How to keep women out of gaming

Dec 29, 2013 | Video Games

Because people keep asking this question… “Why are there so few women in gaming? Why so few female game devs?”

And inevitably, someone says some goddamn bullshit like “Women just aren’t into gaming!” as if that’s (a) a valid reason as opposed to random hand-waving and (b) not fucking insulting to all the women who are majorly into gaming, myself included.

So I’m going to spell out the answer to this in nice, easy to understand words, because it’s been weighing on my mind during the holidays while I peruse the Steam Store, wads of cash in hand, looking for games to play.

It is because you, male gamers/developers, have made it REALLY clear you don’t give a flying shit about female gamers and you actively work to keep us out, and this culls the ranks of women interested in playing and developing games.

Now, before you say ‘But I’M not that kind of gamer/developer!’, lemme just stop you right there. Zip it. This isn’t about you, Mr. Man. The ‘you’ in that sentence is a collective ‘you’. You personally might be a feminist whose dearest wish is to make or play a Tomb Raider game with a fully-clothed Lara Croft. You may be surrounded by like-minded gamers or developers. The point is that you are NOT THE NORM. You’re the exception to the rule, and the rule is this: women in video games are either absent, tits ‘n’ ass transport devices, or clones of the male characters with less clothes and personality than a blow-up doll. The few examples that buck the trend, much like you yourself, don’t change the fact that the trend exists and it’s strong as hell.

Male gamers pull shit like this when anyone mentions video games and sexism in the same breath, or when a women decides to have any opinion about gaming. The #1reasonwhy hashtag highlighted all the truly despicable crap that female devs/game journalists have to put up with.

So here’s a question for you in turn.

Do you think that women and girls don’t notice this shit?

Let’s do a little thought experiment. You have a choice between two creative careers. Both take the same number of years in college to get qualified. Both have roughly similar job opportunities, and pay around the same.

One is highly dominated by members of the opposite gender. Choosing this career means that you will be constantly treated like an outsider, an anomaly, purely because of your gender. Your work will be criticised more closely and you will be dismissed more easily. You’ll be mistaken for an assistant or secretary constantly, instead of a professional in your own right. How well you conform to rigid social standards of beauty will play more of a role in your advancement than your skills or experience. You will face harassment¬†from your workmates, bosses, professional contacts, whatever – and if you complain, you will be labelled a troublemaker or told you brought it on yourself. And if you create something that the fans don’t like, you’ll get death threats and rape threats that make you fear for your safety and that of ¬†your family.

Of course, none of this is guaranteed. It’s all just… possible. Maybe likely in some cases. You don’t know, and you won’t unless you enter this career and devote a significant chunk of your life to it. All you really have to go on right now is the experiences of others of your gender who’ve already been there.

So go ahead and tell me you’d choose that career, if there was a risk that you’d face all that god awful crap on top of the usual workplace shenanigans. That’s why I’m ask, do you think we don’t notice this? It’s in the news constantly. We read the comments on those articles. Believe me… when male gamers launch campaigns of harassment against female developers and games journalists, you’d better believe that women pay attention to that and, as a result, we don’t want to go anywhere near your shitty industry. There are less stressful ways to earn a living.

Same goes for female gamers. Again, if we were going to get into a hobby, why would we choose one where our gender is constantly treated like shit and we run the risk of being harassed if we dare to venture into fan spaces? Seriously, who’s got time for that? It’s not like gaming has a monopoly on entertainment.

So, the point of all this: I don’t even know why this is a fucking question.

The women you see in gaming – whether players, devs, or journalists – are the ones who really, really want to be there. They’re the ones who aren’t put off by the constant, low grade sexism, the severe lack of female protagonists, the risk of harassment, the abject vilification by male gamers. They stay even though they’re told in so many ways that they’re not invited and they’re ruining the party. They’re the ones who love it like nothing else.

All the other women who may have become developers or gamers – the ones who aren’t so into it but could have enjoyed it a lot, or who never got a chance to get into it, or even the ones who love it but couldn’t deal with the bullshit – have already left for other careers and hobbies that don’t make them feel demeaned, or afraid, or hurt, or insulted. When you make people feel excluded, then – surprise surprise – they go away, mostly for good.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I was looking through Steam, cash in hand, for games to play… and I realized that there was nothing for me, apart from a few indie titles. Not that there’s no games to play – there were, but it’s really, blindingly obvious that game devs could not give even the slightest fuck about making a game targeted to me. That it’s an accident if I play and enjoy their games.

This really broke my heart because it’s Christmas, and I should be doing like every other gamer and stocking up on stuff in the Steam sale for the next few months, and I just can’t. I feel like going back to Skyrim for the umpteenth time and setting all the things on fire, because at least that’s a game with women that do things while wearing clothes.

And it is seriously, SERIOUSLY horrible that that is the barest minimum I can ask for, and most games with recognizable characters in them don’t even manage that.