Quick hit: PAX’s Girls and Games fail

Our dedicated linkspam spies have dug up a lot of critical takes on the “Girls and Games” panel at PAX East 2010, which sounds like it was a how-not-to for discussions of women in geek communities. Here’s the blurb from their own schedule:

According to the ESA, more than 43% of video gamers are female, making women the single largest untapped market segment in the gaming industry. Look at the milestones crossed and the hurdles to come as developers and publishers reach out to this previously overlooked demographic. Are current strategies effective? What does this mean for the game industry as a whole?

Panelists Include: Brittany Vincent [Editor-in-Chief, Spawn Kill], Julie Furman [Founder, SFX360], Jeff Kalles [Penny Arcade], Alexis Hebert [Community Relations Manager, Terminal Reality], Padma Fuller [Product Marketing Manager, Sanrio Digital], Kate Paiz [Senior Producer, Turbine]

Critics include:

  • The Border House and While !Finished: “Putting up with sexism and not rocking the boat may be the best thing to do as an individual to get ahead, but frankly it does fuck all for other women in the industry.”
  • Fineness & Accuracy: “Virtually no mention was made at any point of institutionalized sexism, or of the ways that banter and trash-talking with imagery of rape and sexual violence… functions as a signifier to the demographic that is overwhelmingly more likely to be targeted by perpetrators of real rape and sexual assault that they are not welcome.”
  • Laser Orgy: “Obviously those present in the room were already feminist allies, but the confusing part for me was that the questioners (both male and female) seemed much more open-minded than the panelists. The five ladies wrote off GameCrush.Com as something we should ‘expect’ of gamer culture and ignore — and most of the other problems facing women got the same treatment.”
  • gaygamer.net: “Thankfully the audience asked many intelligent and both general and more focused questions. Unfortunately, the panel seemed at a loss to answer them in any satisfying manner (for the most part, a few exceptions applied).”

The volume of criticism has attracted a response from Brittany Vincent: “First off, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I let you all down, as a female gamer, and as a panelist. It brings me to tears to think that you all were so disheartened by this missed opportunity.”

8 thoughts on “Quick hit: PAX’s Girls and Games fail

  1. Melissa

    I went looking for a vid or transcript, as one does. First search attempt I just plugged the session title in to google. It pulled up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nqePTnXLOA which indeed is a session with the same title; but from 3 years ago. Even the description, statistic and all, is identical.

    Anyone know of a vid, transcript or liveblogging of it?

    1. Mary Post author

      Comments at The Border House suggest that that panel title is a pretty regular feature of PAX. I don’t know its usual style, possibly that’s how they do most of their panels?

  2. Alex

    Thanks for the linkage, Mary. Just a heads-up, the Border House and W!F posts are the same (both by me), just crossposted.

  3. Scott Madin

    Thank you for the link! Another issue I didn’t get around to mentioning in my post was that I felt like Kalles, the moderator, spent a lot of time (though as VorpalBunny noted, he also had one of the better, more structurally-aware responses to one of the questions) mansplaining the questions to the panel, as though they and the rest of the audience hadn’t been able to hear them perfectly well. I don’t know if he was more used to a panel format where there’s no microphone for audience questions, or if he was just trying to control the direction of the discussion, but given that there was an audience mic, I thought it was a kind of condescending way to do things, took up discussion time, and sometimes actually changed what the original question had been about.

  4. jfpbookworm

    It sounds to me like the folks assembling the panel were more interested in getting industry insiders than cultural critics. (Not that one can’t be both, of course.)

  5. Female Video Game Writer

    I didn’t speak at, or attend, this panel, but I’m sorry to hear that it was so unhelpful. I recently answered questions for a mass interview by Massively.com on the subject of women in game development, and I was disappointed by the amount of handwaving from the other respondees. I see it happen so many times that women in the industry adopt a ‘one of the guys’ type rationalising attitude, because that’s what gets them through their day to day life. This isn’t a criticism, by the way; it’s just an observation of what’s necessary for a lot of women to succeed in male-dominated fields. A lot of women stop thinking about whether or not they should have to put up with sexist shit, and just accept that that’s the way it is. Unfortunately, the best analysis does not come from the women who are living it daily, because they by necessity end up blinding themselves to it. Unless they were feminists and social critics before they joined the industry, that is.

  6. Sarah Stokely

    “The five ladies wrote off GameCrush.Com as something we should “expect’ of gamer culture and ignore”… Holy crap, how is it even POSSIBLE they opted to give it a free pass. Really? Really? I’ve been spitting bile about it since it was announced. What a huge missed opportunity to call out this cynical conflation of sex services and gaming.
    GameCrush seems to be telling guys that it’s ok to sexualise female gamers, and it feels like a huge step backwards. It also feels like all the tedious work done by female gamers like myself to try to make game environments like WoW more female friendly (or at least female tolerant) is being negated. Sigh.

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