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Empowerment through development: The Pixelles Game Incubator

A free workshop for Montreal's aspiring female game developers

It's an intimidating time to be a woman who wants to makes games. It's always been a male-dominated culture, and recent events have only made it feel more exclusive than ever. Luckily, there are people working to address that issue and give women a chance to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way. Enter Rebecca Cohen Palacios, Tanya Short and the Pixelles Game Incubator.

"The main goal of the incubator and even Pixelles is not just to make games but to be empowered - not only to make more games but as a woman," Cohen Palacios told GamesIndustry.biz

"It's no secret that games culture isn't the friendliest space to women. By offering a safe space to learn in, free from that kind of hostility and cultural pressures, women can explore games, problem solve together, support each other, and finally be empowered by that experience."

The incubator is open to anyone who identifies as female and can attend the workshops in Montreal, no former development experience required. Applications are open until November 30 and successful applicants can look forward to a six week, free workshop that offers advice on tools and applications, input from mentors and support from the rest of the group.

"Empowerment is so important. After the first and second round of the incubator, we saw immediate impact and we're still seeing long-term results. Where previously participants were shy or felt intimidated by male-dominated game spaces (like a game jam, for example), they're in there making new games, actively participating in games culture, and encouraging other women by their presence and enthusiasm for making."

Cohen Palacios identified three main obstacles to women making games, professionally or as a hobby: not knowing programming, not knowing where to start and a lack of confidence around the subject.

"It's no secret that games culture isn't the friendliest space to women"

"You might have been told that games are for boys, especially growing up. Or you might want to go to a workshop or a jam to make your first game but were intimidated by how many guys there were, felt uncomfortable, and walked away. Or that the game you want to make really isn't a game or doesn't fit within the box definition."

The results speak for themselves, Pixelles has provided a handy chart (below) that shows just how active in games development the first set of incubator attendees have been.

"Nearly each of our alumnae have gone on to create more games and be empowered to participate in the Montreal's game community as a culture, professional, and a creative space."

The incubator already has an impressive line up of mentors on board to help out participants, below are just a handful.

  • Roxanne Blouin-Payer (WB Games)
  • Leanne C. Taylor-Giles (Eidos Montreal)
  • Nicolas Barrière-Kucharski (Double Stallion)
  • Aurélie Le Chevalier (Ubisoft)
  • Xin Ran Liu (Kitfox Games)

"Anyone, anywhere in the world can volunteer! If you're in the games industry and you want to inspire future generations of women to make and be in games send us an e-mail to info@pixelles.ca. We'd love to have your voice!"

The response to the first two incubators has been enthusiastic and Cohen Palacios is looking forward to even more applications for the third.

"Everyone we've talked to has been super supportive and eager to help out. It's even lead to some stellar partnerships such as Notman House, Funcom, Festival Montreal joue, IGDA, and this year the incubator is being hosted at a certain [and currently top secret while Pixelles confirms the paperwork] AAA game studio.

"At the end of each incubator, we have a showcase to celebrate our new game makers and every year we need to find a bigger venue. Last year's showcase clocked over 150 attendees from friends to indies to people from AAA industry coming out to support and celebrate women in games."

For anyone who doesn't identify as female or can't make the trip to Montreal Pixelles also offers a remote incubator, setting assignments and posting sessions online. More information on that can be found here.

Latest comments (20)

Andre Kling David 3D Artist, Social Point SL3 years ago
Talk about equalitarism... Its sad that we have to focus so much in the sex of a person... i wonder how i would explain to my son that he cant go learn to make games but his sister can. I have never seen a game jam that is male exclusive, but i have seen a female one.
its really sad, good that they want enpower woman into making games, but why not enpower kids in general and show that there is no difference what so ever about their gender?
What we need is education not descrimination based upon your gender.
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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting3 years ago
Andre, if you explain to your son that he can't go to learn how to make games you'd be lying, simple as that. He can't attend this one particular class, which exists entirely in order to attempt to address the massive gender imbalance which is restricting the industry;s potential. He can literally go anywhere else, to any number of male dominated classes, courses, schools and programs, before being employed at any number of male dominated studios, publishers or software companies. Seriously, do you really think that this one small workshop, based in a different country on a different continent is going to damage your son's chances of getting into games or men's chances generally? Don't be ridiculous.
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Andre Kling David 3D Artist, Social Point SL3 years ago
No, i was clearly saing metaphorical as i hope you would have imagined. My point is that if you are making restrictions based upon sex, you are not the solution but part of the problem.
Discrimination is the problem, and I really dont believe that forcing down the troath balance are dealing with the pronlem, education is the way to go, and thats how i think the industry should face the problem.
I wish there was more balance and more female developers, but honestly making a program just for female developers just increases resentment and this stupid idea of us vs them.
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Show all comments (20)
Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 3 years ago
@Dan
He can literally go anywhere else, to any number of male dominated classes, courses, schools and programs, before being employed at any number of male dominated studios, publishers or software companies.
Not that I entirely agree with Andre, but all of those are also open to females as well. Sure, they have more boys than girls attending, but none of them flat out ban females.

I'm all for encouraging more women to make games, but I believe focusing only on them in this sort of exclusive environment is the wrong way to go about it. Everyone should be able to learn and get experience through workshops like this.

(EDIT: I wrote this before seeing Andre's post above mine, which I do agree more with)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andrew Watson on 14th November 2014 10:36am

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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting3 years ago
Well the approach of encouraging women to attend open classes hasn't worked, so I see no problem in trying this. There are reasons that women and girls don't always feel comfortable in male dominated environments and this is addressing those. I don't think gender-divided education is generally a brilliant idea, but small programs like this that redress the balance a little will lead to inclusive classes becoming more balanced in time, which will obviate the need for female-only groups. It's an on-ramp, not a permanent wall.

Also, as it states in the footnote: "For anyone who doesn't identify as female or can't make the trip to Montreal Pixelles also offers a remote incubator, setting assignments and posting sessions online."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Pearson on 14th November 2014 2:04pm

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Gary LaRochelle Digital Artist / UI/UX Designer / Game Designer, Flea Ranch Games3 years ago
I think that all children should be exposed to as many different possible careers that are available to them. If programs like this one open girl's eyes to a career in gaming, bravo for the program.
There are reasons that women and girls don't always feel comfortable in male dominated environments and this is addressing those.
I don't feel programs like this one are addressing the problem of why women "don't always feel comfortable in male dominated environments". Those uncomfortable feeling come from fellow male coworkers who are just immature and don't know how to work along side women. Maybe we should have workshops that teach male game developers that working with women is just as beneficial as working with "the boys".

On a personal note, of all of the studios that I have worked for, I have always had women coworkers. Not once did I ever see or hear of any of them being treated in a way that was disrespectful.
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Those uncomfortable feeling come from fellow male coworkers who are just immature and don't know how to work along side women.
Not necessarily. Speaking from experience, it can be uncomfortable just existing in an environment where the overwhelming majority of my coworkers are male. Not all women feel this, and that's fine, but a significant number of us do feel like outsiders in male-dominated offices: we look different to our coworkers, we are often treated differently(not necessarily worse, just different), we have subtly different tastes and interests. Even when everyone is being perfectly 'respectful', that often manifests in silly ways, like apologising for swearing or burping in a woman's presence. It underlines our 'other'ness and yes, that can be uncomfortable.

I'm all for initiatives like Pixelles. If nothing else, it's a great way for young women who are interested in game development to make some like-minded friends, and that in itself is incredibly valuable.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 14th November 2014 3:07pm

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 3 years ago
I'm all for initiatives like Pixelles. If nothing else, it's a great way for young women who are interested in game development to make some like-minded friends, and that in itself is incredibly valuable.
Would you say the same if it would be for males only ?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 14th November 2014 4:12pm

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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting3 years ago
If it was in an industry where more men are needed to make the workforce more diverse, then yes, absolutely.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
@Eric Pallavicini
The questions I am asking you Jessica, or anyone who claims to be a champion of equality are(for now only 3):
1."do you really think you speak for everyone under the identity-etiquette-banner you want more equality for? " (<- pun intended)
2."don't you believe using anti-thesis of the stereotypes you are fighting against is not actually validating those as true?"
3."is gender equality theory even possible - let alone truely sought after (question 1) - and if it was would it be an absolute - and therefore truely fair - equality?"
1. Everyone? No, of course not. But I have seen enough of the statistics and talked to tens of thousands of women (no, I'm not exaggerating, understanding people is a big part of what I do) to know that no, everything isn't hunky-dory, and no, my experiences as a woman in the games industry, as a woman in gaming and a woman in the world at large aren't uncommon, nor is the effect they have on me.

2. Whether or not having a women's training session actually IS the antithesis of industrial "boys'-clubs" is debatable. You see it as a exclusionary training exercise. I see it as offering training to people the mainstream effectively doesn't offer it to. You don't have to officially say "No girls allowed" to shut women out, nor do you have to shut out all women to still shut out the majority.

In Canada, back before certain equality legislation was put in place, there were companies where the management meetings were held in strip joints. They didn't need to have a "No women managers" policy to keep women out that way (quite aside from the fact that such actions make it obvious that they're not even considering that a woman might have been a good candidate). It's just one way of keeping women out without needing to say so.

The chance to study something that means a lot to you, without someone looking over your shoulder wanting you to fail, trying to knock you down at every opportunity, without someone constantly trying to hump your leg, without someone constantly trying to prove their masculinity at you, or just constantly interrupting or refusing to listen when you have something to say, is pretty awesome.

Most people who want to work in gaming are also gamers, and most women who've tried online gaming, or read any gaming site, know how that omnipresent hyper-vocal minority of blokes treat them there. That sign is on the clubhouse door whether you take the chalk out to write it or not.

3. Er, you might want to clarify the question here, as it was a touch hard to follow - I'm working on the assumption that you're asking if gender equality is really possible, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Of course equality is possible. I might not ever be able to lift as much as a man with the same degree of fitness as me, and I might not be able to run as far or for as long. If the games industry needs me to do those things, however, I would brazenly suggest they have the wrong job description for Narrative Designer.

There's no genetic dictum that says women are less intelligent or less imaginative than most men. Nor, contrary to an oft-voiced belief, are we in any way impaired in logic.

Where there is a difference, however, is in the gendered rearing of children. Men, in general, are brought up to be tough, to suppress emotions, to assert themselves. Women, again in general, aren't. But it doesn't mean that we don't have valuable ideas, insights and intellects. It just means that if someone is constantly trying to make us shut up, most of us will.

You're defining equality as both genders being treated exactly the same. And when an ideal world comes around, that will be the case, I'm sure. But right now, we have to live in this one, where both men and women have been shaped by different upbringings, and logically enough, the one men got is the one that's mostly advantageous in a man's world. The equality I want to see is for both genders to have the same rights, in practice as well as theory and law, and the same ease of access to them.

I'm not made to sit at home baking cupcakes and raising children; I crave too much intellectual stimulation to sit at someone's front desk and smile. There are others who love that stuff, and are excellent at it - if it's what they want, let them do that by all means, whether they're male or female or any other identity in the spectrum.

I just want to write stories; stories that reach out and wrap uniquely around someone in the way that only games can; stories that reach down to those hidden injuries we all bear and wash them away for a while; stories that make the tiny speck of leisure time we have these days worthwhile, something to look forward to.

And I'm damn good at it. So why waste me?

Why waste the minds of women who want to do the job, who can do the job and most of all, (yes, I'm going to say it) may well be able to do something to redress the skewed representation of women across all media as non-optional sextoys who only exist for men, because that skew has been absorbed and believed and people are getting hurt as a result. The unfeeling, wise-cracking macho tough guy hero could stand to be less ubiquitous as well.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 18th November 2014 8:23am

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Andre Kling David 3D Artist, Social Point SL3 years ago
@ Bonnie. I agree with you in almost everything, I only disagree in one point, you say that if this magical day of equality arises than all shall be fine... but my question is, if we dont start building it now, when this day will arise?
My problem with this case in specific is not against the program itself, good for them, but with the coverage its getting, as if it is the way forward, is it?
Making a gender specific program is the way forward? do you guys really think that man is this stupid animal that cant be learned how to behave next to a woman? I understand that the online games is a treat for woman ( and to man too ), but we are here to talk about our industry, and in a program with supervision, shouldnt we try to show that both sex can and should work togetter as a group?
I have worked in a few companies in my carrer and i cant put in words how valuable it was to have input from both sex, so why make a program that excludes one side? You may say that the industry now has only 16% female on it, but lets not be biased by the statistics here, could it be because there was not many woman that was trained to be in the industry in the past?
Lets talk about the past for a second, when i was growing up, the majority of games were very male oriented, and if you get the statistics of ESA you can see that the % of female players were much lower than male, but times has benn changing, if you check the last year statistics its almost 50, 50%, with this many ppl playing games its just a matter of time for more woman want to be in the industry.

The industry has mature, or i would like to think so, shouldnt we start focusing in teaching ppl to behave well as a team?
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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 3 years ago
Lunch break is almost over so i don't really have the time to answer to it all.
I'll address two points where i feel you aim is off.
I am under the clear impression that this is not completely true. You want to write stories identified as a woman and recognized as such. If you just wanted to write stories, you would just write stories.
Well, being a storyteller myself, i can relate to this: If one wants to write stories, also wants others to read them. Reaching out to an audience is not always as easy as it seems and sometimes you need some help. Chances are that this kind of help is more timid towards women (I can actually see this be the case for action-y stories).
...they also know that is a minority.
Not always true. And even if they do, it won's save them from the annoyance/trouble.
Imagine you go to a party with 50 people attending it. Among them there's that one bully who loves to pick on you. That one guy can still turn your fun evening into a horrible one. Even if you're not weighting any responsibility on the other 49 attendees, you'd still won't be keen to go to the next party (unless you're 100% sure that one guy will not be there).
This is the kind of scenario i pictured from Bonnie's post: Girls know that in "games territory" are likely to encounter the kind of guys that make them feel uncomfortable. They might be a small number, but they can still do enough harm and, subsequently, it makes sense that girls would, more or less consciously, stay away from games-based communities (be it players or developers).

I'd have more to say, but... got go back to work... Might post again later.
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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 3 years ago
...they also know that is a minority.
Not always true.
I think you might have misinterpreted this part. For the record, i was referring to them KNOWING that toxic players are a minority.
I can see someone having a bad experience half the times they play an online game and then coming to the conclusion that about 50% of those players are toxic.
Of course that would be a very wrong conclusion, as each play session might involve 60+ players at a given time with only one or two being responsible for said bad experience. What they perceived doesn't match the reality, but it'd still be how they believe reality is.

Try to view things through the eyes of a young teen still shaping her future but having, at best, only a very vague idea what it will be like. This is more the context to picture here and it's actually why i deliberately blended toghether Game Developers and Game Players. I agree, they're two very different environment, but someone that age has just the Player community as reference for how people in games are like.

I agree that bullies don't need girls in their games to be toxic, they would be just the same even in a 100% male environment, but girls happen to be among their favored targets.
Now, if you combine this with all I've said above, it's not hard to believe that a young teen would label the videogames world as a whole (inclusive of development) as "unwelcoming".
that kind of scenes happens everyday in life, in a train, in a street... it may not even be a bully willing to make your life a hell, but just "someone with strange behavior" that actually disturb your otherwise quite habit of taking that public transport or walk down that street
True but, unless you want to live a secluded life, you can't help it. You gotta go out and eventually take public transport. However, you can avoid going to a certain bar if you know (or wrongly assume) that place is full of people that make you uncomfortable.
Also, you're right, it doesn't need to be actually bullying or harassment. It can simply be someone who behaves in an unpleasant way.

This brings me up a personal situation which can be used as example:
As much as I'd enjoy playing a live CTF with BBs, I've never joined an Airsoft club. I've unfortunately noted that these clubs are a thriving habitat for nutjobs I can't possibly get along with. They may be a minority, but they're enough: it'd be impossible to to be there and avoid interacting regularly with them. So, in the end, I decided that playing with BBs is not worth dealing with people that (even if they don't actually mean me any disrespect) still manage to annoy me, irritate me or just make me feel uneasy.

Going back to the article's topic, a girl who'd like to learn Game Design may find herself in a similar scenario and ultimately choose to pass on Game Design in favor of something else that would place her in a more comfy environment ...unless she finds the opportunity to study Game Design with the guarantee of a comfortable environment. The Pixelles initiative serves this purpose alone.

Could this be done better without the necessity of gender segregation?
Probably yes, but I honestly wouldn't know how you can effectively provide the same kind of "guarantee of comfortable environment" to the girls.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 18th November 2014 10:13pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
@Eric Pallavicni

The core of your thrust seems to be the belief that there is no discrimination any more - that women have rights equal to men. Which is true, that's why they're rights. Women have always had rights equal to men, but have also been blocked from accessing them for a large part of history.

And that is still true. I had to delete the enormous section that followed of examples from my own life, from others, from studies and statistics because it was way too long and rather a barrage. We have spoken up again and again to explain that this stuff is on top of the usual state of people being a bit mean. The constant response we get is "That didn't happen" "You're making that up" "There isn't a problem" - well yes it did, no I'm not and yes there bloody is.

Your drunk stranger on the train is scary, unpleasant, invading your space and swearing in front of children. That's nice. I wish drunken strangers would do that to me instead of groping me, masturbating, showing me their meat cleaver, or following me home and pushing inside my house. It seems like that's different to me, because if it wasn't you wouldn't be saying it's not a problem.

It's the same with the threats etc. I find them frightening because the threats I have had made against me, got acted on. I'm not used to hollow threats. Maybe you are and that's why you can brush them off.

Now I know that there are a number of men who have had the same kind of experiences - people from all walks of life get bullied and worse. I also know that there are women who will never have an issue like that in their life - probability theory makes that a certainty. But from every study, every report, every personal account I've seen and every observation I have made, it is far more likely to happen to women and they are targeted because they are women.

It's the same in the workplace. There are men who will be talked over, ignored only to have their idea spoken by someone else moments later to applause, judged on their appearance, belittled and assumed incompetent, assumed to be an underling et al for completely spurious reasons. But it's far more likely to happen to women, and when you test and poke and probe and study why, you find it's because of assumptions made about women.

Seriously, there have been hashtags, news articles, web sites, forum posts, blog posts, studies, reports, graphs and infographics about all of this stuff. How did you miss it? #1reasonwhy, the everyday sexism project, innumerable papers and reports. Do you seriously think we're all just making it up? Millions of women in the western world, all saying the same thing. Are we all a bit confused, on our periods maybe? Is it a devious plot to steal your sperm and extort chocolate?

Regarding your point about me clearly not wanting to just write stories... Well, yes, I do happen to be a woman and therefore I want to write stories as one. I want to be me. But no, I'm not looking for the acclaim you suggest, of "OH MY GOD IT'S A WOMAN WRITING STORIES", I'm just tired of people using that to suggest I go work in billing or HR instead.

As to there being no bias in the novel industry, there's a reason it's "J. K. Rowling" not "Joanne".

I'd also like to fix your quote of mine.
Men, in general, are brought up to be tough,
The "in general" part is acknowledging that there are a minority who aren't, but even they are influenced by tough-guy peers and tough-guy role models in the media. To be male and not tough, again, in general, is to be the target of ceaseless mockery and bullying. I know this because I asked an awful lot of men and listened to their replies, as well as a bunch of other stuff (my first degree was in forensic psych). Likewise, in general, women just don't get as much early training in teflon. What I can take, someone else might not be able to, and what I can't, I'm sure there are women who can. But none of that is a good reason for any of them to be denied work in an industry when the law says you must protect your employees even from third party harassment. It's not fair for them just like it sure as hell wasn't fair on Phil Fish.

(like I said, it's not an exclusively gendered problem, but it is statistically very slanted along gendered lines)

EDIT: Also, you mistake my thrust with this point. I wasn't saying that the emphasis on suppressing emotions in many mens' upbringing is a good thing. Quite the opposite. It is the reason so many suicidal men can't ask for help and take no risks with stopping or failing in suicide and so complete it successfully. In fact, the pressure to fit in with this centuries-old definition of what is and isn't manly, and the punishment inflicted on those who do not fulfil it, is a huge factor in a whole bunch of issues both sociological and psychological: hit up Google Scholar for "hyper-masculinity" and "toxic masculinity" (which is not saying that masculinity is itself toxic, but that obsession with fulfilling the arbitrary set of social criteria associated with it, is - it's involved in everything from the new forms of erectile dysfunction currently affecting more and more men, depression, many forms of crime and even forms part of reason so many men die younger than women).

My point was simply this: You are asking women to trivialize certain kinds of attacks because men can. But there is a whole range of difference in life experience that places those attacks in a different context and entirely different toolsets made available to different genders by their upbringing. Again, these are not without exception, but are true for the majority. END OF EDIT

The battles you say have been won haven't been won. Just because the laws are there doesn't mean that people follow them or that everyone who needs them is in a position to call on them. I'm sure it does alienate some men to hear that some men are sexist, but the problem will never be solved without saying that, and I'm sorry, but having to duck my head, chew on my finger and say in apologetic tones "Can you pwease, pwease treat me like a persony-thing wiv a bwainy-bwain that might just be as good as yours?" is defeating the point.

All of which is hugely off topic anyway. The point is that women can make games, women are interested in making games (or are if they manage to avoid being tazed with "NOT FOR GIRLS!" during their early life, same as with STEM), but they don't IN GENERAL make games because of various things they are told either out loud or by implication which amount to "You are not wanted here." Therefore an all-women training group is a good thing at the moment because anything not labelled otherwise winds up mostly benefiting men, who don't have these historic problems accessing the training through the usual sources that many women did.

It's like the complaints about scholarships specifically for black children. They're needed because every scholarship not labelled so goes to a white man, because our entire lives have innundated us with this image of the successful person being a well-groomed white man in a suit. This is where the concept of privilege comes in - it's not about "OMG WHITE MALES EBIL! YOU MUST FEEL BAD!" It's just about understanding that anyone who isn't this guy has to work a wee bit harder to get past each obstacle in their lives, and that cumulatively that little bit extra mounts up and forms barriers you don't have to face, because you look more like that guy than they do.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 19th November 2014 6:56am

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
@Andre Kling David

Evidence suggests that at the present, any fully open training group is going to be mostly taken up by men. There isn't a shortage of non-male-identifying people to fill the spaces, and it's currently likely that they will have a relatively easier time accessing more mainstream training groups that cater predominantly to men. So in the end, it wouldn't help bring more women into the marketplace.

HOWEVER (big bold however because this is important), this will change with time, and we need to keep an eye on it to stop it sliding the other way, because this is something that is happening right now in general education.

Years ago (I don't remember if it was sixties for sure, but around that time), someone seeking to challenge the belief of the time that girls were less smart because of lower academic results did a series of tests. They gave extra interest and encouragement to all the blue-eyed students in their class, as future workers and breadwinners, while allowing the students with brown eyes to take up space. The blue-eyed students excelled even if their grades were poor before, and the brown eyed students started to slip back. They did this with haircolours and with boys and girls and again, same results.

Governments took note and it was strongly emphasized to teachers that they needed to nurture and encourage girls, and great strides were taken. By the early years of this century, class results varied by student traits rather than along gendered lines.

But in recent years, things have taken a turn for the worse. Many adolescent men began experiencing more stress in school and needed more pressure and encouragement from teachers than they previously had (I'm not meaning to diss teachers here, it was really sudden and absolutely no-one saw it coming) and their results plummeted in the space of a couple of years, to the point that there are now universities in the USA that are asking for lower grades from male students than they do from females in order to maintain gender balance.

It might turn out that it's not an encouragement / attention issue, but given it's worked once before, it's probably the first thing we should try.

(I commented on this to a discussion on C4 and it led to an amusing scenario where I got mistaken for the other Bonnie Patterson who is or was the Head of Trent University, and got invited to give a talk to government sorts in Lewisham.)

So yes, it is really important to keep an eye on things where you give a little extra to a minority to even up access, so that we always work towards access for all and don't get caught out by another slip like the one above.

I do, however, think a system could be used with allocated places to create mixed groups, and that it would be a pretty huge benefit for reasons that go far beyond the subject of the games industry into society itself. There are segments of the populace that have isolated themselves from the other gender in all but dating / sexual context and to work together effectively, we need to be able to be friends - to cope with each other's differences and relate to each other outside the context of our own needs.

Also I want to give an absolute YES to your point about the lack of women in the industry (it's 6% btw, not 16%) being largely down to a lack of training. As I've said elsewhere a couple of times, everything from parents and girls toys to school and peer pressure has been a big push away from science and maths study and gaming as a hobby for girls - company practices in the industry, at least in Europe (which is the bit I know most about, I can't say if the USA is otherwise or not) are absolutely the smallest deterrent on the list (though there are still some serious duffers out there).

Schools have improved in giving girls access to science qualifications and are continuing to do so, parents and toymakers / marketers are starting to get the message, so we could be looking at a sea-change within 20 years, but programs like Pixelles Game Incubator open up training to adult women who may have missed out due to those factors, so they can come and play with us right now and I think that's awesome :)

[EDIT: Excitable typing makes wurbs fall out all higgledy-piggledy)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 18th November 2014 11:34pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
It's also worth noting that of those included by the Pixelles' project, it's not just cis-women but also transwomen and those with non-binary gender presentation, and judging from the literature and application form, they pay real attention to creating a nice normal environment where everyone can just throw in and make games without feeling like they have to launch a three-year legal challenge just to use the bathroom safely.

I would love to go to learn some more coding and develop my level design skills, but it's too far. I'm still going to recommend it to every friend I have though - I'll be on the remote incubator with my boybros.
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Andre Kling David 3D Artist, Social Point SL3 years ago
@ Bonnie, Thats exactly the point i was trying to make, if in fact its a lack of trainning, and probably the reason was the lack of incentive or motivation back then to get the trainning, this will eventually change as games has became much less gender specific, and the game industry became a more prominent industry.
I recall my parents saying to me that playing games was just a waste of time, that nothing good would come out of it, back them in my country there was not the idea of an industry, that a person could make a living out of it, and that all that time playing could be in fact beneficial to my future... if that happen to me, i can only imagine how hard could have been to a girl, as you see, my parents generation you could say is way more sexist than our generation, and they would incentivate girls into a more main strean profession ( perhaps to prove that woman can do as better as man), like medicine, lawer, and so on...
But now the game industry makes more money than all other entretainment industry, the old days are gone, and our generation is starting to take charge, so shouldnt we start thinking on how will be the future to next one?
I get that it sucks to the woman of our generation, that they didnt have the same chances and so on ( although they might have had more than the generation before than), but as an industry shouldnt we face forward and try to make a better place to the next generation of kids, being male or female.
I agree that a program like this can be very positive to woman, and they might make good friends and thats all nice, my main concern in fact is with the notion that THIS is the way to solve the problem, while time itself can be.
It has been a great discussion bytheway and im really glad to read all point of views, i feared that by now a gender war would have started and the post closed. :)
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
@Eric Pallavinci

The harassment women experience in the street generally has nothing to do with whether or not they have perfect bodies - it happens to pretty much anyone and everyone. I'm very curious how you, a man with self-admitted difficulties relating to others, know so very much about what women experience.

How do I manage to talk to tens of thousands of women? Through polls, through the emails and PMs I get every day. I took a year off Reddit because it was depressing me and now I have 2k messages lurking there. There is a long list of games I eventually gave up playing simply because I was getting too many convos and messages every day to do anything.

Just because it's not your experience doesn't mean it's not possible.
Though the vast majority, sorry… let me rephrase, the overwhelming majority of games made in the past by horrible men for their horrible men audience was either completely gender neutral (is some feminist going to tell me Pong is about a fight of phallic symbols trying to penetrate a symbolic womb on each side of the screen? Are we seriously getting there?), either depicting genders in a completely neutral way (tell me that Pacman has sexist tropes, go on) or depicting genders with the healthy irony and humoristic distance (Caveman Olympics? Yeah, a caveman draws a cavewoman by the hair… even as a 10 y.o. boy I was able to understand this was no way to behave in reality).
You are strongly giving the impression that you are filling in my side of the conversation from inside your own head, which makes the effort I have put into replying a waste of time. Thankfully, however, I am not actually talking to you, but to people who are actually listening.

The issue with the persistent media-wide depicition of women having a very a strong predominance of flesh-tones is not one of conscious decisions, it is subconscious. As pure objective fact, we know both advertising and conditioning work. One to one, the right psychological triggers for the individual in question have to be found. En masse, however, any sufficiently common representation will get into the subconscious of anyone who doesn't have sufficient real-world information already in their subconscious to counteract it.

With most things, this is not a problem. The social prohibition against murder and scatological acts gets embedded pretty strongly. Every game, every movie, every news article has a bad guy, you know they are to be opposed and their usual crime is killing.

But the James Bulger case was a great example of how such things can go awry. Two kids who routinely skipped school, didn't associate much with anyone else while there, had very low impact parentage and sat at home all day every day watching Child's Play films. There are other factors, of course, but the lack of any other input, anything to build empathy, made it really easy for them to just go kill a kid. There was a similar case of two spanish nationalists about 20 years ago who had a similar feedback loop between them and pretty much no other input, so they killed "A fat man with a funny face" because "The Rules of Razud" (a system they had invented) demanded it - the "woman who betrayed her people" (A random woman on the street) got too dangerous for them and escaped.

Isolation from realistic counter-inputs and strong anti-social messaging creates a warped mindset.

Now look at the growth of certain pocket cultures today. We have "bros before hos" - mixed gender friendship groups are far less common than they used to be. We have continuously growing PUA clubs, who relate to women as nothing more than targets for their own sexual needs. We have significant numbers of men who do very little but game (a vocally male-dominated environment) and use porn. We have MRA culture spamming a constant message that women are evil and manipulative (like your post depicts me) and should be punished.

And there are people who only see those things, and it confirms what they already "know" because the head cheerleader wouldn't sleep with them even though they were nice™ to her. They don't have any female friends, aren't working so no female colleagues, their mother was likely not the strongest presence, they have little in common with their fathers and no friends who don't have the same feelings, so they can't reference other men who can relate to women.

Now add in the constantly repeated message that you have to be A Man™ and a man is heterosexual! You have to like boobies or you're not a man. Got to be boobies, all the time. Got to be shagging women. Show any interest in not shagging women for five minutes and you're a fag, and that's the worst thing you can be. (Exaggeration, playground speech and offensive terminology used intentionally and with apologies to show in absolute baseline terms how it works for the subconscious).

Now, add in the fact that in the last couple of years, the amount of time the average man spends using pornography each week in the last two years has more than doubled, that the amount of time spent surrounded by male-oriented sexualized imagery is around 18 hours a week, on average. All depictions of women designed to get you off, to present the idea that of course these women will have sex with you. With normal consensual sex being more available than ever, however, porn has to go one further to maintain its audience and builds in a bit more grudge-f****ery and punishing to show that there's a better, more hardcore sex that you're not having, that in the minds of the embittered they are being denied....

If there's no counter-message saying "It's OK to have a smoke and play sports for a bit," or "Actually, not having sex is pretty normal, it's not a big deal" or no there's friend who's not a sexual target but can illustrate how the reasons she does things are actually pretty similar to their own, then what you've got is the basic profile for a rapist or a wife-beater. Even in more moderate cases, it's spending most of the week up to the eyeballs in the message that women are somehow alien and less than men.

It's a gigantic overdose. You can see it in the erectile dysfunction figures alone - two to three years ago, inability to orgasm during normal sex with a partner was a significant problem for a large number of men in Japan - they needed to masturbate in front of games or hyper-sexualized cartoons to release. Now its here in the West and numbers of those affected are soaring rapidly (if anyone is still grinding away after 2 hours and not actually enjoying it, they might have this. The only body currently dealing specifically with pornography-induced erectile dysfunction, NOFAP, recommends complete abstinence from pornographic imagery for quite long periods, but other psychologists and psychiatrists suggest simply reducing use of porn for masturbation to 10 minutes or less per night, and taking steps to limit incidental consumption like switching newspapers to one without a starlet in a bikini bending over on the cover, etc, and consuming more adult-enjoyable children's media like the Muppets, Harry Potter. Typically you see results in 1-2 months, along with a massive reduction in stress, but note it's still a pretty new problem and a new field so your mileage my vary).

No, Pong is not a bunch of phallic symbols. But do you see many people playing Pong now? The abstract ungendered games of the past are really, really uncommon now.

You have always seen hordes of women's names in the credits? Congratulations, you must have seen all of them because women are still only 6% of ICT. FACT.

As to all these horrible men whose lifespan, stress-levels from the provider role and pressure to conform, inability to get help when suicidal or depressed, whose "manflu" exists because being genuinely sick is the only way they can actually forgive themselves for resting and not being responsible all the time? All those teenage boys who think they have to kill or cut themselves because they're 14 years old and no-one wants to sleep with them? All those men I hate so much that I worked on anti-rape campaigns for male rape and lobby to have "forced to penetrate" incorporated into the legal definition of rape? The men I advocated should have a right to refuse consent to conception against their will?

Yeah, totally horrible. Acknowledging a social problem affecting a significant minority is totally the same as hating them.

I don't have time or space to teach you psychology, sociology and what feminist theory actually is. Now GO AND READ #1reasonwhy, #yesallwomen, the everyday sexism project, the blogs written by women in gaming from coders and designers to fricking cosplay artists. They are not all making it up.

And yes, you're friendzoned.

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 19th November 2014 10:13pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
@Andre Kling David

I just wanted to say thanks as well, talking to you made me ridiculously happy, as the point of co-working actually being important is one that's not come up much and think could and should comprise a major part of the way forward.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 3 years ago
Mr Pallavicini,

So far, you've patronised me, called me a liar, challenged my geek credentials, claimed that you don't see sexism so it can't exist, pointed out you have a partner so you can't possibly be missing sexism, accused me of attention seeking, said that if women aren't tough enough to handle it they shouldn't be there, demeaned my qualifications and persistently twisted everything I've said from pointing at a problem affecting NOT ALL MEN to ALL MEN, and now hint at deranged and sinister motivations on my part.

If you tell me to go get you a sandwich, I will have bingo.

No, I did not consider that you choosing not to have many friends was what you meant by "Antisocial traits" because that's not what that phrase means. I happily apologise for my misunderstanding; it still does not put you in any position to understand what often happens to a woman on a daily basis.

I took a great deal of time and trouble to explain the theory so that even those who disagree with it can at least understand where I and others like me are coming from, rather than the misunderstandings and inflammations I see over terms people have outright misunderstood. I went out of my way to clarify, clarify, clarify. Your only response has consisted of textwalls of irrelevancy (The abstract sprite games of the eighties ARE NOT what anyone has been talking about and I think you know it) and moving goalposts.

You say I clearly do not understand that men cannot be victims or have traumas, despite a number of digressions where I discuss exactly that, and all this in a discussion about why it's a good thing that 10 people who identify as non-male get a chance to learn to make games when the UK industry was blasted by a government minister for being 94% male.

Sometimes the reason you cannot see London is that you're standing in Trafalgar Square.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 20th November 2014 7:32pm

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