Bridging the Gap: Women in Gaming

Some of my most vivid memories from childhood are of me being picked on. Mostly, it was because I was a nerd gamer that didn’t like the same things as the “popular” kids. Kids, adults, and parents alike told me to, “Go outside and play. Video games are bad for you.” It made me feel miserable and question who I was and what I loved. I told myself that I would never make others feel the way I did for being themselves. That is why the events of this week disturb me so much.

On Tuesday, Twitter blew up with inflammatory remarks around Giant Bomb hiring two white males to fill open positions. Giant Bomb’s hiring decision opened up a debate about the lack of diversity among game journalists. Samantha Allen called out Giant Bomb for their choice in not hiring any women and she got called many derogatory slurs online as a response to her opposition. Giant Bomb has come out in defense of Allen and asked that the community stop because the hatred has gotten so out of control. But is that enough? In an era where there are more women gamers by the day and many talented women working in games journalism, why do they not have a female on staff? I’m not saying they should hire based on sex alone, but eventually, I believe, your staff should reflect the makeup of the community in which you’re covering.

“…stop hiding behind the Internet as a bully. Life is short. I won’t spend it perpetuating hate and neither should you.”

Then, on Wednesday, The International eSports Federation’s (IeSF) banned women from competing in a Hearthstone tournament. The IeSF’s General Manager of International Affairs, Alex Lim said, “Though some say there is no physiological factor which may affect the performance of men and women, there are others who believe that dynamic visual acuity and precise control may differ by the gender, which may affect the performance.” To their credit, the IeSF on Thursday, under immense pressure and scrutiny, changed the policy and is now allowing the women, who were competing among themselves, to be allowed to enter the main tournament. Excluding women in this tournament made no sense, as there is no need to separate men and women since there is no physical advantage to playing a strategic card game. Does a woman have an equal chance to beat a man at chess? Absolutely! The same rules apply here.

I believe what is really happening in the Hearthstone tournament is men don’t want to lose to a woman. By losing to a woman, it somehow questions their manhood. But why would it? This is not a battle of strength. It is a battle of wit and strategy. Gender is not a determining factor in mental capacity.

These events come on the tails of Ubisoft saying their next game in the Assassin’s Creed series will not allow you to play as a female character because it would have “doubled the work” to create one. Ubisoft technical director James Therien said, “A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation,” defending the exclusion by saying it was “not a question of philosophy or choice.” Actually, Mr. Therien, with all due respect, that is the definition of choice. Ubisoft created four unique protagonists for the game and none are female. In a previous installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, they made a female the lead character. There is no excuse to not have one in the new game.

These events have highlighted what women gamers have known for a while; that the gaming community needs to grow up and treat people the way they want to be treated, equally. Most of the community is made up of people like me, who were picked on as a kid for being different. How can someone who was picked on for being themselves turn around and call a woman derogatory names? And why? What is their motivation? Is it to try and exclude them from the community? That turns us into the same bullies we hated in growing up.

I’m sure you’re thinking, why is a white male writing this? My answer, because white males are the ones that need to take action. Men need to drop the macho machismo and be inclusionary, not exclusionary. Having more gamers is a good thing. White, black, green, blue, male, female, gay, or transsexual, it doesn’t matter to me. If you enjoy games like I do, come play and enjoy. Developers, stop using the tropes of women in games. Gaming community, be kind and welcoming to new gamers. Grow up, be a real man and stop hiding behind the Internet as a bully. Life is short. I won’t spend it perpetuating hate and neither should you.