What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men. It would have been hilarious had it not mirrored so closely what passes for public dialog in the United States.

All it really takes to obliterate the favorite claims of these knuckle-draggers that being a game designer is a “meritocracy” is to look at the number of gaming projects out there, and how few of them include even ONE, SINGLE woman in a writing or designing capacity. There are damned few, and mathematically, that doesn’t bear out any kind of reasonable statistical analysis. Women are slightly more than 50% of the population, yet probably less than 5% of game designers are women.

John Wick Presents has made a point of specifically recruiting talented women to work on the wildly successful reboot of 7th Sea, as well as other projects, but I’ve noticed much less outcry over their approach (which is not to say there wasn’t any: I just didn’t notice it.) Another notable player in offering women a real chance is Lone Shark Games, producing beautiful, substantial, enjoyable tabletop games. Again, haven’t heard the hue and cry over Lone Shark’s progressive policies, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn there was a great deal of complaining going on.

Green Ronin has long been a target of trolls. Their left-wing politics make them an easy target for the Alt-Right and the Men’s Right’s Movements, both of which seem to have missed the entire point of being human. That point is that we don’t have to kill each other over scraps anymore. We no longer have to live in caves and scratch a living in the dirt; we can help each other, giving opportunity to those who have less. Women still only make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same work at the same job; if you can’t see that as discrimination, you are willfully blind.

Look, being a game designer/writer isn’t easy. You deal with tight deadlines, pay low enough that making a living at it is nearly impossible, and a lot of grief from “fans” who are sure they know more about something you created than you do. That doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out by passing along word of interesting open calls, or sharing information about companies we’ve worked with, good and bad. Those goofballs who claim they’re are being passed over for freelance jobs because of women need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. I consider myself a mediocre writer and I’ve had no problem finding work in the gaming biz. Someone who really tried and worked hard to improve their craft could do better than I have. If you have to blame someone else for you not getting work in tabletop gaming, it’s pretty clear to me where the problem really is.

An article was reposted recently by a friend of mine on Facebook. In it, the author recounts tales of women being treated poorly (at best) by male gamers. Here’s that link:


I was surprised: not that what the author recounts had happened, but at how many men were outraged by this essay. Most of them were saying things like “I don’t do that!”, defending themselves as if they were the specific target of the article. Commenters at gaming website Board Game Geek exclaimed “She couldn’t possibly have experienced all of this!”


She could have experienced all of that. Easily.

And even if she didn’t, that it happened to someone else DOES NOT invalidate the article, or the point it makes.

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

Too often men let that kind of behavior go with the excuse of “not making waves” or “He’s just kidding around.” If men don’t stand up to defend others of any skin color or gender being picked on or harassed — sexually or otherwise — by people who have every advantage in life, we are not men: we are frightened, insecure boys. Men are obsessed by their balls; maybe it’s time for us to actually get some.

If you take away only one thing from this article, let it be this: Believe women when they say they’re being harassed.

Believe women.

37 thoughts on “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?

  1. Say this again for those in back.
    Say it loud for those ignoring it in the front.
    Say it until this is corrected and all who want to play are welcomed to play!

  2. “John Wick Presents has made a point of specifically recruiting talented women to work on the wildly successful reboot of 7th Sea, as well as other projects, but I’ve noticed much less outcry over their approach (which is not to say there wasn’t any: I just didn’t notice it.)”

    Thanks! We’ve been doing our best to draw attention to talent we feel most people don’t notice in the industry. We don’t get the vitriolic anger directed at Nicole… probably because my name is “John” and hers is “Nicole.”

  3. wow that was a horrific account. That makes me sad. I hope as we go forward we can steadily eliminate that kind of really bad behavior. On a request of a female acquaintance, I found out that my favorite game convention has an anti-harrassment policy. Let’s hope they become standard in gaming cons.

  4. Those are some nice words you said about Lone Shark, Bill. Of course, we do hear a lot of criticism from a lot of places about our approach to staffing. We just never acknowledge it in any way, because we have a lot more important things to do with our days. Which, as it turns out, are pretty great.


  5. Incredibly sad to hear about those people. I am so sick of this behavior. I wish your title had said “some gamers” though. I refuse to believe that these attitudes are found among the majority of gamers. Trolls are good at making it seem like they are many. In many cases, people who aren’t even fans in the first place will join in on the trolling and pretend they are fans. I believe most gamers will welcome female designers and female players.

    • I’m sorry, but the “some gamers” or “not all men” defense doesn’t fly here. As long as we are unwilling to stand up for our friends and neighbors to kick this kind of behavior to the curb, we are all guilty of allowing it to grow. Evil thrives where good people do nothing.

      • “I’m sorry, but the ‘some gamers’ or ‘not all men’ defense doesn’t fly here.”

        Amen! If it was “some gamers fail to stand up against this kind of behavior, but most speak out against it” then, and only then, would it be defensible. Instead, the vast majority remain quiet. Whether it’s a tiny minority of male gamers that are an active problem, or a vast majority of them, is totally irrelevant until the vast majority steps up and does something about it.

        Remaining silent and doing nothing when you watch somebody being assaulted is the same as being complicit in that assault. Whether the assault is physical or verbal or takes some other form makes no difference. Even if you fear getting directly involved, you can help by getting others involved – and if you fail to at least try to do even that, then you share in the guilt.

        Anybody not speaking out about this and doing their part to make it a distant barely-remembered part of a troubled history is, in fact, promoting it. And they don’t get to use the “some gamers” or “not all men” defense. They are complicit.

      • That is such an important point and I thank you so much for saying it. I’m long time gamer girl and transgender to boot and my wife has been targeted with death threats and people trying to get her fired for not agreeing with their misogyny in this industry. I’ve had several friends in various segments of gaming and science fiction and fantasy writing just decide it’s no longer worth their time to fight it, especially against their employers who are often willing to sweep most of this under the rug or capitulate on the off chance that they actually will spend $100 in there store that year. It’s really frustrating seeing the industries lose those voices that can add another perspective and make games more diverse, interesting, and realistic and it’s just really heartening to hear you say this. Again, Thank you.

    • These attitudes are found among the majority of gamers.

      At every convention, women get mocked and harassed in front of crowds of men who do nothing, say nothing.

      Sexist jokes get made by game designers. Their male fans do nothing, say nothing.

      Female game devs constantly get harassed online if they talk about gender issues. Male gamers do nothing, say nothing (except, of course, to join in, demand proof that it’s happening as it happens in front of them, explain to the target how she brought this on herself, etc.).

      Women talk about what happens to us, and even after the discussion has been going on for years, with hundreds of examples, men pretend that each time it happens, it’s the first they’ve ever heard of it. They are lying. They are, perhaps, lying to themselves as well as the rest of us, but they are lying.

      And every time a woman talks about sexism in the game industry, hordes of male gamers show up to insist that we should have specified that we are talking only about a handful of bad apples.

      It’s not a handful of bad apples*. The culture around gaming itself is rotten.

      (*The same indictment can be made of all of us who are white, etc. We are all complicit to some degree by continuing to participate in a community that supports this sort of behavior, even if we’re trying to change it from the inside. Those efforts matter–and they also don’t absolve us of the ways in which we’re complicit.)

      • The original saying was that “A few bad apples spoil the barrel.” Which, they really do if you don’t throw them out. Otherwise the entire barrel of apples spoils.

    • Agreed! This kind of behavior is awful but is only a part of a very small but vocal minority, I’ve been a part of many gaming groups through the years, all of which had males and females in them equally, and they have all been very awesome and respectful. It sucks that this stuff happens but you can’t blame all gamers on this.

        • I DID see your comment to Harvard and I find an issue with it.

          “Evil thrives where good people do nothing”
          What makes you think that good people are doing nothing. In every gaming group that I’ve been a part of if someone is behaving inappropriately, to either gender, we would call them out and if it doesn’t stop, they’re out. That’s a sentiment that I agree very much with and I feel most people do as well.

          Learn the difference between “gamers” and “asshole trolls”. The article should have been called “What the Hell Is Wrong With Trolls”. Attacking gamers with a broad stroke is how things like Gamergate started.

          • Good people ARE doing nothing right now — hence this post. I agree the title is sensationalist, but it is no less true or invalid because of that. You have a progressive group — that’s GREAT; congratulations on your good fortune. Far too many people are not so lucky, and the gaming industry is hemorrhaging talented women and minorities because of crap like this. Too many people are blind to the abuse that happens every day. Your lecture on the difference between “gamers” and “asshole trolls” is appreciated, by the way: it’s helping me right now.

          • I’m glad that my comment is seen as helpful to you. It’s too often that a difference in opinion is seen as an attack. You seem like a cool dude with his heart in the right place.

          • Ah, right, GamerGate was the fault of the people who it doxxed, bomb-threated, SWATTed, and harassed.


            Go to straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

          • No. It’s not just “trolls”. This shit is everywhere. It’s “all” gamers in the sense that a large majority exhibit either the assholsih or the asshole-blind behavior. Glad you have a good group. I can’t play many games anymore because these attitudes are so entrenched in the community. I have thousands of dollars of Magic cards that it around in tubs accumulating dust despite the fact that I love the game, because every single playgroup within a hundred miles of me has at least one asshole and a majority of passive members that prevent both me and my female friends (I’m male) from enjoying the game. Serious issues like harassment and what I would almost call stalking. Showing up at female gamer’s places of employment to talk about these asshole’s wet dreams about the women, “I would make you cum more than your boyfriend” level of comments, groping at events, etc. And even though I’ve told everyone about this behavior, these people continue to be present at every playgroup event, have been moved into the apartment complexes of their targets, etc.

            “Oh, it’s just when they’re drunk.” “They wouldn’t do that, they’re nice people.” “They’re going through a lot right now.” Even when they admit the behavior occurs, the excuses for it are endless.

            Learn the difference between your anecdotal experience and the statistical reality.

  6. Thank you for writing this, Bill. I’ve been playing from nearly 40 years. I’ve always tried to make sessions I played in or ran as fun and accommodating to women and girls as I could. And even I will admit to seeing things I should called the offender out on. We can be better than this, we need to be better than this. I don’t want my son to become involved if this is the kind of environment he sees as the norm and not the aberration is should be.

  7. Yeah, this whole thing is a frustrating and mind-boggling trend. And the thing is, it wasn’t all that long ago that games and gaming were marketed to everyone! The original Atari and Nintendo ads were quite inclusive, and then it just…stopped.

    I’ve had the privilege to know talented women in gaming, as writers, editors, coders, and more. Here in DSP we’ve been lucky enough to have Erin Heck’d editing talents, among her other skills. I’m hoping this gatekeeper bullshit is just the death throes of our hobby’s inability to get over its persecution narratives and the idea that inclusivity threatens some kind of sanctity we never had.

    But until then, great article, and Green Ronin has my support in this difficult time.

  8. So given that, I think we should think about starting doing things.
    I’d say a very clear anti-harassment policy and anti-harassment ambassador program, both online and at conventions would make sense.

    Let’s show the world and all our peers that we openly support and encourage a diversity of people from all backgrounds at our gaming tables. That we accept them all as fellow human beings, that we will stand up and fight not only against sexual harassment, but also against any kind of discrimination against minorities.

  9. I would not be here if it were not for a woman. I would not be the intelligent well rounded individual I am today if not for a woman. I have been a gamer since the late 70’s and have loved to have a woman or women gaming in my group. Even played several times with a woman G.M., loved every min of it. Any punk flamer/troll that thinks women can’t play, run or develop an RPG just as good as a man can, then he needs to stop looking at the NSFW reddit post and exercising his right arm so much and grow up, or go take a long walk off a short pier.
    No human race without women. Bill you did great by letting people know of this issue but at the same time you are giving a voice to those fools who do not need to be listened to in the first place. Gah!!, catch 22.

  10. I’m a woman, and have been a gamer for going on 24 years now. And I’m seeing a lot of discussion about “Well, in my gaming group that doesn’t happen. Or I don’t know any gamers that do that.” But this post, while including gamers, isn’t just about the gamers, it’s also about the industry itself.

    Bill, you know that my husband is a game designer for a large company in the gaming industry, and he sees every day the very lopsided designer demographics he works with. Mostly white males. So, it’s not just about whether or not a woman was harassed by a gamer. It’s about hiring practices, it’s about an entire industry of employers not hiring women or people of color, or even encouraging women and people of color to apply. It’s about when a company puts a call out there saying “Women encouraged to apply!” that the players and gamers who purchase said company’s products call shenanigans and and try to say that the males are being discriminated against. How are males being discriminated against when most of the designer positions in the industry are filled by persons of the man persuasion? One could say, “Well, not that many women apply to those jobs.” Can you blame them? When the industry is so insular, would a woman even feel like she had a chance at a game design job? Would she be afforded equal pay for doing the same design work as a male counter part? Would her co-designers listen to her ideas and/or value her designs?

    Then there is the “not all gamers”. *face palm* Bill, your headline didn’t say, “What’s wrong with ALL gamers?” Did it? No. So you’re not specifying ALL gamers, are you? But enough gamers behave this way that you’re right to call it out. It’s called trending. And unfortunately with this kind of negative trending, silence implies approval to continue being assy. It encourages others to follow the trollish ones into trolldom themselves. Using the “not all gamers” tag, does not excuse someone from the conversation. Instead of being defensive of their own experience, why aren’t they outraged that there are still people out there behaving this way and giving gamers a bad name. Instead of telling me, “not all gamers”, because I’m not stupid, I already know that, get out there and show the world. Show me! Show me! Show me that not all gamers are assy, don’t just tell me that.

    Anyway, I’ve ranted enough. Thanks Bill. As always, you are a treasure.

  11. The sad thing is that the hobby we love attracts a lot of very immature people of all ages. Always has, always will.

    West End Games wrote all their TORG books with female pronouns. My first reaction was “that feels really weird:” my second reaction was “AHA! Now I understand how women feel reading most game books!”

    As a result when I wrote MUTT I used feminine for the game master and masculine for the players. (MUTT 2.0 should be out this summer by the by. Major evolution in the building logic.)

  12. Perhaps for little good news, at least in Germany we don’t bicker about female designers/players/GMs
    We just bicker about genre, playstyles and other stuff.
    So at least it’s not worldwide, and to be honest in now nearly 20 years on conventions, I never witnessed harassment of a female gamer, at least not from fellow gamers. And the overall acceptance of gamers is growing since the last years. So perhaps join a german convention, it will be worth your time. And for our game industry, well it’s partly run by women. so at least for more than 100.000 gamers and game designers in Germany: we are a tad nicer people.

    Still good work, and i enjoyed reading.

    • Olaf,

      I wish I could believe you that it isn’t worldwide, but in my experience it’s very easy to overlook such behavior if you’ve been around it all your life. The number of people who’ve commented that “(I) must be nuts, that they never see that sort of thing going on” is legion so far, though most of them haven’t been as polite about it as you were. In fact, I just received private correspondence from a woman from the EU, talking about some rather horrible things that happened to her in her local gaming community, and how she had to abandon gaming with that group to maintain her sanity and self-esteem. Therefore, I hope you will please forgive me if I take a dubious view of your statement.

  13. Let’s try this again, shall we?
    It is against the law to advertise a job for only one sex. It violates the Civil Rights Act *and* state law where Green Ronin is headquartered and hiring. Green Ronin is in open violation of anti-discrimination laws.
    Like it all you want, it is discriminatory.

    • And you can “try this again” all you want, but I still agree with what Green Ronin is doing. Of all the dozens of people whom Green Ronin is hiring to work on this particular project, they are reserving ONE space for a qualified woman. One. Morally and ethically it is the right choice to make: it addresses a disparity that is long overdue to be addressed. Not all laws are right and equitable, and breaking them is one way to bring the point before a court for further deliberation.
      I notice you seem to take great joy in slagging me off personally on your own blog. You can disagree with someone without being a dick about it, Dick. Or perhaps YOU can’t. Either way, my blog, my rules. The people disagreeing with my point all took the low road of personal attacks rather than trying to make cogent points aimed at actual discussion. They don’t get the “glory” and “fame” of seeing their names show up on my blog just for being jerks with computer access. And after this post, neither will you again, Dick, without a major change in courtesy towards me.

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