There is a lot to be said about the gender controversy in gaming and technology industries. Women gamers deal with hostile online environments, lack a variety of dynamic female characters to play, and are marginalized as consumers by ineffective marketing.
The darker side to this issue is the sexual harassment, unsafe work environments, and online harassment that women endure daily as a minority in this industry. Identifying and addressing these problems will happen through open discussion in engaging forums, and by making clear calls to action with transparent agendas.
The key ways to change this cultural problem will be to educate, network, and engage. There is still remarkable room for improvement but steps are being made by grassroots organizations and individuals with clear objectives.
With the internet, the individual is enabled to make a difference. It gives us access to educational materials, and the means to build solid connections around common interests and goals without the barrier of geography.
Dialogues are being created, though not without growing pains, as feminist blogger Anita Sarkseean knows firsthand. The online reaction to her web series Tropes Vs. Women, "an ongoing series of video commentaries exploring gender representations, myths and messages in popular culture media," has been shameless and dangerous.
Sarkseean has endured death threats, hacked accounts, and humiliating edits to her Wikipedia page. These negative reactions only support the arguments she so entertainingly presents in the series, like the viral "manic pixie dream girl" critique.
Women are more often than not pigeonholed, excluded or marginalized. Anita has stated that online threats would not keep her from developing her work and she continues to raise money for her cause, building a network of like-minded individuals geared towards change. Creative thinking rules on the internet and her videos are clear, well organized and effective at rallying discussion.
Another example of female progress in the online universe is Girl Develop It (GDI), a nonprofit organization with clear actionable objectives and mission statement. They provide affordable, accessible classes to women that want to learn coding.
The nonprofit has been featured in The New Yorker and Fast Company, and gained supporters of both genders. Their tech meetups are designed to build networks and often have clever names like #hacksgiving. Some have a progressive framework that requires meetings to have an equal ratio of women to men.
Classes are expanding and women from cities around the world are encouraged to contact them about bringing Girl Develop It to their town. This is the formula for fluid, effective idea exchange and resource sharing. It isn’t about being buried in a book in a basement typing code untill 3:00am.
Women have been marginalized online, but this isn’t the first time nor will it be the last. The elements are present to facilitate quality change in the industry. We can start with open discussion. Consumers must also hold companies accountable for irresponsible marketing, advertising, and network building.
If strength is in numbers, and women make up half of the species, we should be able to influence quality change on real issues.