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Female Game Developers Share Their Views on #GamerGate

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Developer #2 continued ...

Why do I say this has the potential to do great damage to game development -- and thus games? Playing a game is all about imagining yourself in a different world. Take a minute now to do that. Step into my shoes. You're a woman who makes games. You've worked hard for many years to build a name and reputation for yourself and your work.

You sit down to express -- at last -- all your thoughts on #GamerGate. You haven't been able to speak about it publicly for lots of reasons, even though you wanted to. This is your chance. "In my 18 years working as a character artist for fighting games," you begin, and you pause. You start to count: how many female character artists in fighting games have 18 years of experience? You can only think of one, and she's purposely stayed away from #GamerGate. That's too identifiable.


It's not that you're ashamed of what you're about to type. You want to talk about it on Twitter and Facebook and you want to agree to interview requests... but you can't. You've seen what happens when women speak out on #GamerGate or even just about being a woman in game development. Attaching your name would also attach your company name. You know the consequences -- once a company or person is on the radar of certain groups, it's on the radar for years. It won't end when #GamerGate blows over. The consequences are longer term than that.

You spend a couple days thinking about what you'll say. There are the easy parts, sure. #GamerGate started with harassment and outrage because a female developer had affairs and some of the people happened to also be involved in the industry. It was clearly because she's a woman and one who had a history of being targeted -- once you're on the radar, you're on it for years. You can also say in many years of game development, you've seen a bunch of sex scandals go public including affairs, wife swapping, strippers in the office and even sex in the office during work hours, and none of them got any significant attention. The only difference here was the gender of the actor in question (female) and the fact that she was already on their radar (largely for being female and outspoken).

You can say that's the root for a fact because you've watched the whole thing unfold as it happened. You can also say that as a fact because of the choice of targets. In an industry where large publishers routinely send valuable swag to journalists and hold huge, boozy parties at every conference, the targets here are small and indie. They have one thing in common: they're run by women, or they favorably cover the issues of women in games.

You decide instead to talk about the reality of how games are developed. Indies make whatever they want, so the question is really about mainstream development. Does social pressure change the content you make? Ultimately, you make what your bosses tell you to make. Commercial game development is a complex machine, largely driven by marketing and PR. It's all about what will sell. Half-naked ladies in games are safe -- those games sell, and if it sells it will get made. If changes happen, like having more female protagonists or avoiding some of the "tropes" in the Sarkeesian videos, it's for one of two reasons (or both): Because marketing believes it will sell more games, or because marketing believes it will put the company in a better light, which will sell more games.

The statement from Developer #2 continues on next page.

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