By Jamaal Ryan
GDC in some ways is a more valuable conference than say your E3es and PAXes. While there might not be much in the light of new game announcements (though this year, we got a chance to see games like Framed, Double Fine’s Hack n’ Slash, Monument Valley, and Among the Sleep), GDC gives developers a platform to address all things game design, game development culture, along with tools and platforms that will become integral parts of the industry’s future.
Gender issues was highly recognized at this year’s GDC as well. In referencing the very public shameful incident involving IndieStatik’s Josh Mattingly, developer Brenda Romero discussed her very own run-in with sexual harassment, “He moved his coat from his lap and there it was," she spoke, describing meeting with a developer that she admired who revealed an erection under his pants.
In another talk, Storm8’s senior game designer Elizabeth Sampat gave an impassionate speech on the male culture in development studios. It was a rare focus, looking at the attitudes of male colleagues outside of sexual discomfort, “…if somebody didn't laugh at your stupid Magic the Gathering joke or didn't seem excited enough when you mentioned the company fantasy football league, get over it."
It was indeed a point of view that needed to be heard. Many women in the industry have trouble communicating their grievances if their mistreatment isn’t blatant sexism or sexual harassment. The simple look, change in subject, or social exclusion that put women in uncomfortable positions to force an identity, remain withdrawn, or find work somewhere else are issues that aren’t easy to address.
Both women point out the double edged sword that is women discrimination in game development, highlighting both the sexual objectification alongside the “not one of us” sort of mentality.
Equally a winner at GDC was Anita Sarkeesian as she earned an Ambassador Award for her work on Feminist Frequency with the Tropes vs. Women series which offer excellent sociological dissection of women’s mis/non-representation in video games.