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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

Comic-ly Tragic: Female Developers vs Male [strike]Gamers[/strike] Gaming Journalists

Posted by UnSub Monday November 19 2007 at 10:07PM
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A big story that sprang from small beginnings were the events surrounding a pornographic comic featuring Assassin's Creed producer Jade Redmond. It's a story that shows that there are still a huge number of barriers facing female developers in what is a male dominated industry and player base.

The first problem is that David Cheung created a comic featuring Jade Raymond doing some fairly compromising acts and degrading her to the status of bimbo-only-for-male-gratification. Such a reduction of ability to Ms Raymond is hardly fair, given that she appears to have an solid game development resume - The Sims Online, There and working for SOE in R&D - and also presents very well. This actually goes further than just her appearance - she is eloquent and can speak in front of crowds. Her role as a producer on Assassin's Creed has seen her do this several times, while she's also done a lot of interviews with gaming "journalists".

The second problem was Ubisoft sending a cease and desist letter to SomethingAwful.com (who thrive on this kind of thing) when someone posted the comic there. Legal threats to SA are like mana from heaven, especially when they come from geek sources like Ubisoft. Given that 1) the lawyers hit the wrong target in SA and not David Cheung and 2) they probably don't have a legal leg to stand on regarding the comic since it could probably be successfully defended as a tasteless satire (and if that defense worked for 2 LIve Crew, it will probably work for anyone who wants to spend the money against Ubisoft to defend it). All in all it means that the comic has legs it never would have originally.

The third problem is that apparently a whole lot of people seem to think this kind of thing is okay, that Ms Raymond is an available target for this kind of thing because ... well, she's pretty and has been used in promoting a video game she was working on. From everything I've read that has been attributed to Ms Raymond, she's been nothing but professional and well-spoken. Her attention has been on Assassin's Creed. The male game journalist, however, has been all about putting up photos of Ms Raymond and pseudo-stalking her, thus fuelling the fire. That Ubisoft might use a producer on their game to promote it isn't out of line; that gaming commentators have slobbered all over pictures of her is.

All in all, it just creates a hostile series of barriers for women who may wish to work in game development. That, regardless of the work they do, they will be judged on their appearance. That they could be reduced to being a sexual object displayed for mockery.  That you can't be contributing anything of value to the game you are working on because gaming development is what men do. And so on. It just leads to women having to fight harder to get any kind of respect - a fight that is made doubly harder when a lot of those who deride you are anonymous.

All this just leads to gaming being stuck in its adolescent boy niche, being focused on boobs and explosions. Women who could take up game development as a career may think of what happened to Jade Raymond and decide to go elsewhere because they don't want to have to deal with the boy's club that is the games industry. When this happens, it is gaming that misses out.

EDIT - On November 23, I changed the title to better reflect my opinion on this matter. It was the gaming journalists / commentators who really drove this matter so they deserve a lion's share of the blame.