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Men vs. Women in Game Production Roles
by Hannah Wood on 11/05/12 02:29:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Gender disparity in the games industry has created a long-standing discussion. But that’s not really what this article is about. Instead, let’s examine a much longer standing discussion on the disparity of gender in business roles. There seems to be a pervasive cultural assumption (whether consciously or not) that men are better suited to business than women. However, equally as long-standing is the joke that being a producer in the games industry is much like working at a daycare center, which is predominantly a female role.

This article will discuss the virtues of producers of both genders, and will include lessons for both.

Emotional Exhaustion or Depersonalization

In a survey of Marketing Professionals, women ranked themselves considerably higher in their levels of work-related emotional stress and exhaustion than men. Men ranked higher in levels of “depersonalization” or lack of emotional connection to their work and their peers. In short, women seemed to feel more emotionally attached to both their job and their coworkers than men did.

This conclusion prompts me to recall a bit of golden advice from Producer Bootcamp at GDC 2012. We producers were told to be a friend to every developer on our team, but not to require that they return our friendship. It is important for producers to understand the developers they work with on a personal and individual level, but simultaneously to stay detached enough to maintain their objectivity.

For Men: Allow yourself to become more empathetic. Be willing to account for your developers’ needs as people and as professionals.

For Women: Though the word sounds harsh, some level of depersonalization is okay – even healthy! Do not become so attached to developers that the relationship becomes stressful to you personally, or professionally.

The Main Lesson: Know the members of your team well, and treat them as you would your friends, but do not allow your personal feelings to interfere with your professional role, or your decision-making.

 

Acquiescence or Ego

Modern psychology suggests women are predisposed to submissive behavior in response to their hormones. Estrogen, studies have shown, promotes passivity. Men, on the other hand, have traditionally larger egos and are more assertive.

Egocentric assertiveness has no place in production roles. Acquiescence might. Again, I’m reminded of a harsh bit of truth for producers that was mentioned at a GDC talk: “When a project does well, it’s the team’s success. When a project fails, it’s your fault.” The ability to take blame without argument or complaint may as well be a super power.

To be clear, this is not to say that a producer who feels mistreated (or who sees others being mistreated) should be silent and allow abuses to continue.  Acquiescence in this sense is beneficial to no one.  Neither is passive silence helpful when a producer notices problems in pipeline or communication channels. On the contrary, a producer’s job requires finding and eliminating any problems as they arise - or better yet, before they begin.

For Men: Put aside your own ego, and give your developers credit where it’s due.

For Women: Be confident in your authority and professional ability. Do not be afraid to speak up when it is needed.

The Main Lesson: Never pass blame. Have enough confidence to evaluate problems and make decisions quickly, then stand firmly by them. But, understand that it’s not about you; it’s about the game you are making.

 

Multitasking or Task Mastery

Numerous studies have proved women to be more capable of multitasking, and men at task mastery (focusing on a single task and performing it efficiently).  This is why women are generally considered better at childcare and household responsibilities, and men at tasks such as driving.

Producers need the ability to do both. At any given time, producers can have a million things in their head and yet need to focus on current problem solving. Letting the mind wander to other upcoming tasks is severely distracting and will interrupt progress on the current pursuit. Even so, future tasks need to be recognized and remembered.

For Men: Focus is good, but do not let yourself get so caught up in a single task, that others get neglected or forgotten.

For Women: Multitasking is good, but do not become so distracted it prevents you from giving your current task the attention it needs.

The Main Lesson: Keep a living document for yourself that contains every actionable “to do” for the day, week, etc. Allow yourself to make mental note of all these during down periods. However, when acting on each task, do not allow “flow” to be interrupted.

 

Tend and Befriend vs. Fight or Flight

The “fight or flight” response is the term for a well-known cross-species mechanism for handling fear or stress. Less well known is the “tend and befriend” response that females are sometimes more likely to choose. This mechanism comes from a need to nurture. Females often become protective of those around them and then depend on protective social groupings in response to fear or stress.

During crunch time, or other stressful periods, human manifestations of fight or flight can be dangerous. Men may be more likely to become aggressive and quick to anger (fight) - or begin disregarding issues entirely (flight).  Both responses are extremely detrimental to morale and workflow for the team.

Women’s instinctive urge to “tend and befriend” can be more beneficial during stressful moments when members of the team probably need more support than usual. But such a response can become destructive if manifested too strongly.  For instance, becoming too lenient on developers helps neither them nor the project. Social groupings that stimulate bickering can be even more dangerous to the morale of the team.

For Men: Calm down. Try to adopt a soft temperament and a soothing voice.  Address problems as they come to you, and guide your developers with empathy and calm.

For Women: Calm down. Allow your instinctive need to nurture support your developers, but remember your professional duty to push the project forward. Hold all your developers to a consistent standard.

The Main Lesson: Remember that a producer must be a rock for the team. Especially in times of stress and panic, your developers need a calm and stable anchor. Even if you are feeling the stress (as well you probably should be) your job is to support your team, to break up growing tensions, and to ease the strain without adding personal stresses to the general tension.

 

Indirect or Verbal Aggressions

Thanks to perpetuated social norms, both men and women have adopted different means of expressing their anger, stress, and animosity. It goes without saying that aggression has no place anywhere in a healthy work environment. However, because men and women differ in the ways they cope with anger and stress, they must use different ways to keep themselves calm.

Men tend to be more direct and verbal in their aggressiveness, which in a studio can translate to raised voices and blameful accusations. Women tend to be more indirect, which translates to passive aggressive maneuvers such as spreading rumors.

For Men: Keep your tone in check. A raised voice will always create more problems than it solves.

For Women: Keep confidences confident. Your developers must be able to trust you.

The Main Lesson: Think of how your words and voice affect those to whom you are speaking. Remember that is first of all up to you, the producer, to stay positive, keeping morale and efficiency high. Always put aside your own negative emotions.

A producer’s talent lies in having skill at social interaction.  Neither women nor men are inherently better at managing or leading people, but each have lessons to learn from the other. A good producer is nurturing but firm, friendly but not emotionally attached, confidant but not egotistical. A good producer is a blend of the ideals of masculinity and femininity. Above all, a good producer is devoted to helping good teams make great games. 


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Comments


Eric McVinney
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It really shouldn't be told again and again of how a producer should act as if they're a specialty class. Yes, there is stress involved, and no matter what gender you are, you have to act accordingly and mutual between all the teams involved. Not bashing your article, as it is well written and meaningful, but to me, it's like "No sh*t." How could you be an able producer if you can't even keep your body language, tone, and temper in check when going through the development cycles? Hell, even when talking to the directors and seniors :|

Again, I like what you have written and it should serve well as a reminder for those are currently in, or looking into becoming, (a) producer.

Patrick Haslow
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I strongly object to this article. The premises involve an overly large degree of assumption, gender stereotypes, and half-assed studies. Its conclusions, already drawn from the spurious and selective nature of your premises, are even worse.

Human beings- in this case, I will refer to them as individuals- have far more differences between each other than any differences you could attribute solely to their gender. What positive purpose does it serve to constantly separate the sexes under the guise of being helpful? It can only promote disharmony and segregation. I give the author some credit for 'The Main Lesson' part of your article- but sadly, it was the only part truly worth writing about.

Continuing to discuss the world in "masculine" and "feminine" terms is only going to promote disunity in society.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeremie Sinic
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I agree with Patrick.
I am a guy and although I found the article had some interesting points, I could identify mostly with the "For Women" advice. I just thought the For Men/For Women separation doesn't work for me so maybe speaking of character rather than sex would make the article more meaningful.

Roger Haagensen
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What an odd post, I thought the equality war was supposed to be over? Yet here there is woman vs men behavior. "Egocentric assertiveness has no place in production roles" um, the former CEO of Apple? How about Bill Gates? Former president George Bush?

Also those references and statements, you mix actual psychology with stereotype assumptions, you have to stick to one or the other, mixing the two devalue both. If you add assumptions it's no longer scientific. And without realizing (or did you?) you called all men egocentrics that always need to the assertive.

The truth of Men Vs Women is that they are different, and though they are different each individual may or may not fit a stereotype. You point to a article that women are submissives, I think a lot of women will disagree with that. Who is or is not submissive or dominant varies with personality, some are neither, whole others vary depending on any given situation or the environment.

I checked your profile and saw your where producer on a 48hr game project with a team of 14. That's some insane time crunch, one I'd never recommend. I've done enough programming benders that lasted 36+ hours to know that you both physically and mentally get ruined, the lack of sleep isn't helping either. Most game projects take half a year to several years, depending on the project, team size, and the end design.

I also see you are producer on a game called Siri. A Kickstarter funded game. It got funded, but after the summer the kickstarter page, the twitter feed and facebook have all gone dead. I would assume that as a producer it would be important to inform the investors what has happen to their money, and if the project is canceled then the money should be returned right?

As a producer it is vital that you reflect the trust given to you. Authority means nothing if it turns out the one holding the authority lacks the skills needed.

Also be careful with references. the www.telegraph.co.uk article mentions a test with 50 male and 50 female students.
As with all statistics, the results ONLY apply to those students. If I had been in that test then the result I had gotten would apply to me. Extrapolating those results to the worlds male/female human population is silly to put it mildly.

You would need to run tests all over the world, different areas, old, young, middle age, single child, siblings, twins, gay, lesbian, disabled, mental variations (some people with metal issues can function normally), people on medications and off medications, different work and test environments.
I assume those students where all at the same school/university, which means they all where predisposed to the way they have been studying/learning at that university.

Also the key search planning is kida odd, why did none of them do what I would have done?
I would (assuming there is no way of estimating where the key is) have created a grid for a grid search, and then randomly picked grid squares and searched those. But if I had walk more or less "across" a field (like most would rather than walk around it's edges which less people would) then searching the center and along the path of movement is more efficient.

There is also no mention of what classes these students where taking, their area of interest would shed light on any thinking bias.

Also the professor says "empirical evidence", it is not empirical evidence of all humans, if it was empirical then the same result would be reproducible again and again anywhere with any sample group anywhere in the world. which I highly doubt is the case here. The article doesn't not point to the actual test/study at all just the telegraph article which also does not point to the study either, so it's impossible to verify if the telegraph misread the test or not. Sure I could google or bing for more info but it's not my job to dig up references for the telegraph nor do source checking for you.

If you had not included the article references/claims, and instead just written it as your opinion I would not find much issues with your post other than I'd probably not agree with you, which is fine. But once you start throwing in broad claims, citing/referencing papers and articles you suddenly really need to do a lot of source and fact checking and then watch your writing to make sure you do not contradict the papers nor that you misinterpret them.


And just for the record, the lack of smileys or emoticons does not mean I'm happy nor angry, there is nothing to read between the lines in what I wrote above, what I wrote is what I wrote. You may or may not agree with what I wrote and that is fine. This is a comment on the post and nothing more and nothing less.

Kay Jay
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Producers are Producers, Doctors are Doctors, we should not be classifying and giving advice to according their genders. I'm a woman working in the games industry, and this is the most sexist article I've seen. Hannah, if you believe men and women handle their jobs differently based on their gender's instincts, then you must agree that your employees should treat you differently than a male Producer, because you are a woman. This is not the direction we should be heading towards...

Kenneth Blaney
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I think a much more important discussion is what the role of "producer" even is at this stage. Currently the job title covers so many, largely disparate (attracting investors and doing cost/benefit on game features being two good examples), tasks that need to be done surrounding a game. Without a clear definition, it is tough to say how any individual should act, nevermind general advice for male/female producers.

Mike Jenkins
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Hannah you missed the memo, we're pretending Men and Women think the same way now to make it easier to think of everyone as equal. Embracing diversity applies to race and culture, not gender.

Roger Haagensen
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Hehe!

Just to clarify something regarding my previous comment.

I do embrace diversity.

However I also embrace equality. Which means that to me it does not matter if you are male, female, black, white, brown, yellow (not sure if that "color" has the correct name even as per race colors), or if you are Human, or Ewok.

I'll treat you the same regardless.

And I embrace free speech and free thought (a thought is not a crime, unlike certain actions for example).

I also embrace no censorship, so George Carlin's 7 dirty words are all OK in my book. Just try to act "proper" around kids as adults tend to be viewed as role-models by kids.

In my eyes there is no such thing as racism (as that would imply there is difference in race), instead I prefer to call it intolerance of difference.

Almost any conflict are caused by intolerance in some shape or form.

So getting rid of intolerance is a great leap towards a ideal world where someone is not judged by their race/gender/etc.

Instead a person should be judged by their actions and their skill(s).

Interestingly enough in games the player actions and skills (what you do and the XP you get and how you use it) defines the player character,
and the same is true for a real person as well.

Joe McGinn
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Ooo look, a games article mentioning gender . Cue Joe Wreschnig to come in flaming everybody in sight in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...


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