What I often do at 3am, exhausted, yet unable to sleep, I sometimes browse on my twitter, reading banal nonsense to further raise my ire for the human race and listen to Tom Waits to restore my faith in humanity. While I was browsing through it, I seen someone use a hashtag thing called #no1reasonwhy and I was struck by the responses by various women involved in the game industry. Luke Crane, who works at Kickstarter as a Games Project Specialist and self-publishes his own RPGs asked the question “Why are there so few lady game creators?” which caused a flurry of responses and became a growing discussion about sexism within the game industry, with women involved in the game industry sharing their discontent and negative experiences with the public in an ever evolving conversation with various tweets to and fro. Here is a little rundown of the various tweets from the start that has been helpfully been collected by Post-Teen McDaldno which you can see here. Here is also a collection of the tweets that have been made on twitter. It’s quite interesting to see how social media is being used in this way to highlight an issue that may show a seedier undercurrent to the whole game industry in general.
Conversations of this nature have to be discussed openly and without the need for preferential treatment towards women who are working in the industry. I’m not going to deny that there is a lack of women in gaming because I only own one game that was made by a woman called Junko Kawano, who made the excellent, yet under-rated Shadow of Memories. Yet, there is also a distinct under-representation of minorities being part of the game industry as well. LGBT, black, hispanic, etc are also underrepresented in gaming, in both the industry and in gaming itself. These issues need to be addressed of course, and with due time, eventually there will be more diversity within the gaming industry and in games in general. However, one cannot force change in a sudden manner and claim that they should hire people, purely based upon skin colour, gender, sexuality to merely fulfill a quota.
As an Egalitarian, I believe that all people are equal, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual preference. What matters is whether or not a person is suitably qualified to do the job and that they aren’t chosen because there is a quota to be filled. As you can guess, I’m not a fan of affirmative action, due to it being counter-productive and belittling the achievements of a person from a particular social group. Think about it. Imagine that someone says to you that you were chosen for a job, not because you were the best qualified for it, but because you happened to belong to a certain social group. Now, that might sound exaggerated but it’s not. It’s utterly patronizing and it does perfectly capable people; a grave injustice to be picked for their gender/race/sexuality rather than their actual talent.
Now, take for example Jerry Lawson. Hailed as a pioneer in the video game industry for developing the first cartridge based system, the Fairchild Channel F, he also happened to be black and grew up in the U.S. in the 1940s, where racial tension and conflict was a normal part of life. He didn’t allow for his colour to be a barrier to become an engineer and to gradually become involved in the early days of the video game industry. I quote this from this insightful interview by Ben Edwards provided here.
“You’ll find some people out there that will help you. And they’re not always black, of course. They’re white. ‘Cause when you start to get involved in certain practices and certain things you want to do, you’re colorless.”
Now, people may argue that he was the exception to the rule, but it should be noted that this was when the US was racially divided and to achieve what he did is staggering on the face of it. Jerry Lawson never allowed for his colour to get in the way of his ambition, nor did he allow the times to pigeonhole him. I like to believe that we live in a far more enlightened age, even though I have growing doubts on that. There is far more opportunity out there for people of all kinds to be involved in the gaming industry, compared to Lawson’s time and it shouldn’t be an impediment towards a career in game development if you happen to be a woman, gay, black, hispanic, etc. However, if there are certain groups of publishers and developers who are actively discriminating against people because of their gender, race, sexuality; that is a serious problem that needs to be tackled .
As I have been writing this out, the collection of tweets grow ever larger in support of this twitter movement. Such is the nature of social media I assume. I will make one more final point. If what the collective twitterers are saying is true; then it is a problem that will have to be handled with the utmost care and to be discussed rationally. However, I would like to point out that there are far worse things than discrimination in the work place. Take for instance, this story about Saudi Arabia tracking their women electronically. I know that women have a tough time getting their voices heard in the gaming industry that is often depicted as sexist or even misogynistic and it’s always important to challenge the status quo and to allow the industry to progress as a medium.
But it could always be worse. You might not even have a voice.
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