Home > Letters > An Open Letter to the Gaming Industry

An Open Letter to the Gaming Industry

Dear Game Industry;

We are the women who play, write, design, create art for, and love your games. We play video games from first person shooters online to Wii Fit. We have top of the line gaming machines and old play stations we keep running with gum and shoe polish. We know every game coming out next month and we have been playing the same copy of Doctor Mario since we bought it years ago, used. We are also table top players and LARPers. We have invested thousands of dollars in collectible card games and miniatures for war simulation games. In some cases we are 40% of the market, and we are 50% of the population.

Despite all that, there are times when many of us feel neglected or forgotten. We have been harassed in your stores, rejected in your communities online, and treated with disrespect on your online services and your advertising. We have seen commercials and art that some of us find offensive. We often feel that our stories are not well represented in the stories the games we play. Sometimes we speak up and are met with a remarkable lack of decorum. Sometimes we are too afraid to speak up at all for fear of alienation, abuse, or difficulty finding work in the industry because we might be seen as ‘hard to work with,’ when all we were doing was trying to have a discussion and change things for the better.

But we know, in our heart of hearts, that these experiences are an exception to the rule and not the rule. We know that it is a loud and angry minority that treats we women in gaming poorly, and so we want you, the industry itself, to help us feel more welcome, more comfortable, and safe enough to have this conversation with you. We know that the majority of the people in the industry are just that, people, and that’s who we’re talking to. When considering how to address us, the women who are your market and your partners, we would like you to keep these things in mind.

-Sometimes, we are affected by the images you present. Inequality and over sexualization is a thing that many of us are sensitive to. We understand your argument that sex sells, but we hope that you can be sensitive to our issues with equality in that salesmanship and the appropriateness of sexualizing the games that we play.

-Stories that are women’s stories make great games and there are plenty of them on the market already. Please, do not hesitate to create more games that showcase women’s stories more. We understand that what a woman’s story is can be a difficult thing to describe and so that will be an open discussion here.

-We are under represented in the industry. Does that mean that we think you should fire talented men and give jobs just to women? Of course not. We will continue to produce our own products and find companies wise enough to hire us, but think twice before dismissing us because we are women and there are some stigmas attached to women and game design at all levels.

-Be aware of how your advertising effects us. Not just emotionally, but how your ads and events can put us in unsafe and uncomfortable positions when we game online, with new players, or at conventions. It is again, a matter of a minority making the majority look bad, but keep in mind when a choice you make as the industry might put the women who are a part of your community in dangerous or uncomfortable decisions.

Please note that this is a living letter, and as our discussion grows and changes, so too will this document. Please, come back and be a part of the conversation from time to time. We welcome positive input and hope this letter can be well received. We cannot hope to speak for all women everywhere, though we welcome every opinion no matter how encouraging or contrary to what has been posted here.

We Are Some of the Women in Support:

Jennifer Brozek, Jennifer Lawrence, Kelly Rowles, Sandra Elliot, Beth Kinderman, Kristin Sullivan, Tara M. Clapper, JR Blackwell, Filamena Young, with many more to come.

Categories: Letters
  1. October 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I suspsect my response to your letter is going to get me flamed, and flamed hard. I find your fight for equality laudible, because I don’t believe that anyone should be descriminated against based on race or gender. However, there are a couple of sections that I take issue with. You said:

    Sometimes, we are affected by the images you present. Inequality and over sexualization is a thing that many of us are sensitive to. We understand your argument that sex sells, but we hope that you can be sensitive to our issues with equality in that salesmanship and the appropriateness of sexualizing the games that we play.

    I assume you are you are talking about the prevelance of large breasted woman wearing next to nothing that grace the cover of many gaming books, computer games and other forms of entertainment. Did you notice the guy on the same cover? He’s got a body like Hercules and a face like Brad Pitt. The games we play are a fantasy that allows us to escape from our ordinary lives for a little while.

    We seek to become something other that what we are, and for men that means being the handsome muscle bound warrior or the equally handsome and dextrous thief or perhaps an old but distinguished wizard. Part of that fantasy is that we will have a chance to land the heroine. The hot well endowed heroine. These ideas are part and parcel of many fantasy games, and have made the transition into other genres as well.

    Asking this industry to stop this practice is not just ludicrous, but futile. Not only with the industry not change, but even if it was willing to how would it matter? The images of women being objectified that you dislike are present everywhere. On TV. On the cover of Cosmo / Maxim. On the news. On the internet.

    You pointed out that you are harassed in stores. This is not ok. However, you also pointed out that you were rejected in online communities. How is that the fault of or responsibility of the companies involved? Internet communities are comprised of like minded people discussing similar hobbies. In all of them there are a certain number of asses who are going to attack people. Women being attacked in these settings is hardly unusual, and men often face the same thing.

    Effectively, it sounds like you are asking for special treatment instead of equality. If you were equal you’d suck it up and fight back just like we men have to do on a number of issues. Instead this smacks of you asking for some sort of ‘protection’. Why? Are women so weak that they can’t fend for themselves? Do they need the company to intervene and stop anyone from saying anything negative to them on forums?

    You say that your stories are not well respresented. So why not form your own game companies? If the market is there you’ll succeed. If the demand is there then you’ll build your own niche just like many other niches in gaming have been built.

    Instead, you are demanding change. You want the hobby and the people that play it to change to suit your needs. The thing is, we like our games and we just want to play them. Most of us are playing in small rooms with just a few people. We’re not out there hating on or oppressing women, and most of us aren’t even sexist. But we do enjoy a scantily clad woman on the cover, and that’s going to draw our eye.

    This line also stuck out for me:

    Sometimes we are too afraid to speak up at all for fear of alienation, abuse, or difficulty finding work in the industry because we might be seen as ‘hard to work with,’ when all we were doing was trying to have a discussion and change things for the better.

    What you’re doing is coming into an existing hobby, and saying “We know that the majority of the people who play the hobby are fine with it. But we want you to change it to fit our small subgroup. We want you to make sweeping changes, because we should be treated with special preference.”

    The people running gaming companies have to view them as a business. They have to market products that will sell in an environment when no one is buying. If you are trying to force changes ‘for the better’ that might harm a company’s bottom line are you surprised that they are going to be reluctant to hire you? This has nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with what you are trying to do.

    If you were a woman working within the existing confines of the industry making good product you’ll be successful. If there is a specific company not hiring you because you are a woman, that’s wrong. Nor is that going to be true of most companies. The people in charge need to make money and that means having qualified people under you. I don’t care if they are male, female, green, pink or blue. If they can do what needs doing they’re hired.

    So far much of what I’ve said is negative, and I know that. This part of your post I think was great, and I wholly support:

    Stories that are women’s stories make great games and there are plenty of them on the market already. Please, do not hesitate to create more games that showcase women’s stories more. We understand that what a woman’s story is can be a difficult thing to describe and so that will be an open discussion here.

    More content for women is great! I’d rather see more of this created then have the existing content neutered to fit the sensibilities of the female portion of the community.

    You said this too which made me do a double take:

    Be aware of how your advertising effects us. Not just emotionally, but how your ads and events can put us in unsafe and uncomfortable positions when we game online, with new players, or at conventions.

    Are you serious? You believe that advertising in RPGs and video games is not just damaging you emotionally, but is putting you in unsafe enviroments? Wow. I’m just floored. Look at any magazine cover for women. Look at any advertisement from coke to the NFL. All of them have the same scantily clad women. This is not unique to gaming.

    Nor is this advertising putting you in danger. I think that claim is absurd. Do you think an avertisement showing a woman in bikini chain mail is going to make a man sexually harass you online or rape you at a convention? Seriously? How many women do you think have been attacked by men as a result of this kind of advertising? Do you have any proof that this has occurred? Your argument is specious.

    I don’t game with men or women. I game with gamers regardless of their gender. Either you are a part of the hobby or you aren’t. I’m not trying to stop you from doing whatever you want, but trying to change the hobby to better fit your idea of what it should be is going to bring backlash from many of us. Why? This is a game. Its not life and death. Its entertainment and escape for many, many people.

    Why do you want to take away our scantilly clad chainmail bikini wearing heroines? We like them, its part of our hobby. If you want to make a game that doesn’t have them go for it, just don’t try to change the games I enjoy playing so they fit your moral ideals.

    • October 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm

      Well, I’m back to eat my words. I posted on RPG.net recanting my earlier rant, and have posted a retraction on my blog as well. So why the sudden change of heart? You can read about it here:

      http://revengeofthegamer.com/2009/10/23/theres-nothing-like-the-internet-to-make-you-feel-stupid/

      In a nutshell I had a man named David come to my site and relate a harrowing tale. While at comic con his female friend was savagely groped. Worse the bastard’s friend snapped a picture. They did this to win a contest being put on by EA’s advertising department.

      I can’t imagine clearer proof of advertising placing women in danger. That means I was 100% wrong in my earlier post. I apologize. It’s clear this IS an issue that badly needs to be addressed. I just didn’t realize we were still living in the stone age o.o

      Guess I was wrong about that.

      • GG
        December 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

        How typical that you would not believe it is an actual problem until a MAN told you so. Like we women are just too emotional and too close to the subject that it doesn’t matter if a huge crowd of us speak up. we somehow must be wrong. Meanwhile, it only took ONE man to convince you.

  2. Shannon R
    October 21, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    We’re also not just a conglomerated stereotype. We have individual needs and tastes, just as male gamers do, and while we may differ in any number of ways from our male counterparts, it is because we are individuals, and not a different species entirely.

    We don’t all like pink. We don’t all dislike it either though.

    Thanks for this, it’s grand!

    • October 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

      That makes sense Shannon, but many of the people I game with are female. They don’t have any more problem with the advertising or portrayal of women in gaming than I do.

      As I said if you are being discriminated against that’s wrong, but asking an existing industry to change when its clearly marketing to a specific demographic is futile.

      It would be like me trying to get the covers of romance novels changed to remove the bare chested perfect men. It’s not going to happen and even if it did it would only upset all the women who enjoy reading them.

      • Shannon R
        October 23, 2009 at 6:57 pm

        Yeah, I read your original response, Chris. I get it. And saying you game with girls is like any other case of saying “I have a _____ friend,” it doesn’t add the desired validity to what you’re saying, and it doesn’t impact how offensive or inoffensive your statements are. Adding tokens to it doesn’t make you look any better.

        Do you read romance novels? What percent of romance novel readers are men?

        I don’t want the gaming industry to get rid of the chain mail bikini. I just want that to not be the only example of femininity there is. They portray many examples of men that, in some respect or another, aren’t sex objects. Is it too much to ask that the female sectors of gaming, not a negligible minority, and one on the rise, to get their everywoman heroines once in a while?

        And your argument that other media does it…so what? Why shouldn’t we aspire to something better for our hobby/lifestyle/passion/career of choice?

      • Shannon R
        October 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm

        It’s big of you to retract your original reply though. Thanks for that, and for not marginalizing the darker side of women in gaming when it’s actually presented to you. The fact that I’m surprised & delighted should also say something about the expectations female gamers have grown for male gamers (nothing personal, I just don’t know you any more than your response here).

      • October 23, 2009 at 11:05 pm

        Thank you Shannon. I never believed that such an activity would be sanctioned by such a large company, and I have to admit to my own ignorance there. When I make mistakes, I admit it.

        I did want to respond to something else you said though. You said that the chainmail bikini is the only example of femininity out there, and that there are no strong heroines.

        Have you read or played Exalted? It’s one of many games I can name that feature strong female characters Some of the dress scantilly, but only the ones that make sense.

        I’m thinking of the Roseblack in particular. She wears full plate armor and carries a daiklaive (a giant anime style sword). She is a brilliant military leader and the best contender to take the scarlet throne.

        She is one of dozens of examples of strong female heroines I can think of. The fact that you seem unaware of any of them mystifies me. Are you having a hard time finding strong female women in literature or gaming in general?

        From Hermoine in Harry Potter to the Roseblack to the main character in Mirror’s Edge I see tons of women who are strong and well definited…not milksops there to prop up men and certainly not just eye candy (though many are hot and wear the clothing that flaunts it).

        Yes I have read romance novels by the way. I am a writer and part of writing is understanding perspective. Romance novels offer me a perspective I wouldn’t ordinarily get.

        They are full of tordid sex scenes, and the cover of the novel invariably has a shirtless man who looks like Brad Pitt in Troy. Do you feel those objectify men? I realize you may not read them, but do you at least agree that they do paint an image of men that’s completely unrealistic?

        In the same way you feel women are presented as mindless and impossibly gorgeous in gaming I see that represented in romance novels. Just like you feel it sets the men exposed to it up for unrealistic expectations that no woman can live up to the romance novel does -exactly- the same for women reading about men that will never actually exist.

        I also take offense to the line where you said:

        “I have a _____ friend,” it doesn’t add the desired validity to what you’re saying, and it doesn’t impact how offensive or inoffensive your statements are.”

        Because I am a man you already come across as feeling like I don’t have a right to my opinion on this subject. I pointed out that I have many female friends that play for a couple of reasons. First, its true. Second it shows that I am not in any way anti woman as far as gaming goes.

        In speaking to them they haven’t experienced the issues I’ve seen addressed here. Well, aside from being gawked at in gaming shops but how do you really put a stop to that?

        They know of the same strong female characters that I do, because they play in games I run and get a chance to meet the canon NPCS presented in games like Exalted.

        You said:

        “Is it too much to ask that the female sectors of gaming, not a negligible minority, and one on the rise, to get their everywoman heroines once in a while?”

        I’ve listed several heroines. I can list a lot more. I’d suggest that if you can’t find them you are looking in the wrong place. Perhaps you’re playing the wrong game, and should keep looking until you find the right one.

        Start with Exalted. You will find tons of ‘women stories’ and tons of strong female characters. Before you claim that they dont’ exist, take a look. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      • Shannon R
        October 24, 2009 at 2:11 am

        I never said there’s no strong women characters, I just want them to not look like porn stars. I don’t play Exalted, but I can think of other games with strong female characters, or if I look at indie games, whole game systems about female stories, Best Friends or Kagematsu for example. Certainly not a proportional amount to strong male characters, but I know they’re there. I just want more in glasses. Even if we can’t swing a size 16, maybe a size 12. And as this isn’t just about pen & paper, and directed a bit more to video games, could we get a Super Maria Sisters? Dr Gordina Freeman? Samus is halfway there, if she didn’t look like a playboy spread when she’s not in her suit. Could Antonia be the one to beat up a few prostitutes?

        I’m pretty anti-romance novel, frankly I find them offensive to both sexes (and my intelligence, generally speaking). I just think it’s not a suitable parallel. We aren’t on the outside of this hobby looking in, saying it’s offensive, demoralizing, or demeaning. We’re on the inside, we already love it, we just see room for improvement. We’re 40% of the video game consuming public and growing, and while I don’t know the stats on what portion of the tabletop/LARP community we are, we’re on the rise there too. We’re not coming to your sandbox to kick sand in your face, we’re already in it, and we just want the best environment for everybody to build the most amazing sandcastles possible.

        And no, Chris, I don’t feel you don’t have a valid opinion on the subject because you’re a man. I mean, I have male friends, and they have opinions on stuff too, especially when they agree with me or are useful in supporting my arguments. Heck, one of my friends, who is male, was the one who shared this on his RSS feed and drew my attention to it. And a dudely dude he is, sir, with opinions on stuff and everything.

        See what I mean?

      • Shannon R
        October 24, 2009 at 2:23 am

        The ironic thing is that I could just as easily be one of your female friends. I’m just a gamer, and I want to be treated as such. I almost unilaterally never go for stuff about the female gamer experience, for exactly that reason. I don’t want to change everything about gaming, video or tabletop, because I love it, that’s why I choose to be involved in it. I love it, so I want as many people as possible to love it, and feel safe and happy with it (LARPing/boffing injuries and TPKs aside), and make it as awesome as it can be. Some of these things do fall along the lines of gender issues, but plenty of them don’t.

        I just also don’t see these things as mutually exclusive to the fun of the gamers that are already involved.

      • October 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm

        If a woman is secure in her sexuality why is it bad that she flaunts it? Does that really make her look like a porn star and not just sexy? I listed a few examples of strong female heroines who don’t look like porn stars. I can list many more if you’d like. If I am finding them so readily I’m still mystified as to why you cannot.

        Strong heroines are out there, but you seem upset that some of the women portrayed look like porn stars. This leads me to assume you don’t want both representations. You want all female characters to be strong women in voluminous robes who show nothing of their physique. That may not be your opinion, but it is how you come across.

        You say you want women portrayed that are a size 16? That’s the equivalent of a male being a size 44-46. I -never- see that anywhere in gaming. Not on video games and certainly not on gaming covers or in the internal art.

        Why would you expect them to portray women that way when they won’t do it for men? People like beauty. This is a fact, and when people are designing characters they generally aren’t going to include overweight men or women. If they do those characters will be portrayed as the villians, not the heroes.

        Where is Super Maria Sisters? If there was a demographic to buy that game they’d make it. As it is most men I know tend to prefer a certain type of game, and most women tend to prefer a different type. Nearly all of my female friends love The Sims. Nearly all my male friends love Starcraft.

        Now obviously that’s a generalization, but most of the time it’s held true in my experience. Given that many men and women seem to prefer different styles of games I think its unlikely that game companies will market a game with a perceived male demographic to a female group.

        If you’re one of the women who likes those games that has to be frustrating, because companies aren’t making products you’ll enjoy. They’re making things the boys in your age group will enjoy.

        Ultimately that’s a business decision, not a sexist one. If you push things too far to include women you start losing the target demographic. By that I mean boys are going to be less prone to buying Super Maria Sisters than they are Super Mario Brothers. If most people who play this type of game are boys the publisher is going to name the game accordingly.

        I’m not saying I disagree with what you’re looking for. If I was in the minority in a hobby I enjoyed I’d be annoyed if the publisher didn’t take my likes and dislikes into question.

        Some strides have been made. For example all White Wolf books use the pronoun she instead of he. More will happen in time.

        I just think care needs to be taken, because what you consider to be positive change may not be taken that way by everyone. In my case making all women size 16 and not having them show any skin probably wouldn’t make me quit buying products. But it would annoy me because it would be a change obviously made to make a smaller demographic happy.

        That bothers me, because I see it happen every day. Our society moves closer and closer to 1984 as more groups say what people can and cannot do.

        We have such a sense of entitlement now, a belief that each and every one of us is important and that if something bothers us it should -have- to be changed. Sadly reality is not built that way, and as individuals we aren’t very important. Especially where large corporations are concerned.

        If you really want these changes vote with your gaming dollars, and tell the companies in question why you aren’t buying their products. Hopefully that will effect the changes you’re looking for.

        Just remember that the people in the sandbox have been building castles for a long time. All of them have different ideas as to what the best sand castle is. Your idea of having an environment where the most amazing sand castles ever are made is going to be done at the expense of some people already in the sandbox, and they aren’t going to agree that you’ve made an environment that takes their view into account. You’re doing the opposite by saying the castles they like should no longer be built.

        Your last paragraph says that you don’t see these things as mutually exclusive to the fun of the gamers involved. My point is that you can’t know what will or won’t impact the fun of other gamers. Making the changes you are asking for is going to impact some of them in a way they won’t like. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Shannon R
        October 25, 2009 at 1:11 am

        You’re either projecting other issues onto me (or attributing other people’s feelings to me), twisting my words, or not reading what I said.

        I’m fine with there being women who look like pornstars in games. I enjoy playing them when I am in an escapist mood. But sometimes I want to play a female character I can relate to. Someone who looks normal. If this is something you would also like to see more of in male characters, I strongly encourage you to advocate for that. If this isn’t something you care about, then that’s fine too.

        Let’s imagine we’re playing a zombie FPS (never played sims, can’t speak to them), and you can play one of 6 members of a group of survivors. If one of the options is a chunky girl in glasses, or a scrawny girl with stringy hair and bad teeth, in addition to male options, and a hot girl. Would guys really, seriously refuse to buy it because one option isn’t super-smokin’-hot? Does it so fundamentally shake the foundation of your castles?

        This isn’t even remotely my biggest qualm with the gaming industry (nor is it even what I originally posted about). It is simply something that I would like to see. I’m not going to burn my gaming books or my xbox if it never, ever happens. I do make my vote with my money, but I’m not going to discourage people I agree with from furthering the thoughts in other ways, certainly not to make you, random dude getting argumentative because I replied on a blog post you disagree with, happy. So we’ll both go on voting with our money, saying what we feel needs to be said, and the cards will fall where they may.

      • October 26, 2009 at 10:29 pm

        I was under the impression we were having a civil discussion, especially in light of the fact that you were the one to point out I was being polite. I’m sorry if I said something to offend you, but my questions are legitimate.

        In your first posts you said you were tired of seeing nothing but porn stars in gaming, and that you wanted them removed.

        You admitted that was a false statement, and that there are many other types of women portrayed.

        Now you are saying that the porn star representation is ok as is, but you’d like to see the addition of non-standard women next to them. The overweight woman, the mousey women in glasses, etc.

        I think your most recent post is completely reasonable. If you are simply looking for more and different portrayals I think that’s fine. As long as you aren’t trying to remove the existing ones.

        As far as me being a ‘random dude getting argumentative’ you are a random chick getting hot under the collar because someone had the balls to call you on your shit. You put forward a poor argument that you changed during the course of the discussion.

        I asked you clarifying questions and challenged your position. This is a discussion on the internet. Everyone has a right to post here. If you don’t like my opinions I’m sorry, but I’m not changing to make some random argumentative chick I met on some blog happy.

        Let’s agree to disagree.

      • October 26, 2009 at 11:54 pm

        Chris-

        You are bordering on being offensive here. We’re not here to dismiss the opinion of women by calling them ‘chicks’ or saying that they’re ‘hot under the collar.’ You don’t actually know Shannon’s emotional state, so let’s not assume.

        You know what happens when you assume, right?

      • October 27, 2009 at 5:36 am

        I was responding directly to her ‘argumentative dude’ by my use of ‘argumentative chick’. Do think that parallel is inapppropriate given the context in which she used it? If so then please redact the post.

        I am not a troll nor am I looking to start fights. If you think my posts aren’t beneficial, or are too controversial let me know and I’ll bow out quietly.

      • Shannon R
        October 26, 2009 at 11:40 pm

        I in fact said:

        Shannon R :
        I don’t want the gaming industry to get rid of the chain mail bikini. I just want that to not be the only example of femininity there is.

        This is from my first reply to you, after you commented on my reply to the whole post (which was not to you, about you, about your comment, or even had content that you specifically objected to).

        I’m not hot under the collar, and certainly not because you “called (me) on (my) shit”.

      • October 27, 2009 at 5:46 am

        Shannon R :I never said there’s no strong women characters, I just want them to not look like porn stars.

        This is what I was talking about, right here. Maybe you aren’t hot under the collar, but your tone certainly changed when I didn’t agree with everything you had to say.

        I wasn’t trying to be offensive, but saying that I am a ‘random dude getting argumentative because I replied on a blog post you disagree with’ didn’t really contribute to the discussion and clearly shows that you are frustrated with me.

        I never asked you to agree with me to make me happy. I expressed my opinions and you didn’t like them.

      • Shannon R
        October 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm

        In one instance I forgot to write “all.” Mea culpa. All the other times I explicitly said that I don’t want to get rid of the chainmail bikini, clearly those are irrelevant.

        I’m not frustrated. Simply pointing out: My original post wasn’t to you, yet you responded to it arguing concepts I hadn’t even posted about. I’ve had a cold, so I’m bored and I responded to your attempts to “call” me.

      • GG
        December 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm

        You seem to fail to realize that the objectification of men, while a problem, does not lower their status in society. Meanwhile, the objectification of women leads to an over emphasis on their appearance that leads to other problems regarding inequality.

  3. Infax (aka Pablo)
    October 22, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Could someone, maybe on a reply, list some positive examples? I am not a woman and I know of a limited number of female players, so this is not at all clear to me. I usually understand things better with what one wants rather than with what one doesn’t want.

    By this, I mean:

    - Could you give some instances of good women stories?
    - Point me to a good online communities?
    - Suggest a game with good visual presentations (one that is compelling would be much better than one that just manages not to be offensive)?
    - Name a couple of examples of moves by the industry that may have been suggested by women trying to make things better?
    - Mention some good adverts?

    I am genuinely interested and will try to visit again to see how the dialogue progresses.

    (BTW, if it is of any relevance, I found this letter through a topic on the rpg.net forums (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=479583))

    • October 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm

      Actually, that’s about half of what this site is about. Finding the great and positive examples of what is working. There’s just as much a drive to present positive stories (see the ‘Celebrations’ tab.)

      The thing is, we just got off the ground here and I can’t (as well as don’t want to) be the ultimate dictator of what is good and what is bad so I’ve opened that up to anyone who has thoughts on the matter. Do you know a woman game designer that you love? Tell me about her. Did you see a woman-postive game (or think you did) drop me an email and let us discuss it.

      If you’re out there and think you can answer Pablo’s questions, comment here, drop me an email, let us grow the content here as well as the discussion.

      Pablo, thank you for coming by. There will be more up in the future talking about the good just as much as the bad. I’ve had some great conversations on the topics, like ‘what makes a good woman’s story,’ and it turns out sometimes it’s a bit hard to define. My favorite woman’s story in gaming to date? Silent Hill 3, and to some extent Silent Hill 2 despite the fact that the main character is a man. I may pontificate on that later, and I’d love to see other people’s thoughts.

    • October 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm

      @Infax If you see at the top of the page, there is a section titled “Celebration”. This section of the site is to celebrate positive examples of women involved in gaming – including positive character portrayals. This is a new site, so I encourage you to return here often to see what we are celebrating in the industry.

  4. October 22, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you, writers and signers of this letter. These things need to be said, and I’m glad that they’re being said so well.

  5. October 22, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Hey I’m the ass from the first reply. I just wanted to say that I created a thread on rpg.net asking about people’s opinions on the letter. The vast majority of them agreed with you guys, and there was a tremendous outpouring of support for you guys.

    They kicked my ass rather soundly, but it was a good discussion. I still disagree with your stance on advertising, but I do think its good that you are raising awareness.

    • October 23, 2009 at 5:00 am

      I’m glad you stopped by to talk. I’m floored by how gracefully you handled what is ultimately a polite disagreement. Thanks for coming here to discuss.

      Let’s talk about advertising, as I think it’s an important matter, at length in a future post. I’d be happy to exchange as many comments as we can all be civil on that subject when I have a post for it. For now, let me put your mind at ease a little bit on a point that I think you’ve gotten wrong.

      Myself, and the women who have signed on for this letter all understand that sexy sells. We understand that sexy can be a desirable thing in artistic choices as well as marketing. Personally, I am on occasion swayed in my purchasing decisions based on the sex appeal of the art or iconography used in and around a product. (I mentioned Laura Croft in a comment below, and some of her appeal to me is that she is an intelligent AND sexy woman.) I see no need for sex to be stripped from all forms of advertisement. I’m prosex. What I, personally, would like to see is better understanding of age appropriateness, equality in my cheese cake, and REASON for sex to be used in art beyond ‘that it might sell a few more copies of the game/book.’ It diminishes the power of sex if we put it everywhere and include it in products that have nothing to do with sex. I mean, it isn’t like we NEED that Avalanche Press cover to get off on, right? There are plenty of better outlets for our worship of sexuality beyond the new cover of Bunnies and Burrows, so why replace the bunnies with Playboy Bunnies?

      • October 23, 2009 at 11:21 pm

        Hey, whether or not I agree with what you have to say you are a gamer. I am a gamer. Why would we want to fight? Obviously we have a lot in common as we like the same hobbies.

        My initial kneejerk reaction actually stems from that fact. It bothers me that our society focuses so much on what makes us different that we never look to see what makes us the same.

        This is why I say gamers instead of male gamers and female gamers. We are a collective group and I think we should spend more time celebrating that and less on focusing on the differences.

        Anyway, back to advertising. I guess the problem I have with your argument is one of aestetics. People like beauty. Male or female we’d rather see someone atttractive than not.

        In the case of gaming when looking at a cover how do you decide what’s appropriate? If you’re looking at an Exalted book without cracking the cover how do you know whether or not the scantily clad girl on the cover is a strong woman with a great story or some eye candy that’s not even in the book at all?

        Personally, I’m more likely to look at a book with a pretty cover whether or not pretty includes a woman. I generally find the female body more attractive than the male so a near naked woman is going to draw my eye more than a near naked male.

        Ultimately, though, I don’t care if the men and women on the cover are wearing armor or a loincloth as long as it fits the subject matter.

        When I read your letter it seemed to me you are trying to get companies to scale back on the cheesecake. I just don’t see the need, because market forces will determine whether or not that company sticks around.

        In the case of Avalanche Press if you found their products to have inappropriate covers that obviously are milking sexuality wouldn’t you simply not buy it?

        Most gamers are quite adept at tracking down porn. We aren’t going to buy a book that sucks simply because it has a hot woman on the cover. However, if it is a GOOD book with a hot woman on the cover I’d like to be able to appreciate that without worrying that companies are going to stop making them because of pressure from your demographic.

        Does that make sense? I’m not sure how well I explained my position.

  6. Infax (aka Pablo)
    October 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    @The organizers of the site: I will follow the talk on this topic, but after checking the Celebration area I am finding the site slightly offputting. I didn’t find great examples of what is material that would appeal to women other than material *produced* by women. I am sure that is not the only purpose of the Celebration area, but it is, so far, the only thing promoted there.

    I read all the articles there. “Women in the Industry: Jennifer Brozek” seemed interesting, but to the end I didn’t find what was interesting in “Proverbial Monsters” or what I could expect of Ms. Brozek’s work on books for Catalyst or Margaret Weis Productions (two companies I have books from). Is she a great storyteller? Is she a wizard at game mechanics? I mean, as a human being, what makes her stand out in the gaming industry? I can assure you I would like to know all that.

    Maybe part of that debate on “what makes great women stories” would help. Or maybe it would simply indicate – since it seems so hard to define – that it is whatever stories a group of women – or an individual woman – liked and in that case those would simply be “great stories”.

    I can’t help but feel like this may lead to a mentality of exclusions. I’m the kind of person that don’t go to a club because it was “created for men” or frequent a restaurant “aimed at Brazilians” (I’m member of both groups). I do go to RPG sites and look into geek blogs, but those are places that talk about cultural subjects that I enjoy. Although I enjoy being a human being (and a man) I don’t feel either of those has enough cultural significance to make me look into subjects concentrating on those.

    Or maybe I just haven’t got the point – or some of the points – yet.

    • October 23, 2009 at 4:47 am

      Hi Pablo,

      I got your point, and while I’d love to have more information for you on the points your asking about, that’s going to take time.

      I understand your concern that there might be a mentality of exclusion. I hope you understand that in part, this site is in reaction to a mentality of exclusion many women feel in and around gaming. I have no intention of discluding you from this conversation as it progresses, I have in mind some articles down the line celebrating men in the industry who are doing wonderful things for a woman’s audince, but again, that’s going to take time. (Did you see the article about Breast Cancer Brawl? To me, the most important part of that post was the fact that the org is three men. That touched me quite deeply.)

      Let me offer you a challenge, something to think about, especially since I’m planning to write on the topic very soon. IMHO, Samus of Metroid games is a great woman’s story, while Laura Croft of Tomb Raider is not. Why do you think that is? (Hint: It has nothing to do with the sexualized marketing of Laura, nor my preference for one or the other. I like most of the Tomb Raider games and would be confident letting my own daughter play them as she got older.) Let me know what you think, and we’ll talk about it more when I put my thoughts down formally in a post.

  7. Mugendai
    October 24, 2009 at 7:51 am

    I get people being offended by the advertising and sexual portrayal. I don’t object to it all that much, one, because I’m rarely swayed by game Ad’s, and two because I don’t mind seeing it. Though I do get the bigger picture offense that people take to it(on a world view scale, not just games, but I think that’s a different fight altogether)

    I can certainly understand anyone being upset about being treated badly by a terrible minority. Being treated negatively in employment or social communities simply based on sex is deplorable.

    But it seems there are mixed issues here. I mean, the statistics apply differently to the different issues. Amount of sexual exploitation of women in games is obviously high. While treating women negatively in social circles, is, in my experience, fairly low.

    All of that aside, I’ve certainly seen a major rise in games aimed at women more recently. Now don’t throw stones at me for saying this, but that is what has given rise to some of the newer, mini games. These games have consistently different advertising that you can tell has been aimed at women. These games rarely sexualize women. They focus on things the industry has been finding are more attractive to women, like customizing the appearance, buying accessories, decorating.

    I’m not saying this is the only kind of game out there that women should want. But it seems the studies the game industry has done, are turning up a lot of games of this nature. That perhaps, less women are interested in games that involve hack and slash, sexual content, and violence, than men are. I don’t see anything wrong with this. It sounds true to me, a majority of men like sex and violence. So those games are aimed at them.

    What I’m saying as that out of 10 people, 5 may be male, and 5 female. And of that crew, 4 of the 5 guys like sex and violence, and 1 likes more creative games, and 4 of the 5 females may like creative games, and 1 likes sex and violence.

    It seems only natural that more games with sex and violence would be tailored toward guys, and more that have more creative interests would be aimed at women.

    If these were real numbers, it would mean that writing a sex and violence game with a focus on the female storyline means alienating 80% of those interested in this kind of a game.

    I don’t know if any of these numbers are anywhere near correct numbers. Maybe the ratio of types of gamers on both sides is even. I mean, we didn’t even cover all genres here. But I think if we did, we may find that a majority of the genres were based on what guys like. But it is only natural based on the time line that gaming grew up.

    Soo, my suggestion to the industry. Though some of these do straight out give favoritism to women, there is a good reason. They really were an untapped, possibly, unavailable, market when the industry was springing up, there is catch up work to be done. When the catch up is done, it is time to re-balance.

    1, review every genre, find out who is really interested in them, market and design for them. Be sure to study the many different groups of women, just as you would, men, as (women) and (men) are in fact pretty damn generalized groups of people.

    2, if you have the room for it, design in such a way that not only your target market can enjoy the game.

    3, do more work to find new genres that may appeal more to women(or even less popular genres that were previously thought a waste of time because men were not very interested)

    4, don’t just not treat women unfairly. Make those who do treat them unfairly feel outcast, and unwelcome. Catch up work, remember. Get it all equalized, then you can go back to normal. This is a very difficult thing for individuals to do on their own due to peer pressure. So just like it has with all other aspects of womens rights in general, those with the power and respect should be fighting this unfair treatment.

    What I would like to see from all you women, and men with ideas on the point.
    I tend to hate arguments that work like this. People say, things should be better. Nay, they demand it. And then it doesn’t happen. Why? Demanding doesn’t really help so much. Giving real, tangible, ideas helps. You can’t for instance be of any use by demanding that we come up with a clean renewable energy source. You have to freaking do something about it. Take whatever action you can. And finally, the only way to be a real, true, help, is to actually provide usable ideas on how to accomplish this.

    Soo, please, list specific ideas on what women want to see in gaming. Perhaps make a good sight, with honest polls to find what women really want in games. And a sister site to bring to light ideas on how to turn those concepts to games. On how to marry those concepts in to “mainstream” games. On how to improve “mainstream” games in a way that will not affect the majority of the target audience of those games negatively.

    Show that you are a real, valuable, market.

    And, if it turns out that you are not a valuable market, then do not feel upset if they do not spend their millions on you.

    Wanting something doesn’t make it yours. I want the movie industry to fund Joss Whedon in making a Zombie musical inspired by and including “Re Your Brains” by Jonathan Coulton, but since I am fairly sure the market for this sucks, I’m not going to get all upset when it never happens.

    I’m just saying, it may turn out that the number of women that want the same kind of games as guys, may be too low to be valuable enough to risk alienating the guys.

    But maybe there are other kinds of games, that can pick up more women. You just might not be one of those women. The same thing happens to guys who do not like “mainstream” games.

    I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I personally would love to see more women playing the lead in RPG’s. But for that to happen, a majority of the women gamers will need to want that too, and a minority of men games have to be off-put by it. And the game industry will have to find these facts(assuming they are true).

    • GG
      December 19, 2009 at 1:32 am

      I think what you’re not considering is that women don’t need to be treated with kid gloves. Ever think maybe we’d play more violent games if they weren’t so clearly marked as “for men” by the use of women’s body in advertising and theme? Its a turn off. Maybe they should stop treating us like a subspecies that doesn’t have the same interests as men. If they had more gender-neutral advertising, chances are the numbers would rise. By directing the advertising towards men, you’re only creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Women have to ignore an awful lot in life just to be able to enjoy anything–movies, TV, music, etc. It gets difficult, let me tell you. We see more emphasis on our bodies than our minds and it gets to be so irritating that we’ll bolt the first time we see it happening.

      I’m not one to try and make women “the superior gender” by asking for special treatment, I just think things should be more gender neutral. You’d probably see women respond by being less afraid of social stigma attached to their desired hobbies.

  8. Tara
    October 29, 2009 at 4:20 am

    I just want to point out that many of the women in gaming I have met who parade around in revealing outfits are at least as fragile as the rest of us (us being other women, men, human beings). Ever wonder what kind of social construct led that gamer girl to get a breast augmentation? Ever think that the LARP queen is an alpha female in her chosen game because she didn’t want to give up her high school cheerleader glory?

    These are just semi-common examples. I don’t personally understand or get along with people in those specific situations, but I see that they have social reasons for doing what they’re doing. I try my best not to judge and recognize that they bring out my own issues, and in doing that I realize that we have some of the same issues, though for very different reasons.

    As easy as it would be for me to call someone plastic and walk away thinking that’s all they are, it just isn’t true, and I won’t go on pretending that kind of mentality is okay while expecting respect in return.

  9. November 2, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you for this letter. I completely agree. As a man, it saddens and shames me the way women are treated in my hobbies.

    Also, as someone who has always gravitated toward strong female leads in the fiction I read and watch, it’s always bothered me that those types of characters have been under-represented in the games I play. Of course, by strong I don’t necessarily mean physically.

  10. December 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Shut the fuck up, Chris.

    As for the open letter: co-signed.

    • January 1, 2011 at 1:10 am

      Really softestbullet? I came here for a polite discussion and because you don’t agree you tell me to shut the fuck up? Real mature. Real productive.

  11. Ardent Kat
    December 8, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    What I’d like to see in gaming is more women who shine due to their competence, charisma, and strength.

    I’m not instantly offended by a woman character in a skin-tight outfit. I just need her to be MORE than the skin-tight outfit. Give her a personality, her own opinions and goals. Let her shining qualities be in her unique skills and intelligence. Create a three-dimensional human being first and consider the sex of this character second.

    Are there male characters who are muscular and attractive? Of course there are, but even these characters are a CHARACTER first and a sexpot second. The male characters in Gears of War are pretty fugly, but players don’t care because these guys are strong, they’re trained, they’ve got skills beyond their sex appeal.

    Now consider a ugly female character. Can she get off the ground in the gaming world? Can she be allowed to have bigger muscles than titties? Can we allow her to wear clothing that’s more combat-practical than revealing?

    I’m not asking for sex appeal to be removed from women characters; I just want it to be optional. Male characters can be sexy or unsexy and still be interesting, relatable characters. With women, it’s like attractiveness is a prequalification for personhood. If she’s not attractive, she’s not even on the map.

    I’d like to see fiery adventurous characters like Han Solo or Indiana Jones types, but with women instead of men. They’re dressed practical, they’re charismatic and funny, they’ve got their own personalities and weaknesses. Sexy? Yes. But that’s incidental rather than core to the character. That’s all I want from game companies and it’s not a zero-sum game that men need to feel threatened about.

  12. KIrving
    May 12, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for this letter. As a female gamer who likes rpgs,fps, the occasional war game and racing game though, I feel like the industry is never going to understand me. I’m not interested in what the industry is currently pumping out as games geared for women. I like sex and violence in games and what I mainly want is to be included. I want the option to play a female character, kick butt and get the guy. I want to play a female marine. I want to play a female racing driver/gun toting scientist/monster bug killer. I want my Mistresschief!
    Including women does not mean excluding men or radically changing the narrative. (Although the gaming industry could well do with some original story telling and a female perspective/voice/presence is sorely needed.) I’ve been asking for these babysteps from the industry for years and apparently that is asking too much. Other than a few rpgs, the current releases and upcoming games are a clear indication that women gamers are not wanted. The industry is not listening and has no intention of changing. The only thing I can now do as a consumer is stop enabling them by buying games where women are excluded.

  1. December 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm

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