According to recent coverage in The New York Times, the Game Awards, set up by Geoff Keighley, is the closest thing the videogame industry has to the Oscars. Unfortunately, this desire to be like the Oscars clearly includes having a majority white male judging body.
Last week, the nominees for The Game Awards 2015 were announced, and alongside this the names of the judges were all revealed too. You’ll forgive me if I wasn’t overly surprised at the fact that out of the 32 judges on the panel (52 if you include the eSports advisory panel) only one was female.
You know, for an awards show that says it wants to “put the fans at the centre of the show” and “highlight the cultural significance of video games”, it seems an awful lot like the lack of diversity in its judging panel is pushing a lot of gaming fans into the peripheries. If your judging panel doesn’t even slightly reflect the diversity of the gaming community, how can you expect to make decisions that they’ll agree with? This lack of diversity just serves to highlight some less than positive notions about the videogames industry: that women’s opinions hold less weight than men’s and that they should occupy a smaller space in the industry.
When women are being depicted poorly in games and under-represented in the industry itself, why not, as a new addition to the industry, make going against negative norms a priority rather than slide comfortably into the ways of old?
When the Huffington Post contacted a member of the panel, the source “who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the story,” said that all communication between judges and the Game Awards was done over email and independently. Because of this, members of the committee probably had no way of knowing that they were joining a judging panel that was so incredibly lacking in diversity.
Polygon’s Christopher Grant released a statement to this effect, saying: “I did not know the makeup of the voting jury when I agreed to participate. Either I have, or someone on my team has, represented Polygon at The Game Awards, and before that the VGAs, since the site began. While the gender imbalance in video game journalism as a whole is certainly not a new challenge, it is a challenge that we have to remain committed to taking on, as evidenced by this list.
It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the imbalance. While many editors on staff participated in selecting Polygon’s nominations, and many will similarly participate in selecting our final vote in each category, I’ve asked Geoff to replace Polygon’s jury spot with Megan Farokhmanesh, our deputy managing editor, who was already contributing to this process for us. As juror, she will ultimately decide how we cast our final vote.”
Kill Screen actually withdrew from the awards entirely.
— Kill Screen (@KillScreen) November 16, 2015
The Game Awards might only be in its second year, and chances are this imbalance was in no way deliberate, but we’re afraid the “well, it wasn’t deliberate so we shouldn’t really have to do anything about it” attitude just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not only is it embarrassingly lazy, it won’t do anything but perpetuate a problem that no one can reasonably claim to be ignorant of anymore. Be active. Make creative changes. Don’t be content to be “the Oscars” of videogames. Be better than that.
Main Image: Screenshot