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Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: The Black Girl Gamers

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The most effective change comes when people band together and make it happen. The Black Girl Gamers are one such group. They work to make sure that the world of gaming is more inclusive for everyone.

In 2015 The Black Girl Gamers formed. They began as a safe space against sexism and racism in the gaming world. BGG has grown from their original purpose to become a tour de force in the gaming world. Which really isn’t surprising due to their dedication. The BGG have become the people to go to for the black perspective of gaming.

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The community that is BGG continues to grow. They have 2400 multifaceted gamers, streamers and game developers in their ranks of members. That alone would be insanely impressive for BGG. However they do even more. BGG are also on panels and do press!

The members who make up BGG are a huge part of their success. They have a dedicated group of main streamers. The BGG also have an amazing troop of writers who help keep the gaming community informed and entertained. There are also a few members who should be referred to as nothing less then Elite. These dedicated folks have been with BGG since it’s start and who continue to aid in it’s progress as a community.

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One of the best things about this group is that they also allow their community to merge into other public streams and discords. This gives the BGG the ability to spread safe spaces throughout the gaming community. The BGG is a family that works hard to make sure that the gaming community a better place. Not only do they make gaming spaces more diverse but they also give others a place to use their voices. That makes this awesome group of gamers pretty phenomenal.

You can unite with them on their Facebook.

If you never want to miss an update you can follow them on their Twitter.

They could also use your support. A great way to that is their Patreon.

The BGG are an amazing force in the gaming community. They are using their skills and passion to make real change in the world. The members of BGG prove that you can be the change you want to see. So fight to make gaming spaces what they should be.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Guest Post: The Number of Female Gamers is Rising, Studies Show, so What’s the Problem?

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Gaming research studies for several years have been dealing major blows to the stereotypical view of the typical gamer as a white guy in his mom’s basement. In 2014, a paper by the Internet Advertising Bureau showed that a shocking 52 percent of the total gaming audience is actually women. It indicated a rise from the 49 percent in 2012. By 2017, the most recent research shows that this number had risen to an incredible 65 percent. The 2017 Google Play and Newzoo study revealed that women are now more than half of the gamer population.

The rising number of female gamers should be a positive sign for women in gaming, who have been long marginalized, discriminated against, and openly harassed by fellow male gamers. The million-dollar question now is, is it really? While women are boosting the multibillion-dollar gaming industry, largely by playing various mobile games, the sector is still struggling to accommodate female gamers. Many women gamers, it turns out, largely feel underrepresented in the gaming sector. Let’s consider some of the contributing reasons:

Persistent Stigma
Female gamers may have the numbers on their side, but the general attitudes in the industry largely stigmatize them. Veteran female gamers complain of bias female gamers still have to face. The stigma can be pervasive enough to drive women to pretend to be men when playing. Researchers have noted that a considerable number of female gamers do not disclose their gender because of fear of being alienated by male players. The “gamergate” scandal brought to light the level of misogyny hardcore female gamers have to face. There are also more subtle hints of misogyny indicated in surveys. Another Google Play survey found that male gamers are more likely to spend time playing with others if they know those other players are also male.

Lack of Female Game Developers
While the female percentage in the player sector is on the rise, the same is not true for women game developers, designers, or creators. Women players may be owning it in mobile games or building their own gaming PCs, but according to the International Game Developers Association, only less than 30 percent of developers in the gaming industry are either female or transgender. This affects how women are depicted in games, obviously. The traditional mold of the female characters in games being over-exaggerated sex symbols is still prominent, which discourages female gamers from trying out some of the top ranking titles. It should be noted though that some activist developers are trying to include more diverse and wholesome female characters in games.

Male Toons are Still Prominent
Women are getting into the gaming scene largely thanks to the rise of gaming apps. Women of all ages and from nearly all walks of life can play games while on the move. Some women, like new mothers, report that mobile gaming is a pleasant distraction. Naturally, these female gamers prefer to adopt female avatars and toons for in-game experiences. However, a majority of games still feature male personas rather than female ones. Google found out that the 44 percent of game app icons on Google
Play feature male faces rather than female ones, despite the majority of women consuming these products. A survey found that over 60 percent of female gamers think no more than one-third of mobile games are made for women.

The fact that the number of female gamers is on the rise should be a pleasant and welcoming development for aspiring female gamers and developers everywhere. But as the points above indicate, gender parity is still far from reality in gaming. Hopefully in the future, with more female gamers and developers, these unequal factors may change for the better.

Written By: Tracy Plunkett, Kiwi writer with a love for gadgets, games, and music. I also have an unhealthy obsession with cats.

Top 10 Female Magic: The Gathering Players

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So, I was asked to come up with a list of Top 10 Female Magic: the Gathering players. It seems that some people are still living with the (stupid) idea that women can’t play M:tG for whatever reasons they can come up with. While it has admittedly been a long time since a woman won a major tournament (Eda Bilsel of Turkey in 2003 became M:tG’s first National Champion), there are quite a few that place within the top 8 of Grand Prix’s, and the Star City Open series. Go to any Pro Tour Qualifier (PPTQ), Grand Prix, or other tournament around the world and you will find women and girls of all ages competing.

The current youngest player at Grand Prix to ever qualify for day 2 is 12-years-old and held by a boy; however, this is being threatened by 6-year-old Dana Fisher who, at her last GP, missed qualifying by 1 win. A 6-year-old girl is out playing most of the men 2 or 3 times her age, and is getting better each time she competes. If she can keep up the trend, then in just a few years she will be making top 8’s and pushing for the big win.  So, in no particular order here, is my list of 10 Female M:tG players to watch for or just to watch as some are also streamers.

1. Dana Fisher

2. Emma Handy

3. Gaby Spartz

twitch.tv/gabyspartz

4. Jennifer Long

twitch.tv/mrs_mulligan

5. Melissa DeTora

6. Magic The Amateuring

teitch.tv/magictheamateuring (Also have a Podcast)

7. Feline Longmore

8. Athena Huey

twitch.tw/elantris

9. Jackie Lee*

10. Tifa Robles**

I have been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994 and can say I have lost more than my fair share of matches to women who played better than me. I expect it to happen again in the future as I keep going to tournaments. I look forward to it as Magic: The Gathering is something that everyone can and should enjoy to play.

*Melissa DeTora and Jackie Lee both now work for Wizards of the Coast. Jackie helped design some of the current sets, and Melissa is part of a new playtest team.

**Tifa Robles founded the Lady Planeswalkers to help get more women interested in playing Magic: The Gathering http://ladyplaneswalkers.weebly.com/

 

Xbox’s Clubs Feature, the Gender War and Games Media Profits

Xbox’s Clubs Feature, the Gender War and Games Media Profits

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I originally wasn’t going to write about this new feature, because it didn’t seem like such a big deal.  It’s just another social media type platform for a game system.  In a way it is no different than the clans and guilds that formed around PC games, many of which I’ve been a part of myself.  Generally a clan is a group of people who enjoy the same game, or group of games, get together on Ventrilo or Teamspeak, and chat in their own website forums.  Xbox’s clubs feature is basically that, hosted on the console’s Live platform.  It will let people form their own club, select interests and tags, moderate, chat, share game videos, and basically share their interests with other gamers.  It does also allow you to filter out the clubs you don’t want, avoid the players you want to avoid.

Unfortunately some of the games media have dropped the ball on this, with headlines like “Xbox Live Is Getting A ‘No Trash Talking’ And ‘Females Only’ Mode” from Kotaku were slightly annoying, then I saw Microsoft Wants to Make Xbox Safe for Gamers Who Aren’t White Men” from Bloomberg.  First of all, the ‘modes’ offered by this are far more complex than ‘Females Only’, which screams the opposite of inclusive.  These modes, both LFG and Clubs, will allow gamers to join groups and find games with a wide variety of criteria.  Examples from Microsoft include:

Henshaw used the example of “parents who can only game after 10 pm”, “mic required”, “gender inclusive” and so on, as examples of tags people can attach to their Club, to seek like-minded players.

While I’m not a huge fan of separating the community, I have far less issue with these new features now than I did when I first read some of the games media’s reporting on it.  My first instinct was, that’s what the mute button is for.  I mute people all the time on games I play.  Not the smack talkers, or the people taking jabs at me, but the real jerks, yah I’ll mute them.  That’s not what these features are about though, despite what the major game’s media is making it out to be.

That second headline, from Bloomberg, is what convinced me to write this.  That headline, and the article that follows, is so condescending on many levels.  First, the implication that anyone but white men are somehow less capable of dealing with the jerks online.  Are women and minorities delicate flowers that must be sheltered from mean words online?  This seems to be predicated on the idea that white men are somehow safer?  Like we don’t get harassed, insulted, and verbally abused online?  If Dina Bass did a little research, or was honest with her premise, she’d know that everyone, white men included, get harassed online.  If she doesn’t know this, or isn’t capable of the level of research it takes to find a poll related to her topic, why is she writing for Bloomberg?  If she does know, why did she dismiss it in order to write such a biased article?  In either case the media is simply dropping the ball in reporting these features from Xbox, and perpetuating a gender war in the gaming community that they continue to profit from.

Following that up, the second line of the article from Bloomberg says:

The company is creating safe spaces for people who’ve felt uncomfortable or endured abuse at the hands of other gamers online.

This is not what Microsoft is doing, though it is a result of what is being done.  One result among many.  It’s more honest to say that the company is creating a way for gamers to interact specifically with groups that share their own interests.  They are creating a way for everyone to pick who they want to play with, not just ‘people who’ve felt uncomfortable or endured abuse’, but then again knowing that everyone has felt uncomfortable or endured abuse, maybe Dina is correct without knowing it.

The problem now is the popular games media has created this environment where everything has to be about gender, and a perfectly benign and inclusive feature (that helps people segregate themselves, yah strange I know) is now tied to this constant gender issue the media is pushing.  It’s creating rifts in the community that don’t need to be there, and isn’t helping heal the ones already here.  It keeps people on one side of the fence or the other, with many caught in the middle just wanting gamers to game.

Like I said, when I first read these headlines I thought they were actually creating a mode that was going to be called ‘females only’.  The misinformation in the media made me not want discuss this because it seemed so asinine that it wasn’t worth my time.  Then I went to Microsoft’s site, read about the feature from the original source, and realized I should have done that first.  It’s a difficult habit to break, to ignore the media and go to the source.  Even as a writer and journalist it’s something I have to consciously do, so I know how easy it is for people to take everything they read in the media as factual.

Yes, there are assholes online.  I run into them on a regular basis when I play FPS games.  It’s nice to be able to mute the ones that get out of hand.  I’m told that the Xbox community can be worse than the PC players, though I personally have no frame of reference.  If people want to be able to separate themselves into smaller cliques based on interest, more power to them.  It’s not going to solve the issue of assholes online, and it won’t make the community better, it will just split us into smaller groups.  I do know for sure, however, that the media is only making things worse and that’s a sad state of things.

We gamers really need to do more ourselves to keep our community growing, getting better.  It’s become more clear over the last few years that the major games media has no interest in actually helping.  Like the news organizations beating the political drums of one side or the other, the games media is only interested in keeping the drama going so we’ll keep on clicking and fighting.  We must stop reading their headlines and believing everything they post.  We have to stop letting them divide us into classes and groups, we’re better than that.  Gaming has always been a great community, and it can keep getting better if we stop paying attention to the drama profiteers who only want to make a buck.

The Flip-side of the Harassment Coin: Being Too Eager

The Flip-side of the Harassment Coin: Being Too Eager

TT_NotTheFandom

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I came across this image in my Twitter feed and it got me to thinking: I see this thing a lot.  Usually from over-eager guys that want to be allies, or support women who game.  Some people like to point and laugh at the obvious awkwardness of it, or call it desperate or whatever, but I rolled it around in my head for a bit and wanted to write something to show that there’s a part of this that is an issue for the gaming community and how we move forward as we continue to grow and more people get into gaming.

No one really denies that harassment happens.  It happens to men and women all the time online.  The type of harassment and extent/severity can vary depending on the community, platform, gender, age, and countless other variables.  It’s a shitty fact of life that we wish would go away, accept that it won’t, and do everything we can to help improve for everyone.  On the flip-side of that, to me, are people who are way too eager to please.  They want to be some sort of counter-balance to the negative, and in my opinion wind up just being another negative.

First, before we get into the meat of it though, I just want to touch on the last bit.  We don’t know Brian’s last name, and while I saw a picture of him with this image I left it out.  No need for us to identify Brian, but Brian, dude, you gotta relax with the ladies.  I find that the women in our community, the gamers and geeks, they tend to be very nice folks.  You don’t have to sell yourself, or say things like ‘Don’t be intimidated’ (which some of them might find an insulting assumption).  You don’t have to say you’re not stereotypical, you’re not setting up a date here.  Just be you, they’ll find out who you are that way.  Don’t assume they’re going to assume anything about you, whether it be your stance on the kitchen or your level of intimidation.  And, Brian, I hate to break it to you but while you say you aren’t a stereotypical guy, you kinda are here.  You’re the stereotype of the awkward geek guy who doesn’t know how to talk to girls.  Just relax and be you, man.

So, all that aside that wasn’t my real problem with this but it did come up when I started asking around to make sure it wasn’t just me that saw this as a bit of a issue.  I’m a guy, and while I can empathize, if I’m going to write an article I want to make sure I’m not assuming how this comes off to the women in the community.  I could guess, based on what I’ve read in the past, but it’s always best not to guess.  What I’ve found is women in our community that I talk to want to be accepted for their skill, how fun they are to game with, and the love of gaming.  Saying “I added you because you’re a female gamer” seemed to me to be almost as insulting as “I’m not going to play with you because you’re a female gamer”.  If you’re gaming and find out one of your squadmates, teammates, or someone else in game is a woman she most likely doesn’t want you to take notice because of that.  I know it’s still not that common to come across women in some genres, like FPS games, but fairly common in RPGs and MMOs.  Even then the last thing that they want to hear on voice is “Oh, it’s a girl! Yay, look everyone it’s a girl!”  They probably want to hear things like “Nice shot,” “Thanks for the assist,” and “Move your butt, we’re dying over here,” just like every other gamer.

While the reaction pictured above isn’t harassment, it’s the other swing of that pendulum that doesn’t help move us down the road.  Most of the gamers I know, men and women, want the community to be a place for everyone and anyone that wants to be a part of it.  I’ve often said, more games, with more gamers to play them with.  Just like women often don’t ‘come out’ in-game, or use voice because of harassment, I know some who would also feel just as uncomfortable with a reaction like the one above. I asked around just to make sure that I wasn’t making any assumptions, and not only do the women who game want to be taken more seriously than the image above, they also have a great sense of humor about the whole thing.

And two quotes from the Facebook group I brought this up in where I asked if it was just me or did the image come off as too much, and just as bad as looking down on female gamers because of their gender:

Ugh. “Don’t be intimidated”? Rude. Definitely not just you.

And:

Eh it’s 50/50. I’ve seen guys that are so extremely supportive of female gamers they go overboard with it. It’s happened to me a lot. They just want to make up for the rest of the community. Also hearing girls talk during matches is rare. It gets mistaken for intimidation but it’s typically just removing yourself from a potential situation due to pay experience. The kitchen comment might be am awkward nerds way of trying to be smooth. Open mouth, out falls dumb.

I could also be wrong

So guys, be supportive of the women who game, don’t look down on them because of their gender, but also don’t go so overboard that you become the other extreme.  They are gamers first, and the vast majority want to be treated just like every other gamer.  Don’t be jerks to anyone really, but also don’t treat them like they’re special unicorns that are only seen under a full moon.  You’re not helping any more than the guy that laughs at the idea that girls game.

Representation in Video Games, A Male Perspective

TT_NotTheFandom

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I was pointed to this post on tumblr recently and asked if I’d throw in my 2.346 cents (Canadian).  The entire thing, both parties, touch on exactly the sort of problems with having this type discussion about representation.  Both are using emotional responses to support their argument, and both are using analogies that are flat out wrong.  Let me preface the rest of this article by saying that I think it’s great when developers want to add more characters, male, female, trans, gay, straight, black, white, asian or anything in between.  I also support devs that don’t; that want to keep their period-accurate middle Europe game true to the time it’s set in, and I do not condone people who pressure developers and artists to change just to fit some notion of morally acceptable art.  That’s really the bottom line here, games are art, and artists do try to balance what the market needs and wants with their creative vision.  I don’t think there’s some nefarious plot to keep women out of video games, or make games just for guys.  I don’t think there are meetings where developers discuss how best to make sure an entire demographic is offended, but I do think meetings happen where a list of ‘requirements’ are looked over and boxes are checked just to fill some quota in hopes that they can avoid the drama that could make or break a game.  That, to me, is the worst way to go about any creative process.  But, back to the example above.

I’m an old gamer, compared to many who might be reading this.  I started on an Atari 5200 and I remember when the biggest games at the arcade were Tron and Galaga.  I was getting started as a gamer when computers weren’t even in homes yet for the most part, so when I see examples like the one above, both of them, it makes me tear my hair out.  No, video games are not like a department store that only has men’s clothing, and is suddenly being asked to make women’s clothing, and no, it’s not like a department store that only has lingerie and bikinis in the women’s section.  Gaming used to be quite genderless, and commercials featured whole families, mom, dad, brother and sister sitting around to play Defender, or Pong.  Arcade ads featured young men and women both enjoying Pac-Man or Space Invaders.  Back then the popular games were not male or female oriented, my mom loved Centipede, and my favorite game on the Atari was Super Breakout.  Gaming is like a department store that started out making very generic clothing that anyone could wear, and putting out commercials that tried to get everyone in the door.

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Representation in Video Games, a Female Perspective

People complain that feminists call “misogyny!” about everything. The truth is, misogyny and sexism are so systemically ingrained in our culture that both men and women actively participate in patriarchal values, without realization or intention. Many people either don’t see it or they simply disregard it as “the way things are” and make no move to change it. That is why I wholeheartedly agree with the second argument in the image below:

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The analogy rings quite true. As a female gamer myself, it is often extremely difficult to find representation in the gaming world. And, to be quite honest, representation is actually extremely important. Not only is a lack of female characters telling me that my demographic isn’t important enough to warrant thought, but it is also depriving young girls and other minorities of role models they can relate to. When children are growing up, they choose people to look up to. If they are constantly seeing characters who look like them being excluded or portrayed as inferior, they start to feel inferior and thus internalize misogyny (or other forms of bigotry like racism and homophobia), which can sometimes be more dangerous to their well being than external discrimination.

In the current market, the majority of video game role models are white male characters. Do only white males play video games? No. So why do video games and consoles continue to be marketed almost exclusively to them?

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