#1ReasonWhy: Women Take to Twitter to Talk about Sexism in Video Game Industry

Why aren’t there more female game creators? These women have some worrying answers.

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Over the past 24 hours, the online gaming community has taken to Twitter to hash(tag) out their thoughts on gender discrimination, inequality and online sexual harassment within the gaming world. It started when a Twitter user asked, “Why aren’t there more female game creators?” In response, dozens of women have shared their own stories of sexism and marginalization in the game industry.

Collated under the hashtag #1reasonwhy, women who work or play in the gaming world, along with some of their male allies, talked openly about the rampant sexism that exists online in 2012. The results are depressing, not just because of the apparent discrimination and harassment female gamers have faced online but because of the sheer volume of tweets on the issue.

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They make for a sobering read. Echoes of sexism, misogyny and marginalization came not only from gamers, but from big players in the industry, including game writers and designers. Everything was on the table from the overt-sexualization of female characters (“Creating appropriately dressed female characters is viewed as a rarity, rather than the norm,” tweeted Tomb Raider writer Rhianna Pratchett) to business strategies (“There’s not enough investment in AAA games about something other than war, cowboys, football, cars,” said Jane McGonigal, a game designer and author of the book Reality is Broken) to workplace harassment (“You shouldn’t have to be this brave to just go to work when your job doesn’t involve violence, weapons or risk,” tweeted Leena van Deventer, the video game correspondent for Tech Talk Radio) to unequal pay (Lindsay Morgan Lockhart, the narrative designer for Halo 4, called the pay gap between men and women “staggering.”)

While sites like FatUglyorSlutty.com have collected the most sexist, creepy, disturbing and offensive messages sent to female online gamers, #1reasonwhy brought the issue out of the gaming world and into the forefront for Twitter users around the world. Here are some of the tweets:

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15 comments
guchie
guchie

Some of those are just silly, "Soldier girl looks like a porn star" You mean we make video game characters, you know fantasy, the ideals of those playing? Cause if you think looking at pretty girls is just for men... that's rather sexist in itself there Caryn Vainio.

The irony being that women hold themselves up to much higher standards., all those cosmo magazines and other "girlie mags" with slim women on the cover covered in makeup and sexy poses aren't for the men...

And let's be real here, how many male gamers are really the masculine hunks that are portrayed in the video games? When's the last time you sat down at a madden game with Duke Nukem? Not every guy looks like the slim hero with the perfect jawline either, the only difference is men don't see video games as a reflection of reality but rather an escape from it into a fantasy.

DanielleKrieger
DanielleKrieger

@guchie *facepalm* Talk about your prime example of the epitome of false equivalency...

HiredMind
HiredMind

The pay gap is "staggering" only because it doesn't actually exist.  Men and Women choose DIFFERENT JOBS, that's why there is a difference between the average pay of all women and that of men.  

If you actually compare apples to apples, controlling for number of hours worked, time in the workforce, etc, you find that women actually make slightly more than men. 

92% of all workplace deaths are men: www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0006.pdf   If men and women were doing the same jobs in the same numbers, how could that possibly be so?  

DanielleKrieger
DanielleKrieger

@HiredMind U.S. Department of Labor - women are still (IN THE 21ST CENTURY) being paid 70% of what their male counterparts bring home on payday.  Yes, that's for the same job.

In reference to the gaming industry, specifically:  I happen to have a friend in the industry.  She's a World Designer.  I won't name the company she works for, but she's part of a team of 6 developers.  She's the only woman on the team.  She pulled a "no-no" and actually asked one of her teammates how much he brings home on payday and calculated versus her own paycheck.  She makes only 60% of what he does AND he gets a 50% higher bonus at "Crunch Time" than she does.  That's the same job.  They're even on the same team!

That's just one of millions of examples.  Don't think for a second it's an isolated incident.  Is it fair that women get paid less?  Heck no!  Is it fair that men are asked to perform much more dangerous tasks on the job?  Heck no!  There's a lot that needs to change, but it's comparing apples to oranges when your comment was supposed to be about pay and you jumped to workplace fatalities.  Just sayin'.

HiredMind
HiredMind

@DanielleKrieger Well, since you didn't link to your actual source ("Proof?  HA!  I'm a liberal/Feminist!  I don't need proof! Just believe what I have to say!") but instead just mindlessly regurgitated the 70% myth - and since I know you're impervious to any argument that goes against your worldview anyway, I'm not going to spend much time on this either.  I'll just link to Christina Hoff Sommers excellent deconstruction of the data in question. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-hoff-sommers/wage-gap_b_2073804.html

And, I wasn't just randomly jumping to workplace fatalities.  I was making the point that men and women do different jobs.  If they didn't, then their relative death rates on the job would be equivalent.

DifferentGames
DifferentGames

Just want to share that in large part to due to concerns about the position of women in the industry, in games themselves and in the academic world where games are being studied, I'm co-organizing a Brooklyn-based conference at NYU's Polytechnic Institute on diversity and games called Different Games, which is taking submissions of original games, panel presentations, workshops, and papers. You can find more info about the conference and the call for proposals at DifferentGames.org or follow us on Twitter @differentgames or  like us on FB at facebook.com/differentgames. Really excited to see this topic exploding on twitter and moving the discussion forward!

CopperZen
CopperZen like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I'm a guy and I agree that the sexism in the gaming industry is pretty bad.  Sex sells, we all know that.  I didn't know that the women WORKING in the gaming industry had to face practically 1960's level misogyny. 

On the other hand the double standard towards video game characters' sexualization is so blatant it's almost hilarious.  I remember people commenting on a recent AAA game where players could find and use a certain set of armor--but there was a catch.  If the video game character the player was playing was male the armor looked like full plate armor, but if the character was female then the armor took the form OF A STRING BIKINI!!!  I kid you not!  That sort of thing is the standard in the gaming industry because developers are focused on selling to horny young males and--sex sells!

irrenmann
irrenmann

Rhianna Pratchett: "Because I still have to keep saying: “But what if the player is female?”

Why shouldn't you? Females are a minority of players for the tentpole console releases. You can get as angry about that as you like, but it's a fact: they aren't going to orient 50% of the content around 10% of the players for those products. Nor should they.

DanielleKrieger
DanielleKrieger

@irrenmann Are you really that imperceptive?  Frankly, according to recent trends, women are actually the majority of game players and purchasers.  It's gone up, not down.

So... 50% of the content would actually go to 50% of the audience.  I loved Tomb Raider and Rhianna did a fantastic job on the story.  We need more games like it where the female protagonists are realistic women, not some copy-and-paste trope-heavy porn star.

irrenmann
irrenmann

@DanielleKrieger @irrenmann  Am I imperceptive? Not compared to you, since you didn't actually read my comment. I mentioned tentpole console releases. Tomb Raider is one such. I don't care how many women are playing Angry Birds or Solitaire or Minesweeper; it isn't relevant to my comment, and the audience overlap is insignificant. And if you seriously believe 50% of Tomb Raider players are female, I have a bridge to sell you, since you're obviously highly imperceptive regarding who wants to see bosomy Lara Croft moan as a pole is shoved through her neck.

rawrpewpewlazor
rawrpewpewlazor

@irrenmann 40% of the players and 46% of the purchasers of games are female according to the entertainment software associations 2010 sales, demographic and usage report. And either way, no matter how many %, why should it be ok to disregard womens opinions? The whole #1reasonwhy issue is not just about content of the games, but about the whole structure of hostility towards women in the gaming and nerd industry.see http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_Essential_Facts_2010.PDF for numbers.

irrenmann
irrenmann

@rawrpewpewlazor @irrenmann Not only is it OK to disregard women's opinions, it's superior. Artists should be seeking to create what they originally set out to create, not warping it based on concerns about the audience perceiving them as not politically correct enough. That kind of thinking is what keeps games from achieving what they might compared to other forms of entertainment.


Anyway, I don't care about those percentages; I only mentioned tentpole console releases, not the kinds of games those numbers are jacked up by. Yes, there are women playing Farmville, and no, it's not relevant. You can't seriously believe half of the purchasers of Tomb Raider are female. Is that who you think Lara Croft is designed to appeal to, or who has historically purchased games in that series? That'd be hopelessly naïve of you.


As for hostility toward women: trying to sell something to someone else was never seen as hostility before. "Oh, there are Fords and then more expensive Lincolns? Hostility toward people who wanted to spend less money!" No. A product not being targeted at women does not equal hostility toward them. The rest of this is being dismissed as hostility when it's actually just a lack of understanding.

ElizabethBergland
ElizabethBergland

@irrenmann1: Since when is Tomb Raider a piece of "art"?
2: You invalidate your own argument.  "Artists should be seeking to create what they originally set out to create, not warping it..."  "Is that who you think Lara Croft is designed to appeal to, or who has historically purchased games in that series?"  So... warping one's artistic vision is fine as long as you're accommodating men.  Gotchya.3: How do you know women don't play Tomb Raider?  It's not like there's a version of the game where Lara Croft doesn't have huge boobs.  Women don't really have a choice--it's sexist, objectifying video games or no video games at all.  On a more basic level, your logic is totally faulty.  Video games aren't marketed to women, therefore women don't play video games, therefore video games aren't marketed to women.  It's called a tautology, dude, and it's not a valid rhetorical strategy.4: This is a totally false analogy.  It's one thing to not target a particular demographic and another to use prejudicial renderings of an oppressed demographic to titillate the dominant social group.  A better analogy would be the creation of an offensively typical/exploitative African American video game character.  Would you have the same argument about political correctness if this were the case?  It'd go something like this: "video games are created for white people, and white people want to see Jim Crow.  We're not excluding anybody, just giving people what they want."  Um... yeah.  Not so much.5: You're really going a long way towards helping us understand that your views of women aren't hostile when you say "not only is it OK to disregard women's opinions, it's superior."  Now I see that I really shouldn't have been complaining about the sexism in video games, especially since you're a representative of the typical gamer.  Thank goodness you set me straight!

RockyChristine
RockyChristine like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So many people don't believe women when we say we play games, that we like it, that we didn't start because of a boyfriend, that we aren't just healers, that some of us like MMO's and first-person shooters. When I look at gaming news, there are so few women represented in the industry; we are driven away by pervasive misogyny and harassment. I let people assume that I'm male in games, and many people only find out I'm female by voice chat. This is why some of us stay in gaming: to let the male-dominated industry know that there are women out there too, and we aren't just going to be quiet and tolerate it.