the room, the excitement, the positive outlook that everyone had about where our precious industry could end up — it was all infectious in the best way possible.

I asked a question through tears at the end of the panel.  I wanted to know what we could do on The Border House to focus less on the negative and start motivating the kind of inspiration that I felt after attending the panel.  There were some great answers, such as Robin suggesting that we start doing more highlights of women in the game industry — interviews and articles about them so that others can see that there are people like them out there.  I’m interested in any other ideas that our readers have, so please leave them in the comments.

We talked.  After the panel, we ended up getting booted out of the room where conversations were popping up organically all over.  We moved to the hallway where the chitchatting continued until long after the session was done.  Information and business cards were exchanged, ideas were generated, hope was prominent.  It was a beautiful moment and the highlight of this year’s GDC for me.  I felt a solidarity, a moment where it felt like we could all accomplish great change if we work together.

From left to right: Me, Mattie Brice, Donna Prior

I was so incredibly happy with the support that The Border House received at the conference.  I can’t even count the number of people who came up and told me how important The Border House was to them, to their work, to their inspiration.  It really puts everything in perspective and makes me want to be able to commit even more to this site and its growth.  I am so fortunate that this little site has grown to something that real people actually read and subscribe to and appreciate, and I love that the extremely important voices that we host here have a place to be heard.  I want every single woman in games to have the same feeling that I had after the #1ReasonToBe panel.  We’d all be unstoppable.  I hope to create content for The Border House that captures at least a little bit of the passion and hope that this fantastic panel did.  Thank you to everyone who came up and talked to me and shared their stories and their enthusiasm for the site: it truly helps.

My More-Than-#1ReasonWhy

Trigger warning: Slut-shaming of a minor, harassment.

A hashtag is going around Twitter in which women and their allies are using #1ReasonWhy to explain why there aren’t more women in the game industry.  It’s a sobering and very personal look at the experiences that women in games have suffered through and continue to deal with on a daily basis in exchange for working in a field they feel passionate about.  I contributed a few tweets to it, mostly lighter topics such as a lack of swag in women’s cuts & sizes.  There is just so much more to say about this topic that I couldn’t possibly get across in 140 characters.  Luckily, I have my own personal sounding board here so I’m going to take advantage of it.

I had someone that I know tell me that women actually have it easier than men in terms of actually getting jobs in the game industry.  I’d like to see some numbers to back up his statement.  If in my experience in games, that has certainly not been the case for most applicants.  I’ve seen female engineers judged with more scrutiny than male engineers because they’re so out-of-the-ordinary and therefore must be under the microscope.  I’ve seen women judged more harshly for being nervous when in an interview setting with 5+ men interviewing them.  I’ve actually heard someone say “if we hire her and she dresses like that every day, she will be distracting” when the candidate wore a blazer and knee length pencil skirt to the interview.  And just a month or so ago, some guy at the bar told me that his studio has zero women, that they’ve “tried to hire female artists but all they can draw is unicorns”. But I’m not actually here to talk about that.

My own personal experience is a big fat #1reasonwhy.  Granted, my actual entrance into the industry wasn’t that interesting of a story.  I applied, received a good recommendation from a friend, interviewed for the job, and was offered it along with relocation to California.  The whole process took maybe 5-6 weeks in total.  The interview process was terrifying — it consisted of a sit down interview with like 6-8 guys and then a luncheon with the whole team with only one other woman (who was an intern).  In my first phone screen, I was asked if I would be comfortable working in an office full of men.  At the time I thought it was a silly question and slightly offensive.  But I know now that the person who asked (who is now someone I consider my greatest mentor in the industry) was aware of the inequalities and atmosphere and was looking out for me.  This isn’t something you have to ask a male potential candidate.

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#1ReasonWhy: Female Game Devs Speak About Marginalization in the Industry

Yesterday, a Twitter user asking that tired question of “why aren’t there more female game creators?” launched the hashtag #1ReasonWhy, which quickly grew as women and men in the game industry shared stories of sexism and marginalization–reasons there aren’t more female game developers. Here are a sample:

A sister hashtag was also spawned: #1ReasonMentor, which is allowing women who aspire to make games to connect with mentors in the game industry.

The fact that the game industry isn’t 50-50 men and women has nothing to do with women’s nature or work ethic or passion. It has everything to do with sexism and discrimination. Thank you to those who are able to speak out about this; I hope this is the the beginning of something that will make things better for those who can’t.

Further reading:

#1ReasonWhy: The night Twitter took on the game industry’s sexism – Rachel Weber, Gamesindustry International

Too many reasons why – Katie Williams

I’m starting to suspect she likes abuse – Ashelia

Twitter hashtag “#1ReasonWhy” exposes sexism in the game industry – Mike Rose, Gamasutra (This article was originally illustrated with a stock image of a woman’s feet wearing high heels standing next to men’s feet in black shoes and trousers, but that image was replaced, kind of hilariously, with Rosie the Riveter after I tweeted about it.)

Update: This story has been increasing in scope and attention all day, being tweeted about by popular gaming podcast The Indoor Kids (which is a pretty great show, by the way) and even online teen magazine Rookie Mag. When I started tweeting about my own reasons for not getting into games, I realized that sexism is not the only issue keeping women out of professional game development:

Because it’s not worth the crunch time and low pay to work on boob physics at a “frat house”. Because even if I do get a job at a studio with a good environment, I will probably end up getting laid off post release. Because the game industry is a mess that takes its talent for granted, in addition to all the sexism.

Quality of life is still a huge problem in the game industry, and issues like crunch time and low wages hit marginalized people harder than it does the most privileged. This is another big reason why only the most privileged–straight, white, class-privileged men–can get into and stay in the game industry. If we want the game industry to be more diverse, it is not enough to stamp out sexism, racism, homophobia. We need to make the game industry a good place to work.

This hearkens back to the first blog post I ever wrote, which was about a conference panel on using game development projects in the computer science curriculum. The most compelling point to me was that there are plenty of other kinds of projects–websites, using social media, mobile apps–that are just as engaging for students without the baggage that games have, so why bother with games? And the same is true for the industry at large. There are plenty of tech companies that do interesting things, that are cool and welcoming places to work, without all or as many of the problems the game industry has, so why bother with games? This is the place I have found myself in, personally. I love games. I wouldn’t be writing here if I didn’t. But it is not worth working in a soul-crushing environment for bad wages and having to deal with sexism every day.