Why Women May Never Succeed In The Tech/Gaming World

Come and time travel with me back to the year 2003. I was a new mother and had decided I very much wanted to be part of the tech/gaming industry. After writing for a few sites that had died off, I started my own. I love everything about gaming. Not just holding the controller, but everything from the platforms they are played on, to the stories being told with them. So writing reviews while I upped my game development skills seemed like a natural progression. That and a wonderful woman at EA (Yes that EA) turned me down for a job. But she called me to personally tell me WHY she turned me down. What I needed to do to get it next time. So my website was born. I started on this new adventure with no expectation other than to learn. This was long before the age of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, but 3 years in, we were garnering close to a million unique views a month (Remember, there is no Twitter, Facebook or Instagram). I realized we had something, but we needed more money, a bigger voice. So I went out into the world trying to figure out how to monetize my site with these numbers and found it extremely difficult.

U.N.I.T.Y.

I had no way to really prove these numbers, as there was as of yet, no such thing as Google Analytics. Just as the tools to measure this came along, also along came a women’s group called Frag Dolls. We were already very familiar with their lesser-known predecessors, The PMS Clan and spent many nights, playing with and becoming good friends Valkyrie (known to us as AthenaPMS, back then). She told me about Frag Dolls and asked if I wanted in. Being a brand new mom, I could not bear the thought of being away from my baby. I told her, maybe next go round, but could I get all of the press? It should be a woman’s site that gets the interviews etc. Athena (Valkyrie) told me she’d do what she could. It wasn’t her group to control, but she’d definitely put in a good word. While they were still selecting the ladies, I was also a part of another group. They were called Women in Games (are you guys still out there?). The list was on fire about the new ‘girl gamer’ job at Ubisoft. How were they selecting the women? Bet they would be just booth babes. They wouldn’t select a mom… And the list of negativity went on. I jumped into the fray because that’s what I do. I always label myself ‘The Tank’. I developed a thick skin early on in the game, so I had no trouble taking the hits. I can get passionate in a debate, but never angry. I can hear the worst and hurl it back with even more force. I suppose it’s why Athena and I become friends so quickly. We have similar personalities. So I defended them to that list and anyone else who had something to say. Meanwhile, any private reservations about how badass The Frag Dolls were, were put to rest upon meeting Brooklyn the first time. If she’s reading this, she’ll likely smile if she remembers. I wrote an article detailing how she laid waste to an entire team in Ghost Recon..with only a pistol. She..is…legend. Yes, I vehemently defended them, for no other reason, than it was then that I understood just at that point in time, women in gaming have an age-old problem and it’s the same one that has also long plagued the Black (African-American for those who think it’s more PC) community. That problem is a lack of unity and support.

When the smoke cleared and The Dolls were revealed to the world, I took further damage and flack from the women on that list. I hurled it back 2 fold. I went to sleep that night, ready to get up and do it again. I woke up to my web developer/ best friend asking if I’d seen the Frag Dolls new web page and he was sounding so giddy. Hearing a Scottsman sound giddy can be disturbing sometimes. I pulled up their page and gasped. There on the right side of their page was a list of women-led gaming and tech websites that the Frag Dolls listed as their favorites. There was my website along with the women’s websites I considered to be the big girls. Womengamers.org and KillerBetties.com and the list went on. Our site visitors were through the roof. I got emails from game companies that before would not even respond to a call or email. We had a backlog of games to review, so many that sometimes we couldn’t get through them all. Side note, we got many from a small unknown company called Paradox Interactive. We totally take credit for Cities Skylines now..you’re welcome, fellow gamers. We were hard on them, they responded with better games.

We began showing up to SWSX (we were at the first one), PAX (first one as well) E3, launch parties, GDC, everywhere. Because Frag Dolls made sure we were invited. And even when they weren’t able to get us an invite, we now had the support of an entire community of women, who demanded we be there. From that was born a Microsoft Women’s group and a personal memory I hold dear to my heart. Playing Halo and hearing nothing but women’s voices on my team. And us laughing so hard, we couldn’t really make out the usual insults that would come from the guys. They finally gave up, completely intimidated. We had a little power and we used it. We never stopped supporting The Dolls or PMS, nor they us. They call, we came, we call, they came. I can remember recording The Dolls demo-ing Raving Rabits on a new platform called Youtube and overhearing a guy saying some rather disgusting things about Mischief (Aka PMSTart). Once I turned the camera off, I ripped him a new one and sent him away. We posed for a picture at E3, all of us wearing these hideous green and pink shirts that said Girls FTW. That picture is still floating around on the internet. If you see it, that’s me, dead center. I love that picture. That’s some powerful sisterly love.

How does this relate to black people and unity? Those of you not black, get ready to be schooled. It’s long believed that my brothers and sisters in color, will often make their way to the top and never look back. No going back to rebuild a neighborhood, no supporting those around you, that looks like you. In fact, we are known to completely disconnect from each other altogether if we achieve a little success. Why? Really, I have no idea. Sometimes someone is jealous or narcissistic or just never occurs to them to support anyone else. Or it could be as simple as they can’t support the others at that time. It’s said that behavior harkens from slaves being separated from their families. It’s also said that some black people have what’s called a slave mentality. Meaning, they expect ‘masa’ to give them, what they ask for. To be treated fairly. They deserve it! They are right, but there is just one problem with that. If life were fair, there would have been no slaves in the first place. No one, not even your company, is obliged to give you anything. Not even if you feel or you do actually deserve it. There is one fact that is very evident to me as black ‘woman’ in tech. Women as a whole in tech, have the same problem. And even worse, they can’t see this problem. They are too blinded by the injustice of it all. So they don’t move to do anything at all.

I was so proud during the women’s march (as I’ve said in other posts) of seeing all women around the world standing together. It was something I’ve waited my whole life to see. I didn’t see a lot of women of color out, I knew why, but I figured, it’s a start, I can accept that. Still, my chest swelled with pride and I waited to see what amazing things would follow. So many things followed, but not much in the way of change. See women still don’t know how to wield this power they showed the world they had. They came back to work and still ‘asked’ for something they now easily have the ability to take.

The next steps after that fabulous, worldwide display, should have been to make sure the support was there. How? Anyone who didn’t sync up with what you’re trying to achieve should be pulled from power. And if you’re not okay with that route then you just buy, read, support, prop up all things female and tech. I know some of you are saying, ‘That doesn’t work!’ Perhaps you should talk to the Parkland kids so they can show you how it’s done. They cannot vote yet but were able to put someone in the position to help them get their agenda across. They are bloody, organized! They stick together and they support one another. Much like when Frag Dolls took a calculated risk and supported female run gaming/tech sites, it was them, putting us in the place to get their agenda across. It worked like a Mario Powerup charm.

This is the exact opposite of just about every woman I run across in tech. There are too many marches and ‘raising awareness’ and ‘advocating’ speeches, no action to follow. Or the action is something so far removed from anything resembling help for other women, it’s not even worth doing. Holding a Grace Hopper Convention to honor women in tech and not inviting all women who run tech, media, and podcast, sites etc to attend, so they can get first bid there, is NOT furthering the agenda of women in tech. Who’s going to show off all this greatness? No many, because men aren’t covering it the way a woman, with skin in the game would. It’s like asking your captor to free you, just because. I don’t think men purposely forget us, it’s just that we don’t make them remember. Why should they? We can’t even remember to support each other! And there is also a very odd subset of white women who constantly yell about ‘white male’ privilege and without even realizing or acknowledging their own white privilege in this. They do not support each other, let alone other women of any color. I once challenged a colleague to stop visiting schools in rich white neighborhoods and to instead put their efforts into lower income neighborhoods. I told her the next Bill Gates will not be found in Bellaire. SHE will be straight out of Compton. She stopped speaking to me. Don’t get me wrong, women of color are equally guilty of not supporting their sisters in tech. It becomes a contest of who’s smarter than whom? Or my personal experience where I had a young black teen send me a writing sample to write for my site. When I told her she needed to work on her writing, she sent me back a racist diatribe about how white people never want to give black folk a break. Imagine her surprise when I told her, I was black. No, I didn’t hire her, in case you’re wondering. But I did give her a lesson on how to be professional and told her to come back and see me later. Didn’t hear from her again, at least not that I can remember.

Instead of seeing how far we’ve come, I’m forced to listen to another round of outrage about women not being treated fairly. Here’s a novel idea. Stop asking for it and go get it. When it belongs to you, you don’t have to beg for it. Where are the women-led companies? I know you’re out there. Send me your info, buy some advertising space or a geeky handbag, so we can support you in kind! That is how business connections work. This is how we stop being ignored. We hold each other up so we both get stronger. The only major media outlet that rivals the male ones is Vogue. Now I love me some Vogue, but it’s a fashion magazine. Where are the women’s tech mags? Sitting right here, waiting for our fellow females to help us so we can help them. See it is still a mans world. We could go to a bank and ask for a business loan to grow our small women in tech site. I did. Many times. I repeat it’s a man’s world. I was told, women aren’t really into tech etc. Yes, this has been in the last few years. Women own no banks and if they do, we can lump them into this little group for not supporting the rest of us, so we can support them. It’s been over 15 years since I started my first site and I’d hoped by now, I’d see us everywhere. What I see is more of the same thing. What’s worse is we have a current generation who’d rather whine on Facebook than fight. When you don’t fight, you will never ever be free. Don’t know about you, but my ancestors gave up the shackles long ago. It’s time women in tech gave up theirs.