My experience with game industry hiring
Since I’ve only had one interview for a technical position at a company related to gaming, I’ve only experienced one incidence of what seemed to be prejudice. I’m looking forward to more in the future. Here it is:
I applied to be an entry-level sysadmin at [company that makes websites to support video games]. Every step of the process emphasized, “You must be a gamer,” and I’m like, okay, that’s not directly relevant to a sysadmin job but I get it, because it’s what they do. It should’ve been no issue for me. I’m a life-long gamer since having an Atari 2600 and I’ve played in PC game tournaments. I’ve worked on games, and I put that front and center on my resume. I know what everyone’s thinking, and no, I didn’t make Flash or RPGMaker games. I’m a programmer and I’ve done stuff from scratch in C-based languages. The kind of games that when someone sees one made by a couple of guys, they say, “I love that game because it’s so hardcore!” I could do another post about the people I’ve met who didn’t believe I’d made anything, or thought I was getting some kind of special attention for being a woman, but that’s another story. Obviously it’s not true that being a woman has given me any success, or I wouldn’t be applying for entry-level sysadmin jobs at a company where no woman ever had a technical job at the time that I applied. The upside of being underemployed is that I have time to keep learning and working on games.
I should’ve been able to pass any shit-test that women who play games usually get thrown at them by gamerbros. Nope. My job interview emphasized “the culture” and “fitting in with the team” over anything else. Okay, it’s an entry-level job and maybe they just want someone who they can train rather than seeing what I can do. That’s fine; I’m a programmer and not #1SysAdminUSA. That’s why I applied for entry-level. After emphasizing that culture was all that mattered, one person (this was a team interview) questioned my resume for not having technical experience and having worked different jobs. Hm… no, see where it says I’ve had programming jobs, programmed my own stuff, built PCs, and managed my own server? Those “different jobs” were because I did temporary work for clients while in school. Perhaps because I had more education than everyone else in the room, I heard about “what you do matters more than what you know” (as if those are different things?). Okay; see again all the stuff I’ve done. What were they looking for that I couldn’t do? I asked. No specific technical ability that I lacked was named.
Didn’t matter. The final answer was that culture matters most and I didn’t fit into their culture. What would that culture be, if not being a gamer, technically-inclined, and caring about their company’s products or audience? Looking around the room, it seemed that fitting into that Kulture they were talking about would mean being white and male. Thus ended my hopes of getting a technical job there.
This is just one person’s biased opinion, but I see it as being a fucked up situation because it seemed to be emphasized over and over that all that mattered was “culture” (which overtly was presented as being about gaming), and I think I should’ve passed that test, but I evidently didn’t.
Why am I not naming the company if I stand behind my words? Because it’s my word against a team of men. Because I think “culture” is a tool of bigotry, but the industry and the law don’t seem to agree. I don’t want to be taken to court for “slander” when the defense will just be, “We didn’t not hire you because of any *isms! We just had a better candidate waiting in the wings. It was just an observation of fact when one of us said ‘Women don’t apply for this job.’” Yes, all of that may be true. If I had been told, “We’re looking for these skills and you don’t have them,” even if that hadn’t been on the job listing, I would’ve been understanding. That isn’t what happened. This interview was really unique among all that I’ve had because skills weren’t discussed and instead how I “fit in” was. And it brought to mind stories of how people have seen men get jobs in gaming not because they’re particularly talented, but because they’re male and like to play games, and this is what’s wrong with the industry.
The reason that I’m talking about it is that, in light of my experience, I take issue with hiring based on “culture” and I want to warn others to watch out for this. You want to make it a hiring requirement that I know about the company’s products? That I can work with a team? Fine. But anything more nebulous than that takes your hiring practices and puts them at the schoolyard “we have to all like you” level at best, if it doesn’t make you an outright bigot looking for a way to exclude minorities from your all-white-male teams. Your professionalism and any claims of merit-based hiring are ruined.
Tech industry, if you’re not all sexist tosspots who want to only hire your bros who are just like you regardless of their skills, if you care about getting real work done and being respected, you need to stop being about Kulture and start *actually* being about what someone can do.
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