Tag Archives: RL

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.

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.”

#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.

Meddling Kids!

Recently I have found myself in the position to give advice to people. Thankfully the advice is usually something I have had personal experience with. I have no idea if the receiver wants said advice, or even listens to it. But the fact that a few people seem surprised at what I have to say really makes me wonder… How do they not know this? Well here is a bit of my collected wisdom.

High School only lasts for 4 years.

Seriously. I know it *feels* like forever. But not matter how great or how horrid it is, it will all be over in 4 years. (Assuming of course you don’t fail and have to repeat.) This leads to point number 2:

It gets better.

After High School, everything in life kind of opens up. Want to go to College? There are thousands of Universities waiting to take your money. Don’t have the money for it? There are student loan companies, scholarships, grants, etc to help you get there. Don’t want to go to college? That’s an option too. Learn a trade, or just dive right in and find a job.

The best part is, at this point, you can do what you want to become financially independent and move away from your parents. The first year of not living with your parents is the toughest and most amazing of your life. You will spend too much money and have to borrow something from someone. (Toilet paper, shampoo, laundry detergent, laundry change, gas money, etc etc.) It’s insane. And great. And after that year, you will understand why I say it gets better. The worst part about High School and youth is the inability to control things that affect you. Once you get out of HS and into your own place (even if rooming with someone else) that all changes. You have control.

Don’t stress it. And if you find yourself stressing it, find something that chills you out.

It’s the idea behind “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” which I take objection to because it follows it with “and it’s all small stuff”. BS. There can be EPICALLY HUGE things you sweat. Car accident? Failing a required class? Company getting ready to do cutbacks? BIG STUFF. The problem with worrying is that it makes it hard to sleep, which makes it hard to function, which stresses you out, which makes it hard to sleep… and so begins the negative feedback loop. It’s not an easy cycle to break either. Theoretically a person should be able to say, “Don’t worry about.” and then, resolve to not worry about it until they can do something about it, and things would get better. But that never works. Which is why it pisses me off when people say that.

My solution – find the thing that chills you out. Something that makes your brain shut down, makes you feel even marginally better, and distracts you. Now, to be fair, you can’t use this as a permanent solution, but, if it is Friday night and you can’t do a thing until Monday, stressing about it all weekend is NOT going to help. Exercise, listen to music, drink a cup of cocoa or hot tea, play a mindless video game, play a stupidly difficult video game, hang out with friends, etc etc. This is going to be different for everyone. Everyone has different things that make them feel better. Be sure your activity is safe, not exacerbating the problem, and doesn’t do more harm than good.

My calming method: I make a cup of Earl Grey tea, then sit down and do some herbing, skinning or mining in WoW. It’s brainless, requires just enough concentration to keep my brain from drifting, but doesn’t require so much it is frustrating. Occasionally I will level an alt, but usually it’s herbing. This also hits a secondary calmer for me. Retail therapy. In college I would go to Best Buy, buy like 5 dvds and then go home and watch them all. Unfortunately, my worries were generally either money or could be about money so this was a very negative calmer. Yeah it made me feel better, for about an hour, then I would start to feel even worse. The best part about WoW retail therapy is that I am spending in game gold for in game items. And honestly, the feeling of going out and spending 100 bucks at Best Buy over going and spending 10k gold in game, it’s the same.

Just be careful with your de-stressing tool. Always keep in mind the “doesn’t do more harm than good” rule. Alcohol, drugs, random sex, etc, may de-stress you for a moment, but will always, ALWAYS, lead to more stress. They are dangerous and harmful solutions.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. At level cap.

I really wish I could say life was fair and people are easily recognizable as good guys or bad guys. But that is not the case.  Lucky for me karma really does seem to exist. And revenge is sweet, despite never quite being what you expect it to be.

My life example: I dated a guy for 3 years. He was wonderful. I was certain I was going to spend my life with him. Not so certain though that I was willing to sleep with him. I didn’t want kids after all, and life had soundly taught me that people who have sex will have kids. I didn’t want that yet. Turns out, he didn’t agree. And proceeded to sleep with another girl. Needless to say, I did NOT take it well. Flash forward 6 years. Yes, it took 6 years. I happen to be in town visiting my parents and run into said guy at the local Walmart. I can only consider it a win that I was at my slimmest, looking amazing, and he looked like he had a very bad reaction to peanuts or shellfish. I had just gotten a job as a video game developer, a career he had talked about maybe wanting to do one day, but instead, he worked at Best Buy, for the Geek Squad. I was married to a great guy. I was happy and content, and totally didn’t care about this guy, or anything that had happened anymore. And he did. Oh you could see it in his mouth, tight around the corners, the muscle that clenched in his jaw, the narrowing of his eyes. I don’t know if he felt bad or if he suddenly wished he hadn’t done the thing he did, but, at the very least, he was jealous right then. His jealousy made me feel good, but I didn’t care. I had my revenge,  but it didn’t matter to me anymore.

I think about this often, not because of the idea of getting my revenge, but rather the realization that it didn’t matter. Now when I get that horrid betrayed or hurt feeling, I remember that feeling of not caring. Yes, it’s a big deal now, but in time, I will see it objectively as a learning experience. And I will be a better person for it.

Organization renders any goal possible.

Wow, that’s weird statement, but wildly accurate. Trying to find a job? Get organized. Money problems, organize everything and budget yourself down to your last penny. Everything in life can be organized, sorted, and researched into submission. If nothing else, at least you will know everything about what is going on so you can make good decisions.

Don’t be a dick. Also known as Wheaton’s Law.

Seriously. I know it’s hard. I know it can be hard to keep your mouth shut. I fight with it all the time. And I fail more often than not. But this is truth. You never know when that person is going to be able to help you later. Also, it generally makes you a more well liked person.

Do your job well, even if, and especially if, you hate it.

Minimum wage jobs are the suckiest thing ever. Soul crushing jobs are called that for a reason. But that doesn’t mean you should goof off and not do your job well.

Why? Because at the very least, at the end of the day, you can go home happy knowing that you did a good job. Make that your mantra. Today, I did good work.

Also, I have found through person experience that doing your job well, gets you noticed, gets you promoted, and gets you into a better position.

Do not, under any circumstances let fear keep you in a bad place.

Abysmal job that you hate getting you down but you can’t quit because you can’t pay the bills? Horrid bosses who are known backstabbers? Terrible relationships that you cling to because the thought to being alone is that much worse?

Don’t do it. Trust me. Life is hella short. Find another job, make it priority one. Shed the mate you have and find another one and work at making it work. Be yourself and be honest. Always. If you give into fear, and stay in a bad situation even when you are wildly unhappy, nothing is going to get better. Make changes to make things better. It is possible to be poor and happy as well as alone and happy. If you aren’t sure you are in a bad place, ask for advice, others will know better than you.

Courage is a hard thing to muster, but there is a reason it is something that gets you noticed. I once worked at Toys R Us. I was in a good position with good pay. But I watched my great job turn into a hellish experience over the course of two months when a new manager came in. I went to Borders that night, applied for and interviewed for a job, got it, and accepted it all in one night. The next morning I started at Borders, when I should have been at TRU. I walked over on my lunch break and quit, essentially telling my old boss to take a long walk off a short dock. I took a $4 per hour pay cut. I had to get up 3 hours earlier than I was used to (I hate mornings). But the simple change of cultures from one of fear, aggression and hurt, to one of calm, intelligence and mild craziness, made all the difference. Yeah, I was broke all the time, but the quality of my life was immeasurably better.

A note of warning, be sure what you consider is a “bad place” isn’t something  you can change or work with. Personal relationships can have bad moments, that is not a reason to get a new spouse or so. But that is a reason to check and work with them at being better.

Anger is a habit, as is joy.

Ever met one of those annoyingly upbeat and happy people? Ever wonder why they are annoyingly happy and upbeat? It’s not because everything is perfect. No one is perfect. No one’s life is perfect. It means that they are so used to looking on the bright side of life that they can’t see the other. They notice the good things first. We fall into habits, and our moods are as much a habit as anything else. Work at being in a good mood, and you will find yourself, more often than not, being in a good mood.

To thine own self be true.

It’s cliche and trite. That doesn’t make it any less true.

Don’t ever try to be someone you are not. Accept yourself, your flaws, your awesomeness, and work with what you have. I spent so many years trying to fit a mold I wasn’t made to be. I fought against my true self every step of the way. Until finally, I was just too tried to keep trying. So I stopped. Shock upon shocks, people still liked me, without pretending. I was awesome, without trying to fit my icosahedron in a square hole. The very minute I got over this, the better I felt. And each day it was better, because I was me.

There is probably more, but these are all good things to remember as you try to make it through life.

L.A. Noire – How it is a poison apple.

I haven’t played L.A. Noire myself. But I did sit and watch my husband play it. As a fan of Law and Order, CSI, and NCIS, I could not contain my excitement for this game. It was huge, ambitious, and most of all, had tons of recognizable actors to fill the roles of the people in the game. The game had some fairly serious flaws (who puts the climax at the end of the second chapter?) but those could be overlooked. It was a fun and interesting game.

But now, having read this, I wish I had never allowed my husband to buy it, and I wish I had never seen it played. Why? Because if L.A. Noire succeeds, then it continues to support and exceptionally BAD management style. (And clearly a very bad manager.) The game industry needs to break away from the lone programmer in his basement, pounding out a game in a weekend mentality. Unfortunately, if the game does well, all bad decisions are forgiven, and the perpetrator is allowed to go on to another project, with a new team, and make other lives hell.

First off, I really want to reach through the internet and smack this lead guy. So I am just going to pick apart the crap they quote him on.

“It’s my game. I can go to anyone I want in the team and say, ‘I want it changed’.”

The smallest game I worked on had about 25 people on it. The largest over 100. The minute a second designer has been added to the game, it is no longer “your” game. You can’t make L. A. Noire alone, and it is as much their game as it is yours. Especially when people are pouring their lives into getting it made. This doesn’t provide the “idiot idea” filter that the leads of a game are there for. By running everything through leads, there is a vetting process for time spent. Is an idea really good enough to improve a game? Can it be done in a reasonable amount of time? Is the gameplay improvement worth the time spent implementing and maintaining it? Most of all, it is a sanity check. It should prevent things like Duke Nukem Forever, provided you have a good studio head and good leads.

Crunch – “If you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you’d be in another business,” said McNamara, citing routine hours from 9am to 8pm – “whatever days it takes” – with frequent travel and 4am calls with the New York-based publisher. “We all work the same hours,” he told us. “People don’t work any longer hours than I do. I don’t turn up at 9am and go home at 5pm, and go to the beach. I’m here at the same hours as everybody else is.”

This is EXACTLY the kind of mentality that lead to the EA Spouse debacle. First off you have employers who think it is okay to ask their employees to work these hours. Second you have employees who are so fearful of losing their jobs they will allow themselves to be exploited. Third you have exceptionally short sighted thinking the anything gets done any faster when all the employees are rapidly burning out.

I once had to crunch two straight months on a game. There was literally a point where someone said something to me about what I was doing on Thursday and I could not tell them. Not only because the days had blurred together, but also because I couldn’t even have told them what day TODAY was, much less when Thursday was coming around again. Why did I crunch like that? Well, mostly because I liked the job, I liked the game, and I liked the people I worked with. It was fun for me. But I also knew we had a hard line, set in stone, release date. We had to ship that day, regardless of where the game was. Honestly, by the time we reached the second month I was working at most 75% of my previous “skill level”. By the end, I couldn’t make a change without going to another designer and getting them to double check I wasn’t screwing things up. As people burn out, they get sloppier. They stop making good decisions. They stop fixing things in the correct way. They stop working at good productivity. At that point, it’s like trying to run a marathon with a thorn in your foot. Yes, not stopping will keep you ahead, but you will move slower than if you simply took the time to stop, pull the thorn out and bandage up your foot, then return to the race.

The thing that most stuck me about my experience with crunch was that everyone, from the studio head to the newest artist, we all knew that our crunch was a result of poor planning. Everyone was willing to admit it. They knew they took too long on the tools. They knew they hired people too late. They knew they promised more than they could deliver. Did that make it right? No. But It certainly made everyone feel better about it to hear the leads say “Yeah, we screwed up, but no use crying over it now, remember it, move on, and let’s get this thing shipped.”

He even goes on to say “The expectation is slightly weird here, that you can do this stuff without killing yourself; well, you can’t, whether it’s in London or New York or wherever; you’re competing against the best people in the world at what they do, and you just have to be prepared to do what you have to do to compete against those people.”

Unbelievable. All it takes is organization, planning, proper scoping, and good leads. I am currently on a triple A product where my crunch days are still in the low teens after a YEAR and multiple milestones. And even then, it was my own choice, not the company telling me to, just to get thing done faster that I wanted done already. But then we have good leads, good producers, and the ability to say to our publisher “Okay, we can do this well or we can do this fast, we can’t do both.” They chose the well option.

It is also implied in the article that they hired young people to do the work, and then just churned through young cheap labor that was willing to do the work, just because they wanted it so bad. The problem with this is that you have wildly inexperienced people making decisions on your multi-million dollar game. That’s gonna turn out well.

All in all this article shows that despite this game’s success it was poorly managed, and a result of extremely bad business practices. We shouldn’t as developers be supporting this kind of management. Games made like this, that still succeed, leads managers into thinking that they can do this kind of thing and make money. True justice would have the game failing, miserably, to show that unless you take care of your employees, listen to your talent, and strengthen your studio, you are just setting yourself up for failure. True, there can be flukes, but for the most part, I would expect this to kill a studio.

It’s okay to be Takei

It’s things like this that make me wish I had grown up anywhere else. I grew up in TN. I went to school for 16 years in TN. As a very young kid my mother stressed to me “Never talk about religion and politics.” I was in 6th grade or so before I really understood. Like many other kids at the time, I was beginning to discover the world at large, picking up on fads, and really beginning to think as my own person. It was during a time when the Ying and Yang symbol became a popular “meme” though that terminology wasn’t used at the time. I bought a little Ying and Yang ring and wore it all the time. A woman at my church, well meaning I hope, lectured me about wearing a “sign of the devil”. When I said it was something about “Chinese religion” (yes, I am aware of how WOEFULLY unknowing I was) she replied that the devil used it that way to trick people into believing in him and all other religions were just his way of keeping people from God.

Seriously. I am not even kidding. Here I am, 12 years old, and THIS is the kind of thing I was being told by a “trustworthy” source. She was an elder of our church. She was my Sunday School Teacher. And she was not above giving me completely inaccurate information to support her own beliefs. The ends justifying the means and all that. Lucky for me, at 12, I had already realized that there were some adults in my life who weren’t as smart as me. So I did what every nerd does when confronted with conflicting information. I looked it up in the encyclopedia. (The equivalent to checking Wikipedia these days I suppose.)

All this leads to the deep and oppressive belief for some people that they are right, everyone else is wrong, and their complete certainty supports even the most heinous of acts, because the other person was wrong. These “well meaning” people are really just self centered, close-minded bigots who want control over everyone else. Sadly this mentality seems to be pervasive in the South. Maybe it is the excess of religion. Maybe it is the excess of poverty. Regardless, it is bothersome.

There is a mountain of evidence that supports that homosexuality is not a choice. (Yes, I linked the wiki article, you can see the references at the bottom of the article.) If the person is over the age of 18, it’s none of our business who they have sex with or even who they marry. How backwards is TN that there homosexuals are having to fight for the ability to TALK about themselves while in other states they are fighting for the right to marry? Stop this! It’s discrimination! All men are created equal! Regardless of whether they like men or women.

What makes this so much worse is that it is targeting kids. Sort of. My point is that here you have adolescents, growing and learning how to be people, and the State Senate is withholding information from them that might be vitally important. I was in 3rd grade when I first kissed a boy. I was in 4th grade when I first kissed a girl. I knew immediately afterward that I liked boys. It was that simple for me. But what if it wasn’t? I don’t think I ever told my mom I kissed anyone, but I know I talked to friends, and I remember talking to a teacher about it. Kids need to have people they can trust, with experience to either help them through their problems, or at the very least find someone who can help them through their problems. School sucks on so many levels. You are learning a ton of information. You are beginning to build relationships outside your family. You are beginning to worry about college, careers, and even becoming aware of the world and all the problems in it. Add to this the hormones, first periods (the male equivalent?), discovering the other sex, bullying, possible family problems, and sheer awareness and you have for someone of the most traumatic years of someone’s life!

So what is a kid supposed to do during this time to come out relatively unscathed? TALK. Oh that’s right. Talk to parents, talk to teachers, talk to guidance counselors. Talk to people they trust. Talk to people with experience who can guide them a bit. And in TN they are trying to take that safety net AWAY. Do I think it should be talked about every day in every class? No, but then I don’t think sex and violence should be either. But I am not the teacher. I am not the parent. I am not the one on the front line having to help a kid deal with their budding sexuality or help a class understand why Suzy has two mommies. Neither are these Senators. They need to educate their teachers, counselors, and administration on how to handle these situations with tact, wisdom, and grace, not make a legal argument that could land a helpful teacher in jail!

I never really thought much about George Takei before. I liked Star Trek, but I was always more of a Spock girl. When he saw the news on this, his first response was to offer up his own name as a replacement. It’s okay to be Takei. Instead of being gay, you can just be Takei. At this moment, I was not only suddenly a Takei fan, but I was also thrilled that someone with the public eye like him was willing to stand up and say, this isn’t right, and is in fact incredibly stupid, we will just circumvent your idiot law.

Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen or kids aren’t going to be gay. We never talked about it in my school, and yet three of my classmates are now openly homosexual, one of which is fighting for the right to get married. It’s going to happen. Teachers need to be prepared, not ignoring the elephant in the room. Who says “Ohhhhh myyyyyyy.”

The Best Job you will ever Hate.

“Don’t come here if you think making games might be fun or cool. Don’t waste your time and money. Only apply if you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.”

I learned Level Design at the Guildhall at SMU, a Master’s level program that focused on training and practical experience. The same professor who said the above, at the risk of having admissions kill him, also said that working on games was the “best job you’ll ever hate.” It is such an odd thing to say, but it was true. It’s the best job, and sometimes I hate it.

Spending 80 hour work weeks for 2 months only to have it universally panned by critics in addition to getting laid off?

Having to work on games like Imagine <Insert Random Profession Here>?

Knowing something is a terrible idea and having to do it anyway because the Publisher said so?

There is a reason the average burn out for developers is around 8 years. Spending more than 2 years at a single studio is uncommon. The average lifespan of a video game studio is 11 years.

It is common for developers to work 60-80 hours a week near the end of the project, to get it wrapped up and shipped.  The sad thing is, for most independent game studios the sales of the previous game go directly to fund the next one. If the game bombs, the studio could, and likely will, have problems getting deals with publishers to make their next game. For an owned studio, if the game bombs, they will likely be working on a less important title next, which won’t do as well, which starts the vicious cycle towards closure.

The business is about making money, so when a game doesn’t make money, it doesn’t get sequels. Why do some games get endlessly remade with only the smallest of changes? They make money. And as a game developer, you rarely get to just work on games you would love, but rather, because you need a job, so you work on Barbie’s Dream House Interior Decorating to pay the bills.

This video is true. People watch it, laugh and say, it can’t be that hard. It can’t be that bad. Oh but it is.

Breaking into the industry is extremely difficult. Staying in the industry is a feat worthy of Sisyphus. Becoming one of the big names is virtually impossible. You don’t get paid as well as you would in another field. You work twice as hard for half the credit. And the greater internet dickwads blast your game and call it crap without ever having played it. So either everyone in the video game is insane or extremely passionate about what they do, despite the many hardships they have to deal with to make games.

Gender in Video Games

When asked to discuss this topic, I generally gravitate towards Women in the Game Industry, as opposed to Women Gamers. Today I did an interview for an article on gender and how it relates to women gamers, touching on the assault behavior towards women. It’s a complex topic. So too is women gamers and women developers, but in my mind, they are all interconnected and form a cycle.

The Mythical Unicorn

Any female gamer can tell a story of at some point where being a girl who plays games has attracted the wrong sort of attention. The belief in the rarity of women who play and enjoy mainstream video games perpetuates this myth and the responses. Start with a lonely guy that seems to be unable to find a girl who understands him. He likes books, movies, and video games. He meets a girl he thinks is cute, asks her out, and discovers that she couldn’t care less about these things that make up a majority of his passions and hobbies. She cares about clothes, shoes, celebrities, and makeup. Poor guy. Now he meets the one girl in his sphere of acquaintances that does like the things he does. She plays video games, she argues who is better Picard or Kirk, and she, miracles of miracles, revels in HIS knowledge of such topics. Queue the love at first geek scene. And suddenly this girl possibly has a problem. For some reason, lack of attraction, already taken, etc, she doesn’t want to date Lonely Guy. He tries to ply her with gifts, but despite the prevalent belief that women can be bought, it doesn’t work.

What is she to do? Break his heart? Be mean? Try to be nice, but knowing it is going to be awkward and likely will just “string” him along? It sucks for the girl. All she wanted was a friend to argue lore with! And unfortunately the skew of males to females makes this an incredibly common occurrence. Because of this women are more likely to attempt to hide their identity. By hiding their identity the problem is exacerbated and female gamers appear to be more rare than they really are.

We are not a mythical unicorn. Attend PAX Prime or PAX East and this will completely dismiss the belief that gamer women are rare. There are plenty of us running around. We just don’t like to tell people because they get stupid over it. Once I decided I would no longer hide my female status from WoW friends, I discovered something very surprising. Not only did “outing” myself lead to other girls being willing to do the same thing (it was quite a shocking day) but also we were able to develop friendships through our common trials and tribulations. According to various websites, though their numbers are speculative and not backed by Blizzard, it is believed that 1 in 5 WoW players is female. That’s alot of girls running around Azeroth.

The Greater Internet Dickwad Theory

Once people get on the internet, realize they are anonymous, they suddenly become a different person. Much like the Invisible Man changed radically when he realized he would no longer be punishable for his actions, so too do people on the internet believe they can say whatever without repercussion. This leads to XBox Live speak, Trolls, and all other number of wildly offensive things being said over public channels that would *never* be said to someone’s face.

Because of this truth, women often find themselves at the receiving end of extremely offensive behavior. I once had a guy in WoW tell me “Shut up b*tch. I will find you and I will rape you.” I recoiled in horror from my computer. It didn’t matter that this person had no idea who I was. It didn’t matter that I knew he had no way of actually hurting me. The fact that he would even physically be able to type that to a possible woman was appalling to me. I reported him, ignored him, and immediately left the guild (who’s leader responded with “well that’s just the way he is”).

For the most part however, I see these things as a new form of saber rattling, boasting, or puffery. It is a way for them to swing about their manliness. And just like in real life, I can be bothered by it, or I can ignore it. In WoW I generally ignore it and the player depending on what they say. On other sites I protect myself by having over protective security settings.

A Woman in a Man’s Field

Of course, my view of these social interactions is viewed from the eyes of a game designer. I work in a predominantly male industry. The last figure I read was 13% of the video game industry is female. This has been mathematically accurate, or lower, at every company I have worked at. Other than Guildhall women, of whom there are many, I have only met TWO other women designers in the industry. I spend most of my time with males.

The thing that always gets people is how much different I think than other designers, and they have problems realizing that most of my variant viewpoint comes from being a girl. It is different on this side of the fence. It gives me a different lens through which to look at games.

In my current game, we have a small number of female characters. I began attributing female characteristics and names to a few of the androgynous characters in an attempt to “pad” the number. Very soon after I noticed the guys followed my lead. Without a word they were willing to accept these characters as female, despite never having thought so before. When I pointed it out to a senior designer, he laughed and asked what did it matter? I pointed out the large difference in the number of female characters to male and he looked quite surprised. It never even occurred to him to think about equality in terms of sex among the characters. Needless to say, he even agreed it should be more balanced and made a point to start “female-izing” the androgynous characters.

Add to this the fact that at many of these companies I get to have “the talk” when I start working there. As if I haven’t been dealing with unwanted attention from guys for half my life. As if I don’t understand that if things get even remotely awkward I need to run, not walk, to my supervisor and nip it in the bud. As if I haven’t already had to have the conversation once where I was pressed on why I missed work and turned bright red as I explained menstrual cramps to a male. In fact it has become a rather large warning sign when I start at a new company only to find that they have a 3 hour presentation to go through about this sort of thing. Great, I can expect this to be a problem. (As a side note, there was no such talk at my current company and it was all I could do not to caper with glee.)

One step further, having to work on a game that has a woman in a metal bikini. People think it’s odd when I sigh at games that only include the mother, maiden, crone archetypes. Or the groan inducing things like in Uncharted 2 where every woman in the entire game is after Drake like he is coated in sex pheromones. They say, “But you play video games, you should be used to it. If you don’t like it, don’t make games with it in there.” I like having a job. I also like making games. You don’t always get to chose the projects you work on. It also confuses the guys I work with when I say, “Why can’t she be more like Lara Croft and less like Daphne (the princess/hooker from Dragon’s Lair)?” They immediately respond with “Lara Croft is exactly the stereotype you complain about!” A strong, brave, adventurous female that doesn’t spend her time chasing men but rather chasing history? Make her boobs as big as you want, she’s still awesome. And she is capable of having a relationship with a male that doesn’t assume sex.

The Cycle

The problem with all of these things is that they form a negative feedback loop. Women don’t play games because the traditional response of how to make a game for girls is “Pink it.” Women then don’t become game designers because they don’t play games, so it isn’t a career field they want to get into. Women aren’t the ones designing games, and so games don’t get made with women in mind as a valid market.

Add in that women and men view fun differently, seek different forms of enjoyment, and create different goals in games and the fact that it is hard for a guy to understand why his game idea didn’t appeal to women becomes very clear. There are not enough female protagonists in games. EA proved that games with female protagonists didn’t sell as well as games with male protagonists. I was stunned by their lack of ability to see that if you only have 20 games with female protagonists and 200 games with male protagonists, then it should be obvious that the male protagonists have had more chances to be in good games that sell well. Not to mention a female protagonist isn’t going to help if the game isn’t fun to women. They are still targeting a male audience and it is easier to connect with a protagonist of the same gender.

Why do MMOs have a better balance of men to women than other games like Call of Duty? Does it have anything to do with the ease of entry into MMOs? Or the ability to customize your character? That the design supports more cooperative play as opposed to competitive play? That MMOs are more social in a positive way than CoD? Or is it simply that the initial induction into an MMO, like WoW, is usually a hand holding one by a significant other, and this play style is supported, as opposed to CoD where it is a huge liability to play is such a manner?

I am a girl. I play games to the point I more than consider myself a gamer. I design games as a career, with the hope of making an enjoyable experience for everyone who plays my game, not just the target audience. I prefer to play a game I can take at my own pace. I prefer to play a game where I can play a female. Does this make me any different from any other gamer? Not really. Do I get treated differently because of the accident of my birth and my love for things outside of my social norm? Definitely. Should I, and do I want to be? Not at all.

The gender gap is closing. The social mores are shifting and games are slowly becoming mainstream. Every day some kid is turning 18 after a childhood of playing games and they aren’t chucking their Xbox just because they are an adult now. Every day another gamer family has kids or gets pregnant and plans how to raise their kid in the tradition of games. These issues will pass after time. And it will get better. After all, every year I have been in the industry, that percentage of female developers has gone up.