Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey Geek Girls, Stop Whining!

Ouch!  Who threw that rotten tomato?  Now wait just a second and listen to me before you hurl any more rotten veggies in my direction.  Let me start by saying I am now and always have been a Geek Girl.  So, you could stay I'm reprimanding myself and not just pointing an accusatory finger out into the world.  But, in truth I am pointing it squarely at all the Geek Girls out there who are convinced that being a girl is a major impediment to them if they want to do anything in the gaming industry or even be taken seriously when playing games.

This stems from a panel I attended at PAX East titled "Girls and Games: The Growing Role of Women in the Game Industry".  I thought I would hear how women are now being recognized as a significant part of the game market and how the successful women on the panel saw gaming as both women on the inside of the industry and as gamers themselves.  I thought I might hear an interesting discussion about how companies are changing the way they market and what they market in order to tap into the increasing number of women gamers.  That would've been really cool, but that's not what happened.

Once inside, we took our seats and the floor was immediately opened to questions from the audience.  People jumped at the chance and I couldn't wait to see where the discussion would lead.  Sadly, by the time the third or fourth person got a turn at the microphone, the tone had been firmly set and it sounded a bit like this..."Boys are mean.  They don't like to play with me because I'm a girl.  They won't play nice and they won't take me seriously for game related jobs because I'm a girl.  Oh, and they always turn women into nothing more than sexual objects in games and isn't that horrible and unfair!"

I give the panel a lot of credit here, because they didn't really agree with a lot of the opinions expressed within the questions and they tried to say in a dozen different ways that you just have to keep trying if you want to get into the game industry and that talent and perseverance will be rewarded.  They acknowledged the sexy-chick-with-big-guns-and-bigger-boobs phenomena, but pointed out that not many of us knew any real life men that actually looked like Marcus Fenix either.  And they acknowledged that some guys don't like to play against women and can be jerks about it.  Big deal.  There are far more out there that will happily have you join their party.

The thing that surprised and saddened me was that so many young women seemed to think they were never going to get into the industry simply because they were women.  This despite the fact that the panel on the stage in front of them was proof to the contrary.  It's a cop-out to use the notion that you aren't where you want to be solely because you are a woman.  Sometimes, the other guy (or girl) gets the job because of a whole host of subjective reasons that have nothing to do with gender.  If you want a job in the industry, keep fighting until you get in the door.  Never count yourself out just because you're a woman.  The minute you do, it's you that's keeping women out of the gaming industry, not the guy sitting on the other side of the desk.

6 comments:

  1. Or, given the nature of the industry now, you do your own thing/start your own company. Most RPG companies are run out of a file box in the corner of the spare room, anyway - why rent an office when you write your adventures on a PC, can upload a pdf to DrivethruRPG or RPGNow, and get your product to market with minimal overheads.

    What is lacking is good content, and that is dependant on story telling ability more than what you have in your trousers.

    Do Girl Gamers like Kill-all-the-monsters-and-steal-all-their-stuff games? Or do they like elaborate explorations of character nuances and interpersonal relationships? I have friends who claim to prefer the latter sort of game but after ten minutes or so will suddenly go, "Right, let's kill someone and blow up the starport."

    Hickman and Weiss wrote/produced a whole series of DnD adventures which pushed a lot of female buttons (dragons, emotional involvement of the characters) while still allowing you to go out and do a bit of smighting if there wasn't enough action. Did they have it right? Their stuff doesn't light my candle, but a female friend enjoyed the Dragonlance game I ran for her.

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  2. very interesting. it's too bad that the seminar didn't produce the discussion you wanted, and went down a path of complaining rather than constructive discussion.

    I wanted to expand on my comments to your post on Twitter about this. I have no problem with female gamers. In fact, I think it's great to have a females around, and I'd like to think in some cases it provides some positive female interaction for people that need it... and might even encourage them to tone down the gamer stank. I think if the person you are playing a game with or against is a cool person, that's all that matters. It doesn't matter if it's an MMO, rockband, DnD, or Warhammer. I've played with plenty of guys who were terrible to play against, not because they were guys, but because of who they were as people. The same is true for women, in both a positive and negative manner.

    My only issue with females and gaming is that as a married man, oftentimes my small amount off gaming time doubles as my "man time" for the week. What I mean is that my wife is not a gamer. If I go off to game, it is not with her. To me, this is my man time. This is the time when I can talk about man stuff, complain about women stuff, and basically just hang out with the guys. If somebody brings their wife or girlfriend to the gaming night, then that for me is an issue. Not because I don't like them or women, but rather for the same reason that if my wife brought me to a "The Bachelor" watching party with 7 women and me, they'd be annoyed.

    Women in gaming is great for gaming. I would simply point out that while gaming remains a pursuit with more men than women, their are times when you've got to take into account the setting. Should a women ever feel like she doesn't belong at a store playing or in an MMO Raiding party, absolutely not. Should a women perhaps think twice about tagging along with her husband and his buddies to a game of Descent in somebody's basement. Yes. It doesn't mean they shouldn't go, simply that they should make sure it's an appropriate setting and it's ok with the group.

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  3. Kobold, the suggestions you made about making your own game were exactly what was missing, and so distressing, about the panel discussion! It was a room full of women who were just convinced that they had no where to go and that there was nothing to be done about the situation. I am of the mind that if you want something bad enough, you just don't give up, ever.

    There was some talk/complaint about the kinds of games that are targeting women. You know, all the cooking games and puzzle games. If there was no one buying them, then they'd stop making them. But there are a lot more traditional shoot the bad guy games that have more emotional development to the characters than years ago and I wonder if that's a nod to what they think women want...which of course no mere mortal can ever figure out :)

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  4. Ben, I remember your comments when I asked about this on twitter, and you aren't in the minority. I don't think women were surprised/upset that when it was a guys night out that they weren't particularly welcome. Like you said, women need time away from the guys, too!

    It was more frustration at the idea that if they were online and joined another group fighting the monster that they weren't welcome just because they were women. I've never really seen this as any time I've played games guys have always been great. In fact, once you get out of online stuff and get to face-to-face gaming like miniatures or boardgames, guys are usually thrilled that a woman shows an interest. A woman in a game store isn't likely to suffer a lack of opponents!

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  5. I have actually never had any negative feedback from any gaming experience, either online or in person, other than unwelcome attention. Doesn’t happen anymore in person now that I am married and all the gamers I am around either are friends with or know my husband, but since there are lots of young males out there in the online gaming community I don’t mind too much as most games have an ignore option :P.

    I think the females that do get the negative feedback are either unlucky or they display one of the many traits that encourage the negative female gamer stereotype. Perhaps before they complained, those women should take a look at what they are doing. The first words out of their mouths at the panel were to complain about something? Not something constructive. Just a Crying session. Why would any company want to hire anyone who instead of focusing on a solution – was too busy focusing on the problems?

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  6. Maleficent, you got it! Can you imagine being in front of a panel of smart, successful women and being able to say/ask anything, and choosing to whine?! What a wasted opportunity!

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