Before I say anything att all I would like to tell you I know many talented artists that draw awesome video game art, and might be featured in magazines like this, without supporting the fact that many female characters are depicted as flat sex dolls. I usually don’t write about stuff like this, but lately I just feel I need to get it off my chest.
My mum is a very talented irl artist. I have been trying my best to explain to her what I’m doing for a living (video games). I have tried to prove her wrong, that video games does not need to create violent kids, that it’s not a “boys only club”, that things are changing. I even got her interested when I told her there are plenty of super talented artist working in the industry, drawing stuff on computers (my mum likes to do oil paintings).
And then, when we are visiting a book store and I want to show her all the amazing stuff digital artist are producing, I pick one of the magazines specialized on showing off digital artist. She gets a bit suspicious when she sees the cover (similar to the photo at the top of this post). Its mostly naked girls in weird poses. I try to find an example of a painting of an animal (without boobs), or a landscape (without half naked ferries in it), or a space warrior (without a huge ass cleavage). It’s hard. And my mum gets more and more suspicious. She asks me if there are any women at all working in this industry, or why are all the females so super sexualized?
By now I’m a bit embarrassed after showing tons of pages of half naked girls to my mum, trying to convince her there are serious artist just like her in the video games industry. I just wish it wasn’t always about the boobs, the ass and the S/M clothes. It’s cheap, it’s boring, and it makes me feel like video game art is mostly for heterosexual males. Sight.
As I said in my previous post it’s important to have role models to look up to, and since there haven’t been all to many brave, smart women to look up to in visual media for me, I have often turned to books. I won’t give you a name, but when I was around 15 I read about the main character in a book about animals and aliens. This girl was brave, humorous, never gave up, cared about her looks without focusing on them to much, and dared to be a leader. She really inspired me, and now 10 years later I feel have inherited many of her good traits. She inspired me to believe in myself, but to be humble at the same time.
When I look at digital media it’s hard to find good role models. Even the girls that kick ass are usually wearing clothes that are focusing on their bews and ass, making her a sex symbol. In the end they usually need to be saved by a hero, or never get to play the main character.
The Booth Babes
I could write a whole essay about booth babes, but I won’t do that. I have seen plenty of them when visiting all those game developer conferences. I know they need to make a living like you and me. But here’s one particular memory I would like to share with you. I was visiting Casual Connect 2012 in Germany. Casual Connect is a “developer only” conference. This means it’s only for the devs, not the gamers. Anywho, when I was standing in line to enter the web lecture held by Google, there was a half naked booth babe dressed in a leather skirt, standing next to the entrance, handing out free cookies. When it was my time to get a cookie things got really awkward. We were both smiling politely towards each other, while she gave me my cookie. I was sort of a mutual agreement between us.
Her smile was saying: Look, I know I’m almost naked, but since we both are women you surely know it’s not you that I’m trying to attract with my body, I’m not lesbian. And we both know women are rare in this video games industry, so you are the exception at this conference. If there were more women around here I could not be dressed like this, it would be to awkward, but now you are in a minority. So let’s be grown ups and not make a big deal out of this.
My smile was saying: Hey, I don’t look down on you just because you are almost naked and this room is filled with men wearing suits. And I know you are here to attract men with your body, since the company that hired you assume that those with power and money will be men at this conference. If there’s any female bosses with money or power it’s OK to scare them away, cuz they are so few. Thanks for the cookie!
Last year me and my boss were standing next to a company that had a naked girl getting a body paint, in the booth. And it was still a “developers only” conference. At Gamescom you can see women hired to walk around in a string bikini with a Storm Trouper helmet. That is to attract young males to the booth. That’s one thing. To use half naked women to attract CEOs and other powerful individuals to your booth on a “devs only” event is not OK. It says: we only care about your money and game if you are a male.
Once, at Gamescom a business man from Thailand approached me and asked if he could talk with someone about MilMo (the game I was then working on). I presented him to our (back then) producer Irene. Irene smiled and reached out her hand to shake hands. “I’m the producer of MilMo, nice to meet you!” The Thai business man just stared at her and said loudly: “But, you?! You are a…a woman?!” Irene laughed and nodded. “Yes, I am. It must be something in our genes, we women are good at managing and taking care of small children, and game developers”.
Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends that are male (I often feel I can act more myself in a group of mostly males or girls that don’t go all “tihi tihi I love makeup”), and my experience tells me a team will often perform better if it consists of a mix between women and men. I don’t hate men (like some trolls seems to suggest as soon as you talk about stuff like this). I don’t think all men are bastards. I don’t hate everything that has to do with sex. I’m just tired of the feeling that when I visit a game event male visitors come in one version: professionals there to make business, and women come in two versions: the female version that is there to make business, or the naked version that is there to sell something with her body.