Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scared Away From My Own Dream

I've been dreaming of being a game designer since high school. I had been an obsessive fan of Mortal Kombat since I was 7 years old, & started my journey as a Gamer even earlier than that, on my cousins Atari 2600.  When Mortal Kombat first moved to 3D, I became enamored w/how awesome it looked to me, & it was at that point that I knew, I wanted to be a game designer.  Unfortunately my high school was ill equipped to help & I knew too little to clarify what I wanted.  They asked me what career path I wanted to choose, & I told them I wanted to go into 'Video Game Graphics Design', because that was a literal description of what I had fallen in love with, & it seemed to coordinate with my love for drawing & computers.

Going to my regular counselor lead me to a dead end; she didn't know how to help me.  She did know of a different counselor on campus, however, that possibly could.  By the time I met with the new counselor, I knew a little more about the path I wanted to take.  I knew I wanted to go to Academy of Art University & take their Game Art & Design program.  When I told the new counselor this, he began looking it up on his computer & talking about it simultaneously. About the point he arrived at the website, he said, he could basically help me as long as the school was accredited. Unfortunately , AAU was having an accreditation battle at the time, & I felt I would have been dishonest if I didn't say anything. The moment I shared this, he covered the monitor with his hands & said, "technically, I can't help you.  If I were to help you, I could lose my job." I was mad at him at first but he was able to calm me down as he explained how the school system worked & the restrictions they put on counselors.  That helped a little, but the experience left me confused & the thought of going to AAU mostly left my mind.

I continued to build my dreams by reading everything I could find on getting into the industry, the most pivotal being a feature in GamePro called, "Take This Job & love it." I wrote a list of skills I felt I'd need to become a well-rounded game designer, & set off to community college upon graduating high school w/ the intention of either writing my own associates w/ those subjects in mind, or at least taking my liberal arts courses toward going to AAU down the road.

Sometime in my freshman year of college, I joined a mailing list for women in game development.  It was such an exciting prospect & I got to read about/meet some amazing women, who regularly shared articles on what women faced in the industry.  They also shared their personal stories.  One thing that I heard on a regular basis was about sexual harassment. I had never considered that in planning my dream & it brought my thought process to a halt. I didn't want to work my way up the industry, I didn't want to be trapped in a AAA studio full of men who would make my dream job a nightmare.

My plans changed. I began trying to think of ways to start my own studio, but I hadn't even learned to animate or program yet. My community college ambitions became more & more drawn out as I tried to pile more skills on myself & avoid "the traditional route".  I ended up pursuing 3 associates degrees & multiple certificates, in a continued but vague effort to "be well-rounded".

It's only recently that I realized...I've actually been avoiding my dream.  I know what skills I'm missing and I'm delaying learning them. It was only until GamerGate that I finally realized, the stories of these women had scared me, & caused me to try to work around the one thing that I truly wanted with too little information. It was the story of a AAA dev where I learned that the stories that I read were not the only experiences! As a matter of fact, this woman dev said that the men she worked with were nearly afraid to interact with her so that they wouldn't accidentally offend her!  I recently read something from the amazing Roberta Williams of Sierra Online fame, about how she also didn't have these problems.

Why hadn't I heard this before? the irony of this is that the women in the mailing list wondered how to get more women & girls into the industry, & how to prevent fear of entering.  I think I've found the answer. Don't speak for every woman; we need to hear more voices & we need to know that these experiences are not across the board.  We need to hear the positive stories so that we have a better picture of what the industry is really like & can make our own decisions.

We need to stop feeding the trolls.

As a woman & as a #GamerGate supporter, I know that the harassment being paraded in the mainstream media comes from 3rd party trolls. It's a shame that all gamers, including girl gamers, are being blamed for this & being called misogynists! I had little trouble being actively involved in #GamerGate as an African-American woman & I've met some amazing people. I have been inspired by indie devs that have come forward in support of GG, whose creative freedom I also fight for. It's also my own creative freedom I fight for.

Law enforcement even says not to publicize the harassers, especially not before the investigation is complete! You are giving them exactly what they want by running to every mainstream outlet you can find & telling them how much they scare you.  They save these stories like trophies. I can tell you from 1st hand observation, in my occasional contributions to the #GamerGate Harassment Patrol, that you are making it harder to catch them & are encouraging even more trolls & harassers.

If we want these things to stop, we have to start by showing we're not afraid & by doing everything in our power to let them know that what they do is not okay. That means not giving their stupidity a platform. That means using the tools we are provided to stop them in their tracks. Don't refuse to help when GG Harassment Patrol helps find those perpetrating the threats!

I prefer to be brave instead of being afraid, but if I must, I'll fight even while afraid; because I have been playing games for longer than most of these trolls have been alive & I can tell you, they're not going to stop me now!

~Cosmic Glider