An Open Letter to the Gaming Industry

September 30, 2009 37 comments

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