Hearing that women make a difference in game development is one thing, seeing what it means in practice is another. Recently, David Gaider—lead writer on the Dragon Age franchise—posted a blog about how having women on his writing team affected something in Dragon Age 3.
The team was having a peer review about the game, and it seemed as if everything about a certain plot point was fine. Then, someone spoke up. A woman. The plot point, she argued, could easily be seen as a form of rape. Everyone became stunned—not because she was off-base, but because she was right. She was right, even though the writer didn't intend the scene to come off way, even though the team considers itself to be progressive.
In this case, it was not a long trip for the person playing through the plot to see what was happening at a slightly different angle, and it was no longer good-creepy. It was bad-creepy. It was discomforting and not cool at all. And this female writer was not alone. All the other women at the table nodded their heads, and had noted the same thing in their critiques.
What's curious about the team of writers on Dragon Age 3 is that it is primarily composed of women. Which leads Gaider to ask: what would have happened if that wasn't the case? Had the team been mostly guys—which isn't uncommon—would the scene have gone in? Gaider thinks so.
And this thought occurred as well: if this had been a team with no female perspective present, it would have gone into the game that way. Had that female writer been the lone woman, would her view have been disregarded as an over-reaction? A lone outlier? How often does that happen on game development teams, ones made up of otherwise intelligent and liberal guys who are then shocked to find out that they inadvertently offended a group that is quickly approaching half of the gaming audience?
Still, crisis averted, as Gaider says. Still, this example seems important in light of recent controversy surrounding the devastating things women in game development have to suffer just to be a part of this hobby we all love so much. They have to go through these things, even though they can often make our games better.