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Media Molecule head: ‘It takes women working on games for games to change.’

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 05:43 GMT By Phil Owen

Speaking with BBC Radio 4, Media Molecule studio director Siobhan Reddy made an interesting comment in response to the ongoing discussion about how games are “representing our female audience.” “It takes women working on games for games to change,” she said.


Here’s the thrust of her comments, which will be familiar to most of us.

“There are some sad statistics which are that by the time girls are in Year 8 they’ve been put off working in tech or in games, whether in the home or by a teacher or by friends,” Reddy said. “We really need to be looking at how we can encourage women to see games as an exciting industry… We have very few creative directors who are women. We have a lot of women within the industry who run studios and pack a mean punch, you know — the influence of women within the industry is pretty great — but we need to see that on the game design and programming side as well.”

Yep, having more women making creative decisions would be a positive step. Men being less dickish might also help.

via Gamasutra

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28 Comments

  1. SlayerGT

    Obviously. Why would a man create a game around a woman only to be told “you’re doing it wrong”. If I were making games, being a male, I wouldn’t cast females as leads either…because I don’t fucking understand them creatures at all.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. gomersoul

    I’m so sick of this sexist bullshit, why do women think its ok to tar men with the same brush? there aren’t many women in this industry because they choose not to, that doesn’t mean games are worse for it. my wife doesn’t like action movies but does that mean they’re shit? hell fucking no. sex has no bearing on creativity, stop making it an issue when it isn’t

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Tyrantsoul

    The odd thing is though is that if a female character is wearing next to nothing then that’s sexist,If a man is just wearing trunks I.E any WWE game,Golden Axe,Tekken and more then that’s perfectly fine.

    I’m pretty sure if someone approaches a dev with a great idea that will sell then that dev would hire the person on that strength alone.It seems to me that most women have tarred the gaming industry with a broad stroke of the same brush.A real shame yes,but you can’t blame the industry

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Cort

    Sexist claptrap. Can someone tell Ms Reddy this is 2013, not 1963, and the gender wars are over.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Lengendaryboss

    Seriously?

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Un-HolyMOTHERofGOD

    “…by the time girls are in Year 8 they’ve been put off working in tech or in games, whether in the home or by a teacher or by friends”, why does it have to be some outside influence that makes these girls not choose a career in tech? Could it be that these girls just are not interested in the tech industry? Is that at all a goddamn possibility?

    I mean, is it possible that it just happens to be that there are more boys interested in tech than girls? Could that be a reason why we see more males than females in this business? And why is that a bad thing. We will always have industries that have more members of one gender than the other. Is it even possible to have all industries in the world have an equal male/female ratio?

    “…the influence of women within the industry is pretty great”, I also think the influence of men within the industry is pretty great! I think men have influenced some amazing things, such as great games, characters, and technologies. But we’re not allowed to admit that because it would be sexist.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. ps3fanboy

    okay miss Siobhan Reddy, i have one requests. will you please remove that woman that is doing the bug fixing for the lbp2?… she have been ruin update after update for a long time now. it have gone so far that it have ruined lbp2 as a great game experience. so if this is the ‘change’ you talk about, it is not going in the right direction…. and no, slippers with bunny ears as dlc for the sack person, dont make up for all the crappy updates. act now and set a person or persons that know what they are doing when coding. also don’t forget proper bug tests before release.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. wildBoar

    KOTAKU? Really Dave? Really? Correlation equals causation I guess. It’s good that you’re so eager to support the ladies, but we’ve got sexism and assholes in all industries.
    It’s only shit-sites like Kotaku that’re so eager to reinforce outdated stereotypes in their sensationalist shit-for-brains articles, just for clicks.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @8 Woah what? Why am I being brought into this? I didn’t write this article :/

    #9 2 years ago
  10. salarta

    I used to think that it takes women making games starring female protagonists for things to change in the industry, but because of the new Tomb Raider, my opinion has changed. I now think that both sexes are just as capable, and in fact that it may be better for men to write female characters with women consulting on if something is appropriate or inappropriate.

    Most, but not all, games that treat female characters poorly have been because of men. They’re men that exist in a vacuum of feedback from women. Those men created or remade female protagonists based on a stereotypical image they have of women, in which those women are inferior to men, highly sexualized, excessively emotional. By contrast, the men they create tend to be tough, brave, not sexualized at all, and may show emotion but certainly don’t have that showing of emotion spun in a way that makes them look weak and fragile.

    However, a decade ago we had strong female protagonists people could admire that were made by men. Lara Croft, Aya Brea, Samus Aran, Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield. These characters became memorable and popular for men and women alike, admired and respected just as much as the men if not moreso. And contrary to what many people like to tell themselves and others, it wasn’t the size of their tits that got them recognition. It was their toughness, strength, courage, skill. The writing may not have been stellar, but we still had tough, admirable women.

    So here’s what I realized thanks to recent games: men know what will make men respect women. Men know that merely showing tits won’t do that because it reduces the women to the summation of their bodies. Men also know that making women look weak and pathetic won’t get them to think of women as equals; it’ll only make them think of women as something for them as men and as the player to protect, full grown adult female characters made to look like womanchildren.

    I don’t think women have an eye to this. I think women have no idea what it takes for men to admire and respect women, and to an extent, I think some women literally do not care what men think of their sex. I think many will just create something that appeals to them personally, either as an individual or as a woman, with absolutely zero regard to how the opposite sex will view it.

    But, that’s the wrong way to go. The industry is dominated by men. The attitude within the industry has become more toxic toward women in the past decade, and this generation’s depiction of women aside from Chell from Portal (and to an extent Nilin from Remember Me, compared to everything else out there) hasn’t done women any favors on the front of men respecting them.

    Women aren’t going to want to enter a hostile work environment, any more than a man would. To change that hostile work environment, we need to change the way men think about women. To change the way men think about women, we need someone that knows what would and would not make men admire and respect a woman as an equal, someone just as capable as they are and not a piece of ass to ogle, play with or talk down to. In essence, to make a good female character, you need men involved in her creation and depiction. Otherwise, what we’ll get are characters with qualities that might work for women but fail to change the minds of men, the sex that has most of the power in the industry right now.

    @4: If you want to lie to her, then go ahead and tell her yourself!

    #10 2 years ago
  11. YoungZer0

    @9: Oh yeah? Well … it’s still your fault, you’re a man after all! :P

    Seriously I’m getting really sick of all that talk. Why do so many people AUTOMATICALLY assume that when there is an industry full of men it’s simply sexist from the get go. That’s obviously not the fucking case, since we have events like the famous Dongle Gate scandal where a guy lost his fucking job for making a dick joke.

    Feminists and their thought-police bullshit.

    Men are more careful with sexism because they have too. They could lose their fucking job for basically anything. Women don’t have that, which is why I experienced the worst kind of sexism at work from women. Not just misandry, but misogyny as well.

    Also people seem to think that if women in videogames are over-sexualized it’s because the developer is sexist. Uh-uh, take it from someone who was told by his female superiors to make the ad about pregnant women more sexy.

    What’s more sexy then an ad about dying pregnant women?

    It’s lazy but that’s it.

    “There are some sad statistics which are that by the time girls are in Year 8 they’ve been put off working in tech or in games, whether in the home or by a teacher or by friends”

    Okay, hands up, how many of you have heard from friends, family or teacher that you shouldn’t do the job you’re currently doing? I have at least 5 people from my own family on that list. If it’s so easy to convince you not to pursue something, then maybe you weren’t interested in it in the first place. Stop playing the blame game here.

    There’s only so much you can blame the others for until you realize you are the one holding you back.

    Women have all the freedom in western society and what do they study most? Social stuff.

    Which is cool and all, but at the end of the day, you won’t get a real job from women’s studies.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. deathm00n

    @10 +100 Amazing comment.

    Not a lot of time to write now, but I will just add to you comment, I think Naughty Dog did an amazing job with their female characters in The Last of Us in that regard. Tess, Marlene and Ellie are amazing strong women that aren’t sexualized at all, they are the greatest example at how a women can be shown in a game, in my opinion at least.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Lengendaryboss

    @12
    Only three women (4 in total) in that world. Multiplayer is a different story.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. deathm00n

    @13 Yeah I know, but still above the average of what is out there.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. silkvg247

    @11 It’s clear that you can’t separate freedom of choice from society’s expectations and gender stereotypes.

    Yeah, a woman is free to do whatever, just like a dude is. But thanks to the pressures and ideals of our society, a woman trying to get into games dev is going to face similar challenges to a dude who wants to be a ballerina. It’s just not a regular choice for a girl, she’ll get funny looks and challenges that really shouldn’t be there. Ditto for the dude.

    In an ideal world we’d all be brought up with a book full of blank pages for us to fill in ourselves rather than the usual “blue, sports, guns” vs “pink, soaps, dolls” crap shoved into the face of each child, generation after generation.

    I think sexual discrimination and stereotypes apply to both genders and I’m really quite sick of seeing it. I don’t know how you can act like it doesn’t exist when it’s everywhere – if you open yer eyes.

    Put it this way, I was apparently a tomboy and weird and not normal, because I liked he-man and computers growing up. If I’m made to feel weird is it really going to encourage me to branch into those areas as a career as I get older?

    And don’t even get me started on how some certain ethnic groups who live here in England right now seem to think a woman should only be a house wife and bear children. I lost count of the Bradford taxi drivers who almost shat a brick upon finding out I wasn’t married or having kids and worked full time in IT. It was completely alien to them. Have to say women are treat pretty badly in a lot of the world, despite where you or I live.. and it’s quite ignorant to ignore that fact in any of these kinds of topics.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Lengendaryboss

    I for some reason don’t like where this is going… :?

    #16 2 years ago
  17. salarta

    @12: Thanks.

    You know, Tess nearly got me to buy The Last Of Us. I was completely indifferent to the game, then Dave posted a picture of her and that piqued my interest. I ultimately decided to refrain from The Last Of Us for a reason that is fairly petty, but just as valid as the people that led me to that decision: people trying to act like Ellen Page doesn’t have a right to her public image or good reason to worry about what happens to it.

    Ellen Page had expressed her frustration and concern that Ellie from The Last Of Us looked like her. People responded by saying all sorts of idiotic things to denounce her worries, like saying the same thing happening to a random non-celebrity is in any way comparable, or accusing her of complaining as some kind of ploy to get money or attention. They were purposely ignoring the fact that whether Ellie looks too much like Ellen or she’s fine, Ellen Page has legitimate cause for concern since her likeness is part of her career and identity as a known celebrity, and that misuse of it could ruin both her career and her life by people thinking she participated in or supported the product using her likeness.

    It was obvious that the people leaving such comments didn’t even try to understand where Ellen Page was coming from. They liked and looked forward to The Last Of Us, and anything that threatened their precious fandom, even legitimate problems with the game or how it was made, had to be smeared and diminished.

    I basically responded to pettiness with pettiness, and I did so because the behavior of those people is all part of a trend this generation where selfishness takes precedence over quality and good behavior on all levels of the industry.

    Consumers will give companies like Gearbox a pass for embezzling money from Sega for Borderlands 2 and not paying 3D Realms royalties for Duke Nukem because they enjoyed Borderlands 2 so much, but Precursor Games can’t get Shadow of the Eternals off the ground solely because Dyack, after having already lost his company and put in a lower position, is employed at the company, which is a complaint almost entirely based around “X-Men: Destiny and Too Human sucked.” Developers happily talk about how characters like Dante and Lara Croft sucked in their original games, games that apparently became popular franchises thanks to dark deals with Satan given how they supposedly had no redeeming qualities that should have made them worthy of purchase, selfishly retooling the characters to fit their personal desires and interests. And companies like Capcom will just flat out fuck with consumers out of selfish greed, considering things like making fans pay for demos to “prove” they want a game, and blaming the fans themselves for projects they want not getting made.

    This became a longer rant than I intended, but I think that’s just because I care a lot about these things. The industry was better off ten years ago, and all the promise it had is slowly being squandered on trying to be a mix of the comic book industry at its height in the early 90s (look where that took comic books themselves) and modern Hollywood (look where Hollywood has been and is headed in terms of intellectual and artistic merit or even the most basic of quality).

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Lengendaryboss

    @17
    So you responded by fighting fire with fire and not picking up TLOU because of others offense comments towards a celebrity which offended her.

    So you will indirectly be petty towards the people who didn’t make those comments (Naughty Dog+SCE) just to spite those that did (internet strangers).

    Hope you can explain the moral of that for me, because i don’t let something so “petty” prevent me from getting a game.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. YoungZer0

    @15: I know societies expectations can be a pain in the ass. I’d love wearing a skirt without having to be from scotland.

    I really don’t understand why it’s something only women should be able to wear, it’s much healthier for men, really. The balls won’t get squashed, the cold air is good for the sperm and it’s comfortable.

    But I digress.

    If you let society pull you down, you will lose. I don’t want to be 60 years old, look back at everything I did and regret most of it. You wasted your time doing stuff that you hate and it won’t matter who is to blame, you didn’t do what you wanted to do.

    The only way to show the society how it’s done is by fucking doing it! Not by complaining on tumblr.

    “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – (Not) Ghandi

    Do that!

    When people look funny at you because you’re not one of those cutesy-tutesy, pinky-winky, mouth breathing morons, don’t take it as an insult. Take it as a compliment, wear it like a badge of honor. Despite all the bullshit and all the negativity you experienced, you pulled through and there’s nothing and nobody that can take that from you.

    That knowledge alone should give you strength.

    All you have to do now is show other people that it’s worth it.

    “And don’t even get me started on how some certain ethnic groups who live here in England right now seem to think a woman should only be a house wife and bear children.”

    Probably the same people who think that the man has to be the breadwinner and break his back working day-in day-out just to support his family? The same guy who can lose everything once the “D-Word” falls?

    Sexism is never-ever a one-way street and both men and women are heavily involved.

    I know it exists, I just rather look at the actual facts and at both perspectives. Sexism always applies differently to both genders.

    Example: Women are being slut-shaming, Men are being virgin-shaming. A women that says no is confident, a man that says no is a homosexual/moron/virgin.

    It’s always ugly, but complaining won’t get it done, you have to lead by example.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Jasmino

    Okay, I just registered for the site to post this comment because the comments on this are infuriating.

    Reddy’s argument absolutely isn’t ‘all men are sexist, women need to join the games industry because all of the men who work in games ever are sexist and awful’, nor is her argument sexist against men.

    When you put a team of men in charge of a game, it’s likely that they’re going to create a game in which the protagonist is male. Is this sexist? No. Is it helpful? Not really. The men in development studios will likely put a man at the helm because that’s simply what they know.

    When people regard race, sexuality and gender as sensitive issues (which they absolutely should because people are always putting their foot in it), it helps to have teams that are made up of people just as diverse as the characters that they want to make.

    That’s why for years Lara Croft /was/ a fantastic, no nonsense and totally badass female character, but she was also reduced to comments about her bra size. Is this sexist? Yes, of course it is, and I doubt it would have gone on if there were more women on the team to point it out.

    And lastly, the games industry IS sexist. Not all parts of it, and probably not even a majority (and I’m not saying it’s any more or any less sexist than other industries, either). But until the level headed good guys who don’t talk about or treat women like they’re dirt manage to silence the sexist fuck nuts and/or kick them out of the club, women are going to be put off by entering the industry and rightly so.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. wildBoar

    @9 I don’t know what you meant by ” Men being less dickish might also help.” But it sounds like you’re buying into the stereotype that crap media has popularised that there’s so much blatant sexism in the industry.
    You hear about harassment and sexism all the time, in all industries, it’s just shrewd thinking from crap-sites like Kotaku to play off of prejudice and stereotypes to make a “groundbreaking” story.
    So much BS gaining traction, and the industry, and “gamers” alike getting a bad face as a result.

    I didn’t mean to be hostile, I just think it’s good not to reinforce the superficiality and sensationalist, brainddead upchuck “articles” Kotaku writes.
    They push the hot-button gender-related articles simply for clicks and controversy, they do it non-stop now, not caring at all how that reflects on the industry.

    It’s utterly manipulative sensationalist garbage all the way through, completely intentional. You’re free to link what you want ofcourse, but you’re propably more of a journalist than any of their “writers” will ever be, so you might as well write your own pieces.

    Seriously, FUCK KOTAKU.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. salarta

    @18: I never said my reaction is smart or reasonable. It’s very stupid, very unreasonable. But it’s also a perfect match for the behavior of those people. They let their fandom for a game dictate whether or not Ellen Page had a fair concern, instead of actually thinking about and judging the issue in a fair manner. I, in turn, let their fandom dictate for me that I shouldn’t bother with the game. It’s no loss for me; I was on the fence about it leaning toward purchase before their antics, I can go without it.

    There is no real moral here. People are saying and doing stupid things, so I’m doing something stupid too, only I’m admitting it’s stupid and it’s the opposite of what they’d want.

    Whether or not a person buys something is the only act that has meaning with this industry anymore. It’s the only thing left that holds value. Standards and ethics are essentially gone, because all that matters is if the consumer believes the games being made by a company are fun in their own selfish way.

    @20: What you point out with Lara Croft is essentially why I said that I believe it may even be best for a man to write female characters with women consulting on what’s appropriate. As I said, men know how men think, and that’s a double-edged sword. Lara Croft was originally conceived as a strong female character, but over time the sex angle started to take too much precedence. Men know what makes men more likely to respect women, but they also know the sleazier side. With an industry that’s predominantly male, the natural reaction is to appeal to the sleazier side, because it turns men on and they don’t have to think, only look. Unfortunately, this also results in idiots not looking past the surface, and often saying a character sucks just because they have been sexually exaggerated.

    Generally, both men and women are just as capable of writing a strong female protagonist. Jennifer Hale even said in interview, just take a male character, turn them female and there you go.

    But, I think women writing female characters is something spoiled at the moment. We have a history of women written by men. Over time, many of those women have been sexualized to get more men to buy their games. I think that history of sexualization makes female writers more likely to throw the baby out with the bathwater, toss the good (of having a naturally strong iconic female character) out with the bad (of making tits and ass more important than personality) and try to write something radically different from the past and appealing to themselves.

    What I want is the female characters we had ten years ago, only treated less like sex objects and more like the strong and capable characters they used to be. I want to see Aya Brea protecting men while fearlessly facing mitochondrial mutations. I want Lara Croft exploring tombs full of traps and wild animals in her cheeky, playful badass way. I want Samus Aran exploring planets, ruins, space stations, whatever without a single shudder or flinch, willing to get a job done that no man can.

    And to loop that back to this topic, I think once we get that back, we’ll have women treated better in the industry. Right now, we have women treated as inferiors because that’s what the industry sees of them: weaker, more emotional and scared, beholden to the men around them. Men? Put them in danger and they’ll do what needs to get done without a whine or whimper. Women? They need to nearly cry about everything that happens to them, they need to get permission from men to use their full abilities, they need to get beat up and abused a lot to want to fend for themselves. And that’s when the main focus isn’t on their sex appeal, like Bayonetta and Juliet Sterling.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Lengendaryboss

    @23
    Ok… as long as your happy with yourself, im fine with it.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. salarta

    @24: Cool, glad we agree on something. :)

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Jasmino

    @22 I think in an ideal world, all of the development teams would be gender split equally, so that you don’t run the risk of sexualising the female characters when it’s not necessary. Also so that the team will be able to make a character that appears to all genders rather than alienating one for sake of proving a point (or just for titillation).

    However, as most of the developers in the business are men, that’s the task that they have to fulfill (mostly) by themselves until they can prove that actually, yes, female characters do have a home in games and that they’d very much like some women to join them in helping that happen. But of course, E3 showed that we seem to be a long way off from that.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. bradk825

    @9 Yeah but read it didn’t you… DIDNT YOU! LOL.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. salarta

    @25: It’s sad to see because we had a superb showing of female characters just ten years ago. Admittedly maybe in some cases they weren’t treated as well as they could have been, but the fact that we had them and for the most part they weren’t treated like purely sex objects or overly emotional children with adult bodies says a lot about how much more advanced we used to be in terms of story and characterization. It’s also a little sad to see because I recently played Dragon’s Lair through Steam, and the princess was characterized in this really atrocious way… and yet I’d say the way women are depicted in games today is only a hair better.

    I agree that in an ideal world, development teams would be split equally gender-wise. Unfortunately, right now the industry is male-dominated, and it makes a strange mix of issues. Saying “just have a game made mainly by women” seems to not work as well in practice as it does in theory. In the best case scenario, a woman writes a female character, and the public of men interprets it in a way she was unable to consider since she’s not a man. In the worst case scenario, the company uses the fact a woman was involved in the creation process to get people to accept whatever they do to women in the game. In either case, suddenly you have a female character that past male writers had managed to make other men admire and respect, no longer respected as a strong and capable woman.

    When a character needs to be victimized or ordered by men to become strong against her base nature, especially if the game the character is in is presented like a horror film wannabe when any male character would have taken to the same scenario with pure unflinching badassery, she’s no longer a symbol of female strength. She’s a symbol of weakness, and of men being better than women at handling the hard stuff. And guys pick up on that. No matter what gets said by men in public discourse, even if they genuinely believe what they’re saying, subconsciously, it’s a very different story. What men see of female characters in games affects their perception of women. That perception shapes how they talk about and treat women in everyday life, especially within the industry itself.

    Female characters definitely have a home in video games, and so do female writers, directors, programmers, etc. It’s just that right now, that home is being depicted as one of inherent inferiority and subservience to men, and that’s not how it should be. Women should be considered badasses as much as men are, and they shouldn’t be depicted as needing to be forced into accepting a hostile environment that men can handle with ease.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Jasmino

    @27 A lot of the female characters now in some cases do seem to be a reaction to ‘we want more women in games!’ and so developers have gone about doing that but completely in the wrong way (for the most part).

    I think you’re absolutely right about it changing people’s perceptions on women. It’s a shame that any sector of society has to ‘prove their worth’ but that’s more or less how it and when you’re forced to play as a character whose experience you know nothing about of course you’re going to develop some kind of understanding of who they are and why their gender or race or whatever makes them so different.

    So yeah, real characters of both genders who are equally as strong and vulnerable, as created by diverse teams of more women and more minorities please, developers make it happen!

    #28 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Halo: The Master Chief Collection is still broken, believe it or not. The next Halo: The Master Chief Collection update is, like most of the others so far, designed to resolve the shooter collection’s ongoing matchmaking woes. 343 Industries is determined to get it right, apparently, as it’s gone so far as to elect to […]