343 Industries: We have a personal responsibility for how our games come across

343 Industries head Bonnie Ross on sexism online and in the industry

Bonnie Ross, the general manager of Halo studio 343 Industries, has spoken about the duty of developer to combat sexism in the gaming industry.

"As developers, we have a personal responsibility to think about how our games come across," Ross told GameSpot.

"With Halo 4, we were very deliberate in thinking about who should be female and who should be male in the game, and if we came off stereotypical, we went back to question what we were doing and why."

Bonnie Ross has been a general manager and studio head with Microsoft Studios since 2005, but that doesn't stop her role in the Halo franchise surprising some people.

"Most people look at a franchise like Halo, and automatically assume it's run by a guy," Ross continued.

"People are surprised to learn that it's a woman who's running the Halo 4 show. When Microsoft created 343 Industries to take over Halo, I was given first choice to run the studio because I had proven myself. My gender played no part in it."

She and Halo 4 executive producer Kiki Wolfkill also tackled the issue of the online abuse female gamers can face online.

"I've seen many of the sites that have documented some of the more gender-specific slanderous comments," Ross said.

"This is behaviour that is offensive and completely unacceptable. I'd like to think most of our Xbox Live players don't support this kind of behaviour."

Those curious about the type of abuse they're discussing can see examples at the shocking and depressing Fat, Ugly Or Slutty.

"It can be dangerous to give adolescents a broadcast mechanism," Wolfkill added.

"There are always going to be jerks out there, and if you give them a way to express that side of their personality without being seen, you're going to see this type of behaviour manifest itself."

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Latest comments (7)

Neil Alphonso Lead Designer, Splash Damage Ltd7 years ago
This is the sort of thing that I'd love to see covered by in-depth.
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Tony Johns7 years ago
I appreciate how developers are waking up to sexism when it comes to online play and they are doing their best to address the real problems of sexism.

However real sexism happens in real society. I don't think game developers could change anything about society when they can only control what happens in their games.

Also if they tried anything like showing the real face of a gamer behind the game in online play, that would only cause invasion of privacy issues.

There is nothing wrong with how women are portrayed in videogames, because that is fictional.

The best way that game developers can do is to try and talk about sexism in their games, but if they do then critics would be bashing those games because they see them as sexist when in reality developers are in fact talking about the problems of sexism.
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There is nothing wrong with how women are portrayed in videogames, because that is fictional.
Nope. Portraying women as nothing more than pointless eyecandy, weak princesses in need of saving by manly men and sexy rewards with no personality or character beyond 'look at those breasts' is hugely insulting and demeaning to women. 'It's just fiction' is not an excuse.

And here's a huge, huge difference between 'discussing sexism in a game' and 'being sexist'. 'Discussing' sexism includes showing how damaging and hurtful and terrible sexism can be. It takes a pretty stupid reviewer to misinterpret that as being sexist.

I'm glad the Halo team are thinking about this. Xbox Live can be a pretty unpleasant place to be female, and any efforts by developers to curb harassment in their games are laudable.
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Show all comments (7)
Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
I think it's important to first establish some values, acknowledge them and then reassess how we tackle them.

Jessica, you make fine points that so many of us might overlook, so I think that it's important that we do represent the views and concerns of those who are affected negatively by what we produce, and prioritise equality.

We should also have a good sense of judgement and knowing where extremes are appropriate and some are excessive. Saving a damsel appeals to male gamers, maybe it's just part of human evolution, in the same way that most women find tall strong men men (like Arnie or Daniel Craig) more attractive than Danny DeVito. I do think we have a responsibility to be mindful of how we might be affecting our users, but I'm not sure if prohibiting eyecandy and shallow damsels would be helpful, or entirely damaging. Men and women are very much motivated by different things when playing a game, reading a book, or watching a film. Some women are offended or disgusted by it, but some ascribe to it, and even use it. I'm just trying to imagine Mario without Princess Peach (the epitome of what you are talking about), or Zelda without Princess Zelda.

I do think the attitudes need to be addressed, and the immaturity seen on Fat, Ugly or Slutty seems to illustrate some of the juvenile and immature mindsets that exist in society. That should be addressed by every industry in some way or another. Shows like TOWIE in my opinion don't help, but then I guess that's just my own personal disgusts. Maybe that's how you feel about these things :) so I can empathise (I guess).

In some ways I think this topic reflects on peoples different ideals on how they think society should work, which I don't think is something that we can all agree on in the industry, or really should. I do think we have something specific to tackle, and that's the immature behaviour, and actual sexism itself. Sometimes I think the biggest victims of sexism are the sexist themselves, who inflict damage on women because of their own warped minds, but are probably unable to fully grasp reality - so sad.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
When I see those kinds of comment son Xbox Live, I often wonder "why didn't the parent raise them better?"

Then it really hits me....sometimes, those ARE the parents talking.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
Then it really hits me....sometimes, those ARE the parents talking
I really hope not, but I've seen enough clips of Jeremy Kyle to know that that might actually be true.

Well, I have my own ideas as to why an adult would behave like that but it's a bit too much of a right wing thought for my liking, suffice to say some people just experience the world differently.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
Jim is right. While we all think of 12 year olds and preteens as the stereotypical douchbags on Xbox Live, I've seen and heard plenty of people our age(28-40) who act just as bad as the little kids, if not worse. As for the abuse in general, many of the women on my friends list have told me that they hardly even bother talking on their mics anymore because of all the bs they have to deal with by random guys who think it's cool to pick on women. But like racism, many people are oblivious to it if they are not dealing with it first hand so I'm glad that people are finally getting the world out about what women have unfortunately had to go thru just to try and have a little fun by playing a video game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 1st November 2012 10:06pm

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