Why the video game industry needs to take the initiative in gender equality

Rather than be gently prompted or decide to get there “some day”, I challenge video game companies to take the lead on instigating a change in their CIS, straight, male privilege-based culture from the inside. NOW.

I posted the following comment on a video about Eve Online and received such vitriolic responses I just sat there with my jaw open.  I’d seen it happening to Anita Sarkeesian, Laci Green, and other feminists who spoke out about misogyny, but somehow figured it was because of the size of their audience or their internet celebrity.  Nope, even little ol’ me, who just likes to geek out at home and play video games.  Raise your voice about injustice and the trolls come calling.

Me: “Distinct lack of female gamer representation is disheartening. Have you forgotten that we make up half the population, CCP?

I played Eve and I loved the space travel, but there was even less character interaction than in WoW. Not to mention, you must PvP or take the slow route. I know their big claim at the time was one giant universe, but I would have been much happier with a PvE server. I was in the military at the time. Fighting real people was work; gaming (fake fighting, when it happens at all) is escape. Have recently discovered the Dragon Age franchise and, despite the lack of space travel, am much happier with the character devepment options. I think even having some animated cut scenes in Eve would have made it more personal than it was. And yes to all the previous comments about it being a grind to get a decent ship.”

4tech69: “I’d like to be the first to tell you to FUCK OFF.”

Matthew Dann: “Keep your feminist bullshit to yourself”

darkaircath: “Dragon Age is terrible, just absolutely terrible feminist pandering writing, and its not even good writing.”

microice1994: “Get back to the kitchen, bitch.”

Lilliath: “Maybe if any female fans had submitted their voice chats you numpty.”

Noah C.: “cry about it. I doubt there is a lack of female voices on purpose. Quit trying to turn this into something it isn’t, go on tumblr or something.

How threatening my comment must be to these people hiding behind their keyboards that they feel the need to spew such hate.  Really, is equality – or even just differing opinions on game design – such a frightening thing?

I understand that some of this is simply the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory at work, but the fact that these folks have all the skills to make the world a better place – access to a computer and the internet, the ability to read, time to play video games – and all they do is spew hatred is disappointing, to say the least.

What can be done about it?  Organisations such as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, The Representation Project, Emma Watson’s HeForShe project with the UN, numerous journalists and vloggers, as well as academics, are working to bring awareness about why representation and equality are important. The ones who can really implement meaningful change, however, are the manufacturers themselves.

Dataspelsbranschen, the Swedish Games Industry, wants to introduce a gender equality label for video games.  I have it on good authority that Blizzard Entertainment has, on occasion, brought in guest speakers to discuss diversity with their staff.  Bioware, as previously mentioned, will proudly and openly give the smackdown to any straight, CIS, male gamer who gripes about the diverse nature of the sexual relationships portrayed in their games. These are absolutely steps in the right direction. But it needs to go further – these companies need to make a conscious effort to build diversity, equality, and inclusivity into their hiring practices and staffing choices, their games, and their marketing. “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Sally Ride

While it may be argued that art is merely a reflection of life, that is clearly not the case when it comes to mass media. News channels, television, films, gaming, and even the language we use all have tremendous influence on how we perceive our world. Nichelle Nichols, the woman best known for her portrayal of Lt. Uhura on the original Star Trek, knows this even more deeply than most: at a time when she was considering quitting the show, she was told, by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that she must carry on. Why? Because representation matters.

Supporting diversity is the responsible, “right side of history” thing to do. I challenge you, CCP (EveOnline), Blizzard Entertainment, BioWare (and Electronic Arts), Square Enix, Bungie, and all the other video game manufacturers out there to make the commitment to transform the atmosphere of the industry into one of respect and inclusion. Your fan base will grow, your wallets will fatten, and you’ll be doing a service for the good of humankind.  Why would you NOT step up to the plate?

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