You Play Like a Girl! -- But You Panel Even Worse

PAX East panelists discuss the issues women face in gaming.

On the last day of PAX, several women came together for the You Game like a Girl panel, which addresses issues women face in the gaming world.

Present were Stella Chuu, a cosplay model, Iris Explosion, sex educator, Anja Keister, with D20 Burlesque, Shoshana Kessock with Phoenix Outlaw Productions, and Susana Polo, managing editor with The Mary Sue.

Why I Decided to Completely Rewrite

As a professional writer, I try hard to give quality content that offers either information, humor, or insight to particularly hot-button issues. I attended this panel with the hope that these women would be able to offer alternatives to what they think is the "industry standard" for women in gaming. Sexy outfits, booth babes, tits or gtfo, etc. That simply didn't happen.

When I walked into this panel, the first thing they did was announce that each member of the panel was a lesbian--okay, that's cool. No problem there. I'd say it took about five minutes from the first person sitting down before the typical "feminazi" behaviors became apparent. It was a major disappointment. I gained nothing from sitting in this panel other than a massive headache from the bitching.

The panel was nothing but ranting and raving about women not needing male approval--which yes, I agree, but nothing else was offered. None of the women were able to give up insightful alternatives to changing the image in the industry or how to change the way women are treated.

If any of the panelists end up reading this article, understand that I am interested in this issue--but I am not interested in hearing you pointlessly whine about it. Come up with some great alternatives, and then hold a panel at PAX.



Editor's Note: This is simply the opinion of the writer and is in no way a reflection of the opinion of GameSkinny as a whole. It is also worthy to note that the writer is actually a woman who found the panel to be extreme man-bashing feminism (not to mention an enormous waste of time).

Former Staff Editor

whale biologist.

Published Jun. 14th 2013
  • Ste Grainer
    Featured Correspondent
    Looks like the short one worked, why not respond in a post if it's longer? :)
  • Joseph Rowe
    Featured Columnist
    Testing to see if posting is working real quick because my huge response won't post.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    That's your choice, though the comment of 'fuck men' or something to that effect was made afterwards, and that was an instant turn off for me.

    I never said it wasn't a discussion worth having--but this, to me, wasn't a discussion. This felt more like a rant about current issues than anything even remotely productive and no solutions, in my mind, were offered to change the industry standard. I was very specific in stating that this was my perception more than anything else. As always, people are able to and encouraged to disagree if they want.

    I feel like perhaps you took this as a personal attack on the panelists, when it wasn't. I have nothing against any of the panelists or anyone who was present at the panel. I think that Stella does some wonderful cosplays, and if she or any other panelist wants to be a burlesque performer, I have no problem with that. Again, I don't have any personal issues with anyone. I apologize if it comes off that way. Stella was first in my mind because if you Google image her, the first thing to pop up in the results is... well, revealing. To me, it confused the message she was trying to send. That's all.

    I didn't want a neatly organized cure-all for sexism in gaming--I was, however, expecting a discussion. Not a rant. Again, that's what this felt like to me.

    I respect that you disagree and appreciate you offering your insights. That's what this is all about!

    EDIT: So I went back and watched the panel again, open to giving it a second chance as I felt like maybe I had missed a greater point in my disdain for how the entire thing started off, but...

    It really just wasn't for me. :/ I do agree that it is a discussion worth having, but I simply would have done so in a different way. Thanks for linking the video, though, I didn't actually have time to look for it after returning from PAX.
  • heidi.k.hernandez
    I'm not taking your word that everybody on that panel introduced themselves as lesbians because they aren't all lesbians, it's a moot point and it's got nothing to do with the topics discussed in the panel. Most people don't go to a panel expecting a magical cure-all answer to major social issues. As long as things like this: are happening (at the same convention that this panel took place, no less) and being treated as par for the course, fair treatment of women in gaming is a discussion worth having.

    Reading both your article and the comments section here I can't feel but help like maybe you missed the point of the panel, and as a result you're misleading your readers into thinking it was completely uselss. Especially commenter @Jamie K who in her comments makes some of the same points that the panelists do, and then goes on to express disappointment that the panel she hasn't seen and didn't attend was such a waste of time. So some quick food for thought:

    1) 3 of the panelists are (as they note IN THEIR INTRODUCTIONS) burlesque performers. They have also been booth babes. They never said booth babes shouldn't be there. They said to respect them even if you don't feel like they should be there.

    They are also not "objectifing themselves for money" as you claim Stella is. I'm not even going to go into how offensively close-minded and backwards that train of thought is, but seriously? Consider educating yourself on the art of neo-burlesque. There's a HUGE difference between a DIY influenced theatre movement with shows produced almost entirely by women where the majority of the audience is women, and one focused on the objectification of women in order to turn a buck. Also, I'm interested in why you chose to single out Stella in that ridiculously defamatory "fun fact", when the producer of the burlesque show was the moderator of the panel. Interesting.

    2) Commenters on this article are touching on things like the false equivalency (male characters being portrayed as buff being an ideal of who they want to be vs. female characters being overly sexual being an ideal of who they want to be with) and the presence of characters of different genders, races, and sexual orientations all being identically playable, as if these are such radical ideas that the panel should have touched on. The thing is that these things WERE discussed on the panel. They are worth talking about, and exploring examples of and letting other people know about. Based on that fact alone, obviously, @Katy Hollingsworth, your audience would find value in this panel where maybe you did not. And that's cool, not everybody's into the same things, but don't just write it off as useless because they acknowledged problems and addressed cases in which games or the tech industry handled gender both harmfully and with respect as opposed to providing you with a neatly packaged 'This is how you end misogyny' lecture.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    I'd like to make a note that the beginning of the panel was edited out of this video. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the beginning on video so you'd have to take my word on it, but the beginning of the panel is NOT the same as the beginning of the segment in the video posted (around 3:05:13). This was actually several minutes in.

    I, personally, found no value or sustainable argument made for the improvement of the woman's image in gaming. But if the panel resonated with you, then that's perfectly fine--to each his own. :)
  • heidi.k.hernandez
    Wait what?

    The first thing they did was announce that everyone's a lesbian?


    The first thing they did was introduce each panelist and discussed why they were relevant to the conversation, followed by a disclaimer that while they understand that gender goes beyond the binary but they'd be discussing things in terms of "men" and "women" for simplification.

    The panel went on to discuss things like sexy outfits on characters in video games vs. cosplayers, encouraging women to treat booth babes with respect regardless of how you feel about what they do, discussing two of the panelists experiences as game developers and generally addressing the vitriol that women as gamers, developers, nerds, whatever face when they point out any unbalance in these communities.

    There was no man-bashing - if anything I think it was incredibly fair to men. They DID bash a twitter poster who used the #paxlikeagirl hastag to tell the panel that they had sand in their vaginas. If you want to call that feminazi behavior more power to you.

    Before anybody that didn't attend the panel comments, why not watch it and come to your own conclusion about it?
  • PT_7776
    The thing is this is she doesn't actually make an argument. We have been busy and haven't had time to watch the panel yet but all she does is call you lesbians and I know that several on the panel have make identified primary partners, so that would be bi or queer identified as well. Then she just calls you feminazi's.

    That is not an argument, it is an Ad Hominem, as she doesn't actually take issue with any specific stance you made. I am against Ad Hominems when it is this or someone telling someone else to "Check their Privilige". You lose when you have to address the person and not their argument period.
  • Teranin_2091
    I know that feeling Katy, I experienced it pretty severely when watching a recent video on a similar topic, and I would have written a lengthy response utterly demolishing the video, but then I found this response made by thunderf00t on youtube and felt it more than lived up to any response I could give. Check it out if you feel the need to mitigate some of the vexation you felt from going to that panel.
  • Kazz in space
    Featured Contributor
    Man bashing is just as unhelpful as woman bashing. As a female gamer and the parent of a young daughter I am generally quite interested in positive steps towards better attitudes within games and the gaming industry, but I do get ever so fed up when the subject just becomes an excuse to bitch about evil men. You'd think the panel would have gone into this with a clear intention of bringing positive outcomes really, this sort of thing does nothing to help the "cause" (for want of a better word!)

    As per other comments here, too many people want to hop on the bandwagon and have a good moan without actually addressing it.
  • Frogdice Fangirl
    I appreciate you stepping up and not simply taking the panel by title only. I'm not a big fan of just pointing out the problem without discussing any solutions or ways to come together. I'm also not a huge fan of setting up a problem and cramming every example possible into the problem.

    Sorry the panel was such a waste of time.
  • Joseph Rowe
    Featured Columnist
    I think the problem with a lot of the feminism in the gaming community discourse comes from the fact that a lot of the people writing about it (men, women, and those who are trans or post gender) is that it almost always amounts to pointing out examples of sexism in gaming instead of offering solutions. Not only that, but a lot of it seems to be heavily influenced by a coopted, mainstream version of third wave feminism which is where the majority (if not all) of the so-called feminazis originated.

    Adding onto this is that almost all of these discussions are very, very elementary. I'm not sure if she's released more videos yet, but Anita Sarkeesian did that Damsel in Distress video where she basically pointed out that a common trope in video game writing is the damsel in distress. She discusses how sexist it is that women are basically treated as a plot device/object in many games. While that much is definitely true, it's just so elementary and something you see discussed a lot either in articles themselves or in comment sections for a lot of news sites that cover news issues of sexism.

    Why does the analysis always have to be so basic? Anita Sarkeesian has a masters degree. Why can't she introduce her viewers to real feminist literature? Why can't she or others in the subject recommend writers like Cixous or Sedgwick?

    Ultimately, it's just attacking the symptoms and not the cause. Does sexism just exist in the video game sphere? Is it truly possible to even eliminate it from game development and gaming communities without getting rid of it in the real world? I think the answer to both of those is a definite no.

    Also, you said that they acknowledged their awareness of arguments for discrimination against other minority groups and genders. Why didn't they talk about that? The true goal of most forms of feminism is gender equality, not just specifically women's rights. If all of them were lesbians, why didn't they discuss the discrimination against and the underrepresentation of the LGBT community in gaming? Seems silly not to. I have heard many more uses of gay and racial slurs than I have blatant attacks against women online. Not that such a thing doesn't happen, as I have seen it happen, and there are a few gaming communities that are kind of known for being misogynistic (there was a pretty big incident during the lead up to SFxT with one of the players on a Capcom or Namco sponsored stream sexually harassing a female player), but ultimately, it seems like such panels only focus on one faucet of a much larger issue.

    One last thing before I end this wall of text: I think that the next time a kickstarter or indiegogo type of campaign is created to raise awareness of discrimination in the gaming community or in the world at large, it should be to fund a game that 1) portrays discrimination realistically or 2) has the players playing characters that are not meant to be sexually attractive. Creating a video game where you as a player have to sit through a sexist, homophobic, or racist tirade directed at you would probably do more to inspire people to stop acting in such a way than any amount of panels or youtube videos can. Why talk about discrimination in video games when you can game about discrimination in video games?

    Oh no, now I'm just imagining a game where you have to put in your sex, race, age, etc. in at the start, then play a game completely unrelated to it, but it's simulating being on XBOX Live, so, you have people calling you all sorts of terrible things while you try and beat the game. BAM, someone kickstart that.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    To be totally fair, they DID acknowledge at the beginning of the panel that they were aware of the arguments that could be made for other minorities and sexism for other genders and that they respected those arguments, but that the panel would only focus on those targeted towards women. So I do give them kudos for that.

    However, I would have much rather been in line for ME autographs than this.
  • Jamie K
    Featured Contributor
    @Clay - you are absolutely right about how male characters are a specific body type. I also think that a lot of time *men* being objectified is overlooked because women are so in the spotlight for that issue. On the other hand, the way male characters look in games is most likely more a result how males view themselves and the image they hold up as ideal. If women characters are objectified it is usually a result of want men what them to look like.

    This of course is because the majority of those in the gaming industry and playing games has been predominately male; so it's only logical that translates to game play.

    However, I think another difference is that men characters have held any character role in games that have existed whereas this hasn't always been the case for female characters. Playing a female as a main character would have basically been unheard of not too long ago.

    I actually really originally wanted to attend this panel. It was the only one on the list of its kind, and I know because I *looked*. Hey, I'm a girl. And I game. So to me it sounded like a win-win. It's really sad to hear that it was crap. I missed it because I was getting autographs from the Mass Effect group after a discussion over there. And well, it's ME. I couldn't just *leave*. That would be crazy.
  • Clay
    Featured Contributor
    To be fair, how many leading male characters aren't absolutely ripped studs? I think the problem is trying to scope sex appeal in the entire entertainment industry (music, movies, etc) into something gaming specific.

    I'd love to see a follow-up article where you discuss the issues that the panel failed to.
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    @Clay Some of the issues were women being called sluts and whores for cosplaying as sexy female characters, cosplaying for male attention (neither of these, to my knowledge, have EVER occurred at PAX). They ranted a little about booth babes--they shouldn't be there, but respect them. They also touched on female characters in games being objectified, but still give women the choice to make their femSheps sexy if they want, etc.

    Mostly all of the sexist issues in gaming.

    What's interesting is that Stella is actually a... well, she's a burlesque performer. She objectifies herself for money. So there's a fun fact.

    @Eliza It seems like it was! I was so disappointed, I wanted something good to come from it, but... it seemed so ranty-ravey.

    @SexyGamer I agree, and I do agree that there is an issue for women in the gaming industry. But a panel to simply whine about it? I was so bummed.

    @Horse Yeah. :/ It was the only panel of its kind at the event, I think.
  • Clay
    Featured Contributor
    What are some of the hot button issues? (I've been under a rock with this topic)
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    You'd think with some of those panelists, that something positive would have come from that. Was it just cobbled together at the last minute? You'd think with such a topic and those in attendance that someone would have had an agenda set.
  • SexyGamer
    Featured Contributor
    Unfortunate... of course we have to remember that sometimes people do need that reinforcement with the sheer amount of discrimination in the gaming community against women.
  • HorseJacker_
    Featured Contributor
    Sucks they didn't make the panel worthwhile.

    I can name at least 4 people who would have loved to have been a part of it.


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