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Tut-Tut: What's Wrong with Maxim's Gamer Girl?

Will Luton isn't angry with Maxim's Gamer Girl contest, just disappointed

Getting noticed and rising up the ranks in an industry as competitive as gaming is tough. It takes hardwork and dedication.

One young hopeful is Katrina, who has a games marketing and promotions background and is in her second year of a graphics and animation degree. Currently she is looking to break in as a concept artist and then as creative director. As a creative director myself I'm backing her ambitions.

However Katrina is taking an unusual step by entering Maxim's Gamer Girl competition. The contest is sponsored by Virgin Gaming, indie dev Twenty First Street Games and digital agency Zaah (who appear to have now pulled out of proceedings).

The premises is this: Upload some photos and write a little about what makes you the ultimate girl gamer. The public vote for a few winners, then those winners go through a more formal process to decide who is the ultimate winner. There are prizes, including the pleasure of having your scantily clad body photographed for the magazine.

My face's intrinsic beauty is never on the agenda for a board meeting. My body neither. It hasn't even come up under AOB.

Virgin Gaming tell me, via Twitter, that they are looking for: "Looks, confidence on camera AND gaming skills" and "not just looking for a gamer, but a host with cred for industry events, media features".

Now, I am a moderately handsome man, probably about a six if you were to take a poll in your average Wetherspoon. However, I don't recall having to ever have that publicly tested as part of my career, including any of my public facing responsibilities.

My face's intrinsic beauty is never on the agenda for a board meeting. My body neither. It hasn't even come up under AOB.

The profile of TradeChat (a colourful WoW geek) offers rewards for meeting voting milestones, which includes posting videos of her in various outfits dancing around. Plus a bikini photoshoot should she win.

She is offering titillation in return for progression and is leading the public vote.

So let's get this clear, Maxim Gamer Girl is a beauty pageant for an outmoded notion of a videogaming demographic - geeky young boys. The site is a tawdry offering, with row upon row of women clad in bikinis or underwear sprawled across things. Like an Argos catalogue of low level smut.

Now, I am not attacking low level smut (LLS?) and the entrants are clearly complicit, in effect condoning the competition, so "what is my problem", right?

My problem is that is that Maxim Gamer Girl has implied values. Values that a female employee of our industry, in this instance a spokeswoman, should conform to a notion of beauty and should be sexually desirable, ostensibly to young heterosexual men, for them to gain employment.

I'm not seeing Cosmopolitan's Gamer Boy, with bemuscled hunks in trunks licking an Xbox controller in race to be a spokesman for some misguided folly.

I'm not seeing Cosmopolitan's Gamer Boy, with bemuscled hunks in trunks licking an Xbox controller in race to be a spokesman for some misguided folly. That is because men, as women should be, are widely valued in games based on their ability and experience.

Virgin Gaming and Twenty First Street Games judging their potential (or current) female customers publicly by their looks is not a way to encourage women to become their employees. This kind of negative representation is a step back for all of the hard work being done to encourage more female applicants in to roles across our industry.

I'm a strong believer in the power of the disapproving tut, like you might hear in a village hall. So I want it registered that this is one big tut at Maxim Gamer Girls' sponsors.

Because I'm not angry with you, just disappointed. You've let yourselves down. Tut-tut.

If you would also like to register a tut then the event's sponsors can be found on Twitter under the accounts @VirginGaming and @21stGames

Will Luton is the Creative Producer at Mobile Pie, a Bristol based mobile developer. He contributes to GamesIndustry International, Develop and Edge. For more on Will's views on the gender imbalance inherent in the industry, and what should be done about it, listen to episode 3 of our podcast, featuring Will, Mark Sorrell and Paulina Bozek.

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Latest comments (29)

Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts9 years ago
I thought exactly the same thing when I noticed this recently, again disappointment rather that outrage.
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Dave Mitchell Founder, Two Tails9 years ago
Well said Will.
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve9 years ago
Can't agree more, it's a step backwards in getting this industry to have a balance of genders.

It's troubling enough to get women interested in this male dominated industry without this kind of re-enforcement that girls are just sexual objects in gaming.
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Show all comments (29)
Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games9 years ago
What I find most troubling is the case of Katrina. Finding the job you want in the games industry is hard work, there isn't a fast track, and if there is, this isn't it. Becoming the 'Maxim Gamer Girl' carries the same credentials to game developers as becoming the 'Maxim Science Girl' does to scientists. The truly sad thing is if people cannot distinguish the difference between someone with real skills, who is going through a process of acquiring and honing them in many different ways, be it collaborating with others, finishing projects, revising their portfolio, or setting up a business, to someone who has won what is essentially a modelling/popularity contest.

The problem with my comparison to science is that female scientists are not encouraged to promote themselves in this way.

I might need to read the prizes more clearly, but as far as I can tell this is a fast track to a modelling career with a loose 'gaming' theme, it's probably a great opportunity if you want to start or progress a modelling career. The issue is merging or masquerading it somehow as a career in the games industry, with the help of Virgin Games and Twenty First Street Games. If you want to acquire skills to work in the games industry there are far better ways to do it. Virgin/Twenty First has a responsibility to make this abundantly clear to their contestants.
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Ella Romanos CEO, Remode9 years ago
Very well said. We have a problem in the industry with lack of women and this kind of thing just makes it harder to encourage more women because it reinforces a preconception. Problem is though, that whilst women are happy to subject themselves to this, why would it stop?
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James Wells Gaming Contributor - 9 years ago
Defintiely agreeing with Thomas and Emily here.
This promotion is kocking the Games industry as a whole a few steps backward.
It's unfortunate that in this day & age these sexist promotions are still so commonplace, in many other fields as well (I'm looking directly at you, alcoholic beverage promotions).
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Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief9 years ago
If we are going to tut, can we tut with a hashtag? Are we all tutting to #maximgamergirl #tut
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Cori Myers CEO/Owner, Gameinatrix.com9 years ago
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Paolo Giunti Localisation Project Manager, GlobaLoc GmbH9 years ago
Problem is though, that whilst women are happy to subject themselves to this, why would it stop?
The actual problem is that it's a bit of a vicious circle.
Girls grow up playing with barbie dolls, then high school movies with the heroine winning the prom queen and other mainstream TV shows where a lady's key to success is to be the hottest one around.
And when it comes to real life choices, many feel that's the way to go, ending up with contributing to this sex-objecty image of women.

The only bright note, based on my personal experience, is that I've observed some slow progress. But the road for true gender equality is clearly still a long one to go.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 11th April 2012 7:15pm

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Bill Burnell Senior Editor for Albatross Revue 9 years ago
While I understand that the industry need to court high volume publications like Maxim and FHM they have to understand that their core audience is men wanting some "fap" material. This particular demographic isn't what's going to drag the industry out of the "little boys in darkened rooms" image most of the none gamer population think of.

However there is a solution; try to keep any and all publicity tied to reputable newspapers and magazines, Metro and The Guardian both have very good gaming sections, or simply just deal with specialist press. As the editor of a specialist gaming e-zine it really galls that FHM et al get more access and such things as review codes based on sales rather than quality.
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Jonatan Crafoord Indie Developer, Really Interactive AB9 years ago
Head on the nail. So glad whenever I see other men acknowledge their privileges, in this case to be valued only on ability and experience, and ask for nothing but the same treatment for women.
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Daniela Schulze Project Manager, Crytek UK9 years ago
The competition does make sense from a promotional perspective if you want a spokesperson that knows it's stuff and don't want a booth babe that doesn't even know how to hold a controller correctly or what an Xbox is.

I personally considered this competition completely apart from the industry. After all they are looking for a girl that's into games, which I believe is something completely different than being a professional within the games industry.

However, the above article puts it in a completely different perspective and I'm just thinking...why the heck would you go that way if you really consider a career in the games industry? It clearly states you are going to be a model and probably spending more time talking to "customers" rather than making industry contacts. So how does that bring you any closer to being a concept artist? I really don't see the connection.

Maybe students need to receive a better support in understanding the industry to know that a competition like this doesn't bring you any closer to your dream job.
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Danielle Masek Graphic designer/Illustrator 9 years ago
I agree w/everyone here. From a woman's perspective (mine), not only is this crap--I mean contest--a step back for gaming equality--it's a step back for women. Women say they don't want to be objectified (I certainly don't) yet this Katrina 'thing' is doing JUST that. Why doesn't she just stay home and be the "at your service" housewife that's a sex slave for her husband? Or sleep w/the boss to get a promotion? Why the hell not? It's on the same path. If women want to "move UP" then DON'T DO THIS CRAP--it's quite a simple conclusion to come to if one has brain cells. I find people that work in games and are talented, to be quite intelligent. You have to be to be GOOD. She's making male game professionals seem like pieces of meat that just want to jack off. Thanks chicky. Go back to school and try getting a real job and leave the gaming jobs for those of us trying to move the industry FORWARD and that actually have talent, and want to work, not shake our tits.
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It sounds like your problem may be more with Maxim the brand. Maxim has never tried to promote anything but a cheesecake attitude toward women in general.

Maxim is simply trying to make their brand more interesting by associating it with video games, which intrinsically are more interesting than Maxim itself.
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Dan Pearson Product Marketing Manager, Genvid9 years ago
As uniformly predictable as this is from a brand like Maxim, it shouldn't be something to shrug and ignore. They've chosen to associate what they're doing with gaming, in the most spurious and cynical way possible, and that impression reflects badly on the entire industry if not challenged.

The last thing gaming needs is another 'no girls' sign outside the treehouse. As Will points out, it's not about being prudish, it's about ensuring that our industry be as all-encompassing as possible. Right now, we're not doing that.
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Paul Gheran Scrum Master 9 years ago
John Byrd +1

I am 100% for equality in life, not just across gender, but across all variations of the human primate.

Reality is that men will never treat women equally. We may think we do, we may say we do, but we totally, unerringly, predictably don't. That's why it's called a demographic.

Before flaming, really consider your behaviour and attitude. When you disagree, know that you are factually incorrect.

Knowing that, what could anyone possibly expect?

And when the "Boys of Gaming" calendar shows up, call me, I'll definitely pose.
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West Clendinning Senior/Lead Artist, Rovio Entertainment9 years ago
I'm going to be the Devil's advocate here.
What do you expect from Maxim, it's a men's magazine.
Games Girl is just another of the same things, meant to interest the readers.
Hot girls that also like playing games = cool

In the same way they get hot girls to report on Gadgets, Travel consultants, Cars, Tech, Health, Fashion, etc.
In the case of Travel consultants my local Flight Centre, 5 girls and one guy work there and I'm pretty sure none of those girls had to pose for Maxim, neither did the hot chick holiday reporters in the men's mags stop them from getting the job they wanted.

I think the important thing here is to remember -
This is a pageant for a men's magazine. Not a games job agency for the entire female population.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by West Clendinning on 12th April 2012 12:06am

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Tony Johns9 years ago
I am not really outraged, like you all I am just a little dissapointed.

I have meet loads of gamer girls online in my years on the internet, and some even do want to have jobs in the games industry as much as I want to.

But I feel that it is unessential to have a beauty contest for gamer girls just to win them a job in the industry, it makes it really hard for those talented ones who may not have the most symmetrical body.

I also get a little disinterested when I try to learn how to do 3D models, and only to be taught that I should only design half of the model and clone it for the other half as if it was meant to be perfectly symmetrical, because I know in reality we are not all symmetrical on both sides of our bodies.

However I would love to see a cosplay tournument for otaku gamer girls, and the prize is a trip to Japan or something special like that. I think that would be more better.

It seems that Tut Tut is not worth it.
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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games9 years ago
@West Another way to look at it might be this - if Virgin Gaming wanted a man to be a rep for them, to funnel some betting cash into their gaming service, they wouldn't go about recruiting him in the same way as this. (I imagine they would look to recruiting the best male professional gamers, but this is purely speculation)

Having a $5000 injection to wager when pitting yourself against others in Virgin's gaming sector, travelling to gaming events, and being granted access to their live gaming finals is a great prize for the competitive gamer. Essentially Virgin are saying if you're a girl and want to do this, you'll have to show us a bikini shot first.
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Robert Jenkins UI Artist at Best Boy Media, TT Games9 years ago
Couldn't agree more, Will!
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West Clendinning Senior/Lead Artist, Rovio Entertainment9 years ago
From reading the articles on Maxim and Virgin games site, It's quite clear that this is not a competition that will win you a role making games in any professional sense. It is a competition for a modelling and promotional position.

This is no different from any other marketing promotion. Anyone can model clothes too, or sell watches, or shampoo, or phones or promote cars. But look at any advert and you will see the people are either good looking, or famous.
And yes both sexes are affected by this in all aspects of media. There is a 20 meter tall banner of David Beckham in his underwear on the local mall here ( bikini-ish? ), I gather he didn't get that opportunity because he's a fashion designer. Probably based more on his fame and looks.
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Kirsty Rigden Operations Director, FuturLab9 years ago
I have zero issue with Maxim girls, I have zero issues with Maxim girls who play games. I'm sure that there are Maxim girls out there who also love horses or who love hot air ballooning or whatever. They probably need to have an angle to succeed in the line of work they chose and genuinely, best of luck to them.
What I do have an issue with is any girl claiming to be a representative of the games industry presenting themselves in such a way. Surely if you're in games, its because you love them and you love the industry. Why would you want to do anything to damage its (already slightly immature) reputation? I can't believe anyone who genuinely cares about this industry, and therefore who would be a suitable representative, could be willing to hurt it so much. Just in order to validate that you are pretty.
We all need to be working together to improve our reputation, so that we are seen as a more viable business by the mainstream, ultimately leading to more investment and a better future! If you want to be a model, go model, but please leave us out of it, you dont represent the industry.
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Will Luton9 years ago
I want to make it clear the beef here is not with Maxim, it's with the contest's industry sponsors that are facilitating and condoning it.

It is not very clear, at least until I did some digging, that this a protracted audition for a modelling contract.

It is branded as the ultimate female consumer contest and that the female consumer should be HOT SEXY OMFG LULZ. That is detrimental to encouraging our female consumers to take the step over the line in to production, be it as an artist, designer, PR, marketing or coding.

Dan say it best with "The last thing gaming needs is another 'no girls' sign outside the treehouse." It's really what this competition is.
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Tom Szirtes Senior Games Developer, Orange9 years ago
I think Will is being way too modest - I've seen him in the flesh and he's more like a 6.5 on the hotness meter.
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Faro Journalist, Empire State Gamer9 years ago
Well, I totally agree with yah. BUT...that doesn't mean that there isn't an opportunity here to make some positive changes. For example, voting for someone who hasn't taken a single piece of clothing off could help mold the industry and efface the disgusting stereotype that haunts female gamers. I know it may sound like a lost cause but... I'm willing to work hard enough to prove a point. Check me out. I promise you, this is all for a great cause in the end. Using powerful sources can prove extremely helpful when attempting to achieve a positive goal.
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Faro Journalist, Empire State Gamer9 years ago
lol. Speaking of that "no girls" sign, heard of that Brazzer's sponsorship that a tournament player acquired? It's hilarious. I spoke to him about the move and tried to speak some sense to the guy. The porn industry is totally degrading toward women. That is the last thing the gaming industry needs. A total step backward.
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Sean Warren Inspector 9 years ago
Sorry, but I don't believe for a second that anyone that keeps their clothing on can possibly win this thing... "gameplay and skill" will have about as much to with this as with nearly any other aspect of the game industry... no, this is simply meeting the challenge of exploiting a niche to generate capital... This niche just happens top be the chauvinist, who consequently, has no problem with exploitation. As ever and always, this is $ motivated douchebaggery.
PS, your link is dead.
PPS, Nice try.
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Josh Jonsson Studying Bcomm/CompSc, University of Calgary9 years ago
This article feels pandering. The author attempts to mitigate his appeal to the essentially "liberal" community of current modern discourse yet all his arguments are pretty much based solely on the current counter culture trends. Video games are massively dominated by men. Of these men the majority are heterosexual. This is simply fact. Of the potential veiwers of such a contest the vast majority are going to come into it expecting "LLS", it is a MAXIM contest... Expecting Maxim to lead the way in gender equality is like expecting Epic Meal Time to teach vegetarianism. Add to this that Maxim covers a very wide range of potential male interests and ties them all together with TnA; this is not the place to look for concrete gaming culture news either. So in effect this author wanted others to pat him on the back for conforming to political correctness. Congratulations.
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Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 7 years ago
Video games are massively dominated by men. Of these men the majority are heterosexual.
Bioware called, they want to speak some sense to you.

edit: Welp...just noticed the last reply was over a year bad but point still stands ^_^

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Jordan on 14th January 2014 3:10am

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