• Shannon Sun-Higginson and why you should GTFO

    by  • April 29, 2013 • People & Events • Comments Off on Shannon Sun-Higginson and why you should GTFO

    Obviously, Sexism in games is kind of a deal around here, and we’re always looking to up the signal, broaden the conversation, and keep talking about the issues until they improve. (And they can and DO improve!) So when GaW’s own Professor Jessica Hammer turned me on to GTFO, a documentary in the making about these very issues, I was excited. It’s currently crowdsourcing to help pay for final production and it could really use all of our help to get it funded. With that in mind, I got to interview the interviewer, and ask Shannon some questions about the film, the Kickstarter, and gaming-as-woman in general.

    GAW – Talking about the issues of sexism in gaming is always always always hard, and often met with a level of resistance and push back when you even attempt to have these conversations is enormous and painful. Have you experienced any such push back? What would you say is the strangest/oddest resistance you’ve run into?

    Shannon – Going into this, I realized that sexism in gaming is a very touchy subject, but it’s such an important issue that I wanted to make the film regardless. I’ve been very lucky thus far in that I haven’t received too much personal harassment. I think a big part of it may be the fact that I’m not a huge gamer myself (I’ve only ever played games casually with friends), so perhaps it is harder for trolls to attack an outsider of sorts. I did receive one hilarious message asking if I was just an attention whore and if I had heard of “Tits or GTFO” before. Yes sir, I have, thus the title of my film.

    GAW – Every day I hear stories that make me wonder ‘why do I want to be a part of this?’ Luckily, I also run into a lot of stories that remind me EXACTLY why I want to be a part of games and gaming. What about you? What keeps you invested? What keeps you hopeful?

    Shannon – So many of the women I’ve spoken to have had such positive responses to the project, even when I approach them out of the blue. It’s incredible what these women have to put up with on a daily basis just to pursue a career that they love. I think the video game industry may be one of the last strongholds of blatant sexism and my only hope is that we can bring these issues out into the open and make it unacceptable for people to treat others this way simply because of their gender (or race, religion, or sexual orientation, for that matter).

    In addition to the women’s responses, the overwhelmingly positive feedback from men who are bothered by sexism in gaming gives me hope that, with time, the future may be bright for women in the industry. We are so lucky that people are already talking about this issue, and now it’s time for everyone else to know about it.

    GAW – You did a lot of interviews for this project, clearly, and talked to a lot of people. Did you talk to any women or girls we lost? Can you tell us one of those stories?

    Shannon – Amazingly, I haven’t yet encountered any ex-gamers yet, ie women who have given up on gaming because they were being harassed. The strong, talented women I’ve talked to manage to power through every day because of their love of video games. And that is inspiring.

    GAW – I asked about push back earlier. Having talked to many people about sexism and trying to find a place for women in games, what do you think is the main cause of resistance to us finding that place? On a cultural level? On a personal level from the men and women most resistant to change?

    Shanno – This is such a huge overarching issue, so I’ll try to answer it as succinctly as possible. I’ve asked this question to all of the women I’ve interviewed and have received a variety of answers, some of which include: the problems of an isolationist “nerd” culture that disdains outsiders, the portrayal of female characters within the games themselves, young boys being encouraged to play games while girls are discouraged, the expectation that all gamers are white teenage males, the assumption that female gamers are just looking for male attention, and many more. I don’t know the full answer, but I suspect it is a combination of a variety of cultural influences. I’m hoping to explore these complex issues more in the film.

    GAW – What do you do to get ready to talk to someone on camera? Do you have tips or tricks you use to stay chill and confident when you’re talking to people in an interview?

    Shannon – I don’t consider myself an expert interviewer, but I try to maintain a friendly yet professional tone. It’s important that the person you’re interviewing feels comfortable, so even a few short minutes of friendly banter can go a long way – for both the interviewee and myself. Everyone I’ve interviewed has been so passionate about the subject matter and receptive to my questions that the interviews for GTFO have been a breeze. I imagine that if I were speaking to someone who didn’t want to talk to me it would be much more challenging!

    GAW – What do you say to the people who say there’s no need for a project like this? I don’t feel like you need to justify your work, but I’m in the choir already. What do you do to stand strong against the sorts of people who would toss accusations and dismissal at your work?

    Shannon – There are definitely naysayers out there who don’t think that there should be a film about women in gaming (common responses include “stop complaining” or “shut up and play”). But the mere fact that these people exist proves that this film needs to be made. Yes, there have been strides for women in gaming simply because we are talking about the issues, but the fact remains that this is still a huge problem. Regardless of the industry, people shouldn’t have to feel threatened or attacked because of their gender, it’s as simple as that. And the more people are aware of this issue, the better. It would be a travesty to lose the half of the population’s potential ideas, contributions, and skills simply because they don’t want to enter a field that is predisposed against them.

     GAW – You do this professionally, of course, so what would you have asked you if you were doing this interview?

    Shannon – One issue I would like to briefly address is how I got involved in this project. Because I had never experienced it myself, I first found out about the rampant sexism in gaming from my friend and game blogger Aaron Izakowitz, who referred me to this article about sexual harassment during a Cross Assault match.

    I was appalled that this sort of behavior was being tolerated, so I decided to begin filming this project in hopes of getting to the bottom of why sexism is so prevalent in this field. I wanted people like myself, unaware outsiders, to know what was happening so that we can start a discourse about gender in gaming.

    GAW – And finally, on a personal note, thank you so much for putting this project together. I hope you can get it funded, and I hope to help.

    Shannon – I truly appreciate any and all help we can get funding the project! This subject is near and dear to my heart, as I’m sure it is to yours. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me and I look forward to reading more enlightening articles from Gaming As Women.



    Filamena is a professional writer and game designer who isn't very good at writing bios. Having written for White Wolf, Catalyst, Green Ronin and a number of smaller table top games, she's been freelancing for several years. Interested in the indie game scene, Filamena also publishes independently with her life partner at Machine Age Productions. She's the mother of two (almost three) kids, an outspoken liberal and pro sex feminist.


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