Microsoft Says They Regret Holding GDC Party With School Girl Dancers [Updated]

Microsoft Says They Regret Holding GDC Party With School Girl Dancers [Updated]

Hours after hosting a “women in gaming” luncheon at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft threw a party with scantily clad dancers in school girl outfits. It wasn’t a good look, and the company has since apologised. The photos surfaced after a series of tweets by Tin Man Games editor Kamina Vincent brought the incident to light.

“I like dancing, I like talking to devs,” wrote Vincent. “But not at this #GDC16 party. Thanks for pushing me out of this party, Microsoft. […] Making a formal complaint tomorrow. I will not stand for this. I’m trying to encourage women into the industry then this happens.”

As the photos made their way around Twitter, the backlash was swift, and it didn’t take long for Microsoft executives to take notice.

First, there was head of Xbox marketing Aaron Greenberg.

Soon after, head of Xbox Phil Spencer released a statement to The Verge:

At Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values. It was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. I know we disappointed many people and I’m personally committed to holding ourselves to higher standards. We must ensure that diversity and inclusion are central to our everyday business and core values. We will do better in the future.

Update 12:19pm: Phil Spencer has released a longer response:

How we show up as an organization is incredibly important to me. We want to build and reflect the culture of TEAM XBOX – internally and externally – a culture that each one of us can represent with pride. An inclusive culture has a direct impact on the products and services we deliver and the perception consumers have of the Xbox brand and our company, as a whole.   It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear – how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.   It’s unfortunate that such events could take place in a week where we worked so hard to engage the many different gaming communities in the exact opposite way. I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business and our core values as a team – inside and outside the company. We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future.

Apologies are the easy part, though. It’s on Microsoft to stop this from happening again, and ensure their outreach to women seems genuine.


  • Oh no. Employing women who work out and dance for a living who are obvoisly comfortable enough to show their bodies off. Shame on microsoft for giving females a job, they should be tied up in the kitchen right?

    • God forbid they hire both male and female dancers and ones not dressed in school uniforms (and judging from the photos, unbuttoned school uniforms with their bras exposed??”?

      I dunno, maybe a pirate theme, or a break dancing theme…or hell, Halo themed dance party!!

      right? ^_^

      • See here in ol’ timey 2016 we here at the Microsoft corporation, believe in equality! Now where’s my cigars and stovepipe hat you wench, your making me late for the gentlemen’s club!

    • You’re missing the point so much, you’re in two different realities.

      The point isn’t that the dancers are happy dancing. Good on these women! If I looked like that, I’d be showing it off too. The point is that it isn’t appropriate to have dancers there in the first place.

      Microsoft held a Women in Gaming thing earlier in the day to be inclusive and try to set a path for more major games companies to be inclusive and then in the same 24 hours actively excluded and alienated the women they were trying to include. It’s a post-GDC party where both women and men were attending and this party catered to the men only. Microsoft dun goofed.


      • Sadly, some people just don’t get it. I think you’ve wrapped up the issue succinctly.

      • This is the real complaint. Why did MS not get naked dudes as well? Fair’s fair, after all. The fact that women were there and were dancing in revealing outfits is just a matter of taste.

    • I love how Kotaku have pixelated the lady’s face, like she’s some sort of accused criminal. Pearl clutching at its finest, lol.

      • This comment made me laugh and was pretty good, but I take it that they didn’t want the woman in question to be identified in the context of this controversy.

        • I don’t think so. Any other news story doesn’t blur out faces unless it involves minors, abuse victims, whistle-blowers etc. The implication here is that the women are somehow ‘at risk’… which is total bullshit. Unless there was a strict ‘no photos’ condition of entry to the MS party, the dancers would realistically expect someone to take photos. This is just regressive behaviour from Kotaku trying to show the women as ‘victims’.

  • Odd little cretins on this website constantly sniping in posts that have remotely anything to do with women need to pull their heads in. It’s every damn time with you.

    Microsoft stuffed up, plain and simple. If you’re a video game company then you ought to at least look like you’re being respectful to an entire 50% of your overall demographic. It just makes sense.

    Microsoft practically created the odious ‘lifestyle’ aspect of gaming culture as a way to sell Xbox Live anyway, so really I am not surprised it takes one step forward, two steps back with things like this.

    School girl dancers……..if you really feel the need to “defend Microsoft” over school girl dancers, then you are absolutely somebody I have to know more about because you seem an interesting person to say the least.

    • Most of the time i’d be actually defending (in a mature, rational way) the rights of both the dancers to dance and the party throwers to throw whatever party they want with whatever features they want, but this just seems like a wilfully ignorant decision on Microsoft’s part. They are a corporation with an image that says one thing but then does another, it’s a total failure of their marketing and supposed corporate values.

      With that out of the way:

      I think the reason why you always have people railing against these sorts of situations is that they seem to tar all white / straight / videogame playing men with the same brush. When you’re constantly told the problematic actions of one person who fits the same external attributes as you is somehow your problem, it can get very frustrating.

      Most of these arguments boil down to the same overly reductionist accusations being thrown around that women collectively decided was 100% not accurate and not on years ago. But then there seem to be some, not all, writers and communities online that are pushing these exact same hypocritical behaviours and accusations on men.

      The dudes who organised this suck. But just because we share a gender or an orientation, it does not make their actions my problem, and they certainly don’t represent evidence of some sort of theoretical societal hivemind that undermines women to benefit men. I’m sure you know the concept i’m talking about, but i’m not going to keep spreading the word around and give it legitimacy.

      (This article avoids the pitfalls these sorts of situations often come with that I was talking about above by sticking to the facts and the official correspondence from the company, but there have been many articles on many mainstream publications that don’t)

      • Well said, geometrics. Without mentioning the need for equality or anything like that, the idea that males are some sort of collective with the same values or beliefs is as ridiculous as saying that all women should hold some traditional and homogenous role.

      • Had enough of your practical logic cluttering up the comment section lately, Geo.
        You are supposed to pick one of the extreme sides and use impotent outrage to push the extremely simple, only black and white issue while consistently diminishing all opposing views.

        If you are having trouble choosing sides, do what I did and let everyone choose for you.
        Just find a comment section which has devolved into bickering, post a practical observation and sit back while your comment is cherry picked to either support or diminish.
        At the end tally up the score and that will be your side.

        • Believe it or not, people get way more angry at the truth than an opposing viewpoint that gives them something or someone tangible to fight against.

    • I’m only defending MS in saying that no-one should be denying MS the right to have schoolgirl dancers if it wants to. Free country and all that. I’m not commenting about how wise of MS it was to make that decision 🙂

      • Considering that it happened, nobody denied their “right”. Which, as it stands, isn’t actually a right in the first place. They did it, they got backlash and regret it. Now the backlash, that is a right. Pretty sure hiring skimpy female dancers however is not a right

        • It’s a right insofar as every capable adult (and other legal person) has the right to form a contract that is neither illegal nor against public interest. Yes, people who feel put upon for whatever reason also have a right to express that opinion. A lot of the ‘backlash’ as you put it, is virtue signalling by those who are just providing an echo chamber for the disgruntled.

    • I don’t know, The Dame Edna Dance Academy for The Clothing-Challenged Youths might be able to get away with it.

      In all seriousness tho, I worked at a high school for two years, and even there high school girls dancing in uniform like that wasn’t acceptable.

    • That’s exactly it. Any company organised event should be open and inclusive.

      If you have a subset of the crowd that want to go to a club with strippers afterward (which is pretty common in the corporate world), then that’s fine…but the company needs to stay the hell away from it, and let those people organise that themselves.

    • Just to play devil’s advocate here… Brazzers?

      Not that I know who that company is, or what they do. Ahem.

  • Game industry has an image problem when it comes to gender issues.

    Corporate sanctioned objectification of women doesnt help.

    • Objectification is completely normal. Men do it and women do it. The only valid complaint I can see is that it was unbalanced. Should have had some dudes as well for the non-lesbian lady devs and the gay devs. Maybe MS could have gone the whole hog and had some live sex shows. A little incongruous at GDC, I grant you, but stimulating nevertheless.


  • If no-one posted about this Microsoft wouldn’t have been “very disappointed”.

    Phil Spencer: At Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was not consistent or aligned to our values.

    Uh… your company payed for this. It seems like, do whatever you like and if/when there’s backlash then you pretend to care.

    • I know a guy was a junior solicitor whose law firm wanted to a do a company team building day and he was put in charge of organising the events. His thought process: hey, there’s a bar called the Arthouse where they have life drawing classes. We could do that for a bit of fun in the afternoon before we have a few drinks.

      He explained to the Arthouse “this is a corporate function so, no nude models please”. They nodded and said “Sure, we understand”. The model arrived and disrobed, wearing a g-string and pasties, the art session paid for out of the company training budget.

      While they can laugh about it now, his supervising partner was not pleased – nor were any of the female solicitors working in the team. Sometimes people screw up. Sometimes one person makes a bad decision. Not everything gets run by the higher ups, because there’s a thing called delegation the companies rely upon for efficiency.

      • Glad someone here understands how companies work. It’s not really difficult to understand that not every single action anyone in a company takes is authorised from the top. Realistically, whoever organised this one is probably looking at getting fired.

        • Although to be fair, we don’t know it WASN’T authorised from the top. That Phil Spencer looks like he is a very sexual bloke 😉

    • They can’t keep track of everything Danny the Intern is up to – or if someone’s accidentally put him in charge of organising an event.

        • Well, one of the reasons.

          “Boss-Man said organise a party… I found a business card for ‘Kickarse Party Bro Entertainment Ltd’ on the men’s room floor. I’d call and check, but he gets mad when I bother him at a conference like this.”

  • Probably was a sausage fest anyways I’m guessing, even without the dancers most women would of felt uncomfortable.

  • I’m not in any way shape or form an SJW about this sort of stuff, frankly I think people are far too precious about a lot of the ‘women in gaming’ things. But come on.. How is this not fucked up? As someone above said, this isn’t really appropriate for any corporate party, regardless of if they’ve just had an event celebrating women or not.

    • You are an SJW by the definition of people who say “SJW”. Haven’t you seen people calling everyone an SJW just because they think this was a mistake?

      • Only an SJW would consider that SJW’s would define ‘SJW’ as an SJW mistaking an SJW for someone who defines ‘SJW’ as something that non-SJW people would self-describe as. It stands to reason. Only an SJW would think otherwise!


        • I for one am sick of hearing about the Secret Jocular Walrus, if he really existed there would be photographs.

    • I would have said ‘sexy as hell’, but I also see it from your point of view. Remember Sony’s decapitated goat?

    • Hang on, hang on, let’s not go crazy here! What’s wrong with school uniforms!?

  • If I was Sony or Apple, I totally would have paid for this to happen. Really not hard to set up , particularly after knowing about the prior talk. MS totally got swatted lol

  • amateurs – would have just said it was going to be for some new, xbox exclusive Lolipop chainsaw content but they left the weapons in the cab

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