I never really intended to write something about this topic. It's not that I feel it should be dismissed, but I think it's been getting a lot of coverage as it is from some very influencial individuals. And just to clarify; this is a good thing. It's great to see so many figures raising these issues up, it needs to be done.
Personally, I'm not the talking type. I'm as introverted as they come and because of that, it leads me to think practically at times and rather than talk about issues, I like to talk about actions. I want to discuss what can be done, I like to see progress rather than recycled discussion. A lot of people are happy to talk though, and only talk. And it's this that leads to where I am in writing this.
I applaud those with the bravery to speak up. But speaking up only goes so far, and I think it's about time more was done. The video gaming media over the last few years have been aggressively focused on these issues of gender and marketing related to that. To be honest, reading another story about the topic and the way it is delivered, is starting to become a bit tiring. It's become stagnate, and frankly out of touch with some of the actual changes in the industry and the current status of it.
One major issue with this is that the video game media's constant focus on only one side of this topic, paints the medium in a very bad light, one that has gotten to a point of being mostly inaccurate due to there being no progression in the commentary of these problems. Saying that games are for targeting guys is flat-out false. Saying that all women in games are sexy ladies is false. Saying that online spaces are purely vile places is false.
Now, I won't say they are false due to being simply ignorant to the issues, but I will say they are false because there is no consideration for the progression. Or that no one is willing to highlight where it is being done right. It seems that regurgitating the same negatives is more an interest right now than saying; "hey, this is how it should be done, and this works. Let's keep this up.".
Someone may say that nothing has changed, and that it is still the same as it has always been, and that is why the issues are still discussed in the way that they are. But that would just be a lie.
I'm not too sure the best way to go about this, and I'm sure I won't be able to cover everything, so I'll try and break it down into some smaller topics:
Games Are Targeting Only Males:
This is an issue because it is used as a trigger for saying that woman play games too, and it's as though the industry is not aware that there is a large female player base.
This is wrong. A small percentage of AAA games are targeting males, yes. Like all media will at points target a specific group, like Otaku, Kids, Sports fans, etc... But not only are most AAA games not gender specific, but also the vast majority of Mobile, Indie, Handheld basically anything outside AAA are not gender specific. And you know what? Developers know this. They know there is a huge female player base, that's why these game do not solely target a male audience.
The vast majority of games are not tailored towards males. So instead of constantly bringing up Hitman's trailer, why not look at the overwhelming percentage of games that are doing it right. That are not selling to a specific audience, but to a player instead. Would half of the gamers in the world be women if all games were targeting males? Would some female gamers have been gaming for 20+ years if games were only targeting males? Would the female player base be growing (as it is!) if games only targeted the male player base?
There is a real problem, and one that causes damage when the press decide to highlight one thing which allows the mass market to skew their view on games. From the outside, seeing this would make one assume all gaming is this way, and all gamers play because of this content. But they don't, the grand gaming audience can happily play with a lifetime of choices without ever needing to run into this content. So why would the media want to make it seem that this is what we have to play?
Bad Employment Opportunities for Woman:
The fact that this is still the case to an extent globally is not an excuse for the game industry to slip into this trend - or not claw there way out of it perhaps... There are issues, big problems still to be resolved. And the media and those women in games have done a pretty solid job of bringing these issues to light, but that's as far as it has gone.
The issue here is that no one (bar the almost forgotten flip-side of the #onereasonwhy), seems to care about who or what is being done right. Were it is working, or cataloging the change. Because there is change, and it is changing still.
My current studio has a split workforce of maybe 65% male, and 35% female. The female workforce takes up roles in Design, Production, Programming, Art and QA. This is going back when my previous studio likely had around a 95% male workforce. That was about 7 years a go or so. But each year there were not only more females being employed, there were more females looking for work. As the applications have increased, so has the balance. So keep doing it, keep applying for jobs! It's working!
Anecdotal some may say. And if that is your attitude towards actual, physical progression, then so be it. But simply repeating that it's a stale issue is incorrect. Awareness only goes so far, you need to start to point out what this awareness is doing. It is changing things, and this is how it can continue to change. But change the record! Be honest, tell the truth of the positives and not just the downsides. How can I know the right way, if no one is willing to show me?
Is it believed that creating the impression that wherever a female game developer goes to work will be a terrible experience, really the way to encourage more women to enter the industry? Or is it better encouragement to say; "Yes, it can be hard, we're not there yet and your damn right things need to change, but some places are doing it right and you will find enjoyment at work. Give it a shot!".
Do the media have something against showing what is being done? Is that story not interesting?
There is the opinion that male gamers stereotype female gamers. They get tagged with terms like ugly, fat, nerdy and even fake. Now, I'm certainly not going to say this is untrue, because it really does happen. But once more, we do like that big broad brush in the gaming medium, so it's been applied once more.
Usually when this is brought up, some female gamers will say this is how male gamers are, call out "Boys Club" and so on. So it ends up becoming a pathetic tit-for-tat. Girls are this, so then that means guys are this. Seriously, this is what the gaming community is?
You know though, it's not like that. Because outside of the dysfunctional types, who seem to be happy to play and communicate with those that seem to offend each other with every word, there is a massive group of male and female gamers who happily play together without any issue at all. And how do they do that? Respect. Mutual respect.
The male gamers in this group do not stereotype female gamers, and also, the female gamers do not stereotype the male gamers too. Everyone can seemingly co-exist by being normal.
I honestly don't care about the male or female groups of gamers that want to concentrate on calling each other out and making one to be a smaller minded group than the other. I don't think that a niche of males or females is representation for the whole world. And I believe that this is the what should be highlighted. That the vast majority of people do play well together, do share experiences. That there does exist a complete level of respect between gamers.
Have we played against the opposite sex before and had a nasty experience? Sure, but we know that this is not the norm. This is not what male gamers are and this is not what female gamers are. Why do we know this? Because we have had the positive experiences, so why don't those experiences get focused on? Where is the article talking about male and female gaming communities playing together? Does that not get the hits?
This does not mean that the issues do not get talked about, it means that the issues are presented with an action to take. This is the problem, and this is how it is being solved, now do more.
This isn't so much as a conclusion, as it is a way to cleanly separate this from the above text. It just makes things a but tidier for me in a formatting sense...
If anyone is reading from this that I am saying the problems are solved, or the problems don't exist, then you are either reading it completely wrong or I didn't convey myself clearly enough. I am not saying that issues don't exist, I am not saying that we shouldn't talk about these issues, I am simply asking that we start talking about the current status as a whole.
This is not only games that are guilty of this. We talk progression, but not actually about progress. We ask for action, but don't say what can be done. It's shouting for the sake of shouting, and claiming to raise awareness only gets so far. If something needs to be done, you have to get into gear. If you don't know how, you take a positive example. And it's this that is currently missing. But it's not missing because it isn't there, it's missing because no one is bothered to talk about it.
We constantly hear the media and vocal gamers talk of acceptance of the medium. It's status and it's audience as a whole. We still try and shake off the stigma of it being an immature pastime, regardless of what statistics may suggest. But what can we really expect when what we share is the worst side of the industry and the community. We only seem to be interested in discussing what it can't do. We then find we can't defend our stance against people who don't appreciate the medium, because we are left to back ourselves up with the published information that says those who play and make games are assholes.
I just think it's about time we saw a little more constructive reporting. Highlighting progression, as well as sharing the issues. I love this medium. I love the job I do and appreciate every individual I work with. I love the gaming communities that I have been a part of, they are filled with some of the brightest, friendliest and most passionate people I have had a pleasure of meeting - You guys who are here too! And the fact that the media seems happy to paint it all in a single negative light, is something that I find incredibly disappointing.