Outside of our own panel (which was recorded, and which we should have up at some point) and Kotaku and Croal, I only had the opportunity to attend one more: Girls and Games: The Growing Role of Women in the Game Industry. As someone who self-identifies as feminist, I felt it was not a panel I could miss.
The panel consisted of moderator Jeff Kalles (of Penny Arcade), Brittany Vincent (Editor-in-Chief at Spawn Kill), Julie Furman (a founder of SFX360), Alexis Hebert (a community manager at Terminal Reality), Padma Fuller (a marketing manager at Sanrio Digital), and Kate Paiz (Senior Producer at Turbine). While this was the first panel I attended, among the first things I noticed that the entirety of it was Q&A. This would mean that the panel would largely depend on the questions the audience brought forth.
Thankfully the audience asked many intelligent and both general and more focused questions. Unfortunately, the panel seemed at a loss to answer them in any satisfying manner (for the most part, a few exceptions applied).
For a bit more of a look at the panel, hit the jump below.
When asked about the recent GameCrush.com site, the response was largely one that this was to be expected. In talking about XBox LIVE and identifying as a female on the service, there was a feeling that it was an ordeal they would rather not face. In large, it seemed as if they were resigned to this fact and would rather not engage the topics. Understandable, if perhaps a little disappointing.
Perhaps what left me with a frown firmly set on my face was when asked about the objectification of women in games, and how we can go about changing that, the response given was that games are fantasy. We have to expect this. After all, no one expects males to live up to the fantasy portrayed by the muscles of Gears of War. Of course, the problem with the Gears analogy is that there exist different standards and histories of objectification for men and women. It felt like sidestepping the question and refocusing it entirely.
When more questions were asked about the industry itself, the standard set forth was one that put women in a double-bind. They must not try to be 'just one of the guys,' but at the same time outdo themselves. Prove themselves superior to their male counterparts. This may well be the case, but it contrasted sharply with the message the panel gave that the industry itself does not see sex, instead focusing on accomplishment. If sex did not matter, women would not have to go out of their way to prove themselves better, as the assumed default would not be male.
One gentleman even asked how males could make the industry more inviting to women. Sadly, it was the moderator who came up with the better response to the question, quoting from a book he was reading at the time, Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women by Virginia Valian. He noted that women are often psychologically set up to fail in the tech and hard sciences industries because they are brought up with the stereotypes that they must be paragons of math and science if they wish to progress in those fields. The answer became one of making sure women get the encouragement they need, and to be able to get them to look past stereotypes.
A dubious, but generally positive note, came from the question asked about what the panel saw as changes that were being made as more companies acknowledged females' presence. The answer concluded that games are becoming more social, easier to comprehend, and allowing for more busy lives. While I do not see this as necessarily hinging on female presence, it is something from which all of us can benefit.
Unfortunately, I wanted these women to succeed. Their stories of why they involved themselves in the gaming industry put in as much passion and dedication as you will find of many gamers. Stories were passed around about competitions with siblings, wanting to see how games evolve, seeing where they take us next, and the community that exists around gaming.
Perhaps the best note was in response to the question asking how we move casual female gamers from Facebook to the more general gaming audience. The rather spot-on response stated that we cannot cater to these audiences if we assume their demographic based off Facebook. This is all beside the point anyway, as these women are gamers. Facebook games are games. If they are not to your taste, that is simply a preference you have.
In general, the format did not seem to allow for a successful panel. Since the focus was so decentered, I would often be asked afterward if the panel was more about women in games or in the games industry. The answer was both, but it never really delved deep into the subject matter of either. Given this obvious handicap, it was hard to imagine from whom I would want to hear on a panel. Here is to hoping that because of its robust attendance, and disappointed write-ups in other places, we'll see a stronger presence next year.
Just this afternoon, Brittany Vincent responded to the criticisms and elaborated on how it felt for her, and where she saw her own shortcomings and of the format she was handed in the LiveJournal Girl Gamers community.