Tag Archives: Twitter

#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.

What is the social class of an adventurer?

Coins arranged in the shape of a question mark

A while back, Mattie Brice tweeted a very interesting observation about her play style. She said, “For some reason, I really dislike using items. I usually just sell them.”

Adam Flynn then responded with a link to this article, asking “I wonder if this relates to your internal metaphors of value and income”. The article paints different characters of middle class graduates with different metaphors about money, arguing for example that entrepreneurs don’t consider $1m to be an obscene sum of money but instead see it as one year’s running costs for a 6-person startup.

Mattie pointed out that her own background doesn’t match those identified in the article, “I’ve never (on by own) been financially middle class,” she tweeted. She said that it was perhaps significant that she grew up lower middle class, surrounded by upper middle class culture.

Reading this conversation got me thinking: does class affect play style? How might we expect it to make a difference? And is this something neglected by game designers?

Does class affect spending?

Before looking at how class affects item use in games, I tried to find some studies of how people of different economic classes use money in the real world. We all, I think, have a habit of using social class to explain idiosyncracies, so I didn’t want to take Brice’s class-based explanation at face value.

To contradict her statement, it would have been very useful to get evidence of the kind of phenomenon described by this Cracked article on stupid habits you develop when you grow poor – ‘stupid’ here meaning ‘no longer rational if you have money in the bank.’ [Editors Note: The author of this post is not endorsing Cracked's use of the word 'stupid'] I want to be able to confidently point to the situation described by Zygmunt Bauman in Wasted Lives – he argues that consumer culture has created a social need for brand-name clothes among people whose means would suggest that it is more rational to buy the most basic clothes possible.

However, I’ve had trouble finding evidence to back up the anecdotes and opinions. The Consumer Expenditure Survey asks people ‘what do you spend money on?’ but not ‘do you buy the cheapest clothes possible?’ or ‘what do you do with your tax rebate?’ Measuring spending isn’t the same as measuring the attitudes to commodities that Mattie seems to have been referring to.

Fictional economies are different

Eventually I realised that no real-world evidence would really be applicable to virtual worlds and fictional economies, because the models of wealth, production and labour are deliberately constructed around a fantasy of a simpler, more forgiving world. This is something I looked at in a term paper on Final Fantasy games last year – the economic models of video games often reflect the economic changes happening in the real world at the time the games were made, but they are deliberately recalibrated to give players a great deal more agency. Often that agency is a kind of virtual artisanship or mercantilism, with game mechanics that encourage crafting items out of found materials and the exchange of goods for virtual money made relatively frictionless. Selling off your possessions for cash in the real world is not nearly as easy as in video games.

The means by which middle class people generate and hold onto their wealth are not available in most video games. Keeping money in the bank to accrue interest is not an option. There’s no investment, no leveraging of debt, not even the ‘three for two’ shopping deals that John Cheese writing for Cracked identifies as a rational purchasing decision that he fails to take advantage of because of his experience of poverty.

In the majority of video games, there’s just objects, gold values given to those objects, and gold received in exchange for time spent grinding. The economy is simple. You put time in, you get gold back, and you spend the gold on better goods. They are giant virtual shopping malls, and players are effectively made into lower-middle-class consumers by the fictional economics of the game itself – money is earned, rather than grown as wealth.

So do personal money metaphors, or class-based experiences of wealth or poverty, affect play style? In most games, probably not – the question is whether the economic landscape of a given video game world really gives that much freedom for class differentiation. But I think the economic behaviours engendered by the constrained economic structures of video games could tell us a lot about the relationship between social class and gaming. It’s something we should look into more often.

MOM is Watching: A new kind of dystopia

The following is a guest post from Jillian Scharr:

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.

1984’s Big Brother. Brave New World’s Mustapha Mond. The Matrix’s Architect. Always our dystopian future overlords are overwhelmingly male. If feminine imagery shows up at all in these ravaged political landscapes, it’s as an agent of chaos that operates in reaction to the masculine hegemony.

That’s why I was particularly interested in Mind of Man, a quirky and frankly creepy smartphone app. It’s sort of a game, and sort of a really well-designed Twitter aggregator, so it’s a little hard to talk about. There is a narrative and a game world; tweets are presented as the primary means by which an entity called MOM (Mind Of Man) enforces social control. The aesthetic is a 50s-style blend of wry and kitschy: cracked cement walls, posters with block letters and solid colors, and propaganda scrawled over every digital surface.

Mind of Man assesses your Tweets and creates a visual output of the sentiments expressed in them, as with Lady Gaga’s “MindPrint,” above

And this narrative persists even through the Terms of Use contract you have to approve to let the app have access to your Twitter feed, with declarations like “Knowledge is power. And MOM never shares power,” and “This software may be used for Good and Mayhem. MOM appreciates both, but prefers the latter.”

Basically, what it does is read public Twitter feeds and perform something called “sentiment analysis.” It rates users’ tweets based on a variety of factors and then synthesizes a “MindPrint,” your personal equivalent of an ID number in MOM’s surveillance regime.

By making the means of our oppression a personalized emotion-based MindPrint instead of a number or an invasive procedure, Mind of Man’s feminine overlord does incorporate some of the traditional tropes of the gender it presents. However, it completely avoids the trope of making a powerful woman’s sexuality the seat of her authority. MOM does not have a body–MOM is never referred to by a gender-specific pronoun. For an otherwise extremely Orwellian app, Mind of Man completely lacks the gendered power play that defined 1984 and its Big Brother figure.

All in all, is this a big deal? Probably not. Mind of Man is a little app, and what attention it’s received is due not to its narrative of maternal overlordship, but rather to the A.I. that powers it. An article on Gamasutra a few weeks ago, for example, discussed the ways that Mind of Man’s complex moral spectrum algorithms could bring more nuanced and personalized choices to traditional RPGs.

Still, I liked the app’s tongue-in-cheek presentation of the omniscient and ominously benevolent MOM. It got me started on thinking about presentations of dystopia, and how they usually come in a paternal or fraternal vessel instead of a maternal one. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on MOM–and I know MOM will be keeping an eye on me.

Tell The Oatmeal What It’s Really Like to Game as a Woman

Edit: Since this post was made, creator of The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman, made a much better apology post and actually donated to the Women Against Abuse organization.  

It pains me to make this post, because I’ve been reading The Oatmeal for a long time and have generally found it humorous. However, today he posted a pretty ridiculous comic making the claim that terrible female gamers get away with much more than male gamers.

A cartoon of a female gamer playing a shooter. She says "Oops! I accidentally called an airstrike on our team for the fourth time in a row! tee-hee!". Her teammates say things like "As a gamer, you inspire me." and "Aww, that's okay. I love Napalm!"

 

Hey, Oatmeal:

You know what actually sucks about being a woman who games?  Being harassed because of my gender.  People not taking me seriously because as a woman, I can’t possibly be good at games.  Not being able to stream live videos of my gaming because people will make sexist comments about me instead of talking about the game.  Having people assume that I beg for everything in games instead of earning it myself.  Reading incredibly sexist chat constantly.  Not being able to talk on voice chat without the conversation being all about me.  When I make a mistake in games, it’s because I’m a woman trying to play games.  When you make a mistake, you just suck at the game and made a mistake.  Try that on for size.

Come back to me when you have these problems, because right now I have a really hard time feeling sorry for you.

The Border House, feel free to tell @Oatmeal on Twitter how you feel about this cartoon, and that his apology didn’t really solve the fundamental issues with his comic.

Women in Games to Follow on Twitter

There are so many amazing women doing great things in the video game industry, and we’re not quiet about it!  Here is a roundup of just a FEW of the awesome women game developers that you should be following on Twitter.

Note: I didn’t include anyone who has their tweets protected, and this list is by no means exhaustive.   Please comment with anyone I missed, and I will certainly add them to the official Twitter list (but probably not this post, since it’s hard to edit and easier to add them to the list!)

*The easiest way to follow these women is to follow this list on Twitter*

@Brinstar (Regina Buenaobra) 

Not only is she a co-founder and editor here at The Border House, she’s also a Community Manager for ArenaNet (Guild Wars 2)!

@cuppy (Tami Baribeau) 

This is me! Co-founder/Lead Editor of The Border House, Senior Community Manager for ZipZapPlay, writer for Inside Social Games.

@Domino_EQ2 (Emily Taylor) 

Game Designer at Sony Online Entertainment on Everquest II

@missdoomcookie (Lindsay Morgan Lockhart) 

Game Designer at Trion Worlds on RIFT

@DeirdraKiai (DeirdraKiai) 

Indie Game Developer, Feminist Extraordinaire

@avantgame (Jane McGonigal) 

Game Designer, Author, Humanitarian

@manojalpa (Chelsea Howe) 

Director of Design at Social Chocolate, former designer at Zynga

 

@bbrathwaite (Brenda Brathwaite) 

COO and Game Designer, Loot Drop (social games)

@laralyn (Laralyn McWilliams) 

Designer, Producer, Creative Director

@PurrfectStorm (Maggie Krohn) 

Game Designer on Sony Online Entertainment’s Planetside NEXT

@PoniesPonies (Kristina Drzaic) 

Narrative designer for Bioshock Infinite

@truffle (Christina Norman) 

Gameplay Designer for Mass Effect games at BioWare

@clarkkaren (Karen Clark) 

Program Manager for Playdom

@rubi_ 

Community Manager for Massively.com

@mlvalentine (Monica Valentinelli) 

Author, game designer, feminist.

@groby (Rachel Blum) 

Game developer and programmer

@sandechen (Sande Chen) 

Game designer, author, blogger

@mistressmousey (Michelle Larson) 

Game industry recruiter

@annlemay (Ann Lemay) 

Writer at Ubisoft Montreal

@sunpath (Solveig Zarubin) 

Senior Producer at Mindjolt Games

@moarinternets (Jacque Urick) 

Co-founder and CEO of SieEnt. Managing Director of Girls in Tech Minneapolis

@etupper (Liz Tupper) 

Co-founder & COO @SieEnt creating video games for women.

@morriquende (Athena Anderson) 

Community Manager for NYCgameindustry.com

@LivelyIvy (Erin Robinson) 

Indie game developer

@auntiepixelante (Anna Anthropy) 

Indie game developer

@ranarama (Margaret Robinson) 

Development Director at Hide&Seek, game designer

@blademaiden (Tess Treadwell) 

Producer at Obsidian Entertainment

@kathyfung (Kathy Fung) 

Indie game developer

@EntropyInk (Angie Canary) 

Game designer/writer

@EnameledKoi (Kim McAuliffe) 

Game designer at Zipper

@cgouskos (Carrie Gouskos) 

Producer at BioWare Mythic

@NicoleLazzaro (Nicole Lazzaro) 

President of XEODesign, Inc

@gryphoness (Erin Hoffman) 

Game designer, author

@_Danicia_ (Donna Prior) 

Community Manager for Heatwave Interactive, working on Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising

@shellethkin (Shelley M) 

Video game artist

@ghost_girl13 (Megan Sawyer) 

Environment artist at Bethesda Softworks

@rikkusarah (Sarah Wellock) 

Community Manager at Rocksteady Studios

@sera_brennan (Seraphina Brennan) 

Community Specialist at Turbine

@ashelia (Rhea) 

Community Manager at Wowhead

@Ing3nu (Kimberly Unger) 

CEO at Bushi-go, Inc. (mobile gaming startup)

@emshort (Em Short) 

IF guru & gamesmaker, games industry consultant

@christinelove (Christine Love) 

Indie games maker, most notably, created Digital: A Love Story.

@clarafv (Clara Fernandez-Vara) 

Creates games and teaches at GAMBIT Game Lab at MIT

@ChristinaCoffin (Christina Ann Coffin) 

Platform Specialist – Frostbite Engine Coder @ DICE

@bsangel (Jessica Shea) 

Community Manager for 343i

@danacowley (Dana Cowley) 

PR for Epic Games

@mituk (Mitu Khandaker) 

Games PhD researcher, indie developer

@tashascomic (Tasha Harris) 

Lead Animator at Double Fine

@amely (Anne Toole) 

Video game writer

@devilherdue (Nicole Leffel) 

Game designer

@nadiaoxford (Nadia Oxford) 

Video game writer

*The easiest way to follow these women is to follow this list on Twitter*

Who did I miss?  Tell me in the comments!

The great Border House Twitter thread!

Twitter logo
In the interest of finding more likeminded people to follow on Twitter, we need a list of all the authors and commenters who are on Twitter!  Leave a comment on this post with your username on Twitter so you can be added to the official Border House Twitter List.  I will keep it updated on a regular basis so that we can all stay connected, even off the blog.  I have added many people to the list so far, but I’m missing plenty!

The editors can be easily reached on Twitter:

Cuppycake = @cuppy
Brinstar = @Brinstar
Alex = @elenielstorm

Follow The Border House official Twitter list!