Good news, everyone! My big speaking gig for the year will be happening at the first-ever No Show Conference, all the way over in Boston the weekend of July 14-15. I hope to see some of you fine folks there, particularly those of you I don’t usually get to see at west coast gatherings!
This time around, since this is going to be a particularly awesome conference as it’s being organised by the fantastic Courtney Stanton, I’ve decided to speak about something a little… well, different from what I normally get to get up and talk about, and quite silly, besides. I’m doing a satire of all the ubiquitous “Women in Games” presentations at game dev conferences, called — you guessed it — “Men in Games”. Read on for a longer description!
In this satire-drenched and badly-photoshopped image-filled presentation, participants will be invited to imagine an alternate universe where women are people and men are… well, men. The videogame industry, as such, is heavily female-dominated, with “boy games” being a niche, low-budget genre mainly enjoyed by middle-aged househusbands. Most representations of men in mainstream, triple-A “female power fantasy” games are as little more than sex objects, and all of them promote a very narrow ideal of what a man’s body ought to look like. Men who play multiplayer games are continuously subjected to flirtatious comments, unsolicited game-related favours from other players, and demands for pictures of themselves. While a number of male gamers arguably find this sexualisation “empowering” (because we all know that men enjoy being attractive, and women enjoy looking at attractive men!) others, unfortunately, find it exploitative and degrading, reinforcing the stereotype of gaming being a female-only hobby.
Furthermore, very few men themselves feel inclined to enter the game industry, both due to this perception of a “girls’ club” and to the discouragement given to boys from an early age in pursuing math and engineering as careers. Men tend to feel unwelcome in the presence of Playgirl pinup posters on cubicle walls, corporate meetings at Chippendales and similarly objectifying establishments, and the proliferation of “booth dudes” at game conventions. It’s easy to say that women are pigs and/or socially awkward nerds who don’t know any better, but, as many of us are happy to point out, “we’re not all like that!” Clearly, we can do better.
Fortunately, there are many inroads being made today in making men feel more welcome in our industry, from Men in Games social gatherings (to which women are also invited, of course!) to MENtorship programmes in college/university engineering programmes to companies such as Him Interactive and Binary Brothers creating games “by real men, for real men”. These initiatives do have their detractors in the “but women are objectified in games too!” sense (because, you know, they’re always so strong and muscular and powerful and all) as well as the “why does everything have to be about GENDER, anyway; why can’t we all just make GAMES?” sense. However, unless and until some kind of worldwide social upheaval takes place, well, we’re just going to have to take what we can get, right?