According to the Princeton Review and unanimously agreed upon by industry giants, USC has the best video game design program in the country. Women also happen to comprise nearly half of USC Games’ undergraduate student body and a majority of its graduate student body. Because neither sex nor gender identity really have any bearing on one’s ability to design a video game, these two statistics likely have no correlation to one another.
However a lack of correlation does not mean that Games’ large population of women is not a good thing. After all, the video game industry reaps incredible profits, so women en masse entering the top ranks of the industry can contribute greatly to the decrease of the gender pay gap, which economists largely attribute to a dearth of women entering profitable — often meaning STEM — fields.
So when USC secures a panel with leaders in the video game industry, such as the Head of Game Design at Blizzard Entertainment and the CEO of Riot Games, it has a net positive effect for everyone involved, from the students whose work would be showcased to the women who attend a highly diverse school which is actively redefining the industry standard. Everybody wins, until the top games department in the country cancels the “Legends of the Games Industry” — that’s not me editorializing, that was the actual name of the panel — just four hours before the event because the panelists happened to, well, collectively lack vaginas. The cancellation of the event denied female students an educational opportunity in the name of feminism. This action of “diversity” is the opposite of progressive; it’s reflective of a new regressive status quo to ensure that everyone is equal by holding everyone back.
As expected, outrage ensued. Students who were going to have the privilege of showcasing their games to their professional heroes became furious. More than twice as many students reacted as “angry” or “sad” than “liked” the Facebook post notifying them of the last-minute decision. You see, when most people, gaming aficionados and plebeians alike, hear “Head of Game Design at Blizzard,” they probably think of the colossal impact of World of Warcraft and StarCraft on mainstream culture, not about whether or not said executive is a man or a woman. To further add insult to injury, the only reason the panel had no women was due to scheduling conflicts.
Officially, the event has been postponed to an undisclosed date.
“There was no perfect choice here,” Director of USC Games Tracy Fullerton said. “There was only the choice to stand for one set of values or another. So, I chose the path I believe in. You all are free to disagree, but I think it is the right side of history.”
In essence, “the right side of history” was prioritized over a valuable academic opportunity to advance the intellectual development for male and female students alike. In an industry which is finally beginning to eliminate a sense of otherness for women in games, USC, which has a role at the vanguard of progressivism, has chosen to take two steps back by reconceptualizing gender as an academic and professional liability.
Advancing women’s earning power, professional status and social influence means affording them, and often men as well, as many learning and practical opportunities as possible. Sure, cancelling on industry leaders just four hours before a highly anticipated event may protect the feelings of a few, but it removed a professional opportunity for one of the largest female student communities of game designers in the country and diminished a potential for prestige for the school as a whole.
This is the new dystopia, in which visual representation is more important than the actual progress of women and men alike, in which a word, “diversity,” is valued over real learning and in which snowflake culture has actually manifested itself as a direct adversary of progress. As a woman in a STEM field, but much, much more importantly, as an individual, to this new regressive standard, I say, “no, thank you.” I’ll take progress over preposterousness every time.
Tiana Lowe is a sophomore majoring in math and economics. “Point/Counterpoint” ran Tuesdays.