Dec 12, 2007

[Elspeth Tory: Entering the Boy's Club]

  A neat little interview here on MTV Multiplayer, interviewing Assassin's Creed dev Elspeth Tory about how she got into the industry and her experiences in the gaming world: 

Multiplayer: One disadvantage [of being a female in the gaming industry] I can think of is that people can doubt your abilities. When I was interviewing Morgan Webb, she said that guys still come up to her and ask, “Do you really play games?” And in Jade Raymond’s case, people were doubting her work experience…
Tory: There’s a real difference, I find, between what you experience internally, in the company, and what you feel from the outside on the forums, which are ridiculous. The stuff on forums is ridiculous. It’s so misogynistic, and it’s awful. And so I really try to separate myself from that. I find at least internally, the industry itself, when we talk about the actual companies and our working environment, I feel it’s a lot better, and I feel there’s a decent amount of respect going on there. But when you want to step outside, it’s exactly what you’re saying. Experienced producers like Jade, who was a programmer, is a huge gamer, really somebody who knows what she’s talking about. And people say, “Are you just a marketing tool?” And it’s just like, “What are you talking about?” So I think on that level, I don’t know if that’s calling it the industry, or just the demographic who are playing are just not getting it.
Multiplayer: So it seems that you’re saying with gamers — or outside the industry — there’s the negativity, but within the industry, it’s not like that at all?
Tory: Totally. Things have not gotten better outside the industry. For me, the important thing is in my working environment everybody gets taken seriously, and I am not in any way impeded in my progression. So that’s really important to me. On “Assassin’s” I started getting more exposure. You do an interview on GameTrailers, and you start getting comments. I was told to never go look at the comments, because they’re appalling!
But [being in the spotlight] has been an eye-opening experience for me. The forums in general, and basically all the websites that include all of these people who are really condescending and, I don’t know… It leaves a sour taste in your mouth. You just kind of feel like we’re making progress, we’re getting more women out there, the faces of the games are changing, and I think that’s so good. And then any time you put a woman in the position where she’s talking about things, there has to be at least a good chunk of talk about, for Jade, talking about how beautiful she is. Completely irrelevant to what’s going on and her job.
Multiplayer: Why do you think people reacted to Jade that way on the Internet?
Tory: It was really frustrating… The whole fan club thing, I think that’s fun and whatever. To me it’s just when they start criticizing her intelligence or her ability… It’s very frustrating to see that when you’ve worked with somebody for two years, and you know they’re good at what they do and they’re competent. I’ve found that she’s been an amazing role model for me, and to have people sit there and just, without any prior knowledge essentially, and truly because she’s a woman and she’s pretty, to rip into her. And to sort of imply that she couldn’t possibly have any idea what she’s doing. I think that’s a bit immature. It’s the kind of thing you expect from a 12 year-old. And maybe it is 12 year-olds making the posts. It could very well be. And if that’s possible, it’s not something I should worry about, because it’s just a 12 year-old making the posts. But it’s just the kind of thing that is not encouraging and doesn’t necessarily encourage other women to go in when they see that kind of flack.
Multiplayer: When disparaging stuff comes out on the Internet, what advice do you have for women dealing with that type of scrutiny?
Tory: Don’t read the forums! [Laughs] Don’t read the forums. That’s what I was told by some people and I stopped doing that, so that’s good. That’s helping. And try and focus on the positive aspect of what you do and the end result. I think it’s tough to know what to do.

  I feel it's sad that Tory has to avoid online gaming communities altogether in order to not be brought down and upset by all the crap on them. If that doesn't show that there's a real problem here, I don't know what does. The whole 'Just be quiet and let the trolls have their way' is clearly a failed strategy. What's that's doing is driving women away from many gaming spaces entirely. And it shouldn't be this way.

  If someone starts developing an interest in something, and then gets horrified/harassed/repelled by the people they find as the majority in the mainstream communties for those who share that interest, you don't think that would affect whether or not they'd want to participate professionally in that field, and/or make it a bigger part of their life? Can someone really claim that the tone of a community doesn't contribute in any way to people's feelings and enjoyment of a particular activity? I don't see how anyone can honestly deny that the bigoted/juvenile/boy's club tone of the mainstream gaming community is directly related to the fact that there are fewer women involved in it at higher levels.

  And yet, there are still folks who claim that the low number of women who enter the gaming industry and/or who are high profile in it has nothing to do with sexism. Right.


Cunzy11 said...

I think a big part of the problem was the obvious exploitation of Jade as the face of Assassin's Creed because she was a woman. I can't think of another example where a person was touted as "the" face of a specific game so much and certainly not with such fashion shoot images. It was very cynical. On the one hand stop being so sexist for abusing Jade because she is a woman, on the other stop trying to publicise Assassin's Creed through Jade because she is a woman.

Of course this doesn't justify the abuse, just saying that's all. Oh and I think all forums are a bad place to go full stop regardless of whether you are young, old, boy, girl or woman. It's where the scum of the earth congregate to cyber and bitch mostly.

Pai said...

A game has never been publicized through it's Producer? That's totally untrue.The problem is that people assumed that because she was a 'she' and was pretty, that it was the sole reason she was in the forefront. Not because she actually, you know, had any real qualifications for talking about the game. That assumption, and the resulting treatment of Jade because everyone accepted it as the truth, was the entire problem in the first place.

From Shrub's coverage on the incident:

If Ubisoft hired Jade Raymond and sold her as the “producer” and she has no experience or education whatsoever, then of course she’s there as a spokesperson, but Jesus H. Christ, look up her biography, she actually studied this shit as some people have figured out already. How are you going to dismiss the fact that this is what she does for a living? Have you seen one single interview of her talking about the game? There’s an obvious difference between a producer talking about a game and a spokesperson talking about a game and she very obviously is the former.

Angry Pixel exposes the falseness of the claim that Ubi put her in the public eye because of her looks and bascially 'asked for it'.
That whole line, which has been embraced by most of the people who participated in that disgusting treatment of Jade, is just an excuse to refuse to accept whose fault that whole ordeal really was, because that would require the gaming community to have to self-examine themselves and their own personal issues.

A producer talking about their game prominently, is not an anomaly. What was different about Jade, is HOW the gaming media and community latched onto and excessively harped on her gender in looks every chance they could. Which was THEIR problem, not Ubi's or Jade's.

My post on Jade has like a half-dozen links of people bringing up examples and proving the point much better than I can.

Cunzy11 said...

Hey! Thanks for the lengthy "you couldn't be more wrong" rebuttal, I take the point but still I couldn't name a single other game producer and I have a "healthier" than most interest in games. Sure I probably will say "Oh yeah" if someone was to reel of a list. In this particular case it took so long for Assassin's Creed to actually appear in any shape or form that for a half a year Jade Raymond was Assassin's Creed because there was only a single screenshot in existience.

Pai said...

From No Cookies For Me:

Because, clearly, nobody else gives interviews about the games they're making, right? Certainly, there are no men who capitalize on fame within the gaming industry. Miyamoto who? Hideo Kojima? Never heard of him. American McWhosit? Civ Meier? Williams somebody? Will right? Tommy "I'm a Huge Tool Who Reinforces Everything Bad About Gaming" Tallarico? Nope, clearly, Raymond is the only person who has been presented as a public face for gaming. Nobody else has ever been as much or more in the spotlight than the games they were involved in making.

We could maybe even add Lord British and Brad McQuaid on there, too.

In this particular case it took so long for Assassin's Creed to actually appear in any shape or form that for a half a year Jade Raymond was Assassin's Creed because there was only a single screenshot in existience.

How was it in any way wrong/unprofessional of Ubi to have their producer hyping the game before it was complete?

The 'unprofessionalism' came soley from the gaming 'journalists' who posts articles filled with comments about how Jade 'smells good' or how pretty she is, or how big her boobs are, and totally ignored what she was even saying about the GAME. The gaming community itself made it all about how sexy Jade is, and then blamed Ubi and Jade herself when their own behavior crossed the line from just making lowbrow comments about Jade's body, to outright accusing her of being a stupid slut and a no-talent corporate shill. THAT'S the point when the court order came out.

Broken Toys has screenshots of those headlines. Do those look in any way, mature and professional? I'd accuse them before I'd claim Ubi and Jade were out of line.

The wrongdoing was on the part of the gaming news sites and the people in them being unable to behave like civilized human beings when confronted with a professional female in their space. And as long as people refuse to see just how pathetic that is, and keep claiming it's just 'normal', the situation won't get better.

Cunzy11 said...

Okay then, I give up. Ubisoft were clearly exposing Jade Raymond to the media because her name, talent and back catalogue (Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit were cult classics) has enough clout to drum up interest in an upcoming title and any other cynical interpretation by myself for why Jade Raymond was featured in numerous articles was wrong. Her work is on a par with the producers Wright, Miyamoto and Kojiima (although I fear the others you mentioned are a bit too "emerging market" to be seriously considered) who's work is also often defended by the righteous blogosphere following every single distasteful forum comment.

Although I will say the following:

1) Catz

Now who's out of line?

Pai said...

I'm sorry, but I personally prefer to put the label of 'unacceptable behavior' on the people who actively acted like assholes, rather than on their victim. Jade was just a woman being visible in a space that has been historically hostile to anyone or anything that doesn't conform to young, white hetero male tastes.

There are plenty of cases like Jade's documented out there if you care to research, it's not like the bloggers you've seen speak out in her favor are just overreacting to an isolated incident. This kind of behavior is 'normalized' in gaming communities. And a lot of people happen to have a problem with that.

If you, and lots of other people, really considered her having her picture taken and giving interviews about her job as an act she should have expected to get abuse for (and should have taken without complaint), just because she was a pretty woman, it just reaffirms my opinion that the current mainstream gaming community has serious problems.

The whole 'They put a pretty girl in the spotlight! They should've known she'd be treated like crap! Therefore the people who treated her like crap should be immune from any criticism for what they did!' is an illogical argument. So is pointing out past games she worked on that you feel are 'stupid' as somehow 'proving' that she had no right to talk about the high-profile game she was currently making. They're just not convincing arguments, sorry.

Cunzy11 said...

Hey I'm not saying that "'They put a pretty girl in the spotlight! They should've known she'd be treated like crap!" at all. I'm saying anything and everything that gets put under the 'gamerz' spotlight gets treated like crap. The gaming community, if there is such a thing is a hideous beast, much more negative than positive. If you're a woman you get abuse, if you're a homosexual you'll get abuse, if you're from a different country state or town than Johnny or Jayne gamer you get abuse, if you're too good you get abuse and if you suck you get abuse.
It's a "big problem" but I don't ever see an end to it. The classic anonymity+public forum=assholes formula underlies it all but what are you or I gonna do about it other than ignore it? It's all we can do. Condemning it provokes a worse reaction and confronting it is pointless because the abusers just don't care or they aren't reading anymore. They've just moved on. Honestly, I wish that I didn't have to cringe and silence morons everytime I play a game with voice chat or roll my eyes everytime someone does a "boobies post" (Richie included) but what'cha gonna do.

Apologies for the troll-like ongoing discourse.

Pai said...

That's where we disagree, though. Staying silent and letting wrong continue is never the better way. No injustices have ever been fixed by good people refusing to stand up for what they feel is right. There are growing numbers of gamers that are making alternative communities and doing their best to be a voice for change. Gaygamer and Cerise are two such gaming sites, and they get a lot of flack simply for existing and refusing to conform. But people shouldn't be expected to lay down and tolerate communities that are openly hostile and derogatory to them. It's only easier to just ignore it when you're not the constant target of it all.

Heck, but what with the growing diversification of the gaming demographic itself, things can only change faster.