This post is a bit of an interlude where I talk about the difficulties marginalised groups have in getting hired, it’s also about being a victim, but refusing to be victimised. And it’s a “glorious”1 CV because I just know that some of you readers have started wondering if I’m really that good at my job or if maybe I suck a 2little and am afraid to say so in public. All of the quotes I refer to to suggest that maybe that’s not the case are made anonymous, but just as with anything in these posts there’s evidence.
Sometimes witnesses, sometimes papers, sometimes diaries. Do you know why? Because too often people from marginalised groups are not believed, and seeing as I’m dumping 20 years of near misery here 3, I figured some of it might be hard to swallow. Which leads me to the last topic to address, which is implicit biases and implicit sexism/ racism. If you read my previous post you got an example of explicit sexism in the programmer that I literally butted heads with. He was easy to counteract. You just had to ask him to talk and he would reveal himself. Implicit biases are much harder to address, because they’re subtle. This is also why we become so much more vulnerable to gaslighting and denials when it comes to implicit sexism. I’m primarily using sexism here, because that’s what I have experienced for myself, and I feel uncomfortable speaking for other people and their experiences. That said, if you think I have it bad, imagine what someone who’s even more marginalised than me might have happen to them.
This is also an interlude explaining why my big mouth messes things up for me. It’s as I previously stated part CV, part butting heads with the industry and part building a network of brilliant, intelligent, competent, charismatic and awesome women who have kept me sane and going when I was about to give up for good.
Let’s start by talking about hiring practices though. I’m sure you know by now, that womxn4 and BIPOC5 folx6 have a harder time getting hired, because we’re not regarded as being as competent as (white) men. I have a ton of sources on this, so I’m just going to leave this quote here:
Employers recruiting in humanities and social sciences did not rate female or minority applicants lower on average, but employers recruiting in STEM rated them statistically significantly lower, leading to the previously mentioned effect that a white man with a 3.75 was rated equally to a female or minority with a 4.0. The authors attribute the effect to unconscious, or implicit, bias, since firms report highly valuing diversity.
I think we can all agree that game development is lodged firmly if not in then adjacent to STEM. The interesting part to keep in mind here is that game studios in some cases haven’t had or still doesn’t have trained HR personnel, meaning that biases have played quite a large part in who’s hired, and who’s not. My personal hypothesis is that in the early days of game dev, developers hired friends and people just like them. And since we haven’t quite gone through a full generation of game devs, we still have that legacy to contend with, a monoculture that hasn’t really let that many diverse people in the door. There’s a bias called similarity attraction bias7, that I personally think has been responsible for keeping the games industry white and male. We’re shifting out of that, in part because of professional HR representatives and in part because we have to, the industry is growing fast.
As marginalised people in the gaming industry, we are often victimised, but we are also expected to remain victims.
One of the most annoying things I keep having repeated at me is “why are you being such a victim. What’s with the victim mentality?” etc etc. The thing is, I have never been a victim. Not in the sense that I hold on to a victim mentality. I’ve been victimised, but I always try to act on it. Sure, I grumble, sure I complain. But I also act. And acting is hardly being stuck in a victim mentality.
Again, my hypothesis, but I think it might be easier for people in power to think that I’m just being whiny rather than what it really is: I am doing my best to change my situation but I don’t have the power to actually do anything, because that power lies with someone else. And that someone else might just be the person that think I’m whiny. It places the responsibility, not on me, but on the people who are in power.
There are systemic issues in the games industry. We usually want to look away from that, because it’s easier if the problems are on an individual level.
For a time, I shared the view that there was no such thing as systemic injustice. I changed my mind.
I honestly can’t remember when I started talking about the games industry in terms of the injustice I saw there. I started doing talks and workshops in 2004. Game Maker in Arvika was first, then came a Super Marit workshop the same year. In 2006 I spoke at Skövde University about “Being a Woman in the Games Industry”. I went back to Gotland and Super Marit that same year to do another workshop. Also in 2006, Nordic Game and one more Super Marit workshop. In 2008 I spoke at Blekinge University, I was a panelist on creative processes.
I was requested to advise on the creation of a game design education called Futuregames at this time, and I continued doing that for several years. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped, but I certainly know why I stopped. It’s all in Part IV.
Again in 2008 I was a moderator for a panel on games and architecture called Future Design Days. I had a bit of a break until 2011 when I spoke at a Geek Girl Meetup. I think I did stuff in between, but I can’t remember because I forget to write things down. The only reason I remember this much is because I’ve saved the badges and the talks.
In 2012 I tag teamed with another voice in the Swedish gaming culture (and the reason I’m not naming anyone is because I want to protect these women) to talk about games at Filmpool Nord. In 2013 I went to Gotland Game Conference to participate in a panel on creating equal cultures, again with a set of lovely, lovely people that I respect and admire for their strength and the support they’ve given me. I participated in a panel called Game Over, Play Again! about archiving games. In 2015, I did a talk in Skövde for Kvinna Skaraborg about my experiences in a male dominated industry and I also talked at Nordic Game Conference, but I can’t remember what I spoke about. I only have the badge left. In 2016, I spoke about game design to a bunch of surgeons at Kirurgveckan. In 2017 I had the pleasure of being invited to Animex Game Festival, Arctic Game Lab and Sweden Game Conference. Possibly I also did a fireside chat at Nordsken. In 2019, a UX masterclass at Game Habitat, Malmö, and two talks about ethics in game development at Sweden Game Conference in Skövde and Konsoll in Bergen. I also spoke at LiU Game Conference that same year. It was kind of exhausting, to be honest.
I’ve also participated in multiple network events for students and women in games, and I’ve done a bunch of talks at universities and game design programs that I’ve not even bothered to list. Suffice to say, I’ve been trying really hard to make sure that women are visible in the industry events that occur and I almost always say yes to requests. This is because 1. I believe it’s important that women are visible in these contexts 2. I have a message. The message is “we need to start taking responsibility for the culture we have built and the content we’re creating”. Before we do that, I don’t think the industry can change very much.
To top it all off, I’ve been in interviews on Swedish national radio a few times about everything from GTA V to just talking about game dev. I’ve been interviewed for national and regional newspapers. I’ve participated in studies and research whenever I’ve been asked to because I was hoping to do some good. To change things.
During all my years as a game developer I have also been severely critical of the Swedish games industry and I’ve been debating Dataspelsbranschen, which is a Swedish lobbying organisation for computer games, a couple of times. I have been critical of them more than once. I’ve argued in comment fields of Swedish games publications, written rebuttals in blog posts and generally made a nuisance of myself. I realised a while back that this is who I am. I see something I don’t agree with, I see an injustice, and I just can’t keep my big mouth shut. Sometimes to my own detriment.
Throughout my journey as a game dev, I have always always been supported by the women I’ve met, and some of the men as well. Without all of them, I wouldn’t be here.
I should have made this post clearer on that point. I wouldn’t have spoken at half of those conferences and universities and schools if I hadn’t been asked by women and men around me to go speak at their events The project Super Marit did SO much for the industry in Sweden to get it to wake up to the realities of the sexism and racism it harboured. The ongoing Donna project in Skövde is helping women get a good start even in school. Boost their confidence and deal with the problems we still have.
Because I care for these women I won’t name them. They’ve already had to withstand a bunch of crap and I don’t want to risk adding to that. If you read this, you know who you are, and you know I’m only building on your hard work. You did most of it.
I’ve had women close to me in the industry cheering me on, and in return, I’ve tried to raise my voice for them, both as support and in writing. I’ve always been ready to charge into a comment field and prove those internet trolls wrong. Not that it helped, but it was support, at least. A dissenting voice going against the “make me a sammich” stream.
I know I’m sounding entitled and narcissistic and honestly, if I thought it was safe to name people I would. But that’s the point. It’s not safe. Harassment has always been around, before #1ReasonWhy, before #GamerGate and it’s still here. #MeToo was an awakening for many and it’s said to have a second awakening in the industry but to be honest it never ended. The outcry against injustice and sexism and racism and crappy behaviour from people in power in the industry has always been there. It started the moment the industry and culture took a left turn into sexism and racism and just because no one could hear us or wouldn’t listen to us does not mean that we weren’t speaking. The people with power just decided that it was comfier not to listen.
We’re still in a position where speaking up is dangerous. We don’t know if we’ll be praised or punished and speaking out, raising our voices is 50/50 not being heard/ pandered to with empty gestures. Okay, maybe 50/30/20, because sometimes things actually happen.
BIPOC and white folx in the industry are not victims. We are not. If we were, we would have quit years ago.
I promised I’d prove to you that I’m not useless as well. You can honestly stop reading now. This is embarrassing to me, but it is also necessary for me to share these things because as I will discuss in Part IV, I am suffering from imposter syndrome and very very very low self esteem and self confidence. I know it might not seem like it, but that’s the way I am, which I’m sure is frustrating to a lot of people. I do that. I frustrate people.
Okay. 10 quotes about me, that’s all you get. (In my head right now “oh my goood you’re so self centered! Stahp!” But I have to prove to you that I’m good at my job. And this is the only way I know how to do that.)
Asa did a fantastic job of working out details for the (redacted because NDA). Her attention to detail and gathering of outstanding questions and ramifications is unmatched.
Åsa does an amazing job of explaining and publicly documenting the requirements and designs for a feature.
She (…) displayed good leadership skills, and (…) she single handedly introduced all new team members, and re-introduced internal recruitments from the company, to the development teams processes and methodology. Her ability to structure, document and administer a project is rivalled by few I’ve met in the line of project management.
When our employees had the chance to nominate their peers for the company’s values, Åsa won the award for COURAGE by a landslide. She helps everyone around her to “think outside the box” and challenges our preconceived ideas and notions, always doing so with a professional attitude and a respectful manner.
Åsa brings to the table not only her expert opinion but also the ability to quickly and effectively illustrate and motivate a particular idea or solution.
Åsa was a strong driving force for advancing the company culture in terms of diversity and inclusivity and I believe that her efforts had a long-lasting impact and legacy in the company’s drive to become a more inclusive workplace.
Åsa contributed tremendously to the team and product development by her extensive experience and strong skills within game design, concept development, and graphics. She is also a very committed and loyal person, always striving to deliver top-notch results.
She is (…) conscientious about the well-being of her teammates, and often goes out of her way to find some way to let us know we’re valued and special, both as a team and as individuals.
In all my interactions with her, Asa has been a staunch, skilled, reliable expert (…), determined to create a breakout hit by being meticulous about every detail in it.
(…) thank you for continuing to be a badass on top of being one of the most professional, thorough and well prepared designers I’ve met.
See? I might actually know what I’m doing! Maybe!? Anyway, from 10 different people and 4 different companies, and none of this was supplied under duress. My torture chamber is empty. No one died. I’ll go into why I think this display of narcissism is necessary in Part IV.
Right. I’ve also been named gamer of the year in 2017 by Sverok and I was awarded an honorary PhD at Skövde Högskola in 2016. Mostly because of my big mouth. At least it’s good for something.
If you want to take me down a peg, I also hold the dubious honor of being called out by a company CEO in a company wide meeting as the discipline that failed a particular game. Being the lead of said discipline kinda put the responsibility on me for that one. So now that we know I can fail, and fail spectacularly, we can move on to Part IV.
- I say glorious, because it sounds better, but really it’s just a bunch of stuff I did.
- If you talk to any of my current co-workers, I’m pretty sure they’ll say I sometimes take the blame for stuff that isn’t necessarily my fault.
- Except it’s not all of it, and it’s not all the stuff I’ve gone through, just the stuff I wrote down and after a while you stop, because if you didn’t it would break your heart. I keep mine in a tin jar. I shake it sometimes to see if it’s still there. It sounds like broken pieces of hard candy.
- Intersectional alternative spelling of “woman”/”women” meant to include transwomen and non-white women
- Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.
- Intersectional alternative spelling of folks, meant to include any gender.
- The similarity-attraction effect refers to the widespread tendency of people to be attracted to others who are similar to themselves in important respects. Attraction means not strictly physical attraction but, rather, liking for or wanting to be around the person. Many different dimensions of similarity have been studied, in both friendship and romantic contexts. Similarity effects tend to be strongest and most consistent for attitudes, values, activity preferences, and attractiveness. Personality similarity has shown weaker, but still important, effects on attraction.