If you know anything about how involved the process of making a video game can be, you’re probably aware that it takes more than one person to make one. To make a modern video game, you will likely need a designer, coder, sound engineer/composer, 2d artist, 3d artist, and producer/team lead. That’s a very basic configuration for a very small development team—the bare minimum to actually produce something worth playing.
But don’t tell that to the readership of “sexist” Mattel release Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer.
In the last week, outlets from The Guardian to Business Insider have posted articles about the supposedly offensive book, blasting Mattel for portraying Barbie as a game designer who knows nothing about computer code.
Except, of course, that’s entirely realistic.
Working with a team, or how Barbie was repressed by the patriarchy
As seen above, the book portrays Barbie as a game designer who needs the assistance of coders in order to bring her game concept and art assets to life (Mattel is apparently unaware as to what a “computer engineer” is, because that is not what they portray Barbie as). The two coders, Steven and Brian, are what really set the so-called controversy in motion. That Barbie would need the assistance of two men shows just how utterly repressive and reprehensible the owner of the foremost brand of dolls worldwide is. No, it does not matter that one of the coders is black. Didn’t you see the street harassment black men put on that poor, slightly attractive (okay, debatable) woman on YouTube?
What all these click-bait websites seem not to understand is that making a video game is often the work of dozens, if not hundreds, of people. How many times have you finished a video game and not just seen dozens of people, but multiple companies involved in its development? Video game credits screens can easily be as long as their cinematic counterparts, and like their cinematic counterparts, have begun to implement creative solutions to the inherent boredom of reading names after a game is complete.
There is a reason that modern video games often have several years of development time and hundreds of people with highly diverse skill sets involved. This may come as a shock—MAKING VIDEO GAMES IS HARD. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try to make their own. This is a profession for a reason, and many institutions of higher learning offer specific degrees in the various aspects of making a video game because it is so technical in nature.
Even the people who started their game alone brought on others to help in the development. Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft, ended up forming Mojang, his development studio (recently purchased by Microsoft for nearly $2 billion) because he needed more people to get Minecraft from alpha on PC to juggernaut on all platforms it releases on. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, did not act alone. Neither did Phil Fish on Fez. Check the credits. For every game you think someone made by themselves, you will find other, lesser known individuals who added or contributed to the game in some manner.
Barbie, reasonably skilled games designer
So let’s look at what Barbie does specifically in the book. She is very clearly a game designer. What are the specific qualifications thereof?
Education-Portal.com lists the following skill requirements:
Game designers are an important part of a comprehensive team of designers and developers that coordinate the complex task of creating a new video game. Game designers have duties like designing characters, levels, puzzles, art and animation… Game designers typically work in a managerial role on a video game project, helping to manage budgets, work schedules and project timelines.
ITCareerFinder.com lists the following:
In-demand skill sets and day-to-day activities for Video Game Designers include the following. Game designers:
- Devise the missions, challenges and puzzles that will be encountered in game play.
- Create narrative features, such as story-lines, role-play mechanics and character bios.
- Conduct periodic design reviews throughout the video game development timeline.
- Collaborate with artists and sound engineers to achieve the desired audio/visual style.
- Plan games using screenshot mockups, gameplay flowcharts and other visual devices.
- Maintain design level documentation, including mechanics, guidelines and mission outlines.
- Work closely with game programmers and artists to ensure that the design is being followed.
While both sites list coding skills as desirable, they simply aren’t required for the job.
The Sad Truth
It’s pretty sad that Mattel, with all the factual errors of its book (like the title) still seems to be more aware of the realities of making a video game than a number of the publications that cover the gaming industry. What’s worse is that Mattel has apologized for the grievous sin of not portraying Barbie as an all-knowing video game god, perhaps just so the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie would stop appearing in their Twitter feed.
But the irony here is palpable. Here is Mattel, trying to portray Barbie as a strong woman in a largely male field, and the feminist/SJW machine blasts them because she conceivably might have work with men at some point! These are the same people who think that a T-shirt can prevent women from getting into STEM fields, though, so perhaps logic isn’t their strongest suit.
It would have been much more advantageous for them to have let the book remain on the shelves to inspire girls to join the gaming industry by presenting them a realistic picture of their future job field. Instead, Mattel has pulled the book—probably to replace it with literature in which Barbie can code, design, create art and music, test for bugs, and then ship it herself. Such a book will almost certainly lead to more confused women like Randi Harper, but perhaps that’s what the anti-GamerGate crowd wants.