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Spencer: tone of Microsoft's GDC party was "unequivocally wrong"

Presence of podium dancers at post-show party "justly deserves the criticism"

Xbox head Phil Spencer has issued a formal apology for the tone of Microsoft's GDC party, saying that the decision to feature podium dancers dressed in faux-school uniforms was "unequivocally wrong."

Complaints were raised by attendees of the party, which took place on St Patrick's day, and were echoed by senior members of Xbox staff, including head of marketing Aaron Greenberg, making for an embarrassing situation for Spencer. The decision was rendered all the more bewildering by the fact that Microsoft, which has championed many progressive programs on diversity and inclusion, had hosted its 16th annual Women in Games dinner earlier that day.

To his credit, Spencer's apology was largely unhindered by spin or attempts at amelioration, instead accepting criticism and promising that the matter was under direct internal scrutiny. Nonetheless, it's unclear whether the dancers were hired directly by Microsoft or a third-party events team.

"How we show up as an organization is incredibly important to me," wrote Spencer in an email which was sent to all Xbox staff and later published publicly on the official Xbox Wire news service. "We want to build and reflect the culture of TEAM XBOX - internally and externally - a culture that each one of us can represent with pride. An inclusive culture has a direct impact on the products and services we deliver and the perception consumers have of the Xbox brand and our company, as a whole.

"It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear - how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.

"It's unfortunate that such events could take place in a week where we worked so hard to engage the many different gaming communities in the exact opposite way. I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business and our core values as a team - inside and outside the company. We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future."

Sadly, it's not the first time a company has had to apologise for featuring scantily clad dancers at an industry event: in 2013 Brenda Romero resigned from the IGDA's SIG on women in the industry after an official after party co-hosted by Chinese published Yetizen featured podium girls, attracting criticism from a number of attendees.

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Latest comments (16)

Craig Burkey Software Engineer 2 years ago
Nothing wrong with people letting their hair down, and the worse thing we want to do is stigmatise a profession, but I think agree there should be balance and an inclusive environment, maybe not everyone would appreciate the pole dancers but perhaps they should of hired some male models too for equalities sake
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Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital2 years ago
The Humble party had complimentary pizza! I am totally offended by it, since I prefer healthy food. This is simply unacceptable promotion of junk food and total dehonestation of healthy life-style. A typical stereotypical image of gamer as a fat person.

I demand an apology from Humble, everyone involved in organizing the party and everyone who ate the pizza there!
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David Vink Game Designer 2 years ago
So Jakub, was the Humble party also attended by other pizza's, who watched in horror as they saw their fellow pizza slices being presented as snacks on the tables to be consumed by the party goers?
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Show all comments (16)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
I thought the industry was over this sort of "Oops, we didn't know this would offend!" stuff, but I guess not quite yet.

That said, lets not line up and get all high-horsey here about people who have a legitimate profession (yep, pole dancing is an actual job at the end of the day for some gals and guys who choose that line of work. As far as I know, Microsoft didn't use any press gang tactics to get those gals to GDC). Just gently knock the heads of those who want to pay them for being in a place where some attendees will get too easily offended at seeing them and not in a place where they'd be background "art" (or perhaps making more money with a more appreciative crowd in a proper setting).
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
@Jakub Mikyska

Speaking AS A PIZZA, as one of thousands of pizzas who has already explained this over and over and over again, whether or not this is offensive is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT.

I am a pizza who tries to work in this industry, who has to face that every job application will have the additional hurdle that the first thing the hirer will decide is not how capable I am of the job or how well I will fit in (usually) his team. No, the first thing he will decide is whether or not he wants to eat me. If he does not want to eat me, he will be repulsed and ANGRY at me. If he thinks I am too delicious he will not think about me in the job at all.

Because pizzas are not for writing, not for coding, not for leadership. They are for eating. That's his line of thought.

And that's not just a problem I face at work, no. Everywhere I go, even when I'm minding my own business on the street, I get approached by people who want to eat me, or who will tell me to change my toppings to become more appealing to them. In fact, I'm not even safe at home, as my local police department can testify.

Because I live in a world where far, far too many guys think of pizzas as nothing but something that exists for them to eat. That's all we're for, and it is a lesson they are taught every time they open a newspaper with a pizza base on the cover, or a magazine that tells them how to eat more pizza, or watch a movie that includes a pizza solely so they can get a good look at a pair of olives, or a TV programme, and most of all play a game for 4-12 hours a day where EVERY SINGLE PIZZA is laid out on a plate with almost no parmesan on, slathered in olive and chilli oil, to make them feel hungry AND NOTHING ELSE.

There's room in the world for eating pizza, and pizzas that will gladly be eaten. But it doesn't have to be everywhere, all the time.

THAT'S THE ACTUAL PROBLEM. NOT HOW ****ING OFFENSIVE IT IS.

And your analogy, mate, where you compare women to something that really does exist only for you to eat? Yeah, now THAT'S offensive.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 21st March 2016 11:51pm

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Greg Costkyan Game Designer 2 years ago
Christ almighty, why is this crap still going on? Shame on Microsoft.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 years ago
Nonetheless, it's unclear whether the dancers were hired directly by Microsoft or a third-party events team.
Regardless of who hired them someone should have stopped this before it happened. I may not be a professional event coordinator but based on similar controversial parties in the video game industry over the last few years it wouldn't take a genius to realize this was obviously not going to sit well with a certain amount of attendees, both male and female.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 2 years ago
I wish some company would one day itemize men. Have them dancing with oiled bodies in cages. Making provocative pelvic movements. Eating ice cream suggestively. Id love that....in a totally heterosexual way.
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Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital2 years ago
@Bonnie and everyone else having problem with what I wrote above: My point was that I hate living in a world where anything you do is offensive to someone, just as you hate women being iconized as sexual objects.
I was at that party and I saw four girls in short skirts and t-shirts dancing as a way to heat up the crowd to join them dancing. An average aerobics lesson is more erotic than this, an average cheerleader show is more erotic than this and many WOMEN at the party eventually danced in a much more erotic and provocative way.

So, either be offended by all of the above, or none.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
@Jakub

Again, in very small words.

It really does not matter whether someone hates it or not. It does not matter if they love it or not. It does not matter who is offended.

What matters is that the CONSTANT portrayal of women as sex meat and ONLY as sex meat has made a world in which women are not safe, are not respected, are not treated as PEOPLE.

If you need to see flesh to start dancing, lobby your local strip joint to open a dance floor. Me, I am lobbying the games industry - MY INDUSTRY - to give me a ****ing BREAK and make room in which I can be seen as a frigging PERSON WHO IS NOT HERE TO GET YOU OFF.

That's it. I don't want an end to sex. I don't care that you like seeing naked women. I just want it to have its own time and space and leave me some where I can actually do my job.

TL;DR (because you either didn't actually read my post or just didn't grasp it) The issue is not who is offended or not. Feelings are not the issue. The issue is that the ubiquity of this portrayal of women is actually HURTING PEOPLE. Not their feelings. It is hurting their lives.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 2 years ago
It's not about the dancers, its about the lack of balance, there should of been male dancers too. Simple, the fact the organisers didn't grasp that is what I find quite odd.
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Shehzaan Abdulla Translator/QA 2 years ago
This was just bone-headed silly. They might as well have gone the whole way and hired prostitutes. Really makes you wonder what on Earth they were thinking or how this slipped past everyone without objection.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 2 years ago
Its obvious what they were thinking, if people arround you are having a good time, your more inclined to have a good time too, having promo guys and girls mingling with guests they were hoping to encourage a more rowdy party atmosphere akin to your average night club Vs stale muted event, with everyone retreating to their own social circles and the dance floor remaining deserted.

Understandable, but a shame they didn't cater for the women that attended the event.
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Iain Stanford Experienced Software Engineer, Tinderstone2 years ago
If there's one thing that proves there's still an issue, its GI.Biz comments
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
One male dancer can make all the difference
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8-vje-bq9c
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Herman Guardia 3D Artist, Behaviour2 years ago
Next GDC Party name should have some "trigger warning" in it's name xD
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