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It's A World of Laughter A World of Tears

As Of Right Now, Women in Games and Tech Are Tweeting About Industry Sexism, Offering Mentoring To Others


I woke up this morning with my day well planned out. I had a bowl of oatmeal and a to-do list on hand. As per usual, I jumped into Twitter to get my morning fix of news and tweets from friends. An hour later, my oatmeal had gone cold, and my to-do list was completely sidelined. The top trending hashtag was #1reasonwhy, a phrase that was also exploding all over my feed. It started with one simple tweet that asked, “Why are there so few lady game creators?” That was enough to trigger a flood of responses from women working in games on their experiences within the industry.

Take a look at the discussion, and you’ll find story after story about job interviews that range from insulting to absurd, devs who were snubbed at conventions, peers who were surprised to find a woman who can code, sexual harassment and rape threats, game design students told to be quiet about it if they wanted to find jobs, and on, and on, and on. By now, game critics, journalists, bloggers, and ordinary gamers have chimed in, too, as well as plenty of male devs describing the behavior they’ve witnessed toward their female colleagues. There have also been women who have voiced acknowledgment of the problem but make the point that their own experiences have been welcoming. And yes, there are some who have added dissenting opinions, and some who are just there to troll. The whole thing is fascinating, and depressing, and oddly encouraging.

The shiny silver lining to come out of this is #1reasonmentors, where devs and industry folks of all genders are banding together to offer support and advice. A Storify page by pixelsprite is currently serving as a central hub of helpful tweets sorted by professional field (if you know of similar resources, feel free to share ‘em in the comments). To me, this is a prime example of what makes our community so amazing, despite the ugliness that comes along with it. What could be more of a hallmark of game culture than a bunch of people discovering a challenge and joining forces to tackle it? Isn’t that why we all love games in the first place?

Both #1reasonwhy and #1reasonmentors are still going strong, so go jump in and watch them unfold.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. She blogs over at Other Scribbles and can always be found on Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Hi! I am one of those women in the game industry. I am a level designer. I made a ton of tweets last night.

    This whole thing is amazing, mostly because I see people I know, who started the night saying “Yeah that doesn’t really happen that often.” shift to “OMG WTH GUYS??!” by morning. (These are guys in the game industry.)

    Also, I was appalled by the number of women I saw tweeting saying they didn’t even want to enter the industry because of the kinds of things people were tweeting about. I have been here for 5 years and I can say, these things exist BUT you can’t let that stop you. For every bad story I have, I have five that are great. For every bad company I have worked at, I know of two that are wonderful and supportive.

    And the more of us there are at companies, the less likely casual sexism is and the less likely they will want to make a game that alienates women.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=568219865 Päivi Kipinä

    Well I have this old link but I don’t know how accurate it is anymore and it’s spesific to Finland http://igda.fi/?p=2166

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003680462662 NP Statham

    I’ve been in the industry (game development) for about 10 years now and like Kim said, yeah sure, there are some bad examples out there. But that’s true of any profession and I never felt discriminated for being a girl making games.

    I see more and more girls working with games with each year and groups like WIG are really helping us get organized and more important, to show the rest of the world (including family and parents) that working with games is no different than working with movies or any other form of entertainment.

    I started teaching game art at the University of Gotland in Sweden last year and I can happily report that with every year the education is attracting more female students. Our latest class of 50 has about 15 girls and they absolutely rock :)

  • http://www.esperino.com/ Jess

    Started following it a few hours in and it’s been incredible to watch. At first it felt a bit overwhelming and I was a little panic about my future career prospects in the industry; but as so many people came together and the#1ReasonMentors and #1ReasonToDo sprung up, I’ve become even more hopeful and inspired.

    GO TEAM GAMES-PEOPLE! :D

  • Jan

    I hope this doesn’t put off women thinking of entering the games industry. I’m a woman who has worked in games for 15 years now, as a programmer (which is very male dominated), and I had to rack my brains for even one instance of sexism.

  • http://www.iamuhura.tumblr.com/ iamuhura

    I’ve been following the hashtag on twitter, and it’s really great to hear so many different voices share their experience. And while I understand the sentiment of “Don’t Give Up!”, it feels a little dismissive of the massive amounts of pain and sacrifice that can be involved in spending 1/3 of your life in a demeaning work environment. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that oppressive and sexist places to work are going to push great people out of the industry *and* keep the curious away – and that isn’t completely their fault.

    Personally, once I realized coding might not be for me, the unwelcoming and sometimes hostile learning environment of the comp sci program made it very easy to switch to business and economics rather than attempt to explore other paths on my own. I didn’t have mentors or even interested faculty or peers to help me discover what else CompSci had to offer or other paths I could pursue, and that made a big difference.

    I guess what I’m saying is that for everyone person who wants to study X so badly and won’t give up after a few setbacks, there might be 2-3 people who have an interest that needs to be nurtured and supported.

  • venturesister

    I grew up playing Sierra games with my dad. Roberta Williams is still a huge role model of mine, I think of her every time someone tries to tell me that women don’t play video games. Her company was at the forefront of PC gaming in the 80′s and 90′s, and we should encourage female gamers to walk in her footsteps.

    I wonder what changed around 2000, what was it that made the gaming industry forget that women have made a huge contribution to gaming history. Women gamers aren’t growing in number, they have been there all along. I’m proud of the women at #1reasonwhy for sharing their challenges, hang in there ladies! You are valued.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    There is a need for mentors. There is also a need for people to clearly identify programs/schools/companies that are demeaning.

    I have worked at 4 companies in 5 years. Two of them were bad. One of them was a middle ground. One of them (my current one) is absolutely brilliant. I have been at a company where I was flat out told I couldn’t wear tight shirts, I couldn’t be “mean” when turning a guy down, and I couldn’t gripe when artists had pornos playing on their computers. The “Don’t give up” comes from extremely personal experience. There are good companies. There are good schools. If the one you are at is a toxic environment, find one that isn’t. But just giving up and leaving because it might be rough isn’t the right answer.

    It’s also why the #1reasonmentors is such a nifty thing. There are people who are more than willing to help point the way to places where women are not only welcome, but encouraged to flourish.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    I too am a huge fan of Roberta Williams. You note, she doesn’t make games anymore. When she did, there were about 6 women in the industry as designers.

    When games became big business as opposed to a niche thing, they targeted the lowest common denominator, which at the time was nerdy young males. it made sense, at the time. The problem is, it got them stuck in a rut. They only have nerdy, young white males making games, so those are the people games appeal to, and so the cycle goes. It is taking a great deal of movement to change that. But even so, it’s hard when the best selling game every year is Call of Duty.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    What companies did/do you work for? Cause that’s very valuable information for women looking to get into the industry.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    I have felt discriminated, but then it makes it pretty easy to know what companies and who you don’t want to work for.

    And you are spot on. Every year there are more of us. Every company has had one or two more women. And because most of them have to fight their way in kicking and screaming, they are a few orders better than their “equivalent” counterparts. And the guys who aren’t close minded are definitely taking notice.

  • http://twitter.com/GeekFurious GeekFurious

    Social perception changes when the masses are exposed to something over an extended period of time. Usually it takes an entire generation before it becomes readily acceptable. That means we need TV shows and movies (mass media) to project this image over many years until it becomes unacceptable to think differently.

    Meanwhile, women are taking over the industry. And as an enlightened male, I welcome it. Hell, I think it is time women take over the entire planet. Things would work so much better with less men in charge of anything.

  • venturesister

    Thanks for your answer, Kim:) I wonder if the switch to console focused games had an impact. I must admit, I’m not as fond of most console games as I was of PC games. I think Steam is going to bring the PC focus back, and with it we may just see “statistics” about gamer demographics reflect a much larger female audience.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    This!

  • http://twitter.com/Rmjonesc13 R.M. Jones

    Actually, things have been scientifically proven to be better with a even mix of men and women on committees and in decision making roles. Too many of one or the other actually leads to a downturn in output and level of quality work.

    And just for future reference- two of the quickest ways to dehumanise someone is to either make them unimportant, or put them on a pedestal. I know guys like you mean well when you say stuff like this, but really? Us gals are just as human as you. Please, no pedestal.

  • http://twitter.com/MPprog Martin Pelletier

    Does anyone have an idea as to the demographics of what happened? I’m really curious as to who constitutes the core of sexism in gaming. Is it the devs, the managers, the designers? The veterans or the newcomers?

  • Anonymous

    There isn’t a specific type of person to target. It’s not that easy. Everyone feeds off of everyone else’s prejudices. Straight, white, and male is as specific as it’s going to get, not that everyone who’s straight, white, or male contributes to the problem, it’s just the dominating demographic, which is preventing other demographics from getting representation.

  • Jan

    Small companies. Independent, casual & mobile phone game companies. They’ve all been just great. Perhaps the bad behaviour thrives more in a high-pressure AAA environment. I would recommend small game companies in general as you get a better team atmosphere and more influence on the projects.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Hum, that is a good point I hadn’t considered. PC games have been labeled as “dying” for years. For a long time consoles were considered “equalizers” because it was easier to buy a console than a computer. But again, they have the stigma of being “just for kids”.

    It’s an interesting thought and one I will definitely have to look into.

  • http://twitter.com/MPprog Martin Pelletier

    Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/MPprog Martin Pelletier

    Coming into this as a (straight white male) developer, not in the gaming industry but definitely interested in it, I was shocked by the level of sexism. I tweeted something about “boys, be open minded” and got told, by a male game designer, to STFU, that it was a man’s domain. Damn. That’s just… damn! I gotta figure out a way to help somehow…

  • cole

    There’s another tag that I just read about: #1reasontobe …in the industry, of course.