My husband cautioned me about writing a blog post about video games. Which sounds kind of weird. They’re video games, I’m a gamer, why should it matter if I write about them? Because of articles like this, and this, and this.
Weird that so many people, gamers and developers alike, are so paranoid about women in the video game industry. As if having a vagina somehow means that I’ll either ruin games for everyone or just slather pink and social justice like frosting on a kid’s birthday cake all over the industry. Trust me, I won’t and wouldn’t even if I had the power.
Full disclosure: I never worked directly in the gaming industry. I’ve never made a game. I have worked for an advertising agency whose client was a massive AAA publisher though. I did, for over 2 years, work exclusively for that publisher to help sell their biggest titles. Not only did I do that, but my primary focus was advertising on game consoles (Xbox and PlayStation) and custom programs on gaming centric sites like Twitch. I also wrote my Master’s Thesis on if playing video games (World of Warcraft) had any positive or negative affect on romantic relationships (it didn’t in case you’re interested, it was akin to watching TV with your significant other, just a shared activity). So I like to think I know gamers, games, and gaming. But I have been told this isn’t enough. I have to play video games too. Which I do. So all my bases should be covered now, right?
Except I’m a woman. Ergo I can’t be good at games (admittedly, FPS are not my strong suit but I also get motion sick really easily in a first person view so I don’t have that going for me). Not only can’t I be good at games, I can’t actually be a gamer. I can’t really be a part of this community. Not unless I just cosplay the sexy sidekick that shows up in some games. It’s demeaning.
My male coworkers, whether they gamed or not, did not need to work nearly as hard as I did to prove I knew how a game console worked. To show that I knew the games I was marketing and could play them. I took it on the chin, just as another “perk” of working in the industry. But it was tiring. And thankless. And often left me wondering why I even bother.
Then articles like this pop up and I think “yes, this is why I did it. This is great and so needed to be said!’ And I get so proud of the women in this sexist industry for leaning in rather than leaning out. I’m inspired to do something I don’t ever do because I don’t want to engage with internet trolls: I am going to post a comment and celebrate these women!
Then I read the Facebook comments and decide “nope”.
So many people (I don’t want to say men but I think we know who I’m talking about here) were so adamant about not “forcing” diversity either by race or gender. Basically reusing the same argument over and over again “if they are qualified to work on a game then fine, but don’t make women join the industry!” They so effectively missed the point that I was floored.
No one said anything about firing a bunch of veteran workers to replace them with unskilled women just for the sake of having a woman on the team or someone of a different ethnicity. All the article and the book it was reviewing said was that there is an issue in the industry that makes women feel marginalized. That makes them work unnecessarily harder for less pay and recognition. That lets sexist behavior be “normal” in the industry. That allows the community they want to work for to tear them down and threaten them with death and sexual violence. That is the behavior that needs changing so women feel safe working in the industry. It’s about keeping talented people making quality products rather than leaning out of an industry they love because it’s gotten too dangerous, disrespectful, or soul crushing for them to remain or even go into the tech industry to begin with.
But so many gamers are terrified that if a woman joins a big studio as any position of power that suddenly their game won’t be the same anymore. That a woman will shove an agenda down their throats and make something terrible that they won’t want to play because it’s for some stereotypical little girl who likes and wants a world akin to a Lisa Frank notebook. They think girls can’t possibly want to play things like Battlefield, Call of Duty, or even Madden. It’s a gross over generalization that makes “hardcore gamers” worry about the future of the industry they love. Because they genuinely do love games and don’t want anyone to take that away from them (no one is trying to do that, for the record).
The fact of the matter is, women are half the population and a growing number of gamers. Ignoring them will cripple publishers and developers alike and that will take away the games they love much faster than having a diverse group of developers creating said game. Women just want more accurate representations in their games. Development studios like Bioware get that and you know what? They make bank and can continue making the games they love into the foreseeable future because they don’t ignore girl gamers. They don’t cater to them either. Weird right? A woman enjoying a game that a guy loves too?
And that’s the point. Encouraging an industry to be more accepting of women and other ethnicities only benefits the industry as a whole. It doesn’t break it. It doesn’t ruin it. It helps it move into a more acceptable medium, one that maybe doesn’t get attacked all the time for being ultra-violent (ahem). This medium, a medium I love and want to succeed because I love playing games, shouldn’t be a boys club. Of all things it should be more accepting because gamers were made fun of for so long as these social outcasts that lived in their parents basement (nerds, essentially). But it has had the opposite effect and because they had been marginalized, they want to make it hell for another group who wishes to “join in”. In the end, it’ll only make the gaming community stronger and isn’t that what we all want?
I love sharks. Therefore I love Shark Week on Discovery Channel. I’ve eagerly waited for and watched every Shark Week for at least 10 years. I even have a Great White tattoo. But something has started to change in the past few years of Shark Week. I don’t know if ratings are slipping or Discovery is just struggling to find new content for these week long specials, but it seems to me that the majority of the episodes have changed in tone to make shark’s look big and scary and something to be afraid of. More reminiscent of Jaws then conservation.
Let’s get one thing straight, sharks are big and can be scary and are certainly dangerous if you surprise them, have a fish they’d like to snack on, or if you are generally being stupid in the water with one of these animals. They are predators. The ocean is their domain. Respect that.
But I go to Discovery to learn and impress my friends at bars with my random shark facts. I did not study sharks in college but Shark Week kind of makes me wish I had or at least lets me pretend that I did. What I don’t need Discovery to do is add to the fear mongering that already plagues these animals.
I’m not going to review every episode, there are over 15 and you don’t need me to give you the play by play (unless you want me to, and if you do, let’s do this!). Anyway, some episodes are better than others. Like “Tiger Beach” where I learned a lot about Tiger sharks that I didn’t know before, like where the females go to hang out to get away from the male shark’s before they are sexually mature or after mating. Sounds nice right? A place where only us ladies are allowed to hang out to get away from horny dude bros? Sharks know what’s up. Or “Blue Serengeti” where a group of Stanford researchers team up with other marine wildlife experts to figure out where the sharks that visit California come from and go to in order to protect the waters these animals migrate to and from. There you get a really clear picture of just how devastating finning is to the shark population and why international waters need to be protected in a similar fashion to the Serengeti from poachers.
See? That’s cool! That’s interesting! The scientist got into some tense situations where they were outnumbered and the sharks were in an agitated state but the episode wasn’t about that. It did an excellent job of showing the audience that hey, these are trained scientists and they know that this is a dangerous situation. They aren’t freaking out. They are not being dramatic about how the sharks could kill them (fun fact: they could). They are showing why this is dangerous and what to do in that situation and then GETTING OUT OF THAT SITUATION as soon as possible not just for their own safety, but the shark’s as well. It shows the level of respect these massive predators deserve, is educational, and shows me something totally new about sharks.
You take something like that and then follow it up with episodes that, even from the title, I know are going to be salacious at best. Using words like “monster” to describe a shark’s size instead of “massive” or referring to every episode with a Great White shark in it as “Jaws”, or even worse “Shark Serial Killer” when really, the episode was trying to figure out why large Great White Sharks would migrate up to Oregon when there is no seal colony for them to feed on. So why was the episode called “serial killer”? Because along that migration path, surfers had been attacked. Roughly 6 over the course of 10 years. That’s less than 1 per year.
Shark Week and Discovery Channel have strayed dangerously far away from the educational and preservation tone that had me fall in love with sharks decades ago. Now, a new generation of FINatics, as the network likes to call them, are growing up with a fear of sharks rather than a desire to learn and protect these incredible creatures.
Discovery channel focuses mainly on 3 species of sharks, with the Great White front and center. On the last few shark weeks, all they really focus on are Great Whites, Bull Sharks and White Tip Reef Sharks. This year they branched out a little with episodes dedicated to Tiger sharks and Mako’s but episodes like that are becoming increasingly rare.
There are so many species of sharks I’d love to learn more about, Discovery! Tell me more about Spinner sharks who jump out of the water and, you guessed it, spin like ballerinas in the air! Educate me on Bronze Whaler sharks or Lemon sharks! Introduce me to the Crocodile shark (yes, that’s a real thing)! Or spend more time following the majestic Whale or Basking shark around. Focus on something new and different rather than trying to pump some forced drama into episodes around the same few species of sharks. Yes, they are crowd favorites and I love watching Great Whites jump through the air while hunting. But who knows, maybe an episode on School sharks will give rise to a new crowd favorite.
My point is: stop doing crap where you pretend a Megaldon Shark is lurking somewhere in the ocean (it’s the Loch Ness of sharks, really cool to make stories about but essentially just that, a story). Stop going into this downward spiral where shark’s become monster’s again under a thin veil of scientific research. Focus on what makes sharks amazing predators. Show me something new and demonstrate why these apex predators need help.
I still try to live every week like its shark week, but I implore you, Discovery Channel: put the discovery back in the forefront of this. Thank you. I’ll get off my soap box now.
I have never left a job before that was 1. By choice and 2. I didn’t already have something “traditional” lined up for to start on next. I’ve been let go and unemployed for a while. I’ve quit jobs for new and better opportunities. But I’ve never left a job with nothing for me to do next. I suppose that’s my real issue, it’s a perception, a frame of mind. I do actually have something to do. I do have a new endeavor to devote myself to. I didn’t quit a high paying job to just sit around and stare at the clouds rolling by.
I left my advertising job to follow my passion. I left working in the gaming industry behind to be an author. I was always a writer, I just didn’t always allow myself to be what I already was. I put other labels first, Advertising Strategist, Jr. Manager of Innovation, Project Manager, Console and Gaming Expert. Rarely did I tell anyone that I was, and am, a writer. I wasn’t ashamed of it. But I didn’t enjoy the surprise I was met with when I told people that. It made me think that it was something to be embarrassed by when it should have been the opposite.
So now that I am diving into this with everything I am, I feel weird. Like none of this is real. Like I am not actually starting a new career when I am, I absolutely am.
But it’s hard to see it that way sometimes. Especially when I left my job when I was really good at it. That’s not me bragging either, I was honestly and genuinely very good at it. An expert of sorts when it came to anything related to advertising on a game console, games, or gamers. People actively came to me to ask for my advice and recommendation and there is a great sense of pride and accomplishment in that. But I willingly gave that up when this passion of mind turned into something I could do “full time”.
Truth is, I could have left at any time and devoted myself to writing. But I didn’t because of money. It’s always easy to say “follow your dreams, money doesn’t buy happiness.” It does and it doesn’t. It paid my bills and allowed me to travel. Money allowed me to adopt and provide for my two cats and dog. Money let me take care of my husband when he was unemployed. I needed, and liked, getting a steady paycheck. And now I won’t be getting that anymore and it’s risky and that makes it scary. But since I don’t have kids, I’m told now is the perfect time for me to take those risks.
Really, there is no set perfect time. It’s just whatever time is finally right. This was the right time for me. But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have happened later when I did have kids.
It’s hard to understand why I have these conflicting emotions now, especially when I wanted this. Not only did I want this, but I’m damn lucky to have gotten this chance and I know it. There was also a lot about my past job I didn’t like. My clients were constant sources of stress, my commute sucked, and I often didn’t feel appreciated which caused me to feel lonely more often then I’d like to admit.
But my job was gratifying too and I genuinely liked the people I worked with, even if they will forget me in a few months. Such is the nature of the advertising business. Heck such is the nature of moving away from your friends in general. Now that I’m not there and people can’t see me whenever they want to, it takes more effort to keep in touch. That’s when you find out who your true friends are.
But that’s a topic for a later time.
I guess, at the end of this, my last day as a traditionally employed member of the advertising world, I wish it was easier. I wish it were easier for me to flip the bird on those people I worked with, and for, and leave them all behind.
But it isn’t easy.
So even though I am blessed to be able to do something I have great passion for, this is a bittersweet moment for me. I just have to remind myself that it’s alright for me to feel this way and it won’t change my accomplishments or diminish this exciting new chapter in my life. And, if it all goes to hell, I didn’t fail out of my job so I can always go back one day. Which, oddly enough, is not the most comforting of thoughts. No one likes admitting failure after all.
So here goes nothing, wish me luck!