Speaking of gender issues in gaming at SR

Filed under: Blog » Publicity in January 17, 2013, by Ulf Benjaminsson. Tagged: inclusion, outreach
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Local blogger Emmy Zettergren wrote a piece on SVT Debatt, highlighting the problematic conditions of women in the games industry. Being a regular part of Radio Gotland (reviewing games) and of course a Gute, the radio gave her a lot of play the day before.

The producers then suggested they follow up by talking to us, see how the university deals with the male dominance and sexism in the games industry. Being the only one among us silly enough to put my phone number in public view, they called me. 🙂

I’m a bit uncomfortable representing us on these issues. Partly because – sincerely allied to the cause as I may be – I have a chronic fear of (characteristically) putting my foot firmly in mouth and end up alienating the very people I do not want to loose.

Partly because I feel that, if someone out there actually cares about gender issues and our education, they should know our department have valued and competent staff that’s (at the very least biologically) not part of the problem.

So I asked Ylva to speak for us, brought along Adam Mayes – our outspoken feminist subject responsible, and I came along simply because I’ve asked two friends to step out of bed at six in the morning, it didn’t feel right to not suffer with them. 😛

Ylva, Adam and reporter Helena Håkansson in her studio at Sveriges Radio Gotland

We prepared a bunch of data like;

  • Swedish industry average 10% women
  • Our educations average 18%
  • 20% of our teaching staff is female (incl. 1 program coordinator & 2 PHDs)
  • We regularly problematize these issues in our classes and assignments
  • Our education cover diverse topics like Games and Human Rights and Serious Games
  • A bunch of examples showing that our students projects are indeed pretty far from the male-oriented clichés of our industry

The conversation ended up not really being about our education, but still a decent enough interview. Not least because it spawned a lot of reflection and discussion among us, both before and after the airing.

Ever since #1ReasonWhy and Clarisse Thorn making forays into gaming culture and the harassment of Sarkeesian over her (AMAZING!) project Tropes Vs. Women – ever since all those things, I’ve been thinking about making an entire Gotland Game Conference on feminism as related to our culture, our industry and our medium.

As an institution with huge possibility to influence young minds, I believe we have an obligation to speak up when we see problematic patterns and attitudes.

I want to kick start in all our students the (rather difficult) growth process that I’ve personally been going through the last couple of years. I honestly don’t know when I began identifying as a feminist, but I know it wouldn’t have happened without role models. People whom I respect and whose opinion carries weight with me. People patient (and brave!) enough to put their insights, experience and stories out there.

This is not something we can do ourselves. We are proud of the work we do, but in these issues we are equally part of the problem. So I want to invite all of these extremely articulate people and give them an audience and a space to communicate. Give them an opportunity to educate, and engage and spawn allies from within. I want us to uncover the painfully obsolete societal structures that influences each and everyone of us, and stop contributing to the problem.

Amen.