With the Game Developers Conference in full swing, a lot of developers feel the need to impress fans and game journalists by throwing swanky parties. Mojang, the studio behind everyone’s favorite LEGO-set-disguised-as-a-video-game, Minecraft, threw their own party under the title “.party0” that included an appearance by Skrillex.
But there was controversy brewing, and it had nothing to do with questionable taste in music. Several tweets went out in the late hours of the night that claimed there were attractive women who were paid to mingle in the V.I.P. lounge. Now, this is being denied by Minecraft’s creator Notch, but it’s blowing up in their faces regardless of whether it’s true or not.
While I agree that paying attractive women to go to parties that cater to a mostly male audience is a bit sleazy, it’s nothing new in the gaming industry. This sort of thing happens all the freaking time, in fact. E3 is a prime example, where booth babes run amok wearing as little as possible and cuddling up with game journalists who probably aren’t used to being around attractive women.
And that actually brings me to an interesting point. Male gamers tend to be uncomfortable around women. Well, at least that’s how the stereotype goes. But in my experience, I’ve seen at least a kernel of truth to this longstanding stereotype.
And herein lies a problem: Gamers tend to not know how to react to the presence of women in the industry. So when maybe-true/maybe-completely-bogus events like this .party0 controversy happen, gamers don’t respond properly. The instant reaction is to assume the role of the “White Knight” and come to “the aid” of these women. I mean, it worked for Mario and Link, right?
So we get up in arms, stand on our podiums, and voice our outcry publically. To me, this reeks of hypocrisy, or, at the very least, ulterior motives. I think a lot of male gamers act outraged over women’s issues because it makes them seem “cooler” to attractive women. Something along the lines of, “Hey, maybe now that I’m actively talking about gender equality, I’ll finally get a chance to touch a set of boobs!” Though we may deny it, there is at least a seed of this thought process lingering in our subconscious.
And so we, as a general collective of male gamers, overreact to these things. We don’t study women’s suffrage, or delve into the history of the women’s rights movement, or even, I don’t know, talk to a woman and ask her how she feels about the whole thing. No, that would be too scary. Too much work. But becoming upset about “gender issues,” to the point of feeling it necessary to call out game developers for hiring attractive women at events, that’s easy.
What we, as an industry, need at this point is a real conversation. Not the surface-level “Hey! Why are there booth babes at E3?” conversations we’ve been having, but an actual real conversation with real people who have real stories to tell. Let’s look at the ratio of males to females who are actually working in the industry. Let’s look at the way we treat our real-life female acquaintances instead of the digital representations we see in games or the young women who are trying to get started in a modeling career and do events like E3 because they can actually get a paycheck doing something they enjoy. And let's maybe learn some freaking history before jumping into the complex issue of gender roles/equality headfirst.
Is this too much to ask?
Editor / Social Media
Date: March 29, 2013