#1reasonwhy We are Putting Ourselves in a Gender Role
Two weeks ago, droves of women gamers, developers, and the like took the initiative to speak out against gender discrimination in the video game industry via the Twitter hashtag #1reasonwhy. It began when Luke Crane (a Kickstarter employee), queried the public with the tweet, “Why are there so few lady game creators?” This simple question lit up Twitter with a blaze of responses, from both females and males, regarding the sexism and general discrimination that women face in the gaming industry. I decided to take to Twitter and have a look at what other people were saying.
The male responses were all over the map, from men being disgusted by how women are treated, to being disgusted that women think they deserve to game. Females all felt the same way: that their treatment within the gaming industry was unfair and discouraging, and they noted how even the smallest bit of support from men made a world of difference. Men and women all over the world were sharing horror stories of work- and game-related discrimination and continue to do so on Twitter, Reddit, and various blog sites. Some notable blog sites directed towards women in the gaming community that I have come across are Notinthekitchenanymore.com featuring a women’s recorded online gaming experience and Gamingaswomen.com, which devotes itself to information about women in the gaming community as a whole.
So, is this a ‘majority rules’ situation, or something more? In a study done by the Entertainment Software Association (2012), 53% of men and 47% of women play video games. If the percentage is so close, why are we still struggling with this idea that women are an important part of the gaming demographic and should be counted? As gaming has become a much more socially accepted activity, more and more people of all ages are enjoying many different types of game genres at a more frequent rate. It is apparent that women are stereotypically seen as people who aren’t as well-versed as the average man when it comes to their knowledgebase regarding technology – coding, developing, engineering, and even basic networking. Thankfully, instances like #1reasonwhy and the people using it as a soapbox can help educate the masses and move us in a more accepting direction. Also of note is the counter-tag #1reasontobe, which is popping up to educate women on why it’s a good thing to be a female developer.
Though I am not a developer myself, I do work in a technical field where the same bias is prevalent, and I am also a ‘gamer girl.’ In my daily life, I have come across many of the gender biases that #1reasonwhy has been pointing. People who have not come to know me in the technical or gaming industry still often sexually harass, demean, and underestimate me as I’m sure is true for many women. Inaction is not the answer, but as a female, acting in response to ridicule is oft times considered ‘emotional whining’ and can be a career-limiting move – another sad and counter-productive reality for many women in the workforce and in the social gaming atmosphere, in general.
I recall a specific Halo 3 LAN party that I went to, as the only female gamer. The host didn’t know me very well at that time, and there were not enough controllers to go around, so he lent me his. My fellow gamer friends (who had invited me) watched as he gave me the controller and tried to teach me what the X button was and how to use the trigger to fire at “the bad people over there”. He spoke to me in such a condescending and childish way that I politely opted out of the round entirely (lest rage set in and he ate his own controller). I then patiently waited until the end of the night, got his gamer tag, went home, and added him to my contacts so that I could beat him online over and over, teaching him to never again underestimate a female gamer with an Energy Sword, Plasma Grenade, Shotgun or even a trusty Needler. It almost feels as if I have to be better than any guy I come across at every video game, or they don’t consider me a ‘true’ gamer. I wish I could say that this was uncommon, but there have been several instances in my life when this has been my reality (most commonly at workplaces) and I can only surmise that fellow females in the game industry have felt the same pang of discrimination and underestimation in their own lives.
So, if this generalization is so common, why shouldn’t the workforce reflect it? We need to start at home to change these negative opinions. In an interview conducted by Will Anderson (the Master Chief of Gamer Living), model and girl gamer Pamela Horton states, “You know, all girl gamers just gotta stick to their guns and do what you’re passionate about. Don’t let the stereotypes of gamers or the stereotypes of gender choose what you do.” As women, the more that we get up and prove our worth, the more accepted we will slowly become. If history has taught us anything, it’s that socially accepted opinions and stereotypes are extremely hard to get away from and take time to change, overall. We are pushing forward and making a difference, slowly but surely; we just can’t let it discourage us if we don’t see immediate changes in our day-to-day lives. It is up to every man and woman to take responsibility for their own actions and to address their perceptions of women in the gaming community to accommodate the idea that women can be just as productive and useful as men.
There is also a lot of controversy regarding how women are portrayed in video games themselves. Pamela Horton explains her point of view, stating, “Guys see women objectified in games, so they’re going to objectify the women that play the games.” Although in many instances this can be true, there is a noticeable shift towards empowering women, even in AAA titles. When we think of women in video games, many of us refer to Nariko (Heavenly Sword), Rayne (BloodRayne series), or Cammy (Super Street Fighter 4), and less attention is paid to women like April Ryan (The Longest Journey series), Samus Aran (Metroid series), or even Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series). Many MMO-RPG games give the option to dress your female avatar up or down as well (e.g., World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic – those Jedis are prudes). The more credence we give games that portray women in positions of power and grace as opposed to sex appeal, the more attention will be paid to these types of portrayals on the market. I do believe that men and women together have the ability to force the gaming world into submission by purchasing games which more adequately represent how they wish women to be treated.
One thing that should be focused on is that, as time goes by, women in the industry are being gradually more accepted, even if we aren’t truly ‘there’ yet. When I was in high school, I knew of no fellow female gamers, and if I wanted to buy a Legend of Zelda or Doom t-shirt, it was in men’s sizes or bust. Even in my own family, there has been a shift over the years as my brothers have come to see me as the ‘nerd’ (endearingly) and the person to go to for advice on gaming and technology, instead of that little girl who was obviously button-mashing during Street Fighter Turbo matches or Super Mario Kart races. I don’t button-mash: they know that now. The gaming industry was not tailored for women, but there has been a shift in the entire industry to accommodate the likes of me, over time. So keep pushing – pressing ever gently forward towards true equality in the gaming industry. The change begins with everyone in the industry, both male and female, otherwise, it can’t succeed. The #1reasonwhy there are so few lady game creators is you.
Pamela Horton: http://gamerliving.net/archives/13338
Luke Crane’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Burning_Luke/statuses/273121518362439680
Online Play: http://www.notinthekitchenanymore.com/
https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/275715485440561154 https://twitter.com/zohso/status/274407087591792640 https://twitter.com/drugresponseman/status/277011397282516993 https://twitter.com/NightSkyGames/status/276728172425396224 https://twitter.com/gribblet/status/276787349067821058 https://twitter.com/lougagliardi/status/276767646345752576 https://twitter.com/GeekGirlsRule/status/276709061683187713
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