Gamescom Opening Night Live has come and gone, and though there were a lot more women on Geoff Keighley’s shiny stage than during Summer Game Fest (which had zero), it certainly didn’t feel all that natural, did it? It felt, instead, that Keighley’s response to criticism about the lack of women at SGF resulted in him misunderstanding the concept of representation.
At just two points during the two-hour-long event was there a woman developer or presenter alone onstage, aside from German co-host Jasmin “Gnu” Sibel, who Keighley had there strictly to handle all things not related to game announcements or reveals. CD Projekt Red gameplay designer Yulia Pryimak appeared an hour and a half in to the live show to debut more Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty content, and after her was Lisa Pak, project lead at environmental alliance Playing for the Planet.
While there’s no denying the importance of having 11 different women appear on one of gaming’s biggest stages, especially after there were literally zero during Summer Game Fest, something still didn’t feel quite right. Maybe it was because so many of the women on-stage were accompanied by men, whether it was actors Gemma Chan or Julia Brown, or developers like Sledgehammer Games’ Shelby Carleton or Bandai Namco’s Coralie Feniello.
Or perhaps it was because Sibel was trotted out once to make a weird announcement about websites, and then again to bring four women onstage—in cosplay. I wonder how that Gamescom planning meeting went? Did Keighley bring up the barrage of tweets about the lack of women, or point to Ash Parrish’s great piece at The Verge, and suggest that, to combat that, they bring out four women in cosplay? Is he aware of how women cosplayers (and women in general) are, traditionally, treated at these kinds of events? Or the implications of putting the spotlight on women, but only on them in costume as characters, not as themselves?
Or maybe things felt weird because Keighley made sure to bring on a few of his favorite gaming men with the kind of pomp and circumstance you’d expect from the guy who Hideo Kojima put in one of his games. Keighley’s excitement is palpable whenever he introduces someone from his roster, like Marvel Snap’s Ben Brode, Starfield’s Todd Howard, or Mortal Kombat’s Ed Boon.
I’d love for Keighley to add a few women to his All Stars Team—maybe Gamescom 2023 was the start of that. Maybe, during this year’s Game Awards, he’ll bring out CDPR’s Pryimak with as much enthusiasm as he does Boon. Maybe his co-host will do a little more than hand out awards, or introduce fluff pieces like Zelda cosplayers.
A girl can dream.
Update 08/22/23 at 4:15 p.m. ET: Updated Sibel’s first name.
Update 08/22/23 at 4:55 p.m. ET: Updated Sibel’s last name.