There is no doubt that sexism plagues the video game industry. Last night, however, members of the community—including players, journalists, and game developers—began an incisive, honest conversation about the issue, using the hashtag #1reasonwhy. It was a real eye-opener for some, and even spawned a sister hashtag, #1reasonmentor, to ensure that the talk led to real action.
The conversation began Monday afternoon, when Luke Crane, the games project specialist at Kickstarter, tweeted a seemingly innocuous question: “Why are there so few lady game creators?” His query ended up rubbing some women the wrong way, until the discussion was then appropriated by game designer Filamena Young. She appears to have been the first to use the hashtag #1reasonwhy—that is, some explanations for the lack of women in game developing in particular and the rest of the industry in general.
From there, women (and some men) began to share their experiences related to the denigration of women in the industry. Most of the tweets touched on harassment, from cyberbullying to actual physical groping at gaming conventions. Women discussed being terrified of even expressing their opinions about games, knowing if they had an unpopular view, they would be verbally attacked.
Video game critic and journalist Mattie Brice couldn’t help but note the irony facing women when they even talked about sexism. Women are the ones who deal with the issue, but when they mention it, they’re accused of complaining or overreacting, while the men in the industry are lauded for bringing up the topic. (Brice’s point could explain why women reacted with anger to Crane’s initial question.)
Other tweets focused on how women in the industry don’t feel comfortable asking for maternity leave, or the stigma that arises from making a game with women and children in mind. Women in the industry are stereotyped, told they should focus solely on art and not game engine mechanics, and generally viewed as less than or not taken as seriously. Game designer Caryn Vainio’s tweet hit the nail on the head when she wrote, “Because I’m still referred to as a ‘girl’ gamer or developer, instead of a woman. At age 40.”
At the conversation’s height, before press got to it Tuesday morning, 900 unique tweets using the hashtag had been tweeted according to social analytics site Topsy, with the total number of mentions (the amount of retweets) hitting 3,500 times by late Monday evening. (To date, the hashtag has been mentioned more than 15,000 times.)
One immediate good came from the discussion, and that is the sister hashtag #1reasonmentor, which is focused on connecting young women with industry professionals in order to foster a safe learning environment.