Mobile Gaming Mavens discuss whether the games industry is inherently sexist?

And not treating them as silly, hysterical women...

Mobile Gaming Mavens discuss whether the games industry is inherently sexist?

During Games Connection Paris 2013, a comparison between game developers and prostitutes raised plenty of controversy.

So, without revisiting that particular issue, we asked the Mavens:

Do you think the games industry is inherently sexist, and if so what can we do to change the situation? Will Luton, TinyCo

Sexism is only part of the wider problem of diversity and equality in the industry.

The problem is complex, ubiquitous and to varying degrees unnoticed and traditionally unchallenged. The reasons behind the problem are equally as complex and vast. Games almost manage to magnify society's own equality issues by being so close to technology and competition - traditional male heteronormative pursuits.

Whilst that is changing in consumption rather rapidly with mobile and social gaming demanding and getting large audiences, in creation and boxed product games we're still way behind.

The industry is finally growing up as society becomes more liberal and gender inclusive. All us white, middle class, heterosexual, able-bodied men need to look back over our lives, where we've come from and understand our privileges. I was lucky to have the right condition to succeed.

To fix the problem we do not need to turn this in to a crusade and jump on every controversy to pour on Twitter scorn. We need to think about how we talk about and interact with others and what comes with what we say, do and produce. We challenge people in a way that allows them to say "you're right, that was wrong" including yourself.

Sarah Thomson, Sony Computer Entertainment America

Will pretty much nailed it on the head.

We need to approach this with balance and pragmatism. The pendulum tends to swing wildly to both sides; misogynistic behaviours within the industry and gamer community, countered by over-sensitive, over-reaction to other scenarios.

I personally have been very lucky and have experienced little-to-no prejudice in my gaming career (that I'm aware of). I feel being a woman in gaming is an asset and I present it as such. I am a big believer in focusing on your own actions. Us ladies don't have to be victims. We can empower ourselves and teach others how to treat us.

There are some pretty admirable women in the industry these days; Brenda Romero, Jessica Tams, Jade Raymond, Kiki Wolfkill, just to name a few. The fact that this topic is being discussed on a regular basis is a great first step in affecting change. Next, everyone needs to express it and show support in their daily actions. I have seen and spoken to many guys in the biz who are fully on board with this kind of change. Thanks dudes!

Adam Green, Assyria Game Studio

I think this article on the topic of sexism in technology is worth a read:

Personally I have no problem with 'sex' being used to sell in terms of games being targeted at teenage boys etc... Sex being used to sell happens everywhere (to both men and women) in most industries.

I don't actually think this is the problem (despite this being the focus of most of the media attention). What is the problem is inappropriate comments and general harassment many female peers in this industry seem to have at one point or another experienced.

I think it's certainly a minority of guys in the industry responsible and isn't 'the norm'... Unfortunately with such a high percentage of the industry being male, it takes a relatively small percentage of sexist guys to make the minority of females in the industry have a less than pleasant experience.

John Ozimek, Dimoso

In terms of the kinds of games the industry produces, I think that mobile has been a real leader in making games that are much more inclusive of casual and occasional gamers, and absolutely using creativity to shift away from the very white-male-heterosexual stereotype of the typical gamer.

I do think that a lot of the prejudice of the games industry is based on an outdated view; there are far more women coders, producers, marketers and execs today than when I started in mobile games ten years ago. And I believe this will change even more rapidly as gaming and coding become more normalised as a leisure activity as well as a career.

Just look at what is happening with the Raspberry Pi and schools, and you can see where the future is heading.

Games are a product, and the biggest audience continues to be the aforementioned white-male-heterosexual stereotype. But as platforms have evolved and prices have dropped, the room for many more views of what gaming can be has expanded. That has only happened because the kinds of people making the games has evolved too.

Scott Foe, entrepreneur

By my rough calculation, this list [Mavens] is only 2% female...

Where are Brenda Romero, Christine Lee, Maria Alegre, Roxanne Gibert, Laralyn McWilliams, Chelsea Howe, Nicole Lazarro, Lina Chen, Margaret Robertson, etc. etc. etc.

Cough, cough, cough. Just sayin' ....

Kadri Ugand, GameFounders

Being one of the 2% Scott mentioned, I am sorry I cannot participate in this conversation since I have to work twice as hard to make it in this sexist industry!

P.S. Jokes aside I think it would not hurt to have the same amount of females in the game industry as we have females players paying to support the industry...

Dave Castelnuovo, Bolt Creative

I'll just leave this here.

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Christopher Kassulke, HandyGames

I just did a guest lecture yesterday at a university and half of the game students were female. I am sure we just need to wait some more years till we see way more women in our industry!

It already started and we see more and more joining our industry thanks to mobile, browser and social game developers. I like it and I like to see even more female colleagues in our team. It's about skills not about gender, religion, age, etc.

We want to develop great games for our worldwide audience! And don't forget that audience is half female as well.

John Ozimek, Dimoso

Kadri - I think we all know that there is a massive imbalance between men and women in this industry. But isn't the question whether there is ingrained sexism that actively prevents women from participating and limits their opportunities?

Of course, the irony here is that it's a bunch of men talking about how open the industry is to women. But what is your view - have you had to fight to overcome deliberate sexism, or has it been an issue of 'games being for boys' being the attitudinal problem?

Kadri Ugand, GameFounders

I don't have a gender issue with this industry, I have not been fighting for my goals more than usual and I see no boundaries as to what I can do (not from my gender or otherwise).

At the same time I have no good explanation why there are so few women - maybe it's because men are more open to new technologies, maybe women are smart to let you guys try first if there is anything to this industry.

Brain Baglow, Scottish Games Network

Nothing to see here! Move on...

Sorry, I get too many complaints from female developers and gamers about the abuse and harassment they get for simply existing, or wishing to participate in the industry, to pretend there's not a huge problem.

I know many, many women in the games world who love their jobs and have no issues with their colleagues and wonderfully, they're in the majority.

However, it happens. It happens FAR more than I am comfortable with and some of the vitriol and spite is truly appalling. Yet whenever the issue is raised, people get defensive and it gets one of several responses...

  • I/we don't do it, so there isn't a problem
  • I/we treat everyone as equals, so there isn't a problem
  • It's getting better, these are isolated incidents, or that's other platforms, so there isn't a problem

The games industry - ALL of it - needs to make it clear this sort of shit isn't acceptable - within the industry, or for gamers. Leading by example would be a good start. Banning booth babes, presenting strong female role models, making it clear that the stupid frat boy approach is never acceptable...

Publishers and developers also need to make sure that their forums, social channels and comments are moderated and crack down on the sort of crap we read about.

It's not up to the male majority within the games world to determine whether there is, or is not an ongoing problem. As long as our female colleagues, players or friends tell us there is a problem, we have to take it seriously and do something about it.

Otherwise we're treating them as silly, hysterical women...

Sorry. This topic touched a raw nerve.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.