Being a Woman and Dealing with Press and Media

28May09

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.

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9 Responses to “Being a Woman and Dealing with Press and Media”

  1. High quality interview… I’ve unfortunately seen this before. Back in the early 2000s it was a nice interview with TV-media, a bunch of us (online-gamers) were invited to “show our way” – and, while I luckily managed to be not part of the group picture – where every gamer, whom they all promised a nice and polished approach to their image, was given a laser-sword or other science-fiction weapon… It was really that way, they turned every word we said – added a few things we never said and made an article as bad for the online gaming community as you can hardly expect.
    Never been too much fond of the media, but would appreciate if you shared your cause for being upset – just out of curiosity. 😉

    Heads up hon, it’s been just an interview.

  2. and since it’S far too early for me on a vacation day, please substitute the heads up for a cheer up.
    *shakes head*… I just had the feeling I did something not quite right when I pressed SUBMIT 😉

  3. 3 mcC

    oh shit… I mean, interviews for university studies are something completely different because they serve a different purpose than interviews done in a journalistic setting.

    Of course journalists tweak quotes to make them “better” (whatever that may be). I as a journalist know that sometimes the person you are interviewing just isn’t really stringing proper sentences together – then you have to tweak in order to write an article. As for completely changing the meaning and taking the story into a whole different direction – which seems to be what happened to you – that’s not ok. In fact, that’s just giving journalism a bad name.

    on a side note: I wonder what the publication would have made out of me being the only woman in a meeting with 16 guys yesterday 😉

  4. 4 cliff

    Yeah, never trust the media… They will gladly lie in your face and then send you the published copy which doesn’t represent anything you said. And it’s not just Tabeloids it’s actually also “quality” TV and Newspaper products that do this…

    You just have to accept this fact and live with it. Screw honesty and missues this for your own purposes… Remember: also bad publicity is good publicity…

    btw. are you trying to say that you are not the gaming barbie girl I’ve come to know? *evilgrin*

    Cheers, Cliff.

    Ach ja und schick mir den link bitte, würd dich zu gern mit ponytail sehen 🙂

  5. Can’t say I am surprised about the outcome but find it rather adventurous that they even managed to completely omit the actual guys behind the game. They are not even mentioning them with one word. They were cropped out from pictures or mentioned as my “colleagues”, while actually being the minds behind the project.
    I am not upset but do not see this as the best publicity stunt for a game that’s being released soon.

  6. The general tweaking – I completely understand why it’s done and why it’s even necessary at some point.
    Twisting the truth, putting words into someone’s mouth that came from someone else (or themselves) is a bit more than mere tweaking.
    I had the feeling they wanted to convey certain stereotypes about women in games/IT/male-dominated areas so whatever I said that did not fit the stereotype needed a major make-over.
    I had the feeling that women were quite “exotic” to them, especially women in jobs with a majority of male colleagues. 16 guys and one woman – that can’t be! 😉

  7. They did not send anything. Somehow, that would’ve been a bit more professional. No review copy, nothing, only the online-surprise.
    Well, if it only concerned me – fuck it. A comment underneath the article would be enough. There’s a company, a game and the designers concerned as well. This makes it a little more iffy.

    Ponyhof! When will you all understand that this game is my only passion!

    Check FB.

  8. 8 badoli

    Found the interview… Wow, i guess these guys don’t hang out with girls all too often and if they do, i don’t want to meet those girls.

    They probably don’t have all too many female readers eighter, do they? The posts underneath the article are on a seriously disgusting level (Krone-Forum anybody?). I don’t think you should get all too worried about that one, if you don’t expect something else than stupid articles from a stupid magazine 😀

    Alltough, the “Romeo and Juliette”-part might have fueled their fire a little… 😉

  9. @Romeo/Juliette: That wasn’t even my reply. Yes, I came up with the idea to continue the storyline to appeal more to a female audience. But what they printed is not exactly what I said.

    I have the sneaking suspicion that they live in a women-free environment.


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