Where are the women in gaming?

Surveys show that middle-aged women are the largest demographic in gaming (if we include casual gamers).  Even without including casual gamers, women are playing more games in general and more AAA titles usually associated with male gamers.  But where are they in top management?

Julie Larson-Green’s promotion to head of Xbox got me thinking about women in gaming.  Not the people who play the games, but the people who make them.  Why do we still see so few women at the upper echelons of gaming?  Look at the PlayStation board – with the exception of one woman and one Japanese man, they are all white men.  Why aren’t there more women in senior management in gaming?

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The History

If we want to look at the present, we have to first understand the past – what follows is a simplified explanation.  In the good old days of gaming, namely the 80s, there was little to no existing gaming industry.  Game developers were techies from the 70s, who were male.  This isn’t sexist – the feminist movement was in its second wave and women were making great strides in a variety of fields, but technology was not one of them.

The developers were men, and wanted to work with each other.  This eventually led to the formation of companies and development houses that were primarily male.  As a result, there was a strong “boy’s club” view of game developers, as well as gamers in general.  With growth, came some interesting trends in gaming and women started to get more involved in the industry.

Then the crash in the 90s happened. Gaming was declining.  The only people who saw the industry through this time period were the ‘die hard’ developers and those with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.  As women were still relatively new to the industry, they were not as likely to pursue gaming in this time period.

Gaming has seen significant growth since then, among men and women.  However, most women only have a maximum of 10-15 years of experience in the industry.  This means that while they are moving up within the corporations, they are still “too new” to get the senior positions that the “old boys” are allocated.  There are some roles where women have excelled, but they simply do not have the weight of being founding members.

The Structure of Gaming Studios

As in most companies focused on building programs, there are two main sides of game studios – the technical and the artistic.  The technical department, as can be inferred, is comprised of programmers, technical directors and others who make the games actually function.  They are the ones who make the game work.  The artistic department, as is also implied, is made up of graphic designers, storytellers, and architects.  These are the people who make the game look impressive and beautiful, with a story to tell.  As a general rule, we tend to see more men among the technical team (just look at most companies’ IT departments) and more women on the artistic team.  This has a lasting implication if we look at career advancement.

The third, generally smaller, arm of development is admin and operations.  These are the people who make sure that the company actually runs.  Once it grows larger, they are the ones who oversee everything to make sure ideas are project managed and people work together towards a common goal, with a common deadline.

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As a general rule, we see that those on the technical side move from being programmers, to development managers, to architects, to chief technical officers.  Once they become CTO, they sit on the board and are more likely to be promoted to CEO when the time comes, as they have technical know-how.  This is despite the fact that they are often lacking in business or people skills – think Microsoft on this one.  Meanwhile, in the art department, most people move from artist, to lead designer, to artistic director.  There is no further role for them – rarely does an artistic director become CEO, mostly because they are perceived as unaware or unknowledgeable in the field.  This stereotype is regardless of gender – most people simply believe that those with an artistic sensibility do not understand technology, let alone business.  We do see some women holding project management and operations roles within gaming studios.  However, they rarely worked their way up through artistic roles.

Evolution in Gaming

Things are changing in gaming.  I’m not talking about more women playing games; I’m talking about more women being involved in the gaming industry, as well as changes to games themselves.

First, we are seeing more women in tech degrees.  While it takes a while for education to trickle down into employment and eventually management, this bodes well for the future of women in gaming.  If we can see more women on both sides of the divide, there will be a higher probability that they will reach senior management as they progress in their careers.

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Second, games have moved beyond cool mechanics with pretty skins.  Multi-layered storytelling, character psychology and realistic dialog are expected.  While both men and women are capable of this, women generally have more developed social skills (arguably a ‘benefit’ of sexist socialization) and are better able to replicate these real-world elements.

Third, we are seeing more customer feedback in gaming.  In the past, developers would create a game and push it on the market where gamers would either buy it or not.  Now, with social media as well as games that constantly grow and change (such as MMOs, MOBAs and even multiplayer experiences) we are seeing the need for greater customer care and surveys.  These areas are dominated by women.  Over time, these women could work their way up to being the next Julie Larson-Green.  Knowing your customer is a powerful tool.

The Flame War

Finally, we have to address some sensitive issues.  Now, this is a veritable can of worms.  Just look at what happened with the proposed panel to discuss this and other issues at PAX.  Open commentary is not only frowned upon, but made absolutely impossible by people who cannot understand that there may be differences of opinions on these controversial topics. Women (or race or sexuality) in gaming is a very contentious issue that has become impossible to discuss.

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I am a gamer.  I have played games since before I could hold a controller.  I used to direct my older brother – he was the brawn and I was the brains in our gaming duo.  Eventually, I overtook him as the gamer while he moved on to other interests.  I have played games my whole life and have tons of opinions about games that I like or dislike, development houses I enjoy or avoid, etc.  However, when I have voiced some of those opinions, I have been attacked for not being feminist enough.  I have been accused of being a token woman and had to take all kinds of abuse.  That’s fine, I can handle it. What saddens me though, are the women that get chased away.  How many women read my pieces but are afraid to comment because of what they fear the reaction will be?  If we want to encourage women in the gaming industry, shouldn’t we encourage them to have opinions, whatever those opinions may be?  Isn’t the whole point of feminism that women should be judged on their merit, not on their sex or gender?  People are welcome to disagree with anything I say; however, if they disagree with my having that opinion as a woman, they are emblematic of the problem at hand.

There is also an issue of perceived vs. actual sexism.  Most people perceive gaming as a very sexist industry.  My friends share this view, and most of my female friends have congratulated me on writing for a gaming site, for showing the guys that “girls can play games, too”.  Presumably, many women believe in this perceived sexism, and are less inclined towards becoming a part of the industry – why force yourself into a group that doesn’t want or appreciate you?  Not all women want to break down the walls of boys’ clubs just for feminism’s sake.

Strangely, though, most of the men I’ve encountered aren’t sexist at all, and other women are also defending men.  People seem to be interested in my opinions – not because I’m a woman, but because I have expressed opinions they agree (or disagree) with on a range of topics.  As such, they have a sense that if I like a game, they also might like it.  Or perhaps not.  Sure, there are gender specific jokes, in much the same way that we might joke about any other attribute.  I’m a woman, I’m a Mac owner, I am a huge JRPG fan, I’m American – all of these are aspects for which I’m teased, generally in equal measure.  If you are only going to single out the sexist humour, you do not understand the purpose of humour or banter.

That said, there is still inherent sexism in gaming.  Of course there is – just look at the target market.  Lara Croft is a female Indiana Jones – sexy, smart and adventurous.  Neither of them is taken seriously.  They’re not supposed to be.  They’re just characters in a fun adventure series.  You can try to make her appeal to women by giving her smaller boobs and more clothing, but that won’t change the reality of the situation.  There has also been a long standing assumption that games are for men, so women may be seen as outsiders or “new” gamers, regardless of their credentials.

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I have played all kinds of sexist and gender neutral games.  I didn’t select them because they had male or female protagonists.  I selected them because the story, game play or design seemed interesting to me.  I was able to look past any sexism and enjoy the experience.  If you want to complain about the depiction of women in gaming, you might as well also complain about the depiction of women in literature, art, film, advertising, and every other aspect of society.  This is the status quo that can only be changed by getting more women involved in the industry at all levels.

This isn’t to say that we should just sit back and wait for women to magically work their way up.  No, I have a more specific call to arms;  How about supporting all women in their contributions, whether or not you agree with them?  How about acknowledging the hard work, dedication and ambition it has taken for those few women to be successful in the industry, instead of undermining them and calling them “token” females? 

Julie Larson-Green worked her way up through Microsoft and is highly qualified; who knows if she’ll be successful with the Xbox, but she certainly has earned the opportunity to try.  By claiming that the women who are in the industry are only there to balance out quotas implies that women aren’t qualified to begin with.  Judge people on their merits, which is the whole point of feminism anyway.  Let’s encourage girls and women to speak up, enter into the discussion, and be a part of gaming.  Of course there will be some idiots and some brilliant people – not because they’re women or men, but because they are people.

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Author:Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!
  • John Ambitious

    Wow Zoe, this is a decent article.
    My girlfriend is also a gamer, and I have seen people frown when she tells them that.

  • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

    ZOE FOR PRESIDENT.

    your articles are top notch :)

    • Zoe

      aww shucks! thanks!

      • That Green Twit

        Oh and the kitten picture is adorable. Looks just like mine.

    • That Green Twit

      I second the above notion.

  • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

    I see what you are trying to do here….

    [Admiral Chief Stamp of Approval]

  • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

    ZOE, You have just replaced Jade Raymond on my Female Gamer Admiration list ;)

    Buy buy Jade :(

    • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

      Wow, High praise indeed from you dude. I know how you feel about Jade. And if Zoe topped that, then wow, just WOW.

      Zoe, you should be flattered indeed

      • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

        Brenda is a close second :p

        • Admiral Chief Groot Wors

          Oh right, woman and all :P

        • RinceWind

          I am shocked! Go home, you must be drunk!

    • Zoe

      Wow! i’m seriously honored! thank you so much.

      • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

        No… thank you ;)

      • TiMsTeR1033

        are you an american?

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      lol OVG, you are a legend.

  • Brady miaau

    I will be having a daughter later this year. Scary, no license required for breeding.

    Anyway, she must do what she wants to do. I will try my best to instill in her the spirit I read here. Stand by your own principles.

    I am sure my daughter will be thought to be “weird” She will grow up surrounded by my collection of Sci-fi books, my games, games like Settlers of Catan and so forth. And if she comes to like these things, then so be it. But her person she must be.

    It seems as if the mob mentality prevails on the internet, little thought, scared to move away from the “consensus” in an attempt to fit in and appear to tick the right boxes. And to ridicule or belittle others is the cheap way to increase the perception of your own self worth. Awesome stuff!

    you know, I really do not like most people. Sheep. A bit harsh, I suppose.

  • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

    I feel exactly the same way with SUDA 51 and his over the top cheerleader Juliet Starling.
    People need to lighting the fuck up. It is light comedy and should not be taken seriously.
    I look forward to his next game and if you think spying on women in bars with x-ray glasses is sexist then DO NOT BUY IT.

    AND BRING BACK THE BOOTH BABES YOU IRON FIST RIGHT WING E3 NUT BAGS.

    • Trevor Davies

      Nut bags? That’s sexist, and as a man I am offended. :(

      • RinceWind

        Me too! Burn OVG!

      • That Green Twit

        Well played.

      • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

        Just for you, notice the neck ;P

        • TiMsTeR1033

          nothing sexier than a female gamer, esp in cosplay!!! hmmmmm

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            Now those men who went as booth babes to E3 this year did not the fuck offend me at all. Good for them.

            People get so offended yet our hobby is the most VIOLENT of all mediums.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            is that a GUY!!!! WTF!!!!

          • Trevor Davies

            Notice the neck – always check for an adam’s apple dude!

          • TiMsTeR1033

            I got played!

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            Tee hee hee, What about transvestite booth babes? Is that sexist?

          • TiMsTeR1033

            no thats just WRONG!!! and to think I was starting to like that picture….

          • TiMsTeR1033

            what if poor souls at e3 took that “thing” around the corner for a 15 dollar suckie suckie. only to find out its mr wong who wants to fuckie fuckie!!

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            Darryn, while Geoff got lost in China town.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            HAHAHAHAHAHA! “harrow im tasha, you want suckie fuckie? when we finish it will be beautiful we climax same time! your sperms on te floor, you want darryn?”

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            OK, now I understand why the people who always respond to the sexist articles are never found commenting on any other article on LG.

            They just cannot fathom our mature sense of humor, yuk yuk yuk :)

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            SEXIST PIG :P

          • Trevor Davies

            ROFL!

          • Trevor Davies

            fake male gamers! FAKE MALE GAMERS!

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            TRUE
            JOCKS do not play videogames. They score chicks.
            But you do not see us jumping up down like the people in a tampon commercial.

          • Sageville

            I checked that vid, not a single PS-thumb or headphone hair between the lot of them, these guys are just Rent-a-Jocks.

  • RinceWind

    Well done Zoe! I know it would rock like a gravel patch!

  • Kromas

    I just had that Black and White song from Micheal Jackson pop up when I was reading this. Appropriate winamp is appropriate. Good Read.

  • Mathias

    Thing is… We can’t have everything. Just now people is starting to get why geeks like the stuff they like (tv shows, comics), but it will take a big bunch of years for people to get gamers and games in general..

    If there are less women involved in gaming it’s because less women than men are interested in making games, apparently, but that’s not on sexism, imho. Those women are as qualified for the job as their male counterparts, and I highly doubt any game dev company would be stupid enough to be sexist with them.

  • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

    Completely off-topic, but somewhat relevant:

    One of the biggest criticism – from the gaming community – of Julie Larson-Green is that she isn’t a gamer. Ironically, the Jacket (Don Mattrick) actually arose out of the rank geek-gamerdom. There’s even an article of him as a teenager, after he wrote his first video game. While, I wouldn’t dare question her competency as an executive or a businesswoman, I wonder whether she’ll steer Xbox in the right direction, or whether she’ll see gamers as something more than walking wallets – the prevailing view lately in Gamerland.

    Of course, Mattrick (presumably) went off the rails with the xbone, which either sealed his fate, or he decided that Microsoft wasn’t that serious about gaming and moved to Zynga.

    On the other hand, Green might just surprise us all, because she’s coming in fresh from an entirely different division to head up gaming.

    • Mathias

      How many corporate turds that work in these companies are actually gamers? Even in a lower scale, how many Gamestop or any game shop clerks are real gamers? A few.

      If those companies are still around 30 years from now, we’ll start getting real gamers being on those positions.

      • Mathias

        Or not. Because they don’t care about letting gamers rule the world. They want businessmen and businesswomen doing that.

    • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

      I think she is there to push more interfaces for the Bone considering she is in charge of the surface smart glass malaaaaaarky, while Mattrick brings Zynga over to the Bone.

      Give the dog a Bone and he will chew it all day even if their is no meat.

      • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

        I just made that up. A moment of clarity :p

        • That Green Twit

          LOL, was trying to make sense of that.

        • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

          Impressive! I especially liked the bit about the Jacket bringing Zynga over to the Bone.

          • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

            I will bet you a muffin that that was the agenda from the start. DRM DRM DRM DRM Here we come baby. Facebook minigames is the future you Bone Muppets.

            Deal with it.

            I like Choc muffins.

    • HvR

      Couldn’t agree more, Julie Larson-Green is in my opinion what is wrong with the industry NOT because she is a women but because she is a business person with no real experience of what actually goes on in the industry. They ran their product lines and dept as business models with an ever growing disconnect of reality.

      This happened before the game crash of the 80′s (a flood of low quality platforms for every movie made) and 90′s (flooding of the console market with every electronic company bringing out their own sub par one) and it is happening again with generic copy and paste games and annual sequels and rebooting of IP that gets with ever increasing budgets for marketing and diminishing quality and innovation.

      • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

        Do you need a gamer at the top managing people or a gamer in the heart of it making things happen?

        • HvR

          Somewhere along the line in the top management (preferably CEO or board chairman) of the company somebody that is in touch with reality and what is going in industry to balance out the pure business outlook.

          History have shown that is what makes a great innovative tech/gaming company:
          Apple being led by Jobs versus Cook and Scully.
          MS being led by Gates versus Ballmer.
          All the game developers (Bullfrog, Westwood) before they were bought by EA.

          Innovation and growth sacrificed for short term profits.

        • Harvey P Cheesewinkle

          You need more people like Mark Cerny and David Cage, imo. Mark Cerny for his VAST experience and pretty astounding passion, and David Cage for his absolute willingness to risk everything on HIS vision. To him it’s not about capturing the hearts and minds of everyone out there. It’s about having a dream of an amazing game/story, that he wants to tell. And if you’re interested in it, you’re welcome to come along and enjoy the ride.

          Maybe Mrs. Larsen-Green is like this, maybe she has a vision for gaming….to be honest, I don’t think any of us know her that well. What I do know is she’s earned her position, Microsoft wouldn’t make a ‘token’ hiring like that, to head one of their most lucrative divisions.

          Good luck to her, I say.

        • FutureFox

          Its best to have both. A gamer who is manager probably if you can’t get both roles filled. Why? As a manager with drive and vision you will find people who possess the skills to create a product that happens to be a game. Being a gamer is not a prerequisite to making good games. If it were you might yourself in very short supply since not every programmer or artist or story teller starts out working in games. The dev bring in their skill sets first and with experienced management they covert their talent over into gamedom.

          Its best to have a champion who has been through the industry long enough to pass that expertise down to the unchristened talent.

    • FoxOneZA – X-Therminator

      Gaming on Windows 8 is flawless. Actually, I don’t see any OS, console or tablet or PC coming close to Windows 8′s gaming stability, integration and performance. Green’s fingers aren’t that green as you might perceive them to be.

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        The thing with that statement is it’s only from your direct experience. I have friends who have had nothing but trouble with incompatibility issues etc. Unfortunately it’s not flawless for everyone

        • FoxOneZA – X-Therminator

          I’ve had hardware compatibility issues with older gen hardware but games always worked for me flawlessly. I’ve yet to try Windows 8 on an older Vista machine.

          • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

            That’s just what I said yeah, from your experience gaming is flawless but from a bunch of my mates their gaming experience hasn’t been flawless. These are people who’s hardware is supported by windows 8.

            I actually wasn’t referring to the hardware but while we are at it yeah, a lot of hardware has been discontinued for support in windows 8. Such as the 4000 series AMD cards, which is silly since there are still a bunch of people using those in crossfire and they work perfect for games in windows7 but because Windows8 marks it as a legacy piece of hardware it doesn’t use it correctly.

            So, while windows 8 is good, it still has a long way to go before being flawless for everyone and an even further way to go to live up to the standards that Win7 put in place

    • Zoe

      I agree, I’m really excited to see what she brings to the table. She has a strong customer service and UI background – I think she will actually think of gamers first, even if she isn’t one herself.

    • FutureFox

      You say that and I too wonder how she’ll do but one thing that sticks in the back of my mind is she was in charge of the new Windows Office look. You know, with the “ribbons?” Ugh…

  • sadaf

    Yes! Love a good call to arms! :D

  • Trevor Davies

    +1 billion internet points to Zoe. Which counteracts your negative points of being a woman, owning a mac, liking JRPGs & being American. :D

    More inclusion is fantastic because it’s more interesting – think some people just feel threatened when exposed to different ideas.

    Rhianna Pratchett is one of my favourite people in gaming – as soon as I hear she’s involved it’s instant win & anything she touches I’ll probably get at some point.

    • RinceWind

      Yeah, unless it’s Mirror’s Edge 2 where they cut her out completely BOYCOTT!

      • Trevor Davies

        No problem, it’s an EA game anyway lol

    • TiMsTeR1033

      zoes an american!!!! WTF!

  • RinceWind

    I really think you make some decent points insofar as how certain people target their own sex as not being ‘woman enough’ in articles they write. This is a gamer site and although articles are written by both men and women, targeting one group because of their gender is utter BS. I have seen people slam female writers on many sites, and it’s always the same stuff ‘you are not fem enough’. You rarely see a man slamming another for not being in touch with his feelings enough, so to me this is totally counter productive. I love your call to arms. More women should be involved, and that will only happen when they feel comfortable saying something, with out the CoD effect.

    • Trevor Davies

      Burn the trolls with fire & finish them off with a silver sword.

  • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

    Lovely article :) Being a gamer period is already a hard thing for society to accept, let alone being a female gamer.I honestly feel that gaming itself needs to be put in a better light before we can deal with these issues. I honestly do not have any opinions on this matter anymore. Women, men, children and elderly should all just enjoy what they do, be it sports, games etc and respect one another… Life is way too short.

    • John Ambitious
      • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

        Freaking Beautiful …. it is not what you love, but how you love it. Do not let anyone tell you what you can and cannot love … brilliant, thanx for the share

        • TiMsTeR1033

          it was very nice and beautiful…. made me feel proud to be a gamer :)

          • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

            Proud to be a nerd :)

          • TiMsTeR1033

            my bad i fixed

  • Warren Ross

    Zoe, I like the sentiment of your article. It’s particularly topical for me because I have a wife who plays games and an 8-year-old daughter who plays games. Games are a significant part of my life, and are one means through which I share experiences with my kids.

    But…I do have a few points concerning your article.

    First, I’d caution you about making very general statements like “women have generally more developed social skills” or “a CTO is more likely to be promoted to CEO” or “customer care and surveys are areas dominated by women”, without having some kind of source to back up those assertions (i.e. [citation needed]). In saying those things you are actually *furthering* some of the very stereotypes you are asking people to question. Not all women are caring, socially well-adjusted people. For example, in the business world especially, women can be just as shrewd and ruthless as any man, and that just highlights how business should focus on the strengths of the individual over the perceptions of the stereotype. Whether it *does*, or does it enough, is the debate.

    Second, your initial bit about the gaming industry is inaccurate: video gaming (in the arcade and at home) was already a multi-billion dollar industry by the very early ’80s. The industry weathered multiple crashes in each decade since the ’70s. You are, however, correct about the first real commercial game developers being engineers from various tech companies.

    What I’m suggesting is that you be careful that you don’t undermine the impact of your overall message (which is good) by writing an article that relies too heavily upon your own anecdotal thinking in the places where it needs grounding in the facts (which are easy to find).

    Otherwise, I like the intent behind what you’ve written and I think it would be great if more women added their voice to this cause! Good stuff. :)

    • Trevor Davies

      At the risk of adding more anecdotes, I usually don’t skip the game credits when I finish one, mainly because I’m curious to see how long they can be (record is around 10 minutes so far). What I’ve noticed is that most of the female sounding names are in HR & Marketing, very rarely in more technical areas.

      • Warren Ross

        Your anecdotal experience is not necessarily wrong, it’s quite possible (perhaps even likely) that your observations can be applied in general: more women in marketing, less in dev. It sure sounds reasonable enough.

        But is that the case because women are more “caring and social” or because women have simply had more access historically to HR & marketing than to development and technical? And just because it’s that way now, does that mean it should stay that way?

        • Trevor Davies

          How dare you imply that it’s possible I could be wrong! :D

          But to answer your questions I would say, that’s the current stereotype (not that I agree it’s correct, because it’s a stereotype), yes (because of the stereotype) & no respectively.

  • http://www.codescrawls.co.za/ OminousRain

    Wow, a very good article. +1

  • Trevor Davies

    What bugs me the most in this whole debate is when a woman gets attacked because of her looks. I don’t understand why it even matters. Gaming is basically an intellectual pursuit, so it’s your ability & quality of ideas that matter, not how you look.

    Anyone else see the article on News24 about the latest Wimbledon woman’s champ getting insulted because of her weight? Like WTF?

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      Yeah that was really disgusting

    • CaptainNemo42

      I saw that article, and I agree, it is horrible how some people thinks. While I was rooting for Ze German, (Because France beating Germany, come on, Really??) I do not deny Bartoli anything and she is a worthy champ.

      I did find that article a bit of a “flame” article. Sometimes you get people who jump on a story only to get those precious hits. Not saying all articles, but that one did seem to be so.

    • Weanerdog

      That was totally fucked up, shows you that some people are absolute morons.

  • Jasmine

    As a fellow woman I do have a few issues with this post, though I applaud you for writing it as the more talk on this topic the better.

    I don’t think that women are swayed away from the industry because of /perceived/ sexism, I think that it’s because of real, actual systematic oppression that women are aware of and obviously want to stay away from. When you look at the games that ‘most’ developers are making, the majority of them are fronted by burly, white, heterosexual men, who reflect the identities of the dev team, it’s no wonder that those who fit anything but that description are going to be put off. And when we do get women in games (as in, the dev teams), who are very good at what they do, they’re still whittled down to slurs and insults about their gender of appearance, so we know the sexism is there and women are right to be concerned about it.

    Secondly, “How about supporting all women in their contributions, whether or not you agree with them?”, this is the same kind of thing that fuels the ‘token minority’ or ‘token woman’ debate. I wouldn’t expect anyone to agree with be because of my womanhood, as not to step on my feminist toes, if I’m worth supporting, support me. If I’m not worth supporting, serve me up some cold, hard truths about why my idea sucks and send me on my way. Just don’t belittle my gender in the process and we’ll have no problems.

    Finally, the appeal of female characters isn’t to be marketed to women. Ironically, even if you created an all female cast, who aren’t designed in a male-gazy way, and stuck them at the head of an FPS, men are still going to be the ones buying it (in part due to a sexist idea that guns are for girls, but that’s a different debate altogether). The issue is making more rounded, diverse characters that represent the wider population (keep in mind that 51% of the world is female) because that’s what’s true to the world we live in.

    So, until the same opportunities for leadership are offered to women both in the games and on the teams that make them, the industry WILL be seen as sexist, but hopefully, one day, we’ll finally be able to stop asking this question.

    • TiMsTeR1033

      I just wish more women would try games, and see we dont play the games for a male role or a female role we play the games because they fun and have stories. Id play the game if the lead role was a black old woman as long as it was fun! too many women just are not interested in games and see it as a waste of time, or when they try to learn to play the game they say its too hard to use the controller, yet they learnt to drive they learnt to use cell phone ect. but the controller is tooo hard. Thats not true, I think if more women tried to play games they would be suprised how good they would be and how much fun they would have. Women are not stupid and I just wish we saw more female gamers and not only playing the sims or stuff like that but playing fps rpgs and more.

      just 5 cents worth…..

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      But the same opportunities can’t be offered to women until the women have been through the same process in the company as the guys.. which is what Zoe was alluding to.

      Honestly I don’t agree with the main characters in games being targeted at white burly men.. If I think back on my favourite games not a single one stands out as being interesting because of how a character looks but rather how they act and how they are portayed.

      The idea that all women are objectified in gaming doesn’t stand up to scrutiny once you notice that all men are as well.

      Excluding fight games which are just silly

      • HvR

        But people (men and women) “going through the process” are not the people at the top of the company.

        Julie Larson-Green, Steve Ballmer, Tim Cook, Peter Moore, Larry Probst, Jean-Bernard Lévy, Bobby Kotick NEVER EVER created anything, gaming or tech wise. They didn’t start at the companies as developer/creators they achieved their positions by having the correct BUSINESS degree from the correct school and having the money and/or contacts.

        • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

          Steve Ballmer created quite a bit and Bobby Kotick was a developer.. granted it’s not always true and a lot of these guys and girls are just bean counters who get lucky.

          Julie however is also a programmer and started in tech support

          • HvR

            Ballmer never worked as a developer always business manager.
            Green dabbled in programming as a hobby, always been a business manager.

            And Bobby…
            Started with good roots but has been shown that he has lost all interest at being innovative and growing the industry.

            In responding to why Activision Blizzard chose not to publish certain games following the Activision/Blizzard merger, he stated that focusing on franchises that “have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million franchises”

            And it is well known that he doesn’t play games.

    • Zoe

      Maybe my phrasing is confusing – I don’t mean to mindlessly support women. However, it seems that women are often attacked by other women for not seeming feminist enough. Instead of belittling someone, or expecting more of them simply because they are female, we should support their activities. Even disagreeing with comments and statements, as you disagree because of a difference of opinion, not an objection to a WOMAN having that opinion.

  • Sageville

    Not a single male chauvenist has responded to this article???

    WTF!

    Zoe,I don’t think your message has reached them, I mean the rest of us are all in the choir you are preaching to, so all the comments are positive and acknowledge your hard-work, dedication and skillz (as per your call to arms). But those MSPs are cowards, they won’t comment here.

    • Trevor Davies

      We’re all too busy in the kitchen making a sammich!

      • John Ambitious

        Get me one too!

        • RinceWind

          @b3ba07f0835438e0c954c94031814a2f:disqus and me Stat!

          • Trevor Davies

            The two of you could also help around the house some time you know! I slave away at work the whole day and then when I get home you expect me to serve you too while you relax on the couch! I can’t take this anymore!

          • Sageville

            #Dealwithit?

          • RinceWind

            Just up man, and go fix the car engine, it hasn’t been running right since your pathetic attempt at drag racing the other day! Shesh!

    • RinceWind

      More beer! MAN! MAN! Erm, they do say that right?

      • John Ambitious

        You forgot to fart

        • Sageville

          I’d throw in a stereotypical crotch scratch for good measure.

          • RinceWind

            Lol!

        • RinceWind

          dammit, I knew I was missing something…

  • Weanerdog

    Nice article, but I noticed that when describing the gaming industry you left out the quality control and testing area. There is apparently no sexism in that department they are all treated like shit.

    • TiMsTeR1033

      nice to know. lol

    • RinceWind

      Hahha! True equality, Communism style :)

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      That’s because those departments don’t actually exist. QC and QA departments are all lies! It’s a conspiracy! /TinfoilHat

      • CaptainNemo42

        We the consumers are the quality control.

        *cough* Skyrim Beta testers *cough*

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    Oh man, late to the comment board on this.

    First off let me just say bravo to a very thought provoking and well written article. But I do have some things I just struggle to believe.

    The main one being that woman stay away from the industry due to some perceived view that they will never amount to anything because of stereotyping within the industry. While I am sure this is somewhat the case I do also feel that it is only the case because let’s be honest, woman in general just stay away from game creation because to the woman who do play (and yes I am generalizing here) gaming is a hobby and not a passion driven by a need to create these worlds they play in. For most woman it’s a form of escapism and they generally don’t see the point of trying to make a career out of it.

    Now this is not true for all woman I know (please don’t flame me people I swear I am not trying to be nasty!) but I have loads of female friends who game and they all love gaming and are passionate about it to a point. But only 1 of them is actually involved in the IT field and would be willing to make a living out of game development or anything to do with gaming. The rest are simply just not keen on it because they don’t have that urge or need to do it and it has nothing to do with the fact that they might be afraid of not amounting to anything. They all know they’d do well if they had to try. They just don’t want to.

    And I think that is where it all actually stems from. Sure, maybe that mindset of most females just not wanting to because they just don’t have that super level of passion to do so has come from sexism within the market because it was driven so long by a predominantly male field, but I just don’t know if it’s really the actual reason anymore.

    Now in closing. I am not saying that you must be male to have that passion to go in to the gaming industry. Not by a long shot no. You just need to be a specific kind of person. It’s just a statistical anomaly, I think, that it just happens to be mostly male.
    I am male. I love gaming and have a certain passion for it, but I most definitely don’t want to be part of the industry in any other way than as a pure gamer. I don’t want to create the worlds I play in. It would kill a certain level of magic for me I reckon. Everything is cool and amazing until you know how it works kind of thing.

  • HvR

    Good article Zoe, BUT

    People’s understanding of the gamer developer and the tech industry is completely wrong.

    The only time a person with any technical know how will end up as CEO or on a board is if he/she started that company or a previous successful company. Looking at boards of big companies you almost exclusively will find Business school graduates and CA’s (Julie Larson-Green case and point Business Graduate) with maybe the CTO as exception who is least likely to ascend to CEO.

    SO the point of women being gamers, knowing the gaming industry being tech savvy being engineers has nothing to do with what goes on at the top of big business.

    They run the companies by the numbers, that is why you will get CoD and FIFA every year, you get the ridiculousness that was MS the last couple of months, you get incomplete games released to cut their losses etc etc. And the bigger they become the more they are run by money and models and the bigger the budgets get and the expectation of higher returns get and the bigger the disconnect gets with reality. Until there is a crash and the whole house of cards come tumbling down with the Business graduates and CA buggering off with their packages to continue their practices in another industry.

    Then the industry resets, the small innovators come to the table (sometimes with some minimal backing of big corporate) and reinvents the industry and it start to growq again and so the cycle continues.

    We have seen this in the game industry crashes of the 80;s and mid 90′s and the big tech bubble in the late 90′s and we are sitting on a big bubble again with the big budgets high expectation and little innovation in games.

    Also regarding creativity and gender, totally mutually exclusive. Also comparing IT dept and software engineering dept is like comparing HR dept with the legal dept to different beasts. A lot of creativity is needed in SW engineering, the lighting effects, movement, breathing and environment interaction is all created by the SW engineers, the creative dept will mainly do model development.

  • CaptainNemo42

    You’re American?

    • Zoe

      and a woman. hard to believe!

      • Sageville

        Tell him about your Mac, yeah, we hate Macs, don’t we everyone!!

        /pitchfork
        /torches

        • Zoe

          hipster! hipster!!!

      • Brady miaau

        America has woman, is that what you are saying? :)

        • Sageville

          Maybe; “American women are hard to believe”?

          /duck

  • Rags

    Bleh. Some games just won’t appeal to all genders. And they are not required to anyway. First amendment and all that. And maybe the real reason why female gamers don’t play some games is not because they don’t like the character, but because the are just not interested.

    As for women working in the industry. Yes, why not? But instead of women being wished in as CEO’s, perhaps they are earning it like everyone else. Just how many indie developers are women compared to men, showing their work to us through Kickstarter and the like? Maybe the reason is not that women are not good enough, but they are drawn to other industries. Maybe the reason why there are so few is not that they are afraid that people will comment on their cup size, but that they do not exist.

    Maybe the problem is not that it is a sexist industry, but that gender roles bias still play a too large role in motivating or discouraging us to get involved in certain industries.

    Getting ‘sexism’ out of the industry starts at home. Encourage your girls to play and create games. And when they make the choice to one day work in the industry, support them. It is one of the toughest. This is the only way we will see more females in gaming.

    • Trevor Davies

      Good point about encouraging & supporting your kids.

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      I agree with most of that but at the same time I truly do think that males and females are fundamentally different. I’ve got 2 little girls who are part of the 7 grandkids my parents have.

      Watching them grow up and act compared to the boy grandkids is worlds apart and they grew up with both sets of toys readily available. There is nothing wrong with girls wanting to be mechanics, game developers etc but at the same time I don’t see anything wrong with them wanting to be fashion designers or chef’s.

      Everyone deserves the same opportunities and no side deserves to be constantly battered because they have followed the stereotypical gender path.

      I’ve worked in development for over 15 years and only 3 times have I worked with female developers. One is one of the best SQL experts I’ve yet to meet in my entire life and the other 2 were totally useless. Mind you most male developers I meet are useless

      • HvR

        In South Africa the amount of women getting into the developer/engineering field only became equal in the mid 2000′s.

        Having worked actively as part of international teams the past few months the male to female ratio is close to 50:50.

        • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

          I don’t know where you work but I am yet to see anything close to that.

          When we include project managers, business leads and testing then absolutely there are more female IT workers than male… but I am talking pure programming

          • HvR

            Currently work for multinational semiconductor company (mostly based in US) and did contract work for US and UK start ups (security, bio medical and music).

            In SA I say we are approaching closer to a 50/50 male female split for developers under 25, in the rest of the world it close to 50/50 for age group 30 and below.

          • Sageville

            I have 2 decades in programming here and abroad and in general there are alot less female programmers than male. I find that there are equally bad and good programmers of both genders. If I look purely at SAP programming I know of maybe a handful of good female programmers here in SA the rest all left for overseas work.

            I’d say at the momement the ratio of good SAP programmers in SA, male to female is sitting at 8 – 1 if not less

            Personally, I believe that women generally don’t enjoy the programming world, am I wrong there ladies?

          • Umar Kiiroi Senk?

            There isn’t one female developer in my department, even when I was studying computer science, men outweighed the women.

          • Brady miaau

            yeah, me too. very few woman technical developer side stuff. Interviewing earlier this year as well, mostly men applied.

  • Amanda Nomlanga Acton

    Hey look at all the man comments! Seriously though, this is a huge problem across ALL industries. It’s not exclusive to gaming or tech or whatever we choose to talk about at any given time. It doesn’t matter what career you’re talking about, they are all still heavily rigged toward being male dominated. And the “issues” that cause this have nothing to do with anything specific in said chosen career. Random factoid I read about the other day: Getting married and having kids tends to have a positive impact on a man’s career (he’s seen as more stable, reliable, mature ect.) A woman gets married it has a negative impact on her career (because ironically having kids makes her less reliable, stable etc.).

    And yes, lets talk about babies, they have quite a massive impact on things. I’m about to pop one out within the next 3 weeks, so its something I’ve been thinking about a lot. First off, pregnancy. Men can’t do that. And it’s 9 months of not being a fully functional human. It’s sad, but true. I mean, I know that during this time I’ve built a whole new person and that’s a pretty big deal, but aside from that, my productivity plummeted to ridiculous lows. That’s close to a year of me not producing much work (problematic as an artist). In any event… and then there’s the wanting to do the best for my baby and go the whole breastfeeding route, be present in my child’s life, not ship her off to a stranger to care for. Once again, men don’t have the necessary equipment for this breastfeeding thing. And daycare is expensive in any event.

    All of that aside, sure, I could pump and freeze milk and theoretically hubby could take over childcare, but it’s highly impractical for several other reasons. 1) He earns more. Because he’s a man. Men still earn more just because. 2) The law doesn’t give him any paternity leave in any event. He can take 3 days family responsibility leave, but the rest is all on him. According to the law, our dear men are supposed to spend 9-5 at the office and not care about their children other than to provide financially.

    And then we get to a point 2-3years later where the child is now happily grown and ready for preschool and where does that leave me? Oh yeah, 2-3 years behind my male counterparts because I’ve been stuggling to keep my career up while I raise my baby. And at this point, usually, women are up and preggars with child number 2…. and 5/6 years later they can FINALLY focus on the career.

    So what you have here is a huge imbalance, created because women are trying to gain equality at work, but failing miserably in realising that men need equality at home in order for it to balance out. I believe it’s in Sweden… but they started by changing their maternity leave to parental leave. At first it had very little effect and only a few fathers took shared time off. So what they did was declare 2 of the 13months were paternal months. Suddenly men started taking time off. Suddenly things in the workforce started changing. With both men and women taking parental leave, companies were no longer “loosing” because they hired women. So as the men got to enjoy more family related responsibilities, women actually started getting better positions and pay etc. etc. It’s a balancing act that most countries couldn’t care to figure out.

    • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

      Good point. Jade Raymond had to sit on the back burner during her pregnancy after Assassins Creed. Not to mention all the production babies during the end credits of any game.

      It is the same in all industries.

      Behind every great man is a greater woman.

      • Sageville

        Pfft!

        Behind every great man is a woman telling him how much of a lazy git he is!

        • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

          Says the dude with a reefer as an avatar BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          • Sageville

            ..but it’s a happy weed…

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      A very nice comment and I for one would love to see fathers being given a fair shot at being stay at home dads or at least doing the paternity leave…

      But then again the breast feeding issue is quite a large one as not all ladies can express

    • Zoe

      So very true! In Germany, boys are forced to do a year of civil or military service so that girls are a year ahead out of high school. This is their way of compensating for the year that women will probably fall behind due to childbirth. Most European countries allow for paternity leave as well as maternity leave and are very generous in this regard. Seems more fair.

      • Peter

        Actually not true. First off, conscription in Germany was stopped in 2011. Second, it was only for 6 months. Conscription started in the middle 1950′s, and in case you didn’t know, the world was pretty broken after the war.

        To say that “boys are forced to do a year of civil or military service so that girls are a year ahead out of high school” is total and utter horse sh*t, and I have no idea where you came up with that ridiculous statement.

  • FoxOneZA – X-Therminator

    Don’t forget that the lady heading the Ouya was once designing the XBox 360. That winning console and controller design won gamers over instantly in a market dominated by Sony.

  • Sageville

    Gees, you’d think it’s national essay day looking at the length of these comments

    • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

      It’s a real article with real comments ;).. some solid things being said but man it takes a while to get through them all

      • http://lazygamer.net/ OVG

        It looks like ZOE is gunning for most comments of the week again. More topless please :)

  • Gideon Venter

    I remember some women in gaming from way back when. Roberta Williams and Lorey Cole come t mind.

    While I agree with much of your article, there’s one point where I must disagree with you. You said: “How about supporting all women in their contributions, whether or not you agree with them?” Yeah, no, that’s kinda sexist. I’ll support their contributions if I agree with them, and not if I don’t. The fact that they’re women should not automatically earn my support.

    • Zoe

      Yeah, sorry for the confusion there – i mean support women having opinions. Feel free to disagree with them, but don’t undermine them or attack simply because they are women. Men don’t seem as guilty of this as women…

      • Gideon Venter

        Ah, in which case I agree fully.

  • Daniel Keevy

    Excellent article!

  • Harvey P Cheesewinkle

    Honestly, I don’t care what gender you are, if you can make a good game (or a good product for that matter), or have a vision for a great game, then you need to have the drive and ambition to see that vision to the end. Anyone with a vision deserves support, male or female, gender is irrelevant in that regard. And while I understand where you’re coming from Zoe, I don’t think women should get any different treatment than men, in that regard.

    Women can do anything men can do, right? But that also infers that men are actually capable of doing things, and shouldn’t be marginalized just because women haven’t forced a large presence in the gaming world’s upper hierarchy. And that’s what it’s all about, you’re not just going to luck into being the head of a multi-billion dollar companies games division…just cause. Mrs. Larsen-Green struggled and fought her way to where she is, just like every guy who’s in their position. So, in that respect, she firmly deserves every opportunity to show the world what she can do. I feel the same however, for any PERSON, who achieves a level of success comparable to hers.

    But, to just encourage women? Just because, hey, they’re women? I disagree with that. Best person for the job, or the person with the greatest most compelling vision. What dangles (or doesn’t) between your legs, is irrelevant.

    I can actually say however, that having 9 years in customer service (5 as supervisor) that part of the industry is largely women. However, on the back end of that, there were 8 DBA’s, 5 of which were women, 3 were men, and both managers while I was there, were women. The site manager, and the regional manager, were also women. This wasn’t the gaming industry though, so personally, I think it comes down to interest. People have to be interested in what they’re doing, to pursue a long-term career. And for a very very long time, males were really the driving force behind purchasing, playing and furthering games.

    The times have changed though/are changing, and women are becoming more and more interested in the industry. For me, they’ve always been welcome, but I’m not going to beg or anything, dragging someone unwillingly isn’t going to produce the results I’m looking for. Someone who wakes up one day (be they a man or a woman) and says, I want to do this, and goes out and does everything in their power to achieve that. That’s what I want. That’s what the industry _needs_ to thrive.

  • Naxie

    Wonderful post, Zoe – and terrific comments from the “peanut gallery” – keep keeping us on our toes!

  • BettyK

    The world is a very different place from when I was a child – I’m 46 and only used a computer for the first time in my mid-twenties. So there’s no way that gaming could have ever even been on my radar as a career choice. My daughter (7), on the other hand, is being brought up in a very different world to mine. She started using a computer for the first time at 18 months and has been doing simple programming for about a year. Having grown up with laptops, computers, iPads, iPhones etc, choosing a career in IT and more specifically in game development, is a very distinct possibility for her, if that’s what she wants. I think it’s just a matter of time before women become more fully integrated into the world of gaming. However, in order for that to happen, it needs to get on the radar of more girls first, and there needs to be more awareness about the opportunities inherent in the industry. I wonder how many kids today (boy or girl), when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say that they want to be a game developer? Thanks for such a thought-provoking article!

  • InsanityFlea

    In the kitchen? *duck*

  • Pingback: North Jefferson Women’s Center to hold open house for new Fultondale location this Thursday | Apparel stuff

  • Annunaki

    Make more games for woman, like
    iRon – the game that teaches hotness on 2 fronts
    Pesimistic Domestic – How much is a small cap really
    Tigers Wood – how to swing for the win

    Throw in games like that and you will have feminists worldwide crawling out of the woodwork to build these games

  • DiscordianKitty

    “Isn’t the whole point of feminism that women should be judged on their merit, not on their sex or gender?”

    Then, in the SAME POST:

    “How about supporting all women in their contributions, whether or not you agree with them?”

    Astounding.

  • Delayna Edgington

    It’s nice to read an article that is obviously written by a real feminist and not those “I want the benefits but not the negatives” feminist.

  • ggop

    What a MILF.

  • Gerrit Prinsloo

    Woman are why men game

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  • Blah Blah Blah

    “Open commentary is not only frowned upon, but made absolutely impossible
    by people who cannot understand that there may be differences of
    opinions on these controversial topics. Women (or race or sexuality) in
    gaming is a very contentious issue that has become impossible to
    discuss.”

    Who’s to blame for that? Women. One track minded feminists who bitch about everything.

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