How Video Games Make You A More Inclusive Leader

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By Manvi Pant. In August 2014, Gamergate blew the video game industry wide open.

It began with a malicious attack on Zoë Quinn and her private life by her former boyfriend, who published a rambling, 10,000 word blog post accusing her of entering into a relationship with a game critic in exchange for positive press for her game, Depression Quest.

The Gamergate controversy was purportedly about journalistic ethics, but the Internet mob’s true motives were thinly veiled. Quinn (and fellow game developer Brianna Wu, who criticized the Gamergate movement) was the victim of countless death and rape threats and harassment—she had serious concerns for her personal safety.

Why does sexism in the video game industry exist?
Most games are designed for a male perspective. Elijah Blythe, a gamer and freelance researcher of artificial intelligence in the United Kingdom, explains why: “The perception [is] that games are played primarily by teenage boys.” He calls this “one of the biggest barriers to constructive conversations within the industry.”

Maya Mikdashi, a professor at Rutgers University, once said, "Gender is not the study of what is evident; it is an analysis of how what is evident came to be." So how did we come to this place where gaming is a private boy’s club—and women and girls are disregarded, distrusted, or disparaged?

The simple fact is that there are way more women gamers than the haters might lead you to believe. According to Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Gamer Demographics data from 2016, 59% of gamers in the United States are male and 41% are female. Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (31%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%).

Has anything changed since Gamergate?
The China Post offers some encouraging news: “According to a 2015 survey by the International Game Developers Association, the number of female video game developers has doubled in the past seven years, from 11% in 2009 to about 21% now.”

In another extraordinary win for diversity, one of the oldest and biggest gaming conventions, Gen Con, is featuring more women speakers than males this year for the first time in its history—a remarkable difference from 2011, when there was only one featured woman speaker.

While these changes might rile some, this survey of 1,400 US youths paints a picture of a world where inclusivity is the norm: “70% of girls and 78% of boys said it does not matter what gender the lead character is. Indeed, the lasting popularity of characters like Lara Croft, Samus Aran, and Bayonetta should perhaps have hinted in this direction.”

Here’s why that representation is important: “People inhale fictional characters,” says radio host, writer, and “professional nerd” Paul Verhoeven. “It’s really important for young girls and boys to have fictional role models as well as real ones.”

How does gaming benefit men and inclusive leaders?
Few experiences allow individuals to immerse themselves in a world and in a role like video games. For those who haven’t suffered from depression, games like Quinn’s aforementioned Depression Quest make it real and personal. It might help you understand the mindset of a friend or relative or colleague who is hurting in a way you might otherwise not understand.

Connecting with your character’s on-screen struggles actually inspires insight and empathy, and for guys who played the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, this is exactly what happened: “Male players were saying, I was put into a situation through Lara [the main character] that I would have never experienced or am unlikely to experience as a man in the real world, and I gained a new perspective and understanding of some of the things that women go through and some of the threats that they might face because of that,” says the game’s writer, Rhianna Pratchett.

With the gaming industry progressing towards gender parity, male and female players alike can benefit from characters and storylines that are more diverse, compelling, and complex—just like the world we live and work and play in.

If you’re not a gamer, grab a controller. You might find that the joystick journey is an educational experience in inclusion, as well as an adrenaline-inducing one!

d8a11676c36532306c60e9bc9abf8387-huge-10Manvi Pant is a CRM professional at A.T. Kearney, a guest contributor at ‘Women to Watch,’ an avid writer, a voracious reader, high on creativity and involves herself in pursuits like photography and DIY decorations. Most of her pictures throw light on abstract subjects, people and nature. She appreciates art and follows Frida Kahlo’s paintings and writings a lot.

Posted by Jared Cline on Aug 9, 2016 9:57 AM America/New_York

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