An important gaming/tech industry hashtag has been trending all evening that draws increased attention to an accepted form of discrimination. The tag: #1reasonwhy popped up on Twitter Monday afternoon and soon engulfed the twitterverse drawing attention from many different entertainment sectors. As an industry that pulls in billions upon billions in revenue each year the interactive entertainment businesses of the world are still biassed and even discriminatory. You will find the “Good ol' boy” mentality alive and well even in some of the most forward thinking and progressive institutions.
Women in business are held to a different set of standards, paid a consistently lower wage, and subjected to continued harassment that far outweighs that experienced by any other demographic. As the Twitter tag gained momentum Monday industry execs and stalwarts chimed in to show their support while simultaneously condemning the underlying form of discrimination that makes it all possible. The tag provided a moment of venting allowing prominent female members of the games/media community to step forward and share their experiences in the newly cleared space. What’s even more telling than the trending tag on Twitter is the fact that many of the women stepping forward have always been vocal proponents of equality in human rights often utilizing their personal blogs to write about their positions. Why does it take the infrequent “trend” in media reporting for issues such as this to gain traction? What are the real issues causing the inequality to remain in places such as work, public venues, social media and forums?
The short answer is a combination of men and women who stick to the status quo. Women who don’t follow through with harassment claims, employers who stifle voices of protest, men who allow vulgarity or discrimination to continue under the guise of “camaraderie”. As a member of the team that binds a social grouping or workplace it is every person’s duty to be respectful, honorable and just. Unfortunately there’s a significant amount of “stupid” floating around that gets overlooked. It exists on the internet, gaming networks, social media, forums and article discussions. Even our workplaces, many of which have policies aimed at prevention and equality, suffer from this blight in every nook and cranny. This malaise continues to perpetuate the inequality that negatively affects so many people every single day.
What can you do about it? The answer is simple really. Read what others have to say about it and arm yourself with examples of what crosses the line. Treat everyone equally well. If a person is lazy, rude or combative for no particular reason do not assume that it is because of their gender, race, sexual preference, age or education.
Some of the more telling tweets to include the hashtag show a side of the industry that is rarely talked about. Even if some of these sound like they are isolated incidents you should probably assume they are happening all around you because, let’s be honest, people are more generally just dumb animals. Here’s what the heavy hitters have to say on the subject.
#1reasonwhy because even freelance i produce as much industry content as some entire websites, and i'm still 'that feminist writer.'— leighalexander (@leighalexander) November 27, 2012
Leigh Alexander writes about how even after trying to define herself not by a label but by the content of her work she continually gets referred to as “that feminist writer”. By labeling her with a generalized term coworkers and peers use this to invalidate her opinions on other topics. Does Leigh have a good point on graphical representation in video games? If someone disagreed with her the label could crop up as a means to say all she knows is limited to what she’s known for writing.
Seeing so many female friends tweeting about #1reasonwhy is depressing. <3 you all. I'd work with you anytime.— Eric Neustadter (e) (@thevowel) November 27, 2012
#1reasonwhy is, as men, most of us can't, won't or don't understand, and we don't try nearly enough to. Because it's hard. We can do better.— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) November 27, 2012
Patrick Klepek brings up a good point. As men the out of sight problem is usually an “out of mind” problem and many in the industry don’t do enough to establish discriminatory practices as faux pax. Make sure you’re the best person you can be at all times, a moment of weakness is exactly that: weakness in character.
#1reasonwhy because there's not enough investment in AAA games about something other than war, cowboys, football, cars. sorry, but it's true— Jane McGonigal (@avantgame) November 27, 2012
The games industry is changing. Slowly it is allowing new games with subject matter that steps outside the accepted mindset to flourish and find their audience. Since this is also a business often games that aren’t expected to make money never see the light of day. Hopefully with crowdsourcing and alternative methods of funding this gap can be closed but as Jane McGonigal writes maybe we should head it off before that’s even necessary. It’s necessary now.
my coworkers assumed I was hired purely for looks at my former magazine gig and didn't believe I played games. #1reasonwhy— Tina Palacios (@Teanah) November 27, 2012
Tina Palacios writes about her experience that still coworkers think she attained her position by some other means than her intellectual merits. Sadly many people, mainly women, suffer from this misconception and not-so-subtle form of discrimination. It doesn’t have to be said for the effects of it to be felt. If you’re negatively thinking about an individual more than likely that will manifest itself - maybe even subconsciously. It’s a bad state the games industry is in if women continue to believe their co workers may have assigned a value on them apart from their ability or dedication.
To change the industry as a whole its stewards must change the way the community is thinking. It can no longer be acceptable for the community to allow discrimination to go unanswered. It can no longer be allowed that the community stands by as players use slurs, sexism and racially charged remarks during gameplay. Finally as a boon to the freedom of speech the community should stand up and declare itself free from the oppression that comes with this form of discrimination. Discrimination is an example of repression designed to skew what ought to be an even playing field. We are a community of gamers and it is when we are playing fairly we are at our best.