Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who'd you fuck to get this job, anyway?

I work in an industry that is predominantly, heavily, overwhelmingly white and male.  Although the face of the people actually MAKING the games has started to change, the common (incorrect) perception is that women in games fall into one of two categories - Marketing or Artist, with a strong skepticism around ability.  As a former Quality Assurance lead and current producer, I've been asked (more than once), "So, who'd you fuck to get this job, anyway?"

My answer is pretty consistent.  It starts with a level, unblinking stare.  "I didn't get here on my back.  And it would you serve you well to remember that for future conversations.  I'm smarter than you know, I have an incredibly long memory, and a low tolerance for people who make assumptions.  Did you have any other questions?"

Success is a hard thing to judge.  I've never wanted to be the talking head behind a podium at industry events.  I don't want to be on the cover of Game Developer Magazine.  I never use the words "Rock-Star" as a preface to my own introduction.  In the Internet meme "Which Muppet are you?" I scored as Scooter.  I'm the competent one behind the curtain, making sure everything gets done.  I'm the Liz Lemon of 30 Rock - all work, no credit, dealing with the Tracy Jordan's of the games industry.  I'm the ego fluffer, the hand holder, the mom that makes sure people eat, the sound of applause, and sometimes I'm the one that says "Gimme a fucking break.  Pull your head out of your ass and get back to work."

In games, the natural path to production is to start in Quality Assurance.  QA is the Ozona, Texas of the games industry.  An armpit that smells bad, wide spot on the map, where your car breaks down on the long drive across I-10, a place you want to get out of as soon as you can.  A place that has an even LOWER ratio of men to women than "real game production".  I worked really hard in QA.  No one helped me out, other than believing that someone with real testing experience would mean more to the team than yet another person who 'just loves playing games'.  That was my lucky break.

Not an actual QA tester - but not far off.
From that point forward, it's been me using my head and paying my dues.  I mixed hard work, passion and pizazz with a refusal to give up.  I became very astute at seeing when the end was nigh, and I left positions before I EVER got laid off, I worked insane hours, traveled the world, and never said "no" - instead I presented options, "That's technically possible, however we will sacrifice x, y and z to accomplish that.  Are you OK with those trade offs?  No?  OK, let's stick with the original plan."

I've never, EVER forgotten that I am one of the lucky ones.  It's very much a sense of "there but for the grace of God go I".  Particularly in Seattle, a town with a high homeless and unemployment rate.    When I throw in a realization of my medical issues, I am constantly grateful that I have a job, I have insurance, and I have a home.  I look at my medical bills and I KNOW that I am two out-of-pocket treatments away from ruin.   I think about the choices I've made, and the turns that life has taken, and I'm glad that I've had the freedom to make the decisions that were right for my life at the time.  One of the most frightening things to me about the thought of Mitt Romney as President is the idea that there is a feasible future without choice in store for so many Americans.

It wouldn't be a rumination from me without a song quote.

Blame it on the television, blame it on the company;  
Don't blame it on the fundamental fact that no one owes you something.  
"I've come about my share, I only want what's fair.  
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not greedy.  
Like everybody else, I wanna pay my dues.  
(I only want someone to tell me who to make the check out to.)" 
 - "Pike St./Park Slope" Harvey Danger

I don't really tag myself as liberal or conservative, democrat or republican - I think those words have evolved so far from their original purpose and definition that they're not accurate any more.  But I know I want to live in a country where people have a chance to work hard, to realize dreams, and where a misstep or a setback is not the end of their participation in a productive society.  I think of family members who gave time out of their lives to the military, and some who gave their lives to the military.  I don't always agree with what their assignments were, but I am proud that they would be willing to serve.  I want to help build a country where a persons need for basic (and not-so basic) medical care is separated from their ability to pay for medical care.  I want to work in an industry where gender is not an automatic flag that the only way you could be doing the job you have is because you slept with someone to get there.  I want to be treated fairly, paid equally, and doing my part to support the country that's made it all possible.

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