The Video Game Industry Sexism

Anita Sarkeesian has a video web series, Feminist Frequency, that picks apart the sexual stereotypes in video games and pop culture. Her most recent video, “Ms. Male Character – Tropes vs Women,” is a delightfully entertaining look at two predominant tropes in video games: the female character is always an extension of the male character, and most video games feature only one female character among the many male characters. Unfortunately, her work has drawn death and rape threats for pointing out the obvious sexism in video games. Having worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis), it doesn’t surprise me that nothing has changed in the ten years since I left the video game industry.

The Q.A. department I worked in for six years always had at least one or two female testers. They were good enough to become lead testers, but they never stayed longer than a few years. Most got tired of the relentless 80-hours-per-week crunch time and left on their own initiative to find better work elsewhere.

Some female testers got fired because of their sex.

  • A female lead tester got fired for calling a male tester an asshole for not doing the work that she assigned him. She shouldn’t have said that loud enough for everyone in the department to hear. One bruised male ego went scurrying to HR for comfort. What HR didn’t take into consideration was that everyone else regarded that particular male tester as an asshole as well.
  • A female tester and a male tester got into trouble for making out during the company event to see “Star Wars: Attack of The Clones” at the AMC Mercado 20. That raised some eyebrows. What got them fired was jeopardizing the code release date for my project by falsifying the test data before and after the movie. Screwing around during a bad movie was one thing, jeopardizing the code release date was something else.
  • A female tester got fired for being a “poor” tester. That’s the official reason. I was the only lead tester who offered to provide her with more training. My supervisor later admitted that some male testers didn’t want to work with her because she wasn’t that good-looking from the chicken pox scarring on her face.

If this environment seems familiar, it’s the classic high school locker room. The only women who excelled in this environment are tomboys who aren’t afraid of asserting themselves without being too feminine. The underlying culture of sexism won’t change until the gender ratio in the video game industry changes to influence the development process for new video games.

Yaktey Sax Car Chase In Southern California

My aunt in Idaho loves to send out emails with interesting pictures, say, the outdoor toilet seat for the truck hitch in case you really need to take a dump on the road. I’m just enough of a redneck to appreciate the humor despite growing up in California and visiting Idaho only twice in my life for a family reunion (1978) and burying my mother’s ashes with her parents (2004). Most of these emails I glance at and delete immediately, as I can tolerate only so much redneck humor.

My aunt recently sent me this YouTube video of a car chase in Southern California that someone set to The Benny Hill Show theme music (a.k.a., “Yaktey Sax”). A woman driver puts a Toyota Scion and the police through a high-speed chase that went all over a toll road. She even stops at one point to get out of car, as if she was going to speak to the police officers chasing her, and then ran after the car as it drove off without her. California Americana at its finest.

Most Americans know The Benny Hill Show as a half-hour late night comedy show with only the naughty skits, which I watched as a wee lad in the early 1980’s after my parents went to bed. Like most foreign TV shows re-packaged for America, something got lost in the translation. The hour-long variety show in Great Britain featured singers, dances and non-naughty skits. I read somewhere that Benny Hill’s comedy was based on three types of village idiots that were disappearing from modern British society.

Century 21 Dome Theater Saved By City Council

San Jose City HallSupporters of Save The Domes gathered at the Tuesday evening session of the San Jose City Council to plead for the protection of the 50-year-old building from demolition. On a seven-to-four vote, the council designated the Century 21 as a historical landmark. The developer can file a demolition plan to raze the other dome theaters, but must incorporate the Century 21 into the new mixed-urban development. No guarantees that the developer will keep it as a working theater. That’s the short version.

My friend and I drove downtown to attend the 7:00PM council session, arriving at the nearby public parking garage where the city keeps it fleet of vehicles, and walking a block over from Fifth Street. This was my first visit to the “new” city hall building since opening in 2005. I previously visited the old city hall on North 1st Street, part of the county government civic center that the county plans to renovate in the future, when my older brother had a shotgun wedding at the hall of justice in the 1970’s.

While my friend walked over to Subway for a sandwich, I walked down memory lane while wandering around the plaza. As a college student living downtown in the mid-1990, I used to shop at Lucky’s and eat at Taco Bell that previously occupied this one-and-half block stretch on Santa Clara Street and Fifth Street. It’s now all gone. San Jose State University is a few blocks away, where the eight-story Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. library is visible above the two-story buildings between city hall and the campus.

The city council chamber wasn’t in the rotunda building on the plaza, as one would imagine when pulling on the locked front doors. The circular floor space under the ten-story ceiling was empty. Not surprisingly, this space was reserved for private events. When the Bascom Avenue library opened last year, the library was smaller than I expected and the larger community center was available for private events as well. For a fee, of course. The city has to make a buck somewhere.

Walking past the rotunda building to the left will take you to a ground-level entrance for the restrooms and elevators. You can also walk up the narrow stairway next to the tower building that house the city bureaucracy or the broad stairway that borders the plaza to the second floor entrance. The public entrance to the city council opened to a university-style auditorium with seats sloping down from the second floor to the first floor.

The city council session opened light-heartedly with commendations by the mayor for several citizens who served the city in one way or another for 25 years, including a Boy Scout troop leader who brought out his troop. After pictures got taken and the boy scouts cleared out, more people came in to occupy the empty seats. The city council got down to business. We sat through two-hours of mind-numbing discussions about various public planning proposals. People got up to speak for or against, left the council chamber, and more people took their empty seats.

We left at 9:00PM to catch “The Wil Wheaton Project” on TV. On the way home we drove past the Century Domes on Winchester, where a single outdoor light illuminated the front doors of the Century 21 and the two other dome theaters shrouded in the darkness. The city council voted on the Century 21 historical landmark at about 10:30PM. After two mind-numbing hours watching democracy in action (sausage making would be more entertaining), I don’t think I could have survived another 90 minutes.

Pre-Internet Newspapers Go Online (Circa 1981)

Channel 4 KRON TV news report from 1981 details how the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner newspapers were adopting news articles for online delivery. You have to stop and think about what that meant back then. The Apple II home computer ruled the classrooms. The IBM PC was still several years off. Hobbyist computer systems that connected electronic keyboards to black-and-white TV’s were available to anyone with a soldering iron. CompuServe and America Online (AOL) were emerging online services. What would become the modern Internet was accessible only through military and university computer networks.

The first commercial Hayes modem came out that year to set the communication standard for a computer to connect to another computer over the plain old telephone at a lighting fast speed of 300-bits-per-second. (Today’s 30-megabits-per-second cable modem is 100,000 times faster in comparison.) As the anchorwoman pointed out in the YouTube video, it would take over two hours to download the daily $0.20 USD newspaper and the phone company charging $5.00 USD per hour.

Newspapers back then weren’t worry about losing money to an online news service. Flash forward 30 years into the future, the dead tree edition of the daily newspaper is declining as readers read mostly free news from the Internet over their cellphones and tablets. Like many industries that embraced computer technology, newspaper publisher never looked far enough down the road to see how their existing business model must change from the physical to the virtual. I stopped subscribing to the dead tree edition years ago, mostly because the neighbors kept stealing the newspapers off my apartment doorstep before I left for work in the morning.