This has happened to me a fair number of times. Someone made an assumption, and although it wasn’t necessarily insulting, it certainly made me raise an eyebrow because I can make a pretty decent bet that it was based solely on my gender. I tweeted as much during the storm that was 1Reason. Oh, but wah, wah, boo, boo, you say? There are worse things to be mistaken for besides the receptionist! Which is completely and utterly true, but this is a common occurrence for many women in the games industry.

And this is just the barest tip of the iceberg, like a delightful scratch and sniff odor of something off-putting below the surface. As a participator in the 1ReasonWhy hash tag, I am ashamed to admit that I am scared of sharing everything; I’m scared of sharing the worst of it. I am fearful of delving below the surface. Talking about this subject in public is terrifying because frankly you never know when retribution is going to rear its ugly head and what sort of consequences will come about because of your words. To tell all, in many ways, either means having nothing to lose, anonymity or extreme bravery, none of which I possess.

And I most definitely have a lot to lose because there are people depending on me. And frankly, I love this industry and I want to stay here for a while.

That’s the thing; I really do love this industry. #1ReasonToBe was brilliant, because as crap as things can be sometimes, there’s way more about this community that is positive, uplifting and fantastic. There is nothing out there that I would want to do more than make games. I love going to work and being with my teammates: joking around, expressing ideas, bonding over hard work, and well, playing games together. All of that makes the other stuff I’d rather not talk about – the stuff that makes me shift around nervously and teary eyed – completely and utterly bearable. The bad is dwarfed in comparison to the love of making games.



So, I have a secret wish. Whenever I’m in the public eye, whether it’s doing PR or giving a talk – and this is going to sound amazingly corny — I hope that there’s a little girl out there that sees me and thinks to herself, “Oh look! Girls make games too.” I say this because this problem isn’t going to change on a dime. A grown adult isn’t going to change their mind about their inherent beliefs or their personality because someone gave them the stink eye (or an Internet reaming).



Kids however are impressionable and full of those innocent hopes and dreams that may one day turn into reality. I was one of those kids that dreamed of making video games one day. When I looked at the gaming landscape and browsed through Nintendo Power, I didn’t see a person with two X chromosomes that I could point and go ‘Yes, if she did it, so can I!’ Thankfully, I lucked out with some insanely supportive parents, but without that I doubt that I would be making games right now. And so when I blather endlessly about a game I’m working on until my eyes bleed, in the back of my head, I hope that there’s a little girl out there that realizes her dreams are achievable.



So here comes my point. This is a numbers game, people.

If you want diversity in gaming subjects:

If you want a more fair, unbiased workplace:

If you want the industry to just plain grow up:

Then we need to change the makeup of our industry, because games are a reflection of their creators.

So I see the solution to this problem coming not a year from now, not five years from now, but twenty. When this current generation of kids sees the good example that we should be setting now. And though we may not be able to tell it completely like it is just yet, there’s still plenty we can do to help future generations of game developers. So ladies, my call to arms is this:

Be visible.

Be outspoken.

Be strong.

Be smart.

Be kind.

Be everything that the younger versions of us could’ve pointed to and proudly said:

“Girls make games too.”


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20 Responses to 1Reason

  1. Seriously great stuff, Kim. I dig it.

  2. Jess

    This is fabulous! I can recall countless times of going into Orgrimmar in WoW and seeing people going on about “girls don’t play WoW/you must be a gay guy…” (and other similar things I won’t repeat here). And I knew it was crap, since half my guild was female. It’s relatively similar in other MMO’s, I’m sure you know. Always drove me nuts.

    I’m a writer. I’m also a woman. I’m 34. So I started writing at exactly the end of the “boys club” mentality in writing. I went to a women’s college and worked at the help desk by accident, ended up gaming on weekends (various places).

    I don’t know exactly why it was I made the decision to learn programming a couple years ago, but I toyed with it, tried out a couple languages, and settled on Python. And you know, in the course of my journey, I started thinking about the same things you mention here. I know that I had originally started out wanting to make games based on my stories – lol I’m one of the most avid worldbuilders I know of so I’ve got a lot of ideas to choose from! – but in the process I learned just how few women there actually are in the game dev industry.

    It was very bizarre to me; like I said, I never had to consider sexism in anything I did or was. But now, I’ve honestly realized that I don’t just want to make stuff based in my worlds: I want to make games girls and women can feel ok with. My husband, an extremely avid gamer, has told me the story of the game Centipede a hundred times; he’s my biggest supporter in this:) I’m just starting out, I’m going for broke – I shake my head sometimes wondering if I’m nuts to even try doing this totally self-taught and all.

    At the same time though, like you I want to be somebody girls can look up to.

  3. Adam Coate

    I would love if more women worked in the game industry. I think better games end up getting made when they’re involved. This has been an ongoing battle as long as the game industry has been around. I read an article in an old game magazine from the 80’s which interviewed female game developers. One of them talked about how the men were very willing to help them get started out learning everything, and that she didn’t know if they would’ve done the same for men. She said something like, “I think one of the biggest problems is that we as women don’t think we’re able to make games. Sometimes we’re our own biggest enemies”.

    The thing I’ve noticed from my own experience and reading these #1Reason stories is that most men aren’t at all sexist or hostile towards women working in games. But all it takes is 1 out of 10, or 100, to ruin things. And those who are hostile towards women in the game industry are most likely just insecure/scared of them. Hopefully in the (near) future women can become empowered to make games. I would love the industry to stop being one big fraternity.

    • ShadowCat7

      “I think one of the biggest problems is that we as women don’t think we’re able to make games. Sometimes we’re our own biggest enemies”. I don’t think that’s something specific to women, as I have a lot of friends who love video games and would love to make them but don’t feel that they would be good at it. That ended up not being true at all for one of them who decided to try. Most people think that programming is much harder than it actually is. For women, however, the task is even more daunting. Humans, as social creatures, need to be able to ‘fit in’, and the world of gaming can definitely be exclusive, but more importantly seem that way. The real question we should ask is, how can we make gaming culture more inviting? I honestly think that this problem will end up fixing itself as more and more people game. We can obviously help with this, but I think that time will cause more people to become interested in and play games. I do hope, however, that everyone will take the first step and try. Just try making a game. I did. I’m a much happier person for it.

  4. darkjester74

    Wonderful post Kim, I think you really hit the nail on the head. I feel its a realistic appraisal of what it will take to change the industry. And yes, the industry as a whole just has to plain grow up.

  5. Pingback: 'Portal' creator calls for female developers to rise to the challenge - Video Game Writers

  6. Ally C

    First of all, I want to thank you for doing what you’re doing. Not so long ago I was one of those starry eyed kids, and though I lucked out with two great and encouraging parents myself, support elsewhere was a little up and down; It’s always inspiring to see people like you in the industry to bolster those of us out there still working our way up.

    Secondly I would like to report that, at least in my experience, girls studying today in Game Art/Design related fields are much more widely accepted by their peers, and as a result are more outspoken. Being a New Media student myself with friends in the same field at different schools, I’m quite proud to say that it seems like we’re starting to become not only accepted, but valued. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go and the girls to guys ratio still seems to be sitting at about 1:5, but there are no more shocked faces or scoffs when we walk into the classroom. It’s not a totally homogeneous landscape just yet as there will always be the odd person with conservative views on the matter, but they are growing thinner by the year. Having been a gamer all my life, this advancement is something I’m don’t take for granted, and in the same way you’re working to inspire the next generation of girls, I just wanted to inspire you to keep it up, because not only is it working, but we’re grateful for everything you, and others like you, are doing.

  7. This is a commendable initiative and should definitively carried out, but we don’t need to wait a generation. People WILL change their behavior (if not their beliefs) if people consistently “give them the stink eye”, as show by the success of Frown Power.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stetson_Kennedy (search “Frown Power”)

  8. Kim McAuliffe

    Great post, thanks for writing it.

  9. Kath

    This is a seriously awesome article. As a female art student who was seriously thinking of working in the industry this past year and the drama that has happend has maybe very nerveous to maybe persue this idea.

    This article has helped me refocus on this goal and made me excited and full of hope again for what it means to have this ambition.

    Very inspiring, thank you so much for sharing.

  10. There are some things that literally do not compute. Who could possibly be saying bad stuff to you? You’re Kim Friggin’ Swift! You may not be one of the Beatles in a gaming context, but you’re a very solid Queen or Led Zeppelin. You’re genre defining, etched forever into the history of video gaming.

    Who the hell is coming up to you and saying that you don’t have gaming cred?

  11. Great article Kim. I like your gentle approach, which talks to other women in the industry, as opposed to just pointing the finger at men, thus avoiding the defensive backlash.

    I’m not a proper games industry woman, as I only write about them, but 10 years ago, I was one of a very few female games journos. Now, we’re nothing special, which is how it should be. Still room for improvement though.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. Thank you for this post, maybe my studies and wishes won’t be in vain 🙂

  13. All of this has really made me think about girls and games. I never really thought about it or if I have ever done anything to make girl gamers feel uncomfortable but I am going to try to pay more attention and be more conscious about what I say. Thanks and good luck.

  14. Stacy M.

    This is due to America’s backward and puritan Society. It has been tradition (and is still true) that America is mainly a male-dominated place. Take a look at it’s history and it’s pretty clear. Women were often subjected to “raising the kids and cooking in the kitchen” while boys were taught to “reach the stars” and “answer the calls”.

    The bible promptly teaches that women are “Second-Hand Class” compared to men, as only the “helper” and not a leader. This attitude and religious dominance is still relevant, but when parents and society itself raise and teach those to be intolerant of others, cockiness and belittling arises. So it is no surprise, as done with minorities, that females can be looked down upon in certain “realms”. But unlike the history of how America has treated other minorities, they are also given “benefit” loop-hole when it comes to certain issues at the same time. Such as sex. Women are automatically the victims of the “Male Gaze”, and men are always the perpetrators. Or driving. Women are given the benefit in real-life society of paying LESS on their car-insurance than compared to a male.

    Exactly how many females are in key-positions (such as CEO’S) in games? Hardly. How many females exactly, are in Tech Field of computers? Not as many as there should. Not many, because there aren’t enough females interested or applying for those positions. Go to any college setting for computers and I guarantee the output of more male students will be there compared to females.

    The potential problem with this article however, is that although some parts of it is true (The whole part of guys assuming only guys play games like WoW or Starcraft, but how can that be helped when it was a guy-made-game and orientated game. One of the Players NPC’s even say “Yes Sir” (not Ma’am) when moving them in star-craft.) a lot of articles just pin-point negatively on males as part of the “Male-Gaze” that reeks of Liberal Feminist Academic circles and nothing more. Which does not touch upon the subjects which go deeper into society. These themselves are issues that cannot be solved by just mere games, and video-games cannot “solve” these issue when it is relevantly a society one at large.

    There always have been female developers for games( Take a look at Japan or Korea . The diversity is amazing in games themselves compared to the slowness and often stiff-neckedness over here). They just have not be accounted for as much due to Western-Media only highlighting the Blood n Guts, Gory, Violent, Gun and Wizard syndrome of “The West Is Teh Best”.

    I have played with both spheres in the end, and thankfully I have met more female developers and artists from Japan and Korea than what is hardly offered in hardly diverse and biased U.S.A. Perhaps it is due to females not being openly displayed of their skills and talents, so they have become a silent and untapped while “our tradition of what games “should” be” continues.

    Until the game-industry over here wakes up and realizes that video-games themselves are a medium, not a specific category to one type of audience (but to multiples of different ages and interests), this anchor of hold-backs and exclusive bubbles will continue to drag the game-industry down itself. That also includes topics that may make some feel “uncomfortable” like sexuality in video-games (save for Homosexuality, which apparently is deemed more acceptable in gaming than the sexuality of anything else).

    Ladies. Sometimes you have to be courageous and not be quitters. When opposition comes, stand your grounds. Sometimes that involves growing some thick-skin as well and sorting through the anchors and the sails. Look at the past history of what women had to do to get real-life society to where it is now. It was no easy task, especially in those days when oppression was everywhere.

    But it does also involves talent in the game industry. If the person has no talent they don’t make the cut.

  15. Love your call to arms. Seriously good stuff. Right in keeping with my motto. “Work hard and be nice to people.”

  16. What a nice post! I have the same goal, actually; whenever I do talks on computer science or game design stuff I secretly hope I’m swaying the tides in the younger generation’s eyes. Being visible is really important, and I’m glad you’re encouraging it (as well as being a great example yourself!)

  17. Jess K

    Great post. Every year I see more and more young girls playing games and making games. Publishers have already taken notice to a huge shift in the audience for games, and I think that is in part due to this influx of female gamers. As you said I think it’ll take time for major change and this likely won’t happen until the current generation of gamers is ready to choose their profession. All we can do is help encourage young minds that there is great work to be done here.

    However, I feel that it shouldn’t be just on the women to make this change. As a man in the game industry, I know there is plenty that we can do to make our work environment more inviting and our games more appealing to women.

    Spread the word that games can be a positive influence and that games can be made by anyone. If you know a young person who loves games introduce them to the tools they need to learn more. After all, some great games were made with just some construction paper and markers… 🙂

  18. Kim, you’re a bigger influence already than you might even know, and I’m so grateful to have you in the development sphere. Although I’m not a starry-eyed little girl anymore, you still were a point of inspiration for me years ago already when I was starting on my path to be a game artist (happily employed for almost 2 years now!). I just wanted to thank you for that. 🙂

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