Media and communications lecturer Dr Dan Golding always suspected the gaming world was a male-dominated echo chamber, but it wasn’t until he started researching a book on the topic that it really hit home.
The book, Game Changers, which he co-wrote with fellow academic Leena van Deventer and released earlier this year, shone a light on the culture of misogyny in the gaming world.
“It was about the gaming culture that has found itself at the heart of an aggressive male culture that imagines the only legitimate players are straight, white, young men,” Dr Golding says.
“I remember there was one gaming company that hired its first female employee and they had to have a discussion about adding a female toilet. I don’t think I have ever been to a gaming industry event where there has been childcare.”
Game Changers also looked at the abuse meted out to female gamers, particularly those who made their views public.
Dr Golding and Ms van Deventer, both gaming enthusiasts, expected backlash – and they were right.
“Some of the gamers would see us on TV talking about the book and they would leave comments on social media about our appearance, or say we were just pushing a pre-existing narrative,” Dr Golding says.
Ms van Deventer says she was shocked by the hypothesis that the pair must have been romantically involved.
But both were heartened by responses from other gamers, who endorsed the book’s findings.
“People who we had interviewed for the book told us how much they appreciated their stories being told,” Dr Golding says.
He presented their findings to a Senate inquiry into Australia’s video game development industry in March.
“One of the recommendations was not to fund gaming companies that only hired men,” Dr Golding says.
Ms van Deventer says she believes change is definitely coming. “That’s why there was such a large push back directed towards the book. If they weren’t scared of change they wouldn’t care,” she says.
Dr Golding says the Lara Croft character in Tomb Raider was designed for men but has been championed by women. “An ABS survey a few years ago found that women made up just 8.9 per cent of the Australian gaming industry, which is worse than mining. But I think those stats have improved since then,” he says.
Ms van Deventer says the book has taken its toll, but has inspired her to roll up her sleeves and work harder to advance women in the industry.
Meanwhile, Dr Golding is researching virtual reality devices and the way they replicate gendered norms from the early cinematic devices.