Color me skeptical whenever a game convention panel kicks around stuff like “the growing role of women in the game industry” or “women in gaming – how to make Pink games gender-neutral.” It’s not that I’m anti-feminist or that I doubt the validity of panelists that actually are girls in the game industry talking about girls in the game industry (this panel includes Microsoft’s Jo Clowes, Obsidian’s Annie Carlson, Marlo Huang from Liquid Entertainment and Linsey Mudrock from ArenaNet). It’s just that there’s always talk about women in the game industry – and for all the talking, how much is really getting done?
I know I’m still getting paid less than my male counterparts, most of the time. I know I got my QA testing jobs not because I was qualified but because I had a rack. And I know that Imagine Babyz is somehow still selling itself to somebody, and that somebody very likely doesn’t have a penis.
What does all of that mean for me, a girl in the game industry? And, more importantly, what does it mean for the game industry as a whole?
Hit the jump to find out what this PAX panel thinks.
Q: What do you think brought about women getting into games and what is their future in gaming?
Marlo: Thinks it has to do with general changes in social acceptability of gaming. Also, it's way easier to get games because of the internet.
Annie: Gender roles have shifted. Women aren't afraid of technology anymore - how can they be when it's freaking everywhere?
Linsey: Every household has gaming systems now. It's more acceptable for girls to be in the industry nowadays.
Q: What can we do in education to get more girls into the game industry?
Linsey: Make it less socially awkward. Girls have enough to worry about in high school what with cliques and zits and all. Show them it's alright to like games.
Annie: Marketing needs to be refocused for girls; less boobies, more shiny things. Armour that is not hot pants! Also, tell them math is for video games, not for balancing your checkbook.
Linsey: Ditto the math thing.
Marlo: Be less competitive with each other to be the only girl in a room full of guys. Sure, there's a sort of high in being in the Boy's Club - but women need to be inspiring and helping other women; not running them into the ground with backstabbity-ness.
Annie: Stop accepting responsibility for your whole gender. Just because you are a girl who plays games does not mean you represent every X chromosome out there. If you suck at Street Fighter, it doesn't mean every girl sucks at Street Fighter, so don't act like a jerk just because you feel like you've got something to prove.
All: Don't bother hide your gender!
Q: Do games have a gender or are they genderless?
Linsey: Never thought about it. Sometimes makes emo quests about “star-crossed lovers” but only because she thought it was interesting, not because she thought it’d be “girly.”
Annie: Once had a quest in her game that had to do with romancing a bad guy. The quest couldn't be activated unless the player had a really high wisdom score, or by being a girl avatar. This made her cringe, but she let it go because it was interesting.
Spending too much time worrying about gender-appropriate stuff stifles creativity.
Linsey: We’re all humans suffer from the human condition. (How profound...sheesh—AJ) Guys like drama. Things that you might think are for girls might actually be getting to them, but damned if they’ll let you know it.
Annie: The lack of romance in Neverwinter Nights 2 upset users; guys and girls.
Q: What are your goals for reaching out to girls?
Marlo: From a marketing perspective, sales is a big thing. When push comes to shove, you need to sell – never mind high moral ideals about social acceptance. But don't come down too hard on games that use sex to sell - Cosmo magazine proves that women like looking at other women for some reason.
(Like a car wreck, we just can't look away—AJ)
Q: Historically, which games made for women have been good or bad?
Linsey: I hate those princess games so much.
Annie: It's not just that the games are sexist - they're horribly broken. At least make a demeaning game that works.
Linsey: It’s like people who don’t like games are making these games.
Annie: It’s condescending. Games should be for everybody.
Marlo: Actually kind of likes some of those games. Her Interactive make these Nancy Drew games and they’re pretty good. Sometimes marketing types don't know what to do with lousy games like this, so the advertising is especially horrid. The process of fixing this is a slow one, so be patient.
Q: If you made one request to game makers, what would it be with regards to women in gaming?
Annie: Wants to see relationships in games more fleshed out and developed. Instead of “we’ve gone through all this shit together, we should totally bang”.
Best one-liner ever: "If there's going to be dating [in a game] , don't make it like sleepover Pokemon - gotta bang 'em all!"
Linsey: Wants better love stories. There's conflict in relationships – it’s fun, so why can’t it be part of the game? Seriously, guys are secretly into this stuff.
Marlo: Big compaies need to sink more money into girl market research. EA, Blizzard, etc. are getting into why girls play these games (especially housewives, wtf?) Yes, it takes money and time, but they’ve got a lot, so why can’t they give more to this cause?
Qs from the floor...
—How do we make "princess games" more functional and less condescending?
Annie: Add more reason and purpose to the games. Give it a bigger scope than just Barbie riding her horse or finding a boyfriend.
Linsey: Princesses aren’t the strongest of women (except Princess Leia, she rocks). Give girls more options.
Marlo: Some of these games do have values, so work with them. She liked playing Barbie dress-up games. It taught her about asset management (I want that skirt, what do I have to do to buy it?) Teaching women to think a certain way is important – like it’s okay to be aggressive to get the skirt.
—How can we get past the gender-phobia guy gamers have towards playing women characters?
Annie: Nobody had a problem playing the Arbiter – why can’t they play a chick? Samus Aran – there you go.
—How would you promote etiquette among girl gamers?
Linsey: Cut the drama. Treat everyone the same. The more girls play, the less this’ll be an issue.
—What is the role of male vs. female “weak” characters? Should it be 50-50?
Annie: Nobody likes "luggage" characters that are too stupid to live. All characters need to have something – some really good reason why they’re weak and something really redeeming (like good AI).
Linsey: Fuck Princess Peach.
—Obviously a lot of work goes into making female characters sexy. Is there any hope for sexy male characters?
Annie: God, I hope so.
Marlo: I think male orcs are hot.
Linsey: Not into beefcake.
Marlo: Some beefcake is okay.
Lo: I want to see a nice arse in a game, someday.
—How do you get into the boys’ club? How does it feel to wedge yourself past the glass ceiling?
Marlo: Your work is in the end what you have to show. Women are easy targets and we’re desperate to protect our reputation. But we enjoy the challenge.
Annie: You don’t want them to say you’re a good female designer – you want to be a good designer. This might tempt you to hide your gender and let them assume you’re a guy.