Indie Dev Jennifer Dawe is a vocal person in regards to GamerGate. After hearing her speak during an open debate, I wanted to get her opinion of the story and see what an indie developer and woman had to say about what has been hitting the games industry lately. The interview was conducted over email, and all answers are Jennifer’s own words.
Ben Kuyt: Hey Jennifer, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions and get your thoughts on the whole matter. If you could just give everyone an explanation of who you are and what you do, then take the time to answer the questions to the best of your ability, it’d be very much appreciated.
Jennifer Dawe: I’ve worked in the gaming industry for about 11 years, mostly via an Online RPG known as Illutia as well as outside contracts for other developers. I am currently working with Dapper Swine Studios on a TBA large project, as well as some puzzle games for mobile with a few others.
BK: How did you first get involved in GamerGate?
JD: I had spoken about a few of the issues involved with GamerGate for a few years now, they just weren’t really heeded. I tried to refrain from getting heavily involved until the focus shifted onto what it needed to be on. The moment that crossed the line for me was when the responsibility of professionals was shifted onto the consumer. The industry right now is behaving very badly, expecting your average consumer to be the “Bigger Man” in the situation, and that’s simply not how business works. When I see people insulting the core audience who should be listened to, you’ve crossed a line with me.
BK: What is your opinion of it, and what do you personally think it is about?
JD: It is about the industry losing touch with the people who make it possible. It’s forgetting that the perceptions we put out there to the consumer is our responsibility. When we make game development about everything but game development, we have only ourselves to look at, not the consumer. As of late, when the public gets the wrong idea about anything, we are blaming them. We are the ones expected to have good public relations as we are receiving the economic benefit in the situation, and we need to act like it.
BK: You recently debated against someone who was against the GamerGate movement. One of the main talking points between the two of you was about consumers and free market. What do you think a game journalist’s role is in the marketplace, if they have one?
JD: To observe and report factual information and to act as a relay between consumers and businesses. Op-eds are fine, as long as they are clear they are one. Consumers are biased in favor of getting a good product for their money, and businesses are biased in favor of getting good money for their product. There has to be someone in between, and that group has to be less biased than either of those people. Otherwise, what is the point?
I think the good question to ask is what are journalists biased in favor of, and why? What are their goals? Are they clear? These are their sites and they are permitted to do what they want up to a point, but we all have expectations on us to be seen as a “Good business” and they appear to want some of those rules removed in favor of a perceived “Greater good”.
BK: Do indie game developers suffer from GamerGate?
JD: I think indie game developers have been suffering a long time. I have done fairly well for myself but many new developers have been receiving pressure for years to join the righteous cause or be cast out from the social group that is currently at the top of most indie development scene.
We’re currently seeing an oligarchy of good intentions, that have disastrous results for people who didn’t necessarily have bad intentions but did not have good enough intentions to a select group. To rephrase it another way, it doesn’t matter if you agree with most of what is said, if you disagree with the wrong thing you are in the crosshairs.
The best thing for Indie developers to do right now is to realize that those people are not your customers, and trying to use them to better your customer base is a shortcut that has consequences. Unless you believe honestly that people are overwhelmingly bad people, which I do not, you’ll never go wrong siding with the people who will support you in the long run and not just to meet their own ideological ends. You will be cast aside when you are no longer useful, or you start to notice things aren’t quite right. You use people and they will use you.
BK: Have you experienced any sort of harassment that people against GamerGate say is occurring to female gamers and game developers?
JD: Most of the harassment I have received is over my pro-GG opinions, many of the people now on the anti-GG side harassed me long before this happened. The only thing that’s changed is higher profile people now think it is ok to make thinly veiled threats to my career, future reviews, etc.
BK: Has there been any backlash towards your game because of your stance?
JD: Not that I’m aware of, but my game is a bit older and I’m currently working on projects that haven’t been released yet. I guess I will find out when those are released.
BK: How have your interactions been with other women, other developers, etc?
JD: Some women are angry as they feel like I am “Siding with harassment” but I think that’s built on pre-conceived notions about the movement. It also ignores that I receive some pretty nasty harassment from people claiming to be against harassment.
Overwhelmingly though I have made friends with and helped a lot more women in the past five weeks than in years as they were brave enough to come to me. They’re terrified, but they want to press on and they are going to be the ones that win in the end.
BK: Lastly, do you think women are interested in games but are pushed out of the field, or do you think people’s personal preferences have to do with why there aren’t as many women in game development as men?
JD: I think the fear mongering will push women out of the industry more than anything. Telling people that they aren’t doing well only because men don’t want them making games is terrible and completely untrue. Games have more women now because they are more flexible.
Large sample surveys of what women want in a job come out with 37% or more citing flexibility in the work place and location as the main concerns when choosing a potential employer. The number one concern for women in workplaces is not money but flexibility, and unfortunately AAA development can be very inflexible at times.
Indie and Mobile games however have opened the doors to women, and now we have a group of people deciding that change should happen faster, and it’s only not happening due to hatred of women. Ironically enough they are portraying women as the stereotypical shrinking violet.
We talk about how we need to “treat women like people” but nobody ever mentions treating them like full-grown adults with their own wants and needs and not simply slaves to peer pressure and “Social constructs”. There’s no law against women starting their own gaming companies, and it gets pretty insulting to imply nobody should ‘have to’.
You don’t simply get cut a slice of pie because you feel it’s not fair you don’t already have pie.
I’d like to thank Jennifer Dawe once again for giving her perspective on things. The opinion of a developer is just as important as that of a consumer, especially when they are consumers as well.