Portal Creator Sees End to Industry Sexism in 20 Years

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Portal Creator Sees End to Industry Sexism in 20 Years

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Kim Swift is calling on women in the videogame industry to be "visible, outspoken and strong" in order to inspire the current generation of girls to become the next generation of game makers.

Kim Swift may not be as instantly recognizable a name as, say, John Romero or CliffyB, but you almost certainly know her work. She headed Valve's Portal development team and was also involved in the creation of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 before departing to direct the development of Quantum Conundrum for Square Enix. She knows a thing or two about making games, in other words, and she also has a few ideas about how to address the problem of sexism in the game industry.

"As a participator in the 1ReasonWhy hash tag, I am ashamed to admit that I am scared of sharing everything; I'm scared of sharing the worst of it," she wrote in a recent blog post. "I am fearful of delving below the surface. Talking about this subject in public is terrifying because frankly you never know when retribution is going to rear its ugly head and what sort of consequences will come about because of your words."

She acknowledged that sexism isn't a problem that can be overcome quickly or easily, because adults aren't going to change their deeply-held beliefs just because someone on the internet told them to. Kids, on the other hand, aren't quite so stratified in their thinking, and they're the ones she believes should be the focus of efforts to change the landscape.

"I have a secret wish. Whenever I'm in the public eye, whether it's doing PR or giving a talk - and this is going to sound amazingly corny - I hope that there's a little girl out there that sees me and thinks to herself, 'Oh look! Girls make games too'," she wrote.

"I see the solution to this problem coming not a year from now, not five years from now, but twenty. When this current generation of kids sees the good example that we should be setting now. And though we may not be able to tell it completely like it is just yet, there's still plenty we can do to help future generations of game developers," she continued. "So ladies, my call to arms is this: Be visible. Be outspoken. Be strong. Be smart. Be kind. Be everything that the younger versions of us could've pointed to and proudly said: 'Girls make games too.'"

Sounds like pretty smart advice to me.

Source: In the Base Case

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its kind of sad that a 20 year prediction is an optimistic one...

That's the way to do it. Targeting the youth is always the best way to shift cultural ideology. Many of the white adults in the 60's that hated minorities still hated them after the civil rights movement, but most of their children didn't. Look at the issue of gay marriage in the US right now. It gets a huge amount of support from young people whose ideology is at odds with that of their parents.

Like how we elected Barak Obama and now there's no racism in politics?
LoL nope

You mean soon men will be allowed to be the useless, scantily clad "moral compass" NPC support characters? FREE AT LAST!

Not if XBox Live still exists.

This is exciting news, when I'm on the night shift for the sentry to protect the survivor's compound from raiders in 20 years, I'll be able to spend my few hours of leisure time playing non-sexist video games.

hentropy:
This is exciting news, when I'm on the night shift for the sentry to protect the survivor's compound from raiders in 20 years, I'll be able to spend my few hours of leisure time playing non-sexist video games.

In the next 20 years we will have to deal with 30 or 40 apocalypses, I wonder if the lack of sexism in gaming will be one of them?

Andy Chalk:
Kim Swift may not be as instantly recognizable a name as, say, John Romero...

Would anybody want to have a name as instantly recognizable as John Romero's? I mean, yeah, his name is recognizable, but is it still recognizable as something positive at this point? :P

Hopefully her prediction will come true. I think that one way to help with her goal is to smack Team Ninja upside the head because out of all the companies I've seen they are the worst when it comes to sexism. Honestly I'm still predicting that their next game with having breast with arms and legs that fight each other.

I hope it happens sooner. But I can tell in the next few days or so, a developer will throw a tantrum over what she said.

Yep, gonna harp on Skyrim Fallout some more.

Player (who saves the world) can be either gender, with nearly any physical traits.
Males & females in the game world all look realistic rather than inordinately beautiful (no, they don't program in acne textures, but you get the idea).
Clothing is on the whole practical for both genders. Support characters come in all shapes sizes and genders.

What is the male reaction to this? Create a nudity mod and body replacer for female characters nearly within a week after the game is released. This is user content however, so in my book it's okay.

And there's hope here, because these games do amazingly well, despite the stock games having a minimum of female objectification. It proves that though perhaps sex sells, you don't need it to sell your game. And Skyrim's rated M, it's not a game the teens are fawning over, it's not E for Everybody babysitter fare, it's a game for older players.

There's all this talk of sexism in games, but people seldom note that there are prominent examples of progressive games. Mirror's Edge? Fans are clamoring for a sequel, EA has all but said they're working on it, and the game featured an unsexualized plausible female lead. (inb4 she wore a tank top so she's objectified, inb4 'but we wanna be sexy')

*looks at over a century of efforts to achieve sexual equality* *see current state of things*
Yeah, I don't see that happening in 20 years. I see that happening in 200 years.

Problem #1 is reversing the trend of women getting less technical and computer science degrees. In 1984 37% of computer science degrees were given to women, by 2007 it's at 22% (figures from Jolie O'Dell). To be completely frank, there simply isn't enough competent female tech professionals to create gender duality in the tech industry in general, much less the video games industry. Aiming for the younger generation is the best plan so far, much better then unrealistic expectations of the gender gap closing anytime in the near future.

Skeleon:

Andy Chalk:
Kim Swift may not be as instantly recognizable a name as, say, John Romero...

Would anybody want to have a name as instantly recognizable as John Romero's? I mean, yeah, his name is recognizable, but is it still recognizable as something positive at this point? :P

Daikatana. It works as a punchline to any joke you tell.

A priest and a rabbi walked into a bar. Daikatana.

Both good and bad news I guess.

Good that it's being said. Bad that it actually needs to be said.

RobfromtheGulag:
[snip]

Overall I agree but I do think sexism, bar obvious exceptions (games whose message is that either gender is inferior), isn't really a game-specific problem.

A game featuring a big-breasted character in a chain-bikini isn't sexist, it's simply catering to a certain niche. An industry where a certain niche is the only one being catered to however is sexist.

A progressive industry isn't one where all games feature unsexualized plausible characters. A progressive industry is one where a wide variety of games, including ones with hyper-sexualized ridiculous characters as well as the opposite, are being made and a wide variety of niches are being included in the hobby.

Hope that we can get all that done even sooner. All this stupid "D: Girls can't play games, and never did play video games before" bullcrap is really getting old.

RaikuFA:
I hope it happens sooner. But I can tell in the next few days or so, a developer will throw a tantrum over what she said.

Followed by at least 100 manchildren attempting to be the first ones to ask how she has time to develop games from the kitchen.

It sucks that she estimates 20 years. It sucks even more that she's probably right. You only need to look at the Sarkesian backlash (Your opinion of her and her work is irrelevant; the reception it garnered was pathetic and undeserving of the content) to see how right she is.

DVS BSTrD:
Like how we elected Barak Obama and now there's no racism in politics?
LoL nope

You mean soon men will be allowed to be the useless, scantily clad "moral compass" NPC support characters? FREE AT LAST!

Not if XBox Live still exists.

I'm not sure what you mean? She says it's not going to be an overnight thing. As far as politics go, I wouldn't be surprised after eight years under a black president, that people aren't going to play the race card quite so fervently the next time a black person runs for office, or the next, and so on to the point where people are no longer surprised or outraged and the idea of black presidents and politicians is a common thing. We'r talking decades here, but it's gonna happen.

RobfromtheGulag:
Yep, gonna harp on Skyrim Fallout some more.

Player (who saves the world) can be either gender, with nearly any physical traits.
Males & females in the game world all look realistic rather than inordinately beautiful (no, they don't program in acne textures, but you get the idea).
Clothing is on the whole practical for both genders. Support characters come in all shapes sizes and genders.

What is the male reaction to this? Create a nudity mod and body replacer for female characters nearly within a week after the game is released. This is user content however, so in my book it's okay.

And there's hope here, because these games do amazingly well, despite the stock games having a minimum of female objectification. It proves that though perhaps sex sells, you don't need it to sell your game. And Skyrim's rated M, it's not a game the teens are fawning over, it's not E for Everybody babysitter fare, it's a game for older players.

There's all this talk of sexism in games, but people seldom note that there are prominent examples of progressive games. Mirror's Edge? Fans are clamoring for a sequel, EA has all but said they're working on it, and the game featured an unsexualized plausible female lead. (inb4 she wore a tank top so she's objectified, inb4 'but we wanna be sexy')

To be fair, there's also a male nudity mod (With different 'girth' levels, as I recall), and the sex mod has hetero and homosexual options for both genders.

And really as far as that goes, I would argue, "sex" doesn't inherently mean "sexist". It's not sexist to find a character attractive and want to see more, little weird, but whatever floats yer boat, says I.
I myself found it strange that after I stripped the talon mercs and raiders of all their stuff, that they had pristine vault issue tank tops.
While I'm sure there are many players who install the nude mods because they think that's all women are good for, I'm even more certain that they are the minority of players.

RobfromtheGulag:

Player (who saves the world) can be either gender, with nearly any physical traits.
Males & females in the game world all look realistic rather than inordinately beautiful (no, they don't program in acne textures, but you get the idea).
Clothing is on the whole practical for both genders. Support characters come in all shapes sizes and genders.

What is the male reaction to this? Create a nudity mod and body replacer for female characters nearly within a week after the game is released. This is user content however, so in my book it's okay.

It's not okay in that it continues to expose a cultural problem in that apparently there's a niche audience that can't game without an erection.

Man, Mrs. Swift is my favourite person in the industry!

But I really doubt it will end in 20 years.

I agree with her hopes, and it would be a great thing to see. We must aim to reduce sexism in gaming.

However sexism is so endemic in other areas of life, like cinema, literature, even business that there's no way it's ever going to go away totally.

Hagi:
A game featuring a big-breasted character in a chain-bikini isn't sexist, it's simply catering to a certain niche. An industry where a certain niche is the only one being catered to however is sexist.

If it's the only one being catered to, then it would cease to qualify as "niche". :P

Alfador_VII:
I agree with her hopes, and it would be a great thing to see. We must aim to reduce sexism in gaming.

However sexism is so endemic in other areas of life, like cinema, literature, even business that there's no way it's ever going to go away totally.

It needs to go the same way that rampant racism/homophobia are heading, in that they are stigmatized rather than tolerated (if not condoned). And yes, it needs to start with young people who aren't being brainwashed by their parents.

Zachery Gaskins:

Hagi:
A game featuring a big-breasted character in a chain-bikini isn't sexist, it's simply catering to a certain niche. An industry where a certain niche is the only one being catered to however is sexist.

If it's the only one being catered to, then it would cease to qualify as "niche". :P

True enough. Let me rephrase it then,

an industry mistaking a certain niche (gender-specific one of course, considering the topic) for their full audience is sexist. An individual game targeting a certain niche, realizing it's not the full audience of their medium, is not sexist.

Hagi:
Both good and bad news I guess.

Good that it's being said. Bad that it actually needs to be said.

RobfromtheGulag:
[snip]

Overall I agree but I do think sexism, bar obvious exceptions (games whose message is that either gender is inferior), isn't really a game-specific problem.

A game featuring a big-breasted character in a chain-bikini isn't sexist, it's simply catering to a certain niche. An industry where a certain niche is the only one being catered to however is sexist.

A progressive industry isn't one where all games feature unsexualized plausible characters. A progressive industry is one where a wide variety of games, including ones with hyper-sexualized ridiculous characters as well as the opposite, are being made and a wide variety of niches are being included in the hobby.

Interesting point, I seldom see new sides to this debate. I think there'd be some argument over big-breasted chain-bikinis being sexist, but the point stands.

Zachery Gaskins:

It's not okay in that it continues to expose a cultural problem in that apparently there's a niche audience that can't game without an erection.

I wouldn't worry about that. At that point we might as well equate the games in question to pornography for that specific individual, and on the liberal front pornography is acceptable as long as all people are catered to, ergo Hagi's earlier post.

I might be reading it wrong, but it sounds like you're saying people who game for sexual gratification are a problem, => sexual gratification is a problem => you'll get hairy palms.

What a boringly safe prediction. Gee, I also predict in 50 years America will see it's first female or gay president, that Tigers in the wild will be extinct, that everybody reading this post will have had sex at least ONE time, and that water will still in all probability be describable as "wet."

See? I can make amazingly bold predictions of a mundane nature as well.

Exactly right, stand up and be a role model if you want to change things, instead of complaining about them from behind your computer.

I hope things go well for her.

As much as I love the idea of stamping out sexism, racisim, homophobia, etc etc., it's just not gonna happen. People are dicks. We can minimise it, take it out of the vast majority of our mainstream entertainment, but it'll never go away.

Good idea; the other way that this will work is by making games that target both genders well. Key word is well.

...I'm getting the feeling that I should introduce my cousins (who are quite traditional in these matters) to Journey and the other games by those developers. I'd like to see their reaction.

RobfromtheGulag:
What is the male reaction to this? Create a nudity mod and body replacer for female characters nearly within a week after the game is released. This is user content however, so in my book it's okay.

That just borders on misinformation.

The overwhelming majority of graphical mods of that nature had already been developed for Oblivion (2006), by the time Fallout 3(2008) and New Vegas(2010) were released. Each game uses the Gamesbryo graphical engine, which means that once the hard work is done and the mod is completed in most cases it takes comparatively little effort to re-task an older mod for a newer game.

Gearhead mk2:
As much as I love the idea of stamping out sexism, racisim, homophobia, etc etc., it's just not gonna happen. People are dicks. We can minimise it, take it out of the vast majority of our mainstream entertainment, but it'll never go away.

I think we're doing good by increasing the volume of the dialogue, by actually sharing our mutual awareness that it IS a problem, NO it cannot ever be eliminated since it's something that is taught / failed to be taught by adult role models.

We've got to be the good people that cease to do nothing in the face of evil, rather than accept it and allow it to be normalized.

RobfromtheGulag:

Zachery Gaskins:

It's not okay in that it continues to expose a cultural problem in that apparently there's a niche audience that can't game without an erection.

I wouldn't worry about that. At that point we might as well equate the games in question to pornography for that specific individual, and on the liberal front pornography is acceptable as long as all people are catered to, ergo Hagi's earlier post.

I might be reading it wrong, but it sounds like you're saying people who game for sexual gratification are a problem, => sexual gratification is a problem => you'll get hairy palms.

Not a problem at all, really. If a game is intended to be sexually gratifying, then yes. (Not wishing to tangent off into a discussion on H-games which wish-fulfill misogyny, though.)

Needing to salt every game with genitalia suggests your lizard brain is still working the controls, which might trouble some people (remember Seth's obsession with drawing dicks in "Superbad"?)

You will never truly end sexism, but taking 20 years to lessen it in the industry sounds pretty realistic. I just wish it wouldn't take that long.

Here's hoping we hear more from Kim and other prominent ladies in the coming years. This is the first time I've heard of her and I loved Portal!

It's kind of sad but from my personal experience almost all of the sexism in regards to video games has come from women not men, anonymous internet not included. I only know of one woman (in my life at the moment) who does not think gaming is one of those "Sad things grown men do that are meant for little boys."

Legion:
It's kind of sad but from my personal experience almost all of the sexism in regards to video games has come from women not men, anonymous internet not included. I only know of one woman (in my life at the moment) who does not think gaming is one of those "Sad things grown men do that are meant for little boys."

This is likely a chicken or the egg fallacy.

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