PAX Prime – “Achieving Gender Diversity in Gaming: Ok, Now What?”

A run-down for those who missed the PAX Prime 2013 Panel: "Achieving Gender Diversity in Gaming: OK, Now What?".

For those of you who know, PAX Prime is being held this weekend in Seattle, and lucky for us stuck at home, we are able to catch it on their twitch tv. I was able to catch the panel, “Achieving Gender Diversity in Gaming: OK, Now What?” which proved to be insightful and very community oriented.

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The panel was full of editors, writers, and journalists from many different sites including IGN, Polygon, and Microsoft. This goes beyond the normal girl versus guys within gaming, I had the pleasure of listening to a very intellectual discussion about how games can influence and alienate people. The role of gender in games includes comments, social media, and how audiences and gamers are changing.

How the Panel Started Out

In the beginning of the panel, it started out with a quick rundown from Samantha Allen, from Borderhouse Blog, with definitions about gender identity, gender expression, and assigned sex. It continued into speaking about problems many people face when stepping outside of their ‘gender roles’ which causes much unneeded hostility. This is found very regularly within video games, and video game reviews.

Social Media and Comment Sections

Many journalists within social media, who write articles about video games or anything else, should understand the terminology and start using them in correct ways. Everyone will take these words differently, and perceive them their own way. Some people might get offended while others don’t care much at all.

Within sites such as IGN, Polygon, and even GameSkinny, comments can be hurtful and cause a lot of bashing. Much of this can be tolerated by moderators, admins, and editors.

A representative on the panel from Polygon, Reviews editor Arthur Aegis, stated that at Polygon it can be difficult to ‘police’ all comments that don’t particularly violate their terms of service. Many comments they face aren’t strictly vulgar but show subliminal messages that are considered “line stepping.” Arthur also put it: editors at Polygon “need to moderate our comments so they don’t go to absolute dog shit.”

“[We] need to moderate our comments so they don’t go to absolute dog s&$^.” – Arthur Aegis, Polygon

Even those who are trying to stick up for their opinions and defend other people can be flagged for violation if they take it too far.

Holly Green, a Managing Editor at Gamerax put it very bluntly saying that when people visit a website and check out an article such as this one, comments will tell them straight off the bat what kind of community they’re looking into. A way she put it within the panel was using a brick wall as an example for a company. If someone were to put a graffiti swastika on the wall and if no one would remove it, many would believe that the company either didn’t care enough to do something about it, or provoked it. A comment section is like a “welcome mat” to what community or website you’re looking into.

Carolyn Petit, Editor and Writer at GameSpot explained the era of the NES. At that time the target audience was on young men and boys, and when websites came out after that, they also targeted the same demographic. This reigns true in some instances in today’s world, where they still aim for the same demographic and find it difficult to move toward games being open to everyone, no matter what gender or sexual orientation.

The Audiences of Games are Changing

The culture of games and those playing them are rapidly changing. For example, when reviewing a game, it’s no longer a black and white review only involving ratings and how you thought the gameplay was. Now reviews are more in-depth with how the game portrayed the roles of any gender. People start to really analyze why the game includes a very “busty” female, or how the game exaggerated the female anatomy, for example.

Not only are reviews changing but people who comment on them can also change the ball game. Some comments are hostile, or question why it’s relevent to the game.

Creating Games – Character Development Problems

A writer and narrative designer from Microsoft, Tom Abernathy, has the difficult job of putting a hand in creating games that many people will receive differently. He understands that this gender diversity within games is an issue but finds it very difficult to push within the workplace. It goes beyond just trying to make a game, it can lead to repercussions from work decisions.

“It’s not that most people don’t feel sympathetic when wanting characters [gender specific, ethnic ect], the problem is they fear for their jobs and that they know if the thing does not sell, they won’t care why it doesn’t sell. They will just care it didn’t sell, and they might get laid off”.

What do you think about gender diversity in video games? If you caught the panel, was there anything you’d add?

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Courtney Gamache
An online college student studying Business Administration and International Business at SNHU. I play a lot of different games, but I prefer management ones, including Minecraft, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Borderlands, and Assassin's Creed.