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The game industry’s problem with misogyny

By on July 23, 2014 1:29:48 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

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The Internet is toxic, but its toxicity is usually equal opportunity

One of the more annoying trends in our society has been the substitution of action with rhetoric.  This has really taken off in the age of Twitter where people think hashtags are a replacement for actually doing something.

Today I read an Opinion Piece on Polygon called “No Skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry”  by a woman named Brianna Wu. It's an article I recommend checking out.

However, I do have some criticisms of the piece. For starters, it is a bad piece of journalism. It relies completely on sensationalist emotionalism to back up its blanket assertion (“the daily harassment of women in the game industry”). 

Such articles, even opinion pieces, are apparently not open to discussion.  As soon as I expressed some criticism on Twitter the haters came out in force. All sense of reason evaporated.  My criticism was: Be aware that sometimes allegations of sexual harassment are false (remember what happened to me). Sometimes, some women choose to take criticism/teasing/abuse as being due to their sex. 

Let me give you the part from the article that caused me to write my tweet in the first place. 

This is the example Ms. Wu provides as an example of sexual harassment women face:

Two things to point out about this: First, anonymous user (which is one of the sources of why Internet discussion can get so toxic) and second, while clearly abusive, this has nothing to do with the writer being female.  I have gotten tweets to me very similar to this when I've made a casual tweet regarding a game console. Ask Phil Fish about internet abuse. Trolls will cater their trolling to their target.

The point of my tweet is that we need to be careful on this because *sometimes* the allegation that it's *sexual* harassment is false. 

The article provides 4 such anecdotes. The Internet has plenty of vile behavior that many of us run into regularly. But this article tries to make sweeping conclusions with it. I take issue with articles that make sweeping (and arguably sexist) charges against men using 4 anecdotes as evidence.

If we were debating any other topic and someone made a broad, far reaching claim and backed it up with nothing more than 4 anecdotal examples they’d get reamed.  But because we are talking about an ism, it is taboo to raise any skepticism about the article’s agenda.

I’ve been in the game industry a long time. I’ve seen its ugliness in many different forms. So let me tell you: This subject matter is delicate and should be treated as such. 

So let's look at the responses I got when I tweeted that women sometimes make false claims of "sexual harassment" when in fact what they received had nothing to do with their sex:

To which I respond:

Which gets:

Buzzfeed's Nicol Leffel goes right to name-calling almost immediately.

Ugh. There were much more vile responses than these but I blocked them and now I can't find them on twitter.  The point being, even attempting to discuss the topic invites assumptions of sexism and abuse.

There IS misogyny in the game industry but not where the professional victims would have you believe

The misogyny I've seen in our industry is not representative of game culture in general but is a manifestation of Internet toxicity. Let's start with the sexist reaction successful women in the game industry often receive. When a man does something impressive and gets some publicity, they get kudos and support.  But if a woman does something impressive and gets the same publicity, their experience is likely to be terrible and humiliating.  I’ve seen this first hand and it’s discouraging.  But it would be wrong to imply that this is a general issue. Internet culture is toxic.  

...But we have to be careful that this issue isn't exploited by opportunistic people to for professional or personal gain.

I have first hand experience with this. Those of you who know me know the hell I went through when I was falsely accused of "sexual harassment" by a former, opportunistic employee who was hoping for a quick pay off.  

Let me say it plainly: There are women who will exploit this delicate topic for financial or professional gain. Maybe they’re “journalists” who know it’s a quick, easy way to get their article published on Kotaku. Maybe it’s a former journalist whose just gotten into the game industry who wants her upcoming project to get coverage. Or maybe it’s a young woman mad at her boss who wants to exploit the issue to make money. And of course, maybe it’s a legitimate reporting on a serious problem. But sorry, I’m a skeptic now. I didn’t use to be such a skeptic but 2 years of unwarranted smears and death threats have made me take these claims with a grain of salt.

So what can we do?

I’m an engineer, I’m interested in solutions and I think there is a lot we can do to address this issue:

  1. Punish people who harass other people. I.e. Permanently ban someone who writes the kind of disgusting invective that the article cites.  XBox Live and other services allow for an immense level of abuse of all kinds. Don’t tolerate it anymore.
     
  2. Eliminate anonymous profiles on social networks like Xbox Live, Twitter, YouTube. Game sites could eliminate comment anonymity if they were genuinely concerned about this issue.  Anonymity has a place on the net -- forums, groups, etc.  But mainstream social networking should not be anonymous. Maybe it's not doable but as long as it is, trolls will be able to exploit this.
     (I've changed my mind on #2)

  3. Encourage / Reward those who actually DO something. The reason “white knighting” is despised is because it’s really about people making themselves feel good about themselves.   Less rewarding of progressive rhetoric and more reward of progressive action.
     
  4. Encourage people to talk about the transformative effects of a more diversified working environment. We hire a lot of women because it makes our products better. Not because women are “just as good” as men but rather because men and women bring unique strengths.

    Running a company dominated by one sex puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the talent area.  Men and women are different.  Here’s a “sexist” statement: It has been my experience that women are better at UI design than men. I have no idea why. That’s 20 years of observation talking. Men tend to be better at debugging. No idea why. Don’t care. Both seem to be equally effective at writing buggy code.

     
  5. Scrutinize and punish those who make false claims on this topic. We need to be very very careful about tarring and feathering people on this issue. Don’t reward those who are trying to profit from playing the sexism card.

Choose to be part of the solution: Do your part to make the Internet a less toxic environment. Don’t just blindly support empty, feel good pap. Keep your critical thinking cap on.

Update: Slashdot comments are very interesting and in stark contrast to the empty progressive rhetoric on Twitter. http://games-beta.slashdot.org/story/14/07/22/229256/the-daily-harassment-of-women-in-the-game-industry

Update 2: Added more content, added item #2 regarding anonymity. Fixed Typos. (see edit history).

Update 3: Added pics from Twitter.

Update 4: Typos, streamlined.

Update 5: Crossed out item 2. I've been persuaded that it's a bad idea. 

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July 25, 2014 9:48:45 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting myfist0,

EDIT: You have a company that has it's own forum. Go ahead, give it a try.

We don't actually need to...when you're running the Forum AND it's being policed you both know "WHO they are' AND have the opportunity to censure them if and when issues arise.

In general, anonymity protects the 'weak' ...or rather...protects the [potential] victim which is a PLUS.  Unfortunately it also empowers the troll and/or bully.

Win some....lose some...

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July 26, 2014 1:12:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Cauldyth,

And yeah, good question.  So why do Stardock forums allow anonymity?

 

 

For older customers (I believe pre-Impulse) , they can see the customer name associated with the account.

 

A big reason I don't use my real name, is because it is very similar with someone more well known, especially during my younger years.  I've also received some harassment before.


Also, as bad as trolling can be, the chilling effects that Brad is advocating for here would be much, much worse.  This is the reason these policies have failed in any democracy.  Freedom of speech is important, even if folks abuse it.

 

Quoting Cauldyth,

Oh, I absolutely believe you.  I have a male friend who decided, on a whim, to play a female character in Everquest back when it first came out.  The number of creepy borderline stalkers who came out of the woodwork was eye-opening.

Glad to hear nothing worse happened with your incident!

 

 

Why is that creepy?  About 10-20% of players do this. 

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July 26, 2014 2:56:56 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting myfist0,

Of all the woman I know, one played some stupid game called farmville or something, where every guy I know plays video games, so, let's be honest, who's the target audience of a company that want's to be successful?
If some woman wants to start a game company to make a product that I would think wouldn't have a hope in hell of competing with one designed for men as the target audience, all the power to her. I would wonder how many men were on that payroll though. But, if I was designing a game, I would have a direction in place and hire to fill the rolls of the work needing to get that goal accomplished. The last thing I would want on my team is someone trying to inject their ideology and then play the victim when I toss them out on their ass. I don't care if it is religion, gender ideology's, or whatever else is supposedly 'politically incorrect'.
To many times I have seen uproars on the webs about people changing the general direction a game has had for a long time and build up many followers.

1. Farmville isn't a game I would like but it has been massively inarguably successful. It is declining in membership now but still being updated from what I have read. Your friend may be playing Farmville 2 these days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmville_2 At its peak Farmville had more players than WoW and they were making a fortune on in game purchases. The thing was such a big deal that when Steve Jobs was still alive and demoing stuff he demoed Farmville, in case people might worry they wouldn't be able to play it on Apple gear. http://venturebeat.com/2011/07/05/even-with-half-the-users-zyngas-farmville-made-more-money-than-ever-before-in-q1/

2. What you are saying about women in games is really different from the experiences I have had, but I believe you that you only know one woman who plays video games. I know a lot of them, but that doesn't mean you do. I am guessing you aren't much of an MMO player if you have only known one woman who plays computer and video games in general. There are several MMOs which have in the past been reported to have over 50% female players. UO was reported to have about 51% at the peak of that game.  It wouldn't surprise me if LotRO is majority female these days but here is what data I can give you at the moment about computer and videogame demographics in the last 5 years. This is from 2009: http://blog.rjmetrics.com/2009/06/24/who-plays-mmos-an-analysis-of-mmorpg-player-demographics-and-mmorpg-player-stereotypes/

Fantastic and more recent data here, but warning, slow-loading pdf file: http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2013.pdf

And a non-pdf summary also from esa that loads a lot faster but leaves a lot out:

http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp 

Announcements from Microsoft and Nintendo here:

http://www.geekwire.com/2013/dudes-38-xbox-users-female-51-kids/

There's some argument about precise figures as to the percent of gamers that are female, but the general agreement that it is somewhere in the 40-50% range sounds about right to me on the games I play most. Right now that would be a terraformer MMO, an MMORPG, and an MMORTS for the online ones.

3. A woman starting a game company might not necessarily aim a game at women. I wouldn't. Not because it's impossible to succeed. It's not, as the Farmville example demonstrates. I just don't happen to believe that men and women have entirely different interests. There are plenty of games which appeal to both. I also feel men are perfectly capable of making games that appeal to girls. In fact, they already do. We will have to agree to disagree on this point. That's my opinion, and it's different from yours. We're both entitled to them. Why do you think a woman wouldn't hire men, or am I not understanding your payroll remark? Were you saying that, or are you saying she would have to hire mostly or all men, or neither of those things?

4. I do agree with you that changing the direction of a game or game series does often upset players. A game I really loved once did that, and 90% of the players quit within 1 month. It took them a long time to get players back, and if you went on an MMORPG today and announced in chat that you were a player there when that happened, you would get immediate pms from people who are *still* angry about it. I might be one of them.

If you ever want to see an online game where women are common, try a terraformer or an MMORTS right now. Pretty much any game with sandbox tendencies would work too.

note: edited to correct two typos

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July 26, 2014 7:45:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't understand why this is a problem. I don't even know what "misogony" really means. Guess it depends on who you ask.

If it means that you treat women differently than men, then so what!?   That companys loss if they don't want a female programmer if they believe men are better. They should be allowed to do that. Their call.

 

Also, asking women for pics is nothing strange. Guys are like that.

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July 26, 2014 7:51:25 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Campaigner,

Also, asking women for pics is nothing strange. Guys are like that.

Do it here to a fellow member and I'll have your balls.  It's the equivalent of stalking and an invasion of privacy.

The word you need to research is 'misogyny'   Spell checker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny 

Yes, even Wiki's definition will suffice.

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July 26, 2014 8:58:48 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Meryse,

Why do you think a woman wouldn't hire men, or am I not understanding your payroll remark? Were you saying that, or are you saying she would have to hire mostly or all men, or neither of those things?

All I stated, was it would be interesting to see the demographics.

I live in southern Ontario, where for almost a hundred years, it has been known as the industrial hub of north america. We have seen preferential treatment for curtain groups in all factories, lots based on religion, some on race. If a Mormon owned the factory, guess what religion most of the employees were, if the owner was German, guess what language most people spoke were. Not ever did I hear people moan and complain because you could cross the street and get another job that paid as well or better. 

Now, with the patriarchy all the rage, I can easily see a woman that owned a company giving preferential treatment to woman candidates, not that it would or did happen, I would just be curious to see the numbers.

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July 26, 2014 9:22:27 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,

Why is that creepy?  About 10-20% of players do this. 

You're asking me why stalking is creepy? Uhhhh....

 

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July 26, 2014 9:33:08 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Jafo,

Do it here to a fellow member and I'll have your balls.  It's the equivalent of stalking and an invasion of privacy.

 

While I have no intention of asking for anyone's picture, asking for it ONCE is not stalking or an invasion of privacy.

Especially considering many people willingly post their picture on Facebook, and plaster the Internet with their selfies.

However, repeatedly asking for a picture, sending unsolicited pictures, making threats, or other repetitive unsolicited request is stalking and harassment.

 

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July 26, 2014 9:36:03 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

He's not asking you why stalking is creepy, he's asking you why losers in MMO's asking for cybersex is creepy.  They constitute a rather large percentage of the player base.

 

Normal people might find it rather disturbing, but unfortunately many MMO players are anything but normal.

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July 26, 2014 9:37:42 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Cauldyth,

Oh, I absolutely believe you.  I have a male friend who decided, on a whim, to play a female character in Everquest back when it first came out.  The number of creepy borderline stalkers who came out of the woodwork was eye-opening.

Glad to hear nothing worse happened with your incident!

.

 

Quoting Alstein,

Why is that creepy?  About 10-20% of players do this. 

.

 

Quoting Cauldyth,

You're asking me why stalking is creepy? Uhhhh....

I think he is referring to men pretending to be woman online. I have heard of this, and men/boys will often white knight for players they believe are girls/woman. The guy's I heard of doing this get a kick out of people going out of their way to help them. "creepy borderline stalkers" can be very subjective, I would need to see examples as I have seen very bad behavior directed at everyone in gaming. Again, this is not just a woman issue, assholes just direct their attacks based on what will hurt the most.

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July 26, 2014 9:39:23 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting psychoak,

He's not asking you why stalking is creepy, he's asking you why losers in MMO's asking for cybersex is creepy.  They constitute a rather large percentage of the player base.

 

Normal people might find it rather disturbing, but unfortunately many MMO players are anything but normal.

 

 

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July 26, 2014 9:53:46 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Borg999,

While I have no intention of asking for anyone's picture, asking for it ONCE is not stalking or an invasion of privacy.
Especially considering many people willingly post their picture on Facebook, and plaster the Internet with their selfies.
However, repeatedly asking for a picture, sending unsolicited pictures, making threats, or other repetitive unsolicited request is stalking and harassment.

Symantics...but an unsolicited approach towards an individual is intrusive and can be invasive.  It's not necessary for there to be repetition.  For example...one hit constitutes assault.  There IS no need for a second... 

If a person chooses to post their pic on social media that's their choice.  Having someone request them to do so can be intimidating.

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July 26, 2014 10:04:29 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Jafo,

If a person chooses to post their pic on social media that's their choice.  Having someone request them to do so can be intimidating.

That would depend on previous interactions, twice I was asked for a picture and was not intimidated at all. The 1st was with someone I have had many previous dialogues with and I was happy to supply, the other was from someone on the 1st chat, and they were told to go pound salt.

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July 26, 2014 10:18:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, the exact phrase I used was "creepy borderline stalkers."  I never referred to men playing female characters as creepy, nor did I refer to hitting on people online as creepy.  Stalking is more than just asking someone for (cyber)sex.  If that's all it took to be considered a stalker, then bars would be full of stalkers!


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July 26, 2014 10:20:50 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting myfist0,

That would depend on previous interactions, twice I was asked for a picture and was not intimidated at all. The 1st was with someone I have had many previous dialogues with and I was happy to supply, the other was from someone on the 1st chat, and they were told to go pound salt.

Yes...assuming there's a mutually agreeable on-going interaction it isn't going to be so much of an issue.  Where the problem arises is when the veil of 'anonymity' empowers one to inappropriately approach another.

What's most frustrating/disappointing is when a topic/thread re misogyny such as Frogboy's attracts 'neanderthal' responses.

Stardock's site admins tend to [mostly] sit on the side, keeping track of who's doing what to whom, and when/if it becomes a problem the problem is removed.

99.999% of Forum interaction is 100% affable.

The other 0.001% ?.... we have good friends...the sort that helps hide the bodies...

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July 26, 2014 10:28:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So that's what "bush tucker" actually is!

 

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July 26, 2014 10:47:15 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Jafo,


Quoting Borg999,

While I have no intention of asking for anyone's picture, asking for it ONCE is not stalking or an invasion of privacy.
Especially considering many people willingly post their picture on Facebook, and plaster the Internet with their selfies.
However, repeatedly asking for a picture, sending unsolicited pictures, making threats, or other repetitive unsolicited request is stalking and harassment.



Symantics...but an unsolicited approach towards an individual is intrusive and can be invasive.  It's not necessary for there to be repetition.  For example...one hit constitutes assault.  There IS no need for a second...  

If a person chooses to post their pic on social media that's their choice.  Having someone request them to do so can be intimidating.

I don't think a single request is de-facto harassment, and it's more than semantics. As not everyone asking for a picture has malicious intent, and it should not be automatically treated as such.

My primary concern is with definitions and standards becoming so narrow and extreme, that people become afraid of interacting with each other. Along the lines of what Brad said in an earlier post, it creates an environment where people are" walking on eggshells".

 

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July 26, 2014 10:52:33 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Borg999,

My primary concern is with definitions and standards becoming so narrow and extreme, that people become afraid of interacting with each other. Along the lines of what Brad said in an earlier post, it creates an environment where people are" walking on eggshells".

Very good point, and I totally agree.

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July 26, 2014 11:50:24 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting myfist0,

I live in southern Ontario, where for almost a hundred years, it has been known as the industrial hub of north america. We have seen preferential treatment for curtain groups in all factories, lots based on religion, some on race. If a Mormon owned the factory, guess what religion most of the employees were, if the owner was German, guess what language most people spoke were. Not ever did I hear people moan and complain because you could cross the street and get another job that paid as well or better.

Thanks for clarifying and giving me a clearer picture of where you are coming from culturally. I wasn't sure how to interpret that other post. Unfortunately I don't know as much about Canadian culture and law as I would like to know. I have a lot going on today but I have saved some links to read.

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July 26, 2014 1:07:20 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Meryse,

Thanks for clarifying and giving me a clearer picture of where you are coming from culturally. I wasn't sure how to interpret that other post. Unfortunately I don't know as much about Canadian culture and law as I would like to know. I have a lot going on today but I have saved some links to read.

I should have mentioned it's not at all like that anymore. We are basically the same as the U.S. when it comes to affirmative action, walking on egg shells when ever you speak, so many regulations that I don't blame companies for closing up shop except maybe when it comes to health and safety or polluting. 

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July 26, 2014 2:38:44 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Quoting Cauldyth,


Quoting Alstein,


Why is that creepy?  About 10-20% of players do this. 



You're asking me why stalking is creepy? Uhhhh....

 

 

People rolling chars of the opposite sex, not stalking.

 

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July 26, 2014 4:25:37 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

There are many on these forums whose posts and avatars are so neutral that I have no idea of their gender.  And don't care one way or the other.  Most don't bother to disguise their gender, but if they do, consciously or otherwise, that's OK.

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July 26, 2014 5:27:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,

People rolling chars of the opposite sex, not stalking.

Okay, that's not what I was implying in the original comment.  I have no problem with that.

 

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July 26, 2014 8:28:23 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Good article, Borg.  Thanks.

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