The GDC and Dancing Girls: Everyone Just Calm Down [OPINION]

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Mar 30, 2013 01:14 PM EDT
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It seems like the gaming community can't go a week without some kind of controversey in one form or another. When the industry isn't under fire from politicians, it seems like it's biggest critics are internal.

This week saw the 13th annual Game Developer's Conference, where we finally got glimpses of "Metal Gear Solid 5" and the new FOX Engine, Frostbite 3, a mobile Miiverse, the PS4's social aspects, "Battlefield 4," the list goes on and on. The games and tech seen here will help to set a standard for the next year of gaming and beyond, but no one's talking about that. They're talking about the parties at the end of the conference, two of which happened to feature a couple dancing ladies, resulting in resignations, apologies, and the the resurrection of the discussion of sexism in the industry.

First up, as the GDC came to a close, a party was held by Yetizen, co-sponsored by the International Game Developer's Association. The party reportedly featured scantily clad female dancers. In response to the dancing ladies, acclaimed game designer and co-chair of the organization's Woman in Games SIG, Brenda Romero, resigned from her position, as did board member Darius Kazemi. The IGA has since apologized for their part in the party, saying, "We regret that the IGDA was involved in this situation. We do not condone activities that objectify or demean women or any other group of people. One of the core values of the IGDA is encouraging inclusion and diversity. Obviously we need to be more vigilant in our efforts."

Second, a similar event was held by "Minecraft" developer Mojang. No dancing girls, but a lot of partygoers are alleging that some of the women, specifically ones in the VIP area, where actually paid to be there. "Minecraft" creator and Mojang founder Markus "Notch" Persson and the event organizer Kyle McCarty both deny that any one present was paid to be there. Whether they were or weren't, it wasn't long before word got out via Twitter, and comparisons between said women and escorts began, complete with all the fun discrepancies over whether or not escorts are merely prostitutes. As tends to happen on the internet when people hide behind anonymous avatars and online handles, the discussion quickly devolved into bickering, trolling statements, and general displeasure, the lengthiest of which can be seen on the Twitter page of GameRanx editor Holly Green.

The Mojang party is a harder one to tackle because the crux is all "he said, she said." While it's clear that a great many people were under the impression that women were paid to be there, some of whom even reportedly admitted it, Mojang and company are still denying it, and I can't process what they would gain by doing so in the first place. Much like Notch tweeted when asked about the subject, "Why would we need to pay people to go to a free skrillex gig?" A beta for "Scrolls" was recently announced, and no matter how massive a gaming phenomenon "Minecraft" is, Mojang can't afford any sort of negative PR if they want their next game to do well. So why would they risk hiring women of this ilk? So until Notch and company either admit that they did hire these women, or a receipt or something pops up proving they did, everyone needs to calm down.

However, provided they actually did pay these women, I think that Mojang is due a refund from the women in question for spilling the beans on the plan in the first place. Escorts, prostitute, comfort girls, whatever they are, if they're going to destroy the facade by telling people what they're there for and why, they're not very good at their jobs.

As for the Romero resignation, this is a little more clear cut. It was a mere hours after Romero and other female presenters had spoken about the roles of women in gaming as both developers and an audience that the dancing girls emerged, which is understandably frustrating, but far from world damaging. Romero's decision to resign is her own, but seems stand-offish. While the case can be made that the decision to have gyrating girls dancing on stage is arguably an immature one, how can you expect to influence the organization and audience perception when you act like a child yourself?

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