Is #1reasonwhy A Turning Point?
Sometimes it takes years for a social problem, once painfully made public, to see real progress. And sometimes it can be shocking how quickly the conversation shifts until it becomes almost impossible for the bad guys to show their faces in public.
When Game Front took a long look last summer at the renewed debate over sexism in the gaming industry, we knew at the time that our analysis was limited by our access to nothing other than events that had occurred in the public eye. While we contended that these events – like the infamous Borderlands 2 ‘Girlfriend Mode’ crack, and David Jaffe’s dunderheaded PS Vita analogy – do indeed suggest a clear pattern of unexamined sexism in the industry, we also realized rather quickly that the fact of their apparent rarity made it was easy enough for commentators and industry professionals themselves to deny their larger importance.
Opponents of the idea that sexism in the gaming industry is a problem in dire need of resolution insisted – for example, often in the comments of that feature – that these events were outliers, or misunderstandings, and certainly not the tip of a larger iceberg. It was frustrating, but when you’re arguing over the details of an admittedly small number of embarrassing outbursts, it’s easy to understand, if not condone, the urge to deny the more troubling implications. Ultimately, a bunch of dudes like us at Game Front aren’t the best voices for change anyway; the women actually toiling in the industry can shine a brighter light on their negative experiences than anyone else.
Fortunately, thanks to a rather clumsily phrased question from Luke Crane, Kickstarter’s Games projects Specialist, light has now been shined with blinding intensity. “Why are there so few lady game creators?”, Crane asked Monday evening on Twitter. This is the kind of naive question that you often see from people who haven’t spent any time examining the role gender or racial privilege plays in professional outcomes, and the snarky tone didn’t exactly fit the importance of the issue, but it had the side effect of, ahem, kickstarting the debate over sexism in gaming after it seemed to be dying down again.
By now you’re all aware of the Twitter hashtag #1reasonwhy. Created in response to Crane’s question, thousands of women in the industry have used it to tweet example after example of the kind of nonsense they endure as a baseline requirement for membership in the gaming world. There are now as of this writing tens of thousands of responses, and the discussion shows no signs of slowing down. It would be impossible to summarize them all, but we’ve collected a few that get to the meat of the problem succinctly:
Indie game designer Elizabeth Sampat:
Every post-release positive review I’ve seen of games I’ve designed/published has couched praise for it/me in sexual innuendo. #1reasonwhy
— Elizabeth (@twoscooters) November 26, 2012
Journalist Lillian Cohen-Moore:
Because I was told I’d be remembered not on my own merits, but by who I was or was assumed to be sleeping with. #1reasonwhy
— Lillian Cohen-Moore (@lilyorit) November 26, 2012
Table-Top game designer and gamer Filamena of Machine Age Productions:
Because conventions, where designers are celebrated, are unsafe places for me. Really. I’ve been groped. #1reasonwhy
— filamena (@filamena) November 26, 2012
Game designer Jessice Hammer:
Because men with a tenth of my experience and expertise feel they can condescend to me. #1reasonwhy
— Jess H. (@kleenestar) November 26, 2012
Game designer Caryn Vainio:
Because I’m constantly told by fellow devs that mostly guys buy games, so there’s no reason to appeal to women. #1reasonwhy
— Caryn Vainio (@Hellchick) November 27, 2012
DJ Natasha Fox with a particularly good example of the ‘model minority’ quandry:
being the voice of “women” on a team of 8 male game designers, all with nuanced and opposing views of how to entertain men #1reasonwhy
— DJ Natasha Fox (@Natashacide) November 28, 2012
Designer and critic Mattie Brice:
I had to make my own game in order to see someone like me as a main character #1ReasonWhy
— Mattie Brice (@xMattieBrice) November 27, 2012