Sexism and diversity in the gaming industry have been increasingly hot topics as of late, and at GDC 2013, a panel made up of several women of the industry took to the stage to host a discussion titled 1ReasonToBe, a discussion inspired by the massive response to the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe Twitter discussions about sexism and what it's like to be a woman in the gaming industry. While those Twitter discussions are far from the start of these giant issues, they have served as a catalyst for its increased visibility by shining a very public light on the topic.
The problem reared its head again recently in a recent blog from Crystal Dynamics' Meagan Marie, who recounted some of her more uncomfortable experiences in the industry as a cosplayer, but most recently at last weekends PAX East event in Boston, where Marie reflected on comments made by a member of the gaming press during an interview. Since the blog was posted, Marie has updated the post to discuss developments that followed, a lot of which are now deleted comments of what she calls threats, insults, and her viewpoints being misrepresented.
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So we fast forward to this week at GDC. We have an industry panel made up of some of the industrys veteran female developers and journalists. Taking part in the panel was International Game Developer Association (IGDA) Women in Games SIG co-chair Brenda Romero, Funomena co-founder Robin Hunicke, Gamasutra Journalist Leigh Alexander, Microsoft Studios Game Designer Kim McAuliffe, Storm8 Game Designer Elizabeth Sampat, and Game Critic & Designer Mattie Brice.
During the talk, the panelist shared their feelings on the topic and some of their personal stories with the audience relating to some of their experiences in the industry. Some very cringe-worthy tales came to light such as that of Mattie Brice, who after starting a blog to discuss women and minorities in games stated that she had received rape and death threats as well as having her blog hacked with pornographic images.
The panel was met with a standing ovation by its conclusion, but events took another turn as news of the IGDA co-sponsored party Tuesday night began to emerge. The party, co-hosted by YetiZen, who had another set of issues following last years party, should have been a celebratory event for the industrys best and brightest to mingle and consort with their peers. Unfortunately, the party served as yet another catalyst of controversy, one that has ended with the resignation of several IGDA members.
As the party got underway, several women described in a Forbes article as scantily clad female dancers were paraded out as part of the evening's entertainment. Suffice to say, following the panel discussion about sexism in the industry, this was probably about the worst idea that event planners could have gone with, and it has since resulted in the resignation of IGDA members such as Brenda Romero, IGDA board member Darius Kazemi, and more recently, IGDA Chicago Chair Jay Margalus also stepped down.
The IGDA has since issued an apology by way of Executive Director Kate Edwards.
"As many of you know, the IGDA was a co-presenter of the Yetizen party Tuesday evening," Edwards said. "We recognize that some of the performers' costumes at the party were inappropriate, and also some of the activities they performed were not what we expected or approved. We regret that the IGDA was involved in this situation. We do not condone activities that objectify or demean women or any other group of people.
"One of the core values of the IGDA is encouraging inclusion and diversity," Edwards added. "Obviously we need to be more vigilant in our efforts. We intend to be so in the future."
Edwards also expressed her hopes that those that have resigned following the controversy will return to the organization.