Progress, slowly but surely
GDC continued the gender talk that the gender-related dustups in tech and on the Internet two weeks ago (the stupid 40 Hottest Women in Tech bit and Adria Richards/PyCon), but in a more positive tone overall.
On one hand, the IGDA co-sponsored a professional mixer/party with startup incubator YetiZen (which had topless models at a party during last year’s GDC) that had some female dancers there, and took a whole bunch of flak for that. The next day, Notch had his Skrillex party, which had some paid female models hired to mingle in the VIP section, and that got people’s attention too (this is one of those weird standard party-industry practices that honestly should probably just go; Jason Killingsworth did a neat interview with his sister on this topic). And my colleague and friend Lizzie Cuevas posted a pair of heartbreaking tweets within three hours of each other:
On another note, I just saw off my little sister, a Computer Engineering major, at her first @official_gdc. They grow up so fast. :’)March 29, 2013
Apologies to my little sister at GDC who had to experience her first seriously inappropriate comment from a male attendee.March 29, 2013
On the other hand, there were great things happening, too. Anna Anthropy took her turn during a dev-rant session to read a modified version of Cara Ellison’s poem “Romero’s Wives”. A group of incredible women in the biz (ranging from Brenda Braithwaite to Leigh Alexander to Mattie Brice to Robin Hunicke etc.) did a fantastic panel called 1ReasonToBe that picked up where that #1reasonwhy Twitter discussion left off. Yes, our industry is still deeply problematic, but I am reassured by our industry’s collective willingness to talk about this kind of thing, at least to relative to where we were just a few years ago.
I started blogging about race and games about seven years ago, in a small blog called Token Minorities that I updated in-between undergrad Philosophy classes. At the time, not many people were writing about this kind of stuff;Bonnie Ruberg kept a blog about sexuality and gender in games called Heroine Sheik; occasionally we’d see stuff on Racialicious about games. That was about it. Compared to back then, it feels like I’m practically tripping over interesting, intelligent people writing about games, the industry, and power. It feels like we’re on to an excellent start (if only just a start).
Indies are culture
While kicking off the IGF awards on Wednesday, Andy Schatz (Monaco) said something along the lines of “We indies aren’t the counter-culture any more, guys…we are culture.”
It’s true. (Or at least, it’s true at GDC.) We are seeing an explosion of creativity in video games, aided by ever-lowering barriers to entry, and all eyes are on the folks doing new and cool things with the form — not games with numbers in the title and a hand holding a gun on the right side of the screen. No, the money is not there yet, for the most part. But it’s amazing how much cool work people are doing out there, people you’ve never heard of, making games you could have never thought of in a million years.
Congratulations, folks: You’ve made it. Now as you go on to continually remake and reinvent this medium, let’s try to reinvent the business and industry behind it.
Games writing/journalism needs to catch up
I must confess to a certain amount of jealousy whenever I go to GDC, since I don’t make games, really. I run into lots of fellow journalists, editors, and writers there, and I’m always a bit bemused by how much cool, awesome stuff the devs are doing — and how much cooler that is than anything the writing folks are doing. We need to step up our game and innovate like the devs are.
Still minimal interest in competitive games
It always makes me sad to see how little attention or thought people give to building, feeding, promoting, and sustaining competitive games and player communities. Never mind that Riot Games is arguably the biggest success story from the American games industry in recent memory; industry thought leaders simply don’t seem to notice. I was swapping Street Fighter tips with Capy Games president Nathan Vella at a party, and when I left he said “But who will I nerd out with?”
I thought it was pretty hilarious that we were the nerds at a games industry party, but there it is; for all the things that catch a game industry professional’s interest, actually getting good at playing video games is surprisingly absent. It’s funny; it feels like we’re learning to take games seriously in all kinds of ways, but mostly from the side of artistic expression, since that is seen as more mature than the pursuit of skill for its own sake. Which makes me sad. But, hey, baby steps, I suppose.