Let’s talk about accountability

Today I want to talk about accountability. I want to talk about how one person can crumble an entire environment. I want to talk about community.

Recently, after days of contract negotiations, I began participation in what was supposed to be a four day long competitive game jam which would be broadcast to YouTube. The description we were provided for this jam was simple:

“Green Label Game Jam seeks to provide viewers with insight into the technical and artistic process of developing a game, in the format of a reality competition show. We seek to do for indie games what “Top Chef” did for cooking.”

The game jam was to be sponsored by Pepsi and produced by Polaris/Maker. There were a multitude of mysterious prizes to be won.

I was invited to be a member of a team by a friend of mine and together, with one other, we were set to spend the next four days in Los Angeles, California working on a game and collaborating with each other for the first time in our friendship’s history.

I love game jams. I think that participating in a game jam is one of the greatest parts of game development culture and a wonderful way to truly foster creativity. In one space you can get a multitude of people together, all with different backgrounds/perspectives/styles/etc. You put them all into one room, let them pair off, and the result is a wonderful array of new and creative things.

To me, a lot of game development is the community that surrounds it. It’s the people who get together to share ideas, meld those ideas into new ideas, and help build each other up.

I guess this is why I tend to associate with non-competitive jams. I view a game jam as an event where I can explore something I haven’t explored before (be it a technology or an idea), work with people I’ve never worked with before, and try to create something with those new friends. Adding a competitive element to a game jam adds this extra component that each development team needs to worry about – and it just feels wrong to me. It feels wrong to pit developers against one another, and it feels wrong to ask developers to compromise their game for the sake of “winning”. Game jams should be the one place where you shouldn’t have to worry about compromising your vision. It should be a safe space in all senses of the word. It should be a place that you as a person feel safe as well as you as a developer.

From the beginning there were potential problems with the “Green Label Game Jam” (branded on set as “GAME_JAM”). The contract was full of corporate legalese. There were clauses about being allowed to misrepresent us in any way on any topic for “dramatic effect”. There were sections barring developers from appearing on any form of broadcast media for a period of time longer than anyone should be comfortable with (honestly even any time was too much time). Many of the participants were the sole faces of their company. We, off the bat, would be risking our reputations – our livelihoods – to participate in this jam. We negotiated the contract as a group. We reworded the most egregious sections – but not before having to push back for days.

With trepidation, I participated in day one. Day one of what was supposed to be four days of jamming under slightly uncomfortable circumstances. In my mind, worst case scenario was that I would spend four days working on a game with some friends while being surrounded with green logos and sipping water secretly off-camera. I could deal with all of this if it meant I could work on something in a fun space and be filmed in order to expose more of the public to how game development works (though we all acknowledged in some way that it was probably going to be dramatized in a way).

So there I was, standing on stage waiting to be judged on a “mini-challenge” only marginally related to game development with lights shining down and the cameras rolling. I was underneath a Mountain Dew sign, watching a team win their Mountain Dew lawn chairs where they could sip on their brand new Dew Pack of Mountain Dew. We were all vying for a grand prize only slightly more insulting than the aforementioned lawn chairs.

The product placement and forcing of the brand onto us was over the top. I understand who was sponsoring it and where the money to produce this event was coming from, but when I am no longer allowed to have easy access to water in order to hydrate myself after sweating under bright lights for hours because it wasn’t Mountain Dew, then we have a problem. I don’t want to speak ill of Mountain Dew. They are a brand and they sponsored an event – it is 100% acceptable to slap their branding all over the place. It was the enforcement of shilling out our image to constantly and overtly push this beverage that made me uncomfortable.

Every prize for our mini “challenges” was a branded prize (dew colored lawn chairs, cases of Mountain Dew, etc). Even the grand prize – a year’s supply of Mountain Dew, a trip to a Mountain Dew sponsored extreme sport event in Breckenridge, CO, and access to ID@Xbox – was so overly corporate and “bro culture”, that it was just uncomfortable.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year learning how to be true to myself. I’ve been learning how to listen to who I am and consistently try to base my actions on what I feel is right and what I feel represents who I am as a person. Here I was participating in an event that, by it’s very nature of being competitive, stands against everything I feel about game jams. Here I was selling out my integrity to participate in an event where I had to pretend to love Mountain Dew more than any other beverage in the world (I don’t even drink soda, FYI). I was pretending to laugh at gamer jokes. I was clapping at prizes I couldn’t have cared less about. And most of all, I was just not representing myself as me.

This was uncomfortable enough for me to consider walking out. At that point – as I was still negotiating certain points of the contract – I had no contractual obligation to be there. I could leave and take my integrity with me. What kept me there were the other developers, and the people who worked so incredibly hard to put this entire thing together. This was not a small production. There was a film crew, a set crew, a staff, producers, directors – and the other developers. Everyone had put so much into this – how can I throw it back in their face and say “Sorry, I’m not a corporate sellout”? Okay, I’ll deal with it. I’ll make fun of it under my breath and off camera, I’ll power through. At the very least, there will be a show about game development that maybe some non-developers will watch and be interested in. Maybe we can educate people about the amazing culture that is indie game development. Maybe there’s a redeeming factor to this.

I can deal with that. I can deal with selling out to have some fun with my friends.

What I can’t deal with is supporting what happened next.

You can literally trace back the entire crumbling of this show to one individual – Matti Leshem, CEO of Protagonist, a Brand Energy company. Here was a person who, from the get-go, rubbed me the wrong way – he and I were definitely different people. He is the one who headed up removing even un-labeled water bottles from being allowed on our desks. He is the one I heard asking around if there was any way that we could drink the water out of empty Mountain Dew cans.

He is also the one who asked my team the following question:

“Do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?”

All love to my teammates as they declined to engage. But, after pushing more – he got a rise out of me. He got me to, with an embarrassed and flushed red face launch into a statement about how his question is indicative of everything that is wrong in our industry in terms of sexism. That no, we weren’t at an advantage because we had a woman on our team – we were at an advantage because I’m a damn fine programmer and game developer. We were at an advantage because my skills allowed us to be at an advantage – not my “pretty face”.

He had the audacity to approach me later and explain that it wasn’t personal. This wasn’t a personal attack on me – he knew this was a sensitive topic in the industry and wanted to address it.

Well, you know what? It was personal. You sat there and overtly questioned my skills, my intelligence, my life. It was so personal, that I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that someone could even pretend to believe that it wasn’t a personal attack.

And, on top of that, it was a completely inexcusable way to address the issue of sexism in games. You address this by having a rational conversation about the nuances of how it feels to be an underrepresented part of an industry that you love. You address it by making a marginalized subset feel safe. You address it by allowing the minority to feel like they have a voice – a voice that is being listened to. You don’t address it by shoving cameras in a woman’s face and insinuating that the only reason she was brought onto a skill-based competition was because she was nice to look at.

In addition, I’m trying to participate in a friendly competitive game jam. I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and discuss sexism, this isn’t the venue for it. It’s a venue for being a corporate sellout, sure – but this is not where I am going to engage in a discussion about sexism.

I spoke with my team, and as a group decided to not engage any further lines of questioning about the women participating in the jam (out of the 11 people participating, there were two women. This means that there were two all male teams and two teams with one woman each). We wouldn’t give him the rise he was looking for out of us. We were there to power through and make a game.

So there I was – at about 99% capacity of what I could deal with in terms of corporate bullshit and sexism – and then the final straw. The two all male teams were questioned in a similar fashion:

“Do you think the teams with women on them are at a disadvantage?”

That was it.

I cannot be a part of something that, in any way, feels like this is an appropriate way to expose game development to the world. The other teams also declined to engage, but the very notion that this is something that could potentially be written into a story – the notion that it, even if disproven throughout the entirety of the show, would even be addressed is what completely did it in for me.

I will not put my face and my “stamp of approval” on something where this is even a question. No, we are not at an advantage because we have women on our team and no, we are not at a disadvantage because we have women on our team. We all have advantages and disadvantages because of our varying skills and strengths. Having the audacity to be a woman does not hinder nor help any of these things. Being a woman simply means that we are women.

After airing our grievances with the production, there were four of us who immediately dropped out. Me and the other woman as well as one person from each of our respective teams. The rest tried to salvage what was there, but the four of us were out. None of us could reconcile being a part of something that would hire someone like Matti. Whether he is asking those questions as a representation of his personal thoughts or simply as a way to poke and prod to make ‘entertaining drama’, I cannot be a part of a culture that believes that this is an appropriate action on any level.

I do want to stress how wonderful mostly everyone else involved in the production was. As we made our decision and explained everything to those in charge, we were supported 100% for our decision. This has nothing to do with Maker, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Polaris or anyone. This has to do with Matti Leshem and people like him.

However, I want to talk again about accountability.

Yes, he was not an actual employee of ANY of these companies – but he was there. He was a part of this. Somewhere in the chain of command, he was hired as a contractor to have control over this project. Someone out there vetted a person like this and thought he was a good person to work with.

Just as this person needs to be held accountable for his actions, so do those who agreed to work with him. It is unclear to me who made that decision, but someone did. He may not work for any of these companies, but he was still there. I want everyone involved in this to understand that who you hire and who you work with is, in some way, a reflection of who you are. When you choose to work with a person and allow that person represent your brand in any way, you damn well better make sure that that person’s beliefs and actions align with yours.

After we left the show, the producers, content managers, and countless others involved in the production of the series tried to work through a way to get us back to finish the jam. Though many of the immediate concerns were addressed (e.g. Matti was removed from the project) and they offered to completely restructure the event, the point remained – there was once a person there who destroyed everything. There was a person involved on this project who felt that it was appropriate to humiliate, embarrass, and harass. Our trust was broken and we were done.

The day that followed was a constant stream of the production team offering up new ideas on how to ‘fix’ the situation. Each offer was slightly more desperate than the last, as it came to light throughout the day just how grim their situation was. This was Polaris’s first large production after Maker was acquired by a much larger corporation – and it crashed down in a spectacular ball of fire.

People were about to lose their jobs.

Not the set crew, they were fine, they had nothing to do with this. But the people responsible for hiring those who ultimately destroyed it – they all contributed to a toxic environment, and they should be held accountable for that.

While something like Train Jam, to me, embodies every single aspect of game jams that I find to be special – the “GAME_JAM” embodied everything that I find to be wrong and abhorrent about how people view us as game developers. I came into this event expecting to make a game, show people a glimpse into game development, and possibly have some fun. Instead, my intelligence, my legitimacy, and my integrity were all pushed and questioned. We, as developers, were being treated as desperate stereotypes, and we, as women, were treated worse than that.

Despite all of this, there was a wonderful thing that happened. That community that I hold so dear banded together. As individuals, we were insulted and hurt, but as a group we were able to stand up and support one another in a way that I truly appreciate.

Our night, once the production was officially deemed dead, consisted of hanging out, forming new friendships, and reinforcing existing friendships – exemplifying the environment that should have existed all day.

Some developers began to devise ideas on how to film a game jam that would properly capture the spirit of game development. Some developers discussed potential future game design ideas. Some developers simply played games.

No matter what everyone was doing, however, we were all in this together – sharing, collaborating, talking, and creating.

There were many other people at this event – however, we all have varying degrees of how we can talk about this (mostly for legal reasons). Because we are all individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, we were all affected in unique ways. I’ve listed below links to the people who were present and have written about this in some capacity:




73 Responses

  1. I suppose in the end you guys at least managed to forge stronger bonds with each other in the wake of what was equal parts Murphy’s Law and a representative’s power trip/greed. I say “greed” as with a budget of $400,000 and to somehow still have sub par equipment I don’t even know what to make of it, it’s disheartening regardless.

  2. I just read IndieStatik’s article, via a facebook post by Jessie Cox, and part of your article as well (I would have read more, but I am getting later and later for school even as I write this…). I wasn’t there, and I can’t say what went on or how things went down, but from what I read I feel you were not only in the right, but embodied the spirit of gamers everywhere. I want to take a moment to say that you are a role model, and that your standing up for your principles is admirable and respectable, and I think that each of you who did so is an amazing person. It would have been so ridiculously easy to give in, but you stood your ground. I do not know you, but I am proud of you. Keep being amazing, and this message is as much for you as every person who stood with you, who I would be honored if you could forward this message to them. Thanks for listening, and being who you are; it means the world to me.

  3. It’s beyond ridiculous how a company could spend so much money, time, and effort into an event, and not realize that the gamedev community won’t put up with the same sort of drivel they force on “reality show contestants” in other industries. It sounds like one guy completely destroyed a great opportunity to show how games are made to a lot of people who will once again remain in the dark about how these sort of things work.

    To be honest, I really think that in order to get a true representation of what a game jam is actually like, it really should be done by the indie community.

  4. Ah yes, the dark secret of the Disney empire’s new subsidiary. Their monster lawyers must be scrambling to contain this incoming PR scandal.

  5. So I’m going to be someone on the outside who’s only just hearing about this GAME_JAM thing, whether or not it was hyped before in game channels, and someone who has only just started brainstorming games he’d want to make at some point, just, holy shit. Holy shit. I can’t believe you stuck through the branding and commercialism as much as you did, just as a starting point, but that amount of sexism and sleaze? And possibly going out to a mass audience? It’s really appalling to just read about it, let alone if I’d been there and asked that question.

    I don’t even know what really else to say. It sounds like it was a hugely awful thing while it lasted. Just felt like I should leave some comment here and try to be some outside voice to support you just a little bit? Or at least be some little bit of anti-slime.

    At any rate, jesus christ, what a shitshow. Good example of what not to do, moving forward.

  6. I have to say bravo. You fought against the corporate to not only defend your rights and skills, but for those who dream of becoming a developer. Whether they are male, female, gay, transgender etc. Though I know Matti wasn’t part of the company in a permanent role, he was still hired on which makes point valid that whoever got him in is responsible, and I think they should step down or get fired. Discrimination is huge and it only negatively affects everyone.

  7. Well said. I read some of the other reports on this event and am pleased to know Indie devs have high ethics and community when it comes to sexism. Keep up the good work, both in game deving and fighting the good fight.

  8. I was linked to your blog post from Jared’s article, and your point of view on affairs was even more touching and personal.
    Probably because you were a subject and he was an observer.

    Thank you, and all of your friends, for being awesome.

  9. Heya,

    To keep this short, I am a gamer, and I work in television, but oddly I do not pay too much attention to groups like Polaris. I just caught wind of this event today, and I just want to say to you (and others), that I am very happy that the wheels on the bus did NOT go round-and-round, because working in television as shown me that if something works, it won’t ever change.

    Thank you for doing something that I’m sure many people think is simply legendary!

  10. I’m really sorry that a project you were looking forward to so much was brought down. I hope that in the future you will continue being open to Game Jams and collabs with other devs as some of my favorite content has come out of the talented and eclectic groups found in a game jam.

  11. Well said. I can’t believe someone who genuinely wants to address those issues would start by asking you or your teammates such obnoxiously phrased questions. Infuriating! Good on you and the devs who handled it appropriately. I would have walked out too.

  12. It is a damn shame this played out the way it did. It would have been really cool to see how game development played out. I’m sorry that you and the other devs had to put up with what appears to be little more then an attempt for reality tv drama. It was a good idea ruined by screwy contracts, branding, and a sexist moron.

  13. I found your blog linked to another blog linked to by Reddit. I rarely EVER pester people with emails. I find them impersonal, insipid, and they just lack that romantic notion of penning a letter and sending it to someone – there is nothing to cherish about email.


    Your stand against the question “Do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?” was amazing. I am a father of an 8 year old girl, and I am learning every day that passes exactly how socially ingrained this kind of thing is. So thank you for contributing to my growing education, and for making me a better father for my daughter.

    If she were to grow up to be as confident, intelligent, and as wise as you are, then I couldn’t be prouder.

    Oh and by the way: your spirit is absolutely beautiful.

  14. I got around to reading this account of what happened last (sorry about that) but I completely agree and stand beside the actions you and everyone else who rallied against that corporate dramamongerer. I have ideas I’d like to throw out into game development some day, and I would certainly like to do so in a culture not unlike the part near the very end – a bunch of people just getting along, sharing ideas, breeding creativity in their work, with no stupid, beastial divides like race or gender. A real community of development, not a manufactured one.

    Maybe one day the kind of video that portrays game development in the independent workhouse for what it really is will actually exist without the corporate molestation of the art of game design. Then again, maybe one day I’ll actually convince someone to help with art assets to I can put an idea out there for people to experience. So here’s to a hope for future successes for all of us! 🙂

  15. Gaming is about the cohesion of fellow enthusiasts, not the exploitable drama of “Reality”. This is why people see gaming in a negative light.

  16. you are incredible for doing what you did. you played the game, you did so by their rules. and when they decided to break the rules of common sense and decency, you left. from what i can there, there isnt exactly a ton of people in indie gaming that get the attention and the rub and the opportunity that they deserve when you see so many countless people of questionable moral fiber’s names known being spoken. to me, you are the superstar for following your beliefs and the route to see the successes in your life through. dont ever stop, dont ever forget that theres people out here who believe in that still. and you are a champion to all of us for doing it. all the best.

  17. As a 38yo male gamer, I am ashamed and angered at the way you were treated. It is because of men like that that women in video games have been typecast as either large breasted night elves or dumb blonde damsels in need of a hero rescue.

    As a kid, I was lucky enough to have an awesome female gaming partner – my mom! I remember nights where I’d have to remind HER that it was late, and I had school in the morning, so Tetris would have to wait! As an adult, I still enjoy playing games with my mom, and have had the honor of playing with and against many more wonderfully skilled and talented women. Whether they were leading a Molten Core raid in WoW, commanding a Battlefield army on tournament day, or punching me in the arm IRL for doing another ‘super serve’ on Wii Tennis, they were all every bit as good, and often better, than any guy out there.

    I could not be more proud of you. As for people like Mr Leshem, well he’s lucky this took place IRL. Had this played out online, in my experience people who only see women as a pretty face or large rack often don’t realize their mistake until it’s too late. HEADSHOT! And then they have 10 seconds to ponder the error of their ways while they wait to respawn.

  18. I read this by way of Hacker News and this story is so awful that I am compelled to offer a few words of support and express my hope that you can quickly put this train wreck behind you and perhaps chalk it up to a hard lesson about working with certain parts of the “entertainment” industry. You are clearly very talented and I imagine that you have much better things to do with your time.

    Best Wishes,


  19. As somebody really interested in business case studies, it seems that the mistake was hiring somebody from a very different company culture. Matti came from what some YouTubers on twitter called a “Hollywood/Reality Tv” culture. The YouTubers from Polaris that I follow seem to have a more chilled back, have fun, be authentic culture and game developers come from a “sharing, collaborating, talking, and creating” culture. Matti didn’t understand (or respected) the space and the culture of the people that he worked with. But regardless of company culture, sexists comments should not be tolerated. I’m glad he was removed, and I hope the original concept can still happen!

  20. Dear Adriel,
    I found and read your blog from a link on Mr Rosen’s article.
    I’m disgusted at the behaviour of Mr Leshem. It is unacceptable for someone in society today to do what he did. The reason I’m commenting is to say that I agree with you that accountability is extremely important in this and not to lose sight of it. While companies involved will want to distance themselves from Mr Leshem, it is true what you’ve said that there are people that were accountable and that shouldn’t be overlooked.
    I hope that if you do choose to work with the media in the future that your experiences are better.
    Good luck and good fortune.

  21. Fascinating insight, glad you all pulled together.

    As an aside, your website’s background/font combo is an assault on the senses (not in a good way).

  22. I really think what you did was impressive and shows real character. Good for you for not putting up with that kind of primitive mindset. I have worked in TV and Film for 20 years and have often seen people belittled and sadly most people acquiesce. You are inspirational. I feel sorry that you had to put up with such a jerk.

  23. Some lessons learnt – thanks for the post-mortem.
    It’s easier than when you see 5 years work go kaboom 15 secs after liftoff.
    I’ve avoided that – FedSat worked, MESSENGER is still nominal. Others haven’t been as lucky.

    “Some developers began to devise ideas on how to film a game jam that would properly capture the spirit of game development.”

    The Faux-Reality of Reality TV is obviously not a suitable format. So we can cross that one off the list.

    My sympathies on the used food you were subjected to here. Every woman in the industry has had some, but this was egregious. Best wishes for the future, and I hope I never have to deal with the designated scapegoat or the kind who’d ever consider hiring him in any role. Thanks for taking a stand, it reduces the chance that any of us will have to.

  24. What you had to deal with at Game_jam was inexcusable. I have no words for how angry this makes me. No one should have to deal with that level of ignorance.

  25. Read a couple articles on this event after seeing it in the PIGSquad facebook group. I gotta say I’m pretty disgusted. I’m really glad you guys refused to continue on the project. Sure, we didn’t get a video about how fun game development can be. But we did get several articles about how the stereotypes surrounding game development are infuriatingly wrong.

  26. Im sorry that you had to deal with a person like Matti. As a part of the gaming community, it is hearing things like this that frustrate me the most. In a place where we should foster friendships, creativity, solidarity and fun, it tears me up to see ignorant sacks of shit try to breed drama. To be honest, I am not well versed in the indie dev scene. I have played indie games before but I have never come across what you have programmed. Because of the blowup, I found out about you and played a few of the games that you programmed. 3D Tetris is literally melting my mind. I have been playing it for a few hours now and I am possibly more confused and intrigued by this than when I first started. I know that you probably get this a lot, but thank you for being a part of the indie scene. If I’m honest, I am not sure how much my words will mean. I am just a random guy on the internet… But for what its worth, you are a damn fine gaming programmer! Keep it up! 😀

    gg wp!

    Kathue Yang

  27. This sounds like a real nightmare situation =/ I’m glad you stood up for your principles and got out of there – you’ve done the community a real credit. I’m honestly not sure what I’d have done in the same situation. I like to think I’d have done the same, but I wonder if I’d have had the balls.

    Thanks for writing eloquently and fairly about the experience, too.

  28. I’d like to thank you for standing by your principles. I believe anyone of lesser character may have swallowed their pride ‘to be on t.v.’ & it’s better still that you’ve taken the time to talk about the aftermath & share it with the rest of the World

  29. Hi!

    Your theme is horrible, please consider changing it. It almost made me want to just stop reading.

    P.S. Nice blog entry! (Y)


  30. It’s an understatement to say well done but well done. Our industry needs more people like you standing up against what’s wrong with the industry in difficult times like you did above – thanks for the informing write-up.

  31. I don’t know any of you (Game Jam participants, reporters, companies, …) except by when reading articles or review related to Indy games, just wanted to say that I’m totally supportive of the decision to leave this showbiz event.

    Gender has nothing to do with talent, I wish there was more women in the industry (in all positions, including design, programming, management, qa, …), and definitely patronizing is not the correct way to bring girls to be interested in this type of career.

    (In this particular case the trigger was gender related, but I guess a similar issue would have happened if one of the participant had been of some other nationality/ethnic background (“Did you get the job because you are from a minority background?”.)

    Also associating game developers to soda drinkers and generally speaking “people with bad life hygiene” is not positive either.

    MasterChef type events are of course showing that being a chef is hard and requires dedication, but it’s mostly about showing the talent, the ability to work under pressure and give consistent result.

    The competition is just a way to show that, and I guess it’s what this Game Jam event should have been all about.

    About the sponsors, well… that could have been sponsored by Valve, Razor, Logitech, Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google, etc… that would have been relevant. Even things like Ginx or ThinkGeek or Penny Arcade would have made sense. Mountain Dew? Mehh.

    Best regards!

  32. Strangely the train wreck itself sounds like it was worth making a program of as it displays the solidarity and spirit of indie development and gamers.

    If only someone had the forethought to keep the cameras rolling on that….

  33. .Good read. Sorry that the filming didn’t go well. The base concept was very interesting to me, but the type of reality TV drama they seemes to have wanted would not have been appreciated… Reading you, i have the impression they searched to create the same BS drama you got on these horrible reality show.

    Its really not the type of vent who would have shed a good light on the indie scene anyway, so you guys and gals made the right decision, in my humble opinion.

  34. Adriel,

    So far the coverage I’ve read has all been very supportive of your position, and how you handled yourself.

    However, I’ve also heard horror stories of the sorts of blow-back that can be leveled against those who stand up to this stuff by less savory individuals shielded by anonymity, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

    On the GOES-R project you were welcomed and appreciated as a colleague and software engineer, and though you and I did not work on the same algorithms, I have never heard anyone who worked with you say anything less.

    I am sorry you had to go through this. I hope any negative effects blow over quickly, and I hope good comes out of it.

    – Evan (the fat bald guy usually heard ranting about build environments)

  35. Good grief this pisses me off something fierce.

    I understand people are trying to approach “gaming culture” in other media as a topic. Outside of some gaming news show mayflies, this is a still-growing yet fairly untapped market. A game dev reality show was probably inevitable.

    What I don’t understand is why they’re lading it with all the negative shit that’s really part of TV culture. I’d say “screw everything about this,” but it’s more “screw that guy in particular, and whomever’s responsible for his joining, but I’m very glad to hear of it if things otherwise seem to work out–and yay for people banding together!”

  36. I only have a peripheral view on events, but I just wanted to add my support. Maybe the coverage from you, Zoe and the article at indiestatik will cause Matti Leshem to receive the poor reputation he rightfully deserves after pulling this kind of bullshit.

  37. I am sharing and forwarding this to as many people as will read it. My one criticism actually has nothing to do with this post or feminism – This page is is burning my poor retinas! it’s like fuscia and pink and it just burns!

  38. Sounds like a disappointing experience, but I am a little concerned when you say ‘Not the set crew, they were fine, they had nothing to do with this’. When a large project fails, how often do the people actually responsible end up being the ones left holding the can?

    1. in this case the “set crew” are contractors hired to perform a task, and get paid regardless. the ones responsible are the ones who footed the bill for the project, and are now out of pocket to the tune of half a million dollars, plus a lot more worth ofconsumer backlash.

  39. I’m impressed that you were able to actually formulate a response to him. I’m pretty sure that all I’d be able to come up with is: “Really? F*** off.”

  40. The sexist comments Mr. Leshem said were inexcusable.

    I wish others who share his mindset would see women as human beings and treat them with respect.

  41. I was in highschool back when Survivor aired and “Reality TV” became a thing. I hated it then and I hate it now. The bonus features on the DVD for the Running Man are quite concise in explaining what BS it all is.

    Still, it gave us Total Drama Island. Love that show.

  42. Wow what an act of bravery. You and, as I take from the reports, most of the others did the right thing. It’s not ok to accept sexism.

    Keep making cool stuff!

  43. Bravo!
    I just read about the Supreme Court trashing all limits on buying advertising.
    This is a good lesson on just how twisted and twerked what we see can be.

    You folks give me hope by not letting yourselves be bought and sold, and telling us how it works.

  44. I leave only a short response as I need to get back to work. Thank you for standing up to stupid. Thank you for not selling out, and for being conscious of the consequences to others (knowing that people who made horrible mistakes will be held accountable, and being ok with that fact is Good character in my opinion)

    Finally thank you for being a counter voice in a “stupid male” dominated space. It makes me cringe (as a guy) the things that “gamer culture” is capable of. We need more strong individuals or all types (gender etc) that bring good moral character to this world we love so much so that it Gains more balance and sees that discrimination, and excessive stereotyping as the evil they are.

    That is to say, thank you for being you, and for the you that you are being, being awesome.


  45. I’m all for accountability, but you are making many assumptions regarding the hiring of this asshole. Unless he had a history of this sort of behavior that was clear and should have been known to those who hired him, what are you really holding them accountable for? Lack of clairvoyance?

    I wouldn’t go demanding the heads of anyone other then the direct offender you get some clarity on what was and what wasn’t known/knowable.

    1. In the hours after he asked my team about our “pretty lady” advantages and before we all walked off set – I was reassured that he was an asshole and to ignore him – as he’s an asshole to everyone.

      In addition, I have third party reports of no one being particularly surprised that it was Matti who destroyed the whole event upon finding out that it was destroyed due to one person’s actions.

      Basically, this guy was generally regarded as a person that no one particularly enjoyed working with – someone who was generally regarded as an asshole, arrogant, and sexist – though, as he ‘brought in the money’, (he was responsible for bringing in the Pepsi sponsorship for this production) most people simply put up with him.

      Obviously, I had no prior dealings with him before this event, but after I had my interactions with him and then learned that he does this to everyone – I’m disgusted by the fact that just because he is associated with making money means that he gets to treat people like this. The people who hired him know that this is who he is and that this is how he treats people, but they value the ability to bring in the money more than not subjecting others to his misogyny and exploitative nature. That is what I want people to be held accountable. They specifically let a person who is known for acting like this on set and allowed him to act like this.

  46. Because talking heads like Leshem can’t actually create anything except cheap words, their reputation is all they have.

    By standing up for the right thing and outing this worm for what he is, you made the world a better place by making Leshem directly less employable in future. You also sent a loud and clear message to companies like Pepsi that most people don’t actually want TV shows that are simply engineered to artificially create and amplify the worst parts of the human spirit while denying all the best even exist.

    If you still feel bad about this situation, Just remember you bought out the best in people and also achieved something good in the world. And as an engineer, every day you work to produce a tangible, beneficial thing that people actually want.

    These two things that you do every day is something that parasites like Leshem can’t legitimately claim that they have ever achieved, in their whole lives.

  47. Great blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Bless you!

  48. This was forwarded to me as something I should read as a Computer Engineer facing the challenges of opening doors for women in both the gaming and engineering spaces.

    I can’t express how much I appreciate the courage you showed by objecting to this treatment in the way you did and then sharing your point of view afterward. If this was ever broadcast, I would have been infuriated by Matti’s questions! I 100% agree with your statement above that ended with: “Being a woman simply means that we are women.”

    Thank you (and all those that stood with you) for understanding and defending what is right.

  49. Oh man I’m really, really sorry this happened to you. I’m glad that at least you managed to have a good time afterwards with the other Devs. You had all the right to walk out of that and you did, and that alone is a brave thing to do. Good luck with your carreer I’ll definitely be looking out for the things you create.

  50. Thank you so very much.
    As the father of a 13 year old tech geek girl who wants to be a game developer, I so appreciate you standing up and doing what you did. We had our own fights with sexism her first year in Lego robotics in 4th grade when one of the boys wanted to throw her and her friend off the team because they were girls.

    You are Brave, Awesome, and Inspirational.

  51. Kudos to you and your team!

    You showed professionalism in the face of incredible provocation. You reminded us all that, as representatives of our field, we have a duty to educate such ignoramuses (ignorami? Whatever) that we deserve respect, and if the lesson was harsh, it was well-merited.

    I am a better-than-fair programmer, and game development probably doesn’t play to my strengths, but if by some miracle (or mistake) I had been there I’d like to think that I would have downed tools after the first question… but I might have looked at my house payment receipt and flinched. But you didn’t… and I applaud you and hope that I can show the same grace under pressure as you and your team did.

  52. Honestly, I think that this is a major problem with the whole “reality TV” genre in general – a lot of the people involved think that it needs to be all about creating interpersonal conflict or whatever.

    If you’re recruiting random people off the street, you can find people who are going to get into fights.

    If you’re trying to recruit professionals, though, you’re going to have a lot harder time. Not to say that professionals don’t fight, but they’re people who often work on teams, which means that they’re going to be a lot less interesting in terms of interpersonal issues. Sure, over a long period of time some backbiting can result, but in four days, chances are good you’re not really going to get anything good out of them.

    But really, focusing on such conflict is a bad idea anyway, because everyone else does it. Things which actually show things off work just as well – I mean, I enjoy the random food network competitions and suchlike, and there are all sorts of game shows which don’t have the contestants sniping at each other. People watch this stuff!

  53. Please. Please please please please tell me that you and the other #JAMFAIL 15 are going to make a video game together so that we can start throwing money at you.

  54. Wow. I can really feel your pain, as i also was (no joke!) in a reality show about game dev sponsored by a softdrink company (google “game quest”). Ours hardly went down THAT aweful, but we had our own share of little awkwardnesses including corporate bullshit, fake drama, etc.

    Cheez, i would have gone into full rampage with that Matti guy…

  55. This is what happens when you fill a room with intelligent people who has dignity and a passion for their trade, and try to make “reality” out of it..

  56. Horrible, just plain horrible. This is what is wrong with games today. Big Suits pushing products just to get numbers and don’t care about the people or have respect for the culture that has taken a long time to grow. Adriel, thank you for showing the true spirit of what makes this community great and getting out of that crappy situation. Hopefully someone will come along with good intentions to show everyone what this is all about and follow through.

  57. I applaud your courage and spirit. It is reprehensible that you were subjected to that treatment. Perhaps the only good thing out of this is that you and the indie gamer community are getting a tremendous amount of good press and exposure, accomplishing at least part of your original goal.

  58. It’s a sad indictment on the “entertainment” industry – and by that I mean the TV side of that, not the gaming/development side, that these problems still exist. But then that’s the industry and I’m not defending it, it needs to change.

    Mind you on the other hand, the independent movement can prevail here – why accept a sponsored anything anymore? Anything that gets influenced by the corporate world and yeah, you’re drinking water out of empty cans before you know it. The power of indie and the ability to access content, there’s so much creativity out there – forget the sponsorship and just kickstart something yourself!

    It’s got to be far more honest, wholesome and avoid the overt sexisim of a dying professional “culture”? The narrow minded view is clearly still rife in the world of TV production, and anyway look at the rest of the reality trash produced? The developers I’ve worked with weren’t games developers, so were far less interesting to a mass market, but even so, the pressure to “perform” just can’t be compatible with that concept can it?

    Either way, good for you and your peers for having the courage of your convictions to stand up and not be bullied into performing.

  59. I wrote my first program in 1957, in octal, and retired after 45 years growing with the industry. I am happy to see that modern (indie at least) programmers are as independent and yet cooperative as we were then – we loved what we did, and obviously you do too.

  60. Sounds like your teammates had some real character to stand up to this nonsense. It’s too bad a good documentary couldn’t come of this. I really enjoyed Double Fine’s recent Amnesia Fortnight, a behind-the-scenes look into their game jam process.

    As a developer in another industry, I’m always trying to be cognizant of bias and bigotry in our field. I hope we can get to a point where we are past the distraction of inconsequential attributes of persons, and instead focus on the quality of work produced.

  61. This shit makes me physically ill. Unbelievable. Or maybe it’s just TOO believable. Bravo on doing the right thing.

  62. This post along with the article by one Mr. Jared Rosen, and the other posts by Ms. Robin Arnott and Ms. Zoe Quinn just exemplifies everything that I’ve come to dislike about the way things are in the entertainment industry. It’s because of posts like these that give me more of a reason to create an independent workspace much the ones like you currently make now. To you Ms. Wallick, I say that you are a shining example of what can happen when you stand up to the corporate culture of today.

    I just hope that this one incident didn’t suck all the fun, joy, and love you’ve had for gaming.

  63. “Do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?”

    That is a deeply offensive question. Everyone knows that Adriel Wallick isn’t the slightest bit pretty.

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