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Games! Girls! Onions!
by Whitney Hills on 09/11/13 03:10:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve worked on many projects with over a dozen different studios. None of the following content is meant to implicate any one in particular, and it is not a strictly linear narrative.

There’s been a lot of anger creeping into my corner of the internet:  Anger about the unequal or insensitive treatment of women and minorities, specifically within the game industry. 

As a woman working in games since 2007, I’ve felt hurt, discouraged, and isolated by various forms of discrimination. Most of it came from people who were in no way intending to be hurtful. Anger does not accurately describe my true feelings, and so I don’t feel angry.

Really, I don’t.

Story time!

Let’s say you’re a guy who’s just entered the game industry right out of college. People joke about you being all young and fresh-faced, but then after a couple of months they get tired of the joke, or some new blood moves in and you’re not the “young guy” any more.

Now let’s say you’re a woman who’s entered the game industry right out of college. People joke about you being all young and fresh-faced, and after a couple of months they still haven’t tired of the joke, and no other young women have been hired, so you’re still the “young girl.” Oftentimes you’re the only woman in a packed conference room. Oftentimes you’re the only one under 40.

You work hard on several good projects, even though some people tell you or your boss that you’re “unqualified” to work on them because you’re “only 22.” You travel to work with developers. Sometimes when you meet a new colleague and extend your hand to shake theirs, they hug or kiss you instead, after having shaken the hands of your male colleagues.

At some of these studios, there are literally no other women in sight. There’s a women’s bathroom, but the light is always off, because you’re the only one who uses it, and you have to fumble for it in the dark. If it’s nighttime and you’re walking down the vacated hallway of a shared office building in an unfamiliar city to a bathroom only you use, you feel afraid you’ll be cornered.

Every year, you like to go to the Game Developers Conference because it’s interesting and energizing. You’re hanging out at GDC, conversing with a group of people, and you mention your love for Warcraft III. A male presenter looks at you incredulously and asks, in earnest: “You play games?”

Years pass. You’re constantly meeting new people and working on new teams. You’re not fresh out of college any more, in fact you’re reviewed well and ranked highly, but you’re still the only young woman in the room, and nobody’s tired of the joke yet. Now, if someone wants you out of their way, they say you’re “unqualified” because you’re “only 24.” Or 25. Or 26. When there’s a decision to be made about who from the company will go visit a developer to discuss a new project, you are told that they really need to send “a guy’s guy… Someone who can hold his liquor, drink a lot with the developers, and earn their trust.” Definitely not you.

You have a nice window office. One night, you’re working late. Most people have already gone home. A drunken coworker, also staying late, leans across the doorway of your nice window office and makes slurred conversation with you for about 20 minutes. He starts to make comments about your appearance. He’s still blocking your doorway. You feel afraid, because you don’t know how to get rid of him. Your heartbeat is fast; you glance at a big stupid corporate plaque on your desk and wonder if, in case of need, it could knock this guy unconscious. A friend drops by at the right time and the drunkard scuttles away, but after that, you feel anxious every time you work late.

You feel lonely, you feel like a novelty, you feel like a fraud. You feel like you don’t deserve a seat at the table. You’ve had long hair most of your life, but you cut it short in hopes that people will take you more seriously.

When you investigate new jobs, the men interviewing you ask how old you are. In one interview, the HR staff warn you that at their company, you’d better be able to “take a joke.”

You’ve met a lot of great people, and you have a lot of friends that you like to work with. Sometimes you don’t feel lonely or like a novelty, like when you’re sitting around the lunch table, cracking jokes with your coworkers. You feel happy and included. But when one of your coworkers makes a joke that is crude, even though it doesn’t offend you at all and you haven’t even had time to laugh, he turns to you and apologizes, because you are the only woman at the table and your delicate sensibilities must have been affronted. You feel lonely again. You feel like you’re not supposed to be at the table.

After that, when you meet new people in the game industry, sometimes you go out of your way to swear or say something off-color as quickly as possible, so your new male acquaintances will feel comfortable and won’t feel the need to walk on eggshells. You feel unnatural.

It’s been several years since you were fresh out of college, but still, every time you meet someone new, the odds are good that they’ll make a joke about your age, and even the people you’ve worked with for a while never seem to let it go. You beat yourself up for feeling hurt and defensive about it, because you know they don’t mean any harm – except for the occasional person who makes it clear that they do.

One day a coworker leaves an unsolicited, romantically-charged gift on your desk where everyone can see it. You didn’t ask for this, and you feel deeply embarrassed as you hide it away out of sight.

On a new project, a certain lead wants to be the only one allowed to communicate with the developer so he can “manage the relationship.” You’re on the team, but miss his memo and send a short, friendly email to the developer that says you’re looking forward to working with them. In response to this violation, the lead writes a very long email with an absolutely volcanic assessment of your personal failings – including your age – and emails it to your boss, the project’s producer, and two other coworkers that you like and respect. Your boss shows you the email, then sits with you and comforts you while you sob in an empty conference room for half an hour.

Over the years, other people’s words and actions pile onto your shoulders. You feel enormous pressure to pretend that nothing bothers you, because you don’t want to give others more power to hurt you, or upset people you care about or make them feel uncomfortable.

So you don’t say anything, you try to ignore it, and the result is an ever-present sense of isolation that chills your enthusiasm and makes you defensive.

You feel that the things that hurt you would never have happened if you weren’t female, and on a certain level, you feel that you deserve it.

 


Many of my female colleagues have similar stories. Some of these experiences made me feel angry when they happened. If similar things have happened to you, or to someone you work with or love, you’ve probably also felt angry.

The psychologist Thomas Gordon posited that anger is never a primary emotion. It is a secondary emotion, experienced after an earlier feeling. He says that anger is

 “a posture deliberately and consciously assumed … for the express purpose of blaming, punishing, or teaching a lesson. … Whenever you get angry at another you are putting on an act, playing a role to affect the other, to show him what he has done, teach him a lesson, try to convince him he shouldn’t do it again. I’m not suggesting that the anger isn’t real. It is very real and makes people boil or shake inside. I am suggesting that people make themselves angry.”


So I want to submit that what we ACTUALLY feel is fear, disappointment, isolation, sadness, resentment, and self-doubt. Anger is just the outermost layer, like an onion’s skin. You have to peel the first layer, and then the next, to find out what’s buried at the center.

When I see rants and accusations about who did what and why it’s very bad and why they need to change and stop being very bad, right now, I feel annoyed and frustrated because I know the only result is that everybody’s gonna feel just a little bit more uptight. How do you feel when someone assumes a posture of anger toward you? Does it make you more or less inclined to listen to them? 

Most people have good hearts and really DON’T want to offend. But when men feel terrified of offending the women they work with, it only contributes to our sense of isolation and inequality. And when particularly motivated and well-intentioned people try to champion my problems and become an Ally in the Great Struggle for Equality, they risk assuming there’s a problem when there is none, and reminding me to feel isolated and powerless in moments when I was just fine. They are often the ones who tense up at the lunch table first and express hope that I wasn’t offended by something. Their efforts make me uncomfortable, and I wish they’d simply listen.

So let’s everybody peel our onions, and name what we’re actually feeling, and what we’ve actually, personally experienced. It’s a much stronger position to start from, because you can’t debate feelings the way you can debate arguments or comic strips or abstract principles.

Peel your onion. And then talk.




Disclaimer, part II: Over the past six years, I’ve had plenty of good times. I’ve met kind, supportive, creative people, and made friendships that I treasure. Thanks to all of you.


Illustrations by @Lechooga. This post republished from my blog, Dead Reckon. I tweet as @whitney.


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Comments


Dane MacMahon
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The drunk at the door would make me very uncomfortable as well, and I am a man. In general my response to the article summary is: men in the industry need to work on treating other men as equals too.

In general I think corporate America is a rough place for people who can't perform exceptionally well at the actual job, the politics, the social engagements and in standing up for themselves. This is true across all genders and all races. Women do have further challenges, I would never say otherwise, but too many times this is treated as a female only issue when in reality it is an American social issue in general, rooted in cutthroat capitalism, competition and the basic human action of stepping on others to look out for number one.

As a bonus: ignorance of how your actions effect others, again a gender and race neutral human failing.

I am truly sorry for your negative experiences.

Kevin Fishburne
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From the mortgage industry to pizza joints it's been my experience that regardless of how good or bad your relationships appear at work once you walk out that door they're over. I liken being at work to acting in a play; you're not being you, but what you think you need to be at the time.

I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions where great lifelong friendships are formed on the job but it hasn't happened to me, sometimes much to my surprise. Not sure if this is just me or an actual phenomenon, but if the latter it may have some bearing on why people act differently at work then they would elsewhere. If the former, then I guess the games industry is just particularly chock full of assholes.

Diana Hsu
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But what about the mens?!

Dane MacMahon
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@ Diana

I have to assume quite a lot to try and grasp your retort's meaning. I'd rather you argued it out in more detail.

Ferruccio Cinquemani
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@ Diana
You know, this is the kind of stuff that helps absolutely no one. I hope at least you feel clever.

Christopher Enderle
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All this in-fighting between marginalized groups surely can't be good for the betterment of anyone's situation. Maybe accepting others with complaints (however relatively insignificant they may appear to you personally) and working together, would help improve life for everyone.

Adam Bishop
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You're right Dane, these are issues that affect both men and women. Men in the games industry constantly worry about being sexually assaulted late at night on the way to a washroom that only they use. And lots of men in the games industry are frightened when a woman shows up at their desk late at night making unwelcome advances and blocking their exit. And men are constantly asked at professional events if they actually play games. And oh man, how could we forget all those times that a producer refuses to send a man to go meet a developer to discuss a project because they really need a "woman's woman".

Oh, those silly women who think that they face issues that men don't!

Paul Marzagalli
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Adam, you should meet Diana. I think the two of you would really get along.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Adam

Good thing I said women face further challenges then!

Adam Bishop
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If we agree that women face additional, different challenges, then I think we should also be able to agree that it's reasonable and worthwhile to discuss those challenges without trying to reframe the discussion around men.

Scott Lavigne
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@Adam Yeah, if only he had made comments on specific situations and put in a disclaimer about how women do face other challenges in addition to those shared.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Adam

I didnt try to "reframe the discussion around men." I tried to point out that several of the issues were gender neutral and people in general need to work on being nicer to others at work.

No matter who you are or what gender you identify as you're going to be flooded with jerks at work who dismiss you, try to dominate you, ignore your opinion unless you fight for it, step on you to get ahead if you allow it and generally disrespect you. It's an insanely unfortunate reality that women face even further challenges in the work place due to sexist remarks or assumptions, trust me I hear my wife's stories almost every work day.

At the end of the day though American office politics suck for everyone, and I feel that's important to point out amidst the flood of articles like this one.

Christopher J
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When you are an OBVIOUS minority that’s being treated differently and unfairly, your mind doesn’t immediately go to “I bet people of the majority are dealing with the same issues”. That would be an unreasonable expectation. SO, instead of being dismissive and sarcastic…. I try understanding that everyone is different, has different life experiences and perceives the world in ways that I don’t. And (in this specific case) try to do my part to share my experiences as a male, to let women who are going through these types of situations know that they are not alone, and that there are ways to overcome it.

What’s sad is, at some point in American culture we have developed this foolish concept (if I/we ignore a problem that means there is no problem)

Edgar Onukwugha
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I've tended to feel similarly in regards to how corporate America has warped others' perceptions of worth. I feel it has become a terrible yet profitable aspect of American culture. You experience it wherever you go in this and (if I may argue) similar countries. Just look at someone sitting or standing across from you, and you automatically judge what status they hold in comparison with yourself. We compete with people you don't even know and may never see again!

Rather than waste our time fighting against people due to a fear of losing a sense of place and purpose in life, I propose we at least try to see one another as potential allies, not in the sense we will eventually team up against others who are weaker than us, but as a community willing to communicate with and help others out IF and when they need it.

I'm not trying to get anyone emotionally charged in this discussion; if I do, I won't apologize, as these are words from my heart; to recant them would be a determent to the overall utility of the community I wish to aid. I will, however, find ways to understand your disagreement and seek out ways of communicating my point in a way you can understand without any emotional harm to you.

Lance McKee
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@ Dane

I feel like you could compare the game industry to a road that's full of potholes, with this article being one person's attempt at helping to repair one of its biggest potholes. I feel like your comments are a lot like someone saying, "No wait, stop! Let's not repair this pothole - all of the potholes need to be repaired!" Wouldn't it be necessary to maybe focus on this particular pothole for a while and do what we can to repair it? Seems like that would be an important step in getting all of the potholes repaired.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Lance

I get your point, I really do. I'm not opposed to focus, as I wrote above, not even a little bit. My comments were additions to the article from my perspective, not replacements. My words were rooted in the fact I consider poor workplace behavior, ignorance and disrespect to be common workplace difficulties in our current culture for all employees.

I feel like this is an important point perhaps getting a little drowned out amidst the intense focus on sexism in gaming media this past year. This seemed like a good article to make the point on, since from my perspective a lot of the issues listed are gender neutral. You can disagree with me on that, of course.

Jess Groennebech
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@ Lance

I honestly don't see why we should favouritize one demographic over another in terms of fixing potholes. I find that idea more offensive then the actual gender related problems in this article because it now becomes _policy_ to favouritize demographics in the workspace rather then bad habits as it is now.

Granted the bad habits needs to go away but not by favouritizing any particular demographic and this is what infuriates me personally regarding this genderdebate in the techworld because it caters to the idea that women are weaker and apparently need additional rulesets to operate in the workspace.

That's not the case atleast not in my oppinion. The cultural background for women in the workspace needs to change, they need to be able to show that they are worth the money that is being spend on em and they need to be able to say no to a colleague. It's not a problem in the industry itself but the two things is being confused in the current debate.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Edgar

I agree with a lot of your words and appreciate them. The simple fact is we encourage stepping on others to achieve success, then act surprised when people judge, disrespect or feel superior to others. Often they use gender, race or other factors as part of their behavior, but even when they don't it's still a problem.

Thanks for the reply.

Lance McKee
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@ Dane and Jess:

Thanks for responding to my comment. I just wanted to clarify that I was suggesting that each problem deserves careful attention, not that this one deserves special attention over other problems. This article is about one specific issue within the culture, and while some of the details are shared between or are similar to the details of other issues, I feel that discussion on this page would be more productive if the focus were kept on this specific issue. I feel the same respect should be given to discussions on any other issue, just on page that is about that particular issue.

I hope I'm making sense!

Dane MacMahon
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@ Lance

Perfect sense, and I don't think we really disagree. I am glad a focus has been made on issues women in particular face in the industry. I just don't want the fact a lot of these issues are gender neutral to get lost in the shuffle.

Happy to have your input :)

Chris Hendricks
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One question, which was left unanswered (unless I missed a paragraph somewhere) – are you still working in games, or have you left?

I'm hoping you've stayed, and I'm hoping that your passion for games is still propelling you, but I was curious.

Todd Boyd
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It seems to be fairly rampant in all areas of the tech sector, as best I can tell.

Ines Beldi
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That was a great article, thanks for writing. I'm still relatively new to the industry and it's hard to figure out what's in my imagination ("I've heard it was hard for women") and what's real.

I'm not sure I agree with you on the "Sorry I hope you're not offended" / crude jokes thing : I don't appreciate crude jokes at the office. I think it's unappropriate to make dick jokes at lunch (or at any other time really), even if there's only one woman here. The truth is that it makes me feel embarrassed and isolated (If I even tried to make a boob joke they'd look at me like I'm a nut). I don't mind them and I can be really crude too when/if I'm out having a drink with colleagues, but NOT at the office. Please.

Finally, I really liked your point about anger, and peeling the onion, though it's usually difficult for me to get past that point (and it's not even anger, it's more like raging). Again, thanks for taking the time to write this piece!

Whitney Hills
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Thanks, Ines! I'm happy you don't agree about the crude jokes thing -- because that proves my point that each woman is unique and has her own bar for what bothers her and what doesn't. Some of the women I work with love to wear high heels, and others love beat-up sneakers. The same joke might be hilarious to one person and irritating to another, or it may just depend on the context.

Toby Grierson
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-

Maria Jayne
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@ Whitney "proves my point that each woman is unique and has her own bar for what bothers her and what doesn't"

Think you'll find that it's not just women who are unique.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Dan

Indeed. We all need to work on being more professional at work, no matter who is around you.

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz
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I think this is super important that a lot of people don't get: "I don't mind them and I can be really crude too when/if I'm out having a drink with colleagues, but NOT at the office. Please."

Thomas Happ
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There's definitely an overabundance of testosterone in this industry.
I wonder if there are figures showing whether there are more women in indie development than AAA?

scott anderson
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It doesn't really seem like it. It can be hard to gauge whose working in AAA because each studio generally has one or two figureheads that are spokespeople for projects that have hundreds of developers, and those figureheads are almost always men.

On the other hand it's the opposite in the indie scene. There are lots of prominent or vocal women that get media attention, but if you go to an indie event or look at the composition of teams making games it will be overwhelmingly male.

I think the male female ratio is roughly the same among indie and AAA developers, but this is purely anecdotal. I haven't seen any data on female to male ratio for full time indie developers.

RJ McManus
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This was a really nice read. I hope and believe that eventually, just through the sheer presence of women in the industry, it will get to the point where both genders are treated the same, but one might have to settle for the lesser of two evils in the meantime. While I can definitely see how being treated hyper-delicately might lead to feelings of isolation, that's probably much better than being treated insensitively or offensively, for the most part. Unfortunately it seems there's still a combination of both of those, but that will change with time. However, these matters can ultimately be quite subjective, and as such the objective is not just to accommodate women as a group, but also to accommodate them as individuals.

Guillermo Romero
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If it makes you feel better, a female and myself here at work are joking about our new startup idea, "FlavoredHookers.com", and we have the office laughing. IT'S ALL ABOUT PROGRESS PEOPLE!

Patrick Miller
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Doesn't make me feel any better!

James Yee
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Honestly I want to know where all these fools are. Now I'm not in game design, I'm in the space industry which is also a very male dominated field, but I am constantly surprised at these stories because these are things I'd NEVER do to a woman, let alone at work! O.O

I mean I know my mother raised me in a certain way but I don't know of any coworker or classmates who would do some of the stuff in this article or in others. Maybe it's being in the boonies? Small town America and all that? It's not that I'm not in a corporate culture as I work for a big corporation as well as a government one. The "too young" comments are extra curious to me as that makes no sense what so ever...

Kyle McBain
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How old are you? I am in the automotive industry and I get that all the time about my age. I'm new to the environment and have a young face so everyone is apprehensive when it comes to allowing involvement on my end, but then they get to know me and what I am capable of and it works out. But that apprehension has definitely screwed me on oppurtunity for growth and I feel discriminated against.

Guillermo Romero
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This story was posted on Kotaku. Oh the comments there. Great stuff.

Tatham Johnson
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Thank you for your story Ines. It was well-written and thought-provoking.
I realise I myself may well have singled women out in a group situation like your colleague did after making the joke, and I understand now how it's just another case of unfairly treating someone differently because of their gender.
Change has to start from within, so thanks for showing me somewhere I need to change.

Christopher J
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First let me say, the writing in this article is awesome and I hope to convey my thoughts as well as you did! Second that I’ve been in the industry for about 12 years.

This article made me think of a few things, based off of who I am and what I’ve seen.

The video game industry is flooded and run by socially awkward “nerds” that really don’t understand how to interact with people let alone women and even worse, an attractive woman. (This is a gross over simplification but not far from the truth)

There are also the issues Dane MacMahon stated above, which I 100% agree with… he said it better then I can so I’ll leave it at that.

From a mans perspective (speaking for myself) when interacting with a co worker that I find attractive, or that I know others might find attractive… It’s sometimes hard to be myself for fear that I may say or do something stupid that could get me fired. I am a flirt by nature so I have to go out of my way to not be like that at work… There is also the fact that I’m a down to earth kind of guy who’s never had issues with getting a date, and I don’t feel insecure at all when it comes to women, I think this can come across in a very bad way at work. So when at work, around someone I think is attractive, I tend to avoid eye contact… or even have conversations that are not work related. I’m sure I come across as awkward or weird to some women. It sucks, and I know I’m the cause of the awkwardness. But for me it’s better to be safe than sorry. Maybe I have some issues, but I’m just being honest.

With that said… Drunkards and Overly aggressive gestures such as gifts should not be tolerated at all in the work place. And you shouldn't have to deal with that or feel helpless. Just remember that you ARE NOT helpless and DO NOT have to deal with that, no matter how much the try to make you feel isolated. Those are coward control tactics used by weak people, and it sucks to hear that you or any one has to deal with that.

With that said, I understand what it’s like to feel alone. I’m a fair skinned mixed race (black and white) dude that was raised in southern black American culture. I break my back at work but even though I am a project lead, I get excluded from meetings, ignored… yet everyone says I’m a strong solid performer who simply gets things done. I often wonder if I’m a “star performer” why do I feel like I get treated as less then equal. I feel I have to work 3 times harder for equal pay. Do everything I can to be the best at what I do. Then the insecurities set in… maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I should quit.. NO! I’ll just work harder, smarter, faster, and ensure that there is a paper trail… still nothing changes. But deep down in the back of my mind I wonder if it’s because of “relate ability issues”. Is it because I look or talk a certain way… but I try not to go there because that’s a “cop out”. So I buckle down and start to work even harder… the cycle continues. And I’m beyond tired; it’s like sprinting in water.

I don’t know what to do or how to fix it. But I've promised myself that I will not let anyone make me feel inadequate anymore. I know that I belong where ever I choose to work. And I won’t allow anyone to isolate me no matter how hard they might try.

These thoughts are my own, they are just how I perceive the world. Here's to hoping that the industry becomes more aware of the benefits of making people feel "accepted". I’ll do my best to make a difference.

Kyle McBain
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I appreciate what you are saying and am sorry to hear that there is a sense of inequality between you and your co-workers but I have to say "better to be safe than sorry" is a "coward tactic".

Also, sometimes if you are good at what you do management will hold you back because...

A. They are afraid of you and

B. They need someone where you are who knows what's up. You are valuble to them.

It's both a compliment and a curse. If the company can't offer you growth though you should probably voice that or go somewhere else.

Christian Philippe Guay
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I'm sure most women have a hard time in the video games industry right now. It is still very young and, personally, it feels a lot like high school.

Most of us have that concept that in order to make games we have to join a studio, but we all have different needs and there are other alternatives.

One of those alternatives is obviously to create your own studio and surround yourself only with people that make you feel right at home (equal). I took that path myself and it is definitely not the easiest one (by far), but it felt like the right thing to do.

What would you need Whitney to feel right at home?

ken adams
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very good article, i feel identified with a lot of that.

I'm a man with big social disorders and difficulties to behave in social scenarios, I'm mostly tense with most of the people and more if the people is pretending to be frat boys or acting like the cool guys, with that kind of people i immediately feel like a stranger or an outcast, and i experience the same kind of feelings you describe fear, disappointment, isolation, sadness, resentment, and self-doubt which can lead to depression

sadly i have witnessed the same kind of situation in all the fields not only game dev, its the fear of feeling vulnerable and accepting what they really are and be good with that so you need to behave in a certain way to try to be treated in a decent way.

im kind of shocked and disappointed that even in an industry ran by nerds and geeks which is a social group that purposely disrupts social standards to create a less hostile environment to bond with each other more freely with less prejudice, the ancient old cliche that all men must be strong, insensitive and vulgar and that all women must be fragile, unstable and need to be treated with care still remains

i love this nerd geek culture as a place to live in peace and share our passions without of worrying to be attacked because they are not cool enough or socially acceptable, not a place like any other where i have to prove if i am man enough to do certain task.

just as you said, peel your onions

Jason Wilson
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I am male s/w engineer, not in the game industry, but I've worked professionally for 14 years now. Work has put me in about seven different office settings. The age and gender gaps are significant (20-30 years, 5:1 or worse men-to-women). Most of my friends work in other industries, but it's all the same. What you describe can't be avoided. It's nature.

A young woman in that setting is dramatically more attractive to the older, perhaps married men in the office. Why? 1) She is young and 2) she is not his wife. That is the truth. You would think a supermodel joined to ranks. I've seen it first hand a few dozen times and through stories from friends in finance.

A female friend at a previous job was told several things that I overheard and would deem inappropriate. Not that I'm a saint, by any means, but I don't bother at work. When you mentioned the guy hugging you and kissing you goodbye instead of shaking your hand, it made me think back -- I used to sarcastically shake my friends hand goodbye at Christmas parties every year.

About the men pointing out your age, that's to be expected. To them, 22...25...27...five years is a drop in the bucket. I caught similar comments coming up, but maybe not with the same frequency. The amount of social interaction in the office governs how many of those bad-yet-harmless jokes you'll hear. Those guys don't know what else to say and they are trying to be nice or just want to talk to the "young girl."

If someone says something that may be out of line, someone is going to apologize. No one wants you going to HR...and they may genuinely not want to offend. At my last job, the lab had a large bullpen area and at times we worked rotating shifts. The guys would get comfortable and start to talk and joke. Over the wall were cubicles, and sometimes a female engineer would slip unnoticed. One such female engineer would liked to listen to the guys talk, so she was discreet when she entered. The lab manager had a large sign to put up whenever a female was in the area, so the men would alter their behavior.

I don't know if that gives you any further insight, but it's the s/w industry from a man's point of view. Good luck and hopefully your experiences improve.

Kristen Russell
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Copying and pasting my Kotaku reply, and adding some additional notes. The onion I'm peeling is not a negative one:

I fear that an article like this will discourage young women from entering the games industry, and that's a shame, as I find it empowering to be a female in a male-dominated industry. Here's my personal experience: LucasArts Entertainment Company - my dream job at the time - hired me fresh out of college. I was the youngest there by atleast three years, and most employees were over 30. I started as an entry-level texture artist, and my art director groomed me to be a cinematic lead in the first two years. It was tremendously exciting to see the confidence the team had in me. We also had a large amount of women in the studio - I believe around 35%! I then was hired by Electronic Arts, who gave me a senior title despite only 5 years at LucasArts. [Side note: even while working past midnight at Electronic Arts, I never felt 'unsafe' going to the bathroom. I don't recall walking into dark bathrooms.] Crystal Dynamics, my third job, had the smallest proportion of women at any studio I've worked at, but there still were about 10 of us, maybe more, and we were all one big family; never treated differently or sexually harrassed. That studio fostered such creativity! I'm at my fourth company now, where women are in leadership roles and appreciated for raw talent. In fact, a colleague of mine once described our company as a 'protective bubble' for women. I've been in the industry for sixteen+ years now, love going to talks at GDC - I realize we are the minority, but I never have doubted my skills compared to men. The high point of GDC is the Women In Gaming lunch: every year I walk out of it feeling proud. I also am excited to see young female students who are interested in making games. I love when people defy the norm and pursue their dreams.

Each person has a different experience. Maybe this industry isn't for everyone, but most females I know have a ton of passion for game development! This shows in our work, so it's easy to earn respect. My message to prospective female game developers is: please ask around before assuming this is how the industry is!

Closing statement: if you're an attractive female, guys/ coworkers might develop crushes on you. It's normal. Just have boundaries and you'll be fine. :)

Ben Lippincott
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This is the kind of thing that makes me far more comfortable around women who work in games. The above article jumps from saying to treat women as equals, yet keep them safe from discomfort, yet give the illusion it isn't there. Include them in the group, don't homogenize the group, don't have anyone in said group hit on her unless telepathic communications from Mars say that's okay, and tell off color jokes that do not make offense. Have rules at the office everyone should follow, but if said rules are violate, don't make anyone cry.

It's more pressure to integrate someone who wants twelve things all at the same time that all contradict each other. So why not simply hire them less often to make exceptions easier on the whole? Well, now you're pushing women awway from the industry. Really can't win here, can we?

Then I read sane stuff like yours and I know I'm wrong.

Kristen Russell
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Thanks, Ben. It might just be due to personalities. Some of my female friends in the industry have always been comfortable around guys. We love the crude jokes! Sometimes we're even cruder than they are. We find the casual environment fun - it's why we don't work in an accounting office!! The girls I know are confident, type-A, go-getters... but maybe that comes with experience. I *do* notice that the guys I work with are respectful of who they can and cannot joke around with. I appreciate that. And I honestly think if a problem arose, and the offender was spoken to, he'd respect the girl's wishes. Immediately. People can't read minds.

While I draw the line at sexual harrassment, anger, and disrespect - in ANY industry - I think we're missing an important point here. And maybe this is the kind of old-school, outdated, corporate advice that I grew up hearing... but we're here to DO A JOB. Our company is paying us to make money for them. If we have a circle of close friends at work, if we're accepted, that's simply a bonus!

Jarod Smiley
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Man...I wish my work was filled with cool people like you -_-

I do work in boring/uptight accounting offices btw--for the state of NJ!!! but, to be fair, the uptight part is a bit exaggerated. There aren't any "drunk Wednesdays" but people aren't afraid to talk to each other either.

smh...nowhere near as fun as an entertainment development center! although dev blog stories about crunch months scare me.

Business office setting it's relatively stress free however when working for non-profit/state/government corps. It's fairly easy and I get to simply enjoy all the creative things people like you do in the industry from a consumer's perspective which I've been told is very different from a person who makes entertainment software for a living. We all have our roles.

Kyle McBain
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Thank you so much for posting this reply. I don't have direct expereince so I refrained from it myself, but my thought has always been if you are true to your work and are an assertive confident person male or female, you shouldn't have to deal with these types of issues.

Chris Clogg
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Thanks for the good read. Also good comments to read here too :)

I've personally only been working as a contractor and as part of a 2 man game-team, so I haven't really been in larger settings to witness this. Kind of a shame it's still going on :/

Ps, not on topic, but after seeing you mention War3, I gotta say that game has been both awesome and bad for me and my partner's indie game dev. We basically LAN custom maps almost every time we have breaks, but then get addicted and it slows our work pace lol. Our custom map folders have gotten insanely huge now haha.

Sergio Rosa
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I like these kinds of articles. My only problem is, living in a different country with a very different culture, it makes it somewhat difficult for me to relate to certain situations because (based on what I read) men and women here behave very differently (not "better," just different) :-/

Makes me wonder if people will think I am weird or some sort of crazy person if I attend a gaming event one day and I do something that's considered rude over there, but that's perfectly normal for people here.

Ben Lippincott
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If you're at a game convention we already should know you're weird, irrespective of your actions.

Tony Sundell
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I think having a good administration that leads by example would be essential here. And it doesn't go just for gender issues but all type of personalities to be accepted within the company. Personally I think gender shouldn't be defining trait on person any more than what color t-shirt he/she (<- curious note in Finnish language there's no he/she word, just single word for both) happens to be wearing.

Jean Christophe CAMBOURNAC
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Men and women are different in many ways, for me it's still a defining trait. But I don't consider this a problem and I agree on the fact that it shouldn't be a problem in a video games company. Or in any company.

Heliora Prime
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Great read,

I think you have the same, or even worse problems in the army. Also a dude oriented workspace.
People should look more at skill. If a young women, or young man, is at a certain convention for the skilled. Than shouldn't that person automatically get the respect that others also get?
I don't have a lot of experience working at a game company, and have no idea how it is in America.
Hopefully it'll get better, you and the others are there to make great games. Not make each other feel uncomfortable.

Randy Angle
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While my career in games (table-top and video) goes back about 33 years, for 12 of those early years I was gainfully employed outside of the actual games industry and only made games 'for fun' and extra income. I was indie before it was cool. I worked as an instructor/engineer/project manager/software designer and learned a lot about how to actually behave in an office environment and how the 'real world' works. I worked with women. Breaking into 'real' games was like going back to an 'Animal House' college.

In many tech companies and, more than it should be, game companies, an environment of 'frat house rules’ exists that promotes a 'good ole boys' club mentality that is frankly more dysfunctional and immature, than is healthy. These companies also tend to promote bad work habits, wearing overtime like a badge of courage instead of realizing it is a horrible lack of proper management. There exists a network effect that promotes from friends and doesn't actually consider merit, experience, or qualification. I can walk into most any game studio, even if I'm not interviewing, and as a game designer assess the 'unwritten rules' of this game space fairly quickly. Do these people really know what they are doing? Have they ever been trained for their jobs? You can smell the fear that someone will notice they aren’t qualified. I'm old, by game industry standards, and with over 80 games on my credits list there isn't much I can't do - yet I can walk into a company and notice that when even senior management isn't over 30-years old, there is something wrong. If 10,000 hours makes you an expert, and that is about 5 years, I have over 6x ranks in expert – but for many that means very little. It hardly surprises me that women are finding this environment unfulfilling and believe they do have reason to be angry. I’m angry - many of my friends are leaving the game industry because they are angry too.

I think that as professionals when we recognize that these companies are dysfunctional we should steer clear and work toward creating better studios, places were gender, gender preference, color, religion, cultural background and any other kind of bias are not part of it. As a descendant of early Dutch settlers in America, I take tolerance, brotherhood (or sisterhood) and the equal rights our ancestors fought for as serious stuff. I respect people for their accomplishments and give most folks more credit than they might rightfully deserve. I want to see the good in people. We make games, and the best games are made in an environment that nurtures innovation, creativity and values people’s contributions. I want people to take creative risks, to learn and grow – not spend their days playing cover-your-ass and dodging real work.

I certainly don’t want to put on a suit and tie to go to work – my hi-tops, cargo shorts and baseball cap don’t really go well with ties – but I do think we can improve the environment by looking at companies like Pixar, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter and learning a few things about a well-integrated and creative infrastructure.

In a slightly different topic, I actually think the tide of ‘Big Business’ in games is turning and with the growing number of micro-studios and indies who actually make great, and profitable, games the corporate days are numbered. Maybe working for idiots won’t be a problem when you work for yourself and your friends and your investors are your happy customers.

Pamela Charlebois
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Thank you Whitney for sharing your thoughts.

I've been fortunate early on in my career to have had the best designer guys to work with. It was very intimidating working with guys who are experts on shooter games and I get to design levels with them. They were patient and offered me great advice to let me learn from them.

There are rough times, like when I was 5-6 months pregnant and had to work overtime on a Saturday. I took the Monday off to re-coup, and got yelled at for doing so as 'we don't do that', giving people time off-- it's expected that you work the (unpaid) overtime. I don't know how the industry itself can maintain to have healthy employees with expected unpaid overtime for long periods of time.

I've been in the industry since 2006, and there are really good times and some rough times. I do feel sometimes that it feels like high school; like some guys just don't grow out of the crude jokes but I've gotten used to them. There are few women, but the women that I've worked with and know are passionate about games and work hard to work on what they love.

I just hope the industry grows up to avoid churn of talented people who want to work on games they love but want to do so in a great environment and also live a healthy life.

To the women entering this industry-- be proud of your work, confident, and your great work will earn you respect from everyone you work with in this industry.

Maria Jayne
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You know I've read a lot of these types of articles over the past year, how women are victims and it's terrible how they feel isolated in the industry.

Why don't women ever write anything positive about their male colleagues? Why are we always highlighting the negative experiences? Isn't that precisely how you scare more women away from the industry?

There are assholes everywhere, they aren't exclusive to any industry and they certainly aren't exclusive to the male gender. Instead of relaying every bad experience just once, I would like to see a woman talking about her good experiences. About her male colleagues that she enjoys working with, that respect her opinion or value her input.

Men are not all the same and they certainly have plenty of negative work place experiences too.

Sean Hayden
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There are already a few positive anecdotes in these very comments.

Kyle McBain
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Because being positive in the workplace is what a person is suppose to do. We shouldn't have to praise behavior that is expected.

Katy Smith
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Oh god, the hugging thing! This is something I do not get. Who thinks it's a good idea to hug a total stranger in a business situation?! This has happened to me more times than I can count, but there was this one time at E3 I finally had to say "stop touching me!" My boss gave me this look that was very much saying I was in the wrong in that situation. grrr!

And these guys were all Americans from California. Please don't try to pull the "in some countries, this is expected!" argument here.

Jarod Smiley
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Hugging male strangers? No...

Hugging female strangers? Sure...Women smell like fruit, I like hugging them'-)

seriously though, I hug people I feel comfortable with, I've never heard of that as some formal greeting anywhere in the U.S

Katy Smith
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I can guarantee you that after running a booth for 12 hours and walking both convention centers twice, I most certainly did not smell like fruit ;)

Victor Romero
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I had a similar reaction about the hugging anecdote. It's just weird to get that up close and personal with a stranger in a professional setting.

Dane MacMahon
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This is a social thing. It's weird in North America but I can tell you in other parts of the world it can be as normal as as a handshake is here. The amount of male lips on my cheeks and male arms around me I had in my European years was insane. You just have to go with it.

Assuming the person is not a local, anyway.

Katy Smith
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Yes, I know. Which is why I specifically pointed out that they were American men in the first post.

Dane MacMahon
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Sorry I somehow missed that. My mistake.

Perhaps there are geographical or social differences within America more than we think, though. I have had some awkward hugs before, or a strong pat on the back with a lingering arm on the shoulder. It can be very awkward for everyone involved, I agree.

I don't really prescribe ill intent to it though, to be honest. Seems more like social awkwardness to me.

Diana Hsu
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It's truly astonishing the lengths some will go to in order to explain away inappropriate behavior. It's inappropriate for those men to have hugged you in a business situation and I'm glad you spoke up.

Scott Lavigne
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I'd rather participants in the argument be impartial and consider all possibilities before jumping to conclusions instead of swinging wildly between sensationalized extremes before the pendulum loses momentum and we finally settle on center.

Katy Smith
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@ Diana - Thanks :) Fortunately, I don't have a problem speaking up.

@ Dane - I don't prescribe it to ill intent, and that's the problem. Who do you hug? You hug your close family, close friends, significant others. You don't hug people you've never met. Why is it that my male colleagues get a handshake and I'm forced into a hug? That's not appropriate. I'm sure these guys were just trying to be friendly, but why didn't they hug everyone? Why just me? It has to do with me being a woman, and in business greetings, they should have shook my hand just like they did my boss and the other two men I was with. I'm certainly not implying these guys are terrible and are probable pillagers and rapists. But it's this kind of subtle, unconscious sexism that is a huge issue. In that instance, that hug said "you are different and I am going to treat you differently", and that's not right.

@ Scott - I'm not sure what you mean. Can you clarify?

Jarod Smiley
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@ Katy yup yup...You're probably just pretty and they wanted to get closer to you. It is rather unconscious (sometimes) to give them a little slack, but if you aren't a walking ego-drama case, it still is a pretty bold move for anyone not related to you in some way.

I would have gave them the awkward "no response" with your hands kept at your side and looked at each of them when they let go like "ummm..plz don't do that again, kbye!"

Dane MacMahon
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@ Katy

We 99% agree, though I do see treating women differently as harmless social tendency in certain cases. Opening doors for example, or a curtsy instead of a bow. Usually in very formal situations, where those old traditions feel more at home as an affectation rather than a social policy.

Anyway, yes, the hugging thing is weird.

Kyle McBain
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Why would you claim conversation regarding what's possible for a topic such as this to be even deemed appropriate. Anything is possible. I could slap a person in the face with a ham sandwich when I meet them. Really I could. Should we converse on this as well? It is possible.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Diana

No one said it wasn't inappropriate. I just like looking for explanations, rather than labeling as evil and raging.

Kyle McBain
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@Scott*

mariana delbue
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Whitney:

welcome to the 1970's 'any workplace' if you were a woman!

You may not know it because maybe your mom didn't have a high-profile job outside the home, but that is how it was all over when women started to work outside their traditional teacher or nurse roles.

I know: my grandma was a suffragette in pre-WWI Europe, my mom was a doctor in 1950s Argentina, I'm a mathematician who started working in IT in the 60s, (and I know that my career would have been a lot more successful if I'd been male)...

However, I do know two things: 1. I really did enjoy my work life; and 2. I had it a lot better than mom and grandma, and my daughter is having a lot better time than I did.

So take courage: it takes one or two generations to heal, as soon as men learn that you can do the job well and you prove how useful the 'female insight' can be, the problem will go away, and another industry will have gotten over the inequality thing.

As a last comment, this sign was making the rounds of our 'feminist circles' in the mid-70s, when I was working at the World Bank in Washington, DC: "Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men; Fortunately, that's not difficult".

Thank you for a wonderfully written article, I really made contact with it

Mariana

Lance McKee
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"Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men; Fortunately, that's not difficult".

That's awesome. Personally I've always had a hard time viewing males and females as equal. I could go on for days listing the ways women amaze me, while I probably couldn't give you a single example of a unique quality that men possess that is of any importance in my opinion. As a result, the only sense I can ever make of sexism towards women is that maybe men feel they have to put women down to make themselves feel less pointless or something.

Jarod Smiley
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@Lance what?? I don't even....smh

Seriously, I love women, life without them would be impossible and boring, and just...meh I don't even want to think about it.

But don't you think you're going above and beyond with the "men aren't good for anything" line of reasoning? There's bad people out there, regardless of sex and simply because your personal experience has that ratio adding up to more men than women is a reflection of nothing but your own personal experiences.

Men and women balance each other out and both have things they excel at easier than there counterparts. It's why most couples are male/female, its how babies get made'-)

A bit off-topic I guess, but come'on this men=dumb/inferior stuff is just kinda offensive, not all men are "Inferior apes" as your tone seems to imply lol...But I'm sorry if that's all you have around you..

Lance McKee
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@ Jarod

"...simply because your personal experience has that ratio adding up to more men than women is a reflection of nothing but your own personal experiences. "

That is exactly what I was trying to say, I'm just not great at saying things clearly! Thanks for the reply, and I'm very sorry for offending you and anyone else who read that. I only meant to share my very humble two cents in case it somehow helped people in figuring out how to solve the issues being discussed. I do think there's very little chance of it being helpful, because my opinions are usually a bit on the crazy side, but I thought I'd at least try and help! Again, sorry it didn't sound the way I'd meant it to.

Jarod Smiley
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@ Lance

No prob buddy...that's what discussions are about. We're here to understand one another, and you have contributed significantly to the dicussion, don't sell yourself short.

'-)

Lance McKee
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Thanks!

Genna Habibipour
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Whitney, one thing that concerns me quite a bit that's unique in your post is how often "age" comes up. I'm not sure where you are interviewing, but it is illegal to ask someone their age in an interview in the US (with the exception of confirming that you are legally old enough to work, and for certain permits and licensing). You can always decline to answer that question (and a few other questions), especially if you think it will hurt your credibility. If someone accidentally asks, I turn it into a joke of "You never ask a lady how old she is"- and the point is usually taken without being offensive or ruining the interview. I know quite a few men that also refuse to reveal their age, because they would run into the same exact problems with ageism despite their position and aptitude.

Just because games is a younger industry and "works a little differently" doesn't invalidate your employment rights or exempt a company from the law. Unfortunately, I've been in situations where I've been more knowledgeable of my rights than the HR people I'm working with, even though I'm 'just an animator'. Your best defense here is knowing your rights and reminding people that your ability and competence should only be judged by your performance, and nothing else.

Stanley de Bruyn
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Sometime estimate some people there age, some could be much older or younger then they look. For male and female. So if you look a decade younger. You might have this problem.

Kyle McBain
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I do agree. There is a certain degree of competence and wisdom that comes with age though. I am discriminated against a lot because I am young, but I still have a high degree of respect for people that have been at the company longer than I have been alive. Obviously they know some things that I do not about the industry and just life in general.

Also, Louis C.K. is awesome. Check out this joke.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXcWeFn-YYM

Craig Dolphin
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I enjoyed the article but am sad about many of the stories. I think the word professionalism is too abstract to offer as a solution. My own view is that we should all make it a priority to act towards each other with kindness wherever possible. Both as the person who is upsetting others, and as the person who is upset by others when the hurt is not intentional. Respect, self awareness, and forgiveness are all required to avoid and survive social mistakes.

But if the offense is deliberate and knowing, then it's time to bring in HR, the boss, or find another workplace.

Harry Fields
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I love working with anyone who is competent and professional, regardless of their anatomy or private life preferences. To those who refuse to grow up to some extent once they get out of school: have fun when your name comes up in the hat for that next round of layoffs. Management really doesn't want to deal with liability minefield you create with your juvenile behavior. So knock it off in the workplace and save it for Friday night at the pub.

Jacob Lovell
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I think the big thing here is we need to accept that Women like, know , and make Video Games! The only real difference between men and women is there take on design. Different Experiences creates Different Ideas. Just like any person they are a valuable resource to the evolution of video games and should be treated as such! End of Story.

Whitney Hills
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Some thoughtful comments here. A couple general thoughts:

- Everyone's experience is unique, and I'm glad for the women who have spoken up about their own experiences. That was pretty much my only directive in the article: Share what you've felt, be it negative or positive.

- Emotions are universal, which is the main reason I chose to focus on them so heavily. Feeling lonely, isolated, resentful, or whatever is certainly not limited to women and minorities.

- The poor lighting conditions were typically encountered while working temporarily at an offsite studio and not at the main office, so it wasn't practical to request improvements.

- Women are rarely encouraged to confront issues of discrimination directly -- we're told to go to management or HR and have someone else solve our problem from the top down. I've done this in response to a few of the above situations, but in retrospect, it's an ineffective path of action. It removes responsibility and agency from the offended party, and the offender usually gets a diluted and threatening message that simply commands them to stop doing whatever it was they did. NOBODY walks away from this situation feeling good.

I proposed one alternative method to dealing with conflicts on my blog. The offended party is responsible for communicating their problem assertively to the one who caused it. You can read it here: http://www.dead-reckon.com/post/60762312852/games-girls-onions#co
mment-1038957357

The method of communication described there is one that I wish I'd learned much earlier in my career.

- Other widespread fixes, in addition to assertive communication skills, would be: time, patience, and ensuring a safe path for younger generations of women to work in tech. For myself and for the other women who have written or tweeted me to say they've shared these experiences, there's usually a "prequel" story that begins in adolescence, when we find ourselves the only girl in CS class or the only girl at the LAN party.

Harry Fields
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While working it out person to person is perhaps an ideal situation, it's important that management/HR is informed so there is a paper trail. That way, if the doofus does not correct their actions, the employer is legally are responsible for putting an end to the hostile work environment ASAP. Now, it could be great if you could tell the offending party directly the first time they cross the line that they have done so and if they don't stop immediately, you'll have to put the matter in Management/HR's hands. But I imagine many people confronted in that capacity will only become more of a problem. But that's just my take on it.

Dane MacMahon
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Great follow-up thoughts here. Enjoyed reading them.

My wife is a nurse and faces a lot of sexism at work not only from patients but from doctors. Groping, inappropriate nick-names or greetings, talking down and general disrespect with a sexist flavor seem to occur almost daily. You can't really complain about patients to management either, it's just not practical nor is there anything to be done unless it is serious assault (and even then, action can be limited depending on the patient).

When I talk to her about articles like this she really focuses on your blog's point, learning to be assertive and professionally confrontational with the person who causes the issue. It took her years and I feel like women are not taught this enough during adolescence or college, for various reasons. The massive socializing we inflict on girls from almost day one to be passive, sexy, demure and seductive all at the same time is a total mind-fuck, pardon my language.

We need to work from the ground up on this stuff, frankly. And on human understanding in general. Prioritizing acceptance over competition would be a great start, but it feels impossible.

Jarod Smiley
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In a nation priding itself on material wealth and status and the capitlist way, I think it maybe impossible, and harder for women/minorities for a while to come.

But, we can focus on ourselves and our circles. For example, I don't use profane language anymore regardless of who I'm aroud. My dirty jokes, aren't dirty. Handshakes extend to everyone regardless of sex. I do still hold the door for women and make a habit of looking attractive women in there face (or at least at the floor if there super attractive lol). But it's rough for women, who often times are much brighter than the roles filled by men, but have to work so much harder to get there.

I had to literally teach my wife everything about standing up for herself in the workplace. Her father thought being the "bread winner" was all there way to being a dad, and she consequently developed a very passive attitude often putting other's people's feelings before her own. It's caused a few hiccups in our marriage even and man, sometimes, it's really hard for me not to want to strangle her father for the poor job he's done -_-

Very great article though, has inspired of lot of people to share experiences and knowledge, and I wish everyone here would start the same company so we could all work together!

Very nice community gamasutra has got here... RESPECT

Jarod Smiley
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@ Whitney

Nice points...I wish more people thought like you tbh, but unfortunately in my office experience HR/Management is the first choice all the time. I'd like to share an experience. I once worked with a secretary who was somewhat overly friendly to anyone who came into the office. She assumed it was part of her job to make everyone comfortable, but the majority of the office felt it was exaggerated and borderline invasive. Now, we had a pretty frank way of speaking to each other, often using slang/profane language in our private break sessions. So one day I joke around and tease her about her flirty nature with the employees that came in. She responded in kind, and laughed. All good right? No, few weeks later I get called into the HR office asking if I've ever used the world cocktease.

Mind you, this is purely a slang word for "flirt" where I'm from, and nothing else is implied. For some reason, one of the other co-workers, encouraged her to go to HR instead of approach me because it was offensive. Even when she tried to say, he hasn't used that word again, I don't want him to get in trouble, she was told she had to put it in writing. So here I am, completely shocked that I even offended her, and more shocked she didn't just tell me, "I don't like that word." as I would have immediately apologized. Her use of the word I guess implied something more than flirt, and she took offense, when all I meant was flirt, which I know she was not offended by. It almost completely ruined our friendship, as there have been plenty of times where she has said, inappropriate things to me, or even touched me inappropriately, and I would never dare of going to HR to put her job status in jeopardy.

But, I did look past it a bit and discovered it was more of the other co-workers influence than anything, and she apologized to me later for not talking to me first. It does however, just goes to show how the office setting is so uptight now because of the power women have with sexual issues. I know, this comes from years of women having no power, but it's also not fair to the "good guys" who would never purposely offend anyone, and rarely do. This could have easily been solved with a simple conversation. She would have discovered what I actually meant by "cocktease", and not have been offended, I would have found out that word is a bit too derogatory for the office and some women will be offended, and everything would have been peachy. So today, I just make sure I speak the same whether I'm at home/work/office whatever, and just put away dirty speech completely. It's always nice to loosen up, but I find that slang/profanity really don't do anyone any good, so I strive to just eliminate them. I have to say, I've had much more success this way.

Tks for reading...
Mr. Smiley

Lance McKee
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There are already a ton of comments here so I don't know if this will even get seen, but for what it's worth I wanted to say thanks for writing such a great article.

As stupid as this might sound, I think things like this are very useful for helping men like me identify which things are creating a stressful environment for everyone else. It's very frustrating to go through life observing some of the stupid things that men like me do and say, and to not be able to clearly figure out which of the things I do and say are like those that I'm observing from those other men. I personally end up trying (and failing, usually) to just avoid socializing in general to spare everyone else the unpleasantness, but that usually creates its own unpleasantness because now there's just some creepy guy that doesn't talk to anyone.

My point is, I can only try to imagine how awful it can be for people to have to deal with people like me, and I can assure you that it's pretty awful having to go through life knowing that you're making life awful for everyone else while only ever wanting to do the opposite. So thank you so much for stuff like this that helps to get the problem a little closer to being hopefully a little bit less of a problem!

Kris Ligman
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Eric Robertson
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Good article. Thanks for sharing on such a difficult subject. I found a great deal of male/female PvP in the army in many different ways, all of which unhelpful in establishing mutual respect. The most common was male soldier A, not allowing female soldier B, the more dangerous job (like the exposed gunner on the top of the gun truck, especially on a dangerous mission). This form of chivalry, which sounds great in a movie, is also a form of sexual harassment, and very difficult to prevent.

What can we do to fix it? I think strong leadership/management is critical. If the leaders treat the females like equals in front of the subordinates, the more likelihood they will be treated equally when the leader is not present.

Its not fair for the female employee to have to excuse/tolerate anything, the senior guy/girl nearby needs to nip it in the bud.

If I was a woman or minority, and I wanted to work in any industry and be treated fairly, I would prioritize the quality of the manager's leadership style.

Jess Groennebech
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This form of chivalry, which sounds great in a movie, is also a form of sexual harassment, and very difficult to prevent.

It also saves lives, see israelian research on the matter so she is welcome to complain and hell even you are welcome to complain but it save lifes, I would even imagine after the doctrines from somalia have been fully implemented in most western forces that it will save even more lives.

Eric Robertson
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I agree a female soldier, by taking upon a great risk of potentially dying in battle, is very courageous.

Dan the gaming Guy
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Maybe you feel like an outsider because you've only been in the business 6 years. I've been in it 13 years and surrounded by people still my senior.

"Do you play games" is an honest question depending on what game you're talking about. I don't know many girls that play Call of Duty compared to guys for example.

You're been hit on in an environment where you say its 90% male... I think that would happen in any business for either gender if you're attractive (but it should not be imposing or inappropriate, that would be not be okay).

I would also feel its safe to say that I'm sure the vast majority of males in the industry would welcome more female developers / peers. Sadly, there are not nearly as many applicants.

Becky Torbochkin
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I love your point about anger being a reaction to something before that - sadness, isolation, fear. It's so true! This was very well written, and I appreciate you telling it and pointing out these nuances. Is it you catch more bees with honey than vinegar? An angry edge has dominated the feminist movement, and in some ways stopped it from really achieving its end goals. Newer voices that focus on inclusion and equality all around seem to be making far more progress (ie Sheryl Sandberg).

Also, it's good to talk about these things... but sometimes just reading the articles makes me feel more marginalized. I wonder if I haven't been noticing things. We should still write them anyway, but it is depressing.

Lastly, I must also chime in that the game industry does seem remarkably immature and lacking in professionalism. "Run by nerds" doesn't cut it, because that's true of most of software as well as most of engineering at large. I think it has more to do with being a part of the entertainment industry, perhaps. And I think it is especially common because many companies are very small. Too small to sue? Or just young? I don't know. Whatever the cause, I don't think being drunk at work or making graphic jokes ever really has a place at any office, unless you've known every one of the people with you for years. And even then.

I'm glad my current day job environment is more professional, and I'm surrounded by geeks and ex-Army types, so you know they could go there. But they're smarter, more professional, and better people than that.

Jess Groennebech
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I understand where you're coming from but since the industry will be dominated by young people as well as small tight teams by default now and in the near future then I would say that the companies should cater to that type of talent and that could include a wednesday pubcrawl resulting in drunks at the office.

Regarding the graphical art, if it were on Louvre, you wouldn't have a problem with it, I'd say that since the talentpool is again young and in tight teams, the artwork is much more an expression of those two things rather then a bad attitude from the artist.

I'd like to note that personally I think the goal is to make good games, if that requires catering to young talent then it's your choice whether you want to work in such an environment or not, we fix the industry to get the talent that it needs not to cater to special needs.

That being said, the industry will mature as time goes on just like all other industries so hang in there, it will only get better (or outsourced ;)).

Bob Johnson
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i think some of what you experienced is a clash of cultures sorta speak. i have a few jobs where i just didnt belong. watch Serpico starring Al Pacino.

Jonathan Adams
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For what it's worth, while there are certainly companies and teams within companies which continue to exhibit harmful behavior, there are companies and teams with proper behavior. I've even worked on a team led by a woman younger than about half the team, and to my knowledge nobody on the team gave her any gruff or showed her any disrespect. I've certainly had to give a few lectures to industry folk who start saying garbage like women aren't good at FPS games, but not on that team.

It's also worth considering that a lot of industry positions are temporary, which gives people less accountability and fewer opportunities to learn the errors of their ways - a lot of people probably just grin and bare it until the problem person moves to another project. If employment in the industry ever becomes more stable, it might have an effect.


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