[game_edu] Implications of students going into a male-dominated industry?
contact at nathanrunge.com
Tue Sep 20 21:31:20 EDT 2011
Anthony Hart-Jones wrote:
> In a situation where a woman feels the need to prove herself and gain
> acceptance, complaining about the actions of her co-workers is not going to
> endear her to anyone. Yes, she has the right to do so, but you can bet it
> would count against her. No matter how legitimate her complaint, it would
> make the other men more fearful around her. By protecting herself, she
> would have created a wall between herself and her male colleagues.
> Sadly, I think it is up to men to be more sensitive. We need to think
> about what we do that could make a female colleague uncomfortable, even if
> it is just allowing other men to be boorish without calling them on it. It
> is part of growing up and that is just what the industry is doing.
I completely agree. I admit I was speaking from an industry perspective,
rather than an individual one. I feel, regrettably, our industry-wide
options are limited to what I described. Individually we can do much better,
and I think that's going to be the most important factor. As the industry
has matured, and it will continue to do so, I feel that our standards in
this respect have improved. Still, we fall short far too often.
Gillian Smith wrote:
> Why do you feel that encouraging women to enroll in a game design or
> game programming course necessitates a compromise? What is being
> I am honestly baffled as to what you could mean here and would like
I never said that encouraging women to enroll in a game design or game
programming course necessitates a compromise. What I did say was that there
should not be a compromise. Basically, if at some point a decision must be
made as to whether a course should most reflect industry practice and equip
students for their careers or be altered to be more enticing to women, then
as educators the focus must be on student outcomes and industry relevance.
That is not to imply that women won't be interested in accurate material,
but simply that "research" will indicate aspects of game development in
which women are less interested (statistically) and these cannot be ignored
or marginalised on that basis. Let's face it, most game development courses
already fall far too short on relevance and student outcomes.
Maria Droujkova wrote:
> This is how the harm of the imbalance happens. A girl visits a game dev
> studio, or looks at a photo or a list of employees, sees no females, and
> concludes "I don't see anyone like me there, so I will not do it."
On the topic of your particular example, I am hoping that most interested in
a career in games would not be quite so weak-willed as that, but certainly
I'll agree that a lack of role-models could present a problem. That said, I
believe there are quite a number of strong role models in the industry. I do
not believe one needs role models in one's own company, beneficial as that
may be. I myself have worked in many organisations as the only male without
any concern. In the industry, Anthony Hart-Jones has already provided a
short list of role models, but there are many others. In many respects, I
feel we already have the 'egg', and we need simply wait for the 'chicken' to
hatch, though it might not be as large as some would hope.
Anthony Hart-Jones wrote:
> Encouragement is good, bribery (excessive bursaries and other financial
> inducements) would just be sexism by another name. Denying funds to men
> which you offer to women is still gender-bias of the worst kind, no matter
> that you might put a word like 'positive' before 'discrimination'.
I completely agree.
Ian Schreiber wrote:
> Duke Nukem Forever and Metroid: Other M suggest otherwise ;-)
I think we can all agree Duke Nukem Forever is regrettable, but that's an
entirely other matter. While Duke Nukem Forever is a particularly extreme
example, one can find sexism in both directions, racism, religious
discrimination, sexual discrimination and just about anything else you can
imagine in a wide host of other games. It will always exist, and we will
never eliminate it entirely. What Duke Nukem reflects is the industry of the
early 90's, and a perceived characteristic of the marketplace rather than
> Chicken-and-egg problem. The solution to a hostile-to-women environment is
> to attract more women. The solution to attracting more women is to fix the
> toxic environment. Which comes first?
I completely disagree. That is viewing the situation as sex-warfare, rather
than something to be collaboratively addressed. Basically it involves
"bringing in reinforcements" so that men will be more afraid of acting
inappropriately, rather than creating a corporate culture in which
trouble-makers are removed or addressing the underlying social problem of
some men wanting to act inappropriately.
> With all due respect, Nathan, saying "I'm a white guy and I don't think
> there's a race or sex problem" is a bit optimistic. I've never had a female
> student complain to me that she felt marginalized - but is that because I
> teach my classes in an inclusive way, or is it because I send off the same
> subconscious "only boys allowed" signals as everyone else, and no one feels
> comfortable confronting me because I'm in a position of power? How would I
> know? There is literally no way that I can answer that question through
> personal experience alone; I have to specifically seek out people in the
> development community who are women, minorities, LGBT, and so on, and ask
> them. And when I do, the resounding answer I get is that Yes, This Is A
Firstly, let me clarify that I did not once address race. Secondly, I
provided context for my opinions and your response was regrettably
predictable. I specified my ethnicity in case I did comment on race issues.
I did not, but you have made an assumption in your response. I specified my
gender, though it could be inferred from my name, so that people could
better understand my perspective. Your response is to say that I cannot have
an opinion on the issue because I am a man?
The difference between you and I, and the reason that my opinion is
legitimate, is in our roles. You have expressed your perspective as an
authority figure outside the industry. I have my experiences as a peer both
as a student and as a professional developer, in addition to my more recent
experiences in authority managing my own studio. Simply speaking, I have
been observant and I remain so today. I have engaged in and been witness to
the interactions of my peers for many years. I have been actually involved
in the day-to-day experiences of professional development. I understand you
have also, are you claiming that you did not observe your peers in that
> AAA games routinely target straight white males, and thus exclude well over
> 50% of their potential market. How is running at <50% of your potential
> profitability NOT a problem? (Okay, I admit that's a bit of an exaggeration,
> since there are plenty of gamers who will play these games in spite of not
> being specifically included, or even in spite of being indirectly excluded.
> But even a 5% drop is hundreds of millions when you're operating at the
> scale of EA.)
I am glad you acknowledge the exaggeration. You are right that most games
target males. I will take exception to "straight" and "white", however. The
major development regions are Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom
and Canada. In the latter three, you have games targetted at "Western"
audiences, rather than white ones. That is an important distinction, as it
is targetting a culture, as most texts are likely to do, and not excluding
ethnicities. In Japan, a market you cannot overlook, games are targetted
very differently. As for straight, I feel that has little bearing on most
games. There are, of course, exceptions, but as a whole I have found few
games that offend any of my many LGBT friends.
The second problem is that, while the primary target audience is often male,
there are often features included or adapted to be more accomodating to
female gamers also. There are many games developed with women in mind,
though the majority are not AAA, and that is partly in addressing the simple
economic and social realities. Over time, women are becoming more interested
in gaming. In the past, however, they have been less interested in gaming,
and more interested in social interaction. In response, that has been the
path most female-oriented games have taken. The causes for this are many and
complex, but it is not (largely) associated with the gender-balance of the
> As for it being "simply a fact" I'd have to ask, why? Would you be willing
> to make the argument that one sex is genetically more predisposed towards
> game development (or gaming) than another? The only studies I've seen on the
> matter show that once you remove environmental factors, the gender gap
> instantly evaporates.
Please don't try to paint me as sexist in that manner. It's immature. I
elected not to address the 'why' simply because it is a very complex series
of influences, almost all of which are "environmental factors". The fact is,
we can't eliminate all the environmental factors. We can address those that
are within our control, such as the work environment, but most are far out
of our reach. Long-standing cultural norms, parental influences and
interactions as children all play a significant part in a person's career
choices. Gender imbalances plague many fields, such as engineering, I.T. and
nursing, simply because a number of these factors align.
> Then you say it's not a problem, the field just lends itself to visual
> learning, it's just how things are. But if you found that incorporating a
> variety of teaching styles can reach and engage non-visual learners, then
> you are excluding a lot of students who really should and want to be there,
> aren't you?
That's a misrepresentation of my position. The industry is not a "teaching
environment". Furthermore, a male majority does not exclude a female worker,
as a single teaching style would exclude some students. You could argue that
discrimination has that affect, and I would agree with your entirely. To
argue that a male majority does so simply by existing, is entirely false.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on what's been said since I went to sleep.
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