Fact: women play video games. Fact: some women make video games. Another fact: lots of people are inexplicably unhappy about both of these things.
Gaming has long had a sexism problem, from problematic female characterisation (if they feature at all) to the harassment of women in online communities to the skewed ratio of women to men working in the industry.
But it’s a problem that’s been hauled into the spotlight in recent years – and this week, one games artist led an inspiring online campaign that’s so far raised thousands for a project encouraging girls into gaming.
And even better, it’s all thanks to the anonymous keyboard warriors sending her abuse.
Read more: The women changing gaming
The campaign was sparked when illustrator Alexandria Neonakis posted on Twitter reacting to a story about a female animator being bombarded with disgusting messages, including rape and death threats.
In a string of tweets, Neonakis (who works for Naughty Dog, makers of The Last of Us) wrote: “I’ve worked in this industry for 10 years. I have clawed to where I am today despite people telling me I couldn’t and shouldn’t.
“And at every damn step some asshole likes to pass it all off as ‘well you’re a girl so obviously that helped.’ […]
“I feel a constant need to work even harder to prove to others and even worse to prove to myself that that's not why. Every woman in this industry that I speak to feels the same.”
Predictably, abusive responses started rolling in.
But, as kotaku.com reports, last weekend Neonakis decided to honour the trolls by donating to Girls Make Games – a California-based project that puts on workshops, camps and game jams for young women who are interested in video game design, art and programming. Donations help provide scholarships and financial assistance.
Reading “I just donated to @GirlsMakeGames in honor of these lovely boys. Thanks guys!” with a screenshot of some of the messages, Neonakis’ post was soon shared widely, and within days, the gaming industry responded. With cold, hard cash.
Neonakis told kotaku.com: “It can feel a little helpless to see this stuff and not feel there’s anything positive you can do. I keep coming back to just trying to be supportive of the women that are currently in it and the women who want to be.”
And not only is the money rolling in, but the campaign has served to bring more attention to the organisation itself.