LucasArts Creative Director Slams "Viking" Dev Culture

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LucasArts Creative Director Slams "Viking" Dev Culture

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The gaming industry needs more female developers, and fewer fart jokes, according to LucasArts creative director Clint Hocking.

"Minus the literal rape and killing, of course, modern game development has a number of things in common with the Viking expansion. Specifically, game development studios and their teams are largely staffed in the same way that Viking longships were crewed. Consequently, the culture is overflowing with beer and pent-up aggression, and a very significant portion of our overall cultural output is fart jokes," Hocking writes in a recent Edge opinion piece.

Though that method of games development has worked so far, Hocking feels the industry could do far better by diversifying its workforce. Specifically, adding more women to the mix, and drawing on the particular cultural values of their gender.

"... we need more female game developers in order to ensure that the development culture in game studios becomes more reflective of our culture at large," Hocking writes.

From there Hocking offers steps the games biz needs to take to properly court female developers. Steps that are, most crucially, both logical, and backed both by moral impetus and the sort of potential monetary gain that might actually sway shareholders and the bean counter types to grok the idea of gender equality in games development.

"This isn't something we should do because it's the right thing to do morally -- try selling that idea to the board -- it's something we should do because it moves us closer to the goal of speaking to a broader audience. It increases our reach and profitability -- and, subsequently, our sustainability," he adds.

Speaking as a Caucasian male, gender equality in the workplace -- specifically the workplace of this industry -- is the sort of ethical quagmire that I've instinctually learned to flee from, but I have to hand it to Hocking; he's right.

Who knows what women want to see in games better than other women? Last I checked money kept in a Dolce & Gabbana purse is just as valid as the Andrew Jackson in my leather wallet, so why are gaming firms implicitly trying to appeal purely to those of us who don't have to sit down to pee?

Plus, more women in the games industry would severely improve the conferences we have to attend. No offense to my male colleagues, but a half decade of seeing you people at events has collectively put me off homosexuality forever.

Source: EDGE

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Alas, the only thing more women in videogame development would definitely result in is polls on forums about who is the hottest dev in the business. Wouldn't put it past some actual websites/publications to do them too, since beer swilling passive aggressive men dominate both those arenas too.

Clint Hocking is a gem of a man, and a fantastic game designer. I still hold Far Cry 2 as the most politically profound game I've had the pleasure to play.

But I believe this write-up is misconstruing Hocking's intention somewhat, specifically on the point of his motivation as to why this is a necessary change.

Clint Hocking:
Some people are sure to interpret this as me saying that we need more female game developers so they can make more games for a giant, untapped market of female gamers that's waiting to be served. This is not at all what I mean. What I mean is that we need more female game developers in order to ensure that the development culture in game studios becomes more reflective of our culture at large. It's this overall culture that's the giant untapped market we need to serve: a rich and diverse mass market that's comprised of men and women, appreciating and consuming art and entertainment together.

I haven't actually encountered that many "fart jokes" in my life of gaming and 40% of gamers are apparently female, so it shouldn't be hard to get women interested in making games. But then, does their gender really give them some unspoken of edge or quality?
I don't know if I buy that.

What I mean is that we need more female game developers in order to ensure that the development culture in game studios becomes more reflective of our culture at large. It's this overall culture that's the giant untapped market we need to serve: a rich and diverse mass market that's comprised of men and women, appreciating and consuming art and entertainment together.

That mass market seems to love the taste of shit if what's popular in movies, television, and books is any indication.

How about focusing on talent not "morals", if they have talent hire them. Wouldn't that work too, then you're not bringing something as intangible as morals into play and I'm absolutly sure that many women would be talented and a boon to the industy.

I don't think having more women for the sake of having more women in game development is a good idea. I think they should simply hire who they believe is the best qualified for the job. If this leads to more qualified and skilled females stepping up to the plate and working in the industry, then that would be an excellent secondary result, the primary being more skilled game developers.

I think women don't really want to be treated equally. They want to be treated specially. Like they are princesses. Not all women by any means, but I'm talking about the kind of woman that sues a guy because he said she is beautiful. If you want to be paid as much as men do, fine. If you want higher pay, that's not equal. If you want more games aimed at you instead of at men instead of an equal amount being aimed at men, that's not equal. There are plenty of games out there that don't have a ton of female fan service that are perfectly fine.

How about instead of focusing on making the industry more feminine, we just hire the people who do the job best? Male or female.

I believe this Gutters Comic describes the situation in the entertainment industry best:

image

Racecarlock:
I think women don't really want to be treated equally. They want to be treated specially. Like they are princesses. Not all women by any means, but I'm talking about the kind of woman that sues a guy because he said she is beautiful.

Someone's had a bad personal experience.

OT: People should be hired on talent, but considering some of the stories I've heard about the misogyny that goes on in dev studios, even from senior management, that's never going to happen unless you force someone's hand somewhat.

Woodsey:

Racecarlock:
I think women don't really want to be treated equally. They want to be treated specially. Like they are princesses. Not all women by any means, but I'm talking about the kind of woman that sues a guy because he said she is beautiful.

Someone's had a bad personal experience.

Well, actually it's because I've seen too many office comedies but good guess.

Yay Lucas arts giving advice on how the game industry should be run. Why don't we ask if the Russians want winter combat advice from Germany or France.

But joking aside what does it matter? If developers can make the game they want and not be shuffled into the next project the system would work better to a degree; and saying we need fewer men or more women is not going to change the way things get run. What purpose is there in saying that when the end result would just be the same games churned out by a development team made up of a few more women.

Earnest Cavalli:
LucasArts Creative Director

A contradiction in terms if I ever heard one.

There have been many posts and articles about the problems of the game industry. However, they all seem to sum up to "grow the f--k up, for crying out loud!". Basically, the game industry has a lot of things wrong with it, things that were wrong in other industries more than 50 years ago. However, the game industry seems recalcitrant to learn from history and does not seem to want to push past its Peter-Pan existence in terms of the nature of games. Sure the graphics have gotten better, but that seems to be the bulk of advancement. The industry, as a whole, just doesn't seem to want to actually evolve, not only in terms of the nature and quality of the games produced but also in terms of how games are produced, marketed, sold, and how talent is cultivated and retained within the industry. There are just so many issues, it seems, that just should not be issues anymore.

It is no longer excusable to claim this is a young industry and it needs time to develop. It has had 30-40 years, at present(yes, the video game industry is really that old) to make these advances and adjustments. There are numerous examples in the development of other past industries and practices from which to learn and accelerate the growth and development of the games industry. There is a large body of documented knowledge of best practices and additional ideas of new experimental directions to improve the industry that can be used to advance the industry forward. This wealth of history and knowledge mean the "young industry" excuse is just no longer applicable nor acceptable for the game industry. The continued refusal of the industry to evolve in other aspects besides better graphics is just plain stubbornness and an unhealthy clinging to the past.

Maybe what the industry needs is to take time away from crunch-time/death-march grinding out another mediocre, me-too AAA title and switch to some lighter fair so it has the resources to devote to making some internal progress, other than better graphics engines. I know that sounds like a total slap in the face to all the game developers out there who work their asses off, but that's just it. Sometimes you can be working too hard, and you just grind yourself into a rut. It's well documented how over-work can destroy creativity and stunt the evolution of a business.

There was also a psychologist who published the idea that sometimes shooting for the big pay-offs is more likely to lead to high stress and failed effort, and AAA titles certainly present the prospect of a big pay-off. Yet, they are also very hit-or-miss in their chances for success compared to the cost. However, the entire industry(as well as the community) is singularly focus on exactly that, creating the next big blockbuster AAA title. This singular focus creates a lot of stress and unnecessary hardship in the game production process, which leads to a reduction of talent and a breakdown of the work-force. Maybe, this is just the wrong approach.

Okay, I'm rambling. I'll stop now.

Booze Zombie:
I haven't actually encountered that many "fart jokes" in my life of gaming and 40% of gamers are apparently female, so it shouldn't be hard to get women interested in making games.

You tend to see quite a bit of misogynist and generally antisocial behavior at some game development houses. I've seen a incredibly detailed vagina drawn on a whiteboard and left up for weeks at one, at another I've seen people who needed to be told to bathe more or else they'd be fired, and at a third, I've heard of (but not seen, thank goodness!) someone taking a crap on the floor of the men's bathroom. Not everyone in game development is like this, and it really does vary from company to company, but you don't see it at all in most other industries.

Plus, if you want puerile game subject matter, think of Duke Nukem Forever as an example, or the hidden brothel in Temple of Elemental Evil, or Lara Croft's breasts. I'm sure you can come up with others - I'm just thinking off the top of my head. Combine it with the tendency to make females in video games victims, caricatures, or "men with breasts" rather than deep characters, and you have a bit of an ugly picture.

geizr:
Maybe what the industry needs is to take time away from crunch-time/death-march grinding out another mediocre, me-too AAA title and switch to some lighter fair so it has the resources to devote to making some internal progress, other than better graphics engines. I know that sounds like a total slap in the face to all the game developers out there who work their asses off, but that's just it. Sometimes you can be working too hard, and you just grind yourself into a rut. It's well documented how over-work can destroy creativity and stunt the evolution of a business.

That's a good idea. Would you like to pay my salary while we do that?

The death march happens because people want the games, and they want them fast so as not to let technology slip past. Plus, in the initial contracts between developer and publisher, there's hard milestones that are put on paper, and developers are usually notorious for making them by the letter, not the spirit, of the agreement, which means more work needs to be backloaded, which means you end up with a mess at the end. This is true for kiddie games or M rated FPSes.

Woodsey:

OT: People should be hired on talent, but considering some of the stories I've heard about the misogyny that goes on in dev studios, even from senior management, that's never going to happen unless you force someone's hand somewhat.

I don't even think it's misogyny as far as not wanting to hire women. If anything, unless they're not at all qualified, women usually have the advantage over men because game companies tend to be dominated by males. You just don't see a lot of resumes come in from females, probably because the hobby was viewed as misogynist for so long - you've got to be a die-hard gamer to work for a gaming company. When you get to the more senior roles, though, people hire the folks they've worked with in the past, or who they know about - and that tends to primarily be other males. You can't directly fault them for that - you want to work with the people you know you work well with - but it ends up causing an old boys network sort of effect. Every job I've gotten in the gaming industry has been due to someone I knew, even my first temp QA gig - and I'm not a bad employee.

TorturedAvatar:

The death march happens because people want the games, and they want them fast so as not to let technology slip past.

And, that's probably another thing. We gamers need to be more realistic with our expectations of game development. We've become a little too entitlement-minded regarding having these massive, epic AAA games for every release. The truth is, even we can't keep up with it anymore. It's gotten too expensive, in both money and play-time requirements, and it does work game developers to death trying to create such ridiculously massive games all the time in such short time. It just doesn't seem sustainable. Eventually, something has to give.

You Can't Take the Sky From Me:
How about focusing on talent not "morals", if they have talent hire them. Wouldn't that work too, then you're not bringing something as intangible as morals into play and I'm absolutly sure that many women would be talented and a boon to the industy.

who said anything about focusing on "morals"?

Racecarlock:

Woodsey:

Racecarlock:
I think women don't really want to be treated equally. They want to be treated specially. Like they are princesses. Not all women by any means, but I'm talking about the kind of woman that sues a guy because he said she is beautiful.

Someone's had a bad personal experience.

Well, actually it's because I've seen too many office comedies but good guess.

That's an even worse thing to base your opinion on.

geizr:
There have been many posts and articles about the problems of the game industry. However, they all seem to sum up to "grow the f--k up, for crying out loud!". Basically, the game industry has a lot of things wrong with it, things that were wrong in other industries more than 50 years ago. However, the game industry seems recalcitrant to learn from history and does not seem to want to push past its Peter-Pan existence in terms of the nature of games. Sure the graphics have gotten better, but that seems to be the bulk of advancement. The industry, as a whole, just doesn't seem to want to actually evolve, not only in terms of the nature and quality of the games produced but also in terms of how games are produced, marketed, sold, and how talent is cultivated and retained within the industry. There are just so many issues, it seems, that just should not be issues anymore.

It is no longer excusable to claim this is a young industry and it needs time to develop. It has had 30-40 years, at present(yes, the video game industry is really that old) to make these advances and adjustments. There are numerous examples in the development of other past industries and practices from which to learn and accelerate the growth and development of the games industry. There is a large body of documented knowledge of best practices and additional ideas of new experimental directions to improve the industry that can be used to advance the industry forward. This wealth of history and knowledge mean the "young industry" excuse is just no longer applicable nor acceptable for the game industry. The continued refusal of the industry to evolve in other aspects besides better graphics is just plain stubbornness and an unhealthy clinging to the past.

This. Hocking isn't saying anything that hasn't been true for decades.

TorturedAvatar:
You tend to see quite a bit of misogynist and generally antisocial behavior at some game development houses. I've seen a incredibly detailed vagina drawn on a whiteboard and left up for weeks at one, at another I've seen people who needed to be told to bathe more or else they'd be fired, and at a third, I've heard of (but not seen, thank goodness!) someone taking a crap on the floor of the men's bathroom. Not everyone in game development is like this, and it really does vary from company to company, but you don't see it at all in most other industries.

A call center. Minus the vagina drawing.

TorturedAvatar:
Detailed post

Oh, I am aware of the purile games or the sex appeal elements in otherwise "normal" games, but I would hardly call that a systemic problem based on gender, solely rotting the entire industry from the centre until it's a withered husk of dick jokes, fart noises and naked women shooting generic men with glowing red eyes in the face with rocket launchers before turning away and walking slowly from explosions.

Whew. Anyway, I blame it on human nature. We all form social groups, do stupid things to "impress" each other and well, the various stupid stories of workplace misbehaviour emerge.

Forgive me for being cynical, but just watch as his next game shall include fart jokes and big, burly, viking men.

But, more on to his point, he is absolutely correct. We do need more females in the gaming industry, and not because we can use them to tap the huge female portion of gamers. It brings about more ideas, more innovation, and generally it's just good to diversify the workforce.

geizr:
There have been many posts and articles about the problems of the game industry. However, they all seem to sum up to "grow the f--k up, for crying out loud!". Basically, the game industry has a lot of things wrong with it, things that were wrong in other industries more than 50 years ago. However, the game industry seems recalcitrant to learn from history and does not seem to want to push past its Peter-Pan existence in terms of the nature of games. Sure the graphics have gotten better, but that seems to be the bulk of advancement. The industry, as a whole, just doesn't seem to want to actually evolve, not only in terms of the nature and quality of the games produced but also in terms of how games are produced, marketed, sold, and how talent is cultivated and retained within the industry. There are just so many issues, it seems, that just should not be issues anymore.

It is no longer excusable to claim this is a young industry and it needs time to develop. It has had 30-40 years, at present(yes, the video game industry is really that old) to make these advances and adjustments. There are numerous examples in the development of other past industries and practices from which to learn and accelerate the growth and development of the games industry. There is a large body of documented knowledge of best practices and additional ideas of new experimental directions to improve the industry that can be used to advance the industry forward. This wealth of history and knowledge mean the "young industry" excuse is just no longer applicable nor acceptable for the game industry. The continued refusal of the industry to evolve in other aspects besides better graphics is just plain stubbornness and an unhealthy clinging to the past.

Maybe what the industry needs is to take time away from crunch-time/death-march grinding out another mediocre, me-too AAA title and switch to some lighter fair so it has the resources to devote to making some internal progress, other than better graphics engines. I know that sounds like a total slap in the face to all the game developers out there who work their asses off, but that's just it. Sometimes you can be working too hard, and you just grind yourself into a rut. It's well documented how over-work can destroy creativity and stunt the evolution of a business.

There was also a psychologist who published the idea that sometimes shooting for the big pay-offs is more likely to lead to high stress and failed effort, and AAA titles certainly present the prospect of a big pay-off. Yet, they are also very hit-or-miss in their chances for success compared to the cost. However, the entire industry(as well as the community) is singularly focus on exactly that, creating the next big blockbuster AAA title. This singular focus creates a lot of stress and unnecessary hardship in the game production process, which leads to a reduction of talent and a breakdown of the work-force. Maybe, this is just the wrong approach.

Okay, I'm rambling. I'll stop now.

How can it be rambling when it is the absolute truth?!

Paragon Fury:
I believe this Gutters Comic describes the situation in the entertainment industry best:

Yes, this comic does a good job of illustrating the vicious cycle that can occur in these industries:

Industry only produces products aimed at men -> only men interested in the product -> only men become interested in producing the product -> only men join the industry for producing the products -> industry only produces products aimed at men, and so on.

The comic industry is a particularly illustrative worst-case scenario in that the cycle has led to change and diversity becoming anathema to the industry to the point where it can't change and diversify even when it wants to and it's forced to a appeal to an ever shrinking market.

Hopefully, video games will not follow the same slow death of the comics industry, and I believe that, as Hocking points out, one of the ways to avoid this fate is to take steps to diversify the industry's producers and to attempt to appeal to a larger and more diverse market.

EDIT: I should also add that the cycle comes with a distinctly nasty corollary of then blaming women for not feeling welcome in (and therefore not feeling particularly interested in taking part in) an industry that wears its sexism on its sleeve, go figure.

This sounds like an excellent topic for the Extra Credits folks. How do you increase the overall levels of female employment in the videogame industry?

My thought is: How do you increase enrollment at, say, Digipen with women? This has to be one of the key areas for improvement. I'm hopeful enough to believe that, as with the comic posted above, one of the key problems is simply the number of available candidates. It's a problem that needs to be attacked in multiple ways, not simply by quotas.

There are two things:

1.) The industry caters to the people who buy games. So if you demand more games without these so called "fart jokes", then you shall receive, but that also doesn't mean only women can provide this content. Video games are not a case of, new curtains and everyone lives happily ever after, but this article very much treats it as such.

2.) Just because there are more women in the workforce, it does not mean there will be no more Duke Nukem Forever's. You can have an even 1:1 ratio of women to men and there will be Lara's breasts, objectification of both sexes, etc. These things mimic life beautifully really. No matter how much you don't depict rape, rape still happens everyday. Just because you don't see it, doesn't make it not there, it makes you blind.

Those things being said, there is a place for all tastes. There will always be dick and fart humor in videogames, but I would love to see other content, and I don't really cares who provides it. If it happens to be women, good, if not, good.

Edit: Also, rules arbitrarily asking for a more equalized workforce actually hurts everyone, so we should want to avoid that at all costs. It should always be the best person for the job, and race, sex, religious denomination, etc., should be left out of the equation.

The particular cultural values of our GENDER?!

Could he BE any more sexist? Women don't value anything BECAUSE of our GENDER. Not to mention I know plenty of women with all kinds of pent-up aggression.

You want more women in the games industry? Here's how you do it.

Eliminate crunch schedules. Women with kids can't work 90 hour weeks. Learn how to spread the work out in a rational fashion so you aren't trying to cram 90% of the work into 15% of the scheduled time.

Paid Child Care.

Paid Maternity Leave.

All kinds of good health insurance.

Are these things that most devs are willing to pay through the nose for? Nah. It's just like any other extremely high-risk industry, it's dominated by men, because among other reasons men often tolerate the insane working conditions better.

Ahh The Lost Vikings.GOooooos times, gooood times.

And about the topic - yes there must be more female developers.Unfortunately the game industry has the uncanny ability to make almosy every female character into an insecure little girl with a lot of daddy issues.

UGH. Clint Hocking is getting features on the Escapist now!? Crimony. >_< I have a bad feeling about this.

This guy is one of the dumbest jerkwads I've ever seen in my life. I've met him a few times, and every word out of his mouth is meaningless, condescending pseudo-philosophical drivel. He's one of those guys that accidentally had his station in the industry fall into his lap at a time when it was less stable and didn't discern who it put in power from regular employees. He's a total clown with no real merits or creativity of his own, posturing as an intellectual, who inexplicably inherits the properties of other, better designers instead of formulating his own ideas. And here he is with all this high-minded talk about how the culture of a studio should be conducted. Cripes. I'm a stuck-up prick, myself, and I think this is too far. They're nerds! Deal with it! Let them have fun and be themselves in the workplace!

So, you take something that everyone knows, and write it in a more pretentious way, and suddenly its new and insightful again?

Yes, having variety in development staff would lead to a greater variety of experiences and outlooks that would...we know all this already.

Lucasarts? Who fired their clever department to go on milking Star Wars until it bled?

Padwan, heal thyself.

I'm still working on WTF Hocking thinks the Viking Expansion was. I don't quite remember vikings being at Hastings in 1066, but maybe I've missed something.

There were some lads that visited Ireland, and showed a few friendly locals how to properly sharpen their axes. Then they discovered that some careless person(s) had left a lot of golden things lying around in churches, and went off in search of the rightful owners - by the long, long, scenic route.

Their Viking friends heard the sagas and said to themselves "hey, I want some of that", but they tended to discover that by now the locals had gone all snooty (in a violent sort of way), and the church powerups weren't respawning when they should. So mostly the Skandinavian boat tours of Europe ended, leaving only a few red-headed step-children as evidence.

Now, St Olaf did pull down London Bridge at 10:14am (give or take a few years), but he was helping the locals fight off Danish invaders. (That particular bridge tended to fall down a lot, so this was not counted in his favor for sainthood.)

On the other hand, Hocking's sense of history does remind me of one particular woman....

Please, for the love of God, can we not try to get more females in the industry?

I've got nothing against more female game developers, but rather than hiring women because they're women, hire women because they are the best for the job. Otherwise you are just creating an unfair field for men and possibly hurting the games you make by hiring inferior devs just because they are women.

I hate affirmative action.

All the guys I know like video games, while all the girls I know hate video games outside of Nintendo or cell phone puzzle games. And even though Nintendo and others do well with their offerings, games like Call of Duty will always sell more because it's just a much bigger, more dedicated market. It would be moronic to change that. There are different games for different people.

Expecting it to change is like an auto body shop painting their walls pink and putting flowers everywhere to attract more females to become body techs. Sorry people, that just doesn't work like that. There are plenty of good female body techs, but most regardless of concessions, simply don't want to be body techs.

If every studio were to change what is being proposed, they all might as well merge together and release one single game per console.

I am currently in a small newly started game company, and we have a female boss.
And the current team leader of our most successful game so far is also female. Works out pretty well, and it gets us lots of attention when we go around at conferences presenting our games :).

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