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From #1reasonwhy to #1reasontobe, and 1,600 Comments In-Between

Some thoughts on the fiery discussion prompted at Giant Bomb and elsewhere by a Twitter hashtag meant to raise awareness of sexism in the video game industry.

As with Mirror's Edge, the upcoming Tomb Raider revival was penned by Rhianna Pratchett, and tells the story of how Lara Croft came to be.
As with Mirror's Edge, the upcoming Tomb Raider revival was penned by Rhianna Pratchett, and tells the story of how Lara Croft came to be.

A tweet alone cannot change anything, but enough tweets can become a movement, a movement can raise awareness, and awareness can lead to action. That’s the potential power behind #1reasonwhy, a hashtag from this weekend encouraging women members of the games industry to speak up with stories of their own difficulties, and raise needed awareness about industry sexism.

#1reasonwhy is, by design, full of upsetting, troubling, and negative stories about what it’s like to be a woman that’s making video games in 2012, and games writer Rhianna Pratchett (the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, Mirror’s Edge, Heavenly Sword) figured something more positive would be of use. Thus, the creation of #1reasontobe, a hashtag with reasons why women are part of the industry at this very moment, should continue to be part of the industry, and call attention to the many stories of strong, independent women succeeding in games--or trying.

Here are a few of their stories:

#1reasonwhy is important, but I’m creating #1reasontobe because I’d like female devs to share why they're in games & what they get from it.

— Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) November 27, 2012

So our children can see women succeeding in tech and games, and not know why it would ever be any different. #1reasontobe

— strange language (@neuralwiles) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe Because of the jobs I've had in the past ~7 years, the ones where I create game-related things make me the most happy.

— Eve Walter (@MidnightRem) November 27, 2012

Because my daughter plays video games, she loves video games, and she needs role models who have come before her to be strong. #1reasontobe

— CK Burch (@ckburch) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe Because when you find a game company who values everyone's opinion, you can just concentrate on making phenomenal games.

— Lindz (@lindzart) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe - After years of work & careers which left me unfulfilled and outcast from so much, I've found a welcome & passionate home.

— Donna Prior (@_Danicia_) November 27, 2012

There is a growing diverse, queer culture that needs more voice, and games can give it to them. Now let us have it #1ReasonToBe

— Mattie Brice (@xMattieBrice) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe Despite the bullshit, I am able to work constantly with amazing men and women who care about telling great stories

— Lillian Cohen-Moore (@lilyorit) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe Because most men in the industry are accepting/inclusive/supportive. Don't let the bad apples dissuade you from going for it.

— LM Lockhart (@missdoomcookie) November 27, 2012

And #1reasontobe is that the only way to change things is to be part of the change. #wecandobetter

— Kathleen (@ninjaharlot) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe When you get feedback from players that your game changed their life in some way, let them be the hero for once

— Tara J. Brannigan (@kindofstrange) November 27, 2012

#1reasontobe Cuz at their best, games push new boundaries in experience, and we're like 0.5% of the way to getting good at that. Define it!

— AngelosLH (@AngelosLH) November 27, 2012

#1ReasonToBe Because my presence here is changing the industry.

— Ceri Young (@Toughlovemuse) November 27, 2012

It’s good #1reasontobe exists. A problem isn’t solved without a solution, and #1reasontobe provides the disenchanted with glimmers of hope we can work towards a better environment. The next step is creating accessible avenues for people to make connections beyond Twitter, which #1reasonmentor aspires towards.

I haven’t done the math, but yesterday’s article about #1reasonwhy probably broke a comments record on Giant Bomb. I stopped reading the thread after it passed 500 or so comments, both because it’s pretty unwieldy in our current system, and I was roundly discouraged by some of the discussion.

Much of the response felt driven by a feeling that talking about #1reasonwhy, and thereby discussing problems women having in the games industry, suddenly means there are zero problems for men. Elevating the discussion of misogyny implies there is no misandry, or so the argument goes. I don’t buy that, and have trouble reasoning with people who continue to peddle it. Bringing up one very real problem does not invalidate other very real problems, but being so dismissive of the argument suggests you aren’t taking the original argument seriously, and instead want to discredit it because you don’t believe it has any merit in the first place. At least be honest.

I do not consider myself a feminist or particularly aligned with the feminist movement. I just know bullshit when I see it, and I'm tired of bullshit that involves the vapid, shallow arguments that crawl out of the comments section of every single website whenever this subject comes out. It feels like the same 50 people are just making dupe accounts across the Internet, and making sure to drown out any real conversation. Those people deserve a chance to be heard, and that includes the larger-than-you'd-think audience of women right here on Giant Bomb.

Maybe I’m just wading into an unwinnable argument, but I wanted to paste a comment that seemed emblematic of so much of the 1,600 comment (and still growing) thread.

No Caption Provided

I actually don’t have much of a problem with this comment, except for the fact that it was made at all. Video games, like any entertainment medium, are just a hobby to a vast majority of the audience, and their daily lives are filled with concerns vastly more important than the dynamics between men and women in the games industry. That is 100% okay, as there are plenty of things that I enjoy where I’ve done little-to-no research about whether I’m comfortable with all that’s happening behind-the-scenes. Still, you took the time to scroll to the bottom of this article, long after the achievement for a first post was possible, and post a comment that amounts to little more than trolling. There is no opinion here, and we’d all be better off if the discussion, positive or negative, didn’t include pointless derailment.

This isn’t all of you, obviously, and many of you made substantive arguments, even if I disagreed. I suppose the biggest problem I have is with the tone, the dismissiveness, the idea that none of this matters, and that if people only just spoke up at their jobs, engaged with sexual harassment laws (which is hardly the most pervasive issue), changed their attitude, this would just go away. “I have a solution, just grow some fucking balls,” was one comment that stuck out on page 20-something of the comments. There is a reason why it’s not easy to just “grow some fucking balls,” and it’s because of the response these subjects generate, and the seemingly futile nature of having this debate in a public forum. Not to mention that if you’re looking at the current layoff happy climate of the games industry, speaking up about this issue and possibly risking your job if it backfires doesn’t sound like the greatest idea ever.

If you were a woman at a game developer, would you want to speak up after reading that thread, or the countless others that sprouted up yesterday? Twitter is, at least, a place where you can do filtering and hear voices you regard.

“I’ve been watching the #1reasonwhy hashtag on Twitter with an anxious kind of understanding,” said games writer Katie Williams in a blog not long after #1reasonwhy started catching fire. “Like, part of me wants to jump right in and post a dozen of my own experiences, but I’ve also learned what happens if you say that shit publicly: you’re berated, blamed, dismissed. I’ve been there.”

She is not alone, and I don’t blame her for it.

I suspect there's an underlying fear involved in all of this, as well. "What does this mean for the games we love? What if we're okay with how games are made already? Don't ruin them!" Change, while painful, is often healthy, but I'm also realistic. I don't expect drastic change due to market realities--what sells well will continue to sell well, and that includes plenty of dudebro that, hey, I also enjoy playing! You know, even if the Entertainment Software Association does report that 47% of all game players are women. If there's better women representation in development, those people given a bigger voice, it's not going to make the video games you already enjoy go away. But maybe it means video game companies will be more willing to create games for a growing audience who play games because they love games but do not have characters that speak to them. It might not change publishers who release games with women protagonists but don't support them with marketing, but change happens slowly.

Again, it’s weird. I’m a guy, I’ve never had to deal with any of these problems. But I’m willing to admit where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire, and listening is helpful, informative. If you don’t want to listen, you don’t have to. No one is forcing you. Just stop shouting down others who want to.

As with last time, I'll leave you with my own contribution, this time for #1reasontobe.

#1reasontobe Because we need strong female role models, and more of them. It won't solve everything, but it's a start.

— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) November 28, 2012
Patrick Klepek on Google+