But when 31-year-old Leigh Alexander first used the hashtag, she was able to co-opt its meaning in just one tweet:
Twelve years old, in a room of hostile nerdmen, the slow dawning horror that they didn't want me to play too #gamingmoments— Leigh Alexander (@leighalexander) September 9, 2013
Alexander instantly sparked a conversation on gender and gaming. The Brooklyn-based writer is the news director of successful gaming news site Gamasutra and a popular, well-respected game critic who doesn't hesitate to write about gender and the industry -- a-hot button issue at the best of times. Predictably, she has her share of detractors: threatening commenters who think she “should’ve been aborted” and persistent Twitter trolls.
Alexander is currently in England, prepping to give talks at Nottingham’s Game City. The Huffington Post caught up with her via Skype to chat about the intersection of gender, culture and gaming.
When and how did you first get into gaming?
My dad was a tech journalist, and he wrote about home technology in the Boston Globe (I grew up in Massachusetts) and he was always bringing technology into the home because it was his field -- it was his area of interest professionally. There would always be games around. My mom encouraged me to play with the computers because they rightly forecast that having a facility with interactive technology was going to be important to my being employable later.
I have your first #gamingmoments tweet: "Twelve years old, in a room of hostile nerdmen, the slow dawning horror that they didn't want me to play too." Was this a real event? What happened?
I played games with all kinds of friends before adolescence. I played with girls, I played with boys, and I still played adventure games with my friends in high school. And I never really realized that a schism was opening up in general between girls and boys, let alone as regards gaming, until -- I was always used to going to the computer lab to school to practice. Around the time gaming got all high-octane and first-person-shootery, labs were starting to just fill up with dudes who wanted to kill things, and I didn’t get a turn. It was weird, walking in and realizing we weren’t all going to share this thing.
And then you’ve got a later tweet: "The cold, competent awareness that this is now ours, not theirs." This is referring to the gaming world?
Yeah. I think the idea of the industry monetizing strictly on appealing to the 18- to 24-year-old male demographic, white heterosexual males, seems to be profoundly over. It’s no longer economically sustainable, and it’s no longer culturally viable.
Things are diversifying very quickly, and all the excitement and the innovation and the invention and the disruption and the new business models are happening in spheres of independent creation and self expression. Small teams, with probably better values than corporate technology-chasers. It’s cute that all the angry gamer men still think that they’re all going to be able to keep everything the same. Because they’re not.
What's your favorite game of 2013?
My favorite game of this year is Papers, Please. It’s a game by Lucas Pope, and it’s a simulation of processing border-control documents. It’s really interesting. Let’s say you work in a border guard booth, and you have a family, and you make X amount of money a day for each person you process approaching your booth. It asks you to make a lot of moral decisions about is the state good, is the state bad, should you let this person in, should you not let this person in. If you would get extra money for detaining people, will that make you profile them more aggressively? It has this old Soviet Bloc feel that makes you consider rightness and wrongness.
Is there any particular mechanical or narrative convention in current gaming that you wish game-makers would re-examine or simply avoid?
I don’t personally like FPSes [first person shooters, like HALO] because I think they’re lazy. Because all you can do is point and pull a trigger and cause death and injury. There’s just not much you can do with that mechanic. I just think Portal was a cool game because it took the mechanics of the FPS and showed something else you can do with those. I even like the first Bioshock because it diverted from it somewhat. You have two disembodied hands floating around. But I’m just tired of playing a pair of forearms. I think it’s lazy.
It’s possible to enjoy problematic things, and it’s possible for problematic things to exist and be enjoyed by people that aren’t me. So I don’t know if I would want to legislate the way that games are made so much as I want more kinds of games to be made by more people.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Also on HuffPost:
Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO, The Muse & The Daily Muse
<strong>"Just pretend you're a man and go with that." </strong> "I got this advice while raising a seed round for TheMuse.com, and it was terrible. The same behaviors don't always come off the same way from a man vs. a woman, and I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by eschewing the 'startup founder in hoodie' ideal and trusting my instincts earlier."
Christina Wallace, Co-founder, Quincy Apparel
<strong>"Sit tight, pay your dues, and let your work speak for itself. People will notice you and give you opportunities at the right time."</strong>
Cindy Gallop, Founder & CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld & MakeLoveNotPorn
<strong>"Your problem, Cindy, is that you're thinking too big. You need to think really small."</strong> "Worst career advice I've ever received, from a VC to whom I was pitching my startup <a href="http://ifwerantheworld.com/">IfWeRanTheWorld</a>."
Brenda Romero, Chief Operating Officer, Lootdrop
<strong>"Oh, Brenda. Don't do it."</strong> "The translation of this advice is, 'Stay away from potentially controversial topics and risky projects including starting your own business.' What if you fail? What if you stir up trouble? Staying the status quo and doing only the known thing are sure routes to mediocracy and intellectual stagnation. "I have created games about challenging topics that no one else dared approach and, as a result, found new ways to educate people about difficult historical topics and opened many eyes to the power of games."
Rachel Sklar, Co-Founder, Change The Ratio & TheLi.st
<strong>"I wouldn't ask for too much. The economy is pretty bad. You're lucky to have a job." </strong> "[This] from a friend of mine in 2009 who came from a VC/private equity background, on how I should broach the equity discussion around Mediaite, for which I was employee #1 and recruited the entire core team. I candidly admit that I knew very little about norms around startups and equity back then, despite being a former corporate lawyer. "Now that I am much more aware of how key early startup employees are compensated I am amazed that my friend -- who really did know -- reinforced all the tropes around women (that they shouldn't be pushy, that they are lucky, that they should just be happy to help, etc.) "It's my mission to let women know, loudly, that they should know what they bring to the table and what the market value of that is, and what it will mean to the organization, so they can be clear on what they ought to be entitled to -- and that even if they are lucky to have a job, well, that job is lucky to have them."
Kellee Khalil, Founder and CEO, Lover.ly
<strong>"Failure is for failures."</strong>
Maya Baratz, Senior Product Manager, ABC News
<strong>"Find a mentor." </strong> "Mentors come and go, offering advice throughout your career, but it's unlikely you'll have one dedicated person in your life -- like a career messiah -- who will guide you. That guide should be you. You'll need to carve your own path, while making sure to listen to and parse out the good advice from the bad, as it comes in via different influential people in your life."
Claire Mazur, Co-founder, Of A Kind
<strong>"Play games."</strong> "This is something that comes up a lot in relation to the fundraising process -- this idea of trying to manipulate a situation by being incredibly tactical. And I'm sure it works for some people, but any time I've tried to do it I just end up feeling really inauthentic and uncomfortable -- and it's never had particularly amazing results."
Anthea Watson Strong, Consultant, Google Public Policy & Elections
<strong>"It's not what you know, it's who you know."</strong> "Instead of valuing your network by the quantity of connections to people in places of power, value quality connections at all levels. Take special care to identify up-and-coming rockstars, and make sure they have what they need to be successful. Those relationships will return tenfold over that coffee chat you once had with the CEO."
Erika Trautman, Co-Founder & CEO, Flixmaster
"Some of the worst advice I ever got was from an entrepreneur who told me to <strong>'Stick to your guns, no matter what.'</strong> He gave me the advice in the context of our product vision as well as our investor relations. "There is no doubt that a huge part of successful entrepreneurship involves having vision for something that might not exist yet and having the fortitude to hear hundreds of no's for every yes. But there are also critical (and frequent) moments in entrepreneurship when you have to adapt and adjust. Its a fine line to walk. "But I think there is a lot of mythology around sticking to your guns in the face of insurmountable opposition. The reality is, even in the face of insurmountable opposition, there is a lot of adjustment that has to go on to be successful."
Leslie Bradshaw, Chief Operating Officer, Guide
"When I was 23, I was told in my annual review that <strong>I was delivering 'Bentleys' when they were asking for 'Fords.'</strong> In other words, my boss was looking for me to pare back the depth of and breadth of what I was delivering. He went on to add that I was 'too enthusiastic' and 'too grateful' about everything I was working on. "Although I did heed some of his advice and learned when and where to over-deliver, seven years later my positivity and 'Bentley' approach has brought me more long-term business relationships, meaningful collegial bonds and industry respect than any amount of 'Ford' production could have."
Whitney Johnson, Co-Founder, Rose Park Advisors
<strong>"'Keep your head down."</strong>