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The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry 962

An anonymous reader writes: Brianna Wu, leader of a game development studio, has an article exposing the constant harassment of women in the games industry. She says, "I'm not writing this piece to evoke your sympathy. I'm writing to share with you what prominent, successful women in the industry experience, in their own words." She goes through the individual stories of several women targeted by this vitriol, and tries to figure out why it happens. Quoting: "We live in a society that's sexist in ways it doesn't understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. ... This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it. ... Growing a thicker skin isn't the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward."
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The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry

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  • Pft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @07:11PM (#47511471)

    It isn't only women who dance around issues when socializing with the other sex. Men gets very soft around women. If you think they have a harassing attitude you should see how men treat other men.

  • Limited perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @07:26PM (#47511565)

    From the small sample of these accounts I've read, I get the sense that the women in question have a limited perspective. My impression is that in many cases, they encounter career or workplace challenges, and falsely assume that only women have those challenges.

    Balancing work and family responsibilities? Please, do you know how many days I've left work after sunset and nearly cried for not having that time with my little kids?

    Getting criticized harshly? Shoot, I deal with that often. I just don't blog about it. What I do is go home, try to shake it off, and maybe talk to my wife about how it's bothering me. I don't cry about it, and maybe this is a guy thing, but I cry almost never. But that doesn't mean it doesn't bother me.

    And then there are some complaints which seem more about personal choices than about unfairness. I don't come across many good, female software engineers. You know what else I rarely come across? Female aspiring software engineers who spend their nights hacking away at code to improve their skills.

    Now I have no doubt that some challenges really are unique to being a female developer. Sexual harassment is probably the top one. But that issue kind of gets drowned out of the conversation given all of the kvetching that some women have regarding other issues that they wrongly assume are peculiar to them.

    • by seebs ( 15766 )

      See, you're complaining that they don't know what your experiences are like. But you don't know what theirs are like, and given how you talk about it, you certainly aren't spending time talking to people to learn enough that you could make the comparison.

      You know what I rarely come across? Aspiring software engineers, at all, period. I mean, I'm not in college. It doesn't come up.

      But given the level of overt hostility women encounter, my first explanation for an apparent shortage of "good female software en

  • by devphaeton ( 695736 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @07:41PM (#47511683)

    But one of the silliest things I've ever experienced when gaming online was a (probably teenaged) female telling me that she was sodomizing my mom with a strap-on. Over and over again. Or another telling me that if I was her kid she'd have aborted me with a crowbar.

    The Internet brings out the best in everyone!

  • by quintesse ( 654840 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @07:41PM (#47511687)

    And seeing the reactions so far not much is going to change about this shit. Disappointingly few people are even willing to entertain the possibility that the story might actually be true. Only coming up with excuses, bogus counter-examples ("I'm a guy who knows some women and I've never seen this happen") or just outright hatred and scorn. Way to go guys!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @07:45PM (#47511715)

    I've had the misfortune of working with many ex-videogame developers in my line of work. These people were basically uncivilized and reminded me of the mindset of what LAN parties were like back in the 90s when I was a teenager. Racism, sexism, ageism, profanity, and behavior that made you embarrassed to be around them in public. That kind of thing was funny when I was 16, but we were all immature then. It's very disturbing to see adults carry on like that.

    Don't get me wrong, that industry has also created some very hard-working, kind people that I feel truly blessed to have had the fortune to work with. But those types are hard to come by, and the out of control manchild is all too common. A few of the most vitriolic, passive-aggressive trolls I've known were former EA prodigies (their words, along with every other kind of self-adulation you can think of) and they absolutely thought they walked on water. They'd show up to work drunk, or high, and brag to everyone about how much weed they smoked or how they partied all night. There was no self control and it spilled over into mistreating their peers.

    There's a very sharp divide between the kind of people that go into games programming and all other programmers, and it's entirely about maturity, and at least in my experience it's uniquely American.

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @07:48PM (#47511737)

    I'll admit I was a little relieved after actually reading the article. I assumed it was talking about harassment of male game developers towards female coworkers, which would have really surprised me. I've worked in the industry for over fifteen years, and I've never even heard of any sort of sexism toward the women that were employed alongside me. It simply wouldn't have been tolerated at the places I've worked, so far as I know, and that's a good thing. While the programming department was, of course, largely male, the other departments (art, design, writing, production) were more evenly split. Everyone I've known has valued talent and hard work, and gender was pretty much an afterthought, at least so far as I could tell. Then again, I'm a guy, so I'm probably not quite as attuned to that sort of thing.

    In fact, the article seems to be mostly about women (largely in the gaming press) interacting with the still-all-too-ugly disposition of the anonymous hoards of gaming fans that interact with them. That made a bit more sense to me, unfortunately, as such women are by nature already public figures, and will probably attract a lot more bile. Let's face it. People on the internet, including (especially?) gamers, are not only sexist, they're racist, homophobic, and unbelievably cruel at time. I care a lot about the gaming culture and community, and it pains me to admit this. There's a shocking disconnect between what would be acceptable in real life versus what's said online. I'd imagine very few of those idiots would ever have the courage to say those things to someone's face.

    The only way to deal with this is absolute zero tolerance policies, at least on forums (literal or otherwise) that you have any control over. There's simply no excuse for this sort of behavior. The internet could really stand to collectively grow up a little, and realize that being anonymous shouldn't give you a free license to be an asshat. Frankly, I don't think that "normal" people turn into foul-mouth talking assholes when online and anonymous []. My feeling is that they were assholes to begin with, but just didn't have the courage to say those things to anyone's face. These folks are not going to go away, I'm sorry to say. It would be nice if human nature could evolve a bit. But that doesn't mean anyone has to put up with this sort of shit any more than necessary. I'm also sorry to say that as a man, I'm pretty sure I'll never understand how a woman feels when she goes through something like this, and it makes me angry that so many would have to.

    • Of course it is assholes acting out. That's what happens when you remove consequences. Games have been an excellent example of that in terms of gameplay and mechanics. There have been games that have tried the whole "No rules but what the players make, they'll work out a stable system." No, actually it devolves in to a bunch of griefer assholes, and everyone else leaves. These people can't do that kind of thing in real life because they'd face consequences.

      Sociopaths learn to moderate their behaviour in the

  • by Loopy ( 41728 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:06PM (#47511855) Journal

    You wonder why we have so much dysfunction going on today?

    Pervasive culture of butthurt = CHECK
    Any perceived insult is by default true = CHECK
    Special protected classes that can do no wrong = CHECK
    Litigious society causing zero tolerance including honest mistakes = CHECK
    Rampant immaturity = CHECK
    General abdication of personal responsibility = CHECK

    Let's pose a hypothetical, here. Let's say you (Linda, a woman) work for a company A. A has Big Boss, Linda, Tom, Fred and David as employees. The four of you report to Big Boss.

    Situation A: Tom says something mean to Fred. Fred tells Tom to go fuck himself. Big Boss hears about it and calls them both into his office. Big Boss tells Tom to square his shit away or he's fired. Big Boss admonishes Fred to come see him about this in the future rather than responding in kind. Tom and Fred go on about their work and are a bit more careful about their interactions. This is a regular thing for Tom as he's brilliant but a loose cannon verbally. Big Boss talks to Tom and admonishes him that if he can't keep his asshole comments to himself, he will end up fired with prejudice.

    Situation B: Linda says something mean to Fred. Fred tells Linda she can go fuck herself. Other employees hear the latter half of the exchange. Linda goes to Big Boss and complains about Fred using foul language around her. Big Boss calls them both into the office. Linda tells her story and Big Boss asks her to return to her desk. Big Boss then lectures Fred about the sensitivities of women in the workforce and how the small company cannot afford to defend against a "workplace harassment" lawsuit. Fred complains that Linda started the whole thing. Big Boss says it won't matter because a jury will default rule in favor of the woman because of articles like the above. Fred points out that justice is supposed to be blind. Big Boss points out that in cases of harassment, lay-wisdom holds that when women harass men, the men need to grow a pair, but when men harass women, it is only right and proper to expect better decorum out of the men. Big Boss never says anything to Linda because it could be construed as the abuse of power in a workplace environment.

    Now, you may laugh at this but these are actual shit storms I've seen happen. The problem is that while most women aren't self-entitled whiners and most men are not adolescent assholes, we can't catch a break because the lawyers and bean-counters won't let a manager fire the shit out of someone just for being a prick/cunt. As George Takei said, we've reduced ourselves to the lowest common denominator of butthurt.

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tpno-co.oLISPrg minus language> on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:10PM (#47511891) Homepage

    Is this what we've come to? Pretending online trolls are a problem specifically for women?

    Here's a hint for the author of that article: Trolls are adept at identifying that which will get under your skin, and will hit that button repeatedly as long as it keeps spitting out a pellet ( much like this article ). If we're going to generalize it, men don't get this particular brand of trollling because it doesn't work on us. Ultimately, it has very little to do with sexism.

    But no; let's work on trying to make ourselves a better brand of troll. Let me know how that works out for you.

    ( and no; had the author been a man, I'd have responded in the same manner )

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:14PM (#47511927)

    men say this stuff to other men all the time.

    You don't think men call other men bitches, cunts, etc in games? The abuse is pretty common.

    The difference here as usual is that women expect to be treated differently. They don't think that's what they want but it is actually what they want.

    And I'm okay with treating women better. However, if that's the new rule, then women need to acknowledge it. That's the only price. If women so much as acknowledge that men are treating them with kid gloves it short circuits most of the PC equality arguments.

    As it should.

    If women don't want that and want to be treated equal... then fine... but that means not complaining when you're treated like a man. Which is going to mean getting cussed out by people that will LAUGH at you when you cry. People that will show you ZERO pity when you break down. People that will if anything hold you in contempt for being so weak.

    Are you prepared for that ladies? If so... game on.

    If not... completely fine. But then we're playing by the old rules of male/female relations. Which means you're just a girl.

    We've seen this PC crap try to gain purchase in the tech community for years. Linus Thorvald recently got told to be nicer women and that he shouldn't cus out people that he thinks are doing a crappy job.

    He told her that she wasn't tolerating his culture and his way of doing things... and that he wasn't going to change anything.

    I'll hold the same position here for the same reasons. If the girls want to be treated like girls then that's fine. If they want to be treated like men, that's fine. But stop trying to eat your man cake and have your girl perks too. Its either/or.

    • Which is going to mean getting cussed out by people that will LAUGH at you when you cry. People that will show you ZERO pity when you break down. People that will if anything hold you in contempt for being so weak.

      I think the goal is to not treat anyone like that.

    • by rlh100 ( 695725 )

      If women don't want that and want to be treated equal... then fine... but that means not complaining when you're treated like a man.

      Maybe being treated equal is something other than being treated like a man. Maybe it is treating the woman with respect.

  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:16PM (#47511939)


    Prove very little and when published in a form like this prove even less. Sexual harassment and assault [] are highly politicized and in many cases overstated. [] When the mere accusation of sexual harassment in the form of making dongle jokes in a private conversation can end careers it's blatant sexism to claim it's not taken seriously enough. Sexism? yes: spreading fear that men are abusive and dangerous.

    Ive personally never heard of a man in the games industry getting rape threats for having an opinion.

    Death threats are every bit as common. Being a different gender means the hatred may be sexualized. "No rape threats against men" is a piss poor measure. How about coming up with some actual numbers reflecting the supposedly heightened hostility against women? Because no I won't take your word for it.

    Many men believe women have no worth in the games industry beyond appearance.
    The video game industry is particularly egregious at only representing women as sex objects. As such, many gamers are trained to only see women in that context.

    Would you care to back that up with facts? A survey maybe? Because it sounds like you pulled it straight from whence many of your other claims come. One sexist asshole does not a culture make. There are many games with strong []female characters. And don't say sexy clothes prove gamers are sexist unless you want to talk about the thousands of hulking, musclebound men in games.

    This kind of harassment leaves long-lasting damage. It affects our friendships, and can cause us to be distant from others.

    So your overly sensitive friend proves that the same hatred is worse when leveled against women? Equality means standing up for yourself. If you want to be a damsel in distress you don't want equality.

    Women in the industry are told by men what is valid for us to feel.

    No, women in general are told they're special and need everyone to cater to them. Then the gaming industry didn't cater as much garnering feminist ire. You can feel whatever you want but so can I.

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:28PM (#47512025)

    Before I read the article, before I decided whether there was a legitimate point, before I even had a chance to introspect whether or not I, personally, held some socially unacceptable viewpoints at an unconscious level, before all this, I saw the trigger warnings.

    So before I read the article and judge it on it's own merits, let me talk about trigger warnings for a second, and what they seem to say.

    My own personal experience with them tends to be very limited, but a casual perusal indicates that the vast majority of users appear to promote misandry - that is, man-hating - as an acceptable form of discrimination. There appears to be a fundamental belief that males, either consciously or not, are simply evil, often comically so. One site even referred to consensual, loving, heterosexual sex as "a man masturbating into a woman," and the author indicated their belief that any male-female interaction was one form of abuse or another, with the woman always the victim.

    For lack of a better phrase, this level of irrational hate has become their religion, and it colors their views. Like the person who only has a hammer in their tool box, every problem appears to be a because-of-man nail, and we know how well that sort of thinking works.

    So what the trigger warnings before this article seems to say is "I have a better chance of getting truthful and unbiased coverage from Fox News in an election year than I do of finding the barest glimmer of a hint of truth in the following text."

    • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @09:43PM (#47512351)

      I want to do a point-by-point, but ... there is no point. This is just a hate speech, perhaps only good for it's cathartic effect.

      The bit where she indicates that harassment involving looks or those taunts of a sexual nature are unique to women because she hadn't heard of men being harassed was an impressive piece of ignorance, but itself only a single point adrift in a sea of wrong, and it'd take too long to wade through every one.

      That being said, I took special issue with the sub-section that starts out "People just don't understand," and is then followed by paragraph after paragraph of "men can't understand," or "men don't know this." The very design of this argument refutes rational discussion; make claim, then state men (and 'brainwashed' women) can't understand, if anyone disagrees - that is, does not completely accept male culpability regardless of their involvement - they are perpetuating the problem due to ignorance, if not malice, and their arguments are thus refuted. In this way one can neatly make a claim and deal with dissenters in a single fell stroke.

      I also noted that there wasn't a single constructive comment on how to fix this perceived problem. There were even references to pieces that had made suggestions, but this one in itself was simply a sort of angry screed against men.

      In summary; the article failed to present a real case that misogyny is the driving force behind harassment of specific individuals or that indeed, harassment of a given gender is either exclusive, endemic or systemic. If this was meant to spur a call to action, it was a poorly thought out exercise.

        - and I'm not saying that because she's female, either.

  • Hypothetical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @08:29PM (#47512031) Homepage

    For all of you trying to turn this into a men's rights issue, just stop.

    You're embarrassing my gender.

      Yes there are some unfair things that happen to men. Yes there are some real issues.

    But we aren't talking about those issues right here in this post. We're talking about women right now, so let's stick to the topic.

      Even as a man I find it highly annoying that the Internet jackass squad has to jump into the middle of every single conversation about women and cry "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ?!?!". Just fucking stop it already. Write your own blog post about men's issues and submit it to slashdot and we can discuss it over there.

  • This is bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @10:17PM (#47512527)

    This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it. ... Growing a thicker skin isn't the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward."

    These days, it's men who are being 'carefully socialized' to dance around feminist gynocentric expectations and value systems. I believe HR departments call it 'sensitivity training.' Since proof of guilt is rarely required, employment for men is now a mad dash in a mine field of passive aggressive barbs just waiting to trigger whenever a woman is pissed enough to throw the book at a man. we're told this is justified because men alone engage in this behavior en masse, and that women are (ironically) damsels in distress who have no say or part in their situations, nor are they capable of similar behavior. This crap flooded hollywood and tv in the 90s, and now we're getting the full deluge of the same propaganda in the gaming scene. What bullshit. Polygon loves it, though, as they post a lot of it. The fact they shut off comments for this article speaks volumes about its logical and probably factual integrity.

    We don't give people respect who haven't earned it and/or have given us reason to take it from them. Derek smart anyone? People still give john romero shit for daikatana even though he was a big part of the success of doom. He's revered for the good he's done and demonized for his stillborn shitpiles. This is how it's supposed to work. We're not supposed to hold some people above reproach based on their sexual organs or their race or any other irrelevant attribute, as that is the very definition of privilege. This makes the whole article 180 degrees out from the truth. Growing a thicker skin IS the answer as it allows one to stop and look at criticism objectively instead of immediately flying into a tantrum and/or a flurry of passive aggressive countermaneuvers. It allows one to ignore the ad hominems and other fallacies from any communication, whether it's well written constructive criticism or vitriolic trolling, and extract any truth from it.

    These days, we are seeing more and more extreme reactions for ever more mundane situations from a culture bred to be as intolerant of criticism as possible. Everything has to be positive. All the time. No 'negative nancies' or 'debbie downers' allowed. The fact this precludes talking about the truth of things more than 50% of the time is lost on these social engineers. All that matters to them are feelings and consensus; the facts and truth be damned.

    The term 'safer' here is used in place of 'more amenable' to make the situation sound more dire than it is. The bottom line is, very very very few men are truly guilty of assaulting women. I believe the stats on college campuses nationwide is 53 in one year...53 out of millions of students on thousands of campuses. This is NOT an epidemic, and I'll bet it's more than the number of assaults by male game developers and staff. If you are assaulted, don't whine on the internet. Call the police. The reason most of these women don't is because they know their claims are bullshit. Otherwise, they should act like the adults they want to be treated as, taking warranted criticism for what it is, regardless of format, and discarding the rest.

  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @11:11PM (#47512853)

    With one myth and conclusion:

    "The Myth: Women should just laugh off online harassment and not take it personally. "

    The problem is: there are never any police reports to go with this behavior. If anyone is reading this, especially women, and you are threatened online or in person, and the words have: the nature and content to cause or instill fear, have enough specificity to demonstrate actual malice and show intent, and from an anonymous source a crime has been committed. All of the reactions I hear about women doing are the wrong ones. You shouldn't post to Twitter to show you aren't afraid, you shouldn't pen an op-ed denouncing men or the industry or the culture or other women or whatever.

    What you should do is preserve the digital evidence, go to your police station, file a police a report, and then take the police report, and go to or travel to the nearest FBI field office and ask them to open an investigation. Every time. If you get a lot of this type of activity, you should get to know the officers who will be taking your reports daily or weekly. You can usually setup a standing appointment.

    Brianna Wu would do more to change the environment by retweeting a threatening post followed by a mug shot than writing a hundred shaming articles that only the people who already agree with her are going to read. Showing your solidarity, having catharsis, raising awareness among like minded people has it's value, but it pales in comparison to making them pay. Not metaphorically, by doxing them and giving them a dose of medicine, but you know, like, pay actual fines, do actual jail time, and pay actual damages. Please, women (and men, when the shoe fits) stop "fighting simultaneous urges to hurl my phone across the room in anger and cry" and take actual action.

    There is a perception that these people are anonymous, that it's untraceable, but it's a lie. Whatever the medium was - email, blog post, Tumblr, tweet, etc, there are a big companies behind them. A prosecutor or even a cop can often make an automated request through the companies CALEA compliance tool to get identity data when the above criteria is met. It's not controversial or hard. The service providers all comply, and willingly, and fast. The investigators will get the IP information, and then go to the ISP, and get subscriber information. These people are not going through eight layers of tor proxies. They are home, on their Wifi, thinking that a throw-away reddit account is really anonymous. They are wrong.

  • by rlh100 ( 695725 ) on Tuesday July 22, 2014 @11:41PM (#47512953) Homepage

    My daughter and I were talking about how much personally directed sexual violence geek girls must endure. She was talking about the obsessive personally detailed threats Anita Sarkeesian creator of Feminist Frequency endures from the male geek community on a continual basis. Some of these are threats include her personal details needed to carry them out. This is really scary stuff.
    We were talking about this and she casually let drop:
    "I received my first rape threat in a forum when I was eleven"

    She casually went on:
    "Eleven is the age when geek girls first start discovering the Internet and make their first posts. They comment on a game about some small feature they don't like. Some guy will flame them with a rape threat"

    This is very shocking for a dad to hear his daughter say. "My eleven year old little girl!" She is twice as old now. But her saying it so casually is deeply disturbing.

    My daughter has assimilated it. She has grown a "thick skin". I think she enjoys giving back as good as she gets. But not the violent rape stuff.

    It is very sad that the male geek culture permits such abuse to go on.
    We MEN need to start talking about this. We MEN need to ostracize the men who threaten rape.
    * It is never funny.
    * It is not "just a joke".
    * It is not harmless.

    It is really scary for geek girls because there is always a risk that it might be real. There are unbalanced men out there after all.

    How do I change this? I start by writing about it. I talk with other people. I try to get MEN to understand the problem and see how scary it is for women.

  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @12:52PM (#47516421)

    What we're all forgetting here is that we're still moving out of the dark ages of computer use, since the generation that suffered the most for the sake of their ambitions are still alive. The one where being a computer enthusiast meant you were a social pariah and were destined to be abused constantly by everyone, especially all through highschool. Then bam, society takes a hard left and suddenly it's cool to be tech savvy. That doesn't help all the people that got shit on for decades before things turned around.

    Now these abused souls are grown up, and in the industry and you wonder why they're assholes? If this were any other situation you'd have governments creating support groups. Instead, everyone is demonizing them for being harsh and defensive. You're not going to see this problem go away for several generations, if it goes away at all and it is a problem that society itself built through its perpetual abuse of other people.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein