Brandon Strader

Tropes vs. Women / #GamerGate Conspiracies

2,105 posts in this topic

Your criteria is extremely flawed, because under it, you can fucking include every media that has ever included a female, ever.

Damsel in Distress specifically refers to the fact that the female herself is entirely powerless in her own situation and she is little more than an object or token to drive the plot. You could replace her with a car, or a can of orange juice, or anything else, and very little would have to be changed. That is literally the trope. "A female character has to be saved" is not a DiD, there are plenty of examples of "female character has to be rescued" that are NOT DiD, and as said, Borderlands 2 and Dark Souls both feature them, because the women in them either have agency, don't function as the sole driver of the plot or quest, or aren't in distress that any other character, male, lizard, walrusman or whatnot, isn't.

Dark Souls especially is exceedingly neutral in how fucked everyone is. I took away from the game that in a lot of the cases, you're late to the party. There is no damsel in distress. They're already fucked. You can't save them, the most you can do is sift through their remains hoping for something useful, or put them out of their misery in a few other cases.

Again, "woman needs help at some point" is not DiD. Final Fantasy 8 you mentioned is an excellent example of the trope, and how it's misused to create a false sense of urgency at the expense of a female character, when Rinoa could have been replaced with a copy of the game script that was actually good, and nothing would have changed. Hell, that'd inspire me to move faster. 7 and 9? Both of them feature female characters who at some point are rendered helpless, but are not DiD. Tifa, Aeris, and Yuffie all have depth and logic - Aeris herself is absolutely fucking astounding because by every account she comes off as one, and then within 20 minutes she's threatening to stomp balls and it's clear she knows exactly how people see her and fights that image. Dagger starts out somewhat weak, but by the end, she's very strong. Characterwise, anyway, she could never beat out Steiner in my playthroughs.

Uh, have you played Dark Souls? You initially rescue Dusk of Oolacile from inside a Crystal golem, she gives some background exposition, then promptly gets kidnapped by Manus, and the entire DLC is about saving her again. Reah of Thorolund instantly turns into a damsel the moment her two bodyguards go hollow in the Tomb of Giants, and will actually die if you don't kill Petrus afterwards too.

Are you saying that for it to count as a DiD trope, it has to be the *main* motivator of the plot? You're trying to apply the standards of games of 20 years ago to modern games, which is incorrect, and I'm sure that Anita's next video will highlight this difference as well (as I said in an earlier post).

I don't think a modern example has to have a complete lack of characterization to count. The point is that at some point in the game, in spite of any strengths or character depth, a female character is helpless to save herself and requires the (male) hero to rescue her.

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Not to beat a dead horse, but let's look at some actual words from female developers....

"Because I get mistaken for the receptionist or day-hire marketing at trade shows. #1reasonwhy"

"Because I am not his arm candy, motherfucker. I make games. #1reasonwhy"

"The worst sexism is the "harmless" assumptions. I'm sick of being told art is the only appropriate career for a woman in games. #1reasonwhy"

"#1ReasonWhy because your studio never orders any women’s t-shirts in swag orders, and certainly not in sizes bigger than XS or S."

"#1reasonwhy because my male colleagues are allowed to occasionally be obnoxious, silly, immature, annoying, drunk. i'm not."

"None of my women developer friends will read comments on interviews they do, because the comments are so brutally nasty. #1reasonwhy"

"I've had prominent designers compliment my games, while complimenting my wife's appearance, when we develop together. #1reasonwhy"

"Because conventions, where designers are celebrated, are unsafe places for me. Really. I've been groped. #1reasonwhy"

"Because I'm sexually harassed as a games journalist, and getting it as a games designer compounds the misery. #1reasonwhy"

"My looks are often commented on long before the work I've done. #1reasonwhy"

"Being mistaken for male co-founder's assistant ...three times? four? #1reasonwhy"

"@b_1st #1reasonwhy because female devs' input get repeatedly dismissed in a studio making games "for women" (how about that one)."

"After being told she was hired to "look pretty & make the guys happy", my old boss got him to repeat this in an email to HR. #1reasonwhy"

"Because once I've been told "we don't need women in order to know what female players want from this industry" #1reasonwhy"

"Because every disclosure of harassment feels like risking never being hired again. #1reasonwhy"

"I've had guys turn to the men I hired to help at the booth for information on the game I wrote. That has my name on the cover. #1reasonwhy"

Just... search for more of these. You can argue away at any of these individual things all you want, you can call these people unreasonable or whatever, but you can't dismiss everything. It's not that people see one booth babe and call it quits. It's all of these little things adding together, which is the point of the #1reasonwhy hashtag. It's lots of assumptions, remarks, actions, comments, decisions, etc. that add up to an unwelcoming environment.

I don't dismiss ANY of it outright, although situations like not getting swag in the right sizes - surely that CAN be a pragmatic/logistical failure/oversight and not sexism or "#1reasonwhy"? Also, as you've pointed out, game developers - programmers in particular - are overwhelmingly male at this point in time. So assumptions CAN be just that - predictions based on observation and trend analysis. Making an isolated incorrect assumption can certainly offend someone, but I think the follow-through on the part of the assumer & assumee is FAR more important. Honest mistakes deserve polite but very direct & uncompromising corrections, while assumptions of bad faith just breed more of the same. Surely the fact that, as a female game developer, you are so rare that many people make incorrect assumptions about your role - often just based on their own life experience - should be a motivating force to KEEP AT IT, and not a "#1reasonwhy" you want to leave, or even that the environment is unwelcoming? If you're in a job where people are making a lot of bad assumptions about your role, you're probably doing something RIGHT. Turning a tide is difficult, but I'd agree in principle that raising awareness of these types of incidents is a really good thing.

However...

These quotes almost all have to do with one-on-one interactions, most of which are taking place in the workplace. Most of it is the same bullshit women face day-in, day-out in almost ANY workplace, though it's probably exacerbated because of the demographic inequality. Nowhere do I extrapolate from these comments that the end result - the games themselves - are a real & significant part of the puzzle. I think you're making my argument for me - it's preferable to focus on the real stuff, the day-to-day stuff, the pragmatic stuff. Don't try to tone down the sexuality in the end product or reign in the testosterone used for marketing purposes in conventions. Nothing about either is inherently evil, trying to contain or reduce either will only spur resentment, and both will probably decline (a bit) if more women are involved in the game development process. I still see the same logical disconnect, and nothing you've put forth has addressed it - you're trying to put the cart before the horse, and that approach has been & probably always will be the methodology of censors, puritans, and those who feel they can fix society by eradicating what they perceive as symptoms, without anything close to resembling a clear diagnosis.

Edited by djpretzel

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Uh, have you played Dark Souls? You initially rescue Dusk of Oolacile from inside a Crystal golem, she gives some background exposition, then promptly gets kidnapped by Manus, and the entire DLC is about saving her again. Reah of Thorolund instantly turns into a damsel the moment her two bodyguards go hollow in the Tomb of Giants, and will actually die if you don't kill Petrus afterwards too.

Are you saying that for it to count as a DiD trope, it has to be the *main* motivator of the plot? You're trying to apply the standards of games of 20 years ago to modern games, which is incorrect, and I'm sure that Anita's next video will highlight this difference as well (as I said in an earlier post).

I don't think a modern example has to have a complete lack of characterization to count. The point is that at some point in the game, in spite of any strengths or character depth, a female character is helpless to save herself and requires the (male) hero to rescue her.

Yes, I have played Dark Souls. My argument is that the world is entirely neutral in how fucked everyone is - whenever I found Reah in the Duke's archives, she was hollow and attacked me.

And I'm arguing for the DiD trope, the woman has to be stripped entirely helpless, and the sole motivation to rescue her is "She's the woman." She has no affect on her situation, she could be replaced with a box of cereal and the story would be entirely unchanged. Women who are captured but still fight back and affect the story and outcome aren't DiDs. That's my point, that most of the games you list, arguing that they encopass DiDs, the women in there actually fucking do something about it, and in some cases never needed or wanted a rescue, and in others, no one cared that they were in trouble, they were peripheral to another goal.

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Why is it cool for Zircon to post opinions from the target audience in this thread, and yet I get totally thrown under the bus for posting opinions from the target audience in our previous thread on sexism?

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These quotes almost all have to do with one-on-one interactions, most of which are taking place in the workplace. Most of it is the same bullshit women face day-in, day-out in almost ANY workplace, though it's probably exacerbated because of the demographic inequality. Nowhere do I extrapolate from these comments that the end result - the games themselves - are a real & significant part of the puzzle. I think you're making my argument for me - it's preferable to focus on the real stuff, the day-to-day stuff, the pragmatic stuff. Don't try to tone down the sexuality in the end product or reign in the testosterone used for marketing purposes in conventions. Nothing about either is inherently evil, trying to contain or reduce either will only spur resentment, and both will probably decline (a bit) if more women are involved in the game development process. I still see the same logical disconnect, and nothing you've put forth has addressed it - you're trying to put the cart before the horse, and that approach has been & probably always will be the methodology of censors, puritans, and those who feel they can fix society by eradicating what they perceive as symptoms, without anything close to resembling a clear diagnosis.

The logical connection is the existence of a 'culture' among gamers & game developers, which influences people, and which is influenced by the games themselves. It's a feedback loop. "Gamer culture" is mostly dominated by men - even if there are many female gamers, the majority of marketing dollars are spent targeting men, most AAA games are made with men in mind, etc. Sites like http://fatuglyorslutty.com/ are a great example of how frequently women are treated when playing games online. Commenters on YouTube, Twitch, and so forth are quick to attack women doing game commentary or even just streaming games live. Bottom line; it's a male-dominated culture.

Now, game developers do not exist in a vacuum; they are staffed by people who grew up being gamers, and probably continue to be gamers outside of work. And being mostly male, they sit squarely in the male-dominated gamer culture. I'm obviously not saying that makes them guilty of anything (unless they were out there trolling YouTube comments themselves, or being harassing jackasses), or that they have any sort of blame just for being male. However, they are certainly EXPOSED to the culture regularly, from game marketing, to art design, to seeing how shitty Kotaku commenters are, and everything in between. That DOES affect some people, on some level. To deny that would be to deny that what other people in society do has any impact on us, and I know you don't believe that.

If you're a male gamer, you grow up in a male-dominated gamer culture, and maybe participate in it. You might become a developer, and bring along whatever biases and associations you've learned over the years. On the other hand, if you're female, you've been pushed away from day 1 by marketers, game designers, artists, and fellow gamers. It's a big uphill battle to be a part of the industry, and then when you make it in, you're subject (potentially) to harassment, to conferences with lots of male eye candy (which DOES reasonably make some women uncomfortable), to lower pay, etc. Is it any wonder that it's taking a long time for more women to get involved?

The end point is that developers are a major part of that feedback loop. With fewer intensively male-targeted games (or fewer things like DDD boobs with jiggle physics), gamer culture will seem a little less like a male clubhouse, and more women will want to be a part of it. This then leads to more women in the industry, which leads to broader-targeted games, and so on. I think it's a pretty straightforward logical connection. When most everything from conventions to marketing to art design is oriented toward men, women are less likely to want to be part of it. The reverse is also true.

Edited by zircon

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The end point is that developers are a major part of that feedback loop. With fewer intensively male-targeted games (or fewer things like DDD boobs with jiggle physics), gamer culture will seem a little less like a male clubhouse, and more women will want to be a part of it. This then leads to more women in the industry, which leads to broader-targeted games, and so on. I think it's a pretty straightforward logical connection. When most everything from conventions to marketing to art design is oriented toward men, women are less likely to want to be part of it. The reverse is also true.

but isn't this sort of implying that the only people who have the power to actually change something for the better are men

and isn't that kind of a patriarchal idea

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Well, in this case, since game developers are overwhelmingly male.. then yes, the people who actually have the power to change things from the dev side are male. Sort of a truism.

Can women help break the cycle too? Yeah, and they ARE trying. They just tend to get shat on for doing so. If you are a woman and you try to play a "hardcore" multiplayer game, you will be hit on, harassed, etc. almost guaranteed. Again, just for trying to play the game. We've all seen or heard it happen. If you're a female streamer, or YouTube video creator, then you will be attacked for your gender regardless of how well you play the game, or the content of your argument.

If you're a female dev, you can expect to get paid less, get less respect, go to industry events and parties aimed at men instead of women, and generally be a minority and outsider. And you might also get harassed and demeaned too. Are there still hardcore female gamers, and women in game development? Yes, but pretty obviously a lot of people don't want to put up with that and don't bother, which isn't unreasonable.

Edited by zircon

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What can the average gamer do to address the issue of diversity in games? What can we do, as gamers, to make games more diverse? This is a question I've always struggled to answer.

I certainly agree we need more women in game development. I have a Bachelor's degree in game design, and there were very few women in my program. I also remember that two female students went into other areas. Is there anything that those who play the games can do to encourage more women to become game developers?

I suppose the most gamers can do is treat women with respect, and not harass them online. Well, I think there should less harassment in general, men say all sorts of shit to each other as well. Though it's arguably worse for women.

Other than that, I don't have any answers.

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The logical connection is the existence of a 'culture' among gamers & game developers, which influences people, and which is influenced by the games themselves. It's a feedback loop. "Gamer culture" is mostly dominated by men - even if there are many female gamers, the majority of marketing dollars are spent targeting men, most AAA games are made with men in mind, etc. Sites like http://fatuglyorslutty.com/ are a great example of how frequently women are treated when playing games online. Commenters on YouTube, Twitch, and so forth are quick to attack women doing game commentary or even just streaming games live. Bottom line; it's a male-dominated culture.

So many problems... Look, it's clear to me that you're so entrenched in your position that you're loathe to cede any individual point because you fear it would be construed as a holistic failure of your overall argument. That's exactly how many feminists, whose overall stance I overall agree with, end up defending positions that are so very untenable. Your entire argument boils down to "It's a feedback loop!!," providing carte blanche justification for interfering at any point in said loop. I don't know how to break this to you without coming off a little snarky, but - culturally speaking - almost everything is a feedback loop. Simply observing that it's "all connected," while a perfectly respectable epiphany in and of itself in late high school and early college years, does not really provide insight, analysis, quantification, or rationalization of any given action, inaction, etc. It's just an innate characteristic of culture. "It's a feedback loop!!" can be used to justify all sorts of positions, legislation, etc. because it conveniently dodges key aspects of both evidence & analysis, and generally assumes that whatever "feedback loop" is being discussed exists in a vacuum (or near-vacuum) condition, such that mucking with it will have no unintended consequences.

In this case, you've buttressed the "it's a feedback loop" mantra with evidence from online comments. From YouTube. If you feel that animosity towards women in online comments is truly unique to gamer culture, or especially heightened within it - as opposed to being endemic to online comments coming from adolescent males in general, which make up a large share of gamers - I'd ask that you support that claim. Why is this not instead consistent with a Venn diagram that has a certain type of male being responsible for such hostility, and a certain type of male likely to play games, and significant overlap between them, such that the behavior is not directly correlated with gaming? Do you know? I don't. I don't think you do either. However, I'm not the one brandishing a perfectly-conceived feedback loop of causality...

Culture is a feedback loop, containing many feedback loops. The characteristics of each are complex and difficult to ascertain. This observation does not, in and of itself, support or counter any particular argument. The best we can usually do, in advocating change and public policy, is to start with the quantifiable & pragmatic - in this case, with regards to sexual harassment in the workplace, also the criminal - and avoid temptations to start "further downstream" in a loop, where freedom of speech starts getting trampled on & things generally get all wishy-washy...

(I put the above in a very large font because I want people to think about it a lot)

Now, game developers do not exist in a vacuum; they are staffed by people who grew up being gamers, and probably continue to be gamers outside of work. And being mostly male, they sit squarely in the male-dominated gamer culture. I'm obviously not saying that makes them guilty of anything (unless they were out there trolling YouTube comments themselves, or being harassing jackasses), or that they have any sort of blame just for being male. However, they are certainly EXPOSED to the culture regularly, from game marketing, to art design, to seeing how shitty Kotaku commenters are, and everything in between. That DOES affect some people, on some level. To deny that would be to deny that what other people in society do has any impact on us, and I know you don't believe that.

There is a critical difference between saying that an effect is likely to exist versus stating authoritatively not only that it exists, but that it is significant, and furthermore that it can and should be manipulated. Do I think that culture affects people? Why of course. Do I think that gaming culture affects gamers? To some extent, obviously, although I'm not sure how much it counteracts or truly differentiates gamers from the populous at large. Do you? No, again you don't. What's the difference? I'm not the one claiming that I know... I'm not the one invoking the intellectually bankrupt "It's a feedback loop!!" position to support my arguments.

If you're a male gamer, you grow up in a male-dominated gamer culture, and maybe participate in it. You might become a developer, and bring along whatever biases and associations you've learned over the years. On the other hand, if you're female, you've been pushed away from day 1 by marketers, game designers, artists, and fellow gamers. It's a big uphill battle to be a part of the industry, and then when you make it in, you're subject (potentially) to harassment, to conferences with lots of male eye candy (which DOES reasonably make some women uncomfortable), to lower pay, etc. Is it any wonder that it's taking a long time for more women to get involved?

Harassment and equal pay are huge issues, arguably the primary focus of third-wave feminism. On some level, I actually find it very offensive that you're lumping them in with booth babes and sexual objectification in games; I suppose it helps support your "It's a feedback loop!!" argument, i.e. "It's all one BIG GIANT problem and we have to solve EVERY aspect of it!!" I'm going to again put it out there that you're unnecessarily coupling these issues, AND oversimplifying them. This is a trap that plenty fall into, so I don't think you should feel too bad, but given that feminism itself has (largely) moved on, and that I've pointed the trap out to you in several consecutive posts, I'm wondering if I'm failing in some regard.

The end point is that developers are a major part of that feedback loop. With fewer intensively male-targeted games (or fewer things like DDD boobs with jiggle physics), gamer culture will seem a little less like a male clubhouse, and more women will want to be a part of it. This then leads to more women in the industry, which leads to broader-targeted games, and so on. I think it's a pretty straightforward logical connection. When most everything from conventions to marketing to art design is oriented toward men, women are less likely to want to be part of it. The reverse is also true.

"Developers are a major part of that feedback loop"... Okay, what are the minor parts? What criteria are you using in your assessment? What are the point values you're assigning to each of the components - are there just minor and major parts, or are there many levels? Do the levels vary based on game genre? Country? Language? How have the levels changed over time? You seem intimately familiar with this feedback loop, and very confident & comfortable in making factual statements about it, so I'm assuming you're drawing that knowledge from somewhere, and I'm interested in hearing more.

"With fewer intensively male-targeted games (or fewer things like DDD boobs with jiggle physics), gamer culture will seem a little less like a male clubhouse, and more women will want to be a part of it".... How many fewer? What ratio are you comfortable with? My bad... you couldn't possibly be suggesting that the number of jiggle physics games be calibrated to your own PERSONAL sense of what's appropriate - you MUST be thinking of a universally agreed on "consensus ratio" that, like pi and the golden rectangle and what not, emanates from the natural world and thus cannot be questioned? And are you talking about "gamer culture" - where by your own quoted statistics, gamers are already 50% female - or game development specifically?

It all just falls apart...

You're confusing "logical connection" with "personally intuitive theory"... it seems to me that you've built a mental model of how you envision all of this being connected, and with scant evidence other than personal observation, you're now completely comfortable not only in treating this model as factual, but in advocating its employment to alter aspects of an art form we both love. I believe the intentions are good, but that using personal mental models of this nature to advocate for modifications to any art form is almost always a bad idea.

Edited by djpretzel

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The end point is that developers are a major part of that feedback loop. With fewer intensively male-targeted games (or fewer things like DDD boobs with jiggle physics), gamer culture will seem a little less like a male clubhouse, and more women will want to be a part of it. This then leads to more women in the industry, which leads to broader-targeted games, and so on. I think it's a pretty straightforward logical connection. When most everything from conventions to marketing to art design is oriented toward men, women are less likely to want to be part of it. The reverse is also true.

This is where you sorta lose me. Ignoring the question of what constitutes a female-friendly game (is it just a lack of male-targeted aspects like huge musclebound male protagonists and shallow eye candy female supporting characters? is it the inclusion of female-oriented features? what sort of things would those be?), I think you're putting the cart before the horse. Women are already gamers. They might not be precisely half, but they're a sizable chunk of the community, so I don't think you can make a good argument that games themselves are driving away women. If there's a problem in the industry, then, it must be from the developer's end. (I'm not sure that there is a problem in the game industry specifically, as opposed to the tech industry in general, but they're certainly related topics in any case.)

If you want to increase female presence in game development, I think the best way to go about it would be to form a game studio and aggressively recruit women and make sure you crack down on the kind of toxic behavior you mention in earlier posts. (I'd also try to minimize crunch culture, where a "normal" week is 60 hours and it only gets worse from there, but that's not directly related to the topic.) Nothing impresses like success, and having (and actually implementing/enforcing) a strict anti-discrimination policy, you can go a long way to prove that such a thing is beneficial to companies that use it.

Of course, one company can't change an entire industry, but it's a start. Female developers will still likely get harassed at conferences and expos. But even just creating an attitude of "well, those guys are assholes, but I know my company would never put up with that kind of bullshit" would be a huge improvement over "goddamnit, the whole goddamn game industry does this sort of shit".

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I agree that there should be a disconnect between the target audience and the developers themselves. I don't believe that sexist attitudes in the workplace, which are often blatant, are directly caused by something as subtle as growing up seeing Peach as a damsel in distress but, then again, there is really no reliable way to prove it one way or another.

aggressively recruit women

I disagree here. Positive discrimination is still discrimination and begets resentment. I went to engineering school where students were overwhelmingly male. In order to encourage women to enter the school, they introduced some grants that were exclusive for women. This actually hurt the perception of female engineers in the school, because the requirements for them to enter the school were lower and they were obtaining grants that were inaccessible to males, thereby giving the impression that they didn't have to work as hard to get where they were.

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Frankly and generally speaking, straight white men will always find a way to feel persecuted by or resentful toward any attempt to reverse the effects of harmful discrimination. Historically, it's been par for the course when making any actual social progress. I would gladly have more enthusiastic women developing games today if the sacrifice for it is no longer pacifying men who have problematic definitions of merit anyway. We can go the idealistic route of trying to change individuals' attitudes rather than making systemic changes, sure. That sort of solution is very palatable to people who already benefit from a system as it is. But it does little good to minorities who ought to have greater access now. I just don't see it as pragmatic.

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Frankly and generally speaking, straight white men will always find a way to feel persecuted by or resentful toward any attempt to reverse the effects of harmful discrimination. Historically, it's been par for the course when making any actual social progress. I would gladly have more enthusiastic women developing games today if the sacrifice for it is no longer pacifying men who have problematic definitions of merit anyway. We can go the idealistic route of trying to change individuals' attitudes rather than making systemic changes, sure. That sort of solution is very palatable to people who already benefit from a system as it is. But it does little good to minorities who ought to have greater access now. I just don't see it as pragmatic.

People will always find a way to persecute or be resentful toward straight white men though. So it works both ways.

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Frankly and generally speaking, straight white men will always find a way to feel persecuted by or resentful toward any attempt to reverse the effects of harmful discrimination. Historically, it's been par for the course when making any actual social progress.

Quite frank, and quite general :) Just going to quickly point out - straight white men... or you COULD just say white men, since what you're getting at is race and sex privilege, which can still function to the benefit of anyone in the same groups, regardless of whether they're ALSO in an additional minority that is less physically obvious. Otherwise, you have to modify it to, let's see... straight white religious conformist men, with "conformist" doing a lot of heavy lifting. Also, "historically" - really? Last I checked, the definition of "white" was actually a more modern grouping. Last I checked, Italian & Irish Americans were discriminated against quite violently before eventually being considered part of an amorphous "white" blob of enfranchised peoples. The problem with the concept of "white male privilege" is that it is rather temporal, rather subjective, rather incomplete (i.e. straight white male, young/middle-aged white male, religious white male), and is often claimed to have persisted for far longer than it meaningfully could be said to. I'm not saying that as a phenomena it can not and does not exist, presently, but to embrace the concept fully requires drawing the same types of hard lines around demographics that we should instead be trying to tear down. Right?

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I won't pretend I'm entirely familiar with the academic view of what "whiteness" is, but yes, I agree the meaning is circumstantial. When I said "historically," I was distinctly thinking of the history of African Americans, who were contrasted with "white" people. Admittedly, I might be revealing that my education has been fraught with similar oversimplified labels, but I'm not sure how to practically talk about what I mean without writing a book about what I mean by short-hand labels like "white."

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "tearing down" demographics or why that's desirable.

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Yeah, so... looks like I'm a little late to the party on this one, and I'm not going to read 80+ pages to ensure this wasn't already talked about, but here's my pet peeve with this video:

Why is there so much of the narrator in this video? Seriously, no one wants to look at the narrator when she is talking about a subject that could be SHOWN. Just show more video game footage, duh.

I felt compelled to say this. Please continue with the current debate..

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I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "tearing down" demographics or why that's desirable.

Neither am I, but it sounded good :smile:; in the abstract, though, I suppose it means "thinking about people less categorically" or perhaps "being cognizant of the human brain's tendency to force people into categories that greatly oversimplify their identity" - pigeonholing, more or less. I've always felt that most forms of affirmative action and assertions of white male privilege rely on it. We're fairly off-topic, but while we're here, I'll mention that I'm in favor of affirmative action, but on socioeconomic grounds only - not based on race, sex, religion, or anything else.

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I would gladly have more enthusiastic women developing games today if the sacrifice for it is no longer pacifying men who have problematic definitions of merit anyway.

Technically speaking, if a woman with the same intellectual capacity as a man gets a grant for a school only because of her gender, she does have less merit. Whether or not this is justifiable for historical and cultural reasons is debatable, but that was not the point. The point is that women in the video game industry feel victimized because their skills and merit is less recognized than their male counterparts, and I think 'aggressively hiring women' would actually exacerbate that attitude rather than diminish it.

We can go the idealistic route of trying to change individuals' attitudes rather than making systemic changes, sure. That sort of solution is very palatable to people who already benefit from a system as it is. But it does little good to minorities who ought to have greater access now. I just don't see it as pragmatic.

But changing people's attitude should be the ultimate goal, shouldn't it? All the ways through which we try to eliminate sexism should lead towards that goal, or at least not away from it.

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The point is that women in the video game industry feel victimized because their skills and merit is less recognized than their male counterparts, and I think 'aggressively hiring women' would actually exacerbate that attitude rather than diminish it.

Well, I think these CAN be two separate ideas... If Ab wants to defend affirmative action across the board, because white men don't need to be "pacified" - well, I strongly disagree, it's a little off-topic (but still worth talking about), etc.

But NJ's idea to found a game studio and start hiring only women, or favoring women - that's not exactly the same thing as affirmative action, really, because it's not as institutionalized. The results could be fantastic - sometimes a single "poster child" CAN actually make a huge difference. Of course, it could also backfire... if the games were in any way lackluster, the level of scrutiny would be a tad higher, and it could end up sending a very different message. Color me ignorant, but - has this been done? Do we know that it hasn't? At any rate, trying to shape the form & image of a studio I think CAN be a positive thing that isn't synonymous with institutionalized affirmative action. Once you reach a certain scale, though, it becomes much harder...

I fundamentally disagree with your idea of merit. This video touches on how I try to understand the idea:

Help me out, here - she's quoting from http://www.amazon.com/The-Difference-Diversity-Creates-Societies/dp/0691138540/ as it pertains to racial diversity, but that book seems to be about diversity of skills, NOT of race:

Why can teams of people find better solutions than brilliant individuals working alone? And why are the best group decisions and predictions those that draw upon the very qualities that make each of us unique? The answers lie in diversity--not what we look like outside, but what we look like within, our distinct tools and abilities.
Her example about hiring Steve and Jane because COMBINED they get all the answers right doesn't speak to race, gender, or anything other than innate cognitive merit, and if wrong answers were tracked and matrixed and cross-referenced in a way that would allow this sort of ideal pairing - which would be terribly complex when you think about it - you might still end up with inequality.

I suppose one argument could go something like this: 1. Diversity of skills provides better solutions & creates more effective teams than favoring only the highest scores 2. Tracking who gets what wrong and right and pairing up individuals based on complimentary skills is currently prohibitively complex, and may remain so 3. Therefore, we should have race-based and/or sex-based affirmative action to try and compensate for the optimization we know is possible, and maybe it'll all work out?

I lose you on #3 - I think it kinda makes sense on a socioeconomic basis, because that cuts across race & sex. Anything else feels quite odd.

Edited by djpretzel

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Positive discrimination is still discrimination and begets resentment.

I'm sort of ambivalent on positive discrimination, but that's not really what I meant. I wasn't suggesting that they favor women over men in their hiring, simply that they made a deliberate point to include women in their recruiting. I think that women are certainly equally qualified and capable of working in the video game industry, so just making your company a welcoming environment for women employees (so you retain the ones you hire) and making sure you're not focusing your recruitment efforts exclusively on men (so you hire women in the first place), and you'll end up with more female employees than the industry average naturally, without having to do any sort of affirmative action style positive discrimination. Of course, given how few women are in the industry in the first place, that still won't be anything like parity between male and female employees -- but it's still a step in the right direction.

The results could be fantastic - sometimes a single "poster child" CAN actually make a huge difference. Of course, it could also backfire... if the games were in any way lackluster, the level of scrutiny would be a tad higher, and it could end up sending a very different message.

That is a risk, yeah -- especially since new companies in an industry as competitive as game development can and do fail through no real fault of the quality of their product.

Color me ignorant, but - has this been done? Do we know that it hasn't?

No idea, it was just the only thing I could think of that would affect this issue in a positive way. Just being able to point at an example and say "look at this company, they do it right with regards to women in the gaming industry, others should be more like them" would be valuable.

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Color me ignorant, but - has this been done? Do we know that it hasn't? At any rate, trying to shape the form & image of a studio I think CAN be a positive thing that isn't synonymous with institutionalized affirmative action. Once you reach a certain scale, though, it becomes much harder...

I don't know whether this has been done, in terms of affirmative action favoring women, but I remember at an IGDA conference where they were trying to solve the whole 'crunch time' issue, and Team17 had implemented a very aggressive policy where they were literally forcing their employees to go back home after they had worked 40 hours within a week. Unfortunately, it went largely unnoticed and was ineffective.

Regarding the idea of merit, I guess I am just approaching the issue in a more psychological/individual level than sociological, if that makes any sense. For example, in a company enforcing affirmative action where, in order to encourage women to join, they lower the required skills and/or give them special privileges, I can easily see people resenting women employees and believing that they didn't have to work as hard to get there, which would just widen the gap between men and women. In terms of more women entering the industry, it would be great, but in terms of how people perceive women within the industry, I don't think it would be helpful at all. All it would do is shift the problem from "she's a woman, so she can't possibly be a game developer" to "she's a woman, so she didn't have to work as hard to get there", which wouldn't be an improvement in the situation at all because it would be just as dismissive or a woman's actual value as a member of a development team. As more women join the industry, it could either

1) Alleviate the problem in the long term because as it becomes more natural to have women colleagues, people start to grow more accustomed to it and stop thinking of them as 'my female colleague' and more as 'my colleague'.

or

2) Instigate a cultural grudge that would exacerbate sexism globally.

Since the video game industry does not exist in a cultural vacuum, I believe that 2 is more likely.

This is related to tropes in video games as well. I don't think female character should get special treatment, or that some tropes should become taboo in order to 'reverse the damage that has been done'. If you have an idea for an character that would work in your plot but feel constrained because of what is socially acceptable and taboo, you're just furthering the idea that some things are acceptable for one gender and not the other.

It's a very delicate issue, and I think it should be handled delicately. It is important to realize that not all 'straight white males' have had easy lives and that, even for those that had one, their perceived 'privilege' is not obvious to them. Often in discussions, when someone expresses the fact that they do not perceive the damsel in distress trope to be a harmful stereotype, their input is dismissed as being one of an 'angry white male'. The natural response to being accused in such a way is of course to become defensive. This is my problem with Anita's video and really, with a lot of discussions about discrimination. The feeling I had when I watched the video was: "I still don't feel that the damsel in distress trope is inherently catastrophically sexist, so I guess that makes me a monstrous patriarch bigot and there's nothing I can do about it". Give me more ways to understand how harmful you think it is, and stop demonizing me for not thinking like you do. I feel like djpretzel's suggested changes to the overall tone of the discourse would be a good improvement. Of course, some people are sexist on a more fundamental level and they won't be convinced rationally no matter what... But I feel like there is a lost opportunity to persuade a sizable part of the audience.

It might seem unfair to put a burden of the shoulders of people who already feel like they are victims, and it probably is. It might also seem that I am trying to excuse the behavior of those 'angry white males' I mentioned. If it is so, it's probably due to a poor choice of words on my part. I absolutely recognize that there is sexism in the video game industry, but as angry as we might be about it, I think a more reasonable and balanced discourse would help the cause in a more effective and faster way.

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Your entire argument boils down to "It's a feedback loop!!," providing carte blanche justification for interfering at any point in said loop.

The feedback loop I've described constitutes the basis for the conclusion of my argument - that we should encourage game developers to produce more games which appeal more to both genders. You're wrong that it equates to "interfering at any point in said loop". I'm talking about one thing and one thing only.

If you feel that animosity towards women in online comments is truly unique to gamer culture, or especially heightened within it - as opposed to being endemic to online comments coming from adolescent males in general, which make up a large share of gamers - I'd ask that you support that claim.

I don't think this is a response to what I actually wrote. My point was that in gamer culture, women - actual women, not female game characters - are treated worse than men in the same culture. Yes, obviously adolescents tend to be hostile in general, but this doesn't change the fact that the hostility is particularly bad toward women. No, I don't have statistics on this. I don't think such statistics exist. But I've seen it firsthand in all corners of the internet, from YouTube to Reddit to playing games with voice chat to personal experiences from women gamers in my circle of friends.

So maybe we can figure out if we even agree on this at all. Do you think women are treated worse in gamer culture, or not? Do you think that a male, any given male, gets the same level of harassment when playing online games? When streaming? Do you think they get the same comments about appearances, the same demands to flash their boobs? Do you think they are constantly hit on the same way? Maybe you do think all of this is true, and it is no worse for women than it is for men. In that case, we're at an impasse, since I don't think I can do anything to convince you otherwise.

where freedom of speech starts getting trampled on & things generally get all wishy-washy

This is a straw man. NOBODY, least of all me, is suggesting ANYTHING that would limit freedom of speech. There is a difference between encouraging positive behavior and creating legislation. I am doing the former. It's no more of an infringement on free speech than it is to say "It would probably be nice for the Westboro Baptist Church to stop protesting at funerals." Countless commentators exist that seek to persuade game developers, Extra Credits being one of them. Are they trampling freedom of speech too?

Also, you've been repeatedly using the "slippery slope" fallacy - if we start encouraging game developers to do X, then Y (a Bad Thing) might happen next. It just doesn't hold any water. Show me how Y will necessarily or even probably happen, or for that matter, what Y even is.

There is a critical difference between saying that an effect is likely to exist versus stating authoritatively not only that it exists, but that it is significant, and furthermore that it can and should be manipulated.

Almost anything involving social psychology on this scale is very hard to prove, especially when we're talking about such a new medium. How can you quantify the kind of stuff we're talking about here, such as people's natural biases and emotions? If you want that kind of proof, again, I don't think it exists. We haven't even been able to reliably show that video games are connected to violent behavior, much less something more subtle like what I'm talking about. But let me phrase this another way.

If I'm right and people ARE affected by participating in a male-dominated gamer culture hostile to women, and we can do things to make that culture less male-dominated (at a minimum), we are reducing that negative impact and influence.

If I'm wrong, frankly, I don't see any negative outcome. There's really no risk involved here.

I'm going to again put it out there that you're unnecessarily coupling these issues, AND oversimplifying them.

No, I'm not unnecessarily coupling them in the context of my argument. Look at the last sentence of the paragraph you quoted. I brought up all those things as verifiable negative aspects of the game industry that dissuade women from participation. Explain to me how that is not true, or how some of those items do not belong on the list of "things that make the game industry a place where women do not want to work".

"Developers are a major part of that feedback loop"... Okay, what are the minor parts? What criteria are you using in your assessment? What are the point values you're assigning to each of the components - are there just minor and major parts, or are there many levels? Do the levels vary based on game genre? Country? Language? How have the levels changed over time? You seem intimately familiar with this feedback loop, and very confident & comfortable in making factual statements about it, so I'm assuming you're drawing that knowledge from somewhere, and I'm interested in hearing more.

Gamer culture obviously and by definition revolves around video games. Developers make video games. Therefore, game developers influence gamer culture. Whether or not you believe in the rest of the argument (that the culture influences people, and people in turn influence game developers), this component is practically self-evident.

How many fewer? What ratio are you comfortable with? My bad... you couldn't possibly be suggesting that the number of jiggle physics games be calibrated to your own PERSONAL sense of what's appropriate - you MUST be thinking of a universally agreed on "consensus ratio" that, like pi and the golden rectangle and what not, emanates from the natural world and thus cannot be questioned?

If you have a problem with the earlier components of the argument then you're going to have a problem with the conclusion, but the deductive logic by which I've arrived here is extremely sound. If gamer culture is mostly male and hostile to women, women don't want to be in it. If we are influenced by our environment, and if game developers are made up of people participating in gamer culture, then game developers will be mostly male and influenced by a female-hostile environment. If game developers influence game culture, then by influencing it to be more inviting to women, then more women will participate, more game developers will be women, etc.

I'll return again to something I wrote earlier, which is the risk vs. reward. If I'm right, then by encouraging game developers to create games with more appeal to both genders, the ultimate effect will encourage more women to participate in gamer culture and game development. If I'm wrong, or if the results are minimal, I don't see any negative outcomes.

And are you talking about "gamer culture" - where by your own quoted statistics, gamers are already 50% female - or game development specifically?

I should have defined "gamer culture" earlier, but what I mean by that term is the community of people that actively discuss games in online forums, that visit and participate in gaming news websites, that attend gaming conventions, etc. In other words, I'm talking about all the things that surround the actual playing of video games. The demographics for this are decidedly not 50/50 as evidenced by things like the earlier link to (I think) IGN's ad demographics.

It's the difference between "gun owners" and people that participate in "gun culture". You can own a gun and be done with it, or you can own a gun, be a member of the NRA, receive gun magazines, send letters to your senator, go to rallies, etc.

Now, to Native Jovian:

Women are already gamers. They might not be precisely half, but they're a sizable chunk of the community, so I don't think you can make a good argument that games themselves are driving away women.

But I didn't make that claim, I said that gamer CULTURE drives away women, and games influence that culture. Furthermore, as I wrote to Dave earlier in this post, I'm separating "gamer culture" out from "people that play games". Most influential video game websites for example dominated by the 18-35 male demographic and so those voices come through the loudest. Developers listen to those voices.

To PriZm:

I don't believe that sexist attitudes in the workplace, which are often blatant, are directly caused by something as subtle as growing up seeing Peach as a damsel in distress but, then again, there is really no reliable way to prove it one way or another.

This is sort of an oversimplification. Imagine we were talking about racism. Let's say you grew up in an extremely racist area in the 1960s. I doubt that any ONE racist thing someone around you said or did made an impact on you, but the entirety of things that were done & said as you grew up perhaps did.

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Here's a relevant article from NPR about bringing more women into programming. This ties in closely with game development, I would think. The woman featured in the article suggests that "making women in the field more visible to each other will help young women see that there is a path for them" in the industry. Programming in this case, but I think the same idea can be applied to game development.

I thought the article provides good insight into the current discussion. I think this is one of the better solutions I've heard. Any thoughts?

Edited by Cash

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