Links have now been added, see bottom of post.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to name this blog post, so a fragile state it is. What I’m talking about is of course my own experiences in the gaming industry, both past and present, and a hypothesis I’ve formed around the idea of creativity, who gets to be creative and who among us isn’t supposed to be. This is, as always, connected to gender (and I’m sure also to ethnicity and class) and to perception.

I’ve been in the industry for a long time and one of the things that I’ve noticed is that if I want to have a career that is at least slightly moving upwards at a reasonable pace, I should be someone who organises things. I should be a producer. Someone who facilitates as the men around me get to have their ideas and be creative.

The reason I believe this is of course related to the two years I spent as a producer, and apart from having everyone on the team blaming me for any perceived issues with our production methods, how fast I actually rose through the ranks compared to when I’ve worked as a game designer.

I know this sounds as if I’m complaining, and I’m pretty sure there are people out there thinking that my lack of upward mobility when it comes to game design is a lack of skill. That may well be a part of it. I might not be as skilled as my co-workers when it comes to design, this is true. However, looking at the fact that I have students who I’ve taught passing me in their careers is telling me that perhaps – as a woman – I’m not afforded the same opportunities as “everyone else”.

I had a conversation at work at one point with a few colleagues, and we were talking about estimates, and how our estimates for the work we needed to do has been distrusted. The people in that conversation who felt that their estimates were never allowed to stand on their own were all women. The men had had no issues with it. To me, this points to a distrust towards us that seems to be related to our gender.

All of the above is of course anecdotal, but a few things (well, a few studies) that support this hypothesis not only when it comes to my own career but to women in general are the following.

We’re still biased against women when it comes to hiring. Meaning that even straight out of the gate, women are less likely to get the job for the simple reason that men’s CV’s are valued higher than women’s. Most people prefer to hire men when hiring, unless of course they’re made aware of the bias and can counter it1, 2.

Another fragile state is that we tend to promote men based on their potential and women based on their current performance. This means that women have to already perform at the next level while men only have to prove that they have the potential to perform better.3

In my experience women also have to perform better than men in order to be valued at the same level, meaning that I can outperform my male peers and still be seen as performing on the same level (or lower) than them.

And again, I can hear people in the audience going “oh, she’s just jealous because she’s not as competent as the men she’s working with”, and I admit that the thought has crossed my mind more than once. Because of course there’s also impostor syndrome4, 5 to deal with, and tokenism6 and a ton of different biases and systems that exist to keep us in our places.

Imagine you have years of experience in your field. Imagine that every performance review is perfect, that you perform well and sometimes above and beyond. Imagine that you’re still questioned around even basic skills. Imagine having external experts in your field being brought in to verify that you can do your job, and having those same experts praise you. Then imagine that every decision you make internally is questioned, overturned and changed, despite data pointing to your solution.

Imagine not being informed about changes that concern your direct area of responsibility, and then imagine that the responsibility for any problems arising from those changes is put on you.

Imagine not getting invited to meetings you need to be in, and imagine having tasks put on you based on decisions made in that meeting.

Imagine being ignored.

Imagine having your ideas attributed to other people.

Imagine having your colleagues always turning to your male colleague, sometimes your junior, instead of you.

Imagine having your appearance commented on.

Imaging having to stand listening to jokes that are sexist or racist or transphobic or ableist and when you tell your colleagues to stop, you’re the problem.

I’ve been through all of the above an more, most of it when I worked as a designer. Little or nothing when I worked as a producer. It’s when I tell people what to do that the problems arise. We often enter into the weird world of tone policing. “What you say is valid, but could you say it in a nicer way?” “Men won’t listen unless you coax them a little.” etc etc. At the same time we’re told that we need to be more assertive and sure of ourselves.

To be honest, sometimes it’s hard to know which way to turn.

  1. Committees with implicit biases promote fewer women when they do not believe gender bias exists
  2. Women are 30 percent less likely to be considered for a hiring process than men
  3. Men are judged based on their potential; women are judged based on their past performance
  4. 5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)
  5. What Is Impostor Syndrome?
  6. What Is Tokenism, and Why Does It Matter in the Workplace?