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That this shit happens, specifically threats of all kinds and harassment of women in the game industry — that this happens and keeps happening over and over and over again, on every scale… this is why I speak out. It’s why I share links, it’s why I re-blog posts, it’s why I’m on social media.
It’s why I go to conventions and speak on panels about being a woman in the industry. (And about writing, and about games in general, and a host of other things too.)
It’s why I’m a feminist. It’s why I try to be an intersectional feminist, as best as I can.
It’s why I reach out to women wanting to be in the industry.
It’s why I mentor — both as a volunteer for Pixelles Montreal, and in general, whenever I can.
It’s why whenever our office has a Q&A with kids, teenagers & students at work, I volunteer.
It’s why I answer emails from strangers, it’s why I respond on LinkedIn whenever I have the chance, it’s why I take DMs on Twitter and try do do more.
It’s why I wish I had more time, more spoons, more energy. It’s why I wish I could answer all the correspondence and questions I get, via every social media I’m on. It’s why I hate that I can’t.
It’s why I wish I had more answers.
It’s why whenever someone snarks “well, I’m busy actually making games” and is condescending about women who talk on panels, who talk about feminism, I want to set things on fucking fire.
Being a woman and visible in the game industry, on social media, fucking hell in ANY industry, is tantamount to painting a target on your back.
Whether you’re perfect or not, whether your behavior is without reproach or not is irrelevant. Because the threats, the harassment, it’s just about you being a woman.
Talking while being a woman in the game industry is dangerous. You never know when someone will take a potshot at you, you never know what level of abuse is around the corner. You never know who will target you, or your friends, or your family. And that’s without even considering intersectionality and everything that comes with along with that.
Speaking out, being visible, it’s not for everyone. I don’t judge those who prefer not to be visible, are you kidding me? Holy shit do I ever understand!
But I will do nothing less but offer my full support to those who go out there and risk themselves, every day, doing so. I will do nothing less than have the back of other women in the industry, whatever job they may have.
You are one of mine. I will listen to you, I will answer your questions, I will support you, I will mentor you, I will be there.
I will do nothing less.
For those who aren’t a fan of this once-amazing series, The Walking Dead Game has always been lauded for its character diversity (with a wide range of different nationalities and racial backgrounds represented, well-written female characters and characters of all ages and body types featured prominently throughout the game).
In Season 2 we encountered Sarah, a Hispanic 15-year-old girl who is neurodivergent and has trouble coping with the horrors of the new world around her.
Now of course, being a female character and being disabled, she was immediately despised by the majority of the fandom. Slurs were tossed around, people frequently referred to her as “a liability”, and there were frequent posts made on Telltale’s forums, Facebook, Youtube, and elsewhere wishing her dead and hoping for a chance to kill her. This was nothing new - we had seen much of this before, with other female characters in the franchise. However, the ableism was rampant, and people would write essays about how she was “bringing the group down” and why her death would be a “good” thing for the other characters.
(spoilers) Her death came after the player was told several times by a pragmatic character that Sarah was dragging the group down, that she was a weakness, and that she “clearly” didn’t want to live (despite the fact that she screams and cries for help the entire time she’s being eaten). Instead of subverting that character’s pragmatism and showing that people with disabilities can still survive an apocalypse, she is killed even if the player chooses to save her (in a horrible manner, where she is partially crushed under a fallen balcony and then devoured alive by walkers as she screams for help). Her death served to further the already-prevalent fandom belief that disabled people are unnecessary weights holding survivors back, and makes total apocalyptic pragmatism look like a justified belief.
Of course, that made us (Sarah fans) angry and upset, especially considering many of us are ourselves neurodivergent (and several autistic teenage fans headcanoned her as being autistic) and the belief that characters like us are just liabilities is extremely hurtful. But that’s not what’s spurring me to make this post today.
So, here’s a thought:
The types of fandom that are most often considered traditional and acceptable, and which are often either male-dominated or coded as masculine, tend to be acquisitive, whether in terms of knowledge (obscure trivia) or merchandise (collectibles). Whereas, by contrast, the types of fandom most often considered insincere, non-serious or “unreal”, and which are often either female-dominated or coded as feminine, tend to be creative, such as making costumes, writing fanfic and drawing fanart.
Which is arguably an interesting expression of gender dynamics within fandom, in the sense of being a direct response to gender representation within the canon of particular franchises: namely, that because men, and particularly straight white cismen, are so ubiquitous within popular narrative(s), they have less need to create personal fan interpretations in order to see themselves represented, or to correct/ameliorate stereotypical portrayals; whereas women - and, indeed, members of any other group likely to suffer from poor representation - do.
Which isn’t to say that it’s impossible to be both an acquisitive and a creative fan - not by any stretch of the imagination. Nor am I trying to say that the only reason someone might be an acquisitive fan is because they’re complacent about issues of bias and representation, or that the only reason someone might be a creative fan is because they want to address an issue in the canon. Some people like to collect, some like to make, and some like both, or neither. It’s fine! But I do think that, when it comes to conversations about Fake Geek Girls and what being a “real fan” means - conversations which tend to be strongly gendered - the split between acquisition/creation tends to follow gender lines, too: that guys who know All The Facts and buy All The Merch are the REAL fans, whereas girls who just dress up and tell silly headcanon stories aren’t, and that maybe, there’s an interesting reason for why this might be.
[bolded for emphasis]
This is interesting. Especially because an extrapolation from that is that the ‘orthodox’, ‘traditional’ mode of interacting with a work - knowing, staying close to the first interpretation, valuing the refusal to budge from those first interpretations over being inclusive and fluid - is therefore masculine-coded, but it’s feminine-coded to be canonically fluid, intensely metacritical, artistically motivated, and to encourage creative deconstruction and reconstruction.
Which is probably a sliver of the backlash that grows into the Fake Geek Girl conversation - that people think the ‘text’ of their fandom ‘faith’ shouldn’t be tampered with or recontextualized, whereas other people insist that it has to evolve to meet the needs of the people who it serves?
I’m not sure how it accommodates for works like Welcome to Night Vale (a really good place, I think to discuss fandoms and their interactions with media), where the literalism of its canon is the establishment that blanks are required to be filled in by the audience. Fan-created artwork of any type, arguably, is as valuable a ‘history’ of Night Vale as Cecil’s radio show, because so many details are up in the air anyway, and have to be informed by the information you do still have (e.g. nothing says Cecil can’t be a blob, so what would it mean if he were a blob?).
This is absolutely fascinating to me now, and will surely make up a large part of actual notes I have about what I can now call ‘exegetical fandom theory’ and how people interact with and alter media.
The IeSF, or International e-Sports Federation, is a global organisation based in South Korea that is comprised of e-sports associations from across the world. Their stated aim is to promote e-sports as a “true sport”. The IeSF’s sixth World Championship will take place this November, in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Here’s the tournament list, from the organisation’s Facebook…
seeing the things people send you makes me worry about starting to make my own games. i'm weird too and i'm afraid that i'll be treated bad. what should i do?
Look. I’ve barely gotten any decent sleep since getting back in Boston so I might be a little aggro and cuss-heavy on this but I feel like I get this enough that I need to be.
Don’t let assholes stop you from doing what you love, if at all possible. Being weird is one more reason we need you here if you’re feeling up to it. Everyone is weird, come be weird with those of us who won’t treat you like shit for it.
If we’re not made to feel welcome in any “scene” because their image of what it is and what it can be and what a game designer looks like is so fragile that it can’t handle us, then we can make our own scene. People who resist change and new ideas and acceptance of growth and people who aren’t like them are standing on melting ice. We can throw better parties.
It’s sincerely fucked up to me that some asshole who has nothing better to do than to do the internet equivalent of shouting insults from car windows at passerbys could potentially keep someone from something that could change their life for the better as much as learning how to make games and program has changed mine. You know who doesn’t leave bullshit messages like the ones I get?
Anyone with anything interesting to do.
I wouldn’t ask anyone to take on this kind of work if they legit think that this kind of thing would destroy them - but I do want you to know that you would not be unsupported. I thrive because of other developers who commiserate with me and share their own struggles, and there’s no shortage of them from any background you can imagine. And think of it this way - if you’ve seen the (frankly small sliver of) hate that I get that I let the public see, then you know how toxic people can get. I’ve been very frank and upfront about how it’s impacted my life. But you also know another key part of it, the most important part of it.
I’m still here. I still love what I do. And the messages barely touch me anymore. I eat hatred and shit bad jokes in response on the days I can, and on the days I can’t I’m getting better at transmuting it into working on the projects that piss them off so much. Sometimes out of spite, sometimes out of feeling like I have something to prove, and sometimes out of needing to balance out the bile with love. The days I drink to deal with it are getting fewer and fewer, and I’m destroying myself over it a lot less these days - partially because my work and those who I work with rely on me, and I want to honor that in the ways they should be. It can get better.
None of them have scared me off, and they’re not going to. And while I still have a voice that’s worth anything at all in this industry, I will try and use it to help other people find theirs as well. You have my sword. Any of you reading this right now do. I mean to pay forward all the same support that’s been given me, ideally with at least a x2 modifier on it. And I’m far from the only person who feels that way.
Don’t feel the need to change yourself. Don’t be scared away outright. Don’t stop being you because some asshole can’t handle how rad you are. Don’t even heed any of this if it’s not good advice for you in particular. But if you do decide to walk this path, it doesn’t have to be alone, and it doesn’t have to be while bending to anyone’s will.
If you feel like joining us, we can do this together. No one has to be alone. And even the worst of shit gets easier in time.
It’s our medium too god damnit. Games are for everyone.
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