By the time you read this, it’ll probably be over. The hashtag #1reasonwhy was an outlet for female game devs to talk about their struggles. There’s a decent archive here that covers at least the solid beginning, before people like me devolved the voices.
Now, I am a white male – the demographic of antagonism in this case. But as a kid designer who forcibly broke into the field and ended up with relative success leading to a happy career, I wanted to write this encouragement: we are riding the wave of indie awesomeness. There has been no better time to do it yourself than right now.
A few notes: it seems like a lot of the complaints naturally leaned into sexism and I wanted to clarify that there are two types going on here. The first, sexism in the games themselves. We all know the Lara Croft types that are preposterously sexualized because the target market is nerdy white boys. Then, there’s the sexism in the market itself where the devs (being female) are outcasted by the older white nerdy boys. Neither of them cool, but they bannerhead my two points.
1. The market is literally begging for story based games. We’ve accomplished graphics to a level where, while they can always get better, it’s not really a limiting factor anymore. We’ve moved beyond the pixel-cum-story limitations of Space Invaders and find ourselves in deeply interactive, visually immersive and musically rich gameplay. A perfect canvas for stories. I tweeted a few, but off the top of my head: Portal, Portal 2, Half Life, Limbo, Gravity Bone, Thirty Flights of Loving, Mirror’s Edge, Bastion, Braid, Cave Story, World of Goo, Mark of the Ninja, The Stanley Parable, Every Day the Same Dream, and so forth. Games with stories and little to no sexuality. Then there’s games with mediocre to no story and fantastic gameplay: Jamestown, Greed Corp. Dustforce, Super Meat Boy, N+, Team Fortress 2, Faster Than Light and so on. After that there’s games that don’t feature humans at all: Geometry Wars, most racing games and simulators, etc. Ladies: you can make these games and entirely avoid all mention of sexuality. Tell good stories. We yearn for good stories and while this past year has actually been really good for them, it’s a rare thing from AAA titles. That’s why we’re loving all over the indie titles (how many AAA titles are above?). I mean, Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights were both made entirely by one guy. It could easily have been one lady, which brings me to my next point:
2. Don’t break in. Build up. I don’t want to accuse anyone of whining, but it seems like the hashtag series pointed to ladies wanting to be part of the club and being rejected. I’m not saying that’s fair or right, but I am saying that talents can be taken elsewhere. You don’t need their silly club anyway. You have Kickstarter. You have a better measure of success. You have stories and passion and you’re being handed this worldwide megaphone called the internet. Make your games with strong females leads. Honestly, had Bastion starred a female, it would have made no difference to the game, but it would have been a notable win for you. Same with Limbo. Same with most of the games there. World of Goo doesn’t even have human characters. Mirror’s Edge and Portal already feature non-sexualized female protagonists. GLADoS is a disembodied female voice and one of the best characters probably ever. Be the developer, be the studio. Make what you want to see and forget the boy’s club even exists.
2.5. Work together. No man – or woman, as it were – is an island. Find people with your aspirations and help each other. Not just in a direct way, not just in a “I’m dev, she’s art and she’s music” role division way, but help each other as members of your group. One thing I love Twitter for, and this is an observation of guys, is that we’re constantly back and forth on “is this good?” – asking strangers who follow you – and offering to buy each other drinks. We are an estranged family, held together by the common thread of being designers or being coders or being whatever. Find your community and love each other. Competition can hurt or help you; shape it.
I don’t see any reason why, in the day and age of successful self publishing, you matter. Tall, short, thin, fat, male, female, young, old. So what? You’re a name on the computer screen and a talent. If your talent is good, you will rise. The internet is a meritocracy assuming all news spread equally. My main advice to anyone is get over yourself. You’re not a martyr for a demographic. You are a singular human and you’re allowed to do whatever the heck you want to do.
Do it well.