This weekend, I read a bunch of articles about something that made me really happy. According to a 2015 survey by the International Game Developers Association, we have a lot more female game designers than we used to. In fact, the number has doubled in the past seven years. Women are enrolling in video game design courses in large numbers. Girls are being encouraged to take on coding. Marvel has been hosting contests for female inventors. The number of female gamers has just surpassed the number of male gamers. (Go ahead and make the argument that they’re mobile games. Tell me that as I’m killing it in “Call of Duty” or raiding in “World of Warcraft.”)
I’m someone who was personally affected by Gamergate, enduring constant harassment about how “girls don’t play video games” and how we would all make games with “unicorns and puppies and shopping.” (These are actual quotes from messages I received.) So I find these changes interesting. It made me think about what the Gamergate campaign was actually trying to accomplish — and how it actually did the opposite. They didn’t scare women away from the gaming community; in fact, they made us more determined to be a part of it.
Isn’t it strange that most hate campaigns end up having the opposite effect? Weirdly enough, spewing anger and the publicity it gets ends up bringing awareness to an issue. Once people start talking, eventually logic prevails. Well, most of the time. It’s like popping a balloon: All the hate rushes out, and you’re forced to look at an issue from all sides. Even people who didn’t know anything about gaming heard about this.
Now, Gamergate totally sucked. All of us women (and some men) who spent months dealing with threats and harassment didn’t exactly enjoy it. But look at what’s happening. Over the past year, I haven’t heard a single person tell me that I “don’t look like a geek,” or seem surprised when my boyfriend says I kick his butt in “Mortal Kombat.” I’ve talked to little girls who want to design video games, and there are more and more of them at every convention.
So, to all my gaming girlfriends: Make that game. Make it about sword-fighting, military battles, elves and orcs, or unicorns that shop at stores run by puppies. Code on, ladies! Give me more games to play!