Taking back the video game industry we built

A photo from GeekGirlCon’s gaming floor in 2014. (Photo by Sayed Alamy)

More than 1,000 people recently liked and reblogged a post on tumblr titled, “What happened to the women that built the video game industry?”

The publication Mic posted the article, which explores the early adventure computer game industry in the 80s and 90s. The piece widely credits women as being designers, producers, and directors in the new frontier of hit software development — with games like Sierra Co-founder Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest selling over 400,000 copies and leaders like Electronic Arts’ art department head Nancy L. Fong.

But the article notes that some women designers started to lose interest as the hyper-masculine game culture emerged in the mid-90s.

Christy Marx, creator of the TV series Jem and a former Sierra designer, told Mic that as the decade continued, “the audience for games shifted and became more male-oriented. She argues the shift—partially attributed to how marketing presented games to boys—damaged the industry and stifled innovation.

“The true history of gaming is antithetical to today’s hyper-masculine, hyper-reactive ‘gamer culture.’ If we want to recover the openness of the early years, our best hope is to tell their story, loudly and often, to anyone with ears to hear.” – Mic

Marx’s sentiment is not limited to 90s computer gaming. From modern eSports tournaments to playing recreational console titles, it’s no secret the effects of hyper-masculinity is felt among many modern female gamers and women who create games.

We know that games needs more representation — and not just gender, but other areas of diversity, too.

That’s why GeekGirlCon hosts a convention with panels and exhibitions for  women, femmes, non-binary/gender nonconforming individuals; so that we can come together and discuss how we can achieve a better gaming community.

Taking back the video gaming industry means making a change for a healthy future for ALL gamers and people working in the industry.

“Another way to look at representation is normalization,” GeekGirlCon video game coordinator Kathryn Storm said. “When we keep showing up at eSports tournaments and as fans of gaming behind-the-scenes, the world sees that women are not just ‘girl gamers’ but simply ‘gamers.’  This year’s Gaming programming [at GeekGirlCon] is a reflection of what the women of GeekGirlCon Gaming were super stoked about, and thought it was time to see at the convention. Not as a way to prove anything but, ‘hey, I love this and I bet attendees will too.’”

As an interaction designer at Xbox, Kathryn also works toward equity by taking part of Team Xbox’s Women In Gaming. The group celebrates women within the interactive and entertainment tech industry.

Women In Gaming held its 17th annual luncheon this spring, and it featured speakers from across the modern gaming industry who talked about how being themselves led to success.

We’ll leave you with some of their stories of how they persevere and work toward improvements in the industry every day.

Jenny Xu, MIT Student, Owner of JCSOFT Inc

Jenny, only 18 years old, has developed over 50 online games and played by over 4 million people. By posting her early work online, she’s received positive feedback and confidence, but has also encounter a fair share of “trolls and haters.”

But Xu calls her family and friends the “warriors and healers” in her story.

“They were there to support me whenever I needed something or when I was feeling down. My friends and family were always there to fight for me.”

Jenny Xu, MIT Student, Owner of JCSOFT Inc. (Image: news.xbox.com)

Elizabeth Maler, CEO of Accidental Queens

Elizabeth now runs a three-woman studio in France, but her early game dev experiences were not easy. She was told that harassment she endured was just part of “how the industry works and that I would just have to get used to it.” But she wouldn’t take that as an answer and started asking pointed questions during her job interviews.

Elizabeth Maler, CEO of Accidental Queens. (Image: news.xbox.com)

“My first question was: how many women work at your company? My second question was: why aren’t there more? Because usually the number was usually really low. My third question was: what are you willing to do in order to get more women? Some companies didn’t like me asking these questions, and they felt really uncomfortable. But that was OK, because the companies that were not OK with me asking these questions were the companies I didn’t want to go to work in. So that was a good filter.”

Maureen Fan, CEO and co-founder of Baobob Studios

After spending time at both Pixar and Zynga, Fann took a bold risk by starting her own VR animation studio. She struggled against cynicism and perceived skepticism because she was a woman.

She has persevered and now her company is up and running. Her advice? should refuse to let people bucket you into something you’re not because of what they expect. Only you know what you can do and how you can lead.

Maureen Fan, CEO and co-founder of Baobob Studios. (Image: news.xbox.com)

What would you like to learn about in the gaming world? Email us here and we may pick it up for a blog post. Check out our July blog post from our gaming team here.

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Ashli Blow
“Rock On!”

Ashli Blow

Ashli is a news writer and digital producer who loves comic books.

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