Being a Woman and Dealing with Press and Media
A few weeks ago I was asked to give an interview for a German online gaming portal that wanted to take a closer look at the company I am doing level design for and the product we are currently working on. Since it is a casual MMO that comes from an Austrian team the game and the team working on it has become the center of interest. Rightfully so. Another issue that has become another focus point is the fact that I am, genetically speaking, a woman. More so, a woman that dabbles in a male-dominated area – games and design.
I agreed to answer a few questions and to be mentioned as the only woman working in an otherwise male-only dev studio. I agree, it is worth being mentioned but only as a sideline. Especially, since I am the newest member of the team, while others have been working on the project from day one.
The interview itself – rather curious but hard to put into words that can describe the enormous inner monologue I was simultaneously reciting in my head. Just to keep me calm.
The first question I was confronted with was (in a nutshell) “What’s it like being a woman?”. Now that is straight forward and actually set the tone of the interview that should follow. This question, being my favorite, was followed by similarly charming questions like “How do you design as a woman?” and “How did you, as a woman, get this job?”. The tendency was set. A woman, in a male-dominated job, is not only exotic but a thing that can not be. Or shall not be. Or…nevermind.
I was also quite amused when scientific facts were discussed, such as the inability of women to enter a 3D world, play a shooter or be otherwise interested in playing something other than a helpful character with a fluffy sidekick. Explains, why all women play hunters and healers in WoW.
I tried to answer all questions with sincerity and as understandable as possible. That I would not design as a representative of a gender but for a target audience. If this target audience is 60% male I will design for this target audience. If the target audience mainly consists of 10-year old children I will design for this target audience. Never as a woman but always as a designer.
The question about how I got the job implied that it is either almost impossible for a woman to get a job in IT or that she has to undergo an unusual amount of oral applications.
Judging from the questions during the interview and the general attitude towards women in IT I expected an interview that would somehow reproduce what I have said but add a few things here and there to make it more interesting.
I did not expect what was sent to me by an acquaintance last night. A huge banner with a portrait that resembled me with a lot of reconstruction in Photoshop™. My trademark hair-screw was replaced by a ponytail. People who know me know that I will not appear with a ponytail. My face was re-invented. It probably needed that anyway.
What was worse than the occasional frenzy in Photoshop™ is the fact that I was announced as the mastermind behind the project. “Gamer Girl develops MMO – The creative mind behind the game.” I can assure you, we were all a little surprised about that. Even more surprised when I read into the interview and noticed how answers, that either my boss had given or they themselves came up with were printed as if I had said them. More surprised that answers were printed that no one had given in any way or form.
I know that the media losely deals with information they have gathered. It is an artform, not a form of communication. Each and every article mirrors the intent, the opinion and the language of the author, not the person being interviewed.
During my studies I had to take a few interviews myself. Back then we tried and be as true to the original as possible. Re-printed the original dialogue so that the reader would not only have to rely on the author’s interpretation but read the “real deal”. Before an article or a paper was handed it or published, the interview partner would receive the first draft. If they were ok with it – it was good to go and ready to use.
Somehow, this notion of sharing valid information got lost in page hits and tabloids. All that is left is a twisted version of trash art – take something and make something else out of it.
Am I disappointed? Hell, no, I almost knew this would happen. Am I pissed? Hell, yes. Spreading that much misinformation and using my face for it is unprofessional. It also creates an image of my person that is far from the truth.
The alert reader might have noticed that I have not provided you with a link to the interview. Note me.
Filed under: Fairy Tales, game, Game Design, Game Related, Gamer Girls, Level Design, MMO, Private, target audience | 9 Comments
Tags: austria, development, female, game, Game Design, interview, IT, Level Design, media, misinformation, MMO, press, unprofessional, vienna, woman