Tag Archives: game industry

Maelstrom – Unscheduled, Inclusive and now with Sponsorship

There is a new gaming convention coming out soon called Maelstrom, April 4th to April 6th. I want to mention it here because as taken from the website this is something that people here would be really interested in as it’s got a focus on being unstructured and inclusive. They got a lot of attention last year with their Diana Jones Nominated play-testing convention Metatopia for being a great spot to talk about design, as well as being inclusive to their guests with lots of discussion based around queerness, mental health, and social change in games.

That said, maybe Morristown NJ is a little too far for you, and the money isn’t there? Thankfully for this new convention, the people to the IGDN are providing a sponsorship to a designer from marginalized communities whose work supports the discussion and exploration of issues that affect marginalized communities. The best thing, for those who are still worried about it, is that having published material isn’t a pre-requisite to get the sponsorship.

There are more details on the IGDN website.

 

 

WisCon Panel “Feminism in Gaming 2013”

Stealth elf - a dual blade wielding character from Skylanders

Stealth elf – a dual blade wielding character from Skylanders

At the end of last month, Madison, Wisconsin was home to the annual science fiction feminist convention known as WisCon. Gaming has made its way into some of the panels in recent years and the following will be a summary of some of the points made during the Feminism in Gaming 2013 panel.

Panel description - 2012 was a watershed year for discussion of misogyny in gaming, in many ways: Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter to examine misogyny in gaming, the backlash against it, and the counter-backlash; discussion of art direction in D&D Next; attacks on Felicia Day; the launch of the Gaming as Women blog; and other developments. What has happened so far in 2013? Is the amount of backlash more an indication that misogyny is getting worse, or that we’re finally getting around to the painful but necessary conversations? How much progress have we made, and what still needs to be done? #FeminismInGaming

There was a wonderful handout available at the panel and it is still online for those that would like to see it: Links to websites and interesting articles from 2012/2013

 

Some important moments from the last year

- the interviews during promotion for Tomb Raider that referenced wanting to protect Lara and threats of sexual violence against her character

- the backlash against Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter but also the counter-backlash that quickly funded the project

- the closing of Glitch, the multiplayer game

- #1ReasonWhy, the Twitter hashtag used by women in the video game industry describing some of the misogyny that they have experienced in their careers

- Dungeons and Dragons Next art direction

 

Does buying problematic games mean that we end up supporting their further development and also continue to support the stereotypes that the games portray?

-Having limited funds for games also means you limit your choices – if you can only get one or two new games a year, it can become difficult to decide where to spent your money.

- One possible way to experience a game that you feel may have problematic elements without first purchasing it is to either rent it or borrow the game from a friend and then make the decision if you want to purchase the game itself.

- These decisions are further complicated when games have things that you love and want to support but still have problematic elements. One example mentioned was 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It is a puzzle/adventure game that is text heavy which is an under represented type of game, but it had sexist representations of female characters. But the game as a whole contains both of these elements.

- One way to deal with problematic elements in games is to spread the word about those issues. Take screenshots, post blogs, talk about it on Twitter, write messages on the game forums,  tell your friends, spread the word however you feel comfortable that you are dissatisfied with different aspects of games and gaming culture. Discuss good aspects of games, but also discuss the things that upset you.

- Some people dislike financially supporting games in which violence and military action are the only solutions to a problem.  There is clearly a call for more creative games or simply more games that go outside the first person shooter genre.

- In the end, we all choose where we draw a personal line when it comes to financially supporting developers that make problematic games. There is no ONE WAY that will work for everyone.

 

Tabletop gaming

- One positive aspect of tabletop gaming is being able to create your own worlds and rules/alternate worlds and rules to circumvent problematic rules sets. While this is possible it also puts an additional burden on the players.

- One problem with tabletop gaming can also be the players themselves, and not just the game world. People bring their own assumptions to the table. One person mentioned a group that would always threaten any female player character with sexual violence at some point during a campaign. Those types of situations can occur even if those threats are not present in the game’s official campaign or storyline.

- Some groups attempt to make sure that everyone is comfortable by first discussing topics that should be kept out of campaigns. Someone mentioned the use of Safe Words and other tells so players could freely express when a campaign was making them feel uncomfortable.

 

Gaming Communities

- At times it can be the gaming community, rather than the game that is not inclusive.

- Audience members mentioned muting players when going online, never speaking up so that people don’t hear a woman’s voice, or only playing with friends when going online. The harassment drives people to cope in a variety of ways.

- Another person mentioned only playing single player games because they found online interactions to be too hostile.

- Yet another person mentioned not finishing Mass Effect 3 after having a traumatic experience with a multiplayer group.

- Communities have the potential be more harmful than games themselves in making players feel unwelcome and diminished.

- Alternately, it is wonderful to see when games attempt to bring community together. You can see that in some cooperative games or in things like Guild Wars 2 where the incentive is there to help other players rather than hamper their progress.

 

Clothing/Art Design

- There are a lot of examples of failure in this specific category! This occurs in terms of artbooks, game design, character design, and miniatures.

- In the family friendly game of Skylanders there is a character called Stealth Elf that is a dual blade user and she wears what is essentially a bra as a top. Even in games aimed at children there are female characters that wear revealing clothing as their default. This type of character design is pervasive in the industry.

- A comment was made about the character design changes of Samus Aran since the start of the Metroid series. The suit has become slimmer over time.

- In terms of art design, let’s not forget the failure of the headless torso figure from Dead Island.

- Another art design failure can be seen in the upcoming Dragon’s Crown game.

- To avoid some of the problematic female character design, some people mention only playing as male characters in games. We’d all rather see a change in character design rather than players feeling forced to do this to avoid problematic art direction.

- BioWare was praised specifically for their art direction with the female Commander Shepard when compared to the male Shepard.

 

Games/things we look forward to in the future (let’s be hopeful for a moment)

- Remember Me

- The next Dragon Age

- Roll 20 : a KickStarter project that focuses on bringing tabletop rollplaying online

- Minecraft mod ScriptCraft

- Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management – a tabletop game guide done by the Gnome Stew blog that has a cover showing a woman of color as a game master.

 

Other points made during the panel

- The solution cannot simply be “Then go make your own games!” when people point out issues in the current batch of games. Yes, it is wonderful that more toolsets are available for general use, but putting the burden solely on the players is unjust. Independent games are wonderful and are part of the solution, but they are not the whole solution to the problems facing the industry.

- As always, there was a call for more diversity in characters and character creation options. Why must the default always be straight, white, and male?

- There is needs to be more of a focus on the discussion of games and the industry. Let’s keep reading good stories, listening to good podcasts, checking out reviews that go beyond “was it fun?” and spread the word about these things.

- We WANT to give the industry our money. Give us something we WANT to support!

 

One final point!

- Don’t let jerks strip us of the gamer title! There have always been, and always will be a diverse group of people that play video games and tabletop games. Let us not let them fool us or others that we don’t exist because we have ALWAYS been here. Don’t surrender that title over to them because it is not, nor was it ever, only their property. Be gamers and be feminists. They are not mutually exclusive!

No Excuses: It’s Time for More Female Protagonists

A black-and-white photograph and portrait of a dark-haired woman taken in 1944.

Violette Szabo, a secret agent in WWII.

If the game design of 2009′s Velvet Assassin were half as interesting as its history, I might be able to bring myself to play beyond the first mission. Velvet Assassin is loosely based on the story of Violette Szabo, a Parisian-born, British-educated woman who enlisted in the elite Special Operations Executive after her husband died in the Second World War. Although the game takes substantial liberties with the facts of Szabo’s life, the premise alone makes for a compelling game pitch: still grieving the loss of her husband, Violette devotes herself to sabotage and subterfuge behind enemy lines.

Velvet Assassin wastes this rich history on a clunky, tired game. The Metacritic average for the game settled at a failing grade: fifty-six out of one hundred. But, having played and enjoyed some poorly-reviewed games, I decided to take my chances. By the end of the first full mission, I was ready to watch the rest of the game on YouTube. Suffice it to say that Velvet Assassin is a frustrating and thoroughly uninteresting experience.

But this game’s story deserves “AAA” treatment. Consider all that it has to offer from a back-of-the-box perspective: a compelling female character with strong motivations, a well-known historical setting (World War II), and a delicious mixture of stealth, deception and demolition. Despite this strong premise, Velvet Assassin didn’t get picked up by Electronic Arts or Activision or Ubisoft; it was produced by a team of “about 35 people” (according to a developer interview) and published by Southpeak Interactive. With those financial limitations in mind, it’s a miracle that Velvet Assassin was playable, even if it turned out to be a mediocre game.

The conversation surrounding female lead protagonists in games is louder than ever. When Grand Theft Auto V was announced, podcasters and journalists speculated about the possibility (and the viability) of a female protagonist in a Rockstar game. Could she kill? Could she fit in a GTA story? The inclusion of playable female characters in Gears of War 3 left fans asking if the Gears franchise would ever have a female character in the starring role. And Mitch Dyer at IGN, presumably prompted by the portrayal of Aveline de Grandpré in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, asked Ubisoft if there would ever be a female protagonist in a main entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

It is astonishing that, in 2013, the inclusion of female leads in mainstream video game releases is still a faraway dream. Rare games like Tomb Raider and Bayonetta bet big on their female leads, but the discussion surrounding them rarely moves beyond the (de)sexualization of their protagonists. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto V will have three protagonists, all of them men. Adding to the trend, Chris Perna from Epic said that it would be “tough to justify” having a female lead in a Gears game given sales expectations. And Ashraf Ismail from Ubisoft told IGN that, when designing the lead character for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, his team “actually never thought, ‘could this be a woman?’” Continue reading

Blaming [INSERT CHOICE OF ENTERTAINMENT HERE] Solves Nothing

After the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians, the NRA, and others started pointing fingers at the violence in entertainment, especially video games. We have to accept that we do live in a violent culture, and we can’t deny that consuming entertainment doesn’t have an impact on children. However, we have to be careful of focusing just on products of the entertainment industry. Many influences shape a child’s life, and if we ignore all of the factors, then we are not doing enough to stop the cycle.

During my time in the classroom, I’ve overheard countless conversations between students about the horror films they saw over the weekend, with or without their parent’s knowledge. Many students would look at me with confused expressions when I asked them to stop describing how a killer ripped off limbs, gutted a victim, or ate a body part. I’ve had to send students to the office because they were wearing a T-shirt celebrating Scarface; I’ve seen Al Pacino holding a gun in a variety of styles. Many students, both boys and girls, could recite lines from the film and reenact the famous last scene. Many saw the culminating scene in the Brian De Palma film as a glorious and awesome way to die; it’s a goal, not a punishment. I don’t know if the 1983 film is as popular with teens across the nation, but in my area of Southern California, it was basically required viewing.

Continue reading

These boots are not made for walking, but I would anyway.

The Type of Woman I Want Others to See: Why I Wore Heels to PAX East

A black and white photo of Aldo black heels, taken from ground level and behind.

A black and white photo of black heels, taken from ground level and behind.

It was probably 40 degrees American and windy. Being from South Florida, I tend to lose track of how different the temperature feels after I get goosebumps on my knees. I spent my first night in Boston clinging to the inside of my detective coat, which was apparently poor at insulating heat. The air felt more brisk as the night went on, as if the energy of all the fans and artists of the game industry dispersed in the atmosphere. In my own room, I went through my meticulously rolled and sectioned outfits in my luggage, choosing which would be the first casuals and professionals alike would gain their initial impressions with. Cue my horror when I notice all of my leggings missing, forgotten on a dresser drawer, from my dresses-of-rather-courageous-length-only wardrobe.

I decided to take a trip to Harvard Square in the morning with the set of casual attire no one would ever see me in- comfy jeans, fluffy yellow hoodie, and feminine flats with a famous checkered pattern. Being a recent admirer of Esperanza Spalding, I decided to let my hair go free, messy but weightless. I figured a quick trip to Urban Outfitters wouldn’t be criminal, since the majority of the gaming community seemed to own everything plaid anyway. I remember enjoying the feeling of being lost in a city crowd, until I was called sir.

At first, I didn’t think the person was talking to me, because I’d first have a panic attack before entering a public space without makeup. It wasn’t until they mentioned a resemblance to Lenny Kravits that I turned to a man staring at me, since I was the only person of color within a few yards radius (something cities like Boston made me extremely sensitive about). Despite my pointed flats and twice-mascara’ed lashes, this gentleman felt it necessary to remind me that everyone saw who I ‘really’ was. That I wasn’t fooling anyone. On the train back to my hotel to change before the convention, I told myself I’d never dress like that again.

There’s two sides to these mass gathering of gaming folk, one being that I can talk with anyone about my interests, but I must also appear professional at all times. An unfortunate part about being a professional who is transgender is to be convincing. Whether my new acquaintance or I likes it or not, they will make a snap judgment of me, that I’m a woman, or I’m obviously not a woman. In an industry dominated by heterosexual men, my appearance is closely tied to any form of success. I have to battle with the implicit tension of possibly threatening their sexuality, or just their reputation with being associated with someone like me. You see, people don’t believe that I’m a woman because I say so; even self-proclaimed liberal and open-minded individuals will backdrop my identity thinking that I wasn’t always a woman, and that it’s perfectly okay that I made this ‘choice.’ What’s worse, just wearing clothing from the women’s section isn’t enough. In order for men to feel comfortably heterosexual around me, I have to be near porn-star grade in appearance, as if to make up for what’s different about me. Everything may be unintentional and reasonable considering the unlikelyhood they have experience with people who are transgender, but it is far from innocuous. This is why I wore heels every day at PAX East.

About 17 minutes after I read Leigh Alexander’s “Types of Women Men Like Better Than Me,” I cried. I cried because it prompted a good string of tweets about how insecure I felt over managing my image in a professional space. I try to make it a policy to not say depressingly self-conscious things in public, but it was a needed catharsis. I was also tired with the amount of effort it took just to appear average, to have a fair shot as just being a person. I lied to all of my friends who expressed concern over my heeled travel methods; I shrug and smile until I go home and tear up in pain because that’s what I have to do. There, I said it.

These boots are not made for walking, but I would anyway.

These boots are not made for walking, but I would anyway.

I wore knee-high laced up leather boots to the “Death of Vox Games” panel, where the group metamorphosed into Polygon. Standing in line during Q&A, I was anxious because I was only woman going to engage the panel. I wondered if my dress was too short, if my hair was okay, and if I was legitimate enough to press the Polygon staff on their growing but still lacking diversity. This isn’t unique to Polygon, but most publications both paid and hobbyist. They took a bold step of attempting to set a new standard for writing about games, and are self-aware about the precedent they should be taking on this issue. What shocked me about their response was the small amount of women that applied to write for them. Upon memory, out of about 650 applications, 12 were women writers. Doing some quick calculator work, that’s not even 2%. Assuming their newest recruits were headhunted, I was in the physical presence of a quarter of the women applicants that very day (I included myself in that). Why is this? Obviously, since there was a mess over Polygon’s opening line-up, people would aim to fill this need they have, right?

It wasn’t until I went to another panel that day that someone recognized me from my question. She told me that she aspired to write about games but, after her foray into the scene, bowed out because of the homogenous mastheads of online publications. Since videogame culture started from an angle that marginalized minorities, she found staff that didn’t explicitly support diversity issues to be the ones to hand wave these sorts of concerns. Having now personally met some of Polygon’s staff, I’m confident that their representation of diversity is definitely a concern. However, I can see how their involvements with past publications show they stayed either silent or blissfully unaware of minority concerns.

She made me realize that not everyone is like me, that not everyone feels like they have to contort themselves in order to fit in. Some people give the system the finger and move on with their talent elsewhere. Polygon limits its diversity by being a super team of established writers, because minorities are still catching on that there’s a need for their voices in the industry and that not everyone in gaming excuses discrimination with all of the usual flawed arguments. I was part of the rarity that came knocking on their door; most minority talent needs to be discovered for the first time and cultivated. It’s not until minority voices are valued on teams such as Polygon’s that people like her would take a risk and apply. She made me reflect on the example I’m setting for other writers, and that possibly one day, others would look to my path.

I’m not quite sure what to change yet, but I figured I should be candid. That while I love the things I do and try to love the person I am, there’s an incredible pressure to be attractive just to have a chance. Past this ramble, I will continue to wear heels and be incredibly conscious of my appearance. This is my personal path that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, but there needs to be stories of transgender experience in writing about videogames. About being a woman in videogames. I wonder, with the next person I meet, will they see the woman I want them to see?

Screen Shot 2012-03-22 at 5.33.49 PM

On being the “face of the community” while female

A screencap of the latest League of Legends Summoner Showcase video, showing Nikasaur on the right and a LoL logo on the left.

 

Being a woman in the game industry in a player-facing role can be absolutely terrifying.  The second players realize what you look like, you’re overwhelmed with comments from people criticizing you for your looks or complimenting you on how sexy you are.  I’ve certainly been there.

The former Community Manager in me thinks that Riot Games does an excellent job with all of their community engagement features outside of League of Legends.  They do regular videos for patch previews and champion previews, and they highlight fanart and other news with regular Summoner Showcases like this latest one.  Riot’s Community Coordinator Nika “Nikasaur” Harper is the main star of most of these videos, and every time a new one is released I dread what the commenters will say about her.  Here’s just a small taste of the comments for her latest video on either YouTube or Facebook:

I’m a straight man. I would fuck Nikasaur. – Neardrage

 

I want to see nikasaur cosplay all the lol champs.. id offer to help her get dressed.. im not selfish.. -force021

 

does this girl wash her hair? lol just saying? – GMProOG

 

she’s not even that good looking. nerds. – SexualFruiit

 

I can’t even imagine what it would be like to represent my company in a promotional video and have the comments actually be focused on the content of what I’m saying rather than the outfit I’m wearing or whether I am skinny or fat.  Nikasaur even has a fan page with over 10,000 likes, on which many of the comments are focused on her looks.  It might not get to her personally, she might never read those comments or she might have an immensely thick skin.  But all of this contributes to the systemic problem of the video game industry being dominated by men, because it’s not the most welcoming and comfortable space for a woman to be in.  It becomes tiresome to have to defend your skill or existence as a gamer — another common comment asks if Nikasaur even plays League of Legends, since she’s a GIRL and all.  We don’t play that game.

Facebook screenshot of someone saying "They could do a 5 minute vid of nothing but her standing there smilin and I would be happy."

 

Someone on Facebook says "Get rid of that girl doing the video's she's so ugly and her voice makes my brain bleed."

 

Facebook screenshot: "I want to dominate her if you know what I mean."

 

It’s this kind of thing that makes me not want to stream League of Legends videos and join the e-sports “scene” more wholeheartedly.  You don’t see these types of comments on videos that men or star in.  Maybe I’ll be able to stream on sites like Twitch.TV once women aren’t seen as commodities for the gaming community to critique and devour.  For now, I just want to tell Nikasaur that there are people who enjoy the videos because we love the game, we like the content and the production quality, and find the videos funny and entertaining.

In other League of Legends news, there is a new female Yordle support character named Lulu, and she is awesome.

Gender Wars and Gendered Slurs

TW: Gendered slurs.

Please note, I have not played Dead Island, and have no immediate plans to do such. From what I have heard, there is much to be discussed in the game as regards stereotypes surrounding the playable characters, but I cannot speak to that, and this post will not delve into that beyond a specific instance outlined below.

This morning I came across a RTed message from the account of @deadendthrills, which stated the following (as with many forums, the comments may be best avoided):

“Rush-releasing an unfinished game can have unexpected hazards – like leaving the ‘Feminist Whore’ skill in. http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2106493 #deadisland

Purna, a seeming woman of color, in a purple dress which comes across her thighs diagonally. She wears combat boots, wields a machete in her right hand, and rests her left hand on her hip. The text is the bio quoted to the left.

Purna, a seeming woman of color, in a purple dress which comes across her thighs diagonally. She wears combat boots, wields a machete in her right hand, and rests her left hand on her hip. The text is the bio quoted to the left.

Prior to this morning I only knew there were skill trees in the game and that they were divided by which character you chose to play. The particular character in question is Purna, who appears to be an Australian WOC with the following descriptor in the Dead Island Wiki:

Purna is a former officer of the Sydney Police department. After losing her career when she killed a child molester who could not be touched legally because of his wealth and connections, Purna then turned to working as a bodyguard for VIPs in dangerous places all over the world. She is hired not just for her skills but her looks as wealthy men did not mind showing up with Purna on their arm.

She is painted as an avenger, though the VIPs for whom she works are clearly men. The skill in the Tweet above that started the thread was part of code not removed fully, though never utilized publically in the game itself: feminist whore. As the string in the thread illustrates (and as the poster indicates, the * is provided because of the forum’s method of dealing with the word, it is fully spelled out otherwise):

sub Skills_Purna(){
	Skill("TeamSpirit1Purna");
	Skill("SharpApprenticePurna");
[...]
	Skill("TeamSpirit2Purna");
	Skill("FeministWh*rePurna");
	Skill("MeleeDurabilityPurna");
[...]
}

As to what the skill became (if it was not just wholly removed)? The most likely candidate to me would be ‘Gender Wars’. Looking through this guide on Dead Island skill trees, the ‘Gender Wars’ skill appears to grant the following:

Gender Wars (3 ranks) - Increases damage when killing a zombie of the opposite sex
Rank 1 = +5% damage | Rank 2 = +10% damage | Rank 3 = +15% damage”

The concept is not entirely new, and has been seen in other games. From what I could see, unlike other games in which I have seen such, the same manner of survival skill is not available to male characters (if it is, please let me know). I will also note there are two female characters, both WOC, though the other does not have a specific skill as such.

Again, the code and skill are not in the game. So far as I know, Purna does not go about invoking a feminist whore skill specifically named such. At the same time, it is puzzling why this would have been included in the first place, and may well say something about how Purna is perceived.

I also do not know the makeup of Techland’s development team, so cannot speak to it. However, when we discuss hostile environments for women in the workplace (for the instance of this blog, particularly the tech and videogame-related fields), these types of instances are a reminder of how not to make some women feel particularly welcome. Again, I cannot speak as to whether anyone on Techland’s team felt such, but surely someone saw this at some point and decided it may be best not to include it in a public release of the game itself.

Update (18:21 GMT+1): Tracey John reached out to Deep Silver, the publisher for the game, who gave the following response, “”These unfortunate actions were of one individual at developer company Techland and do not in any way represent the views of publishing company Deep Silver.” She is also following up with Techland themselves.

Update (19:03 GMT+1): Techland has responded to EuroGamer, providing the following apology:

“It obviously violates professional and ethical standards at Techland and should never have happened,” Blazej Krakowiak, international brand manager, told Eurogamer. “We’re investigating this right now and we’ll issue a statement later.

“For now, I can only express my sincerest apologies for this incident and assure you that whoever acted so irresponsibly did not represent the views and opinions of Techland.

“I’m equally sure that aside from the author of that unfortunate line of code, everyone at the office is as disturbed by this as you are.”

Update (20:45 GMT+1): Tracy John received the following apology and acknowledgment from Techland (which was updated into her original post):

“It has come to our attention that one of Dead Island’s leftover debug files contains a highly inappropriate internal script name of one of the character skills. This has been inexcusably overlooked and released with the game. The line in question was something a programmer considered a private joke. The skill naturaly [sic] has a completely different in-game name and the script reference was also changed. What is left is a part of an obscure debug function. This is merely an explanation but by no means an excuse. In the end that code was made a part of the product and signed with our company name.

“We deeply regret that fact and we apologize to all our customers or anyone who might have been offended by that inappropriate expression. The person responsible for this unfortunate situation will face professional consequences for violating the professional standards and beliefs Techland stands for.”

To be honest, I am somewhat surprised by the quick response and acknowledging that what they have done is provide an explanation, not an excuse.

You Can’t Fight Sexism With Sexism

Pictured: A screenshot from Castle Crashers where a giant monster breaks into a barn from the left, attacking four deer, one of whom is being ridden by a red knight. One deer is propelled by a stream of poop instead of running.

I appreciate a good fart joke, but in general, I prefer poop jokes.

Clint Hocking has a column on Edge today about why the game industry needs more women, and a few ideas on how to recruit them. The middle part is pretty good, if points our readers are no doubt already familiar with, but there are a couple things I would like to discuss.

I’ll start out by saying that I’m glad Hocking is talking about the issue and arguing for the practical and creative benefits of having more women in game development. The more people saying this, the better. But there are a couple things about this article that I think are counterproductive to Hocking’s purpose because they’re actually sexist.

The first thing is the framing that compares the game industry as it currently is to the Vikings. It’s a bit of a weird comparison to me, but what he’s saying is that when a lot of men get together, they become uncivilized brutes, and… make fart jokes? He doesn’t say that all men are this way, to be fair, but he does generalize that it’s a natural part of men’s behavior to become crude without the “civilizing” presence of women. That’s essentialist, and sexist against both women and men; women aren’t inherently less crude than men are.

The second sexist thing about this piece–and my main concern–is the simplification that it’s fart jokes that are turning women away from game development jobs. Crudeness isn’t the problem; sexism is the problem. The culture at game development studios does need to change, not because of the crudeness, but because of hostility to women. Things like rape jokes or comments that sexualize and objectify women are both crude and sexist, but it’s the sexism that needs to be eradicated, not necessarily the crudeness. To conflate the two avoids the issue and perpetuates the sexist stereotype that women are sensitive flowers and men need to walk on eggshells around us. It’s the same leap in logic a person takes when finding out that a woman doesn’t want to deal with sexist slurs like “bitch” and assuming that means women don’t like swearing. Fuck that. Again, the issue isn’t crudeness, it’s the sexism. (Last I heard, Bridesmaids–advertized as a gross-out comedy for women–is doing incredibly well.)

Furthermore, Hocking devotes a single vague sentence to Quality of Life issues (“This means that we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace, one in which female artists, designers, programmers and project managers would want to be employed.”). Women are still far more likely to be the primary caregiver for their children, so long hours and unpaid overtime are a huge barrier for women getting into game development, far moreso than fart jokes.

The article places women who want to get into game development in an awkward position; it puts the expectation of being the “team scold”–the expectation to be a “civilizing” presence, as mentioned above–on women, and that is not only something no one wants, it’s sexist in and of itself. And you can’t change a sexist industry by using sexism. Sexism is the root of the problem; telling game developers to behave like gentlemen when there are ladies present isn’t going to fix the problem, it’s just going to change the nature of it (if it accomplishes anything at all).

So, please, before you write about getting women into the game industry, first check and make sure that you’re not perpetuating the very attitudes you’re arguing against before you publish. I do hope that Hocking keeps talking about this topic, and I hope that he realizes that this angle is counterproductive and takes a different tack next time.

Brigitte Burdine, game industry veteran killed in hit-and-run accident

Tragic news hit the Los Angeles newspapers tonight, as a longtime game industry veteran Brigitte Burdine was identified as the victim of a hit-and-run accident.  Burdine, age 48, was a veteran of the game industry who owned her own voice acting and casting company.  She has worked with some of the largest companies in the the business, including EA, Sony, Microsoft, and Blizzard.  According to her IMDB profile, she was currently working on a Mortal Kombat game and had just finished up a voiceover training workshop on December 20th.

Brigitte was hit by a dark sedan early December 29th at 1:45am, and at this time the driver of the car who struck her and then fled the scene has not been found or identified.  She was thought to be coming home from a date with her boyfriend at a hamburger restaurant.

A commenter on the LA Weekly article had the following to say about Burdine:

“This is a huge loss. I met Brigitte three years ago, working on Guitar Hero, and she stood out as one of the most positive, hard working, wonderful people I have met. Working with her was fun, something you looked forward to, something that was full of laughter. I just talked to her last month, and she was a bright and bubbly as the first day I met her. Terrible.”

With women being a clear minority in the game industry, it is such a shame to lose such a wonderful asset and role model.  We applaud Brigitte Burdine for all of her hard work on some of our favorite games, and our condolences goes out to her friends and family for their immense loss.

Brigitte Burdine, Top Video Game Director, Killed By Hit-And-Run Driver In Playa Del Rey (LA Weekly)

EA Employees: It Gets Better

The “It Gets Better” campaign has had its fair share of critiques and attempts at constructive criticism. At the same time, the videos it has produced often have the effect of leaving me very teary-eyed.

Therefore, while I will still examine EA games as I have always done (particularly as BioWare is among their branches), their posting of this It Gets Better video definitely leaves me with a positive impression (trigger warning for coming out stories and retelling of threats against LGB persons):

In an industry mired with so many examples of heteronormativity, and often outright insulting jabs at the LBG community, seeing something like this is heartening. Whether or not it was intentional, seeing a broad, diverse range of faces and voices is also appreciated.