Sometimes Twitter is just about what you had for lunch and why you hate Monday, but last night it became a forum for women and men who had faced sexism in the games industry. Using the hashtag #1ReasonWhy developers and other industry figures spoke out about some of the reasons there weren't more female game developers.
Mattie Brice pointed out one of the most basic problems: "I had to make my own game in order to see someone like me as a main character." While Austin Ivansmith's contribution explained why that might be.
“Because 'It's too technical' or 'We ran out of time' to make a rig for a playable female character," Ivansmith wrote.
[Note: Ivansmith has contacted us to clarify that the origin of his tweet "was in regards to excuses made by publishers in the last few years as to their lack of inclusion of female playable characters (which I find to be a ridiculous excuse, as I pointed out in the comments of your website)."]
"Men like me are badasses, so cool and hilarious. I'm a disrespectful loud-mouthed bitch"
LM Lockhart gave the difference in salary for male and female game developers as a reason, something echoed by other tweeters, whilst problems even getting hired in the first place were issues for others. People shared stories of potential employers losing interest when they found out an employee wasn't single, or questioning their abilities. And when they do get hired? Being accused of being doing so for their physical attributes alone.
There were darker stories too, of inappropriate behaviour from colleagues, of tips on how not to get stalked passed between female co-workers. And outside their offices, at industry events, the problems only became worse.
“Because conventions, where designers are celebrated, are unsafe places for me. Really. I've been groped,” said Filamena.
“Because I feel like I am not welcome at E3 even though I have been making games for 31 years,” added Brenda Romero while Irrational Games' Beth Beinke, a level designer, revealed she had been mistaken for a booth babe while representing the company at events.
And then there were the women who tweeted to say they were too scared to give their reasons, that they worried it would hurt their job prospects or simply attract too much abuse.
”Because you can't just be a 'game developer.' No, you will always be a 'female game developer'”
“I don't talk about the crap I've gone through in the indie RPG community so new women designers think they're alone. So I'm #1reasonwhy,” admitted Elizabeth.
Some of the tweets from men also helped to give wider perspective on the issues, with one of the bravest and most startling coming from Jace Proctor of San Franciscan developer Fifth Column Games.
“Because when we hired a female engineer at my company, I was skeptical. She's talented and awesome. I'm part of the problem. #1ReasonWhy”
In fact it seems that the source of the #1ReasonWhy tag was a simple tweet from Luke Crane, who simply asked “why are there so few lady game creators?”
Harvey Smith of Arkane thanked all those women who faced the problems highlighted by the hashtag for keeping going, while other men like Zach Brosz pointed out that they can face abuse simply for addressing sexism.
“Because just for sticking up for female gamers I'm seen as a "traitor" to the male gaming society. That or a white knight.”
And Remedy CEO Matias Myllyrinne used #1ReasonWhy to encourage women to join his company.
“More diversity will only help us all make better games. Please apply.”
”Because if I succeed, I'm exceptional. And if I fail, I'm proof that women shouldn't be in the industry.”
And with the confessions and debate came the backlash. While there's little point in feeding the trolls here, it's good to see a snapshot of what women experience when trying to make their voices heard on the issue.
“#1reasonwhy B/C some are derailing the discussion & engaging in the same misogynistic behaviour that originated the hashtag in the 1st place,” pointed out Regina Buenaobra, North America's community team lead for ArenaNet.
Dillon Paradis, a “game creator in the making”, was one of those who posted, apparently without irony, using the hashtag.
“I look at #1ReasonWhy and I laugh at all the feminists who think they matter. If you were good in your field, you wouldn't be misrepresented”
But #1ReasonWhy has achieved more than just raising awareness among Twitter users. As the conversation continued another hashtag was born, #1ReasonMentors, which saw developers step forward to help each other.
Beinke was one who offering help to women interested in design, and Brie Code, a lead programmer at Ubisoft, also stepped up. (If you're interested in joining them, this link will take you a complete list of tweets using the mentors hashtag.) The list is growing, with more and more developers, male and female, from studios big and small, joining. It seems that as well as highlight the issues faced by this generation of female developers, it could change the future for the next one too.