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Leaning in… March 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, The Left.
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Some interesting thoughts raised in this piece in last week’s Observer by playwright Lucy Prebble while talking about women and tech and in particular gaming. She notes that in the latter area it’s astounding how marginalised women are in the context of games themselves. This isn’t news, but it does seem curious given the number of women who purchase and play games that…

Last year, women made up almost half of the gaming audience and only around 5% of games’ protagonists (acknowledging that 40% of games have genderless protagonists). That’s still weird. Ethnic diversity statistics are even harder to find, mirroring workforce diversity statistics from within tech companies which they refuse to give out.

It is clear from even a cursory analysis of gaming across the decades that there’s a determined slant in games towards male protagonists. This isn’t the fault of individual gamers, but it surely is an issue that those who produce the games should be attempting to address. And it’s not like it’s that difficult. It’s strange indeed to read that GTA V hasn’t one female protagonist. Like in 2014, not one. Not possible to put in a female criminal?

Check out this apologia from the source:

Houser also briefly tackled the reason why one of the protagonists wasn’t a woman, something that has yet to happen in the entire GTA franchise.

“The concept of being masculine was so key to this story” Houser said simply.

That’s some bundle of expectations there as regards what ‘masculine’ means. And the oddity of this is that Rockstar hasn’t been unable to work with concepts of diversity in the past – from gay and white and back protagonists (just for the record I’ve never been able to play any of the GTA’s, finding myself driving and walking around in preference to actually y’know doing anything).

Prebble makes a particularly interesting point here I think in the following:

The dominant contemporary solution to these homogeneity problems is expressed in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In (just sold to Sony in a major motion picture deal). It basically encourages the rest of us to try harder. It advocates stepping further towards the mainstream, further into it, becoming more like the thing that is excluding you. I’ve sat around glass conference tables as the only woman and been tempted to lean. It’s thrilling as well as pressurising to feel important yet different, to speak for “women” in a room (after all, who will contradict me?) It’s also totally, devastatingly false. And dangerous, as bell hooks has brilliantly outlined.

I can’t speak for women of different socio-economic backgrounds, older women, women of colour. By leaning in to a dominant system, fitting in too far, I eventually barely even speak for myself. I speak for the system.

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Comments»

1. ejh - March 19, 2014

women made up almost half of the gaming audience

This interests me because it’s no different to the gender balance in chess, which is overwhelmingly male. I wonder why the difference?

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ejh - March 19, 2014

so different….

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WorldbyStorm - March 19, 2014

Yes, I was wondering if I’d read that right. It is interesting. What do you think?

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ejh - March 19, 2014

Maybe with games you don’t have to be in a room full of middle-aged men.

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WorldbyStorm - March 19, 2014

Fair point!

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