So here’s the thing. Some people have a dangly thing between their legs – this is called a penis. Some people have a gappy thing between their legs – this is called a vagina. Some have both, some have neither, some have combinations or replacements or a whole bunch of different things. But it’s hard to escape that about half of the population is *gasp* female.
And some of them are involved in the games industry.
This week there was a rather ridiculous furore around the appointment of Dina Abu Karem to the position of community manager of Keiji Inafune’s upcoming Kickstarted game Mighty No 9. To be fair to the MN9 backer community, a decent majority of them either didn’t care or were supportive of the new appointment. There was, however, a rather vocal minority that simply would abide one of their kind working on the game. The catalyst? A piece of fan art Karem did herself, placing her in the shoes of the protagonist Beck. A lot of very simple-minded people who can’t read took that as a personal affront – some kind of insidious infiltration of the vagina’d kind into the realm of man. This was some woman coming in and trying to make Might No 9’s protagonist some feminised woman warrior, making Beck a woman. I mean seriously how dare she?
Sure, some of the fringe of the argument is that Karem is not a fan of the Mega Man series (despite the fact that this is completely untrue), and therefore should not have anything to do with the game’s development. Putting aside the inherent flaw in this argument – plenty of non-fans work on things all the time – this is essentially a thinly veiled extension of the “but girls can’t like video games” conceit that has been around forever. The idea that a woman can’t possibly help create a product because obviously she’s not interested in it because women don’t like video games.
While the Mighty No 9 debacle was a storm in a teacup, it is completely indicative of a good swathe of “gamers”. There’s a disappointingly large and vocal group of hateful exclusionaries who can’t seem to accept that women exist in the games industry specifically and at all in general. They accuse people of running a “feminist agenda” to destroy their safe man-space. In short, they think women are ruining their video games. And if women make video games, or contribute to the industry, then their male power fantasies will dissolve into… something with emotions or something. I dunno.
Here’s something you don’t know about the game industry. Over 75% of my press contact list? Women. That’s right, filthy nerds – women already have a prominent and key place in the game industry that enables them to actively and effectively pull the strings and “run a feminist agenda”. Women have a dominant position in the developer-community communication pipeline. Women are literally in charge of marketing and advertising games. And you know what? You still have your games with massive boobs and ridiculous armour. That’s not to say that women are dominant in the industry. No, that’s far from the truth. The role of women in the industry is largely “the PR chick”, and plenty of smart, talented women are relegated to the getting of coffee for men. Women are vastly underrepresented in the actual creative development and production of games. The gap is closing slightly, but nowhere near enough. But the argument that women have some covert plan to brainwash the collective minds of lonely man-babies everywhere into wearing pink and treating women like people is mind-boggling.
And even if there was a massive feminist conspiracy, so what? What’s so wrong with equal rights? Maybe women in the games industry deserve to be treated in ways that aren’t horrendously sexually aggressive. Maybe women in the games industry deserve to not get threats of rape, murder, torture, stalking, midnight phone calls, unsolicited pictures of male genitalia. Maybe women in the games industry deserve to not live in constant fear that they will be harassed and assaulted for existing – just existing – as a woman. Maybe women deserve to be treated like actual people.
And even if – IF – a woman dares to make a “feminist” game, why would you care if you weren’t interested? Women have the right to express their views and opinions in any way they want to. Freedom of speech and all that. People can say whatever they want. If you don’t want to play a game with that kind of “message”, maybe don’t? Maybe just let them exist for the people who enjoy them? I don’t like racing games, but I’m not baying for the blood of anyone who makes one. In fact, I largely just ignore them and go along in my own happy world of shooters and weird progressive liberal indie games. If you don’t like a game that a woman – hell, anyone – made, why try to ruin it for those who do?
Women make video games. Women make money selling video games they make. Why anyone would want to deny another human being the right to do whatever they want and enjoy safely is beyond me.