EDIT:I’ve added sources and a keynote. These items can be found before the refuting of feminists thinking that players pay homage to satan by blood sacrifices when playing.

This is another one of those posts in English. The reason for it is because I participated in a conference yesterday, that hosted not only me but Björn Åkerblom, Anita Sarkeesian (yes I know! Total fan moment!), Anna Serner, Ina Bäckström and Andy Walsh. All amazing people, and I feel enormous gratitude in having been included in that bunch of awesome.

I did my talk about women in games, and the difficulties facing women in games. Since I have a cold today, I’ve recorded the keynote and added my talk, in case there are any of you out there interested in hearing what I talked about. With deep nasal voice.

Women in Games from Åsa Roos on Vimeo.

Feel free to leave comments if you have questions. Rules: be respectful.


I actually almost forgot this, but I do have sources. Also there is a keynote that you’re free to dropzone (it’s around 250 MB in size, so I can’t put it here), and I’ve exported the slides to power point (no guarantee that they’ll work!) and put them up on Slideshare.

Power Point
On slideshare – I’ve embedded it, if you want to take a closer look at any of the slides.

One of the biggest issues facing women trying to talk about their stories when it comes to sexism in games, is the demand for accountability. We are requested to 1. always be right 2. always have sources*. This led me to use that specific demand as a basis for my presentation. Whenever I make a statement in the presentation, I have several incidents, reports or studies to back it up.

Storified tweets from the hashtag #1reasonwhy by mcdaldno. You can also search on twitter for the hashtag #1reasonwhy. It’s still “alive”.
Shira Chess – How to play a Feminist – good essay about why it’s so difficult to be a feminist and at the same time get to play.
XKCD – How it Works – the excellent comic used in the presentation.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s research on token persons – an in depth look at the damaging mechanisms of tokenism. Sounds duller than it is. Fascinating reading.
Delusions of Gender – book by Cordelia Fine, that talks about the supposed biological differences between men and women, focusing specifically on the brain.
Fat, Ugly or Slutty – the blog collecting abusive and sexist messages sent to women. It is depressing to read it, but it will give you an idea of how the gaming culture treats women in many cases.
Skrivbordskrigarna – Lisa Bjurwald, book about right wing extremism. You might not think it has that much to do with gaming, but you’d be surprised. Not that right wing extremists game (although they do) but that the methods used to silence journalists are frighteningly similar to methods used to silence female gamers and journalists daring to speak up against sexism.
Hypertext by John Suler – the man who coined the phrase “online disinhibition effect”.
#1reasontobe – the hashtag talking about why it is still worth being a woman in game dev.
The McKinsey report talking about the perks of having female bosses.
NUTEK’s report about gender and profit. I’ve not read the whole thing, just parts of it.
AddGender, the very name dropped equality consultants that everyone should use 🙂

Also, there were a few upset players who thought this would end gaming forever, but seeing this is the day after Gamecraft and my PS3 is still where I left it, none of my games have uninstalled themselves in protest etc, I think we can safely assume that games are safe for now.

In the department “whaaa…?”

Of course, the hashtag #spelgenus, used for the conference was – not exactly flooded – but perhaps visited, by some gamers who thought this was a non-issue or felt threatened. I want to refute some exclamations made, because I think it’s important to counter arguments that are not true and to try to educate those who actually want to know more.

Let’s start with the satanist accusation.

Satanist blood sacrifices? Patriarchal oppression? Ignorant? Well...

Satanist blood sacrifices? Patriarchal oppression? Ignorant? Well…

The twitterer writes – roughly translated:

I am quite despairing of #spelgenus because games happen to be a pretty big hobby of mine. Ignorant bullies come along telling me that (cont.) Innocent pleasures are blood sacrifices for satan. I feel a bit offended but mostly I feel that they’re demonizing visionaries and (cont.) entertainers that have contributed to amazing stories about humanity, life, humor, survival, right and wrong etc.
Games are amazing and can be anything. To state that it’s only patriarchal oppression and hatred towards women is sick.

First of all, ignorant bullies. Well. Speaking for myself I’ve been playing games since -85 and making games professionally since -00. Ignorant is not what I’d refer to myself as. As for Andy Walsh, he had so many titles on his CV they couldn’t even fit on a slide. Currently he works for Lionhead. Also Björn Åkerblom works at Ubisoft/ Massive, I don’t exactly have his CV available, but my guess is it probably contains one of those games you love so much. Anita Sarkeesian is amazing, so she doesn’t need a CV, plus she’s played over 350 games as far as I know. Anna Serner is in charge of the Swedish Film Institute and while that probably doesn’t impress a gamer like you, I don’t think ignorant is a word that applies. Ina Bäckström is a producer at Paradox and she’s also the Swedish Queen of Blades, a very accomplished e-sports journalist. But I’m sure you’re right. We’re ignorant, the lot of us. As for bullies, I can assure you, none of the participants bullied me, and I’m fairly certain I abstained from bullying as well.

Second of all, no one at the conference mentioned Satan even once. Not even blood sacrifice. There were occasions when we could have, because Anita talked about Dante’s Inferno, but never was there a reference to games as being blood sacrifices for Satan. Since you were probably not even at the conference, I’d say this is a pretty big exaggeration. So no, no blood sacrifices for Satan.

Thirdly, no one said that games are only patriarchal oppression against women. Some games have a problematic depiction of women, but that’s not quite the same thing. Really, it isn’t.

It’s just a game! Can we talk about something other than gender equality!

Standard arguments. Okay.


Women are trying to take over the games industry with their gender equality talk. They’ll complain aboug GTA V when we stomp female cops.
Dammit! Isn’t there ANYTHING that doesn’t have to be filled with gender equality talk?
Complaining about sexism in games is ridiculous! IT’S FUCKING FICTIONAL! If you feel insulted by a game, turn it off!

First of all, women are not trying to take over the games industry with gender equality talk. That would be very impractical. We will take over the business with competence, passion and a will to make excellent games. I don’t think you have to worry yet, though, women, despite being 47% of the gaming population, only consist of 14% in the developer business. I’d also like to point out that it’s not just women who talk about gender equality. My boss at Avalanche, Christofer Sundberg does as well. So in a way I guess that the business has already been taken over by gender equalists. If that’s even a word.

Secondly, no, not if it’s relevant.

Thirdly, games are a form of media. All media that surround us reflect and enhance the culture we live in. To say that a severely sexist game is just a game and only fictional is to say that The Turner Diaries is just a book. Maybe I’m imparting too much importance on the game format as a culture carrier, but there are a lot of people playing games and internalizing the messages games bestow on us. So no. Even if it is just a game, content is important because it shapes our society in subtle ways.

Pointing out the difference will not help

Okay, so this one is actually very interesting.



#spelgenus shoots themselves in their feet (swedish expression). As long as the subject (women in games) is treated as something different, it will be seen as something different.
With that I’ve said nothing about feminism, but that feminists divide women and men playing in different compartments

To be honest? Feminists didn’t start it. It’s been going on since Aristotle. Not the gaming part, but the othering of women. Reading a book about game history, you’ll find that games during the 80’s weren’t gendered to the high extent that they are now. They were just games. Gendering came along with Ms PacMan, personal computers and the idea that technology is a male area (which is also a very old idea, matching the othering of women). Games became a male area as well. I’m not going to go in to too much history, but suffice to say, it’s not feminists that made the distinction to start with, and we (or at least I) would love for it to go away. It’s not going to, though, not without changing the industry and society.

* Of course, always being right and always having sources doesn’t protect us from the ever persistent “I don’t accept your sources”. People often give themselves the right to dismiss any research and any facts that don’t agree with what they think is an accurate representation of the world.