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Opinion: In the sexism discussion, let's look at game culture
Opinion: In the sexism discussion, let's look at game culture Exclusive
July 16, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander




Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander takes stock of a rising tide favoring discussion of gender issues in games -- can we take the dialogue further by looking past symptoms?

In recent months, the games press and hobbyist blogosphere alike have been alight with a promising trend: To address prejudice and imbalance in game culture, particularly as concerns the portrayal and representation of women.

From education and discussion on rape culture and male gaze to personal stories from women whose experience of the game industry has been impacted by sexism, these are the conversations we seem to be most passionate about right now.

For the first time in my life as a video game player, there's a broad audience of people to whom this dialog has become essential.

Where serious sexism and simply tacky boys-club stuff alike were once, at best, waved away with "this is just how it is," and at worst shouted down by furious mobs terrified of having their fun ruined, we now as a group rally together. We share a commitment to showing that we refuse to tolerate discriminatory behavior, insensitivity or ignorance as a status quo.

Obviously as someone who works in games, my population sampling is going to be biased, but it seems to me that this topical revolution is even more prominent in games than it is in other forms of media right now.

Maybe we're making up for lost time, applying the vigor required to undo years of damage caused by a young industry content for years to be insular, marketed to a male demographic of a certain age. People who've been silent for a long time are louder when it's finally time to be heard. They're courageous. We should be proud of them.

This isn't just a cultural learning experience for men who either weren't interested in fighting sexism or who simply were not aware of the problem. We women are learning and exploring too, assessing our own roles in the landscape and how we want to express ourselves. Most everyone I know is reading and enjoying Jenn Frank's recent article in which she charts her journey to discover feminism as a geek girl -- and how she initially rejected it.

I can relate, too: in some of my early writing I used my newfound platform in games writing to talk about sexuality in games, and in so doing I frequently found myself defending certain types of content because it didn't offend me, like see dudes, I'm a girl and I say it's okay, so it is. Like Jenn throughout her life, I had a lot of growing up to do. I talk regularly with female colleagues and what I'm learning is that it isn't easy for any of us.

One friend of mine wonders how to cope with the fact that she'd rather support other women than call attention to her own struggles. I've talked with colleagues who fear that speaking up about victimization -- like Katie Williams did when she wrote about feeling undermined and judged at game demos -- might be misinterpreted as promoting victimhood at the expense of analyzing wider systemic issues.

Some say our rush to quench small fires, such as a trailer or a single ignorant quote, disempowers us from coping with the big picture. I've seen people wondering that as we learn to be sensitive to others, will we become oversensitive somehow?

Speaking up

My friends have told me I'm sometimes too angry on Twitter and I need to pick my battles in a positive, respectful way. Still others say that a focus on sexism is reductive and excludes other issues, like a lack of racial diversity or the struggles of the LGBTQ community.

It's confusing. We can't tell one another how to feel, and none of us is qualified to prescribe a single way to feel or operate in this climate of passion and the need for change. Late last year I was honored to be invited to keynote TIFF Nexus' Women in Film, Games and New Media day in Toronto, and as I spoke on why I think diversity on all frontiers can make games better, I also shared my own journey in trying to define what being a woman in games means to me. Ultimately my advice was that I can't advise, that this process is personal -- but that talking with one another and speaking up is a place to start.

That's why it's good that so much writing from women about women and our roles and experiences is proliferating, and why it's positive that it's finding such a wide audience in the video game thought space. We're reacting honestly to troubling things in our environment, like when game developers half-bake tacky plot points for their female heroines.

Or like when Anita Sarkeesian's fundraiser to explore stereotypes for women and girl characters in games results in a nauseating firestorm of hatred -- culminating in a game where the object is to beat Sarkeesian in the face.

Here's the thing. Maybe it's a tall order, but I'd like us to do more.

What can we do about it?

I've read and retweeted a good-sized bushel of Anita Sarkeesian articles lately. Most of them, I find on Twitter, posted by passionate friends wanting to spread the word. We're all horrified by this, shaken to the core that anyone would express such groundless, vile hatred toward a woman collecting entirely optional donations to do a video series -- let alone people from the game community, people who are supposed to be our people. We process, we spread the word, we share our outrage and confusion.

I've heard from some people who are still baffled about why most writers in games are focusing on these issues right now. Yes, it's horrible, but what can we do about it? On one hand, I am always frustrated with the idea that somehow it's no good to talk about a problem -- in this case, misogyny in the game industry -- unless we can somehow prescribe solutions. Often, talking about a problem is a good first step; sometimes, informed discussion creates a solutions-oriented culture.

On the other hand, though, maybe we can go further right now than mutually agreeing to be outraged. One thing I hear a lot is that equality issues aren't any worse in the games industry than they are at large. This, I don't believe -- comics and other fandoms we'd historically call "geek stuff" grapple with the same problems.

But in games, as well as comics and other male-dominated nerd arenas, the business model leverages risk aversion against a habituated, narrow audience. It doesn't favor experimenting to try to give these people newer, smarter things. More importantly, neither do the traditions of geek culture, which is founded in misunderstood people prizing their special escapes from the uninitiated, keeping sacred the spaces that make them feel powerful.

For most people, this is their identity, and if you tell them you want to change it in any way they are going to fear losing their power. It's not surprising that issues of privilege get tangled in the morass.

Games have it bad. Anita Sarkeesian has done a number of video series about gender stereotypes. Only when she tried her hand at games did the monsters come.

Despite all the snarking and outrage about booth babes at E3 this year, when I walked the show floor it wasn't the costumed women that let me know I didn't really belong here anymore. It was the content, and the attitude to content.

Men reciting marketing lines about weapons and explosions. The question every trailer and presentation aimed to answer was who do you kill and how do you kill them. I thought of all the good, smart guys I know on dev teams and struggled to reconcile it with this numb, mean litany, devoid of much aside from the quest for dollars. Shoulder to shoulder, men marched proudly in their studio tees. The more money they have made off of shooters, the higher they held their heads.

We have a mainstream culture that doesn't represent what a mature, progressive audience wants to buy. It's not always a problem when this happens -- interesting, independent creation will always thrive on the fringe of any medium. But here we have a mainstream culture many healthy adults cringe at being associated with. It's not just good dumb fun: There's something sick about it.

Of course I want women to speak up about what happens to them at, say, E3. The hostility this year was palpable. It's unreal how people think they can treat woman colleagues at a media event, resentment and poor social skills colliding late at night over an open bar.

Every single one of us can tell you at least one horror story. Most of us have more than one. Booth babes, incidences of sexism, using attempted rape as a Tomb Raider "character builder," the way a community treated Anita Sarkeesian -- none of these are things we should shut up about.

Yet to go further in tackling these issues I'd like to look at them as symptoms, not as the problems themselves. There's something wrong with our commercial games, and with the core audience that buys and loves them. There's something broken about the marketing machine that keeps feeding this ouroboros. There is a power structure in place and we need to find out who to talk to in order to take it apart.

That'll keep our message from getting stalled at the echo chamber level; our goal is primarily a healthy industry with diverse products by and for anyone that wants to participate.

Let's keep processing our feelings, but let's also try to ask devs harder questions. There are people who see this tide of anger and impatience at injustice and just feel assailed and helpless: Now that they know who we are and how we feel, let's give them more tools. Let's find our allies in the creative community, the people doing things that we want to champion instead of condemn. That's what I'd like to do more of from here on out.


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Comments


Victor Zuylen
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A good first step would be for publishers and developers to publicly speak out on this issue - so far their response (aside from some PR manoeuvring) has been rather underwhelming. I get the impression that some of the trolls attacking Sarkeesian et al are doing so out of a misguided notion that they're actually protecting the games and developers being criticized. If their favorite developers actually came out and said they welcomed the discussion surrounding this issue, it could take some of the wind out of their sails.

In the longer run, I would love to see an anti-sexism code of conduct or a set of guidelines that developers across the industry could adopt for their games and businesses.

Vincent Hyne
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I don't really think anything is ever going to come on its own from the game creators themselves. As in, improvement, on any issue. There's nothing to motivate them to do it, the sales of their product do not change one way or the other.

The key is accountability. To affect just that.

If the games press held every single game that came across their desk to a set of standards, regarding sexism, treatment of minorities, and a myriad of other issues (like, I don't know, tackling the fact that killing people is a form of communication/fun in most games today), and then converted that into their already questionable "score" where the developer/publisher actually gets a demonstration regarding the wrongs they've committed, and that metacritic score takes a dive (affecting sales), you would get two outcomes.

a) They would wise up and be really careful and thoughtful about what they put into their products.

b) They would stop making games that have any serious connotations for fear of "getting it wrong", and all we'd end up having is Angry Birds and Tetris.

Even though the latter is an unlikely development, the sad thing is so is the former.

The games press is nothing more than an advertising extension for publisher PR, and most reviews are the punchline of an advertising campaign (both figuratively and literally). Not to mention there are no standards in the games industry, thus for an already maligned, incoherent and goalless industry, getting to sexism is going to be a stretch.

GRAPHIXXX WERE GREAT, I GOT PAID, I GET TO PLAY GAMES FOR A LIVING, 10 OUT OF 10!

The fix is easy, yet to get to it, you have to climb a hill that appears to be insurmountable.

Tragic irony, or poetic justice?

You tell me.

James Coote
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Instead of waiting for something to come along that you can champion, why not go out and make it happen yourself?

James Coote
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"5. What kind of person does that response make you sound like?"

It makes me sound pretty bad, because that's how you interpreted my question; as sarcastic, rather than sincere. But I meant it sincerely.

James Coote
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So you're saying there are plenty of people trying to make a difference, but that publishers and executives and the industry generally aren't taking them seriously (or worse). Trumpeting successes when they happen will help change those people's minds?

I guess I'm thinking, do you really need their help, when their marketing machine is geared up to selling to an audience that ultimately isn't really interested? Would it be easier to just leave the whole rotten industry behind, and go off and build something better?

Maybe I'm in a position of luxury as an indie developer off in my own little corner to think that such things are possible

Malcolm Miskel
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"1. It is not the responsibility of a group getting marginalized by another group to pull themselves up by their bootstraps despite whatever adversity is placed in their way. The moral responsibility lies on those marginalizing to stop. Many of the marginalized group *do* do something, sometimes out of emotional or physical necessity, but the primary responsibility is on the group with power to stop holding back those without."
---------------------
Perhaps it isn't, but if you've studied the African-American movement then you'll see that's exactly what happened. Leave it to the group with power and you get what happened to the Native Americans. That said, I too believe we should vie for change as the power group, but even in this case it's the result of women like Leigh, Susan Arendt, Katie Williams, and Jenn Frank speaking out.

Our job now is to lend power to their voices, for as a result of oppression they speak far louder than ours ever could (e.g. MLK Jr. and JFK/LBJ).

Alex Boccia
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I'm really tired of this, it seems like a waste of negative energy and resources, especially when it drags in people like Anita Sarkeesian. I'm not a sexist and you can't convince me I am. I am going to go play video games now and have fun!

Evan Jones
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No one is calling you a sexist. People *are* asking you to critically evaluate the media you consume, the messages it sends, the culture surrounding it, and how to improve all of the above.

Kyle Redd
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"(But if you emphatically refuse to critically evaluate the media you consume, and the media carries a lot of negative messages about women, you're probably sexist.) "

Joe, that is extremely petty. So you're saying that if I don't go on the attack against the trolls and unresponsive developers, you will assume that it's because am sexist and thus am contributing to "rape culture"? It couldn't possibly be that I simply believe this issue has been blown way, way out of proportion?

What I would really like to see is all of the game pundits who have poured so much time and energy into fighting concepts like "male gaze" (because god knows there's no such thing as women who enjoy exploiting other women's bodies in their art - ever watched any film by Catherine Breillat?) to maybe put even a tiny fraction of that energy to fighting cultures where women really have trouble.

Seriously, have you been reading the news out of Egypt lately? Or Afghanistan? Or India? Women who live there would love it if male gaze and rape culture were their biggest worries, instead of you know, actual rape. As in, they'd love it if they could walk down the street accompanied by multiple security personnel and not have to wonder if they'll be stripped naked and assaulted my a massive gang of men in front of thousands of witnesses (http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/27/world/meast/egypt-journalist-assaul
ted/index.html).

It must be all those sexist Egyptian video games that are driving them, right?

Adam Bishop
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@ Kyle

I assume you've never complained about anything in your life since people in Afghanistan have it worse than you, right? You happily and openly accept everything that happens to you and never try to change things that you dislike, right?

P.S. Women who live in North America have a significant risk of being victims of sexual assault too. *Actual rape* as you called it is a real risk for women everywhere in the world and yes, the culture that we live in has an effect on that.

Kyle Redd
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@Joe

Alright, I get that you're not interested in discussing any of this, only in talking about it. Carry on then; sorry to have interrupted you so rudely.

@Adam


"Women who live in North America have a significant risk of being victims of sexual assault too."

That is a very clear example of false equivalency. Yes, women in North America are at risk of sexual assault. No, women in North America are not at risk of being sentenced to be gang-raped by their village council (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/29/opinion/29kris.html). There is a huge, huge difference between how women are treated in the west compared to how they are treated elsewhere, so let's not pretend as if they are comparable.

But I agree with you and Leigh and most others that sexism is a problem among parts of the video game community, and we should be looking at ways of mitigating it. I just don't believe that "rape culture" is a part of that problem, especially when you can compare the plummeting rates of sexual assault in the U.S. right along side the rapid rise of the very games everyone's complaining about. Are you not willing to accept the possibility that the two factors are directly related (likewise with the rise of violent games and the sharp fall in violent crime in general)?

Evan Jones
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@Kyle:

Why is it so hard to admit that there are serious flaws in the medium you love and discuss ways to improve it? Who benefits from the meaningless "it's not as bad as you say it is" defense?

Kyle Redd
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@Evan

"I agree with you and Leigh and most others that sexism is a problem among parts of the video game community, and we should be looking at ways of mitigating it."

Did you miss that part of my comment?

I also wouldn't really say that video games is a medium I love, honestly. I'm more enamored with the idea that people should express themselves honestly at all times, regardless of how others may react to such expression. If an artist wants to draw women as sexually subservient to meatheaded men, then that's how he or she should draw them. They should not be kowtowed into self-censorship.

More to the point, though, I don't think these sorts of "retro" portrayals of women in fiction leads to any actual negative consequences in the real world, nor is there any evidence of such. On the contrary, what little evidence there is (rising rates of sexual debasement in games - falling rates of sexual crimes in society) points to exactly the opposite conclusion.

Victor Zuylen
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@Kyle

If you don't believe rape culture is a part of that problem, have a look at this extremely insightful piece by Foz Meadows:

http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/rape-culture-in-gaming
/

And the follow-up:

http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/rape-culture-in-gaming
-redux/

These may give you a better idea of how rape culture fits into this.

FWIW, saying that women in [Afghanistan/Iran/whatever] have it so much worse is a classic misdirection technique often used to shut down very valid discussions about women's issues in the western world. While technically true, it doesn't mean we shouldn't care about any other problems ever until the women of [Afghanistan/Iran/whatever] have been liberated. We're perfectly capable of caring about (and working on solutions for) multiple problems at once.

Victor Zuylen
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"If an artist wants to draw women as sexually subservient to meatheaded men, then that's how he or she should draw them. They should not be kowtowed into self-censorship."

Well, tough. Just like in any other facet of life, freedom of expression does not mean freedom from criticism. Artists and developers can do what they like but they're not going to get a free pass just because.

"More to the point, though, I don't think these sorts of "retro" portrayals of women in fiction leads to any actual negative consequences in the real world, nor is there any evidence of such."

There is a world of foul-mouthed misogynist online gamers out there that disagrees with you.

Jori Baldwin
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@Kyle
I tend to doubt in many cases that creative vision drives the portrayal of women in games. In smaller teams, this may be the case, but in the larger studios, I tend to believe the decisions come out of the fear marketing departments have of anything but the status quo. Sometimes concept artist are told to sex up their female characters by the number-crunchers - I wouldn't call that artistic freedom.

Kyle Redd
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@Victor

I am familiar with both of those editorials, as well as dozens of other editorials that have been written on this topic lately. I completely understand what rape culture is and why people think it's such a major problem, ok?

I simply don't agree with their opinions at all, particularly given all of the data available regarding rates of sexual violence show that as video games have become dramatically more violent, more sexualized, and more realistic, the rates of all violent crime (including rape) have fallen just as dramatically. They fell even during the long recession, when all of the experts expected crime to spike upwards (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/us/24crime.html).

So how does everyone who thinks that rape culture is such a major problem explain this? After all, "Rape culture is a set of values and beliefs that provide an environment conducive to rape," right? That's straight from the authority on the topic.

As far the middle-east goes, I absolutely did *not* say nor imply that since women there have it so much worse that we shouldn't worry about how they are treated locally, and I feel it's very disingenuous for you to suggest that. I will say, for the third time now:

I agree that sexism is a problem among parts of the video game community, and we should be looking at ways of mitigating it.

Just so that's clear. My point with looking at how women are treated outside of industrial nations is that these regions don't have much experience with gaming, do they? There is no harmful media contributing to rape culture in Egypt, right? In fact, these communities pride themselves on how they respect women, especially their modesty and "family-oriented" temperament. Yet somehow, sexual violence against women living there is many orders of magnitude more common and more severe than in the west.

So why can't we look at the possibility that these sorts of games might give young men (who are the most prone to committing rape and assault against women) a less harmful outlet to vent their baser instincts?

*Edited to remove an inappropriate remark.*

Victor Zuylen
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@Kyle

"What Iwould really like to see is all of the game pundits who have poured so much time and energy into fighting concepts like "male gaze" (because god knows there's no such thing as women who enjoy exploiting other women's bodies in their art - ever watched any film by Catherine Breillat?) to maybe put even a tiny fraction of that energy to fighting cultures where women really have trouble.

Seriously, have you been reading the news out of Egypt lately? Or Afghanistan? Or India? Women who live there would love it if male gaze and rape culture were their biggest worries, instead of you know, actual rape."

Are these not your words? How am I being disingenuous?.

Also, for the record: even if the decrease in sex crimes could be directly attributed to an increase in sexist games (it can't, don't worry - Britain's sex crime rates are soaring, even though they play the same games ad the US)* that still doesn't justify the perpetuation of rape culture.

Essentially what you're saying is, "Hey women, even though sexual violence against you is being trivialized in media, further contributing to your marginalization in society, you should really be thankful because it might be keeping rape rates down!"

* http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1378794/Crime-statistics-
Overall-crime-6-sexual-offences-rising.html

Kyle Redd
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@Victor,

""More to the point, though, I don't think these sorts of "retro" portrayals of women in fiction leads to any actual negative consequences in the real world, nor is there any evidence of such."

There is a world of foul-mouthed misogynist online gamers out there that disagrees with you."

First off, I wonder if you think that immature little boys trash-talking each other is somehow a new phenomenon. Do you think back in the days of Tecmo Bowl, before gaming descended into the culture of rape and misogyny it supposedly is today, that kids were polite and respectful towards one another?

Secondly (speaking of football), how would you compare the demeanor of foul-mouthed gamers to, say, your average professional sports fan? Are you arguing that sexist and abusive language is uniquely severe among gamers? Have you attended a European football match recently? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/10/observer-edit
orial-football-racism-unacceptable)

Finally, what appears to you and most others as a "world of foul-mouthed misogynist online gamers" is, in actuality, a miniscule number of players. It *seems* pervasive because you can hear them constantly during matches, except that "they" are virtually always only 1 or 2 players among a group of a couple of dozen or more, except those 1 or 2 players never shut up.

I have had plenty of experience with this myself recently, after playing several hours of Gotham City Imposters (a game which is specifically tailored to competitive young boys). Sure enough, playing several rounds of deathmatch yielded 4 or 5 games with some little brat calling the female characters whores, just as expected.

But that's less than half a dozen out of *hundreds* of people. The entire rest of the community were either totally silent or just rambling nonsense on the mic. So if you're complaining about less than 5% of gamers with this kind of attitude, I would say that yes, they are a pain in the ass, but it's getting smaller by the day all by itself, without any outside intervention. It's certainly not worth the amount of attention it's received.

Victor Zuylen
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At this point I should probably mention that my day job involves dealing with the community of a major online shooter and I'm not kidding when I say there's a world of foul-mouthed misogynist gamers out there

Kyle Redd
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@Victor

"It must be all those sexist Egyptian video games that are driving them, right?"

You accidentally left that one important sentence out when you quoted me, Victor.

That is the point I was making: Sexual violence is pervasive throughout all levels of society in the middle-east, *without* any influence whatsoever from "rape culture." Meanwhile, the exact opposite is happening in the west. I'm not saying women in other regions have it worse so therefore we should not complain, I'm saying that before we simply accept that rape culture is a fact and it directly contributes to actual rape and assault, I would like to see that particular dichotomy addressed.

Now, with regards to the increase in sexual violence in Britain, I'm hesitant to offer a counter-argument to that because I know exactly what the response will be, and it will not be productive. I will say that to suggest that rates have "soared" is a serious exaggeration that is typical of the Mail. They're own data shows that violent crime overall dropped 6%, while sexual crimes rose 3%. That's an increase, sure, but it's hardly a serious spike.

More importantly, though, the Mail does not offer any data as to who is committing sex crimes, nor what is influencing the offenders. For Britain and the rest of western Europe, a region that is distinctly different from the U.S., that information is important to know before we conclude that sexist video games are a cause. I would hope we can agree on that point and leave it for now.

Jori Baldwin
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@Kyle and @Victor

Reported sexual assault cases up 5% in Canada:
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2011001/article/11523-eng.h
tm

I agree that these nationally recognized stats don't prove that sexist video games are a cause. Would you then agree that YOUR stats don't come close to proving that "all of this rape culture we have in gaming here might actually be helping matters"? Also, while 5% is not a "serious spike", I am not comforted by the fact that I have a higher chance of being sexually assaulted this year.

Kyle Redd
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@Jori

I agree. That's why I said the two factors might be correlated, not that they definitely are.

(In context, I also don't feel my statement was quite so inflammatory as the part you quoted. That's why I followed up with "Why can't we look at the possibility that these sorts of games might give young men a less harmful outlet to vent their baser instincts?")

The crime stats for Canada you linked to indeed showed that sexual assaults increased by 5% in 2010. Though it also notes that's the first increase since 2005. I would like to see the stats from 2011 to see if it's just an aberration in an overall downward trend. It looks like the 2011 report isn't out yet (or I couldn't locate it anyway).

In any case, it's all the more reason why no one should be jumping to conclusions quite so fast as they have been. Before we continue to accuse game developers of contributing to rape culture, shouldn't we first make sure that such a serious charge actually has substantial evidence backing it up?

It's like like there wasn't any period of debate with this. It simply jumped right from "Game developers are sexist." (a point that has been widely acknowledged for a while) right to "Game developers are contributing to the rape and assault of women. End of discussion." all in what felt like a single day, or roughly the amount of time it took for a few bloggers to become outraged over a Penny Arcade comic.

Jori Baldwin
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@Kyle
I personally don't think of contributing to "rape culture" as the same as "contributing to the rape and assault of women". Treating the two ideas as one and the same is what makes people defensive and creates an unproductive "us versus them" sentiment on both sides. I don't think that telling a rape joke will lead to more rape, but I do feel that it marginalises me, just as telling a racist joke could. This uncomfortable feeling can be a reason women stay away from places where such expressions are prevalent. If mainstream games with themes contributing to "rape culture" were simply re-examined with a little compassion, I feel the community would become a healthier place for everyone.

Kyle Redd
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@Jori

Well, going by the quote from the book referenced in foz meadows' blog: “Rape culture is a set of values and beliefs that provide an environment conducive to rape… The term applies to a generic culture surrounding and promoting rape, not the specific setting in which rape is likely to occur.“

I guess you may not agree with that definition, but for those who believe it to be "a generic culture surrounding and promoting rape" - That's about as unambiguous as it gets. If you create art that contributes to a culture supporting rape, then you are supporting rape, period, even if unintentionally.

So, yeah, "rape culture" is always going to an extremely inflammatory term. There's no way to avoid an "us versus them" mentality with such a loaded charge. If you want to have more productive discussions, then maybe you'd agree with me that we should not be throwing that phrase out there as enthusiastically as we have been, unless the circumstances are serious enough to actually warrant it (and not for petty stuff like video game characters wearing skimpy outfits or tasteless comic strips).

Victor Zuylen
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@Kyle and @Jori

Jori's definition doesn't seem too far from the cited one to me? The point being that rape culture is not necessarily something that directly leads to rape, but something that fosters an environment in which rape is trivialized or normalized (ie indirectly leads to rape).

@Kyle
While I agree that the term should not be thrown around lightly, and might be counterproductive in certain discussions, let's not forget that you were the one who brought it into this conversation . (Leigh only mentions it once in her article, and not specifically in relation to gaming). Heck, a few posts up you even tried to claim rape culture might be a good thing:

"So is it really so unbelievable to suggest that all of this rape culture we have in gaming here might actually be helping matters?"

If anyone is throwing the term around too enthusiastically (and far too lightly) it's you.

Kyle Redd
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@Victor

Alright, well as I understand it you and Jori and probably a few others don't feel that rape culture contributes, directly or indirectly, to actual rape. I'm very confident that a large majority of bloggers who have focused on this issue at some point (such as foz meadows, and certainly Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, who largely triggered the debate among gamers in the first place) would disagree with you. And since it is they who generally drive the discussion, it will be their interpretation of the term that is applied to those it is directed towards.

If I am wrong and these people truly do not believe that contributions to rape culture can lead to actual rape in some form, then I would certainly apologize. Believe me, were that the case I could scarcely be happier to have been mistaken, especially if the clarification were to come in the form of a blog post clearing rape culture participants of any actual physical consequences.

"If anyone is throwing the term around too enthusiastically (and far too lightly) it's you."

Ah... maybe I should clarify that when I said we shouldn't throw the term "rape culture" around as enthusiastically as we have been, I meant that we shouldn't so freely accuse people (either specific persons or loosely-defined groups) of contributing to it, not that we should literally avoid uttering the term at all. Merely spelling out the phrase by itself doesn't actually affect anyone, as far as I know.

I would've thought it was fairly clear what I meant but perhaps not. Sorry for the confusion.

@Jori and Victor

In a previous comment when I said that "all of this rape culture we have in gaming here might actually be helping matters," that was an inappropriately flippant remark and I apologize for seeming insensitive. I have removed that particular sentence. I still stand by my intention, however: Allowing games as a potential outlet for young men to vent their aggressive tendencies, whether towards women or anyone else, is an idea that should not be completely dismissed before it is at least given serious study and consideration.

Philip Minchin
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@ Kyle
Are you seriously trying to claim that the Middle East doesn't have a rape culture? IT DOES. That's a huge part of the problem. Men are free to talk about women in person the way jerks do on the internet (and, often, in person as well) in Western cultures - and that is a key part of why sexual violence is more frequent there.

I.e. the Middle East comparison totally makes the case FOR naming and shaming rape culture - because by your own admission, in Western cultures where more people do that do that more often, women are better off.

Also it is kind of weird to imply that there are no gamers in Egypt. Wasn't there a feature here on Gamasutra recently about being a games company in Egypt? The Middle East has games, comics and all the rest - both ours and their own.

In fact, one of the things Western entertainment needs to take more seriously is the fact that it is consumed outside of contexts where its assumptions seem self-evident. A real example: there are reports of Western porn's recent anal fetish increasing transmission rates of HIV, because men in developing countries are watching it, and deciding they want anal too regardless of all the stuff we would (hopefully) assume about consent, preparation, hygiene, lubrication etc. This results in more rectal/gastric tearing for the women coerced into having it, which means greater transmission risks. I'm sure there are parts of the USA where similar misogynistic and ignorant cultures produce similar results; there would be here in Oz.

Imagination matters. Culture matters. It influences behaviour and thereby makes material differences to real people's lives. We have no problem claiming the positive side of this, and nor should we - but that means it's incumbent on us to acknowledge and take some responsibility for the negative as well. And as Western culture is internationally influential, our responsibility is considerable.

Alice Rendell
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I was just about to comment on this article, then I read some of the other comments and thought maybe I shouldn't, then changed my mind back and forth for another few minutes. I didn't want to make a comment that would label me as "another woman in the industry talking about this" rather than as what I am, a professional in the games industry who agrees with this....maybe this is the problem...

E Zachary Knight
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And there is no reason why you should be having that internal monologue.

Cecily Keim
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This article is related to the hesitation you were experiencing. I think you'll find it very insightful... http://m.npr.org/news/front/156664337?page=1

Gern Blanston
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@Alice Rendell

It's definitely part of the problem when women are too hesitant due to any number of fears. At every point in our human history when women were sought fairness, the biggest detriment to their plight (outside of males not standing up for them) were women not standing up for each other. For every woman that seeks fairness, there will be several more men who will stand up to oppose them. That is why people like me need to stand up with you because its the right thing to do in order to help evolve humanity. But much more importantly, there needs to be less hesitance from women such as yourself to stand up as well. It will the most confident, strong, and fearless women that push these arguments and issues beyond their current point to where change actively happens. Only from such a place of pressure from the female gaming community will male developers and publishers learn that the status quo is actually comprised of attitudes that continuously move society backward.

We can only evolve the discussion by never being afraid - there is no other alternative.

Vin St John
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Thanks for writing this, Leigh. The conversation has been happening a lot in the enthusiast press but not enough in the industry, where many of the folks are with the most empowered to change things. Hopefully the message is getting across.

Ian Eller
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Great article! As a male gamer, as I've gotten older, I've gotten really annoyed with a lot of the over-sexualized characters. There have been a few times that its ruined the immersion of an otherwise awesome game for me. Take Poison Ivy from Arkham Asylum for example. Its a great game that I loved every moment of. At first I was happy to see that Ivy actually had a shirt on, but after going through *spoiler* the boss battle with her, I was really disappointed. Her moans upon taking damage rather than a more realistic sound effect completely ruined that part of the game for me. So much so, that I almost didn't play any further in fear of embarrassment of someone overhearing the game.

Dave Ingram
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Thanks Leigh -- You make some solid points.

However, in terms of the content issues and the "problems" with the core audience, I think any attempt at change here will be like McDonalds adding salads to its menu. McDonalds can add salads to a menu that only people hungry for fat and salt are looking at, but will that sell the salads? The same thing holds true for this core audience -- you can offer people who are looking for gratuitous sexuality and violence an alternative, but will they buy it?

Christopher Casey
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I think the idea that a core audience will only be sated by a torrential flood of gratuitous content is probably wrong, but risk averse practice will continue to assure that change is slow in coming. If a formula seems to work, why break it? However, perspectives like those offered in this article continue to make clear that there is an audience that feels alienated by the current standards. My suspicion is that this audience is large, and hopefully when more people can speak up without feeling threatened, we can move towards a more balanced approach.

Gern Blanston
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@Dave Ingram

You've missed the whole point. It's not about changing the current formula, but rather adding to it. If more women are given power within the creation/publication/marketing of games, new and different experiences that are aimed at different audiences could exist. There is no argument on this page to stop creating games with gratuitous violence, which is the main selling point to young men, the current largest gaming audience.

Though I would argue against your assumption that people wouldn't buy an alternative to gratuitous sexuality in games. If boob-bouncing technology disappeared, would a significant portion of that gaming population disappear? If the threat of sexual assault against women in games disappeared, would that even be noticed? I have my doubts.

Steven An
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@Turd: I don't think it's good to just...ask that more women be given more power in game development. That's actually a little condescending to begin with.

I think the way things will change is through the indie scene. People like Christine Love are gonna show the mainstream industry that this other audience exists - I'm not just talking about women, but just more thematic diversity in general - and that it is something to pay attention to.

Gern Blanston
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@Steven An

"I don't think it's good to just...ask that more women be given more power in game development. That's actually a little condescending to begin with."

Condescending to whom? Developers have the power to make the games they want to see/play/promote. The gaming industry is overpopulated with violent shoot 'em up games because there are boys making games for boys. With more women involved the industry has an opportunity to expand and evolve. It all starts at the top, my friend, as with any other business. If more women were given the OPPORTUNITY that men are given in the industry, there would be nothing but positive change. And the arguments addressed in this very article could actually come to fruition, and the current boys club (frat-like) institutions would begin to grow up and become something greater.

Do you not want more women involved in the process, and more power to be given to them? Why are you more interested in promoting women within the very small field of Indie games?

Luis Guimaraes
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Opportunity? Where?

The only window of opportunity I had was from 8 PM to 3 AM. So, yes, I'm supporting every man and woman out there working hard for it.

Less QQ more Pew-Pew.

Steven An
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@Turd - No, I don't want more power to be _given_ to women. It's condescending because you're assuming women can only get such power if they're _given_ it. Only if they ask for it and the boys at the top hand it to them out of the kindness of their hearts.

Women can do it the old fashioned way: By hard work and persistence. It takes time, but you're already seeing it in the indie scene, and I'm fully confident that the medium will realize soon enough that women in development is a good business idea. But that kind of change takes time.

We as guys should support them spiritually, because there are stereotypes and what not which make it particularly difficult for women on a day-to-day basis. But professionally, we should treat them as they are: equals.

Gern Blanston
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@Steven An

You say women should be treated as equals, yet your argument promotes the biggest issue in all of this. By saying that women should make their own opportunities is being ignorant to the fact that the same opportunities simply DO NOT EXIST for women in gaming, or otherwise. Women work just as hard as men to BE AWARDED LESS. Why do women earn less than men for doing the same job? Why are there less women in charge of companies?

Gee Steven, according to you they must not work as hard.

Christian Kulenkampff
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@Dave Ingram
You should not think in such a short time frame. Btw the organic food trend etc. led Mc Donalds to change its logo colors at least in europe from red to green http://bit.ly/Padswv The stuff you say that can not happen actually happens right now. Reinforce a trend and encourage others to jump on the bandwagon.

Steven An
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@Turd - That's actually...true. In aggregate, women haven't been working as hard as men in games. When 90+% of the industry is men..this is undeniably true. There are various cultural reasons for this, which is why I keep saying we need to work together to get over those external issues. It is a huge shame if a woman is interested in game dev but chooses not to do it because of cultural/social issues.

There are women out there that are working very hard, and in time, other women will be encouraged by their success to work hard and persist in this industry. Lucy Bradshaw, Jade Raymond, Amy Hennig, Leigh Alexander, etc. etc. We need to support them spiritually, but I don't think it's right to give them preferential treatment. Proper change takes time.

Indie dev is where some huge changes begin. Counter-Strike, DOTA, Minecraft, etc. all were indie developments. And their influence on the modern industry is monumental. So by no means am I relegating women to indie success. I'm an indie developer myself by choice.

Steven An
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@Joe - I mean by both. Yes, I am privileged and I never forget that.

Gern Blanston
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@Steven An

"...women haven't been working as hard as men in games."

This statement reveals some sad truths. First and foremost, you actually believe this falsity to be the truth. You're not living in reality, my friend. Read as many stories about the negative experiences of females in the game industry as you can. Educate yourself. Those bad experiences don't exist for the men working in those boys clubs.

You, and those who support your standpoint, are the reason(s) that women are behind in gaming. Your mindset is responsible for the reasons that articles like this need to be written.

Just sad.

Steven An
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@Turd - I think your interpretation of what I wrote reveals some sad truths about communication in general: Words are terrible for communication.

All I'm saying is, if you add up the number of hours men have worked in games vs. the number of hours women have worked in games, I bet the men far outweigh the women.

And I think this will change over time. Women will catch up soon enough. And the more we are aware of sexism, the faster that will happen.

Ole Berg Leren
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I need a Steven An in my head to articulate my thoughts for me.

@Turd: Adding to what he said, couldn't the pay-gap be because of certain qualities that only women have? Baby-making ability, is what I'm thinking of. When you decide to have one, you effectively put your career on hold, so would this not affect the overall amount of money women earn in the industry? Or was this taken into account?

Point being: men can't make babies, and can invest more time in their career compared to their baby-making women.

Would be helpful if you could link the source.

Gern Blanston
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@Steven An

While obviously text conversations are a less practical way to communicate than talking in person, you can't really go back on what you said. You literally said that women do not work as hard as men. There's no miscommunication there, sir.

-

@Ole Berg Leren

You could Google search and find pay differences between men and women for doing the same job, or just be more aware of the world around you. You've never known this? Here, I'll even give you a link to start your research:
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/04/wage_gap_facts.htm
l
or if you don't trust that source, how about the White House's official website:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/equal-pay

So now that you know there are pay discrepancies across the board (this, of course, includes gaming), I just want you to feel silly for saying that the reason is because women get pregnant. This is just so ignorant, my friend. Those pay differences are based on the same amount of work within the same amount of time doing the same exact job. Time to educate yourself, bud.

Ole Berg Leren
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@Turd There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. And you were the one making the claim, so is it not reasonable to assume you'd provide the evidence? I'm fairly new to the whole industry, which is why I read Gamasutra to try to gain a better understanding of its current state.

Regarding pregnancy: it's a biological fact. It was the first thing that popped into my mind, so I thought it reasonable to ask. I am perfectly alright with being ignorant of matters, as long as there are people who are willing to talk TO you about how you are wrong and not talk DOWN to you.

That said, thanks for the links.

Ole Berg Leren
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@Turd Having read through the links, my complaint is that the "Top 10" list is poorly sourced. It links to documents, without giving page references. Am I supposed to read through 20 pages of text to find what she's trying to reference? My teachers would probably execute me with staplers if I did that to them. Some of the sources, I couldn't even get access to.

Assuming the information is correct:
"In 2010 women who worked full time, year round, still only earned 77 percent of what men earned."

"More than one-quarter of the wage gap is due to the different jobs that men and women hold, and about 10 percent is due to the fact that women are more likely to leave the workforce to provide unpaid care to family members."

She states that about 41% of the gap can't be explained by measurable factors.
Correcting the wage-gap to only account for the unexplained divergencies, we arrive at 90,57 cent to a man's dollar. Isn't this more relevant to the "gender" issue, while the other factors are culture and biology? I feel, at least, that the 77 percent is a bit dishonest.

I am for equal pay for equal work. The employers with fixed rates should have equal rates for women and men, and across ethnicities. But if you're in a job where you're in a position to negotiate your own pay, the onus is on you to increase your wages.

After reading some, it seems that my country is on the lower end on the spectrum when it comes to discrepancies in pay. According to the same data, USA has one of the highest. Probably explains why you're more aware of the issue, as it's a hotter topic.
Here's the link, Table 3.1, second column are the numbers you're looking for:
http://www.regjeringen.no/nb/dep/fin/dok/nouer/2000/nou-2000-21/1
7/2.html?id=360379

One can only assume that Ireland et al. don't have genders.

If you take issue with any of this, feel free to educate me. Just lay off on the insults.

Jesse Curry
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I'm all for stronger female roles in games and more realistic representations of women's bodies in games, but I don't want it to come at the expense of artistic expression. If the designers want to create an oversexed, underdressed, impossibly proportioned female character then let them do it.

Games, to me, provide an escape from reality. You can do things in games that would not be possible in real life (or would not be possible for long). As such, I don't expect everything in a game to be in-line with reality; just look at Marcus Fenix!

I agree that the market is very skewed, but don't want to limit the expression of anyone. Maybe some designers and developers could roll together a kick starter campaign to show the kind of game that they would like to see, if it's truly better or serves an underserved market there's no reason it won't be profitable.

Steven An
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Yeah I think it's unrealistic and wrong to ask existing developers to make games that represent women better. They will mess it up.

IMHO, the solution is just to have more female game developers. The indie scene is way ahead of the main stream industry in this respect, and it's only a matter of time before things start to change so the gender imbalance is less of an issue.

Victor Zuylen
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But no one is suggesting developers should be prohibited from making that kind of content. Rather, what we're asking for is that they take the issue of sexism into consideration when they develop a game. If they're dead-set on making a sexist game, fine - but they'll have to accept that they'll be criticized for it. After all, freedom of expression does not mean freedom from criticism.

And besides, nothing brings out creativity like a few self-imposed limits. :)

Steven An
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@Victor: That's fair. Maybe Ms. Alexander should have a side job as a "sexism consultant"? "Hey Leigh, I'm making this new Tomb Raider, tell me if it's sexist or not." Cuz I don't trust most developers to get it "right" on their own.

Victor Zuylen
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@Steven Getting developers to give this topic serious consideration would be an enormous step in the right direction, even if they didn't get everything right initially. Not trusting them to get it perfect the first time isn't a good reason not to try at all, IMO.

Diego Garcia
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Yeah, don't worry. Nobody wants to get rid of overtly sexualized characters completely. The real problem with those characters is when that's ALL that they are, and when they're the standard for an entire industry.

Sergio Franco
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@Diego And there is a fine line between telling people they should take in consideration feminist views and vilifying a company that has a vision of something that they want to do that doesnt fall on these feminist guidelines.

I still don't get what is the proposed outcome of this conversation ( in the grand scheme of things ), naming and shaming developers until they decide to do other games? Having some sort of mandatory feminist board that must approve of game changes?

I agree there is still discrimination in the industry against women professionally: should be solved asap, if not with urgency.

But should we campaign for the removal of guns in-game as well? I don't think the addition of more women into games careers will change how games are produced at all because the creation process ultimately lies with the company, if someone creates a company that has a clear vision of what they want to create and that includes having some sexy looking woman in game, how can you legitimately tell someone that they can't do that without censoring them?

If there are other markets to explore it is up to each individual company to pursue their artistic ideals in whichever market they want, and if someone feels strong about the lack of feminist friendly games and want to go out and make the game they want more power to them.

Steven An
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I welcome anyone, women and otherwise, into the world of game development.

But I also like guns and shooting things in games.

I don't see what the two have to do with each other.

Christopher Casey
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In a perfect world, not much. In practice, shooters have a history of being seen as a male-dominated gametype, which is reinforced by the poor treatment of women who try to insinuate themselves into the genre, both by players and developers. Developers don't think of women as a "serious" element of their audience, and as for players... just think about XBL voice chat, or even think back to text chat in games like Counterstrike. It's rife with casual sexism, homophobia, etc. It's not very friendly.

Steven An
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@Chris - Yeah, I can see that. Even as a guy I find some of those communities to be obnoxiously immature.

I don't appreciate conflating the two issues, but I can definitely understand why a woman would feel very unwelcome there. I think as gamers get older and more mature, the "Stop being assholes online" message will permeate and this will change for the better.

Nou Phabmixay
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The average gamer is what... 35?

As a gamer that has grown up and aged and matured, the issue hasn't gotten better. When the discussion comes up, the argument is that it either doesn't exist or it'll get better or that it's really the women's fault and they should just work hard.

And nobody is going to take away your guns and shooting things. There's some data that proves that these things sell really well to men.

These two things conflate because they happen together. Not always, but they do. And when you try to fix one (the sexism), people cry about how they'll have to give up their big tits and/or guns.

Sexism isn't just the games anyway. It's going to GDC as a woman and being treated like a booth babe. It's being told that you should be playing with pink toys. It's being told to shut up and deal with it.

Steven An
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@Nou - I don't think we're disagreeing here. For all those things you mentioned, I pretty much agree they're wrong and should not happen.

And ya know, if I'm ever in a situation where I see a woman being treated in the ways that you mention, I'll do something about it if no one else does.

Christopher Casey
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I think Nou's point, which I largely agree with, is that average gamer age is as high as it's ever been, and it's more than a matter of just "waiting" for gamers to mature. It takes articles like this, explicitly pointing out certain unsavory realities that might otherwise be accepted as the norm, before things can get going on a better path.

Steven An
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@Chris - Yeah, I agree. If I do encounter such treatment of women online, I'll speak up, and I hope all my colleagues will do the same.

Brian Roberts
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As a male in the industry, I feel generalized from this article. I've always tried to find ways to make games appeal to women (a brother of two sisters). After the N64, it seems my sisters had literally ZERO interest in videogames, no matter the subject of the game. They loved Mario Kart and donkey kong, but as games got more realistic they felt alienated.

Sports games, Skyrim, Shooters, Strategy, Bioware games...they had no interest.

Puzzle games, guitar hero/rockband, dance central (kinect) they love them!

What is the difference?
IMO its the *lack of immersion* (they don't seem to enjoy exploring a world like I do)
*competitiveness* --they are competitive, but they would never venture online with most games
*shorter game periods*
*Different controllers.* They haven't 'trained' on the XBOX controller (or PC) like core gamers have.
They are more open to games with a controller built for them (rockband), or with an interactive controller which displays in-game options (touchscreens)

Why does all this matter?
Companies are trying to figure out the 'female gamer' -- a new demographic in gaming.
much like the strict stereotype hard-core gamers get, female gamers currently are categorized mostly as '46 year old mom with 5 spare minutes' --> thats not completely true. But for now all we have is the 'Villes' & 'words with friends'.

I'd love to see girls getting into games more (and I believe the next generation REALLY will) but game-makers need to KNOW their audience.
Its naive to ask companies to target something that might not be there.

Skyrim isn't for my sister, so if the female characters are scantily clad its not the end of the world. ---Think Transformers 3, is it sexist that they got a supermodel just for slow-mo closeups? Or is it a highly successful movie that made a ton of $$$?

I firmly believe all games should provide equal opportunity, but at the end of the day its a numbers game and not every game is targeted at women.
Which games in particular do you feel are failing? (or better yet, which developers?) Bioware has female oriented storylines in EVERY game. All sports games have female models (maybe not madden?) Sims is a huge franchise, so is pokemon. Shooters are like action movies, they've got a specific agenda/target audience. Focusing solely on them doesn't do the industry justice :(

(I won't talk much about player-modeling since thats not my expertise, but I will say EVERYTHING in videogames is glamorized. Not a lot of 'ugly' characters are made...unless for a reason. Games are an escape--often one focused on perfection. Which is why everyone can jump 4 feet off the ground, it is the 'optimal' jump)

Steven An
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I agree that you can't expect the current main stream industry to do a great job of making more diversely appealing games. You need more women making games! It's happening in the indie scene, and I think it's only a matter of time before it happens more broadly.

All we can do, as guys, is just support these women. Women like Zoe Quinn, Erin Robinson, Chelsea Howe, Christine Love - cheer for them when they make games that we could never even imagine! Heck, cheer for any indie dev making weird interesting stuff.

Victor Zuylen
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"Think Transformers 3, is it sexist that they got a supermodel just for slow-mo closeups? Or is it a highly successful movie that made a ton of $$$?"

It's both. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to aim higher, or call out this crap where we see it. The ultimate aim should be to change the numbers game, instead of accepting the status quo.

Nou Phabmixay
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"Think Transformers 3, is it sexist that they got a supermodel just for slow-mo closeups? Or is it a highly successful movie that made a ton of $$$?"

This question confuses me. I'm going to interpret it as:

"Think, would you rather get rid of sexism or have a lot of money?".

Brian Roberts
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I wonder if I had said the Twilight movie series vs the Transformers movie series how the comments on my post would differ?

Jori Baldwin
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"I wonder if I had said the Twilight movie series vs the Transformers movie series how the comments on my post would differ?"

Two sides of the same coin. Vapid, pretty female utterly devoted to her uber-controlling superhuman man, but with more eye-candy for girl-tweens.

Victor Zuylen
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A quick Google search for feminist critiques of Twilight could have shown you that the comments wouldn't be very different at all.

Brian Roberts
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@ victor: well if I google 'feminism critiques' I'm not exactly getting a fair sample am I?

you all missed my point though. Some (emphasis SOME) things are for a certain demographic (or audience).
Twilight is not made for males 18-24

It is really a shame to generalize the video game industry as having a 'rape culture' in fact its appalling!
Does nintendogs have a rape culture? How about Peggle?
This is ONE niche market.
The shoot-em-up hardcore gamers, are already a shrinking minority.

But just like a Michael Bay movie does not speak for the film industry. (or action movies in general)
shooters and D&D games don't speak for this industry!

An interesting point that this article seemed to skip is that JAPANESE video games (nintendo excluded since it targets children) tend to sexualize women much more than their western counterparts.

Joseph Unger
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Well written and well done Leigh. Thank you for bringing a breath of calm ration and good insight to this conversation.

Joerg Reisig
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"our goal is primarily a healthy industry with diverse products by and for anyone that wants to participate"

I couldn't agree more! Great article.

Melanie Henry
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Thanks for some true stuff, Leigh. Thanks also to all the allies speaking. Personally I think that the truly weird sexism in games today is a symptom of our dis-integrated culture. Maybe that's too generalized, but it seems that way to me.

I don't get why, if people don't like what Anita Sarkeesian is doing, they don't just ignore her. Games don't belong to white men, or black men, or white women, or black women, or Asian ... etc.--they belong to everyone. And always have. I played Asteroids, and I played Gears of War. I play games. I am a gamer. And I am a woman--a professional in this industry. I get to have a voice about games. Period.

I am hurt by the exclusionary sexism, but I'm also just really confused. The whole topic brings up a huge mix of emotion for me. I'm happy this conversation is happening, and I'm sad that some people are so virulently bitter. And I really, really don't understand this "protectiveness" of certain aspects of game culture that comes out like vomit.

It's worse than it was 10 years ago in some ways ... it's confusing. Because it seems like way more people both get it, and don't get it, now.

But: We're talking about it, and that's good and important. It's about time.

Steven An
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Words are imperfect, especially when words are impassioned. Imperfect words will be interpreted in unintended ways, and thus you will get backlash that you don't understand. And that just sends us down a spiral of flames. Words really, really suck sometimes.

Eric Geer
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Another one of these articles.....ugh.

Support the games you want with your $$$. If you don't like a game because it sexualizes a women or seems sexist..well don't buy it--it wasn't meant for you.

There are plenty of things I dislike seeing/playing---but I'm not taking that away from someone because I don't like it.

Christopher Casey
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"I deal with it and so should you" is not an actual response to criticism, just FYI.

Nou Phabmixay
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Another one of those replies that suggest that you should just ignore it...ugh.

There's already a lot of people who don't buy these sexist games. They're probably women. And more of them have tried to join the boy's club but somethings they'll have to do it on mute.

You're not going to be able to take this away from someone else. It makes a lot of money, but we could at least try to make it less of a boy's club. And please don't say they need to work harder. They're trying but they get resistances like:

"Another one of these articles.....ugh."

Adam Bishop
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Similarly, no more talk about why we hate DRM; if you don't like DRM, ignore the games that have it and go play something else. And if you think DRM is bad for you as a gamer then that's too bad, other people have decided they're OK with it and who are you to tell them otherwise? After all, nothing productive ever comes out of discussing what we like or dislike out of games, right?

Philip Kerr
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"Support the games you want with your $$$. If you don't like a game because it sexualizes a women or seems sexist..well don't buy it"

Or we could, you know, exercise our democratic right to free speech and confront sexism where it arises.

Eric Geer
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Sounds like everyone will have Cries with their Wah-burgers?

@Christopher--"I deal with it and so should you" Actually I think you missed the rest of the post and just responded to one peice of my response.

@Nou--yea...you should ignore it. I would like to see out of this year's releases--how many games were sexualizing women vs how many were not. I have a strong feeling that a majority were not and did not. I'm saying that you can ignore that minority of games that does do this BECAUSE THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS. Just because some games do it doesn't mean we need to eradicate them...There is a market for the games, but a larger market for games that are not. PS--I didn't say you need to work harder---you did. BUT I did say vote with your wallet.

Here's all of 2011 release games... please just look through to see how many games are games that DON'T sexualize women. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_in_video_gaming

@Phillip-- "Or we could, you know, exercise our democratic right to free speech and confront sexism where it arises."
Aye, you could and are. Good for you. I am as well. I see no issue in the landscape of games--I think their are plenty of choices for men, women, and children. Just because there is a group of games that doesn't appeal to one group and not another does not mean they should be done away with.

Gern Blanston
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@Eric Geer

"There are plenty of things I dislike seeing/playing---but I'm not taking that away from someone because I don't like it."

Maybe so, but try to exercise some empathy in order to understand what the author of this article is saying. "If you don't like it, don't play it", is not an argument that works within the context of this particular issue. Attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the women that contribute to this discussion and you'll see that it doesn't feel nice to be marginalized and objectified so much.

Many men will throw out the argument that "men in games have huge muscles, so we're objectified, too!". Except that those men aren't made to titillate women, those characters are made for men. And the female characters that are nothing more than oversexualized objects are not made for women, they're also made for men. But those characterizations consistently make women feel like they are worth less than a man is.

When you say that people making very mature and educated statements (like the author of this article) are crying about something, it reveals that you're very out of touch with the point of the conversation. Your immature responses of "Wah" don't really help your case at all, either. By doing this, you help to contribute to said problem without even realizing it. My advice would be to do some real critical thinking on the subject, and even talk to women about their thoughts regarding this article. Their opinions matter more than yours, and when you come to realize that, you'll actually be able to be part of an adult discussion.

Eric Geer
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@Turd (lol) Call me what you will. Immature, not helping the situation, etc. I'm sorry, but if I am buying a game, I tend to know what is in it and whats in it.

Hell you can generally tell by the first trailer, if women in the game are objectified and sexualized ...And if so, why is said women gamer even buying the game let alone playing so long that that they feel this: "And the female characters that are nothing more than oversexualized objects are not made for women, they're also made for men. But those characterizations consistently make women feel like they are worth less than a man is"

(On an off note: Women in western culture consistantly objectify themselves, by choice, to appeal to both male and female audiences)

The problem I have with the feminist/sexist movement in games is that rather than focusing in on a particular genre, it is focusing on the industry and "games" as a whole, which I don't believe is the right way to go about it.

I want my horror, I want my action, I want my games with slutty women, I want dick and fart jokes, I want love story, I want drama, I want all of the genres to be equally represented.

But the way this movement is going they are focusing on every game and every genre. And I don't particularly like it. I understand your pain, and it is getting better. Keep fighting the good fight....

But please don't take away from one group what another group doesn't like. The two party system doesn't work--as we can see by Congress--it has to be a mutual relationship with some give and take(that's what she said) I respect women, I respect men---I just don't like the way that it is being portrayed---that all of these games with women that are objectified are bad..because it's not.

Everyone has a different palate and a different taste. If you want to make more flavors go for it...I"M ALL FOR IT. But just don't remove flavors because then we are back at square one.

Mitchell Fujino
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I kind of wanted to make the pledge that for every over-sexualized female character in one of my games, I'd add an over-sexualized male character.

Then I realized that would quickly make every game into porn.

But hey, then everyone could feel equally uncomfortable while playing games.

Simon Ludgate
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I'm reminded of a valuable life lesson taught to me by my grade 9 English teacher, a very strong feminist. Her goal wasn't to see women treated as EQUALS with men. She didn't want women to be treated as men, or have them behave as men. Instead, she wanted both men and women to be treated FAIRLY.

The difference between fairness and equality is important. Her goal, as a feminist, was to promote the female identity as a unique and different thing from the male identity, but to have both be treated with respect and fairness. If both were equal, then they would not be different, and then the qualities that make men and women different would be lost.

That is to say, she thought the differences were valuable and should be respected and enjoyed, rather than used to treat one group unfairly. In fact, she had just as many complaints about how MEN were treated unfairly as she did about WOMEN being treated unfairly (for example, she believed men should qualify for equal paternal leave from work as women received maternal leave, to ensure both parents had ample opportunity to bond with their children).

In any case, what I often see when I read articles of this sort (especially the previous one on the male gaze) was this chasm between "differences are inherently bad" and "make men and women identical." I'm reminded of a really good article on Mass Effect, and I think it was here on Gamasutra, but it highlighted how similar the Female Shepard was to the Male Shepard, to the point where FemShep had the exact same animations, including ones that seemed decidedly un-female, like a sitting pose with legs spread in a wide open V. In other words, if you just take a male character and give it boobs and a higher pitched voice, are you really "empowering" women? Or are you "masculine-izing" them?

I think men are in a poor position to provide the female identity that women want. Men can take a female character and apply masculine ideals to her and hold her up as an icon and say "look, we did good here! We made a strong and respectable woman! Aren't you proud of us?" But I don't think that's what women want. Maybe it is, but it's not what my English teacher would have wanted.

I think the biggest problem is with that gulf of female identity. Male identity is becoming increasingly broad: you can do pretty much anything as a man now and maintain security in your masculinity. Men seem willing to adapt to any activity, including those that seem "feminine." Sewing? Fashion? Playing with dolls (also known as "role-playing")? Cooking? Careers like librarian (I'm a male librarian) or nursing (my cousin is a male nurse) or childcare? House-husband? Maybe my imagination is limited, but I can't really think of anything that is strictly the realm of women-only anymore.

On the other hand, women seem far, far more willing to label things as "man-only." I frequently see things about how games are "too violent" for women, or have too much combat, or are too intense. This article decries games that focus on killing, but killing is a very effective method of conflict resolution, and one particularly well adapted to games. Why is it that men do pretty much anything, but women have to label things as "manly" and not do them?

Perhaps the underlying problem is that the nature of games clashes with the essential differences between male and female identity. Games are all about conflict resolution: there are multiple possible outcomes and one outcome is decided through the application of the rules of the game and some degree of skill and/or chance. Perhaps it is the case that men inherently find pleasure in shaping the decision of that outcome to one they desire to see fulfilled. Perhaps men are motivated to exert control on reshaping the external world.

I guess this is something of a nature vs nurture argument: is it because women are genetically programmed not to enjoy this sort of conflict resolution, or do we culturally train girls not to enjoy it? I don't know. I think it's up to women to answer this question. But the answer to this might help women solve the underlying problem to the perceived anti-female nature of games: are games simply things that women can never enjoy in their current form and will forever remain a rift between the sexes, or can women simply chose to start enjoying games as men do, joining them as equals (or, rather, fair and balanced but uniquely different cohabitants) in games?

Christopher Casey
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The idea that women may be "genetically programmed" to not enjoy certain types of games is pretty bogus, straying dangerously close to oft-debunked evolutionary psychology nonsense. When in doubt, it's usually better to assume that we're more alike than we are different -- this way, one is less likely to stray into specious arguments relying biology to justify sexism.

Simon Ludgate
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"When in doubt, it's usually better to assume that we're more alike than we are different"

So why do we say things like "women don't like games with killing and men do?" Is that statement incorrect? If it's true, why is it true?

If it's not a biological difference, then it's a cultural difference; or is there a third explanation for that difference? If it's a cultural difference, is it one we should strive to change, or one we should embrace? If we embrace the cultural difference and continue to nurture women into not enjoying games involving killing, what does this say about our industry? Should we change our industry to conform with the changes in human behaviour our culture propagates, or should we accept that our culture trains women not to enjoy the games our industry primarily creates?

I'm not trying to state, one way or another, what the answer is. I am, however, actively seeking the answer. As Leigh points out in her original article: much of what we see are symptoms of an underlying problem. I'm willing to ask uncomfortable questions if it means digging down and exposing that underlying problem, so that we might better understand the problem and better solve it.

Christopher Casey
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The shooter genre has a lot of baggage that keeps women away, especially from shooters that have strong online components with chat lobbies. The tendency for male gamers and developers alike to otherize women who play shooters keeps them at a distance far more effectively than guns and blood. I don't think you'll find many female gamers or developers arguing that there is some sort of "biotruth" making them averse to shooters -- if this is the message you got from the article, you are likely misinterpreting, perhaps towards your own biases.

I would say that our only job is to ensure that women are not constantly told, either explicitly or implicitly, that certain types of games are "not for them." People can make their own decisions about what games to play without being herded into pens based on our own preconceptions about what sorts of games they "should" like.

Luis Guimaraes
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Me and my friends spent many awesome nights in LAN playing CS or L4D with our girlfriends. They're far from bad players and really enjoy gaming when it's part of a social event.

---

And sex has nothing to do with the ability to play:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbesM0-sH7E

Yes, the comment section is awful.

Christopher Casey
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I just assumed the comments section was part of the point you were trying to make. It's certainly perfect in the context of this discussion.

Luis Guimaraes
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@Christopher Casey

Yes the comment section is also a relevant part of the overall discussion.

I was mostly talking about the fact that women tend to (God forbid It's a generalization) more often than men, lean towards social activities whenever there's a social choice within said activities. See, reading a book is a lonely activity, but then, reading clubs get started.

Whenever I think about making a game for women to enjoy, I think Asymmetric Coop.

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

Greg Findlay
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The thing that frustrates me the most is that the way we develop games shows how little we understand how including particular game mechanics and narratives influence players within the game and the way we're exploiting women is part of it.

Unless we're making a game with zero women in it players aren't going to take any narrative we make seriously unless those women can be taken seriously. I'm a man and seeing an attractive woman can easily become a distraction, overlaying that sense of sexuality on everything else that woman does. That's perfectly natural and can be exploited to influence peoples opinion of a character. But if all the woman are like that it looses all of its power.

For example, I think that Jack in the Mass Effect series would have been a better character had she not been physically attractive. Yes, her character would then fit snugly into a stereotyped female outcast but I think in Jacks case it would have improved her character. She was tormented in a prison for years and came out of it physically fit. With the backdrop of all the other physically fit/beautiful people following Sheppard having her be either disfigured or overweight would have made her stand out within the crew, somewhat showcasing her physical abuse. It also could have been something she hid behind but maybe that's too cliche.

Running a design challenge for transforming a female character into something more fitting to her role in the game could be something Gamasutra did, if it hasn't already been done. Although, it does make me cringe a little to think of some of the possible outcomes.

Regina Buenaobra
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I'm really glad to see this conversation happening in more mainstream places and on an ongoing basis. Several years ago, people would blog about these issues (myself amongst them), but mainstream games press and developers either ignored it or didn't know the conversation was happening without them. These problems are not a new thing, and it's important that this public discourse continue so that people are more aware of how the decisions they make when creating/marketing games can impact the market and gaming culture.

Jonathan Jou
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I came to a fuller understanding of how troubling this issue really is a few weeks ago. My understanding may not be everyone's, but I really think people need to be *aware* of the choices they make when it comes to sexualizing women in any medium, even if they still do so. I've read confusing arguments, like "I wish there was a female character in this game that was strong," seemingly misguided desires to have "the ability" to make unattractive women (even though some games have that ability, and not even the women make unattractive women there), and outright belittling headcount exercises where they associate a deviation from a perfect 1:1 gender ratio to sexism. I don't know if all the feminists have the right reasons, but I do think there are plenty of important reasons this fight needs to be fought.

That said, I would really encourage it if, somewhere, we compiled and linked to the list of "Frequently Asked Questions" that inevitably arise on any article on this issue:

1. "Why are you talking about this, when you could be doing something about it?"
2. "It's just a game, why does this matter?"
3. "Why can't we just hire more women in games?"
4. "If you don't like what's going on, why can't you just not buy the game?"
5. "Look, games like these sell. Is it so wrong to pursue profits?"
6. "Guys and girls want different things in games, why do girls want to decide what goes into games guys like?"
7. "Aren't there more important things to deal with than the misrepresentation of women in games?"
8. "Why are you trying to make men sound like the bad guys?"

...I think there are a bunch more! I haven't compiled a full list since reading painful, hateful, and ignorant responses can be a bit much. But I do think every article which expects to need to answer these should be able to just point to them, and link to them, and quote them, along with answers which I believe someone more experienced than I should try to draft up.

Jonathan Jou
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Agreed, Joe! Things just like that, which I am sadly unaware of.

If there are direct answers to these rather repeated questions, all the better. And if the questions are answered beyond the scope of games, I think that lends more credence and power to the answers. I think the answers to these sorts of questions (I still think there are more) bears careful, thoughtful, and well-reasoned answers that are as digestible as can be made for those who are unaware, and obviously the more actively involved we as a community are about it the better!

In my mind, instead of having people repeatedly try to address what is potentially a deeply flawed understanding of what these movements are about, it might be easier to provide people with best possible answers, crystallized possibly from many, many attempts to explain it! I believe that giving everyone who believes in this the tools to easily and directly answer these questions will slowly but surely change the tune of the misinformed (maybe) masses.

wes bogdan
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Who both makes / plays the most games STRAIGHT WHITE MALES...you can go from being a hardcore gamer to being in the industry but we make games we want to play which means to an extent the industry is inbred.

Rather than bringing in girls to gameing so they can become a much larger part of the industry i hear things like "i have 3 girls and girls aren't as into games!!!"

The industry is in a rut and only new perspectives and a greater participation by all will get us moving forward again,not throw a new box at them and they'll lap it up.

I mean a simple thing like full custom layouts, which should be part of my psn/xblm profiles still is something i had to force by finding a special gamester phoenix revolution ps2 pad and modding my 360 pads + finding thrustmasters 3-1 dual trigger custom pad. After 20+ years of dual analog you'd think someone would realize the more custom games are the more players can play and the more money that can be made. Again inbred thinktank we do things a certain way until something that's a gamechanger or genere defing moment arrives then scramble to adapt.

Diversity isn't our strong suite and if we want to move forward it must be .

Mitchell Fujino
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The assumption that "straight white males" are the largest group playing games isn't based in fact.
If the "games" you're talking about are all shooters, then you're likely correct, but looking more broadly, there's many women interested in games.

For instance, The Sims had a predominately female audience. Not only that, but The Sims was the most profitable PC franchise for a ridiculously long time.
The majority of Farmville players are also women. (And again, Zynga makes a ridiculous amount of money)
Note that both of these games don't oversexualize female characters, for what that's worth.

Even many MMOs have a large percentage of female players.

Jefferson Leard
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While as a male involved in gaming who struggles with the ways I both agree and disagree with these topics, the one thing I saw here that I had yet to before was the connection made between "geek privilige" and the sexist backlash that those like Anita have experienced.

"More importantly, neither do the traditions of geek culture, which is founded in misunderstood people prizing their special escapes from the uninitiated, keeping sacred the spaces that make them feel powerful.

For most people, this is their identity, and if you tell them you want to change it in any way they are going to fear losing their power. It's not surprising that issues of privilege get tangled in the morass."

I feel like this is a very good common ground that anyone in games should be able to draw from. People don't want to give up what makes them who they are, regardless of whether its sexist or not. But a lot of times arguments can seem like they're saying "if you're a gamer who likes x you're a terrible person." And even if that's not what people are saying its what people might be hearing. I'm not suggesting we ignore actual harm being done or euphemizing, but at least as far as the non-development side of the question, that is a big source of resistance to change in games for more than just sexist/feminist issues even. Let's not forget that until relatively recently, being a "gamer" was similarly marginalized on the whole.

Again I'm not offering anyone a free pass because oh those poor gamers used to be marginalized too. Its just important to take into consideration when trying to bridge the gap to understanding for everyone. It could in fact be the best way to help them identify.

Austin Ivansmith
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Ahh, but in a more "meta" way of thinking, this "backlash" may stem from feeling like the industry has already skewed their identity by over-sexualizing it and marginalizing women in a way it didn't use to.

Jefferson Leard
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@Austin I'm not sure I feel in a position to make the claim either way that over-sexualization is a recent trend or something that games have always dealt with. Clearly Pong didn't have much of that, but going forward from there or from the 8-bit generation, I'd really have to go back and look myself to decide. But clearly you would think that development-wise the current exclusionary "boys-club" atmosphere is an outgrowth of development atmospheres from then. Its not as if women were once well represented and then once it went mainstream they were shut out.

I think again this can go back to the geek privilege situation, in that once-marginalized young boys who played video games as their escape in turn marginalized young-girls, much in the way that ACTUAL boys clubs (of the little rascals no-girls-allowed variety) did. Unfortunately those boys grew up without growing out of that. And then taught the ones that came after.

Maybe I'm the only one who thinks such a connection is relevant, but to me it seems like sexism in video games is a keen reflection of the marginalization of gaming culture a decade or more ago, and that teaching geeks to share instead of exclude could go a long way to helping.

Austin Ivansmith
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@Jefferson well my original statement had more to do with the idea that these male gamers who are speaking up against discussions about sexism feel like they are losing their power and in a way being marginalized, when the whole reason that women may be speaking up in the first place is because they have been feeling the same thing happen over the years. Sorry, was more of a possible epiphany I was having. And it is not to discredit anyone speaking up on the issue, more of a hypothesis on more possible triggers for the community uprising.

I think it can be very easy to see that since men were the majority of the workforce 20 plus years ago that the attitudes towards many things were very male-driven, but I think it's a tad disingenuous to make an immediate jump into claiming that it was overtly exclusionary, whether intentional or not.

I do however feel that games of 17 and 22 years ago (yeah I'm saying 1995 and 1990) had less content in them to completely exclude a female audience. Games were still very abstract and not hyper-focused the way they are today, both in their content and especially in their advertising/marketing. Around the time of 2000 when games were catching up to movies in gross sales, business minded people took note and started isolating groups and trends and focused games to core audiences. I have no proof, but looking at how Nintendo was very successful with their handheld consoles in the 2000's is a testament to this because boys and girls alike could play a multitude of games built on the principles of Nintendo's early successes of the 80s. You may not want to make that claim, but I'm willing to broadly generalize and stand behind my claim.

I don't agree with the idea you mention of actual boys clubs, and then growing up and teaching those that came after. I think there is more causality behind it, where our natural tendency is to be exclusionary, but I have NEVER worked with a single person who was unwilling to work with a woman, or felt they were incompetent or unqualified for ANY job in our industry, and I have been working for over 7 years now and have easily worked amongst 300+ people in that time (man I want to sit down some night and crunch the real number). In that time I'm sure I'd have heard some kind of rumor or something about someone being a total bigot and/or douche.

I think we are teaching geeks to share. There is a ton of info out there and supportive messages by people like us, on smart places like this, where there is a good level of tolerance and amiability. But a bigger issue is a lack of media literacy for too many people, completely misinterpreting PR for fact and advertisements for documentaries, and being given the soapbox of anonymity and a bullhorn the size of the world.

David OConnor
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Frankly, the story of Katie Williams is pathetic on both sides, in how she allowed herself to be condescended to: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/06/513794/.

Katie, please, next time, tell the PR w*nker that you are capable, then show him that you are capable, then ask to see his boss, instead of melting like a blob of goo. Journalism 101: Get a spine. And now whining and creating a drama about such a tiny non-incident.

The video game industry isn't great when it comes to the treatment of women, but it isn't awful either. There are much more important causes out there than this: I'd suggest re-prioritizing.

Victor Zuylen
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Again with the derailment tactic. Yes, there are bigger problems in the world. In this topic, on this website, we're discussing the issue of sexism in the game industry. It's okay, we can deal with multiple problems at once.

Philip Kerr
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Let's see:

"Katie, please, next time, tell the PR w*nker that you are capable, then show him that you are capable, then ask to see his boss, instead of melting like a blob of goo."

Victim blaming: check

"such a tiny non-incident."

Telling a victim of sexism that she's not entitled to her own experiences: check

"There are much more important causes out there than this: I'd suggest re-prioritizing."

Pretending that you care about problems in the world whilst simultaneously trying to undermine the fight against a problem in the world: check.

Christopher Casey
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Let's play a game where we point out the problematic parts of David's post: "get a spine", "whining," "drama", "more important causes," "tiny non-incident." This all sounds strangely familiar.

Philip Kerr
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EDIT: GAH, apologies, I should have paid more attention.

Luis Guimaraes
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That moment at E3 might have been a really weird scene.

Like when you go to the mall and a vendor stand up by your side asking if you need something and you have to say "no, I'm fine, thanks". These moments can get really weird if you go "she's here because she thinks I'm trying to steal something".

I have many women friends, and more than one of them told me "when a woman asks for advices, she just wants you to agree with her, she doesn't really want an advice". That is true for men too, just replace "advice" by "critcism" and put it in the context of game development world.

Christopher Casey
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This is a great article, thanks Leigh!

Ole Berg Leren
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"There's something wrong with our commercial games, and with the core audience that buys and loves them."

You are bad and you should feel bad. Unnecessary shaming in an otherwise nice article. If you're trying to communicate with someone and change their stance on something, shaming-tactics aren't effective.

The general point of the article is that we need more diversity in games, and I wholly agree. That sentence runs contrary to that point, as far as I can decipher meaning from it. And DOA4 is my favorite fighting game, altho the boob-physics are ridiculous to the point of being distracting :| The game would be improved, in my opinion, if they were a bit downplayed. Though I only play Gen Fu, and I really hope they never attach boobs to him.

Christopher Casey
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I don't think the idea that mainstream commercial products are formulaic and risk-averse to the point of near-toxicity is an unreasonable one to make in the context of attempting to understand why problematic gender stereotypes tend to persist. If a formula seems to work, it's often hard to find good reasons to change it -- even to correct some artifacts that we all recognize are doing us no good. I think that something along those lines may have been the argument that the article was trying to make by including criticism of big commercial titles, although I would argue that it is not the audience for these titles that is flawed so much as the perception of the audience. I think the core audience would be plenty receptive to less gratuitous titles if given the chance to be.

Steven An
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Yeah..I totally agree here. Her message about diversity in games - in its people and in the games it puts out - I am all for. I welcome EVERYONE to make games about EVERYTHING! And while I won't like everything, I fully support it.

But yeah..don't go around calling the core audience "wrong" and insulting it. ADD to the landscape. Don't berate what's there just because there's nothing much around it.

Ole Berg Leren
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@Christopher I probably should have cut the first part of the quote, since the part I had a problem with was the latter one that antagonises and generalises a large group of gamers. It is unnecessary and not conductive to the conversation.

That part of the sentence just seemed dissonant with the rest of the article to me, and irked me. Up until that point, Leigh seemed to want to include everyone in the conversation, but suddenly she paints a large portion of her audience as co-conspirators. It was no longer "we need to fix this" but "you need to be fixed." Important distinction in my mind.

I welcome this discussion, as it is something I am decidedly unknowledgable about, as I am a white male. I can't help what I am, but I can try to understand other people's perspectives, which is why I am here reading. I learn as I go.

@Steven Agreed! If there's only bacon and you don't like bacon, make eggs (or both! ). I have little idea how to make a strong female lead character, so I look to other games for clues on how. We use games to talk about games, and with a broader selection to sample from, we'll have a better understanding of what makes a good female lead. All I'm hearing is "we don't want this" and no examples of what they want. Looking forward to Anita Sarkeesian's episode on that matter, as it'll hopefully be insightful, and not just Peach in Mario's clothing.

Up until now, I actually thought Lara Croft was a good rolemodel for female leads. Female Indiana Jones with guns. But she's apparently sexist too, even tho I enjoyed the puzzle solving and platforming sequences in the previous games.


TL;DR: The difference between "We must fix this" and "We must fix you".

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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"Or like when Anita Sarkeesian's fundraiser to explore stereotypes for women and girl characters in games results in a nauseating firestorm of hatred -- culminating in a game where the object is to beat Sarkeesian in the face."

The problem with Sarkeesians backlash is that she promotes a very specific brand of feminism as experienced and seen in her youtube videos.

Initial criticism of her work and goal with the kickstarter was then hijacked by misogynistic assholes that took it as a free pass to berate her.

While this is of course not ok, we should closely examine Sarkeesians goal with her kickstarter and book and think twice if we want specifically her voice as the representation of women in the industry.

Christopher Casey
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There are plenty of different people with different takes on feminism, but I don't think supporting Sarkeesian's right to present her views runs the risk of automatically making her the "voice of all women in the industry" or anything like that. In other words, supporting her right to speak her mind is not a dangerous venture that threatens to appoint her as some sort of unimpeachable figurehead. In fact, the idea that one woman's opinion can somehow be representative of all, or even most, is a fairly common misconception that helps to "otherize" women. Would you ever think to worry about having one man's opinion "accidentally" represent all men in the industry? Of course not, that's ridiculous. There is no cause for the outrage surrounding that Kickstarter, and I have yet to see any "legitimate" criticism of her content that didn't amount to thinly-veiled misogyny or outright hostility. Feel free to prove me wrong, though.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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"There are plenty of different people with different takes on feminism, but I don't think supporting Sarkeesian's right to present her views runs the risk of automatically making her the "voice of all women in the industry" or anything like that. In other words, supporting her right to speak her mind is not a dangerous venture that threatens to appoint her as some sort of unimpeachable figurehead."

I didn't mean to suggest that, I'm sorry if it came over that way.
Of course she has the right to speak her mind, and i absolutely support that.
I'm also not suggesting she will become some sort of figurehead.

What I meant is that she does focus a lot of attention right now and I am not entirely sure that her brand of feminism is actually -beneficial- to the discussion about sexism in the industry.

"There is no cause for the outrage surrounding that Kickstarter, and I have yet to see any "legitimate" criticism of her content that didn't amount to thinly-veiled misogyny or outright hostility."

I think there is, and I object to the vilification of any critical voices around her to being immediately labeled sexist and misogynist.
Just because she was abused on the internet by a bunch of dicks doesn't mean she should be out of reach of criticism for her message.

I personally think her brand of feminism is not beneficial for the industry.
I am however not inclined to go into a deep discussion about her and my criticisms of her specific brand of feminism in this overcrowded comments section and in fear of being automatically branded a misogynist and sexist. (which is what this whole situation perpetuates and part of my critique; its the equivalent of slut-shaming for men).

Thats why I let another female feminist do the talking:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDtyrK1butI

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Heng Yoeung
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@Ole -- If they attached boobs to him, I doubt he be interested in fighting with anyone anymore. I think he'd be too busy with something else. I know I would be.

Seriously, though, is there sexism in the videogame industry? No question. Is it worth worrying about? Maybe. If youl want to quarantine the world from all it's problems, it's certainly heroic to start with the sexim in the videogame industry. On the other hand, is this problem intrinsically a vidoegame industry problem? Or is it symptomatic and pervasive of a deeper issue? I would say it is the latter. Obviously, those who stand on Feminist grounds would disagree. But, again, be a hero and fight your fight. My opinion is that it won't do you any good. Why? Because the root of the cause is not the effect. If you want to affect the cause, start with education of your children. People play dirty. I'm not stupid to this idea. I am a Cambodian-American who grew up in the nation's educational system when I was ten years old. Since day one, the prejudice has been: look, he's got slanted eys, he's Chinese, Chinese are Communists and they hate the US, therefore this Asian guy is a bad person, let's give him Hell. Were there alot of people of this mindset? No. At least, not vocally. What I mean by that, is that even the High School class valedictorian wanted to beat me up because I was who I was. You'd think intelligence correlates with proper behaviour. I am sad to say, no, it doesn't. Morality, however, correleates with fair play. Not perfectly, but it is a correlation which can always be improved upon. In that way, we can hope for a better society by way of a moral education. I've read in these comments that censorship is not what's it all about. At the same time, people are saying, we don't want to see boobs and butts sexualized. Is there a contradiction here somewhere or am I missing somethiing. Censorship is not an answer. Having more women in the industry is not an answer either. There are plenty of women in the world who play dirty. Personally, I think less than the males, but let's not fool ourselves that women can be just as nasty as men. Wasn't it Eve who deceived her husband Adam? If women ran the world, you know what's it going to be like? Wars over a bad hair day, that's what it's going to be like.

In any case, it seems the presumption is that the videogame industry is where everybody ought to be. Men like it. Women should get in the game as well because a good thing mus be shared equally by all. Is that the way it is? Or is it just a bunch of Feminist speaking for the entire world? Frankly, people, there are more urgent issues in the world to work on then make videogames. Turn yoiur eyes to the Third World nations of this Earth. What do you see? Is making videogames for a living that important in comparison? Again, be a hero and fight yoiur fight. Is there life on Mars? Is it worth the effort to spend millioins of dollars on a space shuttle when that money can be used to help the poor, the lame, and the blind? My view is that it isn't. But this is a democratic country. You're entitled to disagree. Maybe it is that the majority of woman aren't interested in making toys. Don't pretend that you know what they want. Maybe it's ok for them to be a doctor, a philosopher, or whatever. It's certainly a nice gesture to say that we ouight to have diversity, but maybe it's not a woman's thing to make entertainment. If you want to argure with this, do you think more women should carry guns for the militray, or that we need more women construction workers, or that men should take care of babies and women should go out hunting against tigers and wooly mammoths? Don't argue against biology. It's a law you can't win against.

Victor Zuylen
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You're at least the third guy in this discussion to try the "There are bigger problems in the world so we should not pay attention to this" derailment tactic. Nobody fell for it the first two times, but who knows? Maybe the third time's the charm.

Also saying it's "biology" or "not a woman's thing to make entertainment" is pretty sexist and a massive falsehood disproven by thousands of female artists, writers, directors and developers every day.

Heng Yoeung
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You're always the one to point this out. Where exactly did I say that "we shoud not pay attention to this"? Why don't you read my comment again. All I said was that, sure, you can take a stance against sexism, but it wouldn't do you much good. By that, I mean that what you will accomplish is short-termed because the problem is systemic, not localized within this industry. It's like trying to prevent people from going into the deep parts of the ocean with waves by making a ripple with a small stone.

You have a knack for misquoting people. I said, " _maybe_ it's not a women's thing to make entertainment". By "women", I don't mean girls or females. I meant grownups. Making videogames is a kid's career. It's not terribly ambitious in terms of what one's energy could be used for. What would be ambitious? Well, a cancer researcher would be one. A philosopher would be another. A food geneticist woud be yet another. A career making Halo, how does that affect the world? Grownups wih twitchy thumbs is what I can think of.

All of this talk about oversexualizing women in videogames is a Feminist agenda. If you want equality for women, again, teach your little boys to treat little girls the right way. Teach them a consciousness of God, who is Morality. What the "male gaze" or rape of women are, arises from lust. If you teach your kids that lust is a sin, and ingrain in them the fear of God, they'll tend to behave the right way. Again, morality and good behaviour is not a perfect correlation, but it is the right correlation in terms of how you want to change the "male gaze" or rape. It is natural for the "male gaze" to arise from evolutionary instincts, but it can be mitigated by way of the moral man.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Your argument completely falls apart after the first paragraph, especially when you bring in god and instilling fear in your children.

Not to mention you dismiss the existence of an artform and a whole industry out of hand.

"A career making Halo, how does that affect the world?"

Thousands of jobs are created and those people don't starve in the street for one, they are then free to pursue happiness and fulfillment in life. Not to mention the enjoyment you give to people who play the actual games.

Show some empathy.

Victor Zuylen
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> "You're always the one to point this out."

Because it's such an easily recognizable pattern in this whole discussion and so easy to show why it's a fallacy. For that matter, most of the counter-arguments I've read have been laid to rest countless times in other discussions about this very issue. I guess I'm just a sucker for the low-hanging fruit. :/

> "Where exactly did I say that "we shoud not pay attention to this"? Why don't you read my comment again."

You're the second one to try that comeback as well. When you say

"Women should get in the game as well because a good thing mus be shared equally by all. Is that the way it is? Or is it just a bunch of Feminist speaking for the entire world? Frankly, people, there are more urgent issues in the world to work on then make videogames."

you're pretty clearly making that implicit, whether you intend to or not. If you didn't intend to, why bring up 'more urgent issues in the world' in the first place? In a discussion specifically about *this* issue? On a website specifically about games?

> "All I said was that, sure, you can take a stance against sexism, but it wouldn't do you much good. By that, I mean that what you will accomplish is short-termed because the problem is systemic, not localized within this industry. It's like trying to prevent people from going into the deep parts of the ocean with waves by making a ripple with a small stone."

And this is precisely why the 'bigger issues' derailment is a fallacy: we are perfectly capable of fighting sexism on many fronts at once - gaming is just one of the many facets of our culture that's being critically examined. It's not as if anyone here has used up their sexism-fighting quota just on this gaming issue.

But even if we were only able to focus on one issue at once, and even if there were better issues to targets first, *that still doesn't mean games don't have a sexism problem*. The issue wouldn't go away even if there were bigger fish to fry first.

> "You have a knack for misquoting people. I said, " _maybe_ it's not a women's thing to make entertainment". By "women", I don't mean girls or females. I meant grownups."

I didn't misquote anyone. I may have misinterpreted an argument. Maybe you should be clearer?

> "Making videogames is a kid's career. It's not terribly ambitious in terms of what one's energy could be used for."

Lol. I'm willing to bet the average age of the industry is over thirty at this point, so how is it a "kid's career"? As for the rest of your comment, I'll defer to Aleksander Adamkiewicz's comment above.

> "All of this talk about oversexualizing women in videogames is a Feminist agenda."

Yes... and? Am I supposed to have negative connotations with the word "Feminist"? Because it stands for something very positive in my mind.

> "If you want equality for women, again, teach your little boys to treat little girls the right way."

That means we'd better also look at how women are treated in the games they play, otherwise they'll receive mixed messages.

> "Teach them a consciousness of God, who is Morality. What the "male gaze" or rape of women are, arises from lust. If you teach your kids that lust is a sin, and ingrain in them the fear of God, they'll tend to behave the right way."

My kids are agnostic like me, and we prefer it that way, thanks. They understand that mistreating women is morally wrong even without invoking religion.

At the risk of starting a religion derail, I will say this: If the only thing keeping kids from raping or objectifying women is a fear of divine retribution, instead of an understanding why it is wrong in and of itself, then they don't really have a morality to speak of.

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Victor Zuylen
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(removed - don't want to derail any further)

Ole Berg Leren
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I disagree that there are "bigger problems", really. That's just an excuse to not do anything. Work towards betterment where you are, and the world might follow your example. Changing the whole world is a responsibility no one can take upon themselves.

Another point I'd make, is that everything on this planet affects each other. Every action has a reaction. Call it Chaos Theory if you'd like, but you can't argue that the world isn't becoming more and more interconnected just on a human level. It's a global economy, and food doesn't even have to come from your continent anymore.

Then there is the issue with climate, and my stance there is that if we don't understand how it works, why are we using it as a dumping ground for the waste of society? If we can't project the effects of our increasing reliance on finite resources, we should seek alternatives.

[Insert text about how money is power, and the money is controlled by privately owned banks.]


On-topic:
I don't think anyone is saying that everyone should be in the video-game industry, just that no one should feel excluded from trying. If we produce more diverse commercial games, we'll gain a wider audience and some of that audience might feel compelled to delve into game design. Which will only strengthen the diversity in the industry, and benefit all.

Using Adam & Eve as an example doesn't really strengthen your case, neither does the "Bad Hair D-Day" scenario. The first presupposes the Bible as a credible source, the other implies that all women are hysterical. Hint: that last one is sexist. And no one is saying any one gender should "run the world", as we're all the spokes, gears and axles that drive this society forward (or backwards/sideways). Praise the Omnissiah!

And yes, women should also serve in the military. Equal rights and equal responsibilities. The "hunting tigers and mammoths" argument doesn't apply in modern day society.

This article has died down, so I doubt anyone will read this comment. Especially since there's no comment-reply notification on Gamasutra, as far as I've seen. But, can't hurt, so here you go.

Obviously, all of these are personal convictions on my part. I can be quite the hippie.

Eric Geer
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Sorry ladies, it's hard to change the rules when you come late to the game.

1980s---Girl says---"Oh yeah...that's that loser nerd boy that plays games in his mother's basement all the time."

*Fast forward*

2012---Girl says---"Waahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!"

Victor Zuylen
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Nice strawman. Even if it was exclusively women who said that about games in the eighties (it wasn't - plenty of people, male and female alike, held this view) those aren't the same women who are seeking inclusivity in games today.

And even if they _were_ one and the same, there's no reason to have some damn compassion.

Eric Geer
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2012--Mangina says---Waaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

PS It was ment to be comment on the irony of the situation.

Thanks again Joe for dropping the F-Bomb when not necessary...drama queen. :P

Gern Blanston
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@Eric Geer

Your comment has nothing to do with the point of this article. Your statements are uninformed, uneducated, dishonest, and immature. Congratulations, you've managed to make your argument inseparable from that of a 13 year old's. But even if you were 13, my advice to you would be to research what you mean to talk about, then grow up.

Eric Geer
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Thanks Turd Fergeson My comments were probably just as mature as your user name.

Derp.

Eric Geer
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is *Trolling*

Sorry for egging on the pink panty meltdown.

Steven An
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Cuz all girls are the same. Fact.

Eric Geer
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^Trite and True...

Victor Zuylen
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GF: I love you baby.
BF: I love you honey.
GF: I'm so glad we decided to move in together.
BF: I agree, it's so cool to finally have someone to share my life and my interests with. Wanna play a videogame?
GF: In a minute. I have to pee first.
BF: Okay, don't be long!

(moments later)

GF: Honey? Could you come in here?
BF: What is it?
GF: This toilet seat is really dirty.
BF: No it isn't.
GF: Yes it is. See those pee stains along the edge?
BF: I don't see anything.
GF: Not even that big yellow splash near the seat hinge?
BF: Oh, that. Yeah, that's pretty normal.
GF: How am I supposed to pee with a toilet seat like that?
BF: You just pee standing up, like I do.
GF: I don't want to pee standing up. I want to be able to sit down on a clean seat.
BF: Why? You think you deserve special treatment just because you're a girl?
GF: Actually I think everyone deserves a clean toilet seat. Boys and girls alike.
BF: Maybe you should try to find another toilet.
GF: I did, but all the other toilets in this house look pretty much the same as this one.
BF: Why don't you build your own toilet then?
GF: Because I don't have a degree in sanitary porcelain engineering? I wouldn't know where to start.
BF: Well, that's your problem. I like this toilet just fine.
GF: Well I don't. I think if we work together we should be able to clean up these--
BF: I don't want to.
GF: Why not?
BF: Because then I won't be able to pee anywhere.
GF: Yes you will. You'll just have to observe better toilet hygiene.
BF: No, I mean I need to be able to pee anywhere I *want*, like on a toilet seat.
GF: Wh-- I-- Huh?
BF: I read somewhere that men instinctively pee on things to mark their territory. It's... evolution or something.
GF: Okay, look, even if that's true you've had tens of thousands of years of civilization to get over that instinct.
BF: Sorry, it can't be helped. Men pee on stuff.
GF: ...Great. Will you at least help me find a bottle of toilet cleaner?
BF: Seriously? Out of all the problems in this bathroom, you want to focus on cleaning the toilet?
GF: Uh, yes? I currently feel the urge to pee, so it's kind of pertinent.
BF: But the faucet is dirty too!
GF: I don't see how--
BF: The floor hasn't been vacuumed in weeks!
GF: Those are definitely issues, but--
BF: THE SINK IS CLOGGED UP!
GF: Will you please calm down?
BF: Me?! You're the one who's being all irrational and emotional over this.
GF: Oh, for... I agree that those are problems, okay? They just don't magically make the toilet seat less dirty, Maybe they're all symptoms of a wider unhygienic culture that--
BF: Pfff, now you're just making stuff up. 'Unhygienic culture', heh.

Eric Geer
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GF: Put the seat down when you are done!!!

BF: Why do I always have to put the seat down when I'm done? Why can't you put the seat up when your done?

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Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Common sense is the worst sense.

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Ole Berg Leren
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A toilet-seat post? Sweet! I can finally voice my opinion on this hot-topic.

If you pee standing, put it up. If you pee sitting, put it down. DONE.

I am not an oracle. I do not know what preference the person using the toilet after me has, and I do not expect them to have innate knowledge about my toilet-adventures either.

Your post is really meta, tho. It's a post exemplifying derailing while derailing.

Katherine Nelson
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Do we have a place where women in the games industry can join in on this discussion in some sort of official capacity?

@Alice Rendell - I am feeling somewhat on the same page here, I am curious if there is not a better place where we can organize and break-down this and many of the other involved discussions.

Gern Blanston
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What do you mean by 'official'? All I can tell you is that these are the venues in which these issues are being discussed on a normal basis. I strongly urge you to join in as much as you are willing to, we need more women to share their thoughts on these comment pages. As a matter of fact, please join in the these discussions regardless of which website articles like this one show up at. Currently, open forums such as this tend to be the best places to participate in such discussions.

Darcy Nelson
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@Turd: I'm assuming by 'official' she really means in a monitored capacity where women can discuss these issues without fear of judgment, reprisal, or vicious uncalled-for Internet trolling.

I'd really like to see something like that come to fruition.

Katherine Nelson
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@Turd - While I can appreciate the value in speaking up in public forums such as this - with 183+ comments there are way too many spin-off thoughts here including some that are off-topic. So, I will give one summary and maybe we can find a good place for discussion to take place.

@Darcy - Yes! It would be nice to have a place with a small collection of people dedicated to breaking down the issue without fear of trolling. Also, for those of us who are not indie, certain points of view have to be understood not to be representing the companies we work for.

Here are my thoughts mostly on the comments for this article...responding as a gamer and game developer.

The particular focus I would be interested in discussing is what game developers and publishers can do to build more interest in games for non-gamers and underrepresented groups (not just women) and in general create a more diverse and positive overall image for our industry. This is a long-term issue with no quick-fix solutions.

Video games are a very young entertainment medium originally targeted at young boys - the majority of games therefore were formed with marketing, design, and themes trying to capture what they believed that primary audience to be (leaving out boys that prefer not to play those types of games and women) and later it grew to appeal to that audience as they aged. The content we see in a lot of our mainstream games and the marketing around them still has a focus on that demographic and it has its rightful place. Since money is always a factor in what games are developed for the mainstream, it will take time for the industry to shift to truly allow for more diverse games, marketing, and themes. We have seen a wide variety of game genres form over time, some have more trajectory than others right now, but they are growing – and yes the indie scene is also able to push these growing genres now pretty freely. I do not think anyone is actually calling for censorship of game content and booth babe tactics do have their place for some titles (maybe one day we will see booth dudes too) – what we are seeing at our large publicized events is the result of one currently dominant facet of our budding young industry. As the industry grows, we will see maturing approaches to marketing and more diverse content appearing in games. In the meantime, certain groups are going to be uncomfortable and angry and we need to do what we can to address the actionable issues (re: address online harassment, increase awareness that women are capable developers, speak up against marketing attempts that cross the line [defining this is the hard part], etc.). I love the dialog started by the "Extra Credits" team here:

http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/harassment

I like HAWP's comedic approach to bringing up the disconnect of some game marketing campaigns:

http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/d5kt5b/hey-ash--whatcha-playin
---e3-2011--part-i

I like to think about these issues as game industry issues (not just for women), as it affects all of us as we try to grow to appeal to broader and larger audiences.

Typically in these article discussions, women/feminism/sexism tend to be a focus because we are a large group experiencing online harassment, are generally on the other end of the "male" focused content spectrum, are facing stereo-types as devs and gamers, and are at a greater level are also up against the documented glass ceiling/lower pay/etc. issues prevalent across work environments - there is a lot of hurting out there. I think exploring the cause of this hurt is valuable in its own right - from working on the Saints Row franchise, I personally have struggled with certain public-facing game image choices that were made - but my real personal interest is in looking ahead and discussing how to diversify what games are made, working towards promoting a more positive and diverse image for video games, and addressing current gaming culture issues (re: online harassment / women can be good gamers and devs / etc.) to make gaming experiences better for everyone. It will take time and patience.

(My statements and opinions are my own do not reflect or represent the views of Volition, Inc. or THQ)

Bob Johnson
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A lot of this about money. The industry will gladly change the day it isn't making money or the day it can make more money not showing kids how to kill someone 50 different ways.

I am ready for it. Not sure this exactly a man thing though. It is about big budgets and taking little risk and just doing more of what came before.

It is about acceptable mediocrity. Many industries suffer from this. Your neck isn't on the line making acceptably mediocre titles. Your neck is on the line taking risks.

Of course the ironic thing is that taking risks is what pays off the most in the long run.

Steven An
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The change will happen. You see it in the indie scene already, with some beautiful diversity. It will take time.

It's a classic long-term vs. shot-term problem, and time seems to be the only answer.

Jacob Germany
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"Not sure this exactly a man thing though. It is about big budgets and taking little risk and just doing more of what came before."

It's about both. The sexist perspectives color the production/marketing decisions, which further paint a broad sexist culture, which encourages sexist perspectives, which....

Heng Yoeung
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> "You're always the one to point this out."

Because it's such an easily recognizable pattern in this whole discussion and so easy to show why it's a fallacy.

>You avoided my question, which was (below),

> "Where exactly did I say that "we shoud not pay attention to this"? Why don't you read my comment again."

You're the second one to try that comeback as well. When you say

"Women should get in the game as well because a good thing mus be shared equally by all. Is that the way it is? Or is it just a bunch of Feminist speaking for the entire world? Frankly, people, there are more urgent issues in the world to work on then make videogames."

you're pretty clearly making that implicit, whether you intend to or not. If you didn't intend to, why bring up 'more urgent issues in the world' in the first place? In a discussion specifically about *this* issue? On a website specifically about games?

>You seem to have trouble understanding English. No, you're not a sucker for low-hanging fruit. You simply focus on things you disagree on and jump on things that appear to be disagreeable. I actually said that, " there are more urgent issues in the world to work on then make videogames." This is different from saying that sexism is not wrong. Clearly it is. I even suggested that you fight your fight and be a hero. My point was, you won't succeed. Is the sexism in the industry as rampant and different from that of society at large? Or is this issue simply overblown for the purpose of a Feminist agenda? There are laws in place for sexual harassment and other issues in the workplace. If you're not happy with the pay you get, you need to be a better bargainer. Is it possible that women tend to ask for less money than men? Maybe women don't value jobs the way men do. Do you know what I do for a living? I'm a dishwasher at Burger King. I make minimum wage money, which is $8/hour before taxes, here in MA. Could I have asked for more money when I signed up? Sure. Do I value the job for more than $8/hour? No. What I do is not rocket science. I don't think it's worth more than $8. Some people seem to think otherwise because they value themselves too much. Take a look at the world of professional sports. Athletes value themselves millions and millions of dollars to play a kid's game. The men and women in the military should be the ones worth this much money, not athletes. Our society is backwards in this sense.

> "Making videogames is a kid's career. It's not terribly ambitious in terms of what one's energy could be used for."

Lol. I'm willing to bet the average age of the industry is over thirty at this point, so how is it a "kid's career"? As for the rest of your comment, I'll defer to Aleksander Adamkiewicz's comment above.

>Gee Victor. I didn't say that making a living making videogames is a bad thing. I said that it's simply not very ambitious. It's a kid's career from the standpoint of what it achieves for society, not from the standpoint of how old you are. Clearly, 35 is not kid's age. Yeah, it creats jobs and make money for people. Money, however, is not an essential life need like water or food. Money doesn't make people happy.

> "All of this talk about oversexualizing women in videogames is a Feminist agenda."

Yes... and? Am I supposed to have negative connotations with the word "Feminist"? Because it stands for something very positive in my mind.

>Which is what? If you'r talking about equality for women, I talk about that below.

> "If you want equality for women, again, teach your little boys to treat little girls the right way."

That means we'd better also look at how women are treated in the games they play, otherwise they'll receive mixed messages.

>So, little kids watching Tom & Jerry actually get the message that cats and dogs are enemies of one another and can't get along? There is no research that shows that kids can't differentiate games from reality. It is possible that kids who are violent were already violent to begin with before they started playing videogames.

> "Teach them a consciousness of God, who is Morality. What the "male gaze" or rape of women are, arises from lust. If you teach your kids that lust is a sin, and ingrain in them the fear of God, they'll tend to behave the right way."

My kids are agnostic like me, and we prefer it that way, thanks. They understand that mistreating women is morally wrong even without invoking religion.

>Morality can't exist outside of religion. Your idea of right and wrong is ethics, the basis of which is philosophy, not divine inspiration. The problem with ethics is that everybody can be a philosopher and therefore right and wrong is dependent on which person you are. For example, Muslims and Jews don't eat pork. Me, I don't have a problem with that. God says it's ok, it's ok with me. What is the basis for the Jews and Muslims' belief? God didn't say eating pork is wrong.

At the risk of starting a religion derail, I will say this: If the only thing keeping kids from raping or objectifying women is a fear of divine retribution, instead of an understanding why it is wrong in and of itself, then they don't really have a morality to speak of.

Again, this is ethics. If there is no fear of repercussions for the way you behave (ie, God's judgement), what's wrong with objectifying women? Apparently, not much for people who objectify women. That's why morality is where it nees to start for them.


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"You're always the one to point this out."

Because it's such an easily recognizable pattern in this whole discussion and so easy to show why it's a fallacy. For that matter, most of the counter-arguments I've read have been laid to rest countless times in other discussions about this very issue. I guess I'm just a sucker for the low-hanging fruit. :/

> "Where exactly did I say that "we shoud not pay attention to this"? Why don't you read my comment again."

You're the second one to try that comeback as well. When you say

"Women should get in the game as well because a good thing mus be shared equally by all. Is that the way it is? Or is it just a bunch of Feminist speaking for the entire world? Frankly, people, there are more urgent issues in the world to work on then make videogames."

you're pretty clearly making that implicit, whether you intend to or not. If you didn't intend to, why bring up 'more urgent issues in the world' in the first place? In a discussion specifically about *this* issue? On a website specifically about games?

> "All I said was that, sure, you can take a stance against sexism, but it wouldn't do you much good. By that, I mean that what you will accomplish is short-termed because the problem is systemic, not localized within this industry. It's like trying to prevent people from going into the deep parts of the ocean with waves by making a ripple with a small stone."

And this is precisely why the 'bigger issues' derailment is a fallacy: we are perfectly capable of fighting sexism on many fronts at once - gaming is just one of the many facets of our culture that's being critically examined. It's not as if anyone here has used up their sexism-fighting quota just on this gaming issue.

But even if we were only able to focus on one issue at once, and even if there were better issues to targets first, *that still doesn't mean games don't have a sexism problem*. The issue wouldn't go away even if there were bigger fish to fry first.

> "You have a knack for misquoting people. I said, " _maybe_ it's not a women's thing to make entertainment". By "women", I don't mean girls or females. I meant grownups."

I didn't misquote anyone. I may have misinterpreted an argument. Maybe you should be clearer?

> "Making videogames is a kid's career. It's not terribly ambitious in terms of what one's energy could be used for."

Lol. I'm willing to bet the average age of the industry is over thirty at this point, so how is it a "kid's career"? As for the rest of your comment, I'll defer to Aleksander Adamkiewicz's comment above.

> "All of this talk about oversexualizing women in videogames is a Feminist agenda."

Yes... and? Am I supposed to have negative connotations with the word "Feminist"? Because it stands for something very positive in my mind.

> "If you want equality for women, again, teach your little boys to treat little girls the right way."

That means we'd better also look at how women are treated in the games they play, otherwise they'll receive mixed messages.

> "Teach them a consciousness of God, who is Morality. What the "male gaze" or rape of women are, arises from lust. If you teach your kids that lust is a sin, and ingrain in them the fear of God, they'll tend to behave the right way."

My kids are agnostic like me, and we prefer it that way, thanks. They understand that mistreating women is morally wrong even without invoking religion.

At the risk of starting a religion derail, I will say this: If the only thing keeping kids from raping or objectifying women is a fear of divine retribution, instead of an understanding why it is wrong in and of itself, then they don't really have a morality to speak of.

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Heng Yoeung
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Whoops. How did I get two comments in there? My apologies. Didn't mean to do that.

Rebecca Richards
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I'm a day late, but thanks for never giving up on this issue, Leigh. I've appreciated when you write about it both on industry sites and even when you hold your nose and dive into the pit that is Kotaku to try and reach out to their readership.

Heng Yoeung
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Your argument completely falls apart after the first paragraph, especially when you bring in god and instilling fear in your children.

>How so?

Not to mention you dismiss the existence of an artform and a whole industry out of hand.

"A career making Halo, how does that affect the world?"

Thousands of jobs are created and those people don't starve in the street for one, they are then free to pursue happiness and fulfillment in life. Not to mention the enjoyment you give to people who play the actual games.

>Cave men and women lived for thousands of years without cell phones, without computers and videogames, without alot of other high-tech gizmos beside. The world will not collapse just because the videogames industry (or the entertainment industry, in general) disappear. Money is not a source of happieness. God is. Money will buy you more toys and bigger houses and sexy cars, but those things appeal to the senses, not to a human's spiritual need. Have you not followed the story on Tiger Wood's demise? He had everything you could ask for -- money, pretty wife, prestige, etc.. Why did he cheat? Apparently, he wasn't happy with all that material wealth he accumulated.


Show some empathy.

>You don't think I know what empathy is? Did you read my story in the comment above? I have been ostracized for a good part of my life, rejected because I have slanted eyes. "Not a Chinaman's chance". You've never heard that have yoiu? I remember one incident in the park, where a couple of little girls, maybe 14 years old, walk by and started singing "My land is your land" and emphsized that the US is HER land (and not some Chinaman's). The interesting thing is, one of the girls was Indian holding hands with this Caucasian girl. What is the source of this hatred and bigotry? A society whose moral imperative is poiniting in the wrong direction. There is no such thing as race. That's a political lie and a fact of genetics.
Teach your children to be moral citizens because the Truth will set you free. Free from hatred and bigotry, free from fear, free to live life the way God intended you to live: love of neighbor as thyself. I know what empathy is.

Christopher Lunsford
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Great post!
"Let's find our allies in the creative community, the people doing things that we want to champion instead of condemn."
I love this and think it's a very important idea. No genre is for everyone. If more people championed the things they like, I think, more diversity would happen. For instance in Japan there is a huge selection of titles of games and comics that are very diverse (otome games, shojo comics, yaoi comics, etc. etc.)

Mike Griffin
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Video games get played by dudes and chicks.
Video games get made by dudes and chicks.

Avoid shallow thinkers and Kool-Aid drinkers, and enjoy the games.
It's 2012, and everybody gets a piece of the action.

I'd like to think we're sentient creative beings first, and animal bodies with reproductive organs and associated hormonal-induced behavioral impetus, second.

Jacob Germany
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Are you... agreeing? Disagreeing? Seizing?

Heng Yoeung
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@josh

>I have one disagreement with you Heng, our media in the US has largely taken a private role in education.
In order to use the vast majority of media out there you are forced to combat the corruption inherit with its usage. Or, you must seperate your family culturally from it's effects.
>
I definitely agree with you that the media holds alot of power in its hands. And that power can be used for propaganda and other forms of corruption or it can be a source of liberation. How does one know if the media is corrupt? It's very hard to discern, that's why propaganda works the way it does. For me, my source of truth is the church I go to. Of course, I'm not so foolish to think that what the church says is
always right. It requires intelligence as well to figure it out --- ie, your mind,, your head, and of course your brain. Everyone needs a landmark like this in his life to compare if what's being said is true or false. Why would the church be a reliable source of truth? Because we are all brothers and sisters and disciples of Truth. It is incompatible for a brother to tell a lie to another when he's committed to Truth as a way of life. Obviously, though, there's no reason why he can't. That's why, again, you have to use your head. "Be as gentle as doves, but as sharp as the serpent, " is how it goes if I remember correctly.

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wes bogdan
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When girls play shooters and kick our asses at it the collectively male audience gets abrasive with those players and makes them feel unwelcome.
If instead of overly sensitive brused ego's and feeling their "manhood" threatened
players would play nice with each other they all might gain skill other than nuckle draging+1 for the guys.

Frag dolls and pms.org are out there so while girls latch onto sims,zynga and non threatning games it's male gamers who are threatning in other gamspaces paticually shooters.

While mario and link have been saving the princess from the bad guy FOREVER it wasn't until the first lady of gameing Lara Croft arrived that graphics were becoming good enough to obsess over i mean sure there was chun le,cammy and more scantly clad mk crew but tomb raider began the modern state of over sexulization of women simply because we can doesn't mean we should.

Not only should gamers play nice together but we should have a font sizing option so text isn't for simply those with 20/20 vision. I need to wear glasses to read the stupidly small print required in modern gaming. Banjoe kazooie on n64 has readable text no glasses required but mas effect text branching choices is so small that you can't sit on the couch far enough away from your hdtv without feeling like you need bifocales.

When i bought my vita there were many games i wanted to buy,play and enjoy but it's GIGANTIC SCREEN broke southpaw because currently all we do is move-right and look -left leaving the rest in default mode. Obviously i can't cross from look to press the face buttons or i could stop moving and die which kills southpaw.

Funny then that stardust delta has a custom slot allowing me to disable the taked on touch gameplay and move things where i need them...i can play and did BUY stardust however i can't play most other dual analog games.

Triangle and d-pad up,square and d-pad left,circle and d-pad right and X and d-pad down are the SAME so especially with vita and wii u if you want me to buy it the face buttons,sticks and d-pad ALL must flip but leave my triggers alone as i can't imagine why you'd want zoom on the move stick in default or southpaw since halo has zoom on the aim click i want zoom on the aim trigger.

Fireing a weapon takes much less skill than zooming in just so far or just so fast which makes more sense when paired with whatever aim stick you use.


The phoenix revolution gamepad has 4 holes and 4 pods which can be mixed n matched any way you want and it was here back on playstation 2 i created my FULL southpaw mode which i had someone rewire my 360 pads to work like and thrustmaster's 3-1 dual trigger is a fully customizable out of the box and remembers what you design.


Want legacy you can program that want the face buttons on the giant d-pad and southpaw sticks with invert aim as default you can do it but for those wishing ps2 and ps3 had 360 style gun triggers now it can as this special pad has 360 style dummy triggers and simply mapping l1/r1 to them in most games works but where l2/r2 are gun triggers you'd have to remap if the game didn't let you flip triggers to l1/r1.


To me it's sad that there have been 2 playstation 3rd party gamepads that have a superior ability to let all players play as over 96% of my games are worthless paperweights without the simple ability to play them and being classiclly trained on n64 + being a very strongly lefty person makes dual analog useless.

I can do 2 d,2.5d (no roborton ,smash tv or pixeljunk shooter,journey) 3d single analog or single analog with combat roll like god of war but ask me to walk while constantly adjusting my aim and without my custom scheme i'm screwed.

wes bogdan
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Yes i know it's mass effect but almot all my replys come from my tablet.

CG Morton
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In short:

There is no 'game culture'. That's a silly idea. It would be like 'movie culture' or 'book culture'. Every damn person plays games.

Worrying about objectified women in a subset of games is like complaining about porn. It will always, always be made, because there's a market for it. Want to change that? You can't. Sorry.

Listen. Nobody thinks games like Dead or Alive Volleyball are state of the art, classy games. They pander to base instincts. No shit. So do action blockbusters and rom-coms. The fact that we make so many isn't because we just haven't 'moved past' them yet. It's because that's what a lot of people like.

Now can that please be the end of the story? Pretty please?

Kate Craig
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It can't be the end of the story. Not until we can count more than a handful of AAA player character leads that are women, or until we stop hearing that it was too expensive to create another rig, so there's only going to be playable male characters, etc.

That said, it's fantastic to see people discussing the issue still, and what's more, championing the good work being done.

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Heng Yoeung
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@Josh

I apologize to take awhile to give you a response.

First, I don't deny that's there sexism in this industry. Like I say, though, sexism is pervasive of our entiire culture, not just the videogame industry. Look around. And you're bombarded by sexist imageries. Television. The Internet. Billboard signs. Books and magazines. There is no escape from this. Porn is a very big industry. If that's not sexist, then I don't know what the term means. The suggestion in this article, however, is that the sexism localized within the videogame industry is _rampant_. I disagree. The way I see it, there are very few games portraying women in a bad way (ie. oversexualization). I have been playing videogames since the days of the Atari 2600. (Damn, I gave my age away.) The sexism issue in videogames never occured to me until these couple of articles started promulgating it like it was somehow unprecedented. In any artistic medium, you're going to have people pushing the boundaries of what is possible and what is not. That the videogame industry is maturing, it was inevitable that more mature themes will crop up. It seems to me, however, that this is a very recent phenomenon occuring with maybe a handful of games. (I might be off with the word "handful". You're welcome to correct me on that and show me the list of games not more than a "handful".) Yet, the interest in this event has sounded off all sorts of bells and alarms. The censorship flag is being waved like it is the apocalypse. Don't deny that there is a demand for censorship. That there should be no more boobs and butts exaggerated is censorship to my ears if I understand what the word means. What exactly is the hysteria about? One, that sexist games are somewhow contributing to a culture of rape. There hasn't been any research confirming this, but it goes without saying that this is the case. Could someone show the research, please, if there is one supporting this hypothesis? Two, that not only games are sexist, but the people within the industry are all sexist, because look at the booth babes and the handful (that word again) of indecent behaviour at gaming expos. Clearly, sexism dominates the industry. Really? Might it be the case that those incidents are generic? What do I mean? Ok. Go to a car dealership and start talking with a salesman. You don't think he's going to be sexist if you're a woman buying a car? I am afraid you're fooling yourself if you don't think so. If a salesman sees a woman, probably the first thiing he'll think is *bait*. Why? Because women generally aren't that informed about cars. Maybe she is. But that doesn't really stop him from treating her like one uninformed. You can take any other industry dominated by males as an instance, and you're going to find sexism. That says *nothing* about the industry in its enitirety. Yet, here, one or two bad stories of mistreatment implies this very thing. Another example of a sexist industry is unequal pay between men and women. There is no cause and effect, but the implication, again, is _rampant_ sexism. Are there no other explanation for why this might be so? Could it be possible that women aren't a very aggressive species and, therefore, generally won't ask for more than what she needs? Whereas, a man will get as much as he can whenever he can? That's just one possible explanation. I'm not going to sit here and think of all the possble ways a woman might earn less than a man. I got games to play :). Yet another example of an industry rife with sexism is the lack of women within it's workforce. Sure, an entire industry is sexist because there aren't a fixed number of women. In an industry that's historically been a male hobbyist career. Might it be that the penetration of women in the industry has been slow going because it hasn't been in vogue for women to play videogames? Hmmmm.

So, those are the issues. And where do we stand? Well, it is apparent that something *must* be done to stop this sexist juggernaut which is the videogame industry. And let's just start by expanding the collective consciousness by way of discourse, first. Let's start talking about unconfirmed fallacies such as rape culture arising from this sexist attitude. Let's just talk it out. Meanwhile, look at what Feminism is about. Feminism believes in equality of women's rights. Clearly, the inequality in the industry makes the entire industry sexist. The industry, in a word, is corrupt. Again, we need to censor before things get out of control, particularly in our young people. Because, you know, there is very, very strong correlation between playing violent videogames and violent behavior. Of course, research confirms this. As a matter of fact, take a look at the recent massacre at the Dark Knight showing. Research will confirm that the man played too much Arkyhm City. Research will confrim that there were no other motives for the senseless slaughter. Come join the Feminist crusade. Why. Because the world is going down the shitlhole as a result of *one* industry of *many* with sexism in it. Come join the crusade. Otherwise, you have no empathy. Take a look at he porn industry. It is by far much older than the videgame industry. Women are raped left and right because of porn addicts. There is no reason to suppose that these men are sociopaths. There is no reason to suppose any other explanation, but a direct correlation. Research will confirm it.... Someday.












wonder, however, if sexism is not a symptom of some underlying isssue which might be labeled "a sickness" of humanity. My suggestion in previous commnents was that the way out of this is a moral education of our young people.

Heng Yoeung
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Whoops. That piece at the end was another train of thought I was going to delete, but didn't. Have mercy. Spare me my girlfriend's life. Take mine instead. :)

Heng Yoeung
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I disagree that there are "bigger problems", really. That's just an excuse to not do anything. Work towards betterment where you are, and the world might follow your example. Changing the whole world is a responsibility no one can take upon themselves.

>But the implication in this discourse has been that the problem is way out of control. That it is not generic. That once it is going down the slippery slope, it is not to be stopped. I mean, take a look at the movies industry. It is corrupt beyond control, right? There are no ratings board? By way of comparison with other artistic industries, this recent phenomenon is a non-problem. The articles by Brandon and Leigh would have you convinced that it is otherwise.

[Insert text about how money is power, and the money is controlled by privately owned banks.]

>Actually, the flow of money into the economy from private banks is controlled by the Feds.


On-topic:
I don't think anyone is saying that everyone should be in the video-game industry, just that no one should feel excluded from trying.

>Who is exactly excluded? Leigh works in the industry. Jade is a fairly powerful person. Alot of other women got in. Where's the exclusion?


Using Adam & Eve as an example doesn't really strengthen your case, neither does the "Bad Hair D-Day" scenario. The first presupposes the Bible as a credible source,

>First, the "Bad Hair D-Day" thing was an exaggeration. I meant it for laughter. The point being, women can be just as nasty as men. Second, what do you mean by "credible source"? Do you mean that the Bible is not true because some of it is myth, such as the story of Adam and Eve? Just because something is a myth doesn't mean it doesn't reveal a truth. All of the mythological gods of the Greeks underlies the truth that there is some entity more powerful than humans who have control over human affairs.

the other implies that all women are hysterical. Hint: that last one is sexist. And no one is saying any one gender should "run the world", as we're all the spokes, gears and axles that drive this society forward (or backwards/sideways). Praise the Omnissiah!

>No, I made it fairly clear that it ddin't imply all women are hysterical. I implied that women can be just as nasty as men. And I never said "any one gender should "run the world", I said _IF_ women ran the world.

And yes, women should also serve in the military. Equal rights and equal responsibilities. The "hunting tigers and mammoths" argument doesn't apply in modern day society.

>Wow. You don't really mean this, do you? More women should carry 50lbs of baggage in the military? What kind of women exist in your world? Amazonians? Wonder women?

Obviously, all of these are personal convictions on my part. I can be quite the hippie.

>I respect hippies and what they stand for. However, times, they are a-changing, pal. Time to warp into 2012. I'm kidding Ole. Have a good night.

Ernest Adams
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Here is my contribution to the subject:
http://tinyurl.com/ACall2Arms

Richard Vaught
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A nice article, and one I completely agree with whole-heartedly. However, the behavior of players in online spaces and how parents raise their children is an different, albeit related, issue. I teach my children good manners and have been using many of the tactics you suggest for years. However, I also teach them not to be bullied, by men or women.

My wife has often been stereotyped and degraded by feminist for being a stay at home mother. She has been publicly derided for her choices by WOMEN. She is a college student(game programming), a musician, and talented in a wide number of other areas, but because she puts her children and family first she is the object of feminist ridicule. There seems to be this common misconception that feminist speak for all women. When you get down to the core of it though, they are just another group of people seeking to exert power over another.

If you lobby for good manners, I would be right there beside you, every time. If you are lobbying for special privilege, I will always be on the other side of that particular fence.

Jason Long
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Et tu, Gamasutra commentors? This site is typically a bastion of critical thinking and objectiveness. It's a shame to see the negative points discussed in the article played out in real time. What is this, kotaku?

Richard Vaught
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*sigh* As usual, I am going to criticize this article and what it represents, and likely get flamed for it and called sexist, misogynistic, a proponent of 'rape culture', etc etc etc. How do I know that? Because that is the stance of neo-feminism. If you are not 100% with me, you are against me. If you do not agree with everything vitriolic slight that spews forth from my mouth, you are the enemy and you are wrong.

The problem with this article, like so many others, is that it doesn't take into consideration anything other than the opinion and vantage point of one side; feminist. It also doesn't lobby for equality, but for special privilege. You want the right not to be offended, not to be excluded, not to be stereotyped. Yet, in the process, you offend not only the men who disagree with you, but the women as well. You exclude anyone that doesn't agree with you from the discussion by saying that any counter-argument is sexist. You also stereotype men, gamers, designers, publishers, and practically everyone associated with the industry in any small way. That makes you a hypocrite.

I have in the past, and would gladly do so in the future, engaged in discussion with rational people about things such as equality, discrimination, and other social issues. However, this approach is not rational, it is not a discussion, it is most certainly not about discrimination or equality. When the conversation quits being 'We will dictate how you should think and feel and you will give us special dispensation and preferential treatment', then, and only then, will this issue make any headway.

Where is your call for your own culpability? Where is your attempt to make a game for the demographic that you are lobbying for that does not enforce a single social stereotype or social trope? Where is the list of things that designers are or are not allowed to include in their games to keep from pissing off neo-feminist? Who could make such a list, and would all women agree to abide by it?

I am NOT saying that all behavior is acceptable. Things that FORCE another person to be subjected to something against their will are never alright. Imposing an objective disparity in compensation between two individuals performing equally well on equal tasks is not alright, regardless of the race gender, religion, or sex. Imposing a disparity in opportunity for individuals based on anything other than there personal merit and skill is not alright.(For those that are unaware, that is known as humanism, not feminism. By declaring yourself a feminist you are tacitly advocating special privilege for a single demographic.)

However, once you move into the realm of the subjective, the game is over. No one is under any obligation not to offend you, nor are they under any obligation to make their product fit your worldview. No one is under any obligation to refrain from saying, writing, or in any other way creating content in any form that you disagree with. No one is under any obligation to do anything for you, ever, at all, under any circumstances, period. You are not, nor have you ever been, entitled to be the intended recipient of someone else's labor.

That is the real meaning of equality. You have an equal right to all the good and all the bad the comes with it. You have an equal right to peruse the media and activities that you desire, and to freely refrain from purchasing or participating in anything that violates your personal moral values. Should you not be able to find suitable consumables that fit that criteria, you also have the right to create your own, because there is a good possibility that you have found an unfilled market niche. However, you do not now, nor have you ever, had the right to force your personal opinion on anyone else, because by doing so you are violating their rights. That includes businesses, investors, and the creative people behind any new IP.

When feminist can have a discussion on those terms, the problem will finally be at a point in its life cycle where something can be done about it. Not before. Equality as a baseline is an absolute must, but it is not the end all be all of the equation. All people are created equal... there is no guarantee that they will remain that way throughout their life. If they did, the world would be a very sad place indeed.


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