10 Reasons why it suck’s to be female in the Gaming Industry

10 ReasonsThe Gaming Industry, just like other Tech Industries, is dominated by males. There are more men in total and more men in managing positions. There are even more male customers for games. So yeah it is a pretty male-dominant world I work in.

Working in the gaming industry for four years (more if you count in my voluntary work before) and being a member of the “gaming community” for some more years, I’ve seen things changing in the gaming industry, and could compare to changes outside the industry as well.

And yes, there were changes. In the games themselves unfortunately the change was to have more and more overly sexualized female characters. And in the industry behind? More women started to work in this industry, same as in other tech industries. However the approach to female co-workers didn’t change.

A little side note before I actually start: this may not apply to all gaming companies and I’d be more than happy to hear other female colleagues shouting out positive examples of a gender neutral work atmosphere in a gaming company.

Here is my personal Top 10 List of “Why it sucks to be female in the gaming industry.”

10. “Do you play Games”?

It’s funny how often I overheard colleagues being asked “Which Games do you play?”. As a female when someone asks me, the question is “Do you play games” rather than which Games I play.

No, I don’t play games. I work in Gaming because the industry pays so good. D’oh,

It might be something that is not “such a big deal” but after a while it started pissing me off. For the record: I do play Games. I fucking love Games. I started with playing Lemmings, played Indiana Jones, same as Gothic or American McGee’s Alice etc. to end up with mostly Roleplaying Games (Single and MMO) and League of Legends. And no, my favorite Games are not Flyff and Candy Crush. Just a side note, I don’t even consider the last one to be a real game, but that is another story and shall be told another time.

9. “So in which department do you work, Marketing or something?”

While for me in particular it is true that I work (better: worked) in one of the “femalish” sectors of the Gaming Industry, Community Management, I do know many female colleagues for whom this isn’t true. There are Producers and Project Managers, Game Designers and Database Analysts who are female, and in all other fields related to this industry there are women who do these jobs and do them great.

As with the “Do you play Games?” It’s not the question itself that bothers me, it’s the fact that when addressed to a male the phrasing is more like “So in which department do you work, IT?”

8. “This will work fine for a female audience.”

I’m aware that this isn’t naturally specific for the Gaming industry, but when it comes to Marketing plans, they often try to tackle down those funny target groups they learned about in business schools. These target groups are often divided by demographics and most often gender has a high rank in those. I participated in a couple of meetings where guys (usually I was the only female or we were the minority) sat together wondering if cute baby dragons could be emphasised more in the advertisements, because they are more likely to attract female players. And I sat there, simply stunned by the stupidity of these discussions. A Game that is not about cute little baby dragons should not emphasise them in ads. A Game that is about cute little baby dragons does not necessarily has a more female audience.

When I, as a female look for a game to play I look for: challenging gameplay. Surprise! I don’t care about your great graphics, I don’t care if you have cute little baby dragons. If your game fails about the most important part of games: fun, disport and challenge, you failed to win me as a customer.

I’ve never met a gamer (definitions about what a gamer is may vary but I’m talking about both, male and female) who said “I kept playing the game because of little cute baby dragons”, and I’ve never met a gamer who said “I’ve started playing the game because of that trailer showing cute little baby dragons and I sticked to it because I still liked it when I noticed the cute little baby dragons actually appear in only one cut scene.”

This is just as annoying as these games trying to attract male players with nude (or nude-armored) female characters. One time, I even saw a strategy browser game, advertising with a nearly naked (nipples were hidden and the place where her vagina must be was… let’s say answering the question about whether she would shave her pubes or not). It’s vile to assume that women will find anything attractive that has a baby face and men like everything that has tits. It reduces both, men and women alike to basic animal instincts and hetero stereotypes.

The gaming industry that has marketing focusing on that instead of the product has, from my point of view, failed their customers (and potential customers).

7. “May I help you with that?”

I don’t mind if someone kindly offers me his/her help for something. I do mind if I get offered help for tech stuff (like installing a program on my working PC) while male colleagues are not getting offered the same help. I’ve even seen E-Mails like “if one of the ladies needs help setting this up…”. Especially in the gaming industry I’d assume that every employee does know how to do the basic stuff on a PC, smart phone, whatsoever main device of the games the company works on. Apparently I’m wrong. It’s only men who know such things. Women need help, just like those princesses in their castles, that never managed to get out on their own.

An offer for help should not be gender related, unless the topic that help is needed for is gender specific. And no, being able to install software isn’t. Asking for a tampon is.

6. “You’re cool.”

While there are plenty of discriminating colleagues, this also includes some who positively discriminate. Being told that it is cool to work in the Gaming industry as a woman is not cool. And no, I don’t want to be considered especially cool, especially different from “normal” women, etc. For women it should be normal, natural and just as cool as for any man to work in gaming.

5. “It’s natural you don’t like shooters. You are a girl.”

When human resources are distributed to game projects there are often gender stereotypes determining who gets on which project. Casual, Simulation, Roleplay? Female colleagues. Adventure, Strategy, Shooter, Horror, Racer? Male colleagues. When you ask why, you get the answer (with which I agree) that you should like the project you work on and would like to play it yourself. Just that it is considered that, as a woman, you don’t like shooters. Or (I even came across this) that you would not be able to understand the mostly male audience.

4. “Just make sure she does not break anything.”

That was the statement of a manager to the colleague showing me the working tools right after I’ve started into a new job. I’ve just gotten access to the admin tools for the games I’d work on and he said that. Similar to “May I help you with that?” this is again assuming that women are somehow incapable of working with technology. Plus, when that statement was made, I already had some experience in the industry. I was not new to it. I worked with various tools before.

This was not only offensive against women, it also was a serious management fail (no manager should say something like that about a new employee to the employee who is supposed to train the new one). It does not even matter if he was kidding or not.

3. The “Babes”

Who ever visited a gaming convention saw them: young women in shorts and (belly free) shirts or barely covering anything game costumes, with their tits pressed up to their chins, smiling into the cameras no matter who touches them. I can tell you that it is not funny to be at a convention for the exhibitors. It’s hard work. People sweat. It’s loud. It smells like human crowd salad. These women stand there in their high heels, being watched at, being photographed and filmed, being touched, even at their butts and boobs. They are used at other fairs as well, just not in costumes and in gaming almost every exhibitor has “babes”. Click here for a Top 5 ranking of the “hottest Babes at the E3 2013”, if you need this illustrated.

It’s the old “sex sells” thinking, but there is more to it.

Gaming conventions attract young people and even if there is an age restriction to certain game areas, the babes run around everywhere. At the GamesCom e.g. there are kids as young as 12 running around alone, being confronted with these women. They’ll see women that don’t say anything when being touched by various (most of the time male) people. Women that smile when a sweaty guy puts his hand on their asses. Women that seem to come from another world, with all these fantasy costumes, but still having their boobs and legs and hips exposed as if this would be normal in any world. They see fiction coming true. Children of that age are not able to get the abstract idea that these are real women that play being fantasy creatures or fiction characters, which are based on the idea of someone in the real world. To a child, these are real people, just dressed up as something from a game. If they don’t know the reference it may even be worse.

Unfortunately this is the image of women that is wide-spread amongst the gaming community. There are like “the nerd girls”, women that are considered unattractive but who can be teammates, who may even compete with men. And there are “the babes”, women that are attractive, but are not of use in an actual game.

This image that is born in games, carried into the gaming community is also establishing a “sexy” OR “intelligent” view on women in the industry. There are the “coworkers” who are often not seen as women, but rather “one of the guys” and there are the “hotties” that managed to work in the industry somehow, but most likely because of titty bonus or because they work in the “women fields” like HR, Marketing, Accounting (but not in leading positions).

2. “Men like it that way”

When raising concerns about sexualized female bodies in advertisement or merchandise, about descriptions of violence against women that are unnecessary cruel or detailed, you often get cut off with “men like it that way.” or “It’s okay, our male audience will like it”. When you are starting to discuss it, you get told that it is not the time to start a debate about principles. Or that you interpret too much into it. Or that you’re hysterical. Or that you can stop working on the project if you feel uncomfortable with how it is done.

1. “How does a beautiful girl like you happen to work in gaming?”

Yes, I was asked that exact question by a (male) colleague. And I repeatedly heard similar questions.

It is so wrong in so many ways, that I don’t even know where to start. Can’t I work in gaming because I’m female? Because I’m beautiful? Is “girl” assuming that I’m rather young? Does it confuse you that I’m working at all? Can I punch you in the face?




Thanks to Giraffe for the Brainstorming assistance.


4 thoughts on “10 Reasons why it suck’s to be female in the Gaming Industry

  1. Usually I try not to react on posts speaking about sexism, but since you are one of the persons which I worked with whom I respect the most, I will make an exception.

    I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with (almost) everything you wrote above.
    There are indeed reasons why it sucks to be in the gaming industry – the bad pay, the awful work/life balance (‘but it is your PASSION so you should like it!’), the terrible community/customers, the huge gap between the management and the employees (flat hierarchy, yeah right) – but gender is not one.

    In my 3 years working in the gaming industry and in the 14+ years I have spent till now in the gaming community, I actually never was victim to any kind of sexism. It was quite the opposite.
    I could give numbers and tell you that everybody I worked with had neutral relationships with one another, dependless of the gender, but actually why should I do that? There is nothing to prove and by doing so I would actually play by the ‘feminist’ rules that I want to avoid at all costs.

    The fact is that the sexism, as being condemned by so-called feminists, is much less prevalent than what they would like us to think.
    Sexism is a reality, yes. But by crying wolf like this post above does, the real issues are overshadowed by the plenty of silly points made by the ‘feminists’ to call out on the big bad meanie males.
    This is why the kind of posts like the one you posted above make me so MAD. I am really sorry for the tone of what I am going to say, but I know that you can write and think so much better and more subtle.

    What you did is actually taking common, shallow ideas, remix them a little bit and add a bit of indignation on it. Why? What does that honestly add to the discussion?
    Not only are most of those questions mere extrapolations on the attitude of one or two idiots (because I honestly cannot believe all the males you encountered have asked you those questions… how come then that I never met one?), but they don’t add anything constructive to the wide issue of the RESPECT that is due to one and everybody human being, regardless of the gender, the age and the position. Because *that* is the real and only issue at the hand, and never in the points discussed above I saw a good representation of this issue.

    I mean… seriously, Zesyra?

    – Yes, I got hit on by guys when working in the VG industry. But I like to think that it is because I am a decent person and interesting enough to hang out with, not just because I am a girl. I actually even got flattered by it… I guess I am a completely irremediably lost and tainted soul.

    – Yes, I got asked if I play games. PLOT TWIST: I ask the same questions to… guys!! (shocking!) Because, you know, it is better not to jump on conclusions – one way or another – and the question “do you play games” trigger a wider range of answers and discussions than just “which games do you play ?”

    – Yes, I got told that I was cool. And I appreciated it. Because every nice word, even if clumsy, is good to take.

    – I would love to be asked if somebody could help me with something!! That’s a good way to start a discussion with somebody too!! But no, actually generally my (male) colleagues would come to ME for help, because they seemed to think that I was (gasp!) more knowledgeable than them. Maybe they were aliens, not male humans?
    (But honestly, the guy you describe in the point 4 is really a big moron. However there are morons in every industry. Not only VG.)

    – Point 3… Zesyra… a) 12-years old kids are not idiots like you seem to think and they have seen worse things already b) If they are younger, they actually have usually a vivid imagination and would even take the ticket vendor for some kind of alien. Reality IS overrated for young kids.

    So what? Am I an exception? How come that I so blissfully managed to avoid each and every points that you name during all those years?
    Maybe because there is no need to make a mountain where there is a mere… wait, no, where there is actually NOTHING? Maybe because I try to keep a positive outlook where there is already so much negativity?

    Tell me about harassment, like that girl in that one competition who had to endure the horrible things said by the anchor guy. THAT is bad. And it triggered, as it should be, a firestorm of reactions. Tell me about that female writer who got harassed because she wrote a gay character in a VG – that was very bad – but that is an issue in the community (and actually it is more than just VG in my opinion), NOT the industry. Those are real issues. Those needs to be discussed (but funnily enough, they ususally are discussed in combination with much less important things… I guess we have no enough distance with those kind of issues).

    But other than that, I don’t see any reason to be angry. I see reasons to act, I see ladders to climb, I see actually a lot of possibilities to show everybody – and ourselves in the first line – that video games is not a gendered industry but just an industry like any other, with its good and bad sides. And instead of writing angry posts on why it sucks to work in the VG industry, it would maybe be good to show why it is interesting to work in it and to showcase the women who HAVE an influence in the VG world (and yes, there are.).

    Create, unite, and do not antagonize. Maybe then the industry will start to gain a bit of credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world and of its own employees.

    • Hey Liz,

      thanks for your comment, I really appreciated reading from you. Sorry for my late reply.

      I found it interesting that you read everything I wrote as male vs. female. It was never meant as „only males do this“. In fact, whenever I was speaking about a specific gender, I pointed that out (like e.g. „mostly male“).

      It also is not about ‘sexism’. While sexism is looking into discrimination because of different sex (I usually use ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as Butler did, sex describing the biological state of the body, gender the habitual); I was more interested in differences resulting from being ‘female’.

      I would consider only the top 3 and point 6 as ‘sexist’, the rest, while unedifying, is not a matter of sexism, but rather of cultural established prejudices based on ones gender (and yes, to me that is a difference).

      After writing this article (and while) I got plenty of examples for these, most of the time language based, ‘cultural established prejudices’.
      Also one gay co-worker spoke up, pointing out it’s basically the same for (openly) gay employees in the industry (https://twitter.com/chako33/status/467898973144240128).

      There are amazingly many people who somehow came to the opinion, that feminism is about telling men they suck. It’s not. It’s a matter of society and society is formed by both, men and women and everyone in between or out of this.

      Actually, when you disregard the opening paragraph (3 times), I only used the word “male” 9 times.
      First time is in Point 9, where I state that there is a difference in phrasing when the question about the working specialization is asked to a male colleague instead of a female.
      Second time is in Point 8, claiming I speak about gamers of both genders, third time in the same paragraph saying that there is also an equivalent mistreating of male players.
      Fourth time is in Point 7, when I say there is an inequivalent treatment of male and female colleagues when help for technical stuff is offered. Similar is the fifth mention in Point 5 where I say that males usually don’t get offered the pink fluffy unicorn casual games as projects (or vice versa).
      The sixth mention, also in Point 5 is about the mostly male audience (of games in general), which I’m sure I don’t need to give you statistics for.
      Seventh mention can be found in Point 3, where I say that the Babes on Games Conventions get touched by “most of the time male” people.
      Eighth mention is in Point 2, again about the male audience.
      And the last one in Point 1, where I say that this is a quote of a male colleague.

      “Sexist” or “sexism” is something I’ve never used in the article; “discriminating” once in Point 6, which, as said, I indeed find sexist.

      I find it kind of confusing that you automatically assume this article as ‘pseudo feminist anti sexism mimimi’ (my interpretation of your comment 😉 ); just because the (with sound mind chosen) title is a little provocative? Because I say that the industry is dominated by males? Because I write from a female perspective how I perceive the approach to female employees in the gaming industry?

      Assuming that a woman is complaining about sexism every time she is speaking about experiences of being a woman in a certain environment, that is something I’d consider sexist indeed.

  2. Oh wow, that last sentence was unnecessary.
    You know what, Zesyra? Nevermind. I will never again try to speak up against you.
    Actually, I think I will just let it drop. I don’t like arguments ad hominem and will not try to push this further.

    May the world be good with you.

    • I’m afraid there is some kind of misunderstanding here; though I don’t know where it’s origin lies. Maybe it’s just my crappy english, maybe it’s that this seems to be a sensitive topic to both of us or we somehow talk at cross purposes.

      You’ve said, that it makes you mad, what is why I tried to explain how it was meant. It’s okay for me if you like to stop the discussion; however if you decide not to and try again to explain to me what exactly makes you mad, I can try to adjust the posting. As said it’s not meant to be some kind of feminist pamphlet. Just personal thoughts that other may or may not share. I could do the same with “10 reasons why it sucks to come to work in a good mood in the gaming industry” or “10 reasons why it sucks not to like alcohol in the gaming industry” or various other topics. I chose that one because gender happens to be a topic that is of general interest for me, rather than mood or alcohol.

      All the best

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