Frakkin' Guys

Monday, February 05, 2007

Holy crap, people. Have you listened to the Game Design Roundtable recording from Dreamation? You should. There's some good game design insight and stuff. But that's not why I'm telling you about it. I'm telling you because it pissed me right the fuck off.

Listen as a roomful of loud guys shout-down and marginalize the contributions of the females in the room. It's embarrassing. Luke tries to steer things, and Emily manages to get her voice heard by sheer force of will at one point, but overall... damn. It is teh suck.

Guys, c'mon. Try not to do that. Seriously.


Blogger Jonathan Walton says:  

I haven't listened to it yet, but now I'm kinda dreading it... I guess I'll wince along with you.

Blogger John Harper says:  

It could be worse. And since I can't indentify the voices, I'm not going to point fingers at individuals. But it's there, and it's lame.

Blogger Fred says:  

I know I somehow got Emily to stop talking when I mentioned that her idea had a lot in common with JAGS Wonderland, but that was meant to say "your idea is like this awesome thing".

That she subsided at that point was regrettable, and had it not been a chaos of constant move-forward, I would have said "hey, don't stop talking just because I pointed out a similarity!" I was highlighting a resonance, in my mind.

Was I shouting her down? Nah. Not in intent, and honestly, I don't think I was in deed, though the way it shook out, I'd bet it sure looked or sounded that way.

Was I marginalizing her at all? No, and I don't think it's fair to characterize it as such.

Now, it's possible that that's not what got under your ass, and instead it's some of what happened during the pro wrestling game feedback thing. I know at least one lady (whose name I never managed to get, as her nametag was permanently flipped to show the blank side) gave a lot of good feedback there, and as I recall it, I recall thinking those were some damn fine and nonmarginalized ideas... I don't honestly remember anything that might've been shouting down, on that part. Though maybe it *sounded* that way to the recorder that was half the length of the table away from her, with some of the folks talking about the game being right on top of the thing.

You should maybe come out to Dreamation or Dexcon and join in on one of these things sometime. I'd love to see your input get swirled into the mix.

Blogger John Harper says:  

Hey Fred,

If you weren't doing it, then I'm not talking about you. No worries.

But it's there. Listen to how the guys bounce ideas and pile on each other, and then when a woman speaks, there's a dead stop followed by a 90-degree turn in the discussion. It happens a few times.

I've participated in things like this before, and I realize they're chaotic tornadoes of ideas. Some people just don't get heard as much as others, and that's just how it is. I also know that -- in general! -- males and females share thoughts and ideas in different ways and a loud group of guys competing for attention is rarely a welcoming environment.

We can do better.

Blogger Fred says:  

I agree we can do better. I do want to make sure that this isn't a case of "when guys talk over each other it's okay, 'cause that's just how they talk, but when a guy talks over a girl, it's a crisis of gender-marginalizing proportions!"

Plus, it's an audio recording. Sometimes that silence you're referencing might be someone nodding, thoughtfully -- or sitting back in their chair suddenly, eyebrows raising, signifying "hey, good idea!"

I dunno. I'm all for championing the cause of the women at the table (though I'm wary of that becoming its own form of chauvanism), but I'd like to hear if *they* felt they were getting stomped, ignored, or marginalized. And I'd like to hear what specific behaviors created those feelings, so I can excise them, or at least offer a new perspective on why they *shouldn't* be taken the way they were taken.

Blogger John Harper says:  

Good points, Fred.

And for the record, I'm not speaking "for" anyone. I had a reaction to the recording, personally, and I'm talking about that reaction here. Emily, Meg, and the other women present may have an entirely different response and they will of course speak for themselves.

The fact that I'm not a woman is irrelevant to my reaction. I'm still a feminist. The fact that I wasn't present at the table, though, is really important. I could be misjudging since I can't see body language, etc.

Blogger Fred says:  

We're eye-to-eye, then, man. :)

Overall I had a pretty positive experience there -- but I was running my yap a fair amount, so I'm sensitive to your complaints (and thus, if I'm one of the causes, I gotta step up and do something about it).

Blogger Emily Boss says:  

Hey John,

Thanks for picking my voice out of the crowd. : )

I haven't listened to it yet. My recollection of it was like a waterfall of talk: the current flowing strong and hard over all the smaller voices. Luke had to pull back the tide repeatedly for folks to get a word in. I remember Vincent looking like he was going to burst wanting to say something.

But I was about the least talky of the women there. Don't know how much got on the tape but two other women, whom I don't know well, had long pieces to say about various games. Fred mentioned one of them. They gave good input and talked their points out completely as I saw it. But both of them, like other male folks in the room, held their hands up and waited to get recognized before they talked.

They dynamic I saw was very much a "loud, assertive folks get heard and quieter folks get a turn in a while." Pretty much what you'll get when you've got an unstructured talkarama going on like we did. Gender dynamics fall smack on this line.

So you talky folk, if you want to make more room in the discussion, there are lots of things you can do. Make eye contact with the other people around you. Look for hands raised. Take it upon yourself to be like a facilitator and promote others who you haven't seen contribute yet. If you've just talked, wait until 3 or 4 other people talk until you talk again.

My perspective in a group discussion is that I know what I'm going to say, but the other folks around me have all kinds of great things I'd never thought of, so I listen. Then after I've heard their thing, I am sure to make my point if no one else has made it yet. This is not necessarily the style for everyone, but it's a different model that people who talk more quickly might appreciate trying or thinking about.

Blogger Emily Boss says:  

Oh, and Fred, I didn't feel talked over by you. Or cut off by anyone. Once people got the spotlight, I recall everyone being attentive. It was just getting in there to start with.

Blogger John Harper says:  

Thanks, Emily! It's good to hear your thoughts on this.

Blogger John Harper says:  

Ooops. I sent that comment before it was done...

I totally agree about the "talky vs. quiet" issue, and how gender stuff intersects with that. I think I probably tend to be a little over-sensitive about it around the gamers, because of bad experiences in the past of males in a group aggressively excluding the females.

Anyway, I'm glad we're talking about it.

Blogger Emily Boss says:  

Me, too.

We should be pro-active or something and use concensus tools like more formal turn taking, at some of these events. Or go round the circle to get a comment (or a pass) from everyone. That's what a lot of our hippy games accomplish (scene framing in PtA, frex).

We're the "rules make a difference people", may as well take that to heart.

Thanks for making the post, John!

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