Tesh wrote a post here about how monogender workplaces breed a “boy’s club atmosphere” which leads to more childish games. I’m commenting here because I disagree with him, and he deserves more of a thought out response than commenting will lead me to.
My disagreement is not in that we need more women in game production fields, but that the phrasing of it shows a bias. I commented and called it (tongue in cheek-sorry Tesh! I’ve been more of a misanthrope than usual lately) “the icky boys” problem. A type of behavior or game is seen as childish and immature mostly because it is masculine. C.S. Lewis in “That Hideous Strength” had Ransom say this:
“…you are offended by the Masculine itself: the loud irruptive, possesive thing-the gold lion, the bearded bull-which breaks through hedges and scatters the little kingdom of your primness like the dwarves scattered the carefully made bed.”
I’m not saying Tesh or others who think such feel exactly that way, but a lot of the boys club is just how men act. We like big breasted women, we trash talk even with our friends, and we like people who blow stuff up and break things. That doesn’t mean its appropriate to always do so, especially among people who might take offense or women, but it’s not bad. It’s very subtle, but it’s a rebranding of male values as something that need fixing entirely.
I’m reminded of this post at Massively which started off as a Blade and Soul trailer and ended up into having to defend why sexualized women are in videogames. That it’s something wrong to be fixed. But I could go into my local Borders and get about 8 yaoi and 150 romance novels that are exactly the same. Guys don’t complain because we know fantasy is needed, and good luck hating on the fangirls if you try. But the same behavior in men is something dangerous to be fixed or broken up.
I think it can be very dangerous to believe that way because it can wind up turning guys off from games. A good example of the line of thought taken to the extreme is in children’s books. Some quotes from an article here:
“I think we feel like boys just aren’t good readers because they aren’t curling up with ‘Little Women,’ ” LaBorde added.
“The real requirement is that there is a male protagonist. Boys will not read books that have a girl protagonist,” said John Martin, a Ballard novelist who writes for young adults, and started BoysRead.orgthis year to address the reading gap.
To engage male readers, books need to tackle their issues: what it means to be a man, walk away from a fight, play sports and even go to war, Myers said.
“I’ve never had a male editor,” the New Jersey-based author said. “When you see the books that win the awards, you see books that are much more suitable for girls.”
It’s the logical end of the “boys are icky” line.
To sum up. It’s not bad to be a woman in game design, multigendered workplaces are fine, and women deserve to make games as much as men. But what is not fine is treating masculine fantasy as something dangerous that needs to be fixed, and masculine fantasy games as something we have to solve by introducing more women designers. The danger is that you can go too far and alienate the very audience you want to “fix.”