I wrote an article for Gamasutra, posted as an Expert Blog. It got some comments. I’ve excerpted some of my favorites below. Note that color changes denote different comments.
No one is stopping you from starting your own female only game company, if women are so thin skinned and non-ambitious that they are co-dependent on the current game industry (which isn’t all that great to begin with) then they have proven they don’t have what it takes to be making games that’s how I feel about it. No one holds back anyone but themselves.
While you’ve written this post, many male game developers have broken free from the industry and started their own game company as we’ve seen with many indie games. Do you think the developers behind legend of grimrock would waste their time on gamasutra about how the videogame industry no longer creates niche old school dungeon crawlers?
If you don’t like how things are done then start your own company and prove to the industry such a female feeling friendly market exists, it’s a free country! The idea that females need nannying and babying is childish in the extreme, as if the world should bend over backwards and cater to you when hundreds of men roll up their sleeves and chart their own course and have outputted more games in the last 5-10 years then women like you will do for your entire career. That is preferential hiring based on gender, much the same as preferential hiring based on race, it’s Affirmative Action, and has the same flaws; namely those who adopt such practices are not hiring the best person for the job. If what you want is equality, you have to demand to be treated equally, in education, training, hiring, in each and every way. Anything less is just more bias. Furthermore, how far do we want to take the whole “welcoming women” thing? Should we, for example, pass up more skilled guys for girls just for the sake of gender parity? Probably not. That would be poor business sense. So there are obvious limitations on the “welcoming women” thing? What other limitations are there?
Ultimately, sometimes, when a specific test subject is not playing the game right, the correct conclusion is not that you need to change your game to suit that test subject, but is that this test subject is simply not your target audience.
The article assumes that our industry should react to usability issues as if it was Sims.
But maybe it is not Sims, but rather Dwarf Fortress or Eve Online? I don’t think it’s right to sum up this problem with accusations for the existing products. While these are the results that we don’t desire, what we can do about this isn’t changing the results permanently. Just like how most women enjoy shopping more then men, my opinion is that male population is more likely to get indulged with games compared to women. This is a combination of psychological, sociological and physical properties of both genders. Engineering departments don’t fill up with men for no reason. Solutions should start from the educational system and the psychological treatment of children. hehe – I heard from more then one tech director after interviewing cute looking females “if she was at least somewhat smart, I would hire her just for the team morale”. I realized I was treating female applicants a bit “softer” too (all of them, not only cute ones). So some girls already have unfair advantage 🙂 “the women I’ve worked with in game development have all been equally talented, hard-working, smart and dedicated as the terrific men I’ve also worked alongside.”
well.. let me just say my experience (as to talented part) is different. But of cause, there are girls I’m/was totally fine working with – I’m only talking in statistical terms. And sure – everybody is entitled to their own opinion – it is not “strict science”. I also do not know why such a difference exists. If it is genetics, some kind of hormonal changes that boys and girls undergo, just “accepted roles” people forced to take in the society, “kitchen/babies”, lack of “testosterone drive” and leadership or something else. To be truly scientific, we would have to take some 100 girls and boys right after birth, place in some “sterile” conditions outside society, with no preconceptions that “girls should cook and boys should play with guns and be in charge” – and give them the same education/training. But it would be too cruel of and experiment. It would also only prove or disprove genetic version, while I’m interested in “the whole package” – the result of all factors. In a similar way, it is quite possible that the fact that blacks are great at basketball and Chinese in ping pong is not genetics but culture – but some 20+ countries naturalized Chinese players to play for their national pong pong teams 🙂 I think that issue isn’t really related to getting women into games. If you apply for a job you should be qualified to do it. It’s fine to invite someone who is inexperienced with games to a user test in fact it is helpful but it would not be sensible to employee someone who had little experience or interest in games.
I had a lot of people ask me why I bothered to respond to the comments (because I did respond, to almost every one). You could say I’m stubborn (which is true) or optimistic (also true) but to be honest, it’s because I’m tired of hearing the same bullshit repeated as if it’s fact. I don’t care if it makes a difference to the people who took the time to carefully type the words “girls are bad at math” because it’s not about them. It’s about standing up so women in game development can see they aren’t alone.
For every one woman who speaks out, there are many who remain silent. It’s not weakness or cowardice–it’s an understandable, practical response to the environment. That’s especially true for the last half of this year. There’s tremendous pressure to stay quiet about the things that happen to us, about the space in which we work. You can see that in the comments on the article, in the immediate, vehement, knee-jerk assumption that because I said we should listen to what women tell us, I’m also saying that I agree with all of the things women have said about booth babes (the example from the article) and our industry as a whole.
That’s the whole point, honestly. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with what women tell us, just like it doesn’t matter whether I personally agree with a player who tells me a boss battle is too tough. I need to take a step back, be objective, and evaluate what the player’s trying to tell me about my systems. Women are telling us the systems of game development culture are frustrating, discouraging, and even barring them from entering the field or staying in it. Aren’t you curious why? Doesn’t that make you want to fix the problem, just like we want to fix problems to improve our games?