January 28, 2009

Wired Women

Tonight I attended the Game On talk titled Wired Women, held at the State Library of Queensland. It was being held as part of the Game On exhibition currently showing at the library.
It was facilitated by Jane Turner and the speakers were awesome, although their introductions were so long and I was just so excited to be there that I may be wrong in their job descriptions.
Associate Professor Ruth Christie is from QUT and from what I gather she works in a function to encourage people into the IT, science and engineering industries, and I know that she has a much more important job, but I really suck at taking notes (my pen was outta ink). Hannah Crosby works as an artist and designer for THQ Australia. She offered a lot of views of the artistic side of game creation, and she was very well versed in how games and gaming affect society - very well spoken. I was really interested in Penny Sweetser though, who works for 2K Australia and again I hate this phrase but - from what I gather, she majors in AI, and works in that side of game production.

Throughout the talk they discussed the topics of the lack of women with careers in the gaming industry and why this might be, and women who play games and the effect that a broadening appeal of games has to people (not just women).

Regarding the lack of women with careers in gaming, it became clear that the industry is not exactly well publicised as a career choice - both Penny and Hannah said they both had no idea you could even HAVE a job like that, until they basically fell into it. Ruth talked about how the jobs are readily available, but there is such a low percentage of girls who are taking the university courses that would make those jobs available to them. She said that the gaming industry simply cannot attract women into it. On the way home, the friend who I went with spoke with me about this - we both work in offices on the same street as game studios and yet would never have even realised that they exist in such abundance. Perhaps different could be said of America, but for us we always thought it was just an American thing, that kind of job wouldn't exist in Australia - but there's the proof right down the road from us. This definitely speaks about the publicising (or lack thereof) of the gaming industry. Ruth suggested more "Open Days" for school children so that they can realise this kind of career DOES exist - she believes that is the age that you need to capture someone's imagination for it.

My favourite speaker was Penny Sweetser. For every discussion of what games appeal to "normal women" or how some games are not marketed to "normal women", she was always quick to say, well, I'm a normal woman, and I play these games. She made one excellent point by saying "as long as a game doesn't actively alienate women, there are going to be women who want to play it".
When somebody remarked about the ol' glass ceiling in a gaming career for women, she countered that there was none, the gaming industry is extremely receptive of women, it's not just a boy's club, they want that diversity because many different viewpoints and backgrounds will help to create a great game.
I loved that for Penny, nothing was really about being a "woman in gaming" like it was some kind of badge or label. The final question, when asked how do they all keep passionate in their professions, she simply answered "I just love games."

There was great discussion about how women are portrayed in video games, and Lara Croft was mentioned. Hannah said that she only minded "when a character's bra size is bigger than their IQ" and stated that she thinks that gaming is about escapism and women players want to have that element that they could be or wish they were this person - just like men do. If you think about it, when are the characters in "guy's games" ever effeminate little boys?
My friend and I talked later about how when playing a game that allows you to choose what gender you are, we often pick women - don't know what this says about us, although in general I prefer to play games where your character is pre-determined. As an aside, that reminds me of an excellent post I read today over at Shakesville written by Melissa McEwan where it's mentioned how kick-ass the female characters have become in fighter-arcade style games. Ling Xiaoyu FTW King of Iron Fist Tournament!

All in all, I enjoyed the talk immensely. I liked that it was more focused on the career side of the gaming industry and how it is open to women - I was pretty inspired to run out of the room and go finish my IT course.

The talk was recorded and should be available shortly on the State Library website. I'll come back and update when it does get put up. In the meantime, some generous soul should head to Steam and gift me Left 4 Dead. Love you.


  1. Brisbane is, in fact, a world leader in game design and production - who'a thought?? And I can't imagine why it'd be a boys-only-job. You don't need anything that's normally associated with boy-ness to be creative, artistic or intelligent. Go get in there, girls - you can only make it better....

  2. Exactly, who'da thought, which is a big part of the problem - I had no idea!
    I agree that it's not a boys-only-job, though I do think that for many, people don't even realise the many opportunities for a career in game design... I know before I went to this talk and then sat down and thought about it, I just envied anyone in that industry cause I figured they probably just sat around PLAYING games all day.
    But that's another career in itself apparently.
    And the one I want.


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