PSA: On Being a Woman and Making Videogames

There are far fewer women than there are men doing videogame development in Argentina: we don’t have the exact numbers as of yet, but there should be a FundAV survey soon that will provide us with concrete data on the matter. What we do know is that they exist, they’re professionals just as capable as their counterparts of the opposite sex, and they work in every role and capacity necessary for the development of a videogame. That’s to say, there are women who program, who do QA, who make art, design UIs, animate, do game design, make music, and produce.

The problems that we women suffer from in the industry and which have kept our ranks low don’t stem from our affinities or our aptitudes for the job. They stem from misogyny. We have to endure misogyny from the day we’re born, it pursues us well into adulthood, and it is often what puts us in our graves. It is not exclusive to communities of game developers, but it is bad enough that women are quitting the industry in far greater numbers than their male counterparts.

Depression Quest - Zoe Quinn (2013)
Depression Quest – Zoe Quinn (2013)

Since I was born my family has been saying that “women are inferior”, that they’re “bad at math and sports”, that “they’re too sensitive”, and that “they must behave properly, like ladies.” Even the women said these things, although only the men went as far as to proclaim the inferiority of the female gender. Since I turned 13 I have not been able to go outside without the chance of suffering from street harassment, and the only response I got from my parents was that if I didn’t want that to happen I should dress like a nun. Now that I carry pepper spray on my backpack where everyone can see it, the creeps keep a lot more quiet, but I can still see them looking at me, looking at my backpack, and keeping quiet.

Once I had to resign from a job because of severe cases of misogyny. There were jobs in which I suffered from light misogyny every day, others in which it happens every once in a while, but I like programming way too much to abandon the field just because people say stupid shit, especially since it’s the same shit I hear everywhere else. The most common issue has been that sometimes employers won’t hire me because I ask for the same wage as a man for doing the same tasks with the same skill. Nevertheless, I’m lucky, because after several years of hanging in there, these things don’t happen to me so often anymore.

I’m lucky because I was always able to swear at or hit the occasional creep, I’m lucky because I never had to drop out of university due to harassment — but I know women who think they were the lucky ones because the harassment stopped after they dropped out. We all believe we’re lucky because we still haven’t come across someone that has killed us for being women.

In the videogame development community things are usually a bit more easygoing: when the subject comes up men give their opinions, very often misinformed, about why we women don’t make games, about why it’s not a problem because it doesn’t happen to them, and about why, as long as we are the very best Pokémon masters of programming or dedicate ourselves to sensible professions fitting with the affinities of our gender — like music, or design, or art — we shouldn’t have any trouble. Every once in a while some douchebag will express their wish to form a Latin American equivalent of that movement created to harass, silence, and terrify women from  being part of the industry with the facade of protecting the objectivity of videogame journalism — but since it’s just a personal opinion, no one cares.

 

Plundered Hearts - Amy Briggs (1987)
Plundered Hearts – Amy Briggs (1987)

The problem of misogyny in society and in the videogame development community exists and has many facets, some more subtle than others. That’s why when the subject comes up in the DUVAL Facebook group or among people I meet at events, I try to be patient and explain the problem with composure. Because even though it’s not my obligation, it would be great for these things to stop happening and for people to stop treating those who point out these problems as crazy or genocidal. It would also be great if when we pointed out the subtler aspects of these matters we weren’t treated as if we were exaggerating.

That’s to say, I hope that when the conversation of why there aren’t many women in the world of videogames comes up, people won’t speak from ignorance; I hope they will ask women about their experiences and listen to what they have to say. Am I asking for too much? I don’t think so.

To solve the lack of information I’m going to leave you with some interesting facts. For example, did you know that people tend to connect more with and have better opinions of people similar to them? Vi Hart and Nicky Case explain this phenomenon with cute triangles and squares in Parable of Polygons (also translated into Spanish by fellow Matajuegos writer and editor, David T. Marchand).

Did you know that seeing people similar to you doing something lets you know that you can do it too? That’s why it’s so important to have diverse role-models to emulate both in fiction and in real life.

Did you know that women who progam end up outdoing their male counterparts or abandoning the field because they have to put up with more bullshit to be given their dues? For example: Unity, the engine that many in the community use to develop their videogames, employs a woman, Na’Tosha Bard, as Lead of Engineering Tools. She was also in charge of porting the engine to Linux. Want to know something more? She’s also sick of misogyny in the industry. If you’ve got the time for a quick search, you will find many talented women in the industry. If you think they don’t exist it’s because you haven’t looked.

 SMBC
SMBC

Did you know that until the ‘80s there was an even number of men and women in computer science, but that the parity was lost due to marketing? When the first personal computers came out, those that worked in marketing decided to advertise them as a thing for boys, and the notion was created that programming was a masculine thing and the parity of men and women in computer science came crumbling down.

Lastly, did you know women have been defending their right to equality for centuries now? We had to defend our right to have an equal education, our right to vote — that is to say, basic rights that anyone and everyone should have. Did you know that the current arguments against diversity are very similar to those used to assault and devalue women’s suffrage and their access to an equal education? Do you really want to behave like people from the last century?

 

Existential Comics
Existential Comics

Videogames are art and a form of expression; they tell us stories. Each one of us is capable of being the best narrator of our own stories, unique and unrepeatable. When we leave someone without the possibility of expressing themselves, we all lose. Standing against diversity in the industry is standing against people expressing themselves.

Existential Comics
Existential Comics