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Game Designer’s Solution to Lack of Black Game Developer Barbie Highlights Common Problem With Tech Feminism

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One game designer found that there was something missing with the brand new Game Developer Barbie doll that was just recently released: color. Marcus Montgomery, the game designer who founded the site We Are Game Devs, heard that when his wife, Lisette Titre-Montgomery, tried to purchase one of these dolls, she could only find white Barbie dolls. Titre-Montgomery, herself a noted game developer, ended up not purchasing one because of this fact. Montgomery, however, decided to fix this glaring omission by purchasing a black Barbie from the Barbie fashionistas line and dressing her up in Game Developer Barbie’s clothes. Voila, black Game Developer Barbie.

Montgomery took a photo and described the story in a public Facebook post, which is absolutely worth checking out if only to see how the two dolls compare.

You’ll remember that we previously shared the news of the game developer-styled Barbie which featured a Barbie doll dressed in what might be considered a casual, “techie” outfit surrounded by computers, monitors, and tablets. What was interesting about the doll was that it felt like an attempt to popularize the “game developer life” with younger girls, in the hopes of inspiring them to become game developers themselves. It was a nice gesture, and the doll will surely sell pretty well, but many folks believed it was lacking in one major area: representation.

True, the doll itself was a step forward for representation in game development, which is a field that is notoriously filled with male icons and figures. But as it would turn out, the Game Developer Barbie fell short of representation when it came to representing women of color, who make up a significant chunk of the developer scene in general. Often, the experiences of women of color are silenced as the experiences of white women are boosted and thus called “fair representation.”

This is all to say: intersectionality matters. The lack of a black Game Developer Barbie and the subsequent “hack” to fix it carried out by Montgomery is an interesting, if apt, symbol of a common struggle within feminism today. Too often we find that women of color are expected to accept white feminism as “enough” for them, that a win for white women is a win for all women. To a point, that might be true, but we cannot accept that as “enough” in any way, shape, or form.

There are things that women of color face that are unique to them and their stories. To constantly hold up white figures as examples of “enough representation” would be erasing them and their experiences; it would be tantamount to failing at bringing up representation at all.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad that Game Developer Barbie exists. I just think that we shouldn’t stop at one version of her, because the truth of the matter is that there isn’t just “one version” of a female game developer. If representation is what we want, then we need to be okay with asking for more. In my opinion, that’s what this is about: appreciating what’s there while still being okay with asking for more and better.

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