Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on November 27, 2012 By Draginol In PC Gaming

GameSpy’s Katie Williams has a terrific blog on the real misogyny that exists in the game industry.

You can read it here: http://alivetinyworld.com/2012/11/27/too-many-reasons-why/

In the article she writes:

I’ve been watching the #1reasonwhy hashtag on Twitter with an anxious kind of understanding. Like, part of me wants to jump right in and post a dozen of my own experiences, but I’ve also learned what happens if you say that shit publicly: you’re berated, blamed, dismissed. I’ve been there.

And she’s right. People seem to like to indulge their most base instincts and turn total strangers into warped avatars of everything they despise.  If they see a young woman making observations they don’t like, some will instantly berate her based on their own preconceived notions.

Our company operates in both the game and general software industries. We’ve had the opportunity to see the drastic difference in the way female PMs/PR/Developers get treated by users/media.  It’s not a pretty picture.

For example, Stardock’s lead game developer is female (Cari Begle).  I don’t know if I could say she personally wrote the majority of the code in Galactic Civilizations but it’s possible she did.  She wrote a huge chunk of the code in Galactic Civilizations II and subsequent (Metacritic >90 game) expansions. She worked on Impulse::Reactor after Twilight of the Arnor until she came back to work on Elemental: Fallen Enchantress.

And she’s not alone. In fact, I think Kael would agree that over 50% of the lines of code in Fallen Enchantress were probably written by women and a sizeable chunk of the artwork players see.

On one gaming forum, a user talked about a gaming dinner I attended where I arrived with 3 women and implied I must have brought them to "look cool" (or something to that effect) ignoring that two of the three women were managers (with male subordinates) and the other was my planner (basically the person who tells me what to do and where to go on trips). In other words, important positions at our company. I don't even think the person realized the misogyny they were displaying so publicly.

And yet, it doesn’t take long to go online and see the abuse hurled at women by male gamers.  It’s bizarre and disgusting. We’re in Michigan so I don’t know if our game studio is set up differently from other game studios but I wonder how many people hurling insults at female gamers have any idea how many of their favorite games were actually made by women?

Meanwhile…

Our main business, software, does not suffer these issues.  I have no worries that our PR manager (a woman) or our marketing manager (a woman) and a given female PM could be sent out to a conference or a tech site and be taken seriously.

At our company, we don’t intentionally hire people because they’re male, female, black, white, etc. (I’m equally obnoxious to everyone I deal with). Perhaps it’s because of our location in Michigan that we don’t have the luxury to indulge our baser instincts. That's because we simply don't "get it".  We're far enough away from the core gaming industry that we don't have a "game culture" here that encourages that kind of thing. It's alien to us.  I could be the most sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-puppy bastard in the world but it wouldn't occur to me to let it get in the way of business even if I were that way. That would be insane. You have to wonder what some of these people out there are thinking (or perhaps they’re just not thinking).

Regardless, I do share the same fears that Katie brings up. The kind of crap I’ve seen thrown onto female gamers has not made us very excited about subjecting our staff to the abuse out there. I always leave it up to the individual on how much “exposure” they want. Most people (male and female) wisely choose privacy. They just want to make games in peace.

What I can say is that I’ve seen the same crap that Katie has seen. I’d like to think it’ll go away in time. My oldest son’s generation play games universally. So there’s hope for the future. In the meantime, what we can do is make sure people know that gaming and game development is not nearly as male dominated as some people seem to think.

Update:

I think there is a lot confusion on what misogyny is. At least, that's the impression I get from reading the comments.

Specifically, what I'm talking about are men who really have contempt for women.  Some men are blatantly unaware of it and others will try to rationalize it.  In either case, I find it ugly.

Misogyny is NOT when a person gets insulted or trolled and that person happens to be a woman. If you let that become a narrative, you will have an endless parade of cynical people who will exploit this to get attention for themselves. 

I see both men and women confuse the issue in different ways.  A man being mean to a woman in itself isn't misogyny. I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity jerk.  I've read enough forum trolls over the years to know there are plenty of cubicle drones out there that live to crap on people who run businesses but lack the fortitude to, you know, actually start and run a business where they have to hire and fire employees. Nothing throws cold water faster on braind-dead but feel-good policies than a bit of reality. If someone thinks they can run a business without ever being "mean" to an employee than go have at it. You can run the world's politest bankrupt company.

The point being, I wouldn't want to see the public awareness of the misogyny in the game industry being turned into a "treat women with kiddie gloves" movement because that's a form of sexism as well.  The problem comes in when men simply make sexist assumptions about women without even knowing them. That's one of the things I've seen. The assumption that a woman doesn't know how to program or know games or what have you. That's nonsense.  Have female coworkers who could absolutely destroy most DOTA2 players.

My pet peeve gets a little political, if you'll forgive me. I see men who decry misogyny but don't do a damn thing about it but think merely "creating awareness" in itself is something.  I've been to a lot of game studios over the years and it's a little absurd to see guys being sanctimonious while they work at a studio where the only woman there is the receptionist or maybe a graphics designer.

Awareness of the issue is a good thing. A better thing is to actually do something about it.  Run a game server? Kick off the scum. Run a forum? Get rid of them. Are in a position of authority? Fire people who demonstrate a problem.  Long before this issue became a popular discussion topic, I fired an employee who showed contempt to his female manager. No warnings. She didn't even complain to me about this employee. I heard about it, brought the guy into my office and fired him on the spot. Words are cheap. Don't just talk about it, do something.

 


Comments (Page 1)
on Nov 27, 2012

Since average gamer is much younger then average software buyer this is almost "normal". Well not normal but expected with how women are shown in western society. Young men are taught to sexsualize women everyday through mass media. And it is only going to get worse. Women are shown as pretty brainless people. There are many good documentaries about this.

 

on Nov 27, 2012

I really despise us.  Us being the internet posting gamer.  What a vile bunch of mouth breathing, misogynist, racist buffoons we seem to be.  Immature and egocentric, filled with feelings of powerlessness and rejection we fill the Internet with postings of hatred toward women as they are the purest testimony of our pathetic nature.  We greatly desire them, and they greatly detest us.  How dare they not swoon as we recite Monty Python quotes.  How dare they roll their eyes at our cheeto stained fingers!  Spending our time reading internet comics and pleasing our self to the latest in Asian animated cinematic tentacle love, should put us head and shoulders above those douchebag guys who spend their time working out or at a job and live outside their mothers basement.  But those are the guys women like!  How dare they!

on Nov 27, 2012

Lord Xia
I really despise us.  Us being the internet posting gamer.  What a vile bunch of mouth breathing, misogynist, racist buffoons we seem to be.  Immature and egocentric, filled with feelings of powerlessness and rejection we fill the Internet with postings of hatred toward women as they are the purest testimony of our pathetic nature.  We greatly desire them, and they greatly detest us.  How dare they not swoon as we recite Monty Python quotes.  How dare they roll their eyes at our cheeto stained fingers!  Spending our time reading internet comics and pleasing our self to the latest in Asian animated cinematic tentacle love, should put us head and shoulders above those douchebag guys who spend their time working out or at a job and live outside their mothers basement.  But those are the guys women like!  How dare they!

 

mmmmm, cheetos! Now what were you saying?

on Nov 27, 2012

TorinReborn
And it is only going to get worse.

Actually I think it is getting better. Maybe not the part about women being sexualized, but the actual role of women in society, in my opinion has never been at a better point for them. Still no where near equal, but going the right way.

Our only hope for even more improvement is that many of the children see how completely stupid some of their parents look and sound with racist/sexist/etc.-ist types of behavior.

on Nov 27, 2012

TorinReborn
And it is only going to get worse. Women are shown as pretty brainless people. There are many good documentaries about this.

 

I don't think so.  Gaming has become such a normal activity that I think in a decade it'll seem peculiar to think of gaming as a male-only thing.

on Nov 27, 2012

Women are the stronger sex, all of them make up the Master Race.  If you have lived any life at all, you know this.  It is said that we live in a world were there is only one genetically superior being, and males are the sub-humans.

on Nov 27, 2012

Protoplazm
Women are the stronger sex, all of them make up the Master Race.  If you have lived any life at all, you know this.  It is said that we live in a world were there is only one genetically superior being, and males are the sub-humans.

 

Jerry Springer would beg to differ

 

Plenty of stupidity to go around the world unfortunately.  But I think Brad is right.  The next generation or two are going to largely rewrite a lot of the stereotypes.  Hopefully for the better.  I can already see it in my daughters (7,9,14).

on Nov 27, 2012

If you play a game made for kids based on multiplayer, you'll have to interact with them. And there are a lot of people on Xbox Live, for example, that never left that stage in their life where throwing a rock at someone means "I like you". Add a healthy dose of anonymity with hormones running wild and you have yourself a fine stew. I seriously doubt much is going to change in the youngest section of gaming. While I wouldn't say something as sad as "boys will be boys"...

... but so what? I have no soul-searching to do. I have barely seen a hint of sexism in any direction on the Elemental forums. All we can do is react when it appears, and leave if it gets too grown-in. And raise our kids better.

Cari Elf has personally helped us modders with countless clarifications on how certain functions work, a very patient person. A big thank you is in order, at least from anyone who ever played a mod of mine.

on Nov 27, 2012

Frogboy

Quoting TorinReborn, reply 1 And it is only going to get worse. Women are shown as pretty brainless people. There are many good documentaries about this.

 

I don't think so.  Gaming has become such a normal activity that I think in a decade it'll seem peculiar to think of gaming as a male-only thing.

It has nothing to do with there being more female gamers, because even if there where 5 male gamers under 18 left in the world I would bet at least 3 of those would act like you described towards women. When I was young I was surrounded by these kind of guys, but at the time I knew how to use a computer and they didn't. Now their type are casual gamers and western mass media has gone crazier towards showing woman as sexual objects. So it is worse now. I don't see that trend reversing until mass media changes. 

on Nov 27, 2012

TorinReborn

Quoting Frogboy, reply 6
Quoting TorinReborn, reply 1 And it is only going to get worse. Women are shown as pretty brainless people. There are many good documentaries about this.

 

I don't think so.  Gaming has become such a normal activity that I think in a decade it'll seem peculiar to think of gaming as a male-only thing.

It has nothing to do with there being more female gamers, because even if there where 5 male gamers under 18 left in the world I would bet at least 3 of those would act like you described towards women. When I was young I was surrounded by these kind of guys, but at the time I knew how to use a computer and they didn't. Now their type are casual gamers and western mass media has gone crazier towards showing woman as sexual objects. So it is worse now. I don't see that trend reversing until mass media changes. 

I dunno.  My sons, who are gamers, find the concept of sexism in gaming to be bizarre.

on Nov 27, 2012

Leo in WI
Actually I think it is getting better. Maybe not the part about women being sexualized, but the actual role of women in society, in my opinion has never been at a better point for them. Still no where near equal, but going the right way.
I would very much agree with this. That said, one area where I think progress is lagging (perhaps activism should focus on this in particular) is with the lead (i.e. playable) characters. It seems like the majority of lead playables in games where the protagonist has a set identity in story are males- those that aren't often get the Laura Croft hypersexualized treatment*. True, virtually every modern RPG allows the player to customize their character's sex along with virtually everything else, but in my experience male players will use that in either of the above ways: create a sex object, or just set it to male**.

 

* I cannot, off the top of my head, think of any non-sexualized female leads, except for that woman from Mirror's Edge, a game I only ever saw a few ads for a long time ago. Metroid would have counted, but then Other Monstrosity happened... I'm sure there's some out there, but the fact that I don't know of them speaks volumes in and of itself.

 

** Many of the people who read this will likely not themselves demonstrate said behaviors, but they will be reading it because they are on a thread about misogyny in gaming, and are not a representative sample.

on Nov 27, 2012

When I was young, it really was all guys...  Girls were like, you play video games?  Ew.  PC gamers were strange, pathetic retards that no one else liked, console gamers avoided any subhuman classifications, but still by no means cool.

 

Maybe it's some sort of pathetic revenge attempt on the part of people that never really grew out of Elementary school...

on Nov 27, 2012

I've always stuck up for girls in games--even when they were a "quaint anomaly". Things have gotten better but what has gotten worse is the acceptance more and more of  juvenile (and mostly male juvenile) stupidity in online discussions.

On YouTube yesterday I read posts by someone trolling a memorial thread posted by a woman whose husband had died a year before.

on Nov 28, 2012

When you are a man and you deal with an ignorant idiot, its just an unfortunate happenstance or you being "overly sensitive".

When you are a woman and you deal with an ignorant idiot you have been a victim (TM) of misogyny.

As for games...

1. Men in games are presented as an impossible over sexualized under dressed testosterone lactating ... things. Creating unhealthy issues for young boys who see that. Just like with women.

2. Male character's behavior in games is as poorly portrayed as women's. (no, men are not all drooling idiots who lactate testosterone and think of nothing but sex)

3. Horrible violence and cruelty is inflicted upon male characters while females get a pass. This is equally insulting to both genders but more frightening and disturbing for males.

My argument isn't that two wrongs make a right or that women aren't hurt and misrepresented by popular media. But that anyone who looks at it and screams "misogyny" sounds like they have some pretty myopic views and the inability to empathize with others. Also the claim of misogyny implies that this is done by men who are out to get women (literal meaning of the word is "Woman Hating"). Women are responsible for much of the mistreatment of women in media just as men are responsible for much of the mistreatment of men.

Despite being male, I see both misogyny and misandry rather then blind myself to the one that isn't affecting me. And if I call out a developer for their crass misrepresentation of people I do so on how they treat both genders (not to mention transgender as well)

I bet if the woman in the original piece started seeing and pointing out such issues instead of implying male conspiracies and seeing only that which affects her directly she would get fewer "shut up" and more "way to go" from her friends. (barring the occasional misogynist male of course; they DO actually exist)

on Nov 28, 2012

It's really just because of the stereotypical "Grrl Gamer" figure, who doesn't know much about games but plays them for attention from guys, or the woman who uses her sexuality rather than actual competence to get a job or to market a game. The fact of the matter is there are women like that - and there have been high profile cases of game developers using attractive women to try to sell their game. Note Jessica Chobot's inclusion in Mass Effect 3, for example. Or the case of Jade Raymond, where there's no reason to suspect that she's not totally competent at her job - but when the first Assassin's Creed was released, she was a producer, one of several and not the lead or executive producer. There's no discernible reason that she was made the face of the game besides her appearance.

And there's cases of misogyny essentially being "baited" as with Jennifer Hepler's comment that critics of her writing were simply "Jealous" that she had "an industry job and a vagina". That's hardly the usual situation, but I fear that high profile cases like that can both make misogyny appear to exist to a greater extent than it truly does, and exacerbate the misogyny that legitimately does exist. I also feel that there's a tendency of feminists or people who want to milk feminism for financial gain to take a few of these comments (and let's face it, if there's one thing the internet has taught us, it's that hateful idiots can never entirely be eradicated) and construe them as far more representative than they truly are. And to some extent, this media attention adds to the discrimination, since portraying something as common also portrays it as normal, and therefore acceptable.

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