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IGDA: Gender, GamerGate and the need for action

"We need to do something, to change the situation and stop talking about it over and over again"

For much of the last year, Kate Edwards' job has been dominated by two topics, connected by a gnarled sinew of threat and fear and recrimination. Gender balance within the industry has been a pressing issue for as long as I've been working for GamesIndustry.biz, but the odious sequence of events eventually christened as "GamerGate" was a flashpoint. It made serious, difficult discussion an absolute necessity, and, as executive director of the International Game Developers Association, Edwards was often at the very centre.

Edwards is in Beirut to give a keynote address at the inaugural MEGA Games Conference, the first event of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa. A few minutes before our meeting, she was addressing a crowd of developers from every country in the region, all hungry for insight into how to create games for the international marketplace. This, too, is a vital part of her job, and after a very difficult year she can now give it more time and attention.

"The impact of GamerGate has been to raise the conversation to a level that we've been wanting for a long time"

"My biggest issue is that we've been talking about this forever," she tells me, when we meet after her talk. "Despite the fact that the IGDA has been targeted very heavily, and I personally have been targeted very heavily - I mean, I've been dragged through the mud more times than I can count - but besides that, the impact of it has been to raise the conversation to a level that we've been wanting for a long time.

"I go to many different events around the world, and usually to the token 'Women in Games' lunch, dinner, talk or what have you. I was at one lunch and a woman stood up and said, 'I cannot wait till the day that we never have to do this again.' She was applauded in the room, and I think a lot of us feel exactly the same way."

It may seem odd to reflect on GamerGate as a positive force, but Edwards sees real value in doing so. The key now, she says, is action; taking the energy that has been devoted to debating the problem and pulling it apart, and channelling it into pragmatic solutions. For people to remain engaged with the issue, it is time to set goals and offer results.

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"What's come out of it is that we actually need to do something," she says, "to change the situation and stop talking about it over and over and over again. I've heard that frustration from people who would consider themselves moderate - 'Why do we have to keep on talking about it?'"

Which is not to say that discussion has no value, of course - Edwards is very clear on that - only that the IGDA is now committed to giving the discussion more direction. It is too early to outline those plans in detail, but broadly speaking the organisation will be working towards acquisition and retention of women in the industry's workforce. The target is to double the number of women overall by 2025. Edwards calls this a "space programme," a nod to the optimism and ambition of the Apollo missions she watched on TV as a child.

"There have been a lot of complex discussions, and I'm glad for that," she says. "It's not black and white. Great, so we're going to change this and make it better. What, exactly, are we going to do? That's what we've been talking about for the last few months, and we've got some concrete ideas."

"It's about the desire to see it through to the end, and to actually make it happen. That's what we need to do here"

However, the IGDA alone will not be enough, even with the help of so many proactive individuals in the wider community. Indeed, the sheer weight of responsibility placed on the those caught up in GamerGate - while many of the industry's biggest and most influential companies remained silent - was one of the more troubling aspects of the last year. If real progress is to be made, it will be necessary for the industry to shoulder some of that burden, to use their resources and their reach to back up their well-intentioned public statements.

The best example of this, Edwards says, is Intel's $300 million fund to promote diversity in tech industries. Of course, that followed the company's own ill-advised response to GamerGate pressure, but Edwards has been left with no reason to doubt its sincerity. All that remains now is to see if the games industry's biggest players will follow with anything as encouraging and concrete. At the very least, Edwards has faith that they will.

"Having spoken with Brian [Krzanich, CEO of Intel] since that time, I'm convinced that he is utterly focused on making serious change. He said to me that it isn't even about the money. It's about the desire to see it through to the end, and to actually make it happen. That's outstanding. That's what we need to do here.

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"It has been an unpleasant experience, it has been personally damaging, but what I like is the potential outcome: the very thing that those voices were speaking out against is really going to happen. They might still tell each other, 'We're going to win this' - whatever it is they are trying to 'win' - but, honestly, I don't even pay them that much attention any more."

That isn't necessarily the case for the developers Edwards represents, however. In February, the veteran game developer Mark Kern issued a petition in response to an episode of the TV series Law and Order: SVU, which took GamerGate and sexual harassment and recycled them into a cynical crime-of-the-week plotline. This episode, Kern argued, had helped, "set back the public image of the video games by years if not decades," and it was the "inevitable result" of "yellow journalism" from popular sites like Kotaku, Polygon and VG247. GamerGate had become a reliable source of traffic, he said, and the press had seized the opportunity to take their share.

"There's no interest in dialogue. At all. It's not about that for GamerGate"

Edwards is understandably reluctant to take a position on whether the press capitalised on the discussion around GamerGate, ultimately damaging the perception of the industry in the process. All news, regardless of subject, tends to be somewhat sensationalised now, she says, but Kern's petition was significant of something quite different.

"You get some people who sit on this fence, and they can gather a group of apologists from the GamerGate side who will take their side," she says. "That becomes attractive, because somebody agrees with or likes what they're saying. I understand that there are people like [Kern], who want to somehow be this bridge. I made my own attempts at that, but it's always been very clear to me, in any attempt I made, that there's no interest in dialogue. At all. It's not about that for GamerGate. It's about forcing opinion on other people.

"What I'll keep doing, and what I tell developers to do: protect yourself online and in person, and keep focused on making great games."

Latest comments (16)

William Usher Assistant Editor, Cinema Blend3 years ago
This is very disingenuous.

I reached out to Edwards on multiple occasions before GDC and we had a long discussion about these topics. I was unable to meet for a face-to-face but essentially Edwards brushed off my plea that we need a diplomatic approach and someone to bridge the gap in communication, especially regarding some of the allegations of corruption that have been practically buried and censored by the media.

Gamers and game developers aren't just angry and using the hash tag for no reason. According to Edwards in the e-mail
"it's clear there are threads of misperception - some of which reflect the constructed narrative that the GG folks have been pushing for months. As I've stated in numerous media interviews, if someone from "the other side" (so to speak) is interested in having an intelligent dialogue about this, I'm open to it because I think there's a lot that could be clarified. The problem is whether or not it would be accepted as fact, because the way things are at the moment, it's likely that almost anything I'd say publicly would be construed as "SJW lies", etc."
Even if I personally couldn't meet face to face, there was nothing stopping anyone from establishing a panel to discuss the topics raised in our e-mail discussion. Nothing.
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 3 years ago
To be perfectly honest, I don't think it's ever going to end simply because I don't think the satisfaction will ever be achieved. But hey, I do agree that I am tired of talking about it but I am also tired of hearing about it too.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 3 years ago
"There's no interest in dialogue. At all. It's not about that for GamerGate"
Didn't Milo Yiannopoulos challenge Anita Sarkessian to a debate even offering to donate $10,000 to charity if she accepted?

What about the fact that you can go to "the evil gamergate HQ" on 8chan or reddit, right now, and talk to them directly? What's stopping you from doing that?

If anything, it's the opposite side, the hardcore anti-gamergate crowd that refuse to talk, what with their twitter block botsand all

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Andrew Watson on 29th April 2015 10:34pm

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Show all comments (16)
Lucas Seuren Freelance, Only Network3 years ago
Pointing solely to the semantics (I'm not saying what is or isn't true in this case) but there is a difference between dialogue and talking to people. When we talk about dialogue, we talk about listening to each other, considering each other's opinion, preferably looking for common ground, etc. A lot of what I saw last year before I stopped looking at it because the idiocy of it was pissing me of too much was not about that. It was about ranting, shouting, and specifically not listening. As it also states in this article: forcing your opinion on other people. That is not dialogue.

As I said, whether that is still the case is something I can't judge. It's a semantic point only, but a crucial one in this case. Because if the other side is open to talking, but not to dialogue, then you're wasting your time.
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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting3 years ago
I think there are lot of reasons to not go to 8Chan, frankly.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 3 years ago
I think there are lot of reasons to not go to 8Chan, frankly.
Go to reddit then.
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Guillaume Provost Studio Head, Compulsion3 years ago
We don't take public positions on female harassment or GamerGate. We put our money where our mouth is to encourage more women to join the industry, we sponsor local initiatives and game jams that encourage them to join the industry... and then we quietly take a step back and let them take the limelight, earn recognition and applaud when they do something that is worth recognition.

There are plenty of accomplished, great women in our industry, but we spend no time discussing their accomplishments. From the "old guard" - Jade Raymond, Shannon Loftis, Laura Fryer or Corinne Yu - to the younger / "newer" generation - like Kim Swift or Tanya Short.

I'm not suggesting there's no gender issue at the heart of Gamergate - but I'm quite disheartened that the press doesn't spend any time talking about all those amazing women who contribute and help us make great games every day of the year. Why is that? It may have less shock value on headlines; but it would do our industry - and those very people - justice.
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Matthew Handrahan European Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz3 years ago
I quite agree Guillaume. There is one woman, Kate Edwards, doing very fine, tireless work for the industry.
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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting3 years ago
If Milo is the best spokesperson that GamerGate has - someone who is so transparently bandwagon jumping for personal gain and the limelight of controversy that it's sort of embarrassing to watch his ascent to nascent godhood in the eyes of his supporters - then I think it's clear why there's so little dialogue. He knows nothing about the industry, and until very recently, when he decided it might be to his advantage to change his tune, he was openly dismissive of games and gamers. I see no compelling reason for anyone with a serious vested interest in the discussion to speak to him at all.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 3 years ago
Dan, that's twice now that you've completely missed the point of my argument -- if you want to talk to people in GamerGate, there are plenty of options that Edwards somehow completely missed, and I gave some examples. Yes, Milo is a narcissist, but that hasn't stopped him from putting money where his mouth is to try and get some of this "dialogue" going. GamerGate doesn't have any leaders or spokespeople and appointing some would just give people a target to attack.

If you want a big list of "important" people who support GamerGate then I'm sure there's something in that wiki I linked earlier, but again, that is off-topic to my argument. Feel free to email me about it if you want to discuss them further.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Watson on 1st May 2015 8:57pm

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
@Andrew: For gamergate, all is "show evidence" except when you get a bomb threat and you answer "It's was and attack by feminist" (You can check Kotaku for this last one).
For gamergate, it's about "ethics" until some idiot uses their flag to harass people online, then it's all "I cannot be made responsible of what others do". For gamergate it's all about their rules, the way they think, and If you don't agree with them or criticize something something then "show evidence" (and the subsequent "that's no evidence because that person did something wrong once"), "I cannot be made responsible", and "#NotYourShield".

Their "debate" is one-sided and you can't disagree with any dogma they put on the table. Same goes for that $10.000 to charity; it's called "smoke curtain". And yes, you can go and talk with them, that I did and this was my experience. You will get the same answer that you are throwing here; "The evil doodz are the anti-gamergate that blocks us" but ask about the inappropriate behavior coming from their side and... "We can't be made responsible" But it's all about "Ethics"! thank God for that!

Hope we can finally get rid of this GG thing all along. I believe it has been in detriment of games in general. So many years people has been fighting for games to be considered something mature, and this is a step in the opposite direction.
Word of advice for both GG and anti.GG: want to change something in games? take your time to develop the skills to be able to do so and quit complaining on Twitter about your female character not showing enough skin.
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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 3 years ago
No-one says movies or books are immature.
They certainly can quickly list examples: http://www.gamesradar.com/69-most-immature-movies/
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Sybil Collas Narrative designer, Writer, Teacher 3 years ago
@John: He was talking about the games industry, not games themselves. All media can vary in degrees of maturity and depth of theme, but there's no denying that the movies and books industries are far more mature than ours - they are older and it shows.

The maturity of the video games industry took a huge step back with gamergate, and brought a ton of discredit on all developers. You just have to search any mass media for the keyword gamergate and you're likely to read articles akin to those that could have been written years ago about the puerility of video games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sybil Collas on 6th May 2015 4:51pm

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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 3 years ago
Sure. Mature = They're older: It's not Gamergate that has caused a sense of lack of maturity in video games. Very few people outside of the industry are even aware of it.
It's a lack of maturity in video games that has caused a lack of maturity in video games.
We'll get better.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
Very few people outside of the industry are even aware of it.
CNN. Stephen Colbert. The Washington Post. The New York Times. The Guardian. The Telegraph. The Boston Globe. Wil Wheaton. Michael Dorn.

These are the places and people who have reported/talked about it (just off the top of my head). Whichever side you fall on the issue, it's gotten a hell of lot of attention.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 7th May 2015 8:03am

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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 3 years ago
I'm sure it had their attention briefly during those pieces: but whether they could tell you what it was above "some furore about gamers on the internet" 20 minutes later? I would be dubious.
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