The Women in Gaming panel.

Gaming conference
"When a game introduces a female character, she may look a bit sexist, but she’s also strong and powerful"

A panel discussion at Calcalist’s Gaming 2023 Conference, in collaboration with Playtika and Google, focused on women in the gaming industry including female gamers and YouTubers

“In recent years, there have been efforts to diversify various domains and to reshape public discourse to improve sensitivity to discrimination against women and other marginalized groups. However, the revolution appears to have skipped over the gaming industry, which is still highly male-dominated. This is demonstrated by the harassment and discrimination that many female gamers experience, and the fact that women remain highly underrepresented in leadership roles within the industry,” said Calcalist’s Maayan Cohen during a panel discussion at Calcalist’s Gaming 2023 Conference, in collaboration with Playtika and Google. The panel included female gamers, YouTube influencers, and women in various roles within the gaming industry.
Elinor Schops, business consultant at gaming company ZAG Studios, and founder and manager of the Women in Gaming community, discussed a recent survey conducted by their organization. It found that women make up only 10% of R&D positions in the industry, and even less the more senior the position.
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כנס הגיימינג של ישראל - פאנל משחקות אותה מימין מיטל עטיה קרן מרום אלינור שפס נגה הלפרין והמנחה מעיין כהן
כנס הגיימינג של ישראל - פאנל משחקות אותה מימין מיטל עטיה קרן מרום אלינור שפס נגה הלפרין והמנחה מעיין כהן
The Women in Gaming panel.
(Credit: Orel Cohen)
In order to improve the situation, Schops said, "The responsibility lies with all of us as women, industry workers, and with the media, employers, and educators. As women working in the industry, we tend to stay behind the scenes rather than take center stage. It’s important to set an example so that women feel comfortable being in the forefront, which allows other women to see that they can hold key positions and change the world."
SciPla CRO Noga Halperin Sher said, "We can look at this conference as a microcosm of the situation - men talk about artificial intelligence, while women talk about their place in the industry. That’s a problem already. We need to be much more proactive in the industry. I'm not saying to place people in positions that don't suit them, but there are women who deserve to be on stage and not just in discussions about women's roles in this world."
A toxic and hostile environment
The gaming community itself has long been accused of breeding a toxic and hostile environment for women and female gamers specifically. Meital Atia, a YouTuber and gamer, said that she herself has experienced harassment and that “there is no girl who can say she hasn't.”
“I won’t say that I'm a girl. I also won't reveal that I'm from Israel because I might receive threats for that. I hide details to avoid negative reactions, but not necessarily because I'm a woman. Nevertheless, I love being a gamer in this world, and that's my attitude. I pay less attention to the negative reactions."
Beach Bum Co-Founder & COO Keren Somekh Marom said, "We have made progress, but there is still a long way to go. Many women are strong gamers. From our experience, we had a UX design team composed only of men in the company, and a woman came to interview with us and brought ideas to introduce more diversity into the games. Different hair colors alone can give representation to underrepresented populations."
"Companies tend to create avatars in games with sexist traits,” said Schops. “Today, there are platforms like Roblox that allow for a wider variety of clothing styles, hairstyles, and skin tones, as well as non-binary characters dressed in various styles, and today's generation is growing up with this."
"I remember that in the past, there were no female characters in war games,” said Attia. “When they added them, I had a lot of fun playing as a female character, even though she looked like a man. Then they added sexist elements, but today, when a game introduces a female character, she may look a bit sexist but she’s also strong and powerful."
The positive impact of gaming
"I'm a YouTuber with about 200,000 followers, and the reason I got into this field is the community aspect around it,” said Attia, who also co-founded a startup that aims to harness gaming for education. “I've always loved it, and I created a community within Minecraft with the goal of building Israel, block by block. It reached a point where I was recruiting kids who didn't know each other, and they were building the Israeli community in the game.
"Then came Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I thought of bringing a more educational aspect to it. We decided to try to build Yad Vashem in Minecraft, block by block, and we built it together, one by one. After I posted it to my community, thousands of kids from all over the world joined our server and visited Yad Vashem. Kids connect when they are exposed to something educational within a game. We realized that they’re looking for this, and we created a startup that connects the educational need in gaming with the orientation of the teacher.
"Many games are passed down from generation to generation, so during the pandemic when people couldn't leave their homes, families played together, and then they played with us to strengthen their experience. Sometimes games save people and allow them to develop an outlet."
"Today, you can engage children in discussing topics that are not part of their everyday lives through games,” said Schops. “For example, there is a FIFA game that simulates how to form a government. Perhaps we should send it to the Knesset."
"When we talk to gamers, they say that it's the bright spot in their day, and it gives the younger generation a sense of belonging,” said Halperin Sher. “Not everyone feels that sense of belonging in regular social contexts, and games provide that for them. Even for older generations that are less mobile, gaming allows them to escape from reality a bit."