Recently there surfaced an appalling comic about Jade Raymond that I will not link to. And there have been equally appalling forum threads saying, essentially, that she deserved it. I won't link to those either.
Jade Raymond is for real. She is fucking smart. She earned her job. And frankly, Ubisoft should be grateful to have her, and they don't deserve her. Because they unfairly pushed her image as part of the marketing of Assassin's Creed. I'm sure that they are as horrified as anyone at the backlash. But they also are guilty of exploiting a genetic accident that made Jade a beautiful woman in the games industry.
It is dangerous to be a beautiful woman in the games industry. Oh, it's difficult to be a woman, period. But if you also happen to be attractive, you are doubly cursed. On the one hand, yes, when you're at a conference where you are among a handful of women, you are remembered, and that is advantageous. But for every break you may get for being female and attractive you get a chorus of voices telling you that you don't deserve it because, well, you are attractive, and obviously you can't possibly have gotten where you are without seducing men along the way. And I am devastated to say that sometimes joining in those voices are other women.
And then on the other hand you have groups that want to use you because you are beautiful - whether its the marketing machine, PR, the press - it's all a form of exploitation, honestly. And while men like Cliffy B and Will Wright are also pimped out to move product, they don't suffer from quite the same sexually tinged commentary that comes with being the female spokesperson for a product.
It's disgusting. And distressing. And depressing.
The punishment for being a beautiful woman in this industry is to be called vile names, "incompetent slut" being the mildest of insults. I suspect that most women in the business have experienced some form of this irrational hatred.
So what to do about it? I go back and forth between being so white-hot with fury that my hands shake and my breath comes in gasps, to thinking, fine, don't give those reprehensible troglodytes the satisfaction of having made me - made us - angry.
But it's wrong. Of course it's wrong. And it's all nastily tied up with sexism, with the nature of celebrity, the cowardly losers on the internet, and exploitative marketing practices that have always sold products by slapping a pretty face - real or digital - on the game boxes. And part of me wants also to speak out against that.
I don't have an answer. I can be suspicious of Ubisoft's motives, but after all, they are just trying to sell product, just like everyone else. And I can also be disappointed that the press chooses to focus on Jade Raymond and feature her face prominently on pictorials not because they are interested in promoting women in games, but because they want to sell magazines or adspace on websites. What I don't understand is why the supposed fans of games react so vilely to the notion that a woman - a very pretty woman - has helped to create what may be one of the biggest games of the year.
Are they so small that they are threatened by this? Do they really think that a woman could have gotten to the kind of position that Jade achieved simply on her clear skin tone and nice figure? Do they really think that the executives behind the games they supposedly love are so moronic to allow that to happen?
And yes, I do call out Ubisoft on this, on some level. They are behind the Frag Dolls, an enterprise that I still don't find completely benign. And I think they over-promoted Jade's involvement in the game, pushing her to be the spokesperson and the frontwoman. All those pictorial spreads. The magazine cover. Who even knows what Patrice Desilets looks like? And he is the creative director on the game. Household names in gaming are very, very rare, and usually reserved for someone with the stature of Miyamoto or Will Wright - legendary icons with decades of experience. Can you name the producer of Halo 3? And yet that is another important game this season. This in no way discounts what Jade has done, but rather puts it into perspective -- isn't Ubisoft just a little disingenuous in trying to make her the face of their top game of the year?
But on the other hand, I'm eviscerated by the notion that we can't celebrate women's achievements in the game industry without encountering this sort of resistance, fueled also in part by a rabid fanbase that was as quick to idolize Jade's image as it was to tear her apart. And naturally as someone working on something she believed in she would want to stand up and be proud of her accomplishments. The price of fame is a pound of flesh.
This is a rant without much of an arc or, I'm sorry to say, any sort of conclusion. I think we're still working on that - I hope I am still helping to work on that. And that's all I wanted to say. Jade Raymond is for real. She is totally real. And her ascendant career is not going to be touched by gibbering idiots on message boards, because she is way bigger, and better, than they are.