Considering that films which pass the Bechdel Test actually make more money, why have video game manufacturers not yet grokked the implications of this?
Despite being the parent company of BioWare, a company renowned for its inclusive character designs and storylines, Electronic Arts apparently still hasn’t copped on to the fact that women like to play video games. Yes, even – and in many cases, especially – science fiction/fantasy and action-based games.
As a prior Marine, I personally LOVE to blow sh** up. As a geek, being immersed in a world populated by magic, dragons, and swords is absolutely one of my favourite pastimes. I’ll soon be diving into the Mass Effect franchise for the first time; I’m all about spaceships.
Have I mentioned here that I used to work at Industrial Light + Magic, George Lucas’s special effects company? Indeed, I’ve worked on – an am even in, way back in a crowd scene, about the size of a single pixel – one of the Star Wars movies. While my work history may be somewhat unique, my passion for geekery is not.
Now BioWare… BioWare gets it. They have been actively working for years to change the script of what is considered normal in a video game, both in terms of populating the game’s universe and in their hiring practices. Below, Alix Wilton Regan, one of the voice actors for Dragon Age: Inquisition, speaks about how proud she is to be working for BioWare specifically because they promote diversity and inclusivity.
For kicks, I looked up BioWare’s job openings. My search engine helpfully suggested “bioware jobs ireland”. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that they would, like a number of other large tech companies, have a base of operations in Erin. I clicked through the links to find myself on EA’s career page listing (screenshot at the top of this post). So… not BioWare directly – their current job openings are listed for Austin, Edmonton, and Montreal – but their parent company. A company which does not reflect the values of equality that so define BioWare’s evolving culture.
As previously mentioned, I believe it is incumbent upon the video game industry to take the initiative in promoting gender equality. While this includes designing products that respectfully reflect the actual gender balance and ethnic diversity of the world, it begins with hiring practices. Despite the “challenge the expected” text on EA’s career page (a rather delicious irony, really), the image is one that, in no uncertain terms, pushes women into the background. None of the central figures are female; of the fifteen characters shown, only four are visibly female, and all are peripheral; of the four, only one is doing anything action-related – and she’s doing it while wearing pink.
EA, this needs to change. You are disenfranchising half the world’s population, supporting an outdated and damaging image of women, and you are alienating current and potential customers. Women buy video games, for ourselves and for others. We play video games. We like to see characters that do not depict us solely as sex objects, victims of violence, or helpmates. We like to take charge and kick ass, because that’s what we do in real life. Make the conscious choice to change your image and expand your target demographic. You will make more money.
In short: women are here. We are geeks. We are warriors. We are scientists, techies, artists, producers, and consumers. We want to play and create video games. Stop creating artificial barriers to inclusion and diversity. Your audience and your investors will thank you.