Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Yes, There Are Girl Gamers. No, They Are Not Hosting This Panel."

First post of my Awesome Con recap starts on a low note: the panelists from Nexus Gaming Alliance "resident Gaming Ladies" all canceled, leaving two people I believe to be "the Nexus chiefs" to run the show. Two of the first things out of the (biologically) female moderator's mouth were "I am not a gamer" and "my brain is male*." Her only claim to fame was that she was "friends with" some professional gamers. Okay... if you are not a female gamer and claim no credible expertise about gaming in general, what are you doing hosting this panel?

She did provide some interesting statistics, like 68% of households play video games and 40% of the gamer population is female. But it quickly became clear that these were derived from a web search. While some of them might have been credible, it would have served her better to cite peer-reviewed articles. Like, I dunno, articles from any of these journals.

The major problem with the presentation was that all she really did was bait us with open-ended questions like, "What makes a person a gamer?" She didn't have an answer, because it's a trick question. As with many identities (for example, "geek" or "nerd") the label is self-assigned - you're a gamer if you say you're a gamer. The problem arises when you try to assign the label to, or more often remove the label from, someone else - this allows an attitude of elitism and exclusion to creep into our little nerdy community.

Possibly the most destructive thing she did during the panel was when she took a stance on online bullying that boiled down to "just don't let it bother you**." And that's all well and good, we shouldn't feed the trolls, but it doesn't solve the problem of bullying - it just encourages victims to keep quiet and allow it to continue. The saving grace of this panel was the audience. They were all clever people and they were having none of this. In the end, the panel degenerated to the moderator arguing with everyone else in the room until it was time to go.

IMHO, a better approach would have been to (a) give us a quick 'state of affairs' for female gamers to identify the problems we're all aware of (except, apparently, this moderator) and then (b) talk about the effectiveness of the proposed solutions. Do things like Kickstarter really allow female game creators to get around the Old Boys Club, does education and/or punishment really reduce the incidence of online bullying, etc. And there were several actual female gamers in the audience (including a psychologist, a game designer, and an eloquent young lady sitting next to me named Kelsey) who would make excellent panelists next year.

Your move, Awesome Con.

As of this post, the Nexus Gaming Alliance site is down for maintenance, but their Facebook page is still active.

*Please note: She was not trans. She was a proponent of the "female brains are better at language and stuff" and "male brains are better at math and science and... and... and..." school of thought. When an audience member who was a cognitive neuroscientist pointed out that such theories had been debunked, she immediately got defensive and refused to retract her statement. Which... sounds pretty male to me. Kidding!

**Also note: She claimed that she was teaching her 10-year old son not to assign misogynistic meaning to words like "bitch" and "pussy" by using them around him all the time. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

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