I’ve been aware that my play and work spaces are male-dominated for quite some time. I’ve witnessed people being treated unfairly and I’ve been treated unfairly. My friends have horror stories, I have horror stories, we talk about them together. It’s a thing and it’s been a thing for a while.
When #1ReasonWhy happened, I breathed a sigh of relief. Luke Crane of Kickstarter (and himself a game designer) asked innocently on twitter:
“Why are there so few lady game creators?”
When Filamena Young responded, ending her tweet with the hashtag #1ReasonWhy, it began. Soon, this hashtag was populated with tens of thousands of tweets, all horror stories doing their best to explain why videogames culture may be a problematic place for us to work and play.
I was glued to my computer. Look at all these brave women! Check out all that fortitude! Oh god the fortitude. It’s oozing out everywhere. War drums started, and I heard chants under all the tweets: “Enough. is. enough.”. My heart was racing.
Quickly, the #1ReasonMentors hashtag appeared, for women wanting help to find someone to help them. It was followed by the #1ReasonToBe hashtag, to remind us of why it’s a kick-ass job enough for us to put up with this crap in the first place.
As we carefully curate our personal space and who we associate with, we can start to forget certain behaviour exists. Horror stories remind us of the existence of our bubble, that there’s a big world out there, that there are people out there who are still blatant misogynists or unknowing sexists, and that women still exist who don’t associate with the term feminist, despite enjoying all the tasty cake feminist movements have provided them thus far. #1ReasonWhy was a call to check your bubble, and it was goooood.
I’ve felt like it’s been necessary for quite some time to organise myself in a feminist capacity to be there for the culture I love so much, but I didn’t really have many ideas how to go about it. All I knew is that horror stories can only get us so far, even though they had their place. A few months before the #1ReasonWhy hashtag I started brainstorming and asking experienced feminists and women in digital culture what I could do to help. I was shown how other fields are offering support systems to women creatives, what works, what doesn’t. I particularly like the notion behind nochicksnoexcuses.com.au, a rolling database of women experts that broadcasters, festival organisers and curators (and the like) could access so there was no way the excuse “We just couldn’t find any women” would fly when confronted about lack of diversity of opinion.
But I didn’t feel like that was the right fit for creatives in the game space. A framework of “experts” can also exclude a lot of people who have meaningful things to contribute, in our domain. Students and emerging practitioners still have a lot of wisdom to share.
I want to set up an online hub where women creatives can share the personal epiphanies about their craft they’ve been having, the lessons they’ve learned, and get help when they need it. A space that showcases amazing women game developers locally and from all over the world, asking them to write a blog article about something they’d like to share. A space where women can share their #1ReasonWhy, and be greeted with a knowing hug and reminded of #1ReasonToBe. A space that also welcomes non-games professionals to dip their toe in and see what this whole videogame malarky is all about—a safe space where they don’t have to prove “nerd cred” in order to earn permission to make something cool.
I want there to be a place to go to feel energised and not alone as a woman working in videogames, like I did when I was reading #1ReasonWhy. Both online, and in person. I want something steadfast and durable.
The hashtag felt so ephemeral. I was scared of losing it. “Where are we all going after this is done?! I don’t want to lose you all,” I tweeted. The groundswell behind movements lead by social media can seem so fleeting. There needs to be concrete action afterwards to make sure a difference is actually made.
I want to make a space where there’s a focus on the personal relationship between maker and craft. Where industry experience isn’t a nucleus, people still learning their path are valued and heard, and other people can help them. The maker’s journey is a fascinating one, and one that requires a lot of support, both moral and otherwise. Throw in a harsh gender imbalance and the need for support is even greater.
So I’m going to make this space. Horror stories can only get us so far, after all. So, women in digital culture: start writing down things you’re needing some help with. I’m going to try and put some women in front of you that will try to help. Don’t lose the momentum, don’t lose the urge to say enough is enough, and don’t lose contact. #1ReasonWhy was an important cultural moment. One we shouldn’t let disappear.
Leena van Deventer is a writer, editor, and game developer from Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on twitter @grassisleena
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