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I’m Every Woman

Working at Derailed is an interesting experience.  By all means, it’s a dream job.  I get to use my creative and technical skills to produce games.  Who wouldn’t love that?  I’ve also gotten to meet a lot of super cool people along the way.  Everything is great. . . with one exception.

I have put myself out there a lot regarding gender issues.  And, for better or worse, people have heard me.  That’s something I’m very proud of and do not regret at all.  However, I think that, even if I didn’t do the “Game Like a Girl” series, there would still be  an awesome pressure on me that isn’t on Nick or Tom.

Whether real or imagined, I feel like everything I do is a representation of my gender.  Because I am the minority, I feel like I have something to prove.  It feels like mediocrity is not acceptable.  If I make an okay game, then I get stressed out that I’ve somehow let my gender down.  If I make a great game, then I can relax a little bit (but then I worry about how I’ll top it next time).

Moreover, I have to worry about being taken seriously.  Is my nail polish going to make someone disregard me as a developer?  Does a pink phone case distract the people coming to our booths at conventions?  If Nick and Tom do more developing on a game than I do, what is my purpose?  It’s a heavy burden and it’s something that I think other women and underrepresented groups deal with in this and every industry.

With this pressure comes determination.  I want to prove that I am a competent developer and that I can hold my own and help my company succeed.  This is (0r should be) the goal of every developer.  So, what percentage of my goal should involve my gender?  I know that I don’t want to be a good female game developer.  I want to be a good game developer.  Period.  No “for a girl” included.  I want people to enjoy my games regardless of anything else.  However, I also want to show everyone that women can do this just as well as men.  I also want to show girls and women that this is a viable career or hobby.

Separate but Equal

In my experience gender matters in gaming a fair amount.  Rather than being outright rude or hateful, a lot of people will let little things slip out here or there.  From what I’ve observed (and maybe Nick and Tom will disagree with me), when Nick and Tom tell people they’re game developers, people often say something along the lines of “that’s pretty cool.”  I, on the other hand, often get some sort of preface.  “Really?  You are?  That’s pretty cool.”

These are not hateful or sexist people.  They’re just people who have a very specific idea of what a game developer looks like.  It’s wrong, but individual people in most cases can’t be blamed.  It’s the culture and industry that leads to this.  Additionally, the fact that most game developers are relatively unknown even among gamers (people in my experience often know company names rather than developer names), so people default to males.  Usually with the added touch of being a basement dwelling neckbeard, which isn’t favorable either.

Women should be more prevalent in the gaming industry (there are already quite a few out there).  I would challenge game development teams to look at who they work with.  Is it almost or entirely made up of straight white men?  If it is, maybe it’s time to mix it up.  There’s nothing wrong with straight white men; a game developer can be talented regardless of privilege or lack thereof.  However, if a woman is talented and motivated, then she should be added onto a team same as any man.

The Bitch Factor

I think that the best projects come from people who are very different from each other.  If there’s no challenge or conflict, then it can still be good, but it’s probably also going to be boring. For women, this brings up the bitch factor.

I have worked on a lot of projects with people: both gaming and non.  In a group, especially when it comes to things I’m passionate about, I push people and I argue.  I don’t bother beating around the bush in most cases and this has caused me to be labeled a bitch in more cases than one.  Sometimes, I wear this title with pride.  It means that I was assertive and I do something to its fullest.  However, it does get to me sometimes.  Men who do the same do not get the same labels.  Here and there, you’ll get a man who is labeled “a dick,” but they are the exception, not the rule.

As of now, there’s no good way for women to be assertive in group settings.  She can either be quiet and do more clerical tasks (there’s nothing wrong with this–in fact some of the most organized and motivated people I know of all genders operate like this, but it isn’t a lot of women’s style) or she can be assertive and not give a damn.  Both are legitimate styles, but no one should be forced into one or the other.  Moreover, it isn’t a bad thing to not want to be known by a derogatory term.  The word is being taken back somewhat, but, in my opinion, it isn’t enough to merit calling other women bitches or using it as a positive term in most cases.

I think in this blog post, I have thought about enough topics to merit like five more.  However, for now, this will have to do.  It’s been sitting in our “drafts” page for quite a while, and I was in a ranting mood today.  Stay tuned for more organized, coherent blog posts on this and more topics in the future.

Fiona out.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a writer, editor, and podcaster. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet, was also a writer for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant 2e, and has been published in books and magazines. She is an editor for the pop culture and media website GeekGals.co. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile, produces and performs on Fables Around the Table, and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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