PAX Panel: Girls, Games, and the Growing Role of Women in the Game Industry

Really quickly before I head out (late).

Each panelist was instructed to introduce themselves, how they got into games, and how they got into the industry. The moderator was Trixie from Xbox.com. Apparently her reputation precedes her and she doesn’t need to be introduced with a last name. The panelists were Jane Pinckard from CMP (the company that runs the Game Developers Conference), Morgan Romine from Ubisoft (also Team Captain of the US Frag Dolls), and Theresa Pudenz from Flying Lab Software (also an ex-Frag Doll).

Most of them gave similar stories re: getting into gaming. They got into games at a young age, some kept up with it, others weren’t hardcore until later in life. Romne and Pinckard got into the industry in unorthodox ways. Romine bugged Ubisoft for a job until they let her in, and they then tried to figure out what to do with her. The Frag Dolls was the result. Pinckard blogged (yay!) about games and was a freelance game writer for 1UP.com and GamePro. Then the CMP job came up, and she is now doing conference management. Pudenz worked a variety of industry jobs before landing at Flying Lab.

  • The panel discussed the issues related to women and games that people are probably very familiar with:
  • Number of women in the tech industry
  • Number of women studying science degrees
  • Whether women are necessarily pre-disposed to business, public relations, and marketing because there are relatively more women working in these fields in the industry than men
  • Game content and how women are portrayed
  • Game culture and how unwelcoming it is not only to women, but homosexual people, the disabled, and people of colour

The questions from the audience were along the lines of what they discussed in the panel. One guy worked at a game store and wondered what kind of games to suggest for girls. A couple of people asked about the game content and portrayal of women topic. A woman programmer asked about what could be done about women in the tech industry.

Unfortunately, I was not able to ask my question, which would have been on the topic of game culture. Romine had covered how unwelcoming it was for women to get on Xbox Live and play online matches because the culture there, and on the internet (she does community relations for Ubisoft) is so “unfriendly to women”. I was going to ask how the men gamers (and there were a lot of men in the audience as well) could be more welcoming to women gamers. Alas, no time for my question. I know some of the answers of course, but I just wanted to hear the panelists’ opinions and possibly get some of the people in the audience to consider them.

All of the women raised good points, and Pinckard in particular was insightful. It was she who said that gaming culture is not just unwelcoming to women, but to homosexuals and people of colour.

EDIT: Fixed spelling error. Sorry, Theresa!

  6 comments for “PAX Panel: Girls, Games, and the Growing Role of Women in the Game Industry

  1. Mechangel
    28 August 2007 at 08:03

    I don’t know if it was you or not but somebody asked that question at the Frag Doll panel. I said I don’t think that men should treat women on Xbox live any differently than they treat their male friends. Just be nice and don’t harp on the fact that they are a girl.

  2. 28 August 2007 at 09:16

    That’s a good in principal, but in practice if the men on Xbox Live treat women the same way that they treat their friends, they could turn away a lot of people — men, women, non-straight people, people of colour, the disabled, etc. Xbox Live and the online gaming environment in general is fairly hostile and unwelcoming to anyone who is not a 13-year old boy with a really immature and abusive sense of humour.

    There are mature men out there. I know this because I’ve met and interacted with them. However, if you just watch the conversations fly by in local, you wonder where they are.

    Every so often, I turn off local chat in Guild Wars, and the environment there, especially in the American Districts, but not necessarily (I’ve seen this in European as well), hoping that it will be different, and rarely am I surprised that it’s not.

    People talk about ‘raping’ other people and threatening to rape them with alarming regularity, not even recognising the fact that someone in the same district might have been a rape victim or that they’re using a really terrible, violent crime as comparable to a videogame. They call each other gay as if it’s a bad thing. They throw around really rude and sexist stuff like, “I’d fuck her” (referring to characters in the game) or they solicit for online sex.

    In that environment, the mature people — men and women — just turn local off. I spoke to a Guild Wars developer who, like me, turns local chat off when playing. So it’s a bit of a hard place. New gamers who start playing see all that and wonder where all the cool people are. The cool, mature people are there, but they just don’t engage with the negative elements… Which leads to the overall belief that online gaming is unwelcoming. I believe it is, on the surface. But there are moments when I am pleasantly surprised. They’re just too few and far between.

  3. 28 August 2007 at 11:04

    Hey there!

    Thank you for attending the panel! Feel free to e-mail me with any more questions.

    -Theresa Pudenz

    (without the r)

    ;)

    Although, working on a pirate game, I can see why you would put an R in there. (Arr.)

  4. 28 August 2007 at 17:11

    You’re the best!

    What question were you going to ask but didn’t get to?

  5. 30 August 2007 at 13:25

    I was going to ask whether the panelists thought that there was anything that men gamers could specifically do to make the online gaming environment more welcoming to women.

    As the majority in the market and in the industry, I think the onus is on the men to make the culture more welcoming to others who aren’t a part of the majority. Minority groups do not have the social power to change a culture on their own, but members of a more powerful majority can change culture through their supportive actions. I think that the hostile gaming culture would change more quickly if male gamers criticised their peers — fellow male gamers — for being abusive, sexist, homophobic, and racist. It just takes something simple as, “What you said back there was not cool” for change to occur.

  6. 24 September 2007 at 16:58

    I don’t know if there’s a specific thing that men can do other than not being those things that you just named – “abusive, sexist, homophobic, and racist” I find that if you ignore the bad, and reward the good, it all ends up working out quite well.

    On the game development side, I personally think that a game without hyper-sexuality and stereotypes will attract women much more than a game with those two characteristics. It sounds pretty obvious but it doesn’t seem to be to a lot of people. Either that or they just don’t care and want to appeal to a generalized male audience only.

    The Frag Dolls was a lot of fun, the group of girls there made me feel really welcome. Hopefully in the future there won’t be a need for gender based communities, but for now I think it helps quite a bit.

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