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There’s a studio in Finland called Housemarque. Founded in 1995, Housemarque has made several outstanding games like Dead Nation, Super Stardust and most recently Alienation. The thing that stands out to me the most about Housemarque is not their roster of outstanding games and excellent design tendencies. It isn’t that they’re the oldest game studio in Finland or that they’ve won countless awards and nominations for their work. It’s that in the year 2016 there is only one female employee in the whole team and she was hired fairly recently. If you watched the credits for Dead Nation (which came out in 2010) you’ll see there’s only one female listed in the entire credits and she’s a voice actress. Sadly this isn’t a situation unique to Housemarque but reflects the industry as a whole.
Recently in an interview for a QA position at a video game studio I was asked a question that left me conflicted. I was asked why I, a man, should be hired at their studio when I constantly advocate for equal gender representation in both games and the industry. I’ve written several articles about how both in the industry and in games themselves women and those of colour and basically people who aren’t white men are severely underrepresented. So why should a straight, white man (the epitome of privilege) try to get a job in such an industry? Shouldn’t that job go to a woman or a person of colour or basically anyone other than myself? These are questions that caused me to think long and hard about my place in the industry I love.
Women in the video game industry are constantly discriminated against based on their gender. Women at trade shows are assumed to be the concept artists or merely a booth attendant. Never the programmer or director. Women are constantly subjected to sexist remarks both in person and online. This “gamer” fuelled hate boiled to an unprecedented climax during Gamergate in 2014. The following video is from the Game Developer’s Conference in 2015. It’s a collection of quotes from female developers who have been subjected to misogyny and sexism from coworkers, employers, and online commenters. It aims to shine a big spotlight on the huge issue of sexism in the video game industry and I believe it succeeds.
There are intrinsic flaws with how our industry treats women; flaws perpetuated by men. And because men have dominated the video game industry since its inception it’s immensely harder to incite change. But I wholeheartedly believe it’s a problem that can be fixed. The treatment of women in the industry is often what discourages them from even trying to get involved. The discouragement begins before they’re even hired. It’s this toxic atmosphere which permeates the industry that needs to change and it starts with our thinking.
As long as the people getting jobs and working in the industry are people who respect and work well with those who aren’t the exact same as them we will begin to see change. We need people who create a welcoming and accepting workplace. We need people who don’t ignore their privilege but instead work to engage with those who don’t share their privilege. Once those conversations begin happening and become more commonplace then we will truly begin to see change. We can begin to counteract that toxic atmosphere and create a space where women want to work and then they’ll get involved in larger numbers. So long as each of us is critical of our roles and make it our goal to be as inclusive and open-minded as possible then each of us can be a force for good in the industry.
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