I happen to be fortunate. My team of writers on Dragon Age currently consists of nine people— most of which are female. It’s reached the point that, when we consider new hires and transfers, I tend to joke “ummm, we could use some more testosterone in here…” and give a big goofy grin. Mine is probably the only department that could get away with saying something like that.
And I’m not truly serious about it, anyhow. If having such a large number of women on my team has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t lump them into one category of preferences any more than you could the guys. Yes, there are those among my female writers who are more averse to combat and more attracted to the romance plots… but, you know what? That’s equally true for the male writers. Considering there are those among the women who would be seriously put out if a plot didn’t engage in some serious bloodletting, and who roll their eyes whenever the subject of gooey romance comes up, I think it’s pretty safe to say the stereotype of a “female gamer” doesn’t exist outside of the heads of men.
Which meant I was a little surprised when I learned something new the other day.
We were sitting down to peer review a plot— a peer review being the point where a plot has had its first writing pass completed, and whoever wrote it sits down with the other writers as well as representatives from cinematic design, editing, and level art to hear critique. We’ve all read it first, and written down our thoughts, and go around the table to relate any issues we encountered.
As it happened, most of the guys went first. Typical stuff— some stuff was good, some stuff needed work, etc. etc. Then one of the female writers went, and she brought up an issue. A big issue. It had to do with a sexual situation in the plot, which she explained could easily be interpreted as a form of rape.
It wasn’t intended that way. In fact, the writer of the plot was mortified. The intention was that it come across as creepy and subverting… but authorial intention is often irrelevant, and we must always consider how what we write will be interpreted. In this case, it was not a long trip for the person playing through the plot to see what was happening at a slightly different angle, and it was no longer good-creepy. It was bad-creepy. It was discomforting and not cool at all. And this female writer was not alone. All the other women at the table nodded their heads, and had noted the same thing in their critiques. So we discussed it, changes were made, and everything was better. Crisis averted.
All good, right? That’s what these reviews are for.
Here’s the thing: after the meeting was over, it struck me how sharply divided the reviewers were on gender lines. The guys involved, all reasonable and liberal-minded fellows I assure you (including me!) all automatically took the intended viewpoint of the author and didn’t see the issue. The girls had all taken the other side of the encounter, and saw it completely differently— all of them. As soon as it was pointed out, it was obvious… but why hadn’t we seen it?
And this thought occurred as well: if this had been a team with no female perspective present, it would have gone into the game that way. Had that female writer been the lone woman, would her view have been disregarded as an over-reaction? A lone outlier? How often does that happen on game development teams, ones made up of otherwise intelligent and liberal guys who are then shocked to find out that they inadvertently offended a group that is quickly approaching half of the gaming audience?
For the girls reading that, I imagine a bunch will roll their eyes and say “well, duh, pretty damn often.” But what about the guys? Will the idea make them uncomfortable? Will they come up with excuses, or go right to hostility? Guys, particularly in game development, are a pretty privileged bunch. That’s not meant as an insult; it’s just the way it is. The teams consist primarily of white guys and (shockingly) that’s who we assume our audience is— almost exclusively. But the gaming audience is changing, just as the nature of our games is changing, and perhaps there’s value in appreciating the fact that greater female representation in game development teams has a more practical benefit than equality for equality’s sake alone.
Don’t worry - this isn’t an announcement that we’ve hired an abstract expressionist as our newest artist.
At Marvel we’re constantly trying to understand our characters and stories better so that we can better present those to you, our fans. (Also, we are big data nerds.)
As part of this effort we focused some sophisticated data analysis tools on the world’s most interesting social network—the Marvel Universe. The result is what you see above: in each image, every node represents a character and each line represents a shared appearance between two characters (in some of the graphs, the thickness of the line corresponds to the number of shared appearances).
Some cool things we’ve found:
- There are four big clusters of characters (you can see them in the different colored graphs above) which correspond to the X-Men, the Avengers, Spider-Man and Wolverine.
- Wolvie seems to have his own entourage independent of his teammates in the Avengers and the X-Men.
- There are about 10 other smaller clusters—in the high-res images linked below you’ll see groups corresponding to X-Factor Investigations, our cosmic heroes, teen heroes like the Runaways and Avengers Academy students and even Alpha Flight.
- The Ultimate Universe orbits the main Marvel Universe like a satellite (you can see it as a small spur on the right or left on most of the graphs above).
- The graph diameter (the furthest distance between any two characters) is 9 hops.
- The graph is relatively sparse (meaning many characters are not directly linked) with a density rating of .032.
- The average character has links to 41 other characters
This tweaks my geekery on several levels. Love it!
In earlier times, there was rarely a judgment made on the new person’s qualifications to be a geek, it was simply a “You like Star Wars? Cool, so do we!” But in recent years there are too often stories of a new fan attending a convention, with a first attempt at a Jedi costume, coming across the 501st and asking about becoming a member and being summarily mocked and driven off (often by the one person at the booth that’s not in costume). That’s not to say that the vast bulk of the 501st aren’t incredible people, but when that first impression is poor, that’s hard to get past that.
Women used to be few and very far between, but now the gender gap is closing at a furious pace. Unfortunately when a new geek girl appears on the scene they’re still constantly assumed to not be a “real geek” – meaning that they are assumed to not have better than a passing familiarity with a fandom, and they’re forced to jump through hoops to prove themselves.
Listen, diehards. Newbies don’t hurt you. They don’t diminish your enjoyment of your fandom. You don’t lose anything by having them join you in sheer, ridiculous love of something. There isn’t some magical geek threshold that one must meet in order to be “good enough” to fan something.
Take a step back, and be excited that someone else loves what you do. You get to teach them about it, geek out about it with them, and share the joy. There’s no need to be so possessive about your fandom.
Once again, we need a badge. “I am a geek, and I’m not a giant d-bag.”
A few days ago an asshole using the Twitter ID @MisterE2009 started making attacks on a bunch of male and female creators and fans. A sample of the abuse which can be seen at Bleeding Cool (as the guy has now deleted the Twitter page). Soon people figured out that he also had another Twitter ID, @JonVee.
All of this came to the attention of Mark Millar and Ron Marz who were outraged by the guy’s conduct. Things had been going on for a few days before I became aware of it and really the guy’s conduct wasn’t a surprise at all. The person in question has been systematically harrassing me and my co-host Kelly on the Internet for a long time.
Of course, one would think that the fact this asswipe was talking about rape and gang rape and harrassing women (men) on the internet getting called out and hopefully brought down would be a universally applauded.
But nope. While there was lots of condemnation, I soon saw that there was a through round of victim shaming as the story got written about over the net. Here’s a good one:
Click through and read the whole thing.
I have some thoughts about ol’ John/Jennifer but I’m preeeeeetty sure they don’t qualify as free speech either. And I’m absolutely certain they’re no good for my soul or yours, so I’ll save them for my fiction and spare us both.
I will say this: I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she is safe to speak her mind without fear of sexual threat or violence. Whether or not you agree with everything they have to say, the fact that women like Laura Hudson and Sue and Kelly will not be cowed by frightened little psychopaths with internet access, means that we are one tiny step closer to a better outcome for my girl, should she be blessed with the courage to ask if things could be done differently.
For that and to them, I am intensely grateful.
You are made of molten steel, ladies. Rage the fuck on.
This woman is my hero. We have to start calling this stuff out every time we see it. There’s no virtue in being the harassed, silent, “good girl.” The more of us call this stuff out, the more these trolls will see they are in the minority (and I do believe they’re a minority, just a ridiculously loud one.) The more they will see there’s no room for this crap in our culture.
As an aside, WTF is going on with geekdom recently? I don’t know if it’s just that it’s getting more attention, but stuff like this seems to be happening more frequently. Is it getting worse? Is it because certain aspects of geek culture are getting more press, and that’s dragging more of our dirty laundry into the light? Are we having a Jeff Foxworthy problem, where it’s not that geeks are all intolerable, mouth-breathing, misogynistic jackasses but that we just can’t keep the most unstable amongst us out of the spotlight?
We should make a badge. “I am a geek, and I’m not a giant d-bag.” Then we could easily separate the wheat from the chaff.
This brief article looks at a new mode in the upcoming Borderlands 2 which is supposed to cater to non-gamers or gamers who are inexperienced and unskilled:
Officially, the term is “Best Friends Forever,” but internally—and to the press—the game’s lead designer John Hemingway calls it “Girlfriend Mode”, a term so casually sexist in its implication of how women must be bad at videogames that it seemingly dismisses the fact women make up half the population of gamers overall and are every bit as capable of being gamers as their male counterparts.
I’ve had to do so many facepalms because of the games industry lately that I’m starting to bruise.
So, this is what David Jaffe called me about - his support for ‘girflriend mode’ and my distaste for it. I disagree with the term, I think the reasoning is ridiculous, but this article has twisted words to make them even worse.
The idea is not that women must be bad at video games. The point, from a developers perspective, is that the majority of people who play games like Borderlands are typically male - this is according to their statistics, and the statistics Jaffe has access to. Of course, they want to change that, they want to make more girls play their game, and they thought a mode that’s friendly to new players may encourage that. To summise it as “they think women are bad at games!” is really unfounded, because absolutely nobody said that. It’s supposed to be about making the game more approachable to new players, and a huge demographic of players they’re missing are females. They just presented that idea in a really negative way…
Like I said, though, I disagree with it entirely and managed to talk Jaffe into realising he was being a jerk, but I feel the need to clear up why it was said beyond “women are bad at games!”
While “women are bad at games” has not been explicitly said by the developers, the implication is there, plain as day. If you create a mode that’s designed to be easier, for “inexperienced” players, then call it “girlfriend mode,” that pretty clearly says “this is for girls because it’s easy.” It doesn’t take a particularly large logical leap at that point to conclude that if a mode for girls has to be extra easy, then girls must be bad at games.
However, who has more “skills” in gaming is not the real heart of the issue. The more troubling part of your post is that you take the false assertion this whole thing is based on and repeat it as fact - “the majority of people who play games like Borderlands are typically male.” It may be a simple majority (i.e. 51%), but the idea that games are still almost entirely male with just a few women hanging around is out of date and just plain wrong. The fact that Borderlands 2 (and sadly, most other games) is being made as though males are the only audience that matters is the problem. The developer assumes that his audience is male, but might want his girlfriend who clearly must know nothing about videogames to join him. The real problem here is that women are not being treated as players, consumers, fans, or equals. They are again being relegated to one of the roles they always have to play: eye candy, abuse victim or spectator.
^This. Although I (a chick) am super psyched about Borderlands 2, because I love the first game so much, I did give Gearbox some serious side-eye over the “girlfriend mode” thing. I get what they’re trying to do, and I think it’s admirable because I’ve tried to introduce friends who were either non-gamers or non-FPSers to Borderlands they were in fact a little overwhelmed and intimidated by it. So a sort of companion mode that is geared toward newbies is actually really clever, but I agree that there was no need to call it “girlfriend mode,” even internally, and that does reflect an outmoded, incorrect, and demeaning attitude toward women gamers. That said, I think Gearbox is honestly trying to do some cool stuff, particularly with their female characters in Borderlands 2, so I cut them some slack on this particular situation.
It’s just super-frustrating that their view and privilege as male gamers/game designers is so freaking entrenched that they didn’t even realize WHY “girlfriend mode” might be a sexist and crappy term. I don’t think it was malevolence; I think it was ignorance, which, while it can be cured, is also a little more head-desk inducing. >.<
I tried to reblog this from realgirlsgaming, but for some reason it said I was denied (NO VIDEO FOR YOU) so I’m reposting it with the YouTube link.
This video hits upon what I’ve been trying to articulate for a while now regarding portrayal of women in games. Yes, it bothers me when every. single. female. character (or so it feels like) is nothing but T&A in scant, physics-defying clothing. You should hear me rage about the fact that female worgen in WoW still have breasts in wolf form. But I also don’t think that women should only be portrayed in full-coverage clothing and in no way sexualized either, because I think that brushes against slut-shaming, which I’m also very vocally opposed to. I want for women to feel happy and good in whatever they wear, whether it’s a turtleneck and cargo pants or bikini mail.
In a discussion with some awesome peeps after Denver Comic Con, I said it was about context - the problem is that when female characters are so freaking one-dimensional that ALL they are is T&A. I think that this Escapist video articulates that much better than I did. The problem isn’t in the virtual clothing; it’s in the context and the implied messaging.
This goes beyond gaming. It’s a problem across all of geek culture - whether it’s someone calling Felicia Day a “booth babe” (really? Are you new here?) or adolescent calls for girls to prove their geek cred, there’s this really ugly strain in geekdom that looks at women as nothing more than sexual objects there for someone else’s gratification. Because we have boobs, we’ll never be REAL geeks, because the unspoken belief is that only guys are true geeks. The rest of us are clearly only here for attention. (Can you feel my sarcasm?) There are many examples of this, and that’s the piece that has to change. Without that change, it doesn’t matter what digital or real girls wear, they’re still going to be viewed as cardboard cutouts, have our geek cred questioned, and generally be treated hostilely in a subculture which prides itself on embracing the fringe.
This is also why I’m seriously psyched about Borderlands 2 (17 MORE DAYS!!) - awesome-looking sequel to an awesome game with nicely developed female characters? YUS PLZ THANK YOU GEARBOX.
to public school.
i lost it after attempt 510 omfg
JESUS CHRIST I CANT BREATHE
SWISS FUCKING CHEESE GOD DAMMIT
I HAVE NEVER CRIED SO HARD OVER SOMETHING ON THE INTERNET
I still love this
Reblog if you’ve ever screamed this much at a game (ASSASSIN’S CREED I’M LOOKING AT YOU. And the old Megaman games. Also the beginning of the original Silent Hill, when those little midget bastards that are SUPPOSED to kill you, but no one ever told me that and it was 1999 so there was no such thing as YouTube walkthroughs.)
[Warning: Language NSFW]