Now, A Positive Take On Women In Gaming

This E3, I gathered with friends and former colleagues around a high top at Hooters, swapping small talk and tales of cosplay catastrophe at Video Games Live. You could smell the nerd (and hot sauce) for miles.

Image: Shutterstock

Much like my experience in the games industry, it didn't matter if you were woman, man or monkey — our table was an equal opportunity gathering.

For six years, I've been a woman in the magical land of video game PR. For six years, I've felt as welcome as any man to fulfil my career aspirations, contribute new ideas, set high scores and geek out on pixels.

I'm not looking to defend the craft, but Katie Williams' article about sexist PR at E3 caught me off guard.

My career exemplifies chance, change and "girl power" in video games. So if there is confusion about what women can and can't do, let me be the first to clear it up.

After snagging some enviable client PR cred, I abruptly quit my job last month. Now officially rogue, I attribute my non-concern over self-employment to being a woman in this industry for so long. It's empowering and it didn't come free.

If press releases count, I've been published everywhere from the New York Times to shark enthusiast websites. I've ghost written for Target, built Lego models with gaggles of children, won awards.

I'm not saying ignorant and rude assumptions aren't made. I know what it feels like. When I worked at Gamestop in college, nearly every shift, I had to explain to some doofus that "yes, I play video games". It was ridiculous. But retail clerkship and the video game industry itself are two very different beasts. Professionals know better.

Achievement Unlocked: Girl Power

A woman who isn't confident and determined won't last long in the video game industry, nor will she who does not "know her shit." We, as women, have to prove ourselves, yes — just like everyone else, in every other industry.

But among the male majority, women in the game industry bring something different and increasingly valuable to the table. It's kind of like turtle power, but less amphibious, and better, because girl power goes both ways. Women have added opportunity to shock, awe and succeed in video games.

When people expect you to lose, winning is more fulfilling. Being the underdog is fun. That's how you change perception and overcome adversity — just go out and do it, and be good at what you do.

Attractive young females are a staple in marketing and PR in any field, not just video games. Girl power isn't about flirting or short skirts, it's about applying the female perspective to situations where men fail miserably.

In a business like the game industry, there are a LOT of shoes to fill — no one skillset or mindset or character trait or strong suit will cut it. That isn't gender; it's human nature. But if you want to break it down and put traits into columns, gender is one way to do it.

Women and men are different in specific, measurable ways. Our brains are wired differently for important professional functions like problem solving and communication. That's a big deal! What other industry would even consider it normal to have such lop-sided groupthink?

Lady Brain

Women know what women want. Even Mel Gibson knows that.

When an industry fuelled by men wants to go mainstream, it needs a new perspective; it has to impact non-traditional audiences to keep growing. If you bring something different to the table, anyone can help move the gaming industry out of the niche and into the future.

Bright eyed, bushy tailed, fresh out of college (and Gamestop management), with my psych degree in hand, I began a video game PR career that could have gone on forever. My first client was Disney. I sent out God knows how many physical press mailers for boxed console game reviews of titles like "That's So Raven" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody".

As time went on, boxed copies gave way to PC and online games, then mobile, then the App Store. Then came Facebook, the cloud… Some of my clients were literally cancelling plans for DS games in lieu of social platforms.

Before I knew it, boxed console games were a distant memory. And girl power was in higher demand than ever. Why?

We were dealing with new platforms and new audiences that had never played video games before. We were answering tough questions about online safety to parents who barely understood the Internet. Anyone who might have once questioned my womanly capabilities stopped when it came time to pitch to parents, educators or socialites. They needed girl power. I had it.

What does a mum think when she walks down an aisle to purchase video games? Why is learning about how to behave in an online forum important for childhood development? What makes a woman want to share something on her Facebook wall?

Yes, men can answer these questions too, but they'd probably start by asking a woman.

Make It Game

When you look at how video game concepts are being applied to new fields, you can see how some women are already profoundly affecting the industry's future.

Today, the game industry encompasses mainstream entertainment, education, fitness, finance and all sorts of things it wasn't before. Everyone wants a piece of gamification, and it often has little to do with video games. To keep up and to keep growing, women are invaluable.

Not to be coy, but the game industry really isn't all fun and games. It's hard work at a viciously fast pace. In PR especially, the responsibilities keep growing and social media is making things stone cold crazy. But, for me, the rules have always been fair. Being a woman has not hindered me; it makes me better at what I do.

The only thing I haven't been able to do as a woman in games? Grow a beard.

Kate Lollar ditched PR for interactive fiction so she could use more adjectives at work. Seriously. @katelollar


Comments

    Not entirely sure this is a rebuttal to Katie's piece. Katie's piece seemed (to me) to be about assumptions PR people make because of the gender of the person they were approaching. The industry, despite its gargantuan growth still views videogames as the domain of males.

    I applaud your hard work, gutsy decisions and all round tenacity, and you rightly state that your success isn't based upon your gender but because of your hard work. I think I understand. You, as an individual, have built a reputation through your hard work, and people know the name.

    Katie was a member of press, at a press event, yet the PR person in her scenario just assumed that she needed explanation of a game, possibly because the genre wasn't typical of what women were interested in.

    Regarding the original article you're responding to, the appropriate response rather than being hurt, would be to say "Actually I do know what I'm doing. I'll ask questions if I have any thanks" and keep the bloody keyboard from the ignorant person.

    Being a victim doesn't help anyone. Taking the power from those who are clueless does.

      I think this is a bit of a double standard here. Discrimination is a form of bullying; and when is it acceptable to tell a victim of a bullying that they should be over assertive and aggressive? The problem doesn't lie with the victim! How Katie handled the PR person is completely irrelevant (I wonder how many of those who criticise her would of acted any differently). Rather than lying down and taking it, I believe she did the more honourable thing, and vented more passively; rather than targeting the individual (who most likely did this completely subconsciously). This piece just reinforces that there is sexism deeply rooted in the industry. Being able to handle it or not is an entirely different issue. Why should any female have to prove herself to her sceptics? I think even questioning the integrity of Katie's character and actions is absolutely disgusting and a step backwards. Point the finger at where its due (Not Katie, not the PR guy, at the industry).

        I would have said 99% of the advice given to the victims of bullying is to work on being assertive, in addition to dealing with the bullies directly.

          I'm not questioning the integrity of her character, but her actions. Being discriminated against, or bullied, needs addressed. Not passively accepted then gone away and penned a "hurt" missive.

          The people who treated her that way should have been taken on, not necessarily physically or otherwise in a negative fashion but by directly and calmly addressing their discriminatory actions. No hiding behind it being subconscious or other nonsense. We're all responsible for our (and only our) own actions, the bully and the bullied.

      Here's Katie's response: http://alivetinyworld.com/2012/06/20/standing-up-for-myself/

    Adio, Katie addressed that in a follow up piece, her website just escapes me at the moment.

    Adio, Katie addressed that in a follow up piece, her website just escapes me at the moment.

    I disagree a lot, the kind of PR area of the gaming industry is the most sexually discriminatory. I'm not talking about the "booth babes" but the token woman they hire and give weird job titles to, so that they can stand and talk about their products, at stalls at expos, or on videos/interviews for the game. To me, this isn't really any better than that lower level of "booth babes", it's just overtly using the sexuality of woman to help sell their product, just like a lot of other industries try to do.

    Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the the people who meet in offices and work out promotional and marketing plans, that's real PR. This is some kind of lower level, it feels insulting to people who work in real PR to call it such, it's essentially booth babes with slightly more insider knowledge and less skimpy clothes.

    I'm glad that for once reading an article regarding industry women DIDN'T make me feel that I've committed an atrocity just by having a Y chromosome. Good read!

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    Oh so there are women out there who don't have the world going aginst them. Good on Kate, it takes courage, confidence and hard work to succeed and she's proof of it. It really makes no difference what gender/race/age you are, if you are good at your job, you will be acknowledged.

    Erm, I know this is a "response" to that post from the other day about E3 PR, but this makes no sense. Is this Kate Loller basically saying that her experience in PR was fine? Well guess what. GAMES PR IS FULL OF WOMEN. Of course she didn't have any trouble. I'd like to see some "positive takes" from women who actually work IN the real games industry, game designers and programmers and the like. I trust they'd be far less whimsically written than Loller has done here. Probably because of the much more serious gender imbalance in the games industry itself, as opposed to PR.

    Also, I can't take anyone who uses the "men and women are hardwired to act differently" argument. That just gives both genders an excuse to act like jerks. Loller implies sexism isn't a problem because she had it easy. Get the feeling ths article is a real step back for feminism.

    Yay! Another article about women's issues on Kotaku. *sigh*

      "Also, I can’t take anyone who uses the “men and women are hardwired to act differently” argument. That just gives both genders an excuse to act like jerks. Loller implies sexism isn’t a problem because she had it easy. Get the feeling ths article is a real step back for feminism."

      They are though? Men and women are two EXTENSIVELY different species. See: sociobiology.

      How is this a step back for feminism? Should Kotau give Elizabeth Danger another chance to generalize about males, that they're all scum, so as to put it "forward"? I'm not sure of your argument.

      There are plenty of women in this world in senior positions. The problem is that, instead of feminists saying, "We should look to them", they say, "Why are so few women in senior positions? IT MUST BE MEN!"

      To quote Sherrly Sandberg (senior head at Facebook):

      "Women need to sit at the table with men".

      In other words, if you're a women and there's a sexist pig in your face, just attack him back. Men, the sad reality is, are aggressive, dominating animals. Expecting social unity and equality is to expect enforced unity, which is a major compromise to individual freedom.

      Women have more power in this world than they imagine. If they're good at their job, they'll go places. Sandberg admits than men respond to female emotions differently than they do to other male emotions, but this is a bump in the road: once the female dominates the male, it's really no different to the male dominating the women.

      But I get it: feminists, and the pro-feminist crowd, are typically of the "left", and any sense of elitist competitiveness goes against everything they stand for.

      Reality is, feminists set back the feminist movement more than ANYONE. Sandberg is the greatest feminist of our time. She's actually achieved something.

        The problem with statements about how men and women are hardwired is that it's too general. Not all men or women will behave or think in strictly the same patters - it's like saying all men are pigs and all women are dumb, just because they're hardwired that way. Or, in a less inflammatory analogy, all men are great at spacial awareness tasks and all women are better at multitasking. Such terms are too absolute to allow for any deft arguments on the issues to take place. they allow for no grey areas, and specifically drive out any space for individual validity in between them. For example, if you're a guy who is terrible at reading maps, this statement then means that you're not a proper man - you're somehow not hardwired properly, and so like a machine, are faulty. This argument also applies to women or course - any woman who speaks up, complains, and doesn't play nice is somehow not being a proper woman, and is faulty.

        You're willingness to simply dismiss mysoginist male behaviour is quite shocking - you just accept that all men are animals, without recourse. not all men behave this way, and just dismissing it like that is indicative of a broader underlying social fabric that just assumes men should be allowed to behave this way - and that women just have to get over it and deal with it. Yes men and be jerks to each other, and certainly women can be unfair on men. but passing off bad behaviour on men as just 'reality' is one-sided.

        In my experience, women have it a lot harder in most professions - from outright sexism to not being taken seriously, to subtle hints that they're less valuable because they're likely to take maternity leave (regardless of the individuals actual plans for family). What is clearer though is that the majority of higher positions in big businesses are held by men. A young woman going into an organisation that appears to favour women (regardless of whether they do or not) may feel intimidated to rock the boat as she may be the minority. Yes a woman (or man) in such a position should feel able to speak up, but saying to women, 'Shut up about gender issues, you're just being a Feminazi!' presents an additional barrier to having such discussions in the first place.

          This article represents my sentiments exactly. I for one, am sick of reading numerous articles on Kotaku covering scantily-clad cosplayers, the latest dating sim which will let you see a cartoon girl in all her digital glory, & various games boasting various jiggle effects - only to be followed that same day by articles which start flame wars against over-sexualised women in games.

          Fueling the sexist fire does not make good gaming news.

    "The only thing I haven’t been able to do as a woman in games? Grow a beard."

    Clearly you should give Saints Row a go... :D

    Something nobody seems to be realizing is that one of the prime reasons geekdom is so male-centric is because of decades of marginalization BY WOMEN. It was primarily women who created the stigma of "geekiness" being socially unacceptable, someone being interested in comics or video games immediately made them less of a person in the eyes of most women.

    Now geekdom is more mainstream women want to be included as well, but it's an uphill battle and for good reason. You can't suddenly decide that you want to be included in a subculture that you've all but vilified for the last 40-50 years, just because it's suddenly cool and mainstream - women as a gender have done this to themselves. Without the decades of social ostracisation, sexism in geek culture would not be such a problem and women wouldn't have to fight so hard to be accepted.

    I'm not saying that women shouldn't be wholeheartedly accepted into geek culture, but they should stop whining about it being so unfair and start looking at the reasons why this has happened.

    @ Sten thank god someone on here with half a brain who can call it for what it is... fact is being a geek, nerd, video game player or comic book reader is still shunned by the majority of women. Ipsofacto i find it so unbelievably ironic to borderline complete insanity that any woman would have the nerve to even raise this as an issue. Be respectful, try to understand why it is the way it is and join in on the fun... otherwise if you don't like it go back to obsessing over the latest Hollywood heart throb, boy bands and the hottest guy in school.

      Has it ever occured to you, Dan, that a geek, nerd, video game player or comic book reader can be a woman? You're desperately trying to make women look bad when in fact you are frustrated and cannot get a woman. Look in the mirror, Dan. Look at the things you wrote and ponder for a while if your attitude could possibly be the reason why women don't like you?

      Overall your comment is so unbelievably ironic to borderline complete insanity that someone writes things you just did. Here's an advice: Be respectful, try to understand why it is the way it is and join in on the fun. Because you clearly have not genuinely understood it yet and do the same as men in gaming industry in general: belittle women.

      By the way, are you one of those geeks, nerds, video game player comic book readers? Take a look around and set your standards a bit lower. That booth babe won't ever be interested in you, but the geeky young woman in a game store just might - might, because based on your comment I'd say your personality needs a bit more development in the women's issues.

    When they say Nerds and Male Privilege they means all men are oppressive towards women and all males are guilty of women's oppression.

    I don't see why no one is responding because I really fell alone on my opinion on feminism.

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