It’s great to see people celebrate women in gaming, even if the industry often doesn’t

A recent PC Gamer retrospective didn't feature a single woman, reigniting long-running discussions about discrimination in gaming

Kazuko Shibuya Final Fantasy

PC Gamer caused a bit of a stir online over the past few days.

On November 7th, the publication posted about the release of a special issue to celebrate its 30th anniversary. This in itself is fine — commendable, even, given the increasingly difficult media landscape. It’s only natural to want to commemorate the occasion.

However, it’s how the outlet went about this that left much to be desired. That’s because the issue didn’t actually feature any women. Indeed, PC Gamer opted to put together this retrospective alongside an entirely male lineup of current and former contributors and fans, including Rogue One co-writer Gary Whitta and comic scribe Kieron Gillen.

While the post went up on the 7th without much pushback, it gained a lot more traction this week, with many women calling out the publication for the complete lack of women.

“There are no women named in pc gamer’s list of influential voices over the past thirty years. NOT ONE?” replied Dr. Rachel Kowert, research director at gaming mental health organization Take This.

“This is what we mean when we say we’re not taken seriously,” said Glossbird Games developer Alina.

Kotaku‘s Alyssa Mercante wrote a response piece appropriately titled “Dear Video Game Industry, Please Name A Woman.” And that’s just a few of the litany of responses.

It should be noted that many people mistakenly assumed that the issue, which hadn’t been posted online at the time, was looking back on the history of gaming in general, it was later revealed that PC Gamer was looking back on its own history. Nonetheless, it was still a baffling oversight from PC Gamer, especially considering there are four women listed among the publication’s current staff — not to mention however many others would have contributed over the past 30 years. Overall, this also speaks to a larger issue about discrimination, both of the intentional and subconscious variety. That a group of people could spend so much time putting together a decades-spanning retrospective and seemingly not even think to include a single woman is a testament to the problems women continue to face in the industry.

The PC Gamer snafu brings to mind a similar controversy surrounding Summer Game Fest in June. Produced and hosted by The Game Awards’ Geoff Keighley, the E3-esque showcase featured big trailers for the likes of Mortal Kombat 1, Sonic Superstars and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. And yet, while talented creators like Sam Lake (Alan Wake II) and Bryan Intihar (Marvel’s Spider-Man 2) joined Keighley on stage, not a single woman was featured. When my colleague, CBC‘s Jonathan Ore, asked Keighley about this, the media entrepreneur said Alan Wake II star Melanie Liburd was supposed to attend but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts. It was an incredibly embarrassing response, suggesting that Liburd was the only woman who could have possibly been featured.

I can only imagine how saddening this must be for the many hard-working women who make and cover games. In this case, they’re not even talking about the rampant sexism many face online simply for existing or the mass layoffs that have hit the industry this year — they’re asking for the bare minimum, acknowledgment, and routinely being deprived of it.

As a man, I don’t ever want to speak for women, whose experiences I’ll never be able to truly live and understand for myself. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean we, as men, can’t listen to them and, when possible, share what they have to say. It’s an important part of trying to become more empathetic and learn about what people go through that you often wouldn’t have even considered.

Earlier this week, Paidia Gaming, a women-led gaming community, held concurrent Toronto and Montreal events to promote women in games to coincide with International Day of Tolerance. I attended the Toronto event and greatly appreciated the panel between host Camille Salazar Hadaway and guests SuperGirlKels (Game Rebellion Community Manager and former Smash Bros. competitor) and Twitch streamer and musician Fareeha. By giving them a platform, viewers were able to hear about the kinds of discrimination that they regularly face online and how they’ve persevered — things I and many others simply wouldn’t have experienced.

If there’s one positive to take away from this week’s saddening reminder of how much work still needs to be done, it’s how some people used the PC Gamer debacle to shout out women in gaming whose work they love. In my own feed, I saw one of these prompts from Alexa Ray Correia, a former games critic and narrative designer on the likes of Call of Duty: Vanguard and Cliffhanger Games’ upcoming Black Panther title. I’ve been a fan of hers since she wrote a delightful book about the emotional depth of Kingdom Hearts II, one of my all-time favourite games. Upon seeing her post, I felt encouraged to write this piece.

It was a great reminder for me to take a step back and realize just how much many of my favourite games owe to women.

Without character artist Kazuko Shibuya, the early iconography and pixel work that defines Final Fantasy, my all-time favourite series, wouldn’t exist. Sadly, her story perfectly encapsulates the problems discussed here, as she went many years without being given proper credit for her essential contributions. I learned about this thanks to Mary Kenney, a narrative designer at Insomniac Games, who wrote a wonderful book called Gamer Girls on 25 influential women in the industry, including Shibuya, last year.

Without composer Yoko Shimomura, I’d never have gotten the beautiful music of Kingdom Hearts, melodies that have brought me so much joy, especially through my high school years. Even to this day, I find new delights in discovering more of her incredible body of work through the likes of Live a Live and Super Mario RPG

Without writer-director Amy Hennig, the creator of Uncharted, I wouldn’t have had so many hours enjoying the pulpy adventures of Nathan Drake — both on my own and with the several friends I made through the surprisingly excellent multiplayer.

Without Canada’s Maja Moldenhauer, artist and producer of Cuphead, I’d have missed being properly introduced to the thriving world of indie games. (I also credit Cuphead for making me really passionate about the massively talented Canadian gaming industry.)

And that’s just within game dev. In the media space, the work of journalists like IGN‘s Rebekah Valentine and Bloomberg‘s Cecilia D’Anastasio absolutely inspires me to want to do better.

Clearly, there are many talented women worth celebrating in the industry. So, in the spirit of what women far more knowledgeable than me have said, let’s remember to recognize and listen to them — the industry is so much better because they’re here.

Image credit: Square Enix