I Can Be Just As Capable. Let Me.

When I sit down at a computer, my left hand falls automatically into the inverted-V shape known well by all of you; middle three fingers arched across W, A, S and D. Pinky hovering over left-shift, my thumb resting lightly on the space bar. There's a poetic comfort in this for me. I do it without thinking. These letters are the ones I always come home to.

I'm protective about my natural gravitation to those four letters. They've opened up huge new worlds for me: I've been to Rapture, Azeroth, the cutting cliff-faces of Dear Esther. I spent three and a half years working towards a games degree. I write about games now. This year, I flew to Los Angeles for my first E3.

Those four letters on my keyboard define me: I am a gamer, they say. This is what I do, what I know and what I love.

So last week at E3, it wasn't disappointing press conferences, my ruthless appointment schedule, not having time to eat, or even the nightly drinking that broke me. It was my forced separation from those four buttons.

***

It happened during one of my first appointments of the show, a half hour I'd booked to check out the sequel to a well-known military shooter franchise. I'd checked into the publisher's booth as media and had been told to wait at a computer for the next available PR person to assist me.

So I sat down, fingers falling perfectly across the keyboard. Before me, yellow grass swayed in the wind, and leaning on the W, I began to move slowly through its blades, watching the brush give way to glimpses of crumbling buildings and battered vehicles. It was a meticulously detailed scene and I wanted to absorb all of it.

This was how the PR representative found me a few minutes later, though it seemed he mistook my marvel for a slow-witted lack of comprehension.

“Do you play PC games?” he asked, frowning.

One of the publications on my media badge was listed as PC PowerPlay. It shouldn't have been necessary for him to ask such a question, but I answered. “Yes.”

“Well, OK.” I sensed a disbelief in the guy's voice. “But do you play shooters?”

I remember the silence that filled this space beyond this question. I was horrified that anyone could even ask such a thing. Here I was, sitting with my fingers spread across WASD, admiring a game world — and somehow, for some obtuse reason, being assumed to be someone who didn't know anything about the world or how to interact with it.

“I think I better play it for you,” he said finally, prying my hands away and turning the keyboard towards himself.

And so there I was, hands twisted awkwardly and uselessly in my lap as a guy walked me through his game. In laboured detail, he explained to me simple mechanics that any shooter player would be well-acquainted with. He avoided the gameplay due to some apparent strange belief that I was not there to learn about shooting things in a shooter game, that perhaps my delicate girl senses might be offended by killing with guns and missiles. He pointed out rabbits in the grass with all the condescension of an adult trying to distract a noisy toddler, as if my interest in this simulation-grade shooter lay in some wildly misguided assumption that it would be full of adorable, fluffy animals.

I looked down the booth and saw gamers at the other computers playing their own games, their own hands controlling the avatars. No PR representatives were hovering at their shoulders, pre-empting that a lack of knowledge would lead to them playing the game “wrong”. I felt ridiculous and unwanted. I felt it ridiculous that I should feel unwanted.

I left that booth having learnt very little about the game, beyond that it apparently wasn't a game that should have interested me. I was evidently a nuisance to these people because... because what? I had made the appointment because of my own curiosity. I had rocked up of my own accord, eager to play what I believed to be a game interesting enough to write about. Instead my presence was underestimated, and I was brushed off as not wanting to truly be there. I couldn't figure out why — besides perhaps that I was a woman in a pink skirt.

It continued to happen through the next few days of E3. Upon checking into a booth, I would often be asked by the PR rep whether I wanted someone to play my “hands-on” demo for me. During booth tours, I would more often than not be guided towards the Facebook games. Following demonstrations, I was often offered fact sheets just in case I didn't “understand”. People would regularly take note of the publications listed on my badge and say, “But you don't really play, right?” I was assumed to be eye candy, the pretty face of a publication whose content was provided by people with actual talent. Every time I protested, the offender would say — as if it were a proven fact — “Well, girls aren't usually into this stuff, you know.”

And you might say that it's silly that I might still find this so hurtful. After so many years of getting underestimated for being a woman in online games, in a games degree, in games journalism, why would it seem that I'm still not used to this? Why am I not tired of it already? Why have I not yet learned to shut up and realise that things will never change? If I'm so offended, why am I not determined to just keep my head down and prove the unbelieving wrong by producing good work?

And honestly? It's because we're f**king beyond this already.

So to be undervalued by the people promoting the games that I wanted to cover — games that I personally chose to cover — was a hurtful underestimation of my capabilities, both as a journalist and as a gamer. I wanted to accurately write about the games that I saw; instead, it was too often assumed from the outset that I would not be able to do this as a woman, and PR representatives took it to task to feed me condescension-laced spoonfuls of their games, lest my apparent black hole of knowledge sucked their product into the empty deadness of inaccurate, female-penned games journalism. And such behaviour on their part only confirms what they assume based on my long hair and my mascara — of course my hands-on recount is not going to be accurate, not when my own hands are batted away from the thing so that someone more “capable” could take point.

It's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that being prevented from playing a game myself leads to only shallow coverage of it, and to have it bylined with a woman's name only reinforces the idea that a woman might be no good at covering games anyway. Why this, when we've made such progress? It's not just an insult to me — it's an insult to my editors, to the publications I write for, to games journalism, and to gaming.

It's unbelievable that this is still happening. If this is how PR people feel about women's capabilities, no wonder the promotional side of games is so sexist. No wonder marketing people still think it's, on some level, OK to have a trailer feature a man ripping into a band of sexy nuns. No wonder we're seeing it filter down into the developers, who implement in-game achievements for looking up the skirts of 19-year-old women dressed like schoolgirls. No wonder we're watching it filter down into the gamers, who tell the ladies amongst us that they can't possibly know anything about the online games that they play. After all, what proof is there of that when women are not allowed to speak on an authoritative level?

When we've come so far, to have a woman be underestimated at such an internal, integral point of the games industry tragically diminishes what the medium can achieve, and undoes so much of what we've worked to overcome.

***

When I sit down at a computer, fingers automatically fanning out over WASD, I shouldn't have to be made to feel as though it's not my place. As if I'm a fraud, or wasting the time of the people who develop, promote, or publish games. I can be just as capable as any other writer or gamer. Let me.


Comments

    “I think I better play it for you".

    Perhaps one of the worst things you can say to anyone as a developer/PR.

    If you have to "play it" for them, then you're game is failing and as a developer they should be rethink what they are doing wrong.

      I think it's just one of the worst things to say to anyone even outside of this context; its condescending :/

        Yeah, that was a really horrible article to read. Not because it was poorly written, the article in and of itself was great. But wow, the content blew my mind. I jsut had this sinking feeling in my stomach the whol way through.

        I really didn't think people actually on the "inside" of gaming journalism could still be perceived as not appreciating the medium based purely on their gender.

        I see in some of the below comments people are saying "well, stand up for yourself! Take the keyboard back!" but realistically, you think the PR guys are going to view you any better for it? Being the "bitch" who gets all uppity because she's not being respected in the man's world?

        I personally would have walked away, then written my article about how the relationship between the PR company and the audience, but I realise that's not really good advice either.

        The level to which there are still people thinking like that in what is probably the most progressive and quickly evolving entertainment medium out there is just awful.

          First, when you are representing your company at a convention, you put your best public face on. The customer is always right and that is the WRONG time to be a pushy domineering know-it-all. Second, the thing a lot of men don't get is, ---any--- time a woman sticks up for herself, no matter how not-bitchy she's being, she's likely to be called a bitch. If Katie had simply said, "excuse me, I know how to play, I've literally written books about this," he'd likely have called her a bitch, if only in private. Why is that? Because that's how sexist asshats respond to being called out. Nobody likes being called out, and so especially if a woman does it - especially if she's right - she's a "bitch." So, to heck with it, let's be "a bitch." Call him out, stick up for yourself. The only man who thinks you're a bitch for that is an asshole himself, so why even care what he thinks?

            Part of the problem here is the kind of guy that isn't going to call her a bitch for that is likely the kind of guy who wouldn't assume she was pants on head retarded in the first place, eg. someone with even an ounce of intelligence.
            Misogyny, hard at work in the 21st century.

        It is SO condescending. I have played shooters for years-and every other "GUYS GAME" out there-I'd have a REALLY HARD TIME keeping my tongue-and I'm as feminine as you can get-blond-long hair-the whole thing-but I can play with the best of them-I really want to go to E3 nxt year-but it makes me wonder.........

          Go to PAX instead.

            PAX is arguably worse.
            http://debacle.tumblr.com/post/3041940865/the-pratfall-of-penny-arcade-a-timeline

      This made me feel absolutely awful, I feel incredibly remorseful for Williams, how rude and condescending of a PR individual. Had you been struggling, sure, but to instantly assume the worst, that's hurtful.

      I want names! Names of the people and of the games!

      This article left a disgusted feeling in my gut, for all the right reasons.

        these are all the fps games at e3
        medal of honor, planetside 2, gears of war, defiance, dust 514, zombiu, the last of us, watch dogs, splinter cell, far cry 3, rou ,crysis 3, dead space 3, call of duty, halo 4 ,arma 3

        she said well known military shooter so its obviously call of duty

          A lot of those aren't FPSs...

          I keep forgetting ARMA 3 is about shooting carrots at rabbits.

          She said it was supposed to be a simulation; it's ArmA 3.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

        I feel like this 'fake' personality, in terms of women, is perpetuated by the fact that E3 has half naked, attractive women at almost every booth in the building that know almost nothing about the games they are 'representing'. This gives off the vibe that any woman attending E3 is also there for the same purpose, to be eyecandy and not taken seriously.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

        That's stupid. She's wearing a damn journalist badge for KOTAKU. A known gaming website. It's ridiculously sexist to assume she can't play, just because she's a girl. (And don't tell me this isn't the case, because no other journalists were asked if they wanted someone else to do it for them. Also, are you really suggesting that by wearing a pink shirt, she was creating a persona that can't play videogames? If you believe that, you're just as sexist as the PR people at the booth.

        "Dress for the job?" There were no male journalists walking around wearing suits, were there? How is wearing a pink shirt any different to a guy wearing a t-shirt? She probably should have corrected them, but that doesn't change how sexist this situation is, and the situation should never have arisen anyway.

        You don't get to define what her job is. She knows what her job is far better than you. No journalist at E3 can see every demo and play every game at the show. They see/play what they are assigned by their editors, or they seek out titles that seem interesting to them or to their readers.

        You write, "she was dressed with a pink skirt? what was she expecting?" This is AMAZINGLY sexist. You are making unwarranted assumptions about the competence, character, and professionalism of a person based on superficial details. It is clear that in your mind, pink skirts are for "girly" women, and according to your prejudices, "girly" women are bad at games and unprofessional.

        "I think everyone should dress what they like, but if she is a journalist she should dress for the job." You contradict yourself quite obviously here. Everyone should dress how they like -- but not female journalists? Your belief that a pink skirt cannot be professional attire has no basis in reality. Pink garments of all kinds (for both genders) are acceptable attire for professionals. Skirts are also commonplace and entirely appropriate for women, except if the skirts are so short that they cause distractions for others. (A lot of games journalists cover E3 in baggy cargo shorts and stained T-shirts, and no one gives them any guff about their unprofessional attire.)

        I agree that she should have politely objected when the PR jerk took the keyboard away from her. Everything else you wrote was nonsense.

    I'm sorry you have to deal with this.

    The PR people come to expect exactly the type of person they assumed you were instead of being respectful and acknowledging that you might actually be a legitimate PC gamer. This is because many companies do send attractive girls with superficial knowledge because they will get attention and can manipulate the reps.

    I liked your article for other reasons though, when I read the first paragraph it made me cognisant of what my hand does subconsciously when I sit down at the computer.

    Maybe this is the wrong thing to do and i dont know the whole story about what happened, but if someone starts making assumptions about your experience with games you should correct them. If someone snatches the controls away snatch it right back and tell them you can do it yourself. Also dont be afraid to name names, unless you've signed some confidentiality agreement name the companies with sexist behavior and what that behaviour is, this might be the first step to them getting their act together. Gamers should treat each other like gamers regardless of sex or whatever other irrelavant thing, and it sucks that you were treated like that.

      What it said above me.
      Confrontation is the best way to overcome stupid things like this happening. Given that you might not have realised the first time the PR dude said, "maybe I should play it for you" why it happened, but it was clear that you understood by round 2 what was going on. Just shut the PR guy up and tell him to keep his hands off and just talk. Call me aggressive but I can tell you from personal experience that it works a treat. It also helps that I'm bigger than them and my father can probably beat theirs.

        Confrontation is often the first option... for men. A man who fails to confront or stand up for himself looses face and standing and is seen as a wimp. When a woman does that, we get labeled 'bitch', and then everything we say and do can be ignored. Ignore the hysterical bitch, she's just hormonal. It's a horrible trap, because it means that even when we have a legit complaint we can't get angry about it and still be taken seriously.

        And this sort of thing? Is something to get angry about, you're right. When the issue is being treated differently because of our gender, falling into the traps around gender can just make things worse. I'm a gamer, and believe me, online I pretend just as hard as can be that I'm male. Yes, yes, letting down the side and all that, but my own personal sanity is more valuable in that moment. Until you've had multiple sex offers, rude and gross statements made about your body, mind and self and been told that because of your gender you must automatically be incompetent and/or stupid (or good for nothing more than sexual acts), you wouldn't understand. It's something about being a woman gamer that... isn't inherent, but is a fact to be dealt with.

        Until game companies realize that gamers can be chicks too (anyone see that WoW commercial with the dude's girlfriend who wound up playing Horde and dumping him for being a bad boyfriend? that commercial got me to re-up my account with World of Warcraft.) there will be massive misogyny in gaming. Trickle down effect in full force. And I tell you what, I find a game that treats women like humans, that doesn't have us in stupid skimpy outfits all the time, lets us wear actual armor, the other players respect us for our skills in the game and no one makes innuendo laden comments? They get all my money.

          Now you're coming off as sexist. If you politely say "no, seriously, I'm a gamer. I know how to control an FPS and if I wanted to I could write a design document more complex than this game" you wouldn't come off as a bitch. Don't say things like that with that bitchy tone of voice my younger sister likes to talk in and say it more like my older sister. Guys only label chicks as being bitchy when they're bitchy. Most chicks can't recognize when they're being bitchy, but it really doesn't seem hard to me. I'm a tall, strong guy and I am as nice as I can be with people who deserve it. I wouldn't have attacked this guy, I just would've laughed(not in a cruel or sarcastic way, in a "haha wow you just took the controller from me" way) and explained to them that I am, in fact, a "real" gamer.

          For the record I can't stand when game designers have female characters in skimpy "armor," but I am a little... okay, VERY envious when chicks are portrayed in attractive outfits. Guys are usually treated as unattractive oafs compared to chicks in modern entertainment, it makes me want to play games designed by chicks with objectified male characters. I've actually read quite a few complaints coming from females in the past about when male characters are treated objectively in games and movies and stuff, about how men are soooo evil for making themselves look so attractive. Yes, men should treat female gamers like they're part of the club, no, guys who insult women just for being women in multiplayer games do not deserve to live. That still doesn't stop chicks from being sexist against men in modern culture and it being the popular perspective to have. Again, I want more objectification of men in my entertainment. I actually actively support chicks watching movies like Magic Mike *shudder* just because they focus on attractive men being attractive in a product specifically aimed at chicks. I love that, as long as I don't have to see it. I'm more of a Keanu Reeves guy, myself. xD

          nohomo, all that.

            She didn't sound bitchy or sexist at all. Her comment was a straight-forward description of the experience of playing games online as a woman.

            "Now you’re coming off as sexist. If you politely say “no, seriously, I’m a gamer. I know how to control an FPS and if I wanted to I could write a design document more complex than this game” you wouldn’t come off as a bitch."

            Her whole point, which she explained in simple words in the first paragraph, is that a man is able to say things like that without worrying about coming off like a 'bitch'. A woman is not able to say things like that without worrying about coming off like a 'bitch'. It's like you didn't even read her comment.

            see my comment above. She wouldn't "come off as" a bitch to reasonable, non-sexist men. It's completely untrue that "guys only label checks as being bitchy when they're bitchy," how can you seriously say that? "Bitch" is thrown out at a woman for any number of deserved and undeserved reasons - some guys seem think any woman who doesn't give them what they want or who opposes them in any way is a bitch.

          Confrontation doesn't have to be direct, in-your-face., especially not for this particular case You can calmly say "No, it's cool, I'll play by myself, thanks". The rep can take a hint and might hover over your shoulder, just muck about and try things out. He isn't going to wrestle the keyboard away from you while you're playing.

          You don't need to be aggressive or passive. Just resistant to such silly reasoning.

        yes, but women who shut men down are not accepted as being assertive, they're always seen as overly aggressive bitches. it's just a ridiculous situation because, you're right, she should be able to just say back off and have the PR guy respect that, but in reality that is a very unlikely scenario

          Simply untrue... and frankly sexist to males.
          CAN it happen? Sure, DOES it happen? Often even? Sure. ALWAYS? That's the same thought pattern that caused this whole article to exist,
          1. Sexist PR guy sees female
          2. PR guy assumes ALL females are stupid and can't play vidyagames
          3. PR guy proceeds to what it written in the article.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      +1

        To add to your point arent we blaming the wrong people? When PR guys say "girls are usually not into this stuff" isnt it just based on his experience having worked with many women who aren't into games as much as the writer?

        Im not too familiar with the women that companies send to cover games but if ur repeatedly facing the same prejudice at all the games ur covering, then th problem might lie with the companies that keep sending non gamer girls to cover these events. Lets call out these companies and get them to stop doing that

          Is that actually a problem? If you're talking about PC-Game-Lovers.com it makes sense to have a dedicated game reviewer/previewer go down there and do a hands on, but if you're talking about Fancy Lady Magazine where they do light coverage of a handful of games a year they'll just send one of their regular staff down to relay and give impressions to their readers.
          That person may not know much about games but ultimately they don't need to. The majority of what they do is based on their journalistic skills rather than knowing who Bowser is.

            You would be right....if Fancy Lady magazine actually existed.
            Just think about it realistically rather than theoretically. Have games ever been covered in any small time media which doesn't have at least one gamer journalist working for them? I've not seen a game coverage in Cosmopolitan ever. Have you?

            Plus, your point about journalistic skills and gaming knowledge is precisely my point. You can send someone with fantastic journalistic skills to cover a game, but if they have no knowledge of it in the first place...it further propagates the assumption that girls can't play games.

      Don't you think she might be a bit tired of doing that? There's only so much you can put up with before any standing up for yourself starts to feel a bit pointless. Those are not the words of someone experiencing this for the first time, they're the words of someone who feels a bit hopeless about the state of things.

        i agree with this in part but consider what happens if people STOP standing up for themselves and others.

          I'm with Richard, she shouldn't have to. The onus of changing things should not be on the person who is being victimised, since she didn't do anything wrong. It should be on the people who are doing things wrong - the marketers and demonstraters and the industry as a whole that sees itself as the sole domain of men.

          And anyway, what is this article if not standing up for herself?

            again i agree, but the wrong doer isn't named, A. he may never see this so he may never hear katies frankly 100% correct view, and B. the wrong doer probably doesnt even think he's done anything wrong so he will never consider changing his behavior, you are right, katie doesn't need to change, he does, but if he doesn't know to change he never will

              Don't you think it's a little narrow to focus on changing this one person when it is clearly a systematic problem in the industry? This person has been indoctrinated into the idea that women do not play shooters. This is obviously incorrect to us, but he has been taught this by the prevailing messages in gaming culture. We need to change those messages rather than change that one person.

              Anyway, if we knew who it was, we all know that a lot of abuse would follow him in true internet fashion, and that isn't the answer here. Abusing one person for being wrong will not change anything, and probably wouldn't change his opinion anyway.

                I KNOW its not just one person. I KNOW that the whole industry needs to change. But the industry IS made up of INDIVIDUALS and each INDIVIDUAL needs to make a change. The more individuals that chage the better off we will be. (sorry i keep using caps words but i cant underline)

                  I agree that individuals need to make a change. However, asking her to try to make that change for them is not fair. It is not her responsibility to make up for someone else's ignorance. Particularly at this point where she is sick of standing up for herself just to be confronted with it again and again. Individuals need to want to make that change for themselves.

                  I think that is where an article like this comes in - it reaches a larger number of people, and might give a few people that push to start to change. I've seen that a lot recently in comments - people saying they watched Anita Sarkeesian's videos or have reconsidered using the word rape in a non-sexual assault context. Articles like this provide the impetus for change in a larger number of individuals, which is more productive and less futile and exhausting than trying to convince one person who clearly doesn't want to listen that they are wrong.

            You're right - she shouldn't have to. But in this case (and by the sounds of it, in most cases) she did have have to - and she chose not to.

            Writing an article two weeks later isn't standing up for yourself, it's the equivalent of shouting a comeback when the other person is halfway home.

            Again, you're right, she shouldn't be underestimated, but let me put it another way - if every female game journalist sat there and let controllers be snatched off them, let others walk them through a game, where's the momentum for change? Where's the 'Oh shit, that girl's damned good', followed by 'Oh, another good female games journalist', followed by 'Dammit all these girls are stealing the good game journalism jobs!'?

            To be honest (and I hate to go 'there'), your comments me of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. You're right, black people should NOT have needed rallies and protests, but unfortunately they did. And thank god MLK was there. Maybe Katie Williams will speak up for what she believes in next time?

          Have you ever had someone say something so flabbergastingly stupid to you that you just can't say anything back? Imagine hearing such things every day. It gets exhausting, and it takes a rare person to continue being gung-ho about it after the fibe hundredth time.

            I'm posting on the internet... so yes... yes I have... many times.

        She shouldn't have to say it. Absolutely agreed. But see, that's the thing about inequality. You shouldn't have to say it. People should know better. If you're ever saying that you 'shouldn't have to say' something, then clearly you do need to say it, because people are not acting in the way they should. What you want is a situation where you don't have to say it.

        Clearly in this case it does need to be said. Again and again. Radical changes to such an entrenched culture are not going to happen overnight, they require perseverance. And the people at fault need to be told they're at fault, otherwise they'll never know. Much better and more polite to tell them at the time. If they're stupid enough to ignore that, then follow it up higher.

          This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      I think you might be missing the point here a little. It's not that it happened, it's that the culture of gaming is so entrenched, it happens almost as a default.

      This is a very easy thing to say in hindsight as someone who isn't a female dealing with the oppressive sexism of a gaming industry event.

        So what can we do about it then? Talk about how bad it is on the internet? It's clearly something that needs to change, but what can gamers actually do about it? Which publishers are the worst offenders, should we stop buying their stuff?

        If speaking up about it isn't possible, and it's not possible to name the guilty parties and put pressure on the publishers to hire better PR, what's the solution? The bulk of the people reading this are not going to be female games journalists or work in games PR. What can we, as gamers, actually do about it? Find another hobby?

          How about actually discuss it and spread the knowledge about this? I get confused when people make points like this for a situation like this. This is a social issue, and like many other social issues, you have to actually discuss it and make the masses aware that there's a problem. Luckily we live in an age of technology where this can be done on a greater level and, in turn, allows people to band together and come up with constructive ways to solve the problem. But again, the problem doesn't really get solved unless you actually address it and make people aware that there's a problem to begin with.

      Some people aren't confrontational. They don't find it easy to tell someone to stuff off, even when they are really frustrated. I know I myself would let things slide unless I was pretty pissed off (in this situation, being told they could play it better than me would be classified as pissing me off).

      Agreed. In reality, there are not a lot of gamer girls and the majority that do play games such as Farmville and Plants vs. Zombies. You should stick up for yourself more and beat them at their own game. :)

        i'm a girl. i don't play either farmville or plants vs. zombies. saying that "In reality, there are not a lot of gamer girls and the majority that do play games such as Farmville and Plants vs. Zombies" is just about as dumb as the pr guy taking the keyboard away from the author of this article. you can not assume that just because it's a certain type of game, "girls" don't want to play it. just... read for comprehension and think before you post.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      This isn't just to you, but to all the men saying this:

      Yes, I too wanted to read that she grabbed the keyboard back, said "watch and learn, little boy", and proceeded to kick arse. But I know why it didn't happen. I don't think you realise how hard and stressful and often, completely non-productive, "sticking up for yourself" for a woman in this sort of circumstance can be.

      When shocked and stressed, we tend to fall back on what we've been trained to do. And, unfortunately, women (yes, some men too, but not quite so much) are trained that we have to be nice, and compliant, and not make a scene, because if we don't, a bad situation will get even worse. And sadly, that last part is often *true*, a man who may genuinely have believed he was being helpful and doing the right thing, may get defensive and unpleasant if it's pointed out he was achieving neither. More people may get involved, you may have to escalate even *more* to be heard, the risk that *you* get seen as the one with the problem increases, and then as others have pointed out, you get painted as the crazy bitch who lost at some hapless fellow who was only trying to help. In the moment, you have to make a very quick judgment of whether it's worth it and you may be correct if you feel it's not. Even if you DO think you should complain, sometimes getting yourself to override all that "be nice" training is practically impossible.

      I've been in a far worse situation, when I thought I was in actual danger, was screaming at myself "For God's sake, don't just stand there, do something!" and found I simply COULD NOT override that compulsion to be polite *to the man who was scaring me*, that apparently some part of me thought that not making a fuss was more important than keeping myself SAFE. And you know, I thought I was a fairly tough, opinionated person who was never without an answer; finding all of that could desert me when it most counted was pretty terrifying.

      On the other hand, in less high-stakes situations, I've complained about sexism, *ultimately* been taken seriously, but not before I've taken so much flak and been accused of so many things that I was emotionally exhausted by the end of it. I spent a long time feeling like I'd made a terrible mistake in speaking up before it really dawned on me that I'd actually won.

      Of course, not every woman always goes passive and compliant every time someone acts like a dick to her, not every man relishes conflict or is validated if he complains. But just realise that what you're asking is more difficult than it would be for you (obviously, because, as a man, you wouldn't get this treatment in the first place), could easily end badly for the woman, and even if it doesn't, the emotional cost of victory could be steep.

        This is well put : )
        The underlying issue is with the generalizing of what gender constitutes a "serious gamer". Rebuffing someone for inferring you don't know how to play games properly isn't going to help either party get their job done. Ideally everyone should be more aware & less inclined to treat women as special needs cases when concerning stereotypically male media.

        The point of the article may be getting somewhat lost in the driving example.

        People keep saying (on here) "you should have taken the keyboard back, and not just wrote about it 2 weeks later." which is like saying "You should have steered that car away from the other car, instead of emotionally complaining about it to your friends 2 weeks later"

        It happened. And when it happened, it was probably one of those moments where she was so taken aback by his dickishness that she felt like a bystander, watching the event unfold in slow motion.

        If she were a male, writing this, I think the response of "hey this is what you should have done" might be more appropriate -- we males tend to focus on empowering ourselves through information so that we know what to do if things happen again.

        But I think, for the author, writing about it now is /probably/ a means for her to both share her pain, her experience, as well as get some closure and take control of something that was really eating at her. The fact that she waited two weeks could simply be because she thought that her displeasure at the incident was wrong, or that she thought it wasn't really a problem or thought that it didn't really bother her. But after gnawing at the back of her neck for two weeks, she decides "fuck this, I have to say something to get this out."

        Writing the article doesn't take the physical keyboard back. But if you read between the lines up there, she's talking about how she feels like her RIGHT to play games (via her peer-acceptance to use the WASD keys) was usurped by the jerk that stepped in; his actions may have made her feel INVALIDATED; in writing this article, she can both cathartically move on, and also re-assert her RIGHT to use WASD (and, by extension, play games)

        I'm a guy, and so I only see this stuff from the outside, but one thing I've learned in trying to understand our differences as genders is that men and women process crap like this differently. Armchair suggestions about what she should have done are pointless and not the kind of validation she's probably looking for. (And are also evidence of a lack of understanding of the female gender, which is the greater issue facing the gaming industry, right? Women don't need to be represented as men-with-vaginas, they need to be represented as women.)

        If I'm wrong about my assessment, please correct me. I want to understand.

          This was beautifully written, and a good assessment of the situation (so I believe). The idea that men are "fixers" and women just want to work it out (ex. through validation) is perhaps a bit too simplistic, but yea, in my experience it does tend to work out that way.

          "It happened. And when it happened, it was probably one of those moments where she was so taken aback by his dickishness that she felt like a bystander, watching the event unfold in slow motion." Loved this.

        This here.

      Name and shame them and their PR departments will certainly pay attention. It is one of the best things about the internet. And it seems like several companies could benefit from having a diversity and inclusion discussion with their reps.

      I agree with NegativeZero's point but perhaps not the way he conveyed it. Those guys behave that way because of past experiences. It needs fixing, and I'd invite Katie to participate in changing it - in future - by responding like a gamer: "Do you want me to play it for you", "Hell no. You touch this keyboard and you'll find out why my toons are always Sith not Jedi..."

    you should have just said "no, its fine..I got this thanks"

    but yeah, that sucks

    Wow. Four comments and three of them manage to make it Katie's fault.

      were NOT saying its katies fault, were saying that these sexist people need to be stood up to, and if these people remain nameless or aren't at least corrected in person then nothing comes of it.

        It is not an individual problem that can be solved by addressing one person's misconceptions, it is a cultural problem that needs to be dealt with on a number of levels. Kotaku's excellent discussion on gender in recent months is certainly a step in the right direction. There needs to be positive input from developers and marketers. And the market itself will have to evolve to be perceived to accept a broad audience and varied and complex characters of all genders, races, sexualities etc.

          I agree. It's not as simple as a girl standing up to herself. Katie shouldn't have to defend herself and telling her to stand up for herself isn't going to help much either. If we're going to do things that way, a girl will have to tell a guy to stuff off pretty regularly and I'm pretty sure that would just get tedious. This culture needs to change and it'll take a lot more than a few girls standing up for themselves. We need to grill into people's minds that these preconceptions about gender (and everything else for that matter) need to die.

          This isn't a reason individuals shouldn't stand up to other individuals, your making a good general point, but it in no way refutes cyberxenomorph's claim.

      Whooo. Victim blaming. Gotta love it.
      I imagine that the majority of those comments were made by men. Men who don't get systematically victimised, brushed off, told they're not good enough, talked down to, and have sexual advances made towards them when they're playing a game. Women constantly have to prove themselves as gamers and it's not ok.
      It's easy to say she should stand up for herself when you're speaking from a place of privelege.

      I think that's a bit unfair. The people saying she should have stuck up for herself aren't blaming her. They just aren't gaming journalists, so they don't know that often in the 'biz you have to keep your mouth shut for diplomacy's sake. At least they're backing her up, and not being like "LOL serves you right go back to the kitchen hurr durr"

    "And you might say that it’s silly that I might still find this so hurtful."

    Not at all.. but I was waiting for the part where you tell the guy off for taking away your keyboard and making sexist assumptions about you..... but that part didn't come.. you just allowed him to take the keyboard away and you were politely submissive about the whole thing.... and then later, after the fact, after the time you could have actually done something about it.. not just for yourself but for all future girl gamers and journos that interact with that company... you could have stood up for yourself. But you didn't... why?

    "It’s because we’re f**king beyond this already"

    Clearly not. And why should you be? It's not just sexist.. it's disrespectful and certainly not the behaviour a PR company should be performing.

    Again though.. why didn't you speak up when it mattered?

      I think you missed the point.

      It's not cool that the PR guy was in all truth being a dick, but I definitely agree there could have been a chance to say 'No I'm good here' and keep on going.

    "Gamers should treat each other like gamers regardless of sex or whatever other irrelavant thing" - you obviously haven't played Halo or Call of Duty.

    You should have let the PR Rep know of his preference to play with himself, rather than let a woman take his play-thing into her capable hands.

      i meant gamers as in people who treat others with respect and just play games, not gamers as in douchbages who just want to rage (i do not class these as gamers i class them as douchbags)

    And two more while I was writing my response. I'm sure more will come along and ask the same old question "why, Katie, why didn't you just say something?" (never mind that in your story you clearly indicated that you did say something on at least one occasion.)

    That's not the point though.

    She Should Have To.

    It's not her fault.

    Bugger. "She Should't Have To."

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      you're right she SHOULDN'T have to, but considering the way katie was treated someone obviously HAS to

      No she shouldn't.. but that is not the point. In a perfect world everyone would respect everyone and not make assumptions.. but this is not a perfect world and those that do that stuff need to be put in their place..

      We shouldn't have had to declare that slavery is wrong, that a person's worth isn't derived from the color of their skin, that women should be allowed to be educated and vote, and so on. The fact is that people did and still do have to fight for these things to be accepted. They shouldn't have to, but if everyone simply sat around saying 'I shouldn't have to do this' then change would never happen.

        +Infinity

        What Katie did or didn't do is irrelevant. Even if every single one of these people had been called on their behaviour, it wouldn't diminish the point of the article at all. Lets focus on what really matters here, the constant exclusion and mistreatment of women, not on what you think Katie should have done.

      She shouldn't have to write this article about it either, but she did. And she likely did so for the same reasons that people are saying she should have spoken up at the time.

      You want things to change? You need to speak up in at least one way or another. Yes, she did that by writing this article. But speaking up at the time would have also helped. Even better - do BOTH.

      Of course, there valid reasons why she wouldn't have spoken up at the time. Maybe she doesn't like personal confrontation, or maybe she was just to stunned to respond when the PR guy physically removed her hands from the keyboard. Maybe she just didn't think of it at the time. Or one of potentially hundreds of other completely understandable reasons.

      But the people saying "you should have said something" aren't laying blame on Katie. They're giving advice on how they feel she could better handle the situation in the future, as it is a situation that - unfortunately - is likely to happen to her again. Dismissing their honest advice as "laying blame" is just as blind as the PR guy assuming she needed help with the demo.

    Bleh - what disgraceful behaviour from these PR guys - even by PR guy standards, which are pretty damned low to begin with. I can't believe we're still having to deal with idiots like this - it just makes me embarrassed and ashamed to be part of this industry.

    To the author I'd just like to say that the vast majority (i.e. outside of marketing) of us aren't this shallow.

    Can't believe the dumb arsed attitudes they gave you. In this day and age, that's a joke. Obviously they're too used to women only being either Admin, or booth babes. Should have told them to get stuffed instead of letting them continue to perpetuate their crap.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    Name and Shame, please.
    I assume "Well known military shooter" is codename for Call of Duty. I haven't bought from that franchise for a few years now - maybe I'll write them an email telling them I'm still not buying their stuff.

    Also, my fingers now fall to QWER - I guess that's the result of leaving many shooters behind.

      Its not Call of Duty. I didn't see grass or rabbits in that demo @ E3.

      I am going to guess Metro Last LIght.

        Maybe BF3 expansions
        maybe Far Cry 3 which with grass and animals running around could make sense.

      My first thought was ARMA due to "simulation-grade shooter",

      not sure if that was at E3 or not though, I didn't really follow it

        Thoug I should also point out one PR person being a bit of a tosser doesn't mean the games terrible or necessarily represent accurately the company as a whole.

    Can I just point out to people a much better (IMO) keyboard position for playing, well, pretty much any PC game. It takes a bit of getting used to, but your hand is far more relaxed and you have so many more keys at your disposal. Here it goes. pointer on the U, middle on the Y, ring on the T, pinky on the D, thumb on the space next to the right Alt.

    The way I do it is the U is actually forwards, T and Y are left and right, space is backwards and D is your alternative (activate, alt fire, etc).

    Try it now. Look around at all the keys you have easy access to! Your pinky can easily reach 8 keys without having to think where it's going, your pointer 7 or more, the list goes on! And how much more comfortable is it than that cramped WASD?!!! I'm telling you, it's gaming heaven at its best :)

    The world unfortunately is made up of stereotypes. It's a reality.

    Just write the feature of the game for PC powerplay based on what you experienced.
    User interface is difficult and even the PR representatives acknowledge that the games controls are difficult and clunky to use which is why they insisted he take over during the demo. So on and so forth.
    If game devs start getting that sort of feedback about their game, maybe then they would look at training their PR staff, otherwise some nameless dev for some nameless game have no business case to change their behavior.

      That's a good point, make the write up reflect your experience, so something very similar to this article will do well to shake things up, or at least get it started. You (Katie) have to power to reach a lot of people through the magazine platform and writing a scathing article that directly references your experience related to the games you were supposed to cover then it should be an eye opener for the gamers AND the industry people.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      But she was doing fine, as she said. There was nothing to indicate that she was struggling beyond her taking in the scenery.

    The contention that "Katie should have said something" is flawed on a few levels. Firstly, yes she shouldn't have to. Secondly, look at sexism in the workplace. If an employee speaks up about about being offended by sexism they're usually the ones made out to be trouble-makers or fun-killers. Being told you're not wanted here doesn't fill you with confidence about your grievances being heard and respected. She's already been told she's basically not supposed to be there, what makes you think they want her to have an opinion too? It's not an environment conducive to speaking up.

    Which brings me to the power dynamics. In this kind of situation, the power dynamics are really bizarre. The journalist requires the co-operation of the PR person in order to get access to the game and write their story (and get paid). But the journalist has the power to tell the public about the game. So the PR person while needed by the journo, fears the journos response. It makes for really fucking awkward scenarios sometimes, and this is one of them. Was he super nervous and projecting his fears about the game's coverage onto Katie? Possibly. Did he say those things because he didn't appreciate the shift in the power dynamic and didn't know how to ensure good coverage of the game when a woman was covering it? Maybe. Was he super unprofessional? Absolutely.

    Blaming Katie for not speaking up is not directing your attention to the right place. It should be directed toward the completely unprofessional approach taken by this PR guy, who should be thanking his lucky stars Katie hasn't chosen to name and shame.

      Yes, yes, and yes. I also feel like if someone springs something like that on you, you're often too surprised to defend yourself. Or you don't realise right away that he's asking you these questions because you're a woman. And then slowly, it dawns on you, but at that point it's too late.

      What even is PR? I thought it stood for public relations... clearly the 101 lesson is forgotten very quickly.

      @Leena - this doesn't really have parallels with in workplace sexism - if anything, the power dynamic shifts the other way, with the PR representatives (mostly) being concerned with showing off a game in a good light, I really doubt there would have been any contention if Katie had of said, "no its okay, I'll give it a whirl. You could talk me through what I'm seeing though". PR people dont 'fear' the journos response, unless they are a new developer and are yet to even make a name for themselves, but E3 isn't a review - its about showing off the most features (explosions, etc) of your game as you can.

      Jesus, the amount of coddling in this comments section is nigh-on appalling.

        I sure as shit hope you're basing this observation on your lengthy experience in the journalism world. Although since I will be basing the following rebuttal on mine, I'm inclined to doubt it.

        A PR person's job isn't to present the game in the best light, it's to try to ensure that the image a journalist puts out is as close as possible to the one their company would prefer. That makes any interaction where a PR person think you'll react in any other way into a very uneasy compromise (for example, have you ever tried to cover a political campaign when the spokesperson thinks you look young?) Plus, as a journalist, you aren't at an event you cover as yourself, you're there as your publication. It's so rarely acceptable to make a personal stand on professional time that I've done it only twice - once when a battery suspect took a swing at me.

        A journalist covering a gaming conference is indeed in her workplace. This is exactly workplace sexism, with all of the attendant shades of gray. She did what I would have done - stay professional, get the job done, then do what she can to call the event and the culture that produced the response on what she saw.

      Exactly. Blaming the victim is the wrong approach. Blame the shitty culture instead that grows these attitudes.

      I heard of similiar stories from some female gamedevs at E3 too - that it was assumed that they were booth babes and couldn't possibily be game developers because they were young attractive women. It frustrates me that this happens.

      The first thing that popped into mind when I read this was 'yes... this is horrible and shouldn't be happening but at the same time, Katie decided to remain passive awestruck and let the PR guy take over rather than growing some ovaries and demonstrating confidence.' Fun fact: the passive awestruck female is pretty much a trope.

      Don't get me wrong. I'm a male feminist, in the truest sense of the word, but let's stop this 'gender roles and opinions should become equal immediately'. This takes time. I'm fighting for equality as much as you, but it's exactly that: a fight. Katie could have changed some minds and made an impact, but she chose to be tacit, and reconfirmed those stereotypes.

        You are not a feminist if you are blaming the woman for the sexist behavior of the man.

    I was lost in the firat paragraph. prolly why Im so crap at PC games.

    I was lost in the first paragraph. prolly why Im so crap at PC games.

      rest of the article was an eye opener btw.

    Just say the words, "PC Powerplay" and follow it with an maniacal laugh. That's all he needs to know.

    I can't help but wonder if this was honest miscommunication. I often find myself correcting players, male or female, if I believe they are inefficently placing their fingers on the keyboard.

      You should probably stop that shit in general unless you are asked for help. Maybe, just maybe, their fingers are different from yours? They have different dexterity than you do? Or they don't give a f**k and like keymashing for the fun of it.

      Ugh, that's messed up.

      I worked a game publisher's booth at E3 this year as well and we had plenty of female guests (relatively speaking). It makes me sad to hear that this is still a problem, but hopefully the perception is changing. During a break I walked the show floor with a model friend from Nintendo and we played Borderlands 2. At least those Gearbox guys left her alone.

    Not having a go, but you're a journalist - tell us who he worked for, and what game he was advertising!

    Hell, if the developer got wind of it, there's no way it would happen again.

    This is beyond disgusting.
    Mainly because if someone is there for E3, generally they're passionate about games. PR should never take the controller away unless the person asks for help, no matter what gender they are or what they're wearing.

      I wouldn't blame them if the person was wearing a Borat Mankini. I'd hope they'd then wipe the controller thoroughly with anti-bacterial wipes.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now