IGDA draws backlash, member resignations over female dancers at GDC party (update: IGDA responds)

The International Game Developers Association is under fire for its GDC 2013 party, which featured scantily clad female dancers, leading game designer Brenda Romero and other members of the organization to resign today.

"I went home last night to work on my Friday GDC talk feeling super uplifted by the turnout and support for the #1ReasonToBe panel," Romero told Polygon in a statement today. "I woke up to DMs, texts and links to news of the IGDA party. It really saddens me. I have been a long-time supporter of the IGDA. However, my silence would have been complicity. I had no choice. And just hours after our panel, too."

According to a report from a Forbes contributor, the party, which was sponsored by social and mobile funding outfit YetiZen, featured "at least three girls in white outfits — one was in a skimpy t-shirt one was in this weird furry get-up-dancing" on a stage. The report, from a student developer named Alicia Avril, questioned why the dancers would be present at an IGDA event, given the advocacy-centric nature of the organization.

"Knowing there are such concerned women as members of this group, you'd think that the IGDA would be more thoughtful in their own party and how they're portraying themselves," Avril wrote.

Following the event, at least two IGDA board members have resigned from the organization publicly on Twitter. Brenda Romero, who spoke yesterday on a panel about the challenges women face in the gaming industry, stepped down from her place on the board of the IGDA's Women in Games special interest group.

IGDA board of directors member Coray Seifert responded to Romero's posting of the Forbes article on Facebook, apologizing for the tone of the party while making it clear that his statements do not reflect an official IGDA response.

"My personal reaction (NOT a response from the IGDA or representative of any other board members): This sucks and I'm sorry we let it happen," Seifert wrote. "I would humbly ask folks to please come to the annual meeting today. Let's work together to make the IGDA a better org."

Independent programmer and developer Darius Kazemi also resigned from the organization, noting that his tenure as board of directors member with the IGDA was about to terminate, anyways.

Kazemi added that he had "massive reservations using YetiZen as our sponsor the second year in a row after they burned us last year by using scantily clad women," and apologized for not speaking up about the partnership before the party. He also tweeted that though it was IGDA's decision to partner with YetiZen for the party, it "was not an IGDA call to have specific entertainment."

Courtney Stanton, founder of the group Women In Games Boston, also reported on Twitter that the organization had pulled its support for the IGDA.

We've reached out to representatives for the IGDA to comment on the party, and the backlash it has inspired.

Update: Jay Margalus, chair of the local IGDA Chicago branch, has also stepped down from his role with the organization, he announced on Twitter today.

C2E2 is the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, where IGDA Chicago is slated to present three panels and host a booth on the show floor. Margalus first posted about his frustration with the IGDA on his personal blog two months ago, after the organization was not invited to participate in talks at the White House regarding violence in video games — a subject examined heavily following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

"It's nobody's fault, per-se," Margalus wrote. "But what the hell are we all doing if we're not getting a seat at the table of important talks like this? What's the purpose of an organization that claims to represent the industry if we aren't invited to represent it at the places that matter the most?"

The IGDA still has not issued an official response to these departures, however, a representative for the organization told Develop to expect a comment later today.

Update 2: IGDA executive director Kate Edwards responded to the backlash from yesterday evening's party during the organization's annual meeting at GDC 2013.

"As many of you know, the IGDA was a co-presenter of the YetiZen party Tuesday evening," Edwards said. "We recognize that some of the performers' costumes at the party were inappropriate, and also some of the activities they performed were not what we expected or approved. We regret that the IGDA was involved in this situation. We do not condone activities that objectify or demean women or any other group of people.

"One of the core values of the IGDA is encouraging inclusion and diversity," Edwards added. "Obviously we need to be more vigilant in our efforts. We intend to be so in the future."

Update 3: Edwards provided more detail, explaining how the event with YetiZen came together, and saying that she hopes those who resigned from the IGDA in the wake of the party will return to the organization.

Alexa Ray Corriea and Megan Farokhmanesh contributed to this report.

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