[UPDATE] Dancing Girls & Angry Resignations: Tale of Two GDC Parties
Three prominent members of the International Game Developers Association have resigned from leadership positions following an after-party featuring scantily clad women which took place at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
IGDA Director Darius Kazemi, Brenda Romero (formerly Brenda Brathwaite), co-chair of IGDA’s Women in Gaming special interest group, and IGDA Chicago Chair Jay Margalus announced their resignations on Twitter because of controversy spurred by an IGDA-sponsored party organized by event management firm YetiZen. The official GDC after-party featured scantily clad women dancing on stage to the event’s DJ. This was the second year in a row the IGDA used YetiZen.
Given that this year’s GDC featured panels as advocating for women in the industry, it’s difficult to understand why the IGDA would choose to go with YetiZen for a second time. Though the organization stated that it didn’t approve the “activities” of “performers” at the party, at the very least, YetiZen set a precedent with last year’s party.
The GDC after-party continues to suggest a disconnect at IGDA between things such as panel organization and event marketing. Where official approval for such an event comes from is harder to pin down, but it’s understandable why attendees might see panels geared toward empowering women as nothing more than lip service.
Romero was the first to go, citing the #1ReasonWhy hashtag that became a discussion about institutionalized sexism in the technology and gaming sectors last year.
I resign as co-chair of the IGDA Women in Games SIG effective immediately. #1ReasonWhy.
— Brenda Romero (@br) March 28, 2013
[UPDATE]: Romero provided Game Front with the below statement, further explaining her resignation.
I went home Wednesday night to work on my Friday GDC talk feeling super uplifted by the turnout and support for the #1ReasonToBe panel. I woke up to DMs, texts and links to news of the IGDA party. It really
saddens me. I have been a long-time supporter of the IGDA. However, my silence would have been complicity. I had no choice.
Romero was followed soon after by Kazemi, who claims to have had “massive reservations” for using YetiZen as their sponsor after they had “burned” the organization in 2012 by throwing a party that featured women in skimpy clothes. (This came during the same year GDC held a panel discussion of the issues women face in gaming culture, moderated by noted feminist Anita Sarkeesian.)
I had massive reservations using YetiZen as our sponsor the second year in a row after they burned us last year by using scantily clad women
— Darius Kazemi (@tinysubversions) March 28, 2013
Unfortunately, whatever reservations he may have had, Kazemi seems to have kept them to himself. He admitted on Twitter that he could have spoken up about his reservations but refused to do so, apparently to avoid organizational infighting.
But I did not speak up about them internally because I did not want to rock the boat with like, 2 weeks left in my term. For that: I’m sorry — Darius Kazemi (@tinysubversions) March 28, 2013
Margalus announced his resignation on Twitter as well, but gave few details as to the reason for his departure. The implication seems to be that YetiZen would have worked with the organization’s on its presence at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), but that another firm will now be taking its place.
Resigning as IGDA Chicago Chair. C2E2 plans are still on, and will be working on an org that better suits Chicago’s needs.
— Jay Margalus (@Poplicola) March 28, 2013
Game Front received an official statement from IGDA Executive Director Kate Edwards, which states that “some performers’ costumes at the party were inappropriate, and also some of the activities they were performed were not expected or approved:”
“As many of you know, the IGDA was a co-presenter of the YetiZen party Tuesday evening.
“We recognize that some of the performers’ costumes at the party were inappropriate, and also some of the activities they performed were not what we expected or approved.
“We regret that the IGDA was involved in this situation. We do not condone activities that objectify or demean women or any other group of people.
“One of the core values of the IGDA is encouraging inclusion and diversity.
“Obviously we need to be more vigilant in our efforts. We intend to be so in the future.”