Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 77: Supporting Madeline

Yesterday I shared an article about 12 year old Madeline who wrote a very articulate Op-Ed that was published in the Washington Post appealing to game developers to make female characters as accessible as male characters in their games.    I spent hours going through the comments of the Op-Ed as well as some of the blogs featuring Madeline's appeal.

The focus of yesterdays post was on how her article yielded positive results and had impact in that some game developers did make changes based on Madeline's appeal.

Today I just wanted to take a minute to thank all the people who offered encouragement and support to Madeline in their comments.  Some of the comments were less than friendly and even at times disrespectful,  but thankfully several readers came to bat for Madeline and made some great points  or counterpoints to the more challenging comments.  Here are just a few...

socialization issues are hard… I always had it in my head that that's just "what I'm gonna do when I have kids!"...but wow is that hard.... And that's probably why instead of thinking about 'what I'll do when I have kids" I should have been thinking about how I change things NOW to make it easier to be that kind of parent when I have kids... These kinds of articles and conversations are what help that happen, so thank you Madeline!


We’re catching up, I work with about 40% woman at my large game company.


Great article and you should be proud. Very mature writing style and good data analysis.


In Kim K you can choose your character's gender and appearance, so that's a moot point. Interesting how a game geared more towards women offers both options for free, whereas it's apparently too expensive and difficult to include a female option in games "targeted at boys".


That's because Kim K knows how to make money, and she knows discriminating against half of the population isn't going to put money in her pocket.


"And ripping on the game with Bear Gryllis? Think about it - he is a guy and it is a game about him."

I do agree with this, and I can see your point, but I think that it was very aptly counterbalanced with her next point in the same paragraph, which is that a game specifically about an angry granny (granted, this is not a real person, but the title is "Angry Gran Run" and the titular Angry Gran is an old woman) also offers male avatars to make sure not to alienate the male audience. So while it is a good point that the Bear Grylls game is about Bear Grylls, that does not change the fact that when the game is centered around a woman character there are still male options for free


One obvious option is to vote with your dollars by supporting games that offer equal representation over those that don't, but another is to voice support for articles like this and help signal boost them


The majority of Endless Runner (the genre she investigated) players are women. The actual problem here is that the majority of game devs are still men (about 80%), and we (I am a dev myself) gravitate towards what's familiar to us. We need to reach out of that comfort zone.


Thank goodness for companies like Bethesda Games/Bioware, who not only have options, but who use great voice actors (in fact, I slightly prefer the female lead character in Mass Effect series, though I am a male)


Great article and good job Madeline! This is just one of the many "obvious" injustices that you will face as girl/woman in the world (they will be obvious, subtle, and likely numerous throughout your life I'm sorry to say), but if you keep yourself open to seeing them and calling them out for what they are, then you might help to make it easier for another girl in the future (and hopefully for yourself soon). Keep it up!


Whether I'm a woman is irrelevant. As a CONSUMER: it's obviously far more effective to ask for improvements in already-existing products than to try to make those products myself. Game designers WANT to know what their customers like and want. That's how they make money. If they hear from enough people that adding female characters for no additional charge will encourage them to buy the app, they'll do it. This is the very heart of the law of supply-and-demand. 


There is simply NO REASON that HALF of ALL characters in most scenarios can't be female, when half of the human population is female. When I was her age, this bothered me too, and I didn't even grow up in a feminist or liberal household. Kids notice these things, even if adults roll their eyes and whine about how it's a waste of time to worry about it.

Girls notice when their gender is ignored, laughed at, and brushed off. It tells them than adults think less of girls than boys and think less of female opinions, and judging by the comments, that still seems to be the case...


"This made me so annoyed that I did more research." :D

This girl is a powerful force. Arm yourself with facts, Madeline, and you go girl!


To reject her perspective on this is to dismiss her legitimate feelings and shows a blatant lack of respect.


This girl has seen a problem that affects her and she's speaking out.

Great observations, well-written!

By researching and writing this, you've done a lot of good. One of the most important game industry conventions is going on right now. (GDC 2015) - might still be time to get a summary of your points into one of the closing presentations.


In reaction to “Her methodology does not prove her thesis."

Her thesis is that (A) the observable gender representation in endless runners is biased in favor of male representation, and that (B) this results in an unwelcome environment for female players. Her methodology does not undermine that thesis at all. Nor do your comments suggest it does in any way.

We can focus mainly on (A) since (B) follows from it, and you aren't disputing (B) if (A) is correct.

"Genre affects the make up of the people who would be purchasing or using the games."

Sure, but so what? Her point is that this genre IS biased in representation. The genre's demographics in no way justify the state of that genre's handling of gender. For example, shooters attract more male players. Would that make it acceptable for shooters to be hostile towards women? Tying this in to current events: the SAE fraternity that's been in the news lately is overwhelmingly white. Does that justify their environment's racism toward blacks?

"Next, fifty is also an extremely small sample size when considering the dearth of games available on the market... 'most popular' introduces other variables to the sample's make up which could inappropriately alter the results."

If you go looking for endless runner games, those are the top 50 you'll see. It is THE observable state of the genre, and can be argued to be the only one that is relevant. Again, her "State of the Union"-ish argument about endless runners is that: the face of the genre is biased in gender representation. A couple obscure titles at the bottom of the barrel that aren't this way are not important if we're talking about what everyone is going to see when they look at endless runners for themselves, since that is going to be these 50 games.

"But even then the difference may be a decisions based on market economics... So they will exploit that to get the largest return possible."

Her argument is that it feels exclusionary to be exploited. This doesnt sabotage her point



In "Noodles Now" on the App Store the main character is "Fly" who flies through a futuristic city delivering noodles. It is basically a runner (though not an ENDLESS runner since you can win when you deliver all your noodles). The main character is based upon my nieces and the biggest demographic of players downloading the game this weekend was 13-17 year old females.

Give it a shot!

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