Women in Games – where are you?

“There’s a generation of men, and it usually is men,” begins the BBC’s Nick Owen in his intro to this piece about a West Midlands computer games event that happened a couple of weeks ago. His co-host Suzanne Verdee does a little nod as if in agreement about the inevitably of Nick’s statement.

I was at this event and actually it wasn’t all men, it was just men doing the presenting. I wasn’t surprised by that, having been to plenty of events like this over the years and in general there being a lot of men talking about the business of games. In fact the agenda for this event was meant to include Jude Ower of Digital 2.0.

Had she been able to make it I wonder if the BBC would have spun the story any differently? Or is entrepreneurship in the games industry so heavily situated as a male activity (“bedroom to boardroom” as Nick puts it in what might pass for a clever dig at the sexual politics of business but probably isn’t) that it’s a story that ‘writes itself’. A discourse so dominant that the media, particularly local media who never shy away from the chance to reinforce glib stereotypes, feel compelled to portray it that way.

The audience for that day actually had lots of women in it. Two were students of mine. One, a first year undergraduate animator having an initial stab at some business networking and the other one of my MA Social Media students. Vox-pops with them might have diluted the macho flavour of the final report. Indeed just some cutaways of the mixed audience would have been an idea.

It’s worth taking time to read Lorna Parson’s view on women-only networking events for her sector (construction/built environment). After attending an event she concludes: “why bother segregating?” but in the comments there’s a view amongst some that “we need organisations out there to promote and campaign for a better female presence.” Such an organisation in the Games sector might well have presented other case studies for the BBC to look at when they came to cover this event. I suspect Nick Owen might have had even more fun coming up with a lame intro gag.

It’s no redress to the Beeb’s take but here’s a video of Jude Ower talking about what she does. Any more female games entrepreneurs out there?

[Jude Ower, Digital 2.0 from Mr Nat Higginbottom on Vimeo.]

Additional Reading:
Alice Taylor’s response to the all-male Game Developer 50 list
Women in Games network (“Give a voice to women and men in the games industry and in games education with interests in supporting and encouraging the role of women in the games industry”)
Special Edition of the Digital Creativity Journal focusing on Women in Games.
Media Training North West research (from 2004) asking ‘Why are there so few women in Games?‘ (PDF)
Birmingham Science Park (location of the above event) showcases some new games start-ups.