I'M A 'WOMAN IN GAMES'
This is inspired by my friend and general inspiration to us all, Robin Hunicke, and her thought-provoking and necessary blog post over at Funomena. I totally share her frustrations with being pegged as a Woman In Games, and I applaud her decision to not answer THE QUESTIONS unless the person asking is willing to ask them of everyone, not just the visible women. My tactics are a bit different, though.
I haven’t posted here in quite some time, and the last three or four months have been exhausting, so I am going to be incredibly transparent.
I know a lot of women in games who don’t want to talk about being Women In Games, and I don’t blame them one bit. It gets so tiring to do what you love and no one cares— no one notices. These devs want to be known for their work, not their gender, and honestly who can blame them? You feel like you’re progressing in your career, you feel like you’re really making movement, and you’re still known for the same thing you’ve always been known for— just being a woman.
Sometimes I feel like I’m professionally female. I know impostor syndrome hits everyone, but I’m pretty sure over half the people who have told me how much they respect or admire me or my “work” over the last twelve months couldn’t name a single game I’ve worked on. I don’t labor in obscurity, not always anyway— my game Deadbolt was a finalist at Indiecade last year and that was amazing. But when I stood on a stage in front of hundreds of people at the GDC microtalks, and I looked down into the audience and realized this was the first time I’d been asked in front of an audience that size to talk about anything other than gender— to actually talk about why I love making games, and not the things that hinder me from making them— I almost cried.
I got suckered into being quoted for some Polygon article that wasn’t actually about what the journalist told me it was about. And yeah, that sucked but whatever, I stand by what I said. But a friend of mine— someone I love and respect and think the world of— grumpily commented on twitter that the reporter quoted me wholly without context for my contributions to the industry, without naming the games I made. And I thought, well, no shit he didn’t name my “contributions” or my games. Could you?
One of the things I said in my GDC talk this year about Women In Games was that it’s funny to me how we talk about important voices in games, but not people. I’m definitely a disembodied voice; a game industry “personality.” When industry friends introduce me to people and they ask me what I do, I don’t know what to tell them; I usually say I make weird browser games no one plays and I yell on the Internet. I used to get introduced in real life to people as “Face-palming Wonder Woman,” but now that I’ve changed my Twitter avatar they just call me twoscooters.
I’m a voice that yells, and eyes that roll. I live in your computer and in our industry in a way that the things I make never, ever will.
And you know what? I’ve made my peace with that.
I make games because I need to make games; I need to, like the way you need to go to the bathroom. I’d be making these games even if no one knew who I was, and so I can’t get angry that I’m well-known for things that AREN’T my games. My games aren’t the games that concern me; they’re getting made no matter what, and sure I’d like if more people played them, but they exist, they’re free, the option to play them is there. That’s all I can ask for.
The games that concern me are the games that will never get made— the ones women would make if they saw that anyone had their back. The games that don’t get made because women quietly leave because they feel like nothing will ever change. The games that don’t get made because women don’t think about games as a thing THEY can make, or because they don’t want to leap without knowing that someone will catch them.
So here’s my Women In Games manifesto:
I am here. I am here and I will catch you every fucking time. I will be loud, I will always answer THE QUESTIONS— and depending on how often I’ve answered them recently and how much I am dying inside, I will do my best to answer them with a smile. I will go on Twitch.tv shows with an audience of thousands while people tell me SQUEAL PIGGY in chat and I will still answer “not all men” comment-questions from the grognards watching, and I will hold my own. I will never turn down an opportunity to talk about Women In Games if it is within my power. I will be patient, or angry, or vengeful, or conciliatory, whatever is necessary to get the job done. And at the end of the day, when I make a game and no one cares, I will keep that inside me and I will not complain.
And I will do all of that for YOU, because we need you. You and the games you will make.
Those games mean everything to me.