Tag Archives: Rants

Piracy and Legacy Servers

Let me start by saying – I am a game developer. I get paid to MAKE games. I have made games that sold millions of copies. I have made games that barely sold at all. I have been at a studio that got *house buying sized bonuses* and at studios where it was more like “The studio will be closing on Friday.”

When someone pirates a game – I have conflicting feelings about it. You are taking my work, my 70+ hour weeks, spent crunching and killing myself, stealing it, and enjoying it for free. At the same time, my brain is also able to comprehend that pirates are not buyers. 1 pirated copy of the game does not equal a lost sale. Pirates aren’t going to BUY the game regardless. If they can’t pirate it, they just won’t play it. It still fucking bothers me though. It’s still theft.

The WoW social media community is having a bit of a fuss over Legacy servers and the shut down of a large private server. So here’s my point of view. A game developer’s point of view.

FIRST: Private servers are piracy. They are theft. They are stealing Blizzard’s work.

FULL.STOP. The server got shut down BECAUSE IT’S THEFT. They didn’t make the game. They didn’t make the art. They didn’t design the levels. They took someone else’s work and recreated it, and acted like they had done a ton of work. THEY DIDN’T. If I retype the Lord of the Rings, that doesn’t give me the right to sell it, make movies of it, etc. Hell, if I just print it out on my printer, that doesn’t give me the right to SELL that print.

Second: 150k pirates stealing WoW – Vanilla or otherwise – are NOT equal to 150k subs for WoW.

You can’t make the argument that 150k people playing on a private server is 150k people who would be willing to play a legacy server run by blizzard. Sure, there was probably a small subset of people who are already subscribers and just went to play there because they miss Vanilla. BUT it’s likely more than HALF of those people were just pirates who wanted to play WoW but DON’T WANT TO PAY BLIZZARD FOR IT.

Third: Game development, especially with 16+ year old code-bases, is NOT easy/simple.

People like to argue – “Well a bunch of fans did it, why can’t Blizzard?” For one, Blizzard has to make it work within their code base. They would have to do it right – without major game breaking bugs or exploits. They would have to have it work with Battle.Net and all of the tech they use. It’s also not as easy as just “rolling back” to a specific revision. We know WoW has been in development for at least 16 years (probably more like 20). I have worked on 5 year old code bases that were already a tangled awful mess of “what the fuck were those programmers thinking?” I SHUDDER to even think of Blizzard’s. Do you realize how many devs they have currently working for them? How many they have had who have left? They mentioned at BlizzCon they use FOUR different versions of source control. FOUR. That’s a NIGHTMARE. Hell, with that much time, that many versions of source control, and the sheer volume of changes to the game, I would be astonished if they even thought about trying to build a legacy server, much less TRIED. And don’t kid yourself, it would be for less than 100k players at MOST. That would be the population the first 3-4 months. Then it would drop to 50k or less.

Programmers are the most expensive part of a dev team. That is the majority of what would be needed to get legacy servers running. It is simply not cost effective to get a legacy server running, because it the number of subs would be so low, they wouldn’t make their money back. Remember that whole Pirates Copies Don’t Equal Sales – if a FREE WoW server only attracts 150k players – then a paid one would attract less than half of that. (I actually would peg it more around a 10th of that.) Add to this the fact that the BEST programmers suited to this task would be the ones who have been at the company the longest – as they have the most first hand knowledge. That means that they would be pulling their best people off NEW content to work on OLD content for a fraction of the player base. You think garrisons cost you a raid tier? Legacy servers will cost you an EXPANSION – and would KILL the live game in the process.

Let’s look at the example Cataclysm gave us – they went back and reworked zones to bring them up to Wrath levels of quality. And how did that go? It didn’t. Blizzard even admitted that they ended up spending too much time and resources reworking old content THAT PEOPLE DIDN’T PLAY. They said they should have made more end game and high level content.

Finally: Vanilla wasn’t that great. Nostalgia is a weird thing.

Do you like Paladins? Not in Vanilla you didn’t. Remember being an out of combat rezzer? I do. I sat there and did NOTHING and wasn’t allowed to roll on gear unless no one who was killing the boss wanted it, and rezzed people who died. Remember trying to corral 40 people into a raid that took hours and hours and you could only raid if you were willing to play WoW 40+ hours a week? I do, because I couldn’t raid. I had school, then work. I had things I had to do. I wanted to raid.

Bags were only 14 slots. No dungeon groups, just hours in trade trying to form a group. Soul shards, ammo, materials for spells. Keys for UBRS. Shields with shadow power. Hunter pets had to be leveled and friended. Spell Ranks.  Only one way to level – grinding. Only one way to play – grinding.

So no, I don’t think Blizzard should waste time and money they could be spending on PAYING customers (like me!) and making us NEW content on revamping old content for thieves.

Shityards

No, I spelled that right.

Sorry, once more we are getting into a profanity fueled rant. But COME ON. Who is running this thing at Blizzard? Did we lose design leads and not know it? Is someone sneaking mind altering drugs in the water coolers?

I want to start by saying – I have 6 max level garrisons. I have 6 more not max level. 4 of my max level garrisons have ALL max ilvl followers. I.love.garrisons. I love followers. I love missions. I love logging in 3 times a day (before breakfast, at lunch, and before bed) to cycle through my stable of alts to accept and resend followers on missions.

I get WHY some people don’t like garrisons and garrison missions. I do. It is very chore-like. It does require an addon in the worst way. (Once more, thank you Master Plan.) It does feel increasingly like the only thing to do in WoW. (So not true, but I get that people feel that way.)

But I am not one of those people. So the Shipyard, it should just be an extension of that same feeling though right? Right? Not even a little bit. I hate them. I am DONE with them. I already told my guild if they require I have the ring or get gear from the chests – give up. I am not doing it.

First off, level design. The shipyard isn’t even in the same phase as your garrison. You have to LEAVE your garrison to get to it, and it unphases you, then rephases you. It takes approximately 40 seconds to run from the garrison mission table outside, mount, then ride down to the ship one. The path makes sense for reality, but this isn’t reality. Level design is the art of making things flow and this feels like a backed up toilet. Cut a back door in the main building, and run a path down to the docks. BOOM. Best part – that space on the map – not even being used. It clears out the SUPER wonky jammed in path from the front that feels so weird by the Menagerie. Yeah, it will only cut off at best 20 seconds, but that’s enough time it makes me less likely to mount or hearth to get around it.

Ship Limit. I am frustrated by the 20 follower limit. Everyone except for my main, who NEEDS the stables, has the barracks because of this. And even 25 is too low. I want 100 followers. So what about ships? Oh we only get 6. It’s like they took the most frustrating thing about missions and made it worse.

Ship types. This is so confusing and clunky. I get it’s mirroring the classes on followers, but the thing is, we have WAY more of those. We also get it as players. A tank tanks things. Dps kills lots of little minions. It spoke in a language we as players were familiar with. I do not get ship types at all. I haven’t checked WoWHead, so I have just been building even numbers.

Ship destruction. So here’s the worst part. If a mission fails, there is a chance the ship will be destroyed. Yep. That ship that cost oil and garrison resources will just boom, with nothing to show for it. Not only did you fail the mission, but now you are FURTHER behind because you lost that ship you had been leveling. You can make them unsinkable – at the cost of a counter, so you effectively GIMP your ship to make sure you don’t lose it. Oh and it’s not just one ship. You can lose both ships if it’s a 2 ship mission. As for the chances of this occurring, I have no idea. But I have had 2 90%+ success chance missions fail and lost BOTH. SHIPS. I haven’t even gotten to the 15 missions yet to upgrade my yard.

Shipyard parts. Because inventory space is not ENOUGH of a premium, let’s throw more stuff in their bags. I feel like I should tattoo this on every designer at Blizzard – IF YOU CAN KEEP IT OUT OF THE BAGS – DO IT. There should be a review process that makes it so a council of 25 devs and 25 players all approve something taking up a bag slot. If they can’t agree that it’s worth it – BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Oh and the parts? Yeah, hope you like raiding and doing all the stuff in Tanaan, because that’s the only way to get the blueprints for those.

Forced failure. Are you kidding me with this Blizzard? I learned this my SECOND MONTH at the Guildhall. Do not teach the player by FORCING them to fail. Just don’t. It feels like crap. AND it just teaches the player that the game is willing to CHEAT to make a point. Even better – the mission required to complete the legendary? With 3 epic ships perfectly decked out – you can get to 91% success. Those are some awfully nice epic ships you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to them.

Run out of oil. Where do you get oil when you run out? I haven’t figured it out. I spent 4 days doing no missions because I had no oil and my garrison missions weren’t offering me any.

Blockades. A friend of mine spent a week trying to level up his ships to do the Hellfire Citadel mission. The morning he was ready, he woke up to a blockade preventing him from doing it. That he didn’t have the appropriate counters for. Because he had refitted his ships for the HFC mission. What.Kind.of.SICK.GAME.IS.THIS.

Shipyards are one big black feel bad for WoD. It’s like they threw out everything they learned from garrisons and put a new designer in charge. Did they decide WoD was a lost cause and move everyone to the new expac without cleaning/tuning/polishing up what was being finished?

Oh god… that’s what they did isn’t it?

This is unacceptible.

Updated: Follow up post here.

I think it says something that in 9.5 years of playing, I have been forced to contact Blizzard Support more since WoD launched than I ever have before. In fact, prior to this time, I have never had to contact them for an item issue at all. 90% of our contact is me reporting someone for circumventing ignore, which is pretty much me just sending a message and letting them take care of it.

But this time. Oh boy, this time it’s awful.

Back in December, after hitting gold cap, I bought a trinket – Sandman’s Pouch. It’s crafted, and really good, so I decided to splurge and get it for my Warlock. I bought the cards and made the item. (About 7k gold, this will matter later.)

Once I got my scribe up to the point where she could make War Paints, I started saving them to create the upgrade items for this trinket. It takes about 35 days to make both upgrade items.

The mats:

The mats for  Inferno Tarot:
150 X  War Paints
30 X  Sorcerous Water (450g)
15 X  Savage Blood (15000g – at the time of creation)

The mats for  Molten Tarot:
200 X  War Paints
40 X  Sorcerous Earth (1600g)
15 X  Savage Blood (10,500g)

Apparently though, I made a mistake when I made the first upgrade item – you see, there are 4 different upgrade items for scribes to make. Two work for trinkets and two work for weapons. I made the wrong one. That’s stupid, but that was my mistake. What happened next was Blizzard’s fault. I used the Weapon Crystal on my trinket (or I believe I may have, I don’t really remember, that was in December, but it’s plausible, and others seem to think that is what causes the bug.) And it WORKED. It upgraded my trinket to the 655 version. So I went back about doing my thing and continuing on raiding and kicking ass.

Now, here at the end of January, I finally got my war paints to make the second upgrade item. I made sure to find the one that said it upgraded from 655 to 665 (really 670, but they haven’t updated the tooltip.) I made the item. And instantly realized I made the wrong one. Again. I made the weapon one. So after much cursing, I decided to list the wrong one on the auction house, eat the 5k price difference and buy the molten tarot off the auction house. I sent the molten tarot to Joyia, and grumbled a bit, but fine. I would have my upgraded trinket.

“This item cannot be modified.” – That was the message I got when I tried to upgrade my trinket. Uh. NO.

After triple checking, I went to the web and found this thread full of people with the same problem. The first post was over a month ago. A MONTH. (This is also where I found my info on the crystal issue.)

I submitted a ticket, waited my two days and this is the exchange:

My Sandman’s Pouch isn’t upgrading to 670 with the Molten Tarot item. My Sandman’s Pouch is 655 and should be eligible, but instead it says “This item cannot be modified.” I spent 30k on the upgrade item. You need to either give me the 3 of 3 Sandman’s Pouch, or refund all the mats used to make the trinket and both upgrade items.
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/15700050462?page=2 <— here’s a whole thread of other people having the same issue.
OH, if you do decide to refund the mats to make the trinket and the two upgrade items they need to be sent to my alt, Summerriver on this account because she is the inscriptor that can make it.
Really it would just be easier to take my Molten Tarot, my current sandman’s pouch trinket, and jsut give me the correct 3 of 3 Sandman’s Pouch trinket.

-1 day ago – Adhaglaudock Customer Service Representative     
Hey there -,

We’re currently aware of the Molten Tarot not upgrading trinkets to level 3 as they’re supposed to and are working to get it fixed. Our Quality Assurance team should hopefully get a hotfix for this released soon, if not it will be rolled into the 6.1 patch once released.

As far as the items go, as the trinket was created back in December we won’t be able to return it to the mats as you have used it for over a month. Returning that to the mats would be unfair as you got so much use out of it so far.

In regards to the Molten Taro, as you bought it off of the auction house we will be unable to refund the purchase. All auction house purchases are all sales final and can’t be refunded as we’re unable to reclaim the gold from the other player and if we didn’t we would be hurting the economy by duplicating gold.

So you will need to wait for the hotfix to be released. We’ll get it released as soon as we can though!

Thanks for contacting me and if you need anything else, feel free to let us know!
#4 –  
Please READ what I wrote before responding. Others who have encountered this same problem say that rebuilding the trinket from scratch and upgrading it properly (using the Inferno Tarot and Molten Tarot instead of the Crystal item, which is why it breaks and will not upgrade properly). I am not asking for the mats to sell. I am TRYING to get my trinket I SHOULD have Sandman’s Pouch 3 of 3 upgrades.

Your solution – wait for the patch – is unacceptable. I am in a raiding guild. I have spent a great deal of time farming the mats and gold to make this trinket and upgrade it. Telling me to deal with having a subpar trinket when I should have a better one due to Blizzard’s bug is not an acceptable response.

If you cannot refund me the mats for all three items – the trinket, the inferno tarot, and the molten tarot – while removing the trinket and the molten tarot – then you need to replace the trinket. I have the 2 of 3 version of the trinket and the molten tarot in my bags. Take those, and send me the 3 of 3 version of the trinket.

For those who might not play WoW, let me explain that Trinkets are a high upgrade slot. Even a “small” gain like this could mean 10-20% better performance. That could mean the difference between my guild downing a boss or wiping all night. That could mean the difference in me being on the raid team and not being on the raid team.

The fact that the CSR’s response was “Oh sorry, we are fixing that bug, wait for 6.1!” is absurd. 6.1 could be 2-3 months off! In addition I am now holding a worthless item I bought for 30k gold! The cost of replacing the trinket would be 37k, if I had the materials on hand. All of this because I can’t be assured of a drop off a boss that is equivalent. (The 670 trinket I would need only drops from the last boss of Highmaul on Heroic. Yeah. That’s going to happen any time soon. *eye roll*)

Blizzard has based their end game on running content and grinding for gear. As such the acquisition and use of this gear is the most important part of lasting dedication to playing the game. Asking someone to wait to use an item they have already earned is extremely rude considering the time investment into getting these items is what KEEPS THE GAME RUNNING. Especially when the lack of this item either means another great expenditure of gold or losing their raid spot?

It’s extremely frustrating. The correct response would have been – well honestly back in DECEMBER when this was discovered, rushing a hotfix to prevent the bug from happening in the first place and fixing it on the broken end. As that is apparently not a priority, the GMs correct response should have been, let me check, grab the bad trinket, the Molten Tarot and mail you the correct 3 of 3 trinket. Apologies for the wait.

It’s all a matter of perspective

I decided to stay.

WoW is so deeply ingrained in my life at this point, I am positive I couldn’t leave without feeling it’s loss more strongly than… well none of the comparisons I could make would sound very good. WoW is more than a game for me, it’s a hobby and a connection to my life. Where was I when I worked at Sega? Raiding in ICC. Where was I when I got hired at TfB? Waiting for the Cataclysm. When my son was born? Prepping for Mists of Pandaria.

More than that, it’s a connection to people. I am an extrovert. I love being around people and feed off talking and interacting with people. WoW lets me do that every single day. I have so many friends that I would not have if not for WoW.

So where does that leave me on the topic of sexism in WoW?

Freaking pissed still that’s where.

I won a trip to BlizzCon this year, again. I know! I KNOW. It’s weird right? The only thing I can ever win is trips to BlizzCon. Eh, I’ll take it. So I went. And of course, they announced a new expansion.

Warlords of Draenor.

And they did it with a big picture of all the Orc Warlords. My very first thought when I saw the picture was, “Oh lovely… a bunch of dudes.” As they did the initial – Things that are happening in WoW panel, that immediate reaction got even worse. I was so excited about Draenor, New Character Models, Garrisons, LEVEL 100!!!! and they were systematically stomping on that excitement by showing they were continuing down the path of not supporting the ladies.

None of the lore characters mentioned were women. There were no women sitting on stage. The character model updates they showed off were all males. The story was dudes, doing manly men things with other dudes. I tweeted each thought more and more furiously. I was excited and yet angry. Why? WHY was it SO ONE SIDED?!?

But I wasn’t the only one tweeting. There were a few. Then a few more. THEN MORE. The flood of tweets loaded with people asking where the women were. After that panel, I went to the lore one. There Metzen did something really stupid.

Someone asked about Aggra and where she would be when Thrall went to Draenor. He said she would be staying in Azeroth, as she had a kid. The “boys club” would be going on the trip to Draenor.

How many people can you offend in ONE statement?

Yes, they also talked about a Joan of Arc character. (Though really, thanks for telling us she’s going to die after being called crazy. Women LOVE that. As far as heroic females, can we not use her? She’s a trope AND well… look at how her life went?) Drakka was mentioned, but only in relation to Durotan.

Here’s the thing… Women are wives. Women are daughters. Women are mothers. Women are also warriors. Women are also stubborn. Women are also capable of violence. I am a mother. But I found someone to watch my kid and went to BlizzCon.

Metzen implied that the reason Aggra would be staying home is because she was a mother. No other explanation or reasoning, just because she was a mom, and that’s what moms do. They stay home and take care of the kiddos.

Oh boy. Queue shit storm. That’s when it hit me. That was the BEST thing he could have said. Absolute best. Why? Why would that be the best? This. And This. And THIS. Especially THIS ONE. (Oh wow, I missed this one – GLORIOUS!) And it just keeps going. Here we are, a week after the con, and people are STILL talking about Aggra. Not Thrall, Durotan, Gul’dan, or any of those other dudes, but Aggra. *silent cheer*

People are being loud and vocal. People are directly messaging Metzen, Ghostcrawler, Kosak, ALL OF THEM. Telling them, that we weren’t happy with the gender imbalance BEFORE, and we sure as hell aren’t going to take them relegating one of our favorite characters to the sidelines. Someone asked about Moira at the Q&A. They had said nothing about her before that point. Turns out, she has some major plot going on in WoD!!!

Now, I do want to address WHY this is such a big issue. The ratio of males to female in the lore characters is about 7 to 1, so about 86% male to 14% female. If that were the real world there would be a CRISIS on our hands. In China, it’s split about 52% to 48% male to female and it’s ALREADY CAUSING PROBLEMS.

The WoW player base is speculated to be between 30-40% female. (My anecdotal data backs that up.) That means there are a ton of people out there, like me, who are playing this game. They raid, they quest, they level. They are heroes, and yet, in game, they have very very few female leads to look up to. And every time there is one, they are overshadowed by the males in the game. Where is our Thrall to look up to?

Even more worrisome is the systematic destruction of the females we DID have. We have so few to begin with, so losing some to plot lines is problematic unless there are new ones to replace them. We need lots of new ones. That is why the loss of Aggra to something so stupid is so frustrating. They took away one of our good female characters for an incredibly sexist reason.

Okay, before the response – is being a stay at home mom not heroic? I would NEVER say that. I stayed home with my kid for 3 months, and at the end of it, I was a basket case. BASKET CASE. Being a stay at home mom is quite possibly the most insane thankless job ever. But having said that, this isn’t an issue of staying home and raising your child instead of going to work. This is a matter of SAVING THE WORLD. If you don’t, it doesn’t MATTER if you raised your kid, THERE WON’T BE A WORLD FOR HIM TO GROW UP IN. Not to mention, Aggra has never backed down from a fight before, why would she start now? Draenor was her HOME after all. She had to live/grow up on the shattered remains of it.

I was happy at the Art panel they showed off the female models a bit. Their work on the female dwarves is nothing short of astonishing (they are so beautiful now!). I also noted that was the first panel with a woman on it (hurray!). As the weekend went on, I heard and saw all the many responses and so many of them are people talking about these issues. I think I made the right decision. Stay, speak, fight.

And I think, they might be listening.

A dilemma of epic levels

So I canceled my WoW accounts this week.

WoW is a thing I do as a hobby. I play other games, but WoW is the one I could play all day. And I did.

I love playing WoW. As you can tell, by the things I generally rant on here about, WoW is my favorite game and the one I am most critical of.

I left the game over the sexism. It all started with one little thing that pisses me off. Rating a woman based on how she looks. Then calling her by that number. So I started writing about it, but the more I thought about it, the more instances of sexism I saw. It was like when you wipe that one spot on your tv and suddenly realize the entire entertainment center is completely covered in a thick layer of dust.

There were 3 reactions to my defection:

1. Good for you! Get away from that addictive game.

First off, this reaction really bothers me. Yes, WoW can be addictive. But addiction implies that something leads to harmful consequences. Does WoW lead to harmful consequences for me? I have never lost a job, failed a class, lost a pet/child, become ill, or not been able to live my life because of WoW.

Second, I generally play less WoW in a day than other people watch tv. Or look at the internet. Or read. WoW as a hobby, is an entertainment thing just like other games, tv shows, movies, or books. In fact, for me, it can be considered career supporting since it often makes me consider design topics and challenges.

2. This makes me sad.

I was very surprised by this reaction. Several people said it, and when I asked for clarification this is what was said: “It makes me sad, because it’s something you clearly enjoy so much. It sucks when people can’t do the thing they enjoy because of sexist bullshit.”

:'( I love these people. They don’t play WoW. They don’t like WoW. All they know is that it makes me happy and for that reason they want it to be better. For me. <3

3. You shouldn’t quit. You need to stay, so *someone* will be here to call them on their bullshit.

To be fair, this came from 3 people in game and 2 people out of game. This surprised me. Mostly because I was expecting everyone to support my decision fully.

This argument gave me pause. Was there a way for me to play WoW, while still not accepting their bullshit? From my point of view, the only way to make them listen is to hit them where it hurts, their subscriber numbers. Withholding money does nothing at this point because they are so monolithic they wouldn’t even feel my $30 a month. But -2 subs, after the last two years of bleeding over 4 million subs? That would hurt more.

I thought about it all weekend. While desperately wanting to boot up WoW and play, I found myself out of sorts and cranky. Because I wasn’t playing WoW. I played some Skyrim. And Minecraft. And Pokemon. But each of them wasn’t enough to distract me from knowing I wasn’t going to be playing WoW that night. I cleaned, organized, and watched some Big Bang Theory.

And then… an episode aired on Big Bang Theory. It was the one where the girls didn’t go to Vegas and instead stayed and played Dungeons and Dragons with the guys.

I like Big Bang Theory, and I have talked about it several times. It does tend to craft it’s gags from stereotypical nerd culture. And I can honestly say, in the 25 YEARS I have played D&D, I have never played with another woman.

The jokes they made through the whole thing were not funny, and more than a little sexist. As I sat there, already hurting because of the loss of something I loved due to sexist bullshit, I wanted to turn it off. But then I had that moment. Where you hear something you don’t really want to hear, but it makes total sense. I could hear this minister from my youth, standing up there advocating that everyone in our church stop watching TV because it wasn’t Christian and Godly. I actually remember laughing out loud, then getting a ton of nasty stares. Even then I thought, There’s no way I would do that. I was a part of the world, and so was Buffy. And even if Buffy wasn’t very Christian, there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to watch it. And I laughed because I remember thinking there was no one at that church who would be willing to give up TV.

I watch Big Bang Theory, and though I can see the reasons people might dislike it, from my lens it doesn’t strike those same chords. Is WoW the same way? It stuck the chord, but how does that look through other people’s lenses? We can love something while still being concerned and critical over the problematic aspects of it. Thank you Anita.

I think the devs made the correct choice, both on hotfixing it out so quickly and on ignoring it otherwise. Why is ignoring it a good idea? Calling it out, even as being fixed, would just draw the slavering masses of horrid sha who follow these things and attack us “Crazy censoring over reacting feminists”. Even more, they *have* made the correct choice on some occasions – female druids, transmogrification to fix the sexy armor issue, etc.

Here’s the center of this problem : the people making this game (and a large chunk of players) do not care about how these things make us feel, because it doesn’t make them feel that way. This is privilege. They don’t care what someone says about a woman on the street, because no one would do that to them. They aren’t boiled down to a number. They aren’t measured purely on their looks.

Blizzard still needs to hire a feminist (preferably a woman) to their writing team. Her job needs to be to review everything before it goes into the game. To champion strong female lore characters. To champion strong female villains, until we approach 50% female characters. Her job is to prevent things like these orcs and the quests that occasionally go to far. Her job would including speaking up and saying, “Hey guys, include a female in the cinematic.” Even better, hire a woman of color and she can do double duty and make sure they aren’t pissing minorities off either!

The answer is not necessarily removing the offending material either. For example, our orc friends – I think it may have even been better to have a quest where the player has to go tell them off. Then put in a random chance – every so often they would attack instead of slinking off. What an eye opener. How interesting that would be. Even allowing me, as an orc player, to kill them would have been nice, fulfilling the power fantasy and all. (Revenge porn – for street harassed women!)

Blizzard needs to fix their problem. But what about me? How do I fix my problem? Do I cut and move on? Do I stay and call them on their shit? I feel like going back now would make me seem weak and unable to stand my ground. But I do also think now, leaving, and taking my voice away, is the wrong choice. They need my voice. They need me bitching as loudly as I can over it. Because I will. Not every woman who is bothered by it will. But I will. I am not afraid of attacks over my feminist sensibilities. I am not afraid of speaking up. My courage has always served me well, and maybe this is the place to apply it.

DAMMIT BLIZZ. YOU HAD ONE JOB.

 

Thanks to Misanthropology for pointing this out.

SERIOUSLY. How do people NOT get this yet?

The whole “She’s a 6.” or “She’s a 10.” is incredibly insulting. You are boiling a woman’s ENTIRE worth down to a 10 point scale BASED ON HER LOOKS.

Even worse, this is a PLAYER that NPCs are critiquing. Take a minute Blizzard Bark Writer who wrote this and consider… you have ~8 MILLION players. about 3M of them are female. How many women in that group have been insulted by men who called her a 4?

I have. It was a COMMON thing at my college (filled with all those lovely Christians learning to be ministers but that didn’t stop them from sleeping with every woman on campus, passing around gonorrhea and generally being jerks) for guys to call women by their number. Mine was 4 apparently.

My roommate was a 4 as well. Except the one semester I lived with another girl who was barely able to pull mediocre grades, in the freshmen level classes, but she spent 2 hours getting ready every morning… She was an 8. (Her nose was “unacceptably large” – ie it was FINE, but not pug like they wanted.) I was “too fat” at 160 pounds. I was also too “GINGER”. Didn’t matter I had a PERFECT gpa, was active in a dozen clubs, tutored people in subjects I DIDN’T TAKE, and singlehandedly put together TWO yearbooks… Nope, I was a 4, just because I was “fat” and ginger.

Thanks Blizz, you just offended me. You just INSULTED the appearance of the FANTASY character I play. The one place I ALWAYS feel beautiful and amazing… AND NOW I FEEL LIKE SHIT.

I have two accounts. I have *every* piece of WoW clothing from J!nx. I am LITERALLY sitting here in an Alliance hoodie and a Healer shirt. But now I want to go home and change. I want to get my Illuminati hoodie. I want to cancel my accounts.

All because some douche on your team is too stupid to understand THIS IS NOT OKAY. Being sexually harassed by randoms on the street, NOT OKAY. Where is the evil review overlord who should have looked at this and say, eh, not a great idea.

I would think this was just an isolated incident… EXCEPT… I have had to talk to writers about changing THIS EXACT LINE IN TWO OTHER GAMES. I worked at TWO companies where TWO different male game developers thought this was okay. Even more so, when I said, hey you need to take this out, it’s insulting to women, he said and I quote “Uh no it’s not. It’s being complimentary, so it can’t be insulting.”

YES. YES IT CAN.

The point isn’t the NUMBER. THE POINT IS: You are boiling a woman’s ENTIRE worth down to a 10 point scale BASED ON HER LOOKS.

Also, why is it I can’t attack these guys? I want to spread their blood from Orgrimmar to Uldum for this insult.

As I write this, I am getting angrier about the whole thing. I see the trend. I see the casual sexism that has been smeared across the characters in the game. Tyrande removed from her position of power in favor of Malfurion. Told to hush and she listens. I see Sylvanas called a bitch and virtually absent from the expansion. I see Jania on the path to being a raid boss and constantly belittled by Varian, Thrall, and even now Andiun. I see Tiffin in the refrigerator. I see Aggra demoted from badass Shaman to Thrall’s wife and offspring machine. I see Garona demoted to mother of Med’an and lover of Medivh. I see Moira forced to rule with two male dwarves DESPITE having right of succession. I see Vareesa consumed with her husband’s death and vengence instead of CARING FOR HER TWINS. I see Alexstraza is only known for her role as mother. I see Lorna, strong, but then reduced to an object and bargained over.

You know what I don’t see? A SINGLE WOMAN WHO IS NOT DEFINED BY THE MEN IN THE GAME.

(I literally went through the entire list and found: Ysera, Lady Liadrin, Valeera Sanguinar, Maiev may have some of her own back now that Illidan is dead, Shandris, Lillian Voss to an extent – she is very defined by her father and is “subjugated” by Gandling, maybe Aegwyn, but look at how she is portrayed with her interactions with Aran, Medivh, and Saragas? *yay mystical pregnancy* ugh.)

Anyone else notice ALL the offspring of major lore characters are male? Varian, Moria, Thrall, Rhonin and Vareesa… ALL WE HAVE ARE SONS. Sorry boys… you’ll never get married cause daughters are unwanted.

Even worse, is with the exception of Sylvanas, Tyrande, and Jania, it seems like all of the “growth” of these female characters is completely out of game.

I started looking for strong females who didn’t lose their agency when they fell in love or completely become subservient to the men around them and I had to LOOK. I had to go to Wowpedia and look through the Major Characters list. That’s how I found Lady Liadrin and Shandris, the only two who fully fit the bill of having their own strength, power, and NOT becoming a wife/mother at the complete loss of all their own agency. (Even more terrifying is I started doing the count on Major Male Characters to Major Female ones… At the point I stopped it was 10 to 1 and GETTING WORSE.)

Yay. Thanks Blizzard. How about you hire a WOMAN to help on your writing team? Hell, get Christie Golden if that’s what it takes.

I was uncomfortable with the torture quest. I was WILDLY uncomfortable with Keristrasza’s entire quest line and story. (Really guys? NO ONE thought this wasn’t really something we should do?) But each of these hit as an isolated incident. Each of these passed under my level of “Too Far”. However, over the years I have become more sensitive to women’s portrayals in media and games. So I see it now. I see it and it sickens me.

I love WoW… but really taking a look at it… UGH.

THIS IS WHY WOMEN LEAVE GAMES. THIS IS WHY WOMEN DON’T PLAY GAMES. THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE. THIS IS ONE MAJOR REASON WHY. YOU ARE ACTIVELY ALIENATING WOMEN WHEN YOU DO THIS.

I am one of those insane WoW fans, but I think I might be done. Done with this bullshit until devs can learn to STOP TREATING WOMEN LIKE CRAP.

 

Update #1:

Well, they hotfixed it out. That’s a step.

The inherent problem remains though. Are they going to hotfix out Tyrande Hush? Are they going to hotfix in a proportionate number of major lore characters who are women to the men? Are they going to find someone ANYONE on their team to check their shit BEFORE it goes live to say, hey maybe don’t do this. We haven’t forgotten Ji Firepaw yet. This problem is not solved. It’s just hidden once more.

 

Update #2: More lovely words – http://www.applecidermage.com/2013/09/12/can-we-not-razor-hill/

Big Bang Theory – Learn to Laugh, or you will spend all your time hurt.

Big Bang Theory (BBT) has gotten a lot of buzz on my Twitter lately, with people talking about it being a “bad show” and making fun of nerds. I get the point of view these people are coming from. But I find it very hard to honestly say BBT is a terrible show and shouldn’t be watched. I am a nerd and I love it.

First off, calling it “blackface” is wildly offensive. Both to the people who make the show and to the historical reference. It’s like comparing anyone on the internet to Hitler. Until they have led to the deaths of 6 million people, don’t make the comparison. BBT is not making completely offensive jokes about an entire race of people who have been enslaved, treated like cattle, and then treated to years of offensive oppression and degradation. It’s not even close to the same.

Also, let’s take a moment to realize what exactly we are critiquing. It’s not high comedy. It’s a sitcom. It’s a 21 minute episodic sitcom. It’s not high art people. Some people say, “It’s not laughing with us, it’s laughing at us.” No, Honey Boo Boo is laughing AT people. BBT is a show about nerds and the absurd situations they can get into and how, even though they are super nerdy geniuses, they still have all the same problems as everyone else.

For some reason, some people watch the show and feel like they are supposed to identify with Penny. Penny’s an odd character, but she is not the one I identify with. I feel the connection to Leonard. No, we weren’t raised the same way. No, I am not a physicist who studies lasers. Have I ever been in love with a super hot guy who ignored me to date super hot girls even though they were dumb as a brick? God yes. Have I ever had a moment where I wondered why the hell I was friends with these clearly deranged people? Yep. Have I ever thought about throwing away all my “toys” and trying to be a “normal adult”? That one too. Leonard is the protagonist, he is the everyman nerd that we are all supposed to be viewing the situations from. And really, the argument falls apart when they realize the guys are far more critical of Penny than she is of them. Remember the entire setup where Penny didn’t go to college and feels inferior so she lies about having gone to community college? It was silly, and absurd, and totally could happen. Likely with much worse results on the friendship than in the show.

People point to the references on the show and comment that a. they aren’t “correct” or b. are purely used as a punchline. When the joke is that these guys are saying if they don’t get to play Dungeons and Dragons then the rest of the group will hate Bernadette, then yes, it is a joke. People aren’t laughing at the mention of D&D, they are laughing over the absurdity of the game overtaking real life concerns and relationships. And what nerd hasn’t been in THAT situation? My parents still don’t understand what I mean when I tell them I have to contact my raid to let them know I won’t be on. What does it matter? It’s just a game?

As for references not being perfectly accurate, sometimes things have to be adjusted to make the plot/joke work. No, you can’t have sex in game in WoW. You can cyber though. And the plot required that Howard had done something absurd and creepy (hey, imagine that, as it’s part of his character to be over the top creepy guy) and they wanted to tie it into an online game. Which online game should they reference? The one with the largest player base and thus the best chance of being recognized? Or the one that no one has ever heard of but actually accurately allows for the plot set up? The writers are doing their best to bridge a gap in knowledge between geeks and those who know of geeks.

Another common complaint is that the characters are stereotypes. Well, yes… it’s a SITCOM. Not a documentary. Yes they are exaggerated caricatures of real people. I don’t work in academia or in serious computer science, I work in games, and yet I have met people that are toned down versions of each of these characters. The super nerd that can’t talk to girls without alcohol? Yep, I know a few actually. The guy that is basically nice but has no concept that many of the things he does comes across as super pervy? That too. And while I have never been friends with someone just like Sheldon, I know several people that if you smushed them all into a single person they would BE Sheldon.

One blog (specifically the one that spawned this post) calls out the Halloween episode as setting up the audience to laugh at the guys for making nerdy Halloween costumes. What episode were they watching? Because the one I saw, had the guys get super excited about a Halloween party, and then they took it about 10 steps BEYOND geeky. They took what could be considered as “normal nerdy”, dressing as Frodo, and exaggerated it to the point of hilarity with the guys running off to sewing machines. Am I laughing at them? Well, yes, but not because I think they are stupid or worthy of scorn, but rather because oh man have I been like that before. I spent HOURS researching and then searching down each and every piece of my Amy Pond costume. I know that feeling. I have BEEN that person. How am I supposed to relate to Penny, the sexy cat costume, when I am totally on the side of Leonard and LOVING his Hobbit costume, and absolutely in awe of Sheldon’s costume which so out nerds my nerdiest it makes me feel like a lesser nerd?!? This episode inspired me to sit around trying to come up with other costumes that could represent abstract scientific theories! The episode even goes a few steps further and has the guys successfully integrating into the “normal” friends Penny invites. Raj sleeps with a lady bug. Sheldon manages to push the guys into interacting with others at the party. Leonard manages to do what we have all always wanted to do and make the stupidly good looking jock look as stupid as he actually is. Not by force or being “cool” on the jock’s level, but with his superior intelligence.

As for the “oh they are nerds and can’t get girls” stereotype, this is the one complaint that has absolutely no basis on the show. At various points all of them have had relationships of varying levels of commitment and quality. Even Sheldon finds it within himself to connect to a female and create a relationship agreement. Are they exaggerated? Yes, but again, SITCOM. People call out how it’s “homophobic” when they make jokes about Raj and Howard’s actions towards each other… but 10 seasons worth of them doing so much worse to Chandler on Friends was just whatever? It’s a low brow joke. Do I find it funny? Eh, it’s amusing. Do I watch the show for that? Nope. Is it making fun of homosexuals? Not that I can see, as it seems like it is making a joke at the expense of those who get uncomfortable in those situations.

The blog also calls out the fact that until Amy, all the girls on the show were “normal” and even goes so far as to make cracks about her being lost to have ended up in the comic book store. Uh, well… Are you a girl that has ever gone into a comic book store? Oh it’s funny on the show, but have you had it happen in real life? Because I have. I have had so many experiences exactly like that, they are common place. They don’t even stick out anymore. I was once asked if I was lost at GDC, wearing a World of Warcraft T-shirt and a Nintendo bag. The joke, the stereotype, is based in reality, and it is absurd. It SHOULD be laughed at. They are also clearly overlooking the multiple instances where Penny has shown her growth. Yeah, in the first season she was pretty and dumb, but as the show has gone on she has shown her ability to grow, and her worth to the group. Who can the guys turn to for help when it comes to fishing? The cute blonde. An absurdity that is a classic sitcom setup. She complains to Leonard that he has ruined her ability to date stupid guys. Penny grows as a person over the course of the show, and clearly shows affection and love for the guys.

Do I find all the jokes on BBT funny? No, but then, I also don’t see them as hurtful. They are simply caricatures of people, exaggerations of reality, to create absurdity and incredulity. They are characters on a show that is written to make people laugh. Do I laugh when Sheldon rattles off a list of increasingly ridiculous specifications on his food? Yep. The same reason I laugh when I stand behind someone in Starbucks who does the same thing, and the same reason I laugh at myself when I do it with eggs at Toast. It’s absurd. It’s silly to be so demanding about our food. But we do it. And it is worthy of being laughed at.

Most annoying is the comparison to Community… *sigh* They point at BBT and say that it’s terrible because it’s offensive, homophobic, and laughs at nerds not with them… Because Pierce isn’t so mind bogglingly racist that I cringe every time he spews what is supposed to be funny. Because they don’t make the exact same homosexual innuendos with Abed and Troy. Because they don’t have a character (Jeff) who openly mocks and belittles the “smart” person in the group (Annie) who then falls in love with him because he’s so “cool” in some weird Stockholm Syndrome variation. OH WAIT. It’s also a sitcom. It reaches for the same low hanging fruit in its humor. The difference is, it’s characters aren’t as likeable. It’s setups aren’t as believable or as likely. As absurd as it is, I have had more experiences that are closer to BBT over Community. Maybe it’s why I like it better.

All that, but I can honestly say, I get the point. People don’t have to find the same things funny. People come to a show with their own baggage and wounds that color the way they see and hear things. I was tormented in school for years about being a nerd, and yet when I look at BBT, I don’t see something where people are still laughing at me and those like me, I see kindred spirits that are so much more absurd than I could ever be, showing me it’s more than okay for me to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars, because here’s these 4 successful and interesting nerds that are just as bad as me. It gives me joy to see these guys doing things *I* do and not feeling even the smallest bit of shame. I revel in the absurd level of nerd and enjoy every minute and every reference. In fact, the one thing I really wish they would adjust, over time and at least somewhat realistically, is getting one of the girls as into all the nerdy stuff as they are. Amy is super intelligent, but she shuns or is kept out of the nerdy things the guys do. Those walls need to come down and they need to bring the girls into the nerd world.

#1ReasonWhy Post #2

Someone (FluxxDog) asked me, How does this attitude towards women get perpetuated in the first place.

I have talked about this at great length, in a bunch of different places, so here I will gather my thoughts on it.

 

First and foremost, the “boys club” is a cultural thing. Back when games went from being pen and paper and board to video, the people who knew how to program, the people who were into computers and the things they could do, were predominantly educated white males. Remember, we are talking about the 70s.  In the 70s, the civil rights movement was still fighting for rights. Women are STILL fighting for the right to birth control today. Those of us born in the 70s and 80s tend to view these things as “ancient” history. They are neither.

So, when you have people who are into this new fangled thing called a “computer” but most of those people are college students and graduates in engineering fields, which were pretty homogenous, you are going to end up with a noticeable lack of diversity.

Of course, computers, and thus video games, became virtually ubiquitous over the next 20 years. But take a look at the turning point of where games went from being a hobby thing to being a money thing. You have guys who are making games as a hobby, and “publishing” those games by copying the .exe to a floppy, putting the floppy in a ziplock baggy with a hand made label. When they realized they could make money from it, they shifted from making things just to goof off to making things that would sell. When your audience is a bunch of hobbyist computer nerds, you make games that appeal to hobbyist computer nerds.

Don’t discount the cultural pressures on the sexes at the time either. I am 100% certain if not for my older brother, I would never have gotten into games and nerdy things. Even in the 80s, girls were being pushed towards gender roles. I remember being told that playing games was a “waste of time” and I should learn to do something useful, like learn to sew. I didn’t want to sew, I wanted to play games. Lucky me, my mother let me. This was in the LATE 80s and early 90s. Seriously, we are NOT past cultural pressure into gender roles. Look at Lego and Lego Friends. It’s RIGHT THERE on your toy store shelf. Walk up the aisle between action figures and Barbie.

So what happened as games evolved from Pong to World of Warcraft? Well, guys who made games and wanted to make money made games for guys who were willing to spend their money on “frivolous” games. Remember, the cultural norm for women was to spend money on clothes, shoes, and jewelery. Oh man, I suddenly remember in HIGH SCHOOL (96-2000) being asked by someone why I always wore t-shirts and blue jeans, since I could clearly afford “better” clothes because I was always buying books and games. THAT WAS 13 YEARS AGO.

Games were a luxury item. Consoles, computers, all of that, were things people spent their “extra” money on. And women generally didn’t have discretionary funds to spend on “useless” things like games. (I remember reading just a few years ago that young women were finally considered a worthy market with lots of money for marketers.)

So guys, making the games, made the games for guys. So when women came in and wanted to play, they would play games that were directly targeted at men. The art styles, designs, and fantasies portrayed in the games were all directly targeted at the people who were going to spend money on it. So why would a woman, who could care less about blowing shit up, want to spend the hard earned money she had on that kind of game? Even series like King’s Quest, designed by a woman, didn’t get female protagonists until the FOURTH one in the series. The second game, and the first game I remember playing, was all about finding your princess.

This created what designers call a negative feedback loop. Guys make game for guys, so only guys like games, so games only get made for those same guys. If you tried to break out of the mold, your game company likely went under. Even worse, these early games sold like crazy. Teams were tiny, and the development costs were low, so 4 people working out of a garage could make a game that sold 50k copies fairly easily. And there wasn’t marketing costs, publishing costs, etc etc, so most of the money made was profit. And what do people do when they suddenly get a ton of money? They go crazy. (Sex, drugs, and rock and roll!)

So you have this entire industry based on this history of being a boys club. Which means, even at the time, when women tried to push in they were met with rampant sexism. Only at the time, it was impossible to do anything about it. High profile sexual harassment lawsuits really hadn’t made companies afraid of them, and so women weren’t as protected. They were over looked, ignored, and treated like eye candy. So, of course, women didn’t want to get into that.

Again, cultural expectations are heavily at fault here. Even today, even in 2012, when I had my son, there were WOMEN who were appalled I was putting him in daycare to go back to work. Especially since my “work” was “playing video games.” (Oh and don’t even get me started on the whole “video games are a waste of time/only for kids” crap.) 2012. That’s right. How horrible was I for making video games more important than my son? If I am getting that now, how was it for women 20 years ago? *shudder*

The feedback loop kept going, and got the industry in a nice cozy rut. People don’t LIKE breaking out of their comfort zones. As it took more people to make a game, and cost more money, they started to not like taking risks either. Why take a risk and possibly not get your money back when you can make the same old stale game you have made 10 times knowing it will sell at least enough copies to get you your money back?

There are a ton of small things that all add up to this thought that it is better to hire men than women. If it’s all men, no worries about maternity leave or babies. If it’s all men, no sexual harassment lawsuits. If it’s all men, at least we will all agree on the design goals. If it’s all men, we don’t have to behave and this can be like our frat house from college, man weren’t those the good old days?

Sadly, it’s just true that for people who enjoy the kinds of things that lead to one enjoying games, that they will end up being more comfortable with people LIKE themselves. So for the super nerdy programmer who has spent a great deal of time only around other super nerdy programmers, it can be very difficult to overcome the social anxiety of dealing with people who aren’t like them. So when that guy is in the position to hire… he is going to hire someone he likes.

The problem just compounds on itself. Because the bigger the industry got, the bigger the money got, the bigger the boys club got. Games like Duke Nukem attracted a certain demographic of guys. Who then went, DUDE this is awesome. Then they looked at the frat house culture of the studio that made that game and went, HOLY CRAP I WANT TO DO THAT AND GET PAID. Women looked at it, and went, UGH. And walked on. Even further, the people who had the money to find games were generally rich, old, white males. They didn’t trust female lead startups. So they wouldn’t fund them. So they would fail. And then the funders would say, “See, I told you it wasn’t a good investment. I told you they would fail.” It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.

But the culture slowly became more inclusive. Games got made that weren’t wildly offensive. Games got made that weren’t exclusionary. And Nintendo went, hey guys, let’s make games that *everyone* can play. Not only that, let’s make it EASY for everyone to play. Over time the number of women playing games increased. It’s now around 40%.  The number of women making games increased too! It’s up to 12%.

That number seems low right? It’s because the cultures of studios are affected by the personalities of the people who form them. By the collective personalities of the people who work there. If you have a Dudebro form a studio and hire a bunch of Dudebros… guess who is going to feel wildly uncomfortable, unwanted, and disrespected? The industry is still growing. I would say we are just now hitting the early 20s. Games, generally, are becoming more inclusive and becoming more artistic. But you still have people who cling to the old ways and thoughts.

The problem gets perpetuated by the fact no one wants to speak up. Even through the whole 1reasonwhy women STILL weren’t posting some things. They weren’t naming names. They weren’t naming companies. They weren’t naming games. Because it’s SUCH a small industry. Everyone simply knows everyone and chances are, you are going to work with people time and time again. Speaking up, causing a fuss, and shaming men for their treatment of women isn’t going to make it better, it’s going to get you fired, unable to get a job, and make you a target for even worse aggression or treatment. Look at what happened to Jennifer Helfer. Look at what happened to Anita Sarkeesian because she wanted to talk about tropes vs. women in games. Not the gaming community or developers, just within the games themselves. And you would think she suggested that all gamers eat babies, kittens, and puppies from the way people reacted.

Even if you are comfortable speaking up, even if you are brave, even if you are in a safe place, sometimes the shock is just too much. I was sitting in a meeting, with designers, producers, and publishing execs, when one of them made an extremely sexist comment. Not at me, but just in general. I looked at him in shock. I was so stunned someone would feel that way, much less say it out loud with a woman IN THE ROOM, I was literally speechless. I probably looked like a complete idiot for the rest of the meeting staring at him with my mouth half open in shock. Would you believe I was praised later for not speaking up and “causing a scene”? I pointedly informed the person that if I had been able to form words, I would have.

But nothing was said. He wasn’t told how inappropriate and wrong what he did was. So he has no reason to believe he shouldn’t do it again. People don’t say anything. I have had men tell me things said to me upset them, but when I am not around, many of them won’t speak up. People are also generally taught as children to play nice, don’t make waves, and just go with the flow. This leads to everyone being aware of the problem, but no one wants to talk about it. They hope if they ignore it, it will go away.

We can’t just ignore it. We have to confront it. We have to be willing to risk everything in the hope of making a change. Simply asking someone to stop. Simply saying “That’s not cool.” Being willing to say, “I would rather make indie games and eat ramen than work with someone who is going to treat me like crap. ”

By staying silent, by simply accepting the status quo, we are perpetuating the problem. We have to be willing to help and support each other. I commented that one of the most important things is knowing which studios are good ones. When looking for a job, look at these places. Toys for Bob, Double Fine, Telltale, 2k Marin… All great places to work, that are woman friendly, all right here where I live (all of which I can personally vouch for). Make the list of good and bad places. Be aware of the good people and good leads, then follow them. When these places make great games (and they have and will again) and people ask why, explain that it is the culture and awesome people working there. The rest of the industry will figure it out.

#1ReasonWhy

Monday, November 26th, a Twitter hashtag popped up on my feed. I normally ignore hashtags, but this one was suddenly being spammed by 4-5 people I follow, all of whom were game developers I followed. Even more noticeable, all were women. I discovered that someone, while having a conversation about sexism in the board game (pen and paper?) industry had started the hashtag as a way of connecting the various discussions she was having. Someone saw that she was giving reasons why it sucked to work in her male dominated field. The someone is a game developer, and as a female, could relate. So she started throwing her reasons into the ring as well.

36 hours later, there have been THOUSANDS of tweets, numerous blog posts, even a dozen or so game industry news posts, and yet another mentors list started up. All focused on ripping off the bandaid that has been precariously placed over the festering wound that is sexism in the video game industry.

I must say, I leapt RIGHT into it. Didn’t stop to think, and didn’t stop to worry, I jumped right in and shouted along with the rest. It never occurred to me that I might get in trouble with my work, despite the fact that it is exceptionally easy to figure out where and who I work for, mostly because, everything I would tweet about, doesn’t happen at my current job. Some women kept silent because the things they would say DO still happen at their jobs.

Really early in the discussion, a friend of mine, (white male developer) responded that it seemed like things were blown out of proportion and those sexist things didn’t happen anymore. Three hours later, he was tweeting that he was so sorry he had no idea, because the flood of women tweeting had grown so quickly and there were so many stories. Not stories of “heard from a friend” but each one a personal tale of things that have happened. Not ancient history, but RECENT history. GDC 2012 recent. This fall recent.

I wanted to recount some of my tweets here and then talk about what this all meant to me.

#1Reasonwhy

  • is that at companies you might have to sign a paper saying you won’t sue for Sexual Harassment, because their games are “mature”.
  • Because when you say something is inappropriate you are told you are being “too sensitive”.
  • because when a panel at PAX is about women in games, it’s about girlfriends who play games, not women making them.
  • because if I do an interview about being a game designer, everyone talks about how I look, instead of what I said.
  • is because at some companies, you have to worry about co-workers becoming overly attached, and getting fired because of it.
  • because old school devs/publishers still believe “shrink it and pink it” is how you target women.
  • because if I say something should be removed from a game because it’s offensive, I have to defend my position.
  • because during interviews it’s implied I will leave when I have kids.
  • is because parents expect boys to “goof off” playing games, but girls should do more “important” things like learn to cook.
  • I had a guy at GDC ask me if I was lost.
  • because when I play games, and guys find out I am a girl, they assume I am a lying guy, or just there for attention.
  • because when I wanted to play D&D as a kid, I was “weird”. (I did anyway.)
  • because when I say I am a gamer, people tell me “Farmville” doesn’t count. (I then link my WoW armory.)
  • is because if I bring up gender and sexism, I am assumed to be a man hater.
  • is because of things like the Frag Dolls, where guys only want women gamers included if they are “hot”. And that’s accepted.
  • because I once had an artist bait me by asking how he was supposed to make a character female without boobs or a bow.

At the time (really early in the trend) I thought I was listing off terrible things that people would completely disbelieve. Over the course of the night, I learned that my experiences, while bad, are no where NEAR the terrible some women have had to deal with. Not only that, but I was in such numerous company, that my tweets were lost in the sea of tweets that were nearly identical.

I often point to the Guildhall as the place that gave me all the tools to do what I needed in the video game industry and taught me what I needed to know to succeed. That is no less true when talking about sexism and how I should expect to be treated in the game industry.

While at the Guildhall, we had to work on team projects. During one such project the TortoiseSVN servers went out (our source control) and we had to pass the “latest” version of the game around on a thumb drive. One of the programmers offered up his thumb drive as it was big enough. When I popped the drive into my computer to grab the latest version, I discovered why guys *hate* using icons on Windows folders. There right next to our game file was a picture of a woman in a sexual situation. Oh yeah. That’s *exactly* what I wanted to see sitting in a ROOM FULL OF GUYS. Later, on this same project, a programmer put in placeholder art. Not that abnormal. The art was of a young (minor) girl pulling down her underwear with her butt towards the camera. All the guys on the team thought it was hilarious. Me, not so much. I ignored it, until I realized that it got turned in for a MILESTONE that way. WTH? Here was something, in a GRADUATE SCHOOL setting, that was going to have MY NAME on it, that effectively had a picture bordering on child porn! I was furious. So I went to the professor in charge of our team. Care to guess what happened? Absolutely nothing. I was told I was being too sensitive and that I better get used to it, because this was going to happen in the industry. This would lead to the LIST. The LIST is a list of guys in the industry I categorically refuse to work with. I would rather leave and make indie games as a starving artist than work with these men. (To be fair, a woman could be added to the LIST, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

A few terms later, I had my second experience with sexism at the Guildhall. The Guildhall at the time was a super intense program. You didn’t have time for an outside life, so you got pretty close to all your classmates. (Yep, I even ended up dating and marrying one of them.) One weekend we had a party, and I wore a tank top. Apparently, it was a bit tight. I had lost alot of weight at the Guildhall, so I was pretty happy with the way I looked and finally felt confidant enough to wear something that wasn’t two sizes too big. I later find out from a friend that one of the other guys at the school walked into my team’s room the next week and proceeded to start making comments about my shirt. He said things to the effect of that I “clearly wasn’t getting satisfied” and if I needed any help he was “more than willing to step up”. Lucky for me, one of the guys on the team (a sportsman type so he was quite large compared to all the other guys) stepped up and threw him out. (To this day, one of my favorite people.) Add another guy to the LIST.

When I left the Guildhall I started trying to get interviews everywhere. One of the first things I was told was “Oh it’s great, you’re a girl! You will get interviews JUST because they never see girls.” I really didn’t like the implication. Even further it was insinuated that I would likely get job offers *just* because I was female. I didn’t want job offers because I was female. I wanted job offers because I was AWESOME.

Here are some other things that happened, vagued up and out of chronological order. I got an email asking me about doing an interview one time, and the person on the other end thought it would be great to point out it had to be specially scheduled because they couldn’t take me to the normal interview place, a strip club. While on the subject of strip clubs, at GDC one year, I was standing in a group of people. We were all invited to an after party (omg awesome!) and then the person doing the inviting, stopped, looked at me, frowned and made a point of UN-inviting me. “You won’t like it, there will be strippers there.” (Ugh.)

As a female, playing and making games, guys tend to latch on. They have all had experiences with girlfriends who didn’t get gaming or even things like playing WoW. I already do. This makes it very easy for them to relate to me without having to leave their comfort zone. I expected to have guys ask me out or hit on me. What I didn’t expect was employers telling me to “be careful” in how I turn them down. One lead even went so far as to indicate that if I offended any of his guys when I turned them down, I would likely need to “update my resume”. I have had to learn to always bring up my husband in the first interaction at interviews and when meeting new people.

Oh interviews… what a tangled mess. Legally potential employers are not allowed to ask your marital status, age, or child plans. I have had an interview where the guy interviewing me asked if I had any questions about the company’s maternity policy at the end of the interview. When I indicated that I was not really worried about it, he smiled, laughed and said “Oh good. We don’t like hiring women about to become moms, they never come back from maternity leave.” Well, at least I know how you feel. I have interviewers who will make sure to call out during the interview that they work on “mature” games and that means I might see pictures of naked women or things that are “nsfw” and I need to be okay with that otherwise I can just leave now. One interviewer responded with relief when he found out I was married, as it meant I was “unlikely” to cause problems on the team.

Once you get past interviews, there are the inevitable HR interviews where you get to hear such lovely things as “What counts as harassment”, “How to deal with guys who ask you out”, and the ever lovely “You work in the game industry huh? That’s pretty brave. I guess you are used to this now.” Like the fact that it is prevalent makes it okay. Like because I knew it was like this when I got in, that means I just have to deal with it.

I also want to really point out, companies are not afraid of screwing women over as much as men. There is a weird double standard. I got paid HALF of what my male counter part did at a studio once. Why? Because I was hired on a temp basis, then when I wasn’t temp anymore, they didn’t have the money to pay me what I deserved. Lovely. I was also once informed, to my face, that a position I was promised, wasn’t being offered to me, because they needed it to offer to a guy they were trying to recruit. They had to offer him that position and not mine, because “he had a family to support” and needed a full time gig. Apparently I didn’t. Like I didn’t have student loans or rent to pay.

On the subject of looks… I am not “hot”. I am a overweight by at least 20 lbs. But I do have red hair (point in my favor), though I always wear t-shirts and blue jeans. Specifically MENS t-shirts. Why? Because when I branched out and wore baby doll shirts and fitted t-shirts, I got hit on, told I was being inappropriate, and actually had guys say, to my face, things about my breast size. Yay. Oh and what’s on the shirt matters too. I wore a Penny Arcade shirt that says “I’d tap that.” with a Magic the Gathering tap symbol on it. I was pulled aside, talked to about my “inappropriateness” and forced to change. All the while guys were in the office, ON THE SAME DAY wearing “Rogues do it from behind” and “How big is your sack?” complete with WoW bags on it, t-shirts. I did an interview about breaking into games, what a designer does, and what it’s like being a girl in games. It was put on YouTube. Every female commentor talked about my stories and asked questions. Every male commentor talked about my looks and the face that I was wearing a Team Fortress 2 shirt. They were not complementary on my looks, unless they liked redhair, then they were WILDLY sexual and inappropriate. I wore out YouTube’s report button that day.

The worst part about the whole looks thing is that it leads to situations where, I as a woman, am uncomfortable looking at women who have been put on display for the sole purpose of sex appeal. Ie – Booth Babes. Penny Arcade does alot of things wrong, but this one, this one they got RIGHT. But if I complain about the poor woman shoved into the skin tight latex outfit, I am told I am just “jealous” because I am ugly. Yeah that’s it. It has nothing to do at all with the fact that I am here to work, not have sex.

Oh and don’t even get me started on Fat, Ugly, or Slutty. That’s a whole other animal in gamer culture that needs to be exorcised and banished.

One year at PAX they had the Frag Dolls on a panel talking about Women in Games. I took it to be a “women making games” which yeah, my bad, but even a “women playing games” would have been better than it turning into the Frag Dolls preening on stage in skimpy outfits, talking about how they got paid to learn to play the games they play, and how they love beating guys. Oy vey. So much wrong I couldn’t even sit through it. I wouldn’t care about the skimpy outfits if there had even been one doll who was over 130lbs. Or if the implication that the majority of them were hired THEN trained to play video games. Or if I hadn’t realized that the point wasn’t to appeal to women who played games but rather to appeal to MEN who played games by creating a false image of super hot gamer girls who just want to find a nice nerdy guy to play games with. To this day I can’t hear or see them without feeling my stomach churn.

When talking games with guys, it gets really offensive. And sadly, they have NO IDEA. I have a Nintendo bag I use as a purse. I have had male gamers ask me, while POINTING AT IT “Oh, do you play video games?” No, I just like the yellow stars… WTH?!? Or when I go into a new Gamestop or my local one gets a new employee, and I walk in, the guys working there always flock to me, and ask if I need help. When I say no, they hover. Then comment on everything I look at. (Although, I must admit to a sense of great pleasure when these unknowing men find out I make games, and the looks on their faces… it’s priceless.) Fortunately I have managed to break a few Gamestop employees of this habit by informing them that not only do I know games, but I make them as well. They tend to remember that.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I talk to a guy about playing games and they automatically assume I mean Farmville or Bejeweled. (Although, let’s be fair, some of those Farmville players are HARDCORE.) I roll my eyes and wait for the conversation to get interesting before pointing out that yeah, I played x, y, and z games. I beat the first two and hated the third. Oh, why yes, I DO play WoW. What level is my character? haha, silly boy… I have ONE OF EACH CLASS AT 85!* (*except warriors, and she is 80 because… god they are boring to play.) Not only that I am top DPS and occasionally heal in my raiding guild. (Again, the faces are PRICELESS.) I have video games from the PS1 era. I beat Suikoden WITH ALL THE STARS. Legend of Zelda – Check. Ocarina of Time? – Check. Baldur’s Gate? KotoR? Morrowind? Castlevania? Eternal Darkness? Heroes of Might and Magic? All check. (Oh and I could go ON.) Don’t compare gaming pedigrees with me. I got sent home with a note from school because I insisted Xyzzy was a word thanks to Zork. My FIRST MEMORY is of the end of King’s Quest 2. Oh and here’s a comic, that really illustrates this point.

Really oddly, some guys in the game industry seem to get really defensive over NOTHING. I was once asked which of 4 female characters I liked. I assumed that the guy doing the asking really wanted my opinion, and asked because we were attempting to target children aged 10-12 of both sexes. I looked at the four character designs, admitted that they were all pretty good, but this one, this one was the best. I pointed the one out. The girl in the drawing was standing up straight, with her shoulders squared, in a very heroic stance, and appeared to be about 12. Her hair was long, and in a ponytail. She looked like a strong interesting girl. Boom. The artist pointed at another one and said it was his favorite. The character was quite a bit younger appearing, around 7 or so. She had her finger in her mouth, her head tucked shyly, one foot turned with her toes dug into the ground, and pig tails, with big ass bows. She was looking coyly up at the viewer, with her body turned slightly to the side. It was by far the worst of the 4 sketches. I pointed out the character was too young, and the bows were a big turn off (not even mentioning the annoyance of her super shy stance). He actually said to me that he knew better and he knew girls loved bows. It took ALL MY STRENGTH not to point out that ONE of us HAD BEEN a 12 year old girl (and actually much more recently), MAYBE we should listen to her input. It was at this point I realized, he didn’t want my input. He wanted to needle me. He wanted to “push that button” and see how I would react. Not even.

Gamers also tend to assume that “feminist” is a bad word. Feminists hate men. I am a feminist. I don’t hate men. In fact, I know a metric TON of wonderful, intelligent, fascinating, and amazing gamers who are men. I married one of them. What I want, isn’t games made for women only, that’s just as bad as games made for men only! I want GOOD GAMES that do not alienate me as a woman and player. That’s it. That’s all I want. I want my opinions and input listened to when working on a team. I don’t want to be ignored because I am a girl. I don’t want my ideas invalidated because I am not the target audience. I don’t want to have to play a male.

The more I read the twitter posts, the sicker I felt. Also, let me just make one really important statement.

IF ANYONE TOUCHES YOU INAPPROPRIATELY CALL THE COPS. DO NOT TAKE IT. CALL THE COPS IMMEDIATELY. Okay? Good.

Really early, while still at the Guildhall, I got to meet Brenda Braithwaite. (Now Brenda Romero.) I have followed her work, mostly because, HEY LADY DESIGNER, there aren’t many of them and I wanted to learn from her. I couldn’t wait to see her tweets and she did not disappoint. The one I was really waiting for was this. It is brought up all the time that women aren’t very visible in the industry. NOPE. AND THEY AREN’T GOING TO BE UNTIL YOU STOP REFERRING TO THEM ONLY IN RELATION TO THEIR HUSBANDS. No offense to Romero, but of the two, she has the better portfolio. Why is it a woman with DECADES of experience is so instantly linked to a guy that she just recently (this year) married? Should I expect this? I married a programmer. Hell, he even has a twin brother who is also a game programmer. There are Pittmans ALL over the place in the industry. Should I expect to always be linked to them? Even though it’s arguable that my most popular game has done better than my husband’s most popular game?

I began to feel really really lucky. Yeah, I have had some bad experiences, but I wasn’t afraid to talk about them, like some women. I have a LIST of guys I will never work with, but I haven’t had to leave a position yet. And my current job, in 2 years I have had ONE moment that could even make it into this conversation and it was a perfect example of how things should go. There was a line in the dialog that really smacked of casual sexism. I bought it up with the writer that it needed to be removed. It was. Bam. Later, talking to someone about how nice it was, they were confused as to why the line needed to be removed. “But, it’s being complementary?” As if boiling down a woman’s value to a numerical value was okay, as long as the number was high. Once I made that statement, the awareness washed over his face, he looked a bit shamed, and that was the end of it. In one moment, I spoke up, and I know for a fact, I made my game better. This seems like a good time to say, hey guys I have worked with that don’t cause all this… thanks. Thanks for accepting when I say something isn’t cool, you stop. When I say something needs to be cut or adjust to keep from alienating women, you accept that I might be right and we work together to adjust. Thanks for 90% of the time making it a non-issue. (Does anyone else find it ironic that my most positive experience in the Industry is at an Activision studio? Activision gets alot of wildly undeserved crap. I love working for them and I would recommend them as an employer to anyone. Class A company, all around.) Thanks to my lead, for when I told him I was pregnant, and expecting right before we were supposed to ship, his only response was “Oh that’s great! Congratulations! (I will admit, I didn’t expect that. My maternity leave went so smoothly. I had such fears and worried about it. But not only did my company completely rock through my pregnancy in supporting me, but also made my transition back so seamless it was surreal.)

As a side note, I wonder how many other women have noticed that the presence of a woman on the team tends to reign in a large amount of this without even trying? I heard about a studio’s culture before starting, then once I did, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. A lead actually made the comment that it seemed like some of the guys were too embarrassed to make their inappropriate suggestions and comments when I was there. My existence cleaned up the locker room.

The whole thread of tweets started to get really depressing. So many women, with so many of the same issues and problems. Then so many men, both non-empathetic and trolls, showing up to make comments or attacks. I finally started having to block people on Twitter. There were good tweets too. Good things came from this. Awareness, another mentor list, and other hashtags that detail all the awesome things in the industry. But at the end of the say, even when we got gaming press, we also got tons of people who were simply unable to understand WHY this was such a big issue. “The majority of gamers are men, so all games should be for men.” “Why don’t you just go make your own games?” “Why not just get another job?” “I have never seen it.” I can’t even respond to these, because I know, regardless of how logical or founded my argument is, they are looking at it through their male lens, from a place of privilege. Unless they take the time to try to understand what it is like in my spot, my shoes, my body, they will never understand. Thank god for all the male game developers I know who took that time. Who made the effort to break out of their comfort zone. Who are so much better than the middle ground. Huzzah.

Here we are, 4000 words later. Sexism is alive and well in the game industry. Is it getting better? God yes. May I introduce you to Chell and Glados? Have you seen the Transmogrification feature in WoW that lets you get rid of or create skimpy outfits? Have you played Skyrim and seen that there is NO DIFFERENCE between men and women protagonists? Have you played XCOM and seen both male and female NPCs in positions of power? (Your squaddies are even allowed to be women!) Have you played Dishonored where men and women are treated fairly in the world and the leader is an Empress? Did you see Mirror’s Edge? Did you notice the new Lara is actually mostly covered (though we still need to work on that whole sexual assault fiasco) by logical clothing? (Not a game, but MAN, did you SEE BRAVE?!?! Yay Pixar!) I have worked at a company for two years and have gotten used to not having to deal with these problems. I have met men in the industry who are just as feminist as I am. It IS getting better. We aren’t there yet. But every year, we get closer to games that appeal to everyone, and we get closer to having games that women can love and relate to. And every time a game is released that appeals to all audiences, not just WASPs, we are including more fascinating people. People who will bring interesting ideas. People who will make our games EVEN BETTER. At the end of the day, that’s my goal. To make the BEST game possible. I don’t care where an idea comes from, if it makes my game better, GOOD. I am not leaving. I love my job, and even with all the grime, I am not going anywhere. I have made games I want to play and I intend to do that until they nail shut my coffin.

Thank you as well to all the amazing women who took the time to share their stories and experiences. Who didn’t keep silent. Who didn’t ignore the situation for fear of reprisal or attacks. Huzzah.

I will leave with these two tweets I made before the #1reasontobe hashtag got started.

#1reasonwhy you should be a girl designer anyway? Because every time you speak up and stop unintentional sexism, you MADE A GAME BETTER.

#1reasonwhy shows it is important to work with people you like more than on a game you like. You can survive bad games with the right peeps.

This is NOT OKAY.

It was bound to happen eventually. This blog has always been a space for me to talk, rant, and discuss various issues and thoughts I have. Well, at 12 weeks, I am now, quite pregnant, and likely to stay that way for another 6 months. So now, expect the occasional pregnancy, then child post. Apologies. Feel free to unsubscribe.

Now, on to my topic. What is okay and NOT OKAY to say to a Pregnant Woman. Apparently, the minute a woman becomes pregnant, it stops people’s ability to speak with common courtesy.

1. You are huge!

Variations: You look ready to pop! Are you sure you aren’t having twins? Taking this whole eating for two thing seriously, aren’t you? Be careful you don’t get fat.

Seriously. There is a pregnant WOMAN in front of you, with raging hormones, and you just implied she was fat. And not good fat, but beach ball fat. Seriously. If she slapped you, not a jury in the world would convict her of assault.

What you can say: You look great! What a beautiful glow you have! (Any other total BS line about how we somehow manage to look awesome, despite being wildly uncomfortable.)

2. I hope you don’t have a miscarriage.

Variations: Any scary pregnancy story. Especially about the birth or possible complications to the baby.

Holy beejesus. Do you tell someone going into heart surgery, “Man, I hope they can get your heart beating again!” NO. WTF. I don’t want to hear your extremely creepy and shockingly gruesome story about what happened to your friend’s sister’s college roommate. I don’t want to hear it, anymore than I want to watch a movie or read a book about it. Keep that story to yourself. Thanks.

Pregnant women are already terrified from things their doctors are telling them might happen. They don’t need your slasher flick anecdotal story.

What can say: I will be praying for everything to go smoothly. Everything’s going to be fine. (These should only be used if somehow fears about the birth come up in conversation, just before immediately changing the conversation to something about ice cream or super cute little baby clothes.)

3. Better enjoy your time now!

Variations: You won’t have time for x. You are going to have your hands full! Get ready for getting up every 2 hours!

Everyone is different. Say it with me. Everyone is different. I actually had someone tell me, “You won’t have time for video games after the baby is born.” I am a game designer. Games is how I am *paying* for the baby. Of all the things I will not be allowing to drop off my list, it’s playing video games. I managed to figure out how to play video games while going to the gym, I assure you, I can figure out how to play them while having an infant.

Also, every kid is different. I love people who tell me that my kid is going to be up every 2 hours. Really? Clairvoyant, or are you a full on psychic now? I get that YOUR kid is like that, but everyone is different. My mother insists I was sleeping through the night before I was a month old. I have friends with kids who sleep all the time, even to the point they have to wake them up to feed them. We can discuss this *after* my kid shows up and we see how he is going to be. (Though with as much as I sleep, if he takes after me, we’re going to be nap buddies easy.)

What you can say: Kids are awesome and totally worth it.

4. Oh a boy/girl? Well that’s a bummer. Now you can’t do x.

Variations: But you already have a boy/girl, don’t you want one of each? A boy/girl is easier/harder. I am gonna buy pink/blue clothes! Anything negative about the gender.

Gender is far too much of a focus when it comes to being pregnant. 90% of the time the second question after “When are you due?” is “Do you know what it is yet?” The really annoying thing is, it appears there is NO RIGHT ANSWER. WTH people?!? It’s likely a boy, I am cool with that, my husband is thrilled with that, and we are still doing everything in green. But people seem to always have a negative response no matter what I say.

Kids can be easier or harder based on so many factors, sex isn’t even really important. Also, quit giving me dirty looks when I say I don’t really care if it is a boy or girl. I don’t. I am happy I can *have* kids without medical assistance. Also, it’s my first, so since I really want one of each, at this point it can be whatever and I am halfway there. Then when people ask why I want one of each and I say I want the full experience. Because they are different. But does that mean I shouldn’t be happy with this child because it’s got a penis/vagina? Not a chance! It’s still mine, it’s still cute, and I am still going to look forward to it every minute of my pregnancy.

What you can say: Oh he/she’s going to be so cute! Anything positive that doesn’t force gender roles. (No sports, no job suggestions, no blue/pink.)

5. I hope it doesn’t get your <insert feature>.

Variations: Nope, pretty much that one.

I have red hair. I love my red hair. People who say (and I quote) “I hope it’s a carrot!” I could just hug, snuggle, and cry for joy all over. To the person I almost punched because they just blurted out “Well, I hope it looks like your husband.” I am going to kill you. With a dull knife. Slowly. Not only did just insult me, but probably insulted my child. And this is why we aren’t going to be friends anymore.

What you can say: I hope it gets x feature, that would be so cute. (Always frame it as both possible features are fine, but this one is just more adorable.)

6. Is it your husband’s?

Variation: Was it planned? Did you use fertilization drugs? You need better birth control. Are you planning on keeping it?

Holy cow people. Would you ever walk up to someone on the street and say, “Are you having an affair?” Not a chance! so don’t ask it of a pregnant woman. Give her the opportunity to volunteer this information, but don’t ask it, unless you are best friends since birth, or since you were in high school and had a lasagna dropped on you by your pregnant friend’s mother.

None of the answers to the questions are any of your business.

What you can say: How excited are you? (It’s a nice neutral question that allows them to either be excited all over you, lie and be mildly excited, or completely unload all that dirty gossip you were hoping for.)

*As a note, when I first called the OB/GYN to make the appointment, I told the nurse I had tested positive on 3 home pregnancy tests. Her question “Is this a good thing?” When I responded in the affirmative, she knew how to approach the conversation. One can generally assume though when you are told, “OMG! GUESS WHAT?!? I’M PREGGERS!” Someone is fairly excited about it.

7. Let me touch your belly!

Variations: Anything that invades a pregnant woman’s personal space, like can I see your belly, can I see your belly button, etc.

I don’t like strange people touching me in *normal* circumstances. But now, I am bloated, uncomfortable, and carrying a person. I don’t feel friendly or happy, I am tired and cranky. No I don’t want you rubbing your germy hands on me. Shoo.

Oh but if I say that, I am the bad guy.

What you can say: Nothing. If you are a person who can touch the belly, you will know.

8. I never got sick! I was sick the whole time!

Variations: I got/didn’t get stretch marks. I only gained x lbs. I wore my skinny jeans home from the hospital. Other pregnancy stuff.

Okay this one kind of varies and wavers a bit. It’s always a good idea to sound out the person you are talking to. Has the person been suffering the morning sickness from hell the whole time? Oh you did too? Then it’s okay. You are bonding over shared suffering.

I also hate it when people ask me how my morning sickness has been. They look expectant, like I should be puking on them instead of answering. I hate having to smile politely and say “I’ve been a bit nauseated but I haven’t actually been sick.” They look bewildered. Like I don’t love my baby because I haven’t been puking my guts out. Or they get mad at me. Hey, it’s not my fault my stomach is more hardcore than yours, don’t get mad at me, you asked the question.

Unless it’s shared misery or shared elation at non-misery, let’s not share.

What you can say: It’ll all be over soon! I hope you are feeling great!

9. Are you having a hospital birth or home birth?

Variations: Drugs or not, breast feeding or not, vaccinations etc etc.

Okay, fair enough, you *can* ask this. Just accept that this is the choice I have made, with my doctor. It’s not your choice. I am going to do it my way.

As an addition, saying “Women had babies for thousands of years at home!” Well, yes. And the survival rate for both mother and child was shockingly abysmal. So no, thanks, I will be taking every advantage of medical science I am offered. You can do it your way, I will do it mine. You are not allowed to judge me.

Just because something was done a certain way for a long time, doesn’t mean it’s the best. It doesn’t mean it’s the best for me either. I am allowed to my opinions and decisions. Please don’t try to convince me otherwise, that’s my doctor’s job.

What you can say: Again, I hope everything goes smoothly. Your little one will be here soon!

10. What’s it’s name?

Variations: None really, just asking if we have a name.

I am going to share the name I want with people I want to know. Also, here’s the thing. That name, it might change. Also, as much as I don’t want your opinions on parenting, I really don’t want them on the name. It already took a great deal of effort for me and my husband to decide on a name, I don’t want to have to deal with you giving your input.

Add to this people who go “OH NO! You can’t use that name! I WAS GONNA USE THAT NAME.”  Oh really? OH WELL SUCKER, I got there first.

What you can say: Nothing really. If they want you to know it’s name, they will tell you.

11. You shouldn’t be eating that.

Variations: You shouldn’t be doing x.

Are you my doctor? No? Then shut it. I’m the one who is pregnant. I am the one who has exhaustively read websites, books, and pamphlets. I know what I am doing.

I had someone tell me I shouldn’t be eating sushi, with a harsh disapproving glare. First off lady, it’s a California roll, not raw fish. Which is what a doctor means when they say not to eat sushi. Second, the other part of that being that one should avoid large amounts of mercury when pregnant again doesn’t apply here. The mercury content of crab (or imitation crab) is not very high (fatty tuna is the really bad one) BUT even if it WERE the bad kind of fish you can STILL EAT UP TO 8 OZ A WEEK. Oh you missed that part did you?

The reverse of this is also true. I am not drinking alcohol. Since I have been pregnant I had had a grand total of 3 sips of wine. And I do mean sips, not even full drinks. Because I wanted to know what it tastes like. (Also to make a note for when I am *not* pregnant to try it again.) I don’t miss alcohol for the most part, unless I am sitting around with a bunch of people drinking beer while I am going with root beer or cream soda. I don’t mind. So don’t tell me, Mr. Armchair doctor, that drinking alcohol while pregnant is FINE. There is a thing called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There is a direct link shown between drinking while pregnant and the appearance of FAS symptoms. Drinking more and more often increases the chances of FAS and FAS effects by a MEASURABLE amount. More alcohol, more often leads to a greater chance of this birth defect.

But the point is, they can’t do experiments on pregnant women. They can’t say exactly why it is that some women can drink a glass of wine everyday while pregnant and have a child without FAS, and why another can drink 6 beers once and give birth to a child with FAS. The really important part of this though, is one simple fact: FAS CAN BE PREVENTED. FAS does not appear in children whose mothers did not drink. It’s that simple. So Mr. Armchair doctor, when you get pregnant, you can drink all you want. But this is my baby, and if not drinking for 8 and a half months means I have one less thing to worry about, hand me my root beer. I don’t care if doctors in France, Italy, and Germany tell their patients it is fine. I do care that many doctors agree that since they can’t be sure what is fine, it’s better not to. Sounds completely sensible to me.

What you can say: Nothing. (Of course, this assumes the person you are talking to is reasonably intelligent. But even so, tread carefully.)

 

So there you are. A list of things not to say to a pregnant lady. Also, it is worth noting, don’t ask any questions unless you want an answer. There are some fairly gruesome things people have found out by asking me questions and I don’t sugar coat or get all euphemistic on them. If you are going to ask, you are going to get an answer.

 

Edit: Originally started in Jan 2012, not finished until March 2012. I got busy.