Last Thursday, The Game Awards announced the nominees for the 2015 Awards. The names of the judges responsible for selecting the nominees were also announced, and the list was overwhelmingly male. Out of 32 judges–52 if you account for the eSports Advisory Panel–there was only one woman.
When contacted by Huffington Post about the Awards’ lack of gender diversity, “a source on the panel, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the story,” said that all communication between judges and the Game Awards was done over email and independently. As a result, members of the committee likely had no way of knowing until last week that they were joining an embarrassingly long list of dudes.
Polygon‘s Christopher Grant explains,
I did not know the makeup of the voting jury when I agreed to participate. Either I have, or someone on my team has, represented Polygon at The Game Awards, and before that the VGAs, since the site began. While the gender imbalance in video game journalism as a whole is certainly not a new challenge, it is a challenge that we have to remain committed to taking on, as evidenced by this list.
It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the imbalance. While many editors on staff participated in selecting Polygon’s nominations, and many will similarly participate in selecting our final vote in each category, I’ve asked Geoff to replace Polygon’s jury spot with Megan Farokhmanesh, our deputy managing editor, who was already contributing to this process for us. As juror, she will ultimately decide how we cast our final vote.
Even if most of the outlets represented on the jury rely on a group of editors to make their Awards decisions, in the way that Polygon describes, that still wouldn’t make up for the panel’s gender imbalance. Many of the outlets listed have more male editors than female; and, even if every site did have a 50/50 gender split, it would still be important to promote the visibility of women in games by having more women on the jury.
It’s also worth pointing out that Breitbart is on the judging committee for eSports–so not only does the current Game Awards jury fail to represent women in the industry, it also provides a platform for a site that encourages harassment of women in gaming. Lovely.
After learning about the panel’s gender imbalance, Kill Screen announced it would be dropping out of the Awards. Founder Jamin Warren explained in a statement to the Huffington Post:
— Kill Screen (@killscreen) November 16, 2015
Considering the Game Awards’ stated mission is to “highlight the cultural significance of video games,” this year’s ceremony seems like a write-off to me. Given the ongoing misogyny and racism perpetuated by Gamergate, and the growing debate surrounding how women and people of color are represented in games and in the gaming industry, it’s absurd to think that a judging committee with next to no women on it could accurately reflect gaming’s current cultural significance.
This is only the Awards’ second year, so I’m hopeful that this mess is more indicative of inexperience than it is of apathy about panel representation, because that shit just won’t fly anymore. All-male panels are gradually becoming a punchline, rather than the norm, and if the Game Awards can’t see that, then they have even less of an understanding of gaming’s cultural significance than I thought.
And no, “we asked more women to participate and they weren’t interested/available” isn’t an acceptable excuse. When that happens, it’s time for organizers to get creative about who they ask–which, in the case of an awards show ostensibly created to celebrate innovation, should be a welcome challenge.
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