Category Archives: Real Life

PAX and Acceptance.

There are a ton of people who are super pissed at Gabe. I wanted to weigh in on it, because I feel like people are getting riled up and yes, overreacting.

First, a few points I want to be perfectly clear:

1. I don’t like Gabe. I think he’s an asshole. He’s not a terribly nice person, and he overreacts in extreme ways and INTENTIONALLY tries to piss people off.

2. I don’t like rape*. It’s a way of killing someone while still letting them live. It’s an atrocity and should be treated as such. I am firmly in the camp of “Not only does no mean no, but ONLY yes means yes.”

So. What does this mean for PA/PAX and my love for all things nerdy gamer?

Well for me, not much actually. I haven’t read PA regularly for over a year. I will occasionally go over and read a strip or two if someone links it. I haven’t bought PA merch in a while (5 years?), since it got me in trouble. (MtG shirt that says I’d Tap That… apparently inappropriate when a woman wears it.) But one thing I do, and will continue to do, is go to PAX.

The tensions on the sides of the argument are heavy. One side, rightly so, points to rape culture and the harm it causes through casual acceptance. The other side, again, rightly so, says that censorship is wrong. These, and many other arguments against Gabe/Tycho/PA are all deeply mired into experiences, anger, fear, pain, and rhetoric that is not to be taken lightly.

Today I was told I was a horrible human being and not a feminist for going to PAX. This is not okay. A personal attack against me, or Gabe, or Antia, or ANYONE is unacceptable. Part of this comes from growing up and from two very pointed comments made to me. Once I used the phrase “It’s like Sophie’s choice!” when discussing trying to pick a Magic card during a booster draft. Someone, thankfully, looked at me in shock and asked if I was REALLY comparing picking a card to picking which of my two children would die? I didn’t have kids. I had never seen the movie. I just knew it was an exaggerated phrase to describe an impossibly difficult choice. As a writer, I often consider word connotation, but I had never really thought of idiom choice. I STILL think about that moment regularly. I think about it when I use an over used turn of phrase. The second was when I told someone to diaf (die in a fire) in a random group in WoW. He was being a jerk. When I said it, another person in the group immediately got furiously upset with me. Not normal levels of upset, but more like, if she had been in the same room strangling me with my mouse cord upset. Her father died in a fire, saving her and her sisters. He died from the severe burns he got all over his body. I found this out after managing to get her calmed down to explain WHY she was so mad at me. Not only have I NOT used that phrase again, but I also have spoken up to people I have heard use it and explained that they need to choose their words with care.

This is the crux of everything. Choose your words with care. The larger your platform, the greater care that needs to go into every word you say/write.

People point to the original strip and say, “They made a rape joke! What horrible people!” I actually remember being surprised to find it wasn’t a Fruit Fucker comic. I remember reading the Dickwolves comic the morning it went up. As a WoW player, especially during Wrath, I recognized the dissonance he was talking about. These characters we play are supposed to be heroes, and yet once we were done with a quest we were willing to leave, regardless of how many prisoners remained. I assume he got the idea from the Pit of Saron. I am fairly confident in that, because I remember pissing off groups I ran with because I would free every prisoner, EVERY TIME, when tanking. The first time, it’s a quest. After that, it was me, actively hating that they were laboring away while I would just run past, trying to get to loot faster. I remember feeling horrible over it. I actually told myself, THEY ARE JUST PIXELS GET OVER IT. So at this point, I have to say, I disagree with people who look at the comic and say it’s a rape joke. The Fruit Fucker is a rape joke. Dickwolves is making a not terribly funny joke about players who are supposed to be heroes and instead are mercenaries, It’s about the moral lack they show leaving those prisoners chained up. Would the strip have worked better without the dickwolves or if they had said something other than rape – like beat us every night? It would have been a wash. The “joke” barely made sense to people who play WoW.

Even one step further, I was so surprised people were upset by it, and actually said something to the effect of “Do you READ Penny Arcade? That’s totally the stupid shit they do.” Once more I point to Fruit Fucker. If you go back to the start of the strip they made a dick joke in the second strip, and had a murder in the third. It’s five strips to CHILD ABUSE. Suicide, gay sex, sexism, slavery, human trafficking, and so on. It’s frequently juvenile, disgusting, and crude. Apparently we didn’t mind the Gabe raping a Pac Man cosplayer. And all of that was in the FIRST YEAR. (Even funnier is reading through that first year, I noticed that most of the issues Scott Kurtz has with Big Bang Theory – PA did too! That just cracks me up.) But here we are, 14 years later and we have this. Yes, there are still dick jokes (alot of dick jokes), and jokes that make veiled implications about homosexuality and sexism. To the point where I just have to say… that’s kind of Penny Arcade. That’s what they do. They make a ton of stupid comics that aren’t that funny, then they make one that’s HILARIOUS or one that’s BEAUTIFUL. I stopped reading the comic because I got sick of all the dick jokes. I grew up.

Now here’s where it gets… shifty. There are people attacking ME personally because I went to PAX. There are people who are attacking PAX and Child’s Play because of their connection to Gabe. I don’t like Gabe, but I am aware that making a rape joke, though in extremely poor taste, does not make one a rapist. But he is being treated as such.

I don’t attack someone who likes Chris Brown even though I think he’s a horrible person who deserved some serious jail time. I have friends who are perfectly okay with reading Ender’s Game and deciding to go to the movie, even though I refuse because I think that’s another human who makes the world worse. I have friends who go to Chic Fil A KNOWING they donate to groups that advocate the KILLING of homosexuals. I accept these people, even when I disagree with them, because I know we are all people. No one is perfect. We are all flawed. I am not going to attack someone because I disagree with them, or because I think they are being a jerk.

If you disagree with Gabe, me, or anyone else, it is your right to say we are horrible people. Just like it’s our right to stop interacting with you. But I don’t want to lose more friends over what is a disagreement about freedom.

Gabe responded to the initial response to Dickwolves very poorly. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I don’t get, is how people didn’t expect it? Anyone who was a nerd in high school, and bullied for years, is familiar with that instinctual response to defend and lash out. Of course he buckled down and then used every bit of his hard won protective shell of sarcasm to fight against it. We in the community tend to believe we know more than we do of these people. We think because we see them at PAX, read their tweets, and watch videos that we know them. Does anyone saying he’s a rape apologist actually THINK that Gabe would rape someone? Or be okay with someone being raped? There are leaps being made that people cannot back up.

I am also bothered by people who bring up Enforcers and the bad (illegal?) things that happen, and actively blame Gabe/PA for it. o.0 Are you kidding me? How can we blame them for what volunteers do? Of course there are going to be some bad apples in a force of volunteers who are put into a position of power. I am assuming they only do the standard double check on people, but I doubt they can find someone without a record who turns out to be a bad guy? It’s not like they are inviting them back year after year. They have a black list of people who aren’t allowed at PAX, why would we expect the Enforcers to be any different? (To be fair I have only had three encounters total with Enforcers, two were exceptional and one was a guy who was just a bit of a dick.) I am bothered by people who also bring up the bad behavior of people who read the comics. Because it’s Gabe’s fault those people are dicks?

(As an aside, Gabe’s idiotic response to transgender doesn’t really have a place in this discussion, because the understanding between biological sex and gender presentation is still not a broad understood concept. *I* didn’t even get it until a few years ago. And even then, I wouldn’t have if not for actually meeting a transgender person and having it explained, with great patience. He could have responded better, and so could have the people who called him on it. In the end, he said he didn’t care, and this upset people. But I can kind of see his point. I don’t care if someone is transgender. Mostly, because I am not trying to sleep with anyone. The parts don’t matter to me. All I need to know is, which pronouns should I be using with that person. However, it wasn’t unreasonable for him to assume a game with vaginas was aimed at women. Because for the most part, it is. This is part of living in a two gender society, although wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t? Calling him transphobic is not accurate because if he was transphobic, he certainly wouldn’t employ someone who was transgender or be friends with them. He doesn’t know, and that’s different.)

Finally, I have one last point to make. We spend all our time saying that the games, movies, books we consume do not make us violent, thieving, rapists. How then can we say that this comic changes that? I watched Buffy and the rape scene that happened there, but I didn’t attack Joss Whedon. I watched Archer, and the multitude of rape jokes that show has made, and all it told me was, nope, don’t want to watch Archer, got it. when I read PA and it is 80% stupid stuff and dick jokes, I stop wasting my time on it. That’s the correct response. If someone wants to keep reading it, that’s okay too. If someone wants to buy a Dickwolves t-shirt, they can. It just helps me know who I am not going to want to talk to. Just like I am fairly positive I don’t want to talk to someone wearing a redneck shirt or a racist shirt or any other thing I find reprehensible.

So… How can I go to PAX, even though I dislike Gabe? Easy. I don’t go to PAX to see Gabe. In fact, I was three feet from Gabe at this PAX and ignored him in favor of his wife and son, who I talked to about Skylanders. I went to PAX to spend time with people who live far away, but travel to PAX. I went to walk the expo hall floor and not be assailed by booth babes at every step. I went to buy dice and watch people play board games. I went to sit in the Tap House, drink a stupid amount, then go back to my hotel room and play WoW. I went to revel in gaming and gamers for three lovely days.

People will say, you can do that without PAX! Well, parts of it. Some of my friends don’t go to BlizzCon. GDC is mostly professionals. E3 is booth babe central. None are in places like Seattle. People who compare it to DragonCon and it’s founder problem are not comparing the two accurately. One is a guy who runs off at the mouth. Another is a guy who actually BROKE the law.

I love PAX because it’s the first place I ever felt like I could be wholly myself. I could be a nerd and not only was it okay but I was cooler because I did. I love PAX because it’s about the gamers. PA may be the thread that started it, but I actually don’t know very many people who go to PAX to meet Gabe and Tycho.

If you honestly think we shouldn’t be friends because I want to go to PAX, even knowing that I dislike Gabe and his humor, then I am sorry. That’s sad. I agree, Gabe has a huge platform. He could be a great leader from his empire of nerdom. But he’s not. He’s a flawed human that wants to do what he wants to do. We aren’t going to change or educate him anymore than we can change or educate any other dickwad on the internet, at this point he is too ingrained and too convinced of his own power. He is convinced that he can just speak his mind and if people don’t like it, they can fuck off and that’s okay even for him. Instead we need to choose OUR words with care. We need to express concern over his actions. We need to express concern over the comics. We need to express how it *is* a shitty thing to do to wear a shirt that makes a joke about rape. I actually think his decision to “not engage” is a good one. He needs to stop engaging if he can’t choose his words with care. We need to not leap to conclusions and immediately jump to inflammatory rhetoric. We need to, even with Gabe, but especially with everyone, remember to not assume the worst.

As my absolute final comment, how do people who call for bans of PAX and Child’s Play deal with the choice of banning everything associated with Gabe and PA? Are they not going to buy Magic cards? No more Minecraft because Notch goes to to PAX. No more Wil Wheton. No more D&D. No more Borderlands. No more Nintendo. No more of those lovely indie games. No more Think Geek or We Love Fine. Is that logical or reasonable? How about instead write an email (no threats or insults) and explain why that was such a shitty thing to do? Write a blog. Write so the words are out there and people will see it. (It’s a much better medium than Twitter after all.)

*Marks an understatement.

Free to Play Vs Subs

During my Game Design 1 class this week, I talked about WoW. As a part of this, one of the students asked a question:

“Yes, but how do you feel about the subscription fee?”

Then he made a comment that he just couldn’t get past the sub.

So here’s my answer, that I feel is very important for any person who considers subscription games.

  • This month I bought Gone Home for $20. I played it for 3 hours. It was great, and totally worth it.
  • I got into the Hearthstone Beta, and bought $50 worth of cards. I have played it probably about 30 hours. Totally worth it.
  • I bought Dishonored for $60, played it for about 10 hours, and it was totally worth it.
  • When I go to the movies, I pay $10-12 for a 2 hour experience. Totally worth it.

So the question becomes, what is the value of WoW at $15/month?

Well first off, I only pay $13/month. I pay in 6 month blocks. So it takes about 2 and 1/2 games to equal the amount of money I spend playing WoW.

Let’s see… I got Dishonored, got 10 hours worth of play. XCOM, 36 hours. Borderlands 2, 4 hours. So all told about 50 hours worth of play for more money than I spend on WoW in a year.

I play WoW, on average, 3 hours a day. (From 7:15 ish to about 10:30-11 most nights.) That means in 17 days, I have already played more WoW than I would THREE other games I bought at $60 each.

The only single player game in recent memory that even comes close to WoW is Skyrim. I have about 240+ hours. Totally worth it.

But even so, these games can’t compare to WoW because I play WoW with friends. I enjoy hanging out with them. Killing Internet Dragons with them. Griping about quests and LFRs.

I am not saying that one type of game should be played over the other. I loved Dishonored, XCOM, and Skyrim. I want to replay all 3. But at a purely cost vs time played, WoW wins, hands down, regardless of the subscription.

The Game’s the thing.

I was asked how I felt about how big a success Skylanders has been. How did I feel about it becoming a pop culture phenomenon.

Dazed? Unbelieving? Surprised? No single word could possibly describe the emotions I feel. Humbled. Awed. Ecstatic.

So instead, I will tell you a story.

As a kid, my mother and I played tons of video games. It was a family thing. But when the power would go out, we would bust out the board games and drag the whole family into a game of Monopoly. We occasionally played even when the power wasn’t out, but that was the only time everyone would play. Around the time I hit High School, Monopoly started creating all of these variations, generally licensed. Star Wars Monopoly, Nintendo Monopoly, Pokemon Monopoly, and so on. I LOVED IT. I bought at least a dozen different versions.

Me and my mom would cycle through them, playing all the different ones. We even came up with Uberopoly, a version that required NINE Monopoly boards, arranged in a grid, with special rules on passing Go, turning corners, moving to new boards, and the requirement that you had to have ALL of a color before you could claim a Monopoly. We played it for DAYS and had no idea who was even close to winning.

This year they are making a Skylanders Monopoly.

Does that one sentence sum it up? All the emotion and disbelief of how well our game has done. Right there, in one sentence.

It’s just not possible. It’s just unbelievable. World of Warcraft gets a Monopoly. Disney gets a Monopoly. Doctor Who gets a Monopoly.

A kid’s game for the Wii at the end of the console’s life cycle does not get a Monopoly. Except it does. When it becomes a worldwide phenomenon, sells 2.5 toys a SECOND, and makes over a billion dollars, it gets a Monopoly game.

And creates this huge ball of feeling inside me, that completely shuts down my brain, and makes me feel like… How can I top THIS? I am 30, and I am seriously asking the question, how do you top a game you worked on, becoming so big, you get your childhood all wrapped up in a licensed version of your work. Calling it a success seems superfluous at this point.

What do I do next? What is the encore?

Shocked. To the point of tears. I just sit here and think, I have the coolest job, working with the coolest people, on the coolest game ever.

I am sure Skylanders Monopoly will be the Monopoly I play with my son. “See, this is mommy’s game. This is your game.”

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.


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.


  • 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.


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.

Warcraft Breads – Rock-Salted Pretzel

I got a shiny new KitchenAid mixer. It’s the bright red one. I decided I wanted to make tons and tons of breads and such with it. But I needed a plan. Which breads? How often? How would I discover new recipes? Then later that night in the middle of the raid, it hit me. I sat to eat a Buttery Wheat Roll… and I thought, hurm, I could MAKE wheat rolls now!

So I decided to start easy, with some Pretzels. I love pretzels. But it’s not Brewfest, which is the only place in game I knew to get pretzels. A quick Wowhead search lead me to Rock-Salted Pretzels sold by Plugger Spazring.

Tasty golden pretzels.

So I got an alt to remote me to the Grim Guzzler in Blackrock Depths.

Joyia, hoping a Direbrew Mole Machine to Blackrock.

Sure enough, he sells my pretzels. Awesome. Now for the real world equivalent.

Picking up a full stack of 20. I love warm pretzels.

Pretzels are shockingly easy to make. All you need is a little flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water, a bit more salt, baking soda, and butter. I would put it’s cooking skill at around 50, as it doesn’t require any special equipment or tricky bits. All told, it takes about an hour to make.

Here’s the ingredients:


  • 2 and 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package instant yeast (2 and 1/4th teaspoons)
  • 7/8ths to 1 cup water

Bath and Topping:

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

To start, let’s make the dough.

Add all the dough ingredients into your mixer. The water needs to be slightly warm, just like the yeast likes. The variation in the water is due to the variation in air moisture. For moist areas or during the summer, use less water, otherwise a bit more. I always start with 7/8th and just add small splashes until the dough doesn’t have any crumbly bits that don’t want to stick to the main ball. Mix until all blended and starting to form a big sticky ball.

Dough pre-water

The Dough, all mixed up, ready to knead.

Now, using a bread hook, knead the dough for 5 minutes. (Or knead by hand, to level your strength and stamina.)

Once the dough is good and kneaded, form into a ball, lightly flour and stick in a bag for 30 min. This gives the yeast time to rise. Also gives you time to farm some herbs or ore or maybe run a dungeon, if you are a tank or healer with a short queue.

The dough, balled up, floured and rising.

Go ahead and mix up the “bath”. Boil the 1 cup of water, then add it to the baking soda. It will fizz and bubble. The baking soda needs to completely dissolve in the water.

The baking soda and water bath for the Pretzels.

Once your dough is done rising, now comes the FUN part. Preheat your oven to 475 and prepare a baking sheet with either parchment paper or spray to keep your pretzels from sticking.

Lightly grease a space to work with your dough, and divide it into 8 equal pieces, then let them sit for about 5 min. Pour your bath into a 9″ square pan.

Dough separated before rolling.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28″ to 30″ long), and twist each rope into a pretzel.

Pretzel dough, all rolled out and ready to twist.

Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.

Pretzels in their bath.

Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt (I used regular kosher salt, as I didn’t have any coarse pretzel salt, they were just as good). Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Pretzels all ready for the oven.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.

All done! Beautiful golden brown.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up. It’s  a lot of butter, but that’s the way the brewmasters make them, so just keep using it.

All buttered up and ready for restoring health!

Now you should have 8 large Rock-Salted Pretzels to restore health! This recipe makes for a great base to make variations of pretzels too. Add cinnamon to the dough for a tasty spicy pretzel, or cheese to the top for nommable cheese pretzels. Also, I generally use King Arthur Flour, as it is just a higher quality flour. If you make breads and cakes often, I recommend trying it, as it completely changed the quality of all my recipes. (KAF is like a +10 to cooking.)

This recipe is also really great with kids. They love playing with the dough. You can make pretzel sticks or nuggets as well, but that will likely shorten the cooking time a bit.

Now, time to kick up your feet with some Conjured Glacial Water and a Rock-Salted Pretzel and enjoy the fruits of having the cooking profession.

What’s in a Name?

Okay here’s the article.


To summarize, it’s a nifty article on last names, and women taking their husband’s name after they get married. It’s a nifty article because it covers many of the viewpoints WITHOUT ever pushing an agenda. Bravo Stephanie Pappas for writing a good article.

Now, why do I want to talk about it on what is arguably a gamer blog? Because it’s important to me.

My experience:

My mother has been married 3 times in her life. The third time was apparently the charm, as she is still married to him now. She had my brother with her first husband, me with her second, and married my step-father when I was 9 or so. So growing up my brother had one last name, I had a second, and she had a third. I was used to being the only person with my name. Add to that, it is a rather uncommon last name, and I liked it.

You see, it started with Ac. So when teachers in school would go to put people in alphabetical order, I would just get up and walk to the front. I generally had the first seat in the front row in every class. I had no problem with this. In fact, I kinda liked it.

My name was a part of who I was. It was short, sweet, and unique. It meshed well with my middle name (I always went by my middle name not my first name) and generally was fun to write.

It never bothered me that my mother had a different last name. It never bothered me that my brother had a different last name. We knew we were family and loved each other.

Now, I did have a hated first name. It was pretentious, long, misspelled, and didn’t fit me even a little bit. I shorted my signature to start with a J. very early in high school and never looked back. As my friends and I discussed getting married one day and names, the discussion generally revolved around whether we would take our husband’s names or not. The consensus was that we would, unless it was a stupid name, or it sounded bad with our names. I always said I wouldn’t, because I liked my name. It was part of who I was.

The first time I got engaged, I flat out told my Fiance I would not be taking his name. It wasn’t interesting, it wasn’t cool, and it certainly didn’t improve the sound of my name any at all. This engagement eventually fell apart. Why? I was too independent, and he was too clingy. (Among other problems, but those are the big “overarching” problems and were a common theme among all the others.)

Was the name thing an indicator? Maybe. He was certainly upset about it.

Many years later, after going to grad school, and living on my own, I got engaged again. This time, his name wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad either. Also I saw the opportunity to get rid of my dreaded first name. Here I was, at 26 about to completely change around my name.

Now to follow along… <J. First Name> <K Middle Name> and <Ac Last Name>. When I got married I legally changed my name to <K. Middle Name> <Ac Last Name> <Husband Last Name>. No hyphens, or whatever, but now my maiden name was my middle name. I looked at my new name and smiled. I *loved* it. It was totally me. It fit me better than my birth name ever had.

I took a moment to consider if I would ever change my name back if I was ever to get divorced. The more I thought about it, the more I though, no, probably not. This name was more who I was that ever before. And I loved it.

My husband wasn’t pleased. I know right? His response was “Well that’s a rather sneaky way of keeping your own last name?” Is the name thing such a touchy subject because men still have this desire to “lay claim” to their women? It’s kinda cute, as long as they are okay with dealing with it if we don’t go along. This comment surprised me. My mother had always used her maiden name as her middle name. My grandmother did too. All the adult women I knew growing up had done the same thing. With one exception and she had *hated* her family before she got married and likely wanted to shed her last name as much as I wanted to shed my hideous first name.

Turns out, it’s a common Southern tradition for a Southern Belle to keep her family name as a middle name, unless she is ashamed of them. I am not ashamed of my father’s side of my family, but neither am I proud of them. I don’t really think about them one way or the other, as my parents divorced when I was 3 and my mother then moved 14 hours away. I never really associated the name with them. It wasn’t their name, it was mine. Mine and unique. I think this discovery of culture mollified my husband.

What changed in the 3 years? I grew up, lived on my own truly, and struck out into the real world without Mom and Dad or Student Loans to keep me up. I came to view my life as something other than just myself. I was planning on being with this man forever. I was still myself, but now I had a part of him too. My new name looked and sounded right.

I embraced this new “label” for who I was. I was different than I had been as a child, so it made sense for my name to be different as well. Maybe this mentality comes from playing games, and thus having avatars or roles, so I already deal with “alternate” names quite a bit. I mean, I answer just as readily to Joyia (my World of Warcraft warlock) as I do my own name. I use Ember Dione as interchangeably with my own name to the point Google thinks it really is my own name.

I feel now like a name is a representation of who we are. And as such, should change when we change.

My name is meant to fit me, not the other way around.


Addendum: As far as the “legally required to assume your husband’s name” thing in the article, that’s just ABSURD. Not a chance in hell would I be okay with that being a law. It’s a person’s choice, and it should be left at that. After all, they have to live with that name.