Unwilling to ignore the problem of sexism within the video game industry, Jen Allaway ’15 shared the results of a yearlong academic study during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 20.
With more than 24,000 attendees, the conference is the primary forum where programmers, producers, game designers and others gather to exchange ideas and explore ways to shape the development of interactive games.
“As an undergraduate speaking alongside people who made my favorite childhood games, I felt as though we were on totally different worlds,” says Allaway, a sociology major. “It was humbling to be accepted among them and to give my opinions and discourse on their level.”
Allaway’s research began as part of Willamette University’s Carson Undergraduate Research Program. Through the program, select sophomores and juniors receive grants up to $3,000 to undertake scholarly, creative or professional summer research projects.
Allaway’s presentation, “Sexism and the Game Industry: An Empirical Study,” was based on 34 interviews and a survey, which accrued 344 respondents. She co-presented with Necrosoft Games Director Brandon Sheffield.
The intent of Allaway’s study was to highlight common gender problems and to reveal people’s specific experiences with gender discrimination and harassment. The anecdotal accounts are backed up with statistics.
Although many people were dismayed by her findings, Allaway says she’s hopeful the situation will improve.
“For all the horrible statistics and wrenching stories I found, I found dozens of earnest men and women at the end of my talk asking, 'What can I do to make this better?’” Allaway says. “I firmly believe that the more we discuss and invest in this subject, the more progress we will see.”
On a personal level, Allaway’s favorite part of the experience was meeting with one of her interview subjects the last day of the convention.
“She just looked at me and said, ‘I left the room crying. Thank you so much,’” Allaway says. “I was humbled to have given her a chance to have her voice heard. … It was unforgettable.”