The games industry responds to #MeToo
"By acting now, we can save countless individuals from physical, mental, and emotional pain, suffering, and distress"
In the wake of the appalling revelation that Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein has sexually harassed and abused women for years, the floodgates, as the New York Times puts it, have opened.
Men in positions of power across media and entertainment have sadly used their power to subject women to all sorts of heinous acts, and while mainstream news organizations have put a spotlight on Hollywood, the problem is by no means confined to the film industry.
Brave individuals have come forward to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment since Sunday, using the #MeToo hashtag inspired by actress Alyssa Milano. Others have also utilized the hashtag to support the movement and to vow to do better. In the interest of shining a spotlight on this issue, GamesIndustry.biz has collected and reprinted (with each individual's permission) a small selection of the comments on social media that we felt should be read by those working in this industry.
This is, of course, a very delicate matter, and we applaud those of you who've shown the courage to speak up. If after reading this article you'd like to add your own contribution or you'd like to discuss further, please don't hesitate to contact the editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jen MacLean, interim executive director at IGDA (via Facebook)
I've seen many men react to #metoo with sadness, and responses of "I believe you."
But that isn't even close to enough. You can do more-you MUST do more. Don't just feel sad.
-Any time a man makes a rape joke around you, call it out. Zero tolerance.
-Any time anyone implies a successful woman became that way because of her looks or sex, call that out too.
-When you see a man acting like a creep, intervene. Not sure how? Here are some suggestions.
-Demand that your company track and publish diversity statistics.
-Ask your company what they're doing to create a more diverse and inclusive environment. KEEP ASKING.
-Hiring someone? Require a diverse candidate pool. Yes, it's more time and more work. It's worth it.
-Do NOT buy into the myth of the "most qualified candidate". For any position, there are literally thousands of people who possess the skills and values to do the job well at your company. Once your candidate pool has passed that very low bar, actively value and hire for diversity.
"When your company announces (yet another) senior hire of the same gender/ race/age, ask what they're doing to build a more inclusive executive team"
-Any time someone says a potential hire isn't a "culture fit", require more details. Don't accept coded language for "I don't want to hire a woman".
-When your company announces (yet another) senior hire of the same gender/ race/age, ask what they're doing to build a more inclusive executive team.
-Support organizations that support diversity and inclusivity. I'm happy to tell you how the IGDA and IGDA Foundation are supporting an inclusive industry where everyone can succeed in having a sustainable, fulfilling career. Groups like the AIAS Foundation and Pixelles are also doing great work.
-Educate yourself. Read books on feminism. Read articles. Do the hard work.
-If you create something, require that it pass the Bechdel test.
-Highlight the accomplishments of successful women.
-Don't allow someone to call a woman "shrill", "difficult", or a bitch. If someone criticizes a woman's behavior, ask yourself if the same criticism would apply to a man. Actively look for examples of the same behavior in men, and ask how you, and society, react to it.
-I'm sure you already pass "The Rock" test; make sure your friends and colleagues do too.
Kate Edwards, former IGDA executive director (via LinkedIn)
Hey game industry - LISTEN UP!
You no doubt read the MPAA's statement on ousting Harvey Weinstein, but in case you haven't - here's a key excerpt (emphasis added).
You can easily replace (or rather add to) certain aspects of this statement with other issues, e.g., "sexually predatory behavior" with "abusive work schedules", "workplace harassment" with "ignoring diversity and inclusion", and so on. You can change "has no place in our society" to "has no place in our industry."
"Like it or not, the hammer is going to fall very hard - and I'm going to do everything I can to enable that to happen sooner than later"
Like it or not, accountability WILL find you. The only reason it hasn't yet - on any of these various issues (including those Weinsteinesque predators) - is the lack of collective will to stand together and declare "The line must be draw here! This far, no further!"
As I remind people all the time in my lectures, the "industry" is not some distant, rumbling machine that we can conveniently blame for all our problems. The industry is US - we are the heart that beats within this creative endeavor. By acting now, we can save countless individuals from physical, mental, and emotional pain, suffering, and distress.
Like it or not, the hammer is going to fall very hard - and I'm going to do everything I can to enable that to happen sooner than later. Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
Robin Hunicke, co-founder at Funomena (via Facebook)
For every person who has suffered Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Discrimination, I stand to be counted. It will change because we all demand that it changes. Together, we create a better tomorrow.
Mike Wilson, co-founder of Devolver and Good Shepherd (via Facebook)
For 20 years, I was part of the problem.
I've been an entrepreneur since I was 20, and an executive in video games since I was 24. I therefore have been in a position of power of some sort over other people, many of whom were women, for almost all of my adult life.
The irony, which I realize now is quite common in these situations, is that my transgressions occurred because underneath the flimsy power construct was an arrogant, ignorant, scared, insecure little man.
While I never forced myself on anyone physically or otherwise, I certainly did bask in the rather unnatural and artificial attraction that men in positions of power often enjoy, as often as I could.
So pathetically desperate for female attention and validation for my fragile little adolescent ego, I would cross professional and personal lines regularly, "flirting" as it's so harmfully referred to, with virtually every attractive woman I spent any amount of time with... constantly needing to assure myself that "I could have her," whether I was genuinely interested or not. Disgusting and humiliating.
It wasn't until my frame of reference and morality was profoundly reshaped under the hammer and chisel of some very powerful plant medicine that I accepted and faced my own culpability as part of the male problem. "As long as you're not hurting anyone," which is the slippery cousin of "what they don't know, can't hurt them," was forever decimated and replaced by "Do what is right. All of the time. Everything matters."
When taken literally, this mantra is all the truth anyone needs to realize that every single transgression against one's own integrity is indeed hurting someone (you and everyone around you) and that there is very little protection in feigned ignorance, since you always know in your heart.
"I pledge to work to heal others on both sides of this epidemic as part of my ongoing growth and penance"
I apologize deeply to every woman with whom I have a crossed any line; physical, verbal, and especially non-verbal, the most common, insidious, almost expected, relentless harassment "vibe" that most women endure constantly.
I apologize especially to my dear wife who so patiently (and then less patiently) waited for me to grow up and out of my insecurity and immaturity that lasted for way too many years.
I apologize to my incredible daughters for inadvertently teaching by example some of the worst traits of my gender and of myself. Luckily my son Doug won't be learning about manhood from that man.
I am incredibly grateful to be healed, and I pledge to work to heal others on both sides of this epidemic as part of my ongoing growth and penance.
John Smedley, SOE/Daybreak veteran (via Facebook)
Reading the staggering amount of women who are posting "Me Too" simply makes me super angry. We have got to do better. I've been in a leadership position pretty much my whole career. As much as I would like to say I haven't seen this, sadly I have.
Of course we had the requisite training. Of course we dealt with any issues that were brought up. To me that's a low bar and it's not good enough.
We were blessed with some of the best people in the business like Laura Naviaux Sturr, Candace Brenner, Torrie Dorrell, Laura Rockwell, Holly Longdale, Marie Harrington Fear, Jenn Brady, Linda Carlson, Sharon Morris and many other incredibly bright and talented women. Not only were they just as hard-working (and in most of those cases harder working) as their male counterparts, but in a lot of cases they were also having kids and dealing with the competing pressures they feel to be home with their newborns and trying to balance that with their careers. I've also seen men who resented that (you know who you are and you suck).
"Hire a LOT more women and make sure they are in equivalent positions of power up and down the company"
It wasn't an overt thing. Very passive aggressive, but it was some bullshit to watch. I lost my shit a few times when it was done in front of me, but if stupid people were dumb enough to make a comment in front of me I can only imagine some of the ones who didn't... or who did it quietly.
You suck even worse.
Personally I am of the belief that the only way to deal with this is the obvious way. Hire a LOT more women and make sure they are in equivalent positions of power up and down the company. I don't care how many daughters you have or how you're committed to equality. Blah blah blah. So what. We all have mothers too.
If you're in a position to do something about it, then do. I know I can do better. So can you. Even people who aren't in a direct position to hire can be part of the solution and simply recognize the issue is pervasive everywhere and being part of the solution by making sure that if you see something you both say something AND do something.
Also men in the game industry that don't see women as gamers need to check that shit at the door. Even though a lot of the games we make have a Male/Female ratio that's off balance, let's just look at that as an opportunity to win and get more female customers. Plus they're every bit as good as you. My daughter Catherine will smoke your ass at Overwatch. I'm happy to put money on that and shut some pieholes on that subject and stream it live.
Please think carefully before you comment. I'm not really interested in the "other side" of this issue. There's just the one side. We need to do better.