More specifically, we need to speak up about the circumstances and conditions that are fairly standard in game development. Just recently, a woman was fired from Bungie because she didn’t use the right title in her social media accounts. She was reported by her coworkers.
Today is my last day at Bungie, I have been let go. Apparently sticking up for myself in refusing to change a title that didn’t represent the work I did and calling coworkers out for reporting me using anonymous in-house tools created a hostile work environment. Here’s the tweet: https://t.co/ONIIYIvBnV
— Elisabeth 🎮✨ she/her (@710wonderdev) September 2, 2022
Not only did HR go along with it. Her ally apparently never said a word. I have no illusions that speaking up will help her get a job. It might. It might not. Speaking up, and how you speak up is often a crap shoot, but let’s say that the odds are never in your favour.
We should, though. We should speak up. If we don’t speak up we’ll never get to the bottom of the issues with the industry. We’ll just keep seeing stories about the way people are treated, be it getting fired for having the wrong title on their social media or for trying to unionise or as a quick fix for having been sexually harassed and not just grinning and bearing it.
The games industry has a massive problem, but shutting up is not going to fix it, no matter how much the companies want you to. We need to talk about the problem in order to fix the problem. Too often the problem is fixed by people getting booted from projects or companies, and it is not the people who are the real problem who are asked to leave, it is the people who can point to the problem.
Game development is toxic, and my belief is that it is toxic because it has been built on a toxic idea of masculinity.
“We work ’til we drop here.” – probably not stated explicitly, but if the director brags about not having taken a vacation for ten years, that’s a warning.
“Men are geniuses, no process needed, we’ll succeed!” – hot tip. This may work if you’re a team of 10 people, but surprise! Does not work for 150 people, 300 people or more.
“We’ve been through the trenches together, we’ve fought a war!” – usually said after gruelling periods of crunch to create some sort of team spirit.
“Emotions won’t rule us! We use logic and rationality to build a game!” – no you don’t. You make games about what you want and usually without any kind of structure or plan, which, surprise, leads to crunch.
“We work hard, we play hard, we’re passionate!” – translation “we use your desire to work in the industry to promote a toxic environment without you feeling you are able to complain, because passion!”
All it comes down to is an industry where all the major players know each other and where it doesn’t really matter if you behaved like a terror in your previous company. Provided you are a man, of course.
It’s not an even playing field. The ground is bulldozed and steamrolled if you’re a man. It’s a mine field if you are not. The contempt some of these men harbor against women is sometimes massive. Why else would we even get a movement like GamerGate or the James Damore Google Manifesto which clarifies the attitudes I’m talking about. If this was not an issue we wouldn’t have movements like these. We would also not have these flare ups. What happens, though, when these flare ups are over?