One of the panels I was able to make it to at Dragon Con 2014 was the “Women in the Video Game Industry” panel on Friday, August 29. I know there is a lot of controversy swarming the gaming community at the moment and I just wanted to hear from women within the industry to understand their perspective, especially as a woman looking to some how become a part of that industry. The women on the panel were intelligent, understanding, and open minded. A big thank you to everyone for attending, especially at such a heated time. The panelists included: Seraphina Brennan (Community Manager at Turbine/WB Games), Pilar Gut-Rod (Video Production at Riot Games), Cameron Harris (Senior Editor at Bioware Montreal), Ann Lemay (Writer at Bioware Montreal), Tiffany Spence (Community/Content Manager at Sony Online Entertainment) and Alison Carrier (UI and UX Designer at Electronic Arts).
One of the topics that came up was “what challenges do the women typically face and how do they overcome them?” It was mentioned that when they came into the business, many of them had to find a way to handle the “boys club” mentality that they were entering into, and noted that many of them were guided to try to “be one of the guys.” The problem with trying to blend in, is that when a female opinion was needed for something, they were no longer the right “type” of female. The lesson here is to make sure that you don’t lose being a female while being a game developer. No one should have to change who they are to be in the business, since that is what the gaming world essentially promotes, the ability to escape and be your true self, to peel off your every day mask for just a little bit.
They also said that it can often be hard to feel accepted. Sometime’s it’s hard enough to just get your foot in the door, but then once you’re in you may have people crossing lines while you work. It’s hard not to internalize these feelings so that you can continue working, but you’ll begin to second guess why you are there, is it because of your skills, or because you’re a female? Maintain your strong work ethics, stand up for yourself and your work. Don’t lessen the quality of your work just to fit in. Build a strong portfolio of writing or mods or anything else to show your talents, so you’ll be recognized for them, not for what gender you are.
Another often touchy subject is sexism or objectification in the gaming industry. Sexism has always been there, it just wasn’t always safe to talk about, but as people and industries evolve, so does the mind set. The value of talent and ability is outweighing what gender someone may be, and a lot more men are speaking up about sexism than before, which is always a good sign as we move into the future. It’s also important not to forget that diversity in games is a good thing. Don’t immediately scream sexism or objectification in a game, just because a character that is introduced may be curvy, busty or voluptuous; be careful not to body shame others. If something new is introduced that makes you pause because of it’s appearance, first learn more about it to see if it fits in with the story. If you’re shown artwork that has a world of nothing but men, or of big breasted females, then yes, it may be ok to speak up to ask why that is the case. There could be a very clear reason behind it, or it could have been a simple oversight that’s easily corrected. Don’t jump into a battle that may not actually be there. All body types should be welcomed and embraced, as long as it fits with the story, style, and content of a game.
One audience member asked the women on the panel, “how do they deal with and handle the “boys club” mentality”? Cameron Harris jokingly replied, “Drink them under the table and they’ll shut up.” After a brief chuckle, one of the most important things they could stress was to take people at face value. Don’t get defensive and read into things that probably aren’t there; try not to take things personally. If you’re getting negative feedback or criticism, then instead of getting defensive, try to ask questions to clarify specific issues, or if you’re feeling bullied or pressured, instead offer to work with the person to form a sense of unity toward your common goal. Many instances of contention end up being simple misunderstanding or poor communication. Also, support from the leads and management is very important. Your boss should have your back, so don’t be afraid to use them as a sword or shield if the situation calls for it. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if you feel strongly about something. Be passionate, know who your allies are, and bring them to the meetings upon meetings you’ll be attending. If you are going to speak strongly about and stand up for something, make sure to research and know what you’re talking about. Some people find no greater pleasure than proving others wrong, so don’t give them that opportunity. Study up on human behavior and personality types to learn the best ways to approach others, especially those who seem to come off as the most resistant to new ideas or change.
To wrap up the panel, a person asked “how they overcome the “bitch” stigma”? One of the ladies simply said, “Own it,” but quickly followed up with clarification. Some people are going to instantly assume certain things about others. Don’t be one just to be one, or as a defensive mechanism, but don’t be afraid to be assertive or passionate about something you believe in. If someone wants to think and judge you because of that passion, then that is their issue, not yours. Some fights just aren’t worth it, so make sure to pick the one’s that are worth it. Is it something you deeply believe in, or are you defending a bit of pride? Ask yourself, “is it worth it?”
I thought the panel was very good, offering insight into the gaming industry from a female perspective as well as offering tips for becoming a part of it that can really be used by everyone regardless of their gender. With how toxic the environment has been lately within the gaming community, it was refreshing to see a calm and cool take on the actual industry, not the drama that it sometimes gets sucked into. I hope my article helps some or many of you if you’re seeking to go this direction. Please feel free to leave feedback and make sure to follow @APGNation on Twitter for more gaming news and updates!