Yesterday afternoon an unnamed enthusiast for my work tweeted me this link and told me to apply. Maxim is holding an open casting call for a “gamer girl,” presumably to be the face of the magazine’s gaming department.
“If you’re both a girl and a gaming enthusiast, you could have the one-two punch we’ve been looking for!” the posted ad squeals. “We’re currently on the search for a Maxim Gamer Girl who loves gaming like Mario loves avoiding his plumbing responsibilities.” If the words casting call haven’t thrown you off already, this weird and completely off-the-mark Super Mario reference should. The icing on the cake is the direction at the bottom: “Wear your hottest outfit.”
Maxim, it seems, isn’t looking for a girl to write about games. They are looking for the fabled “Gamer Girl” that is the stuff of dreams, the chiseled-from-ivory Galatea that haunts the introverted male gamer’s fantasies. The girl who is all that and a gil sack, a buxom beauty with the skill set to crush the rankings in an FPS and fly through turn-based battles like it’s second nature. But by placing this emphasis on appearance, Maxim has assured that they won’t be getting a writer of substance. They will get a “Gamer Girl,” alright. What they won’t get is a gamer.
Now I’m not saying all girls who carry their PlayStation Vitas around in their purses are ugly and fat (I take my own to the gym with me). I’m a firm believer in subjective beauty, so this is a moot point to make. Maxim, with its outdated game allusion and demand for something with sex appeal, has more than likely weeded out a large majority of the women who can intelligently write about games. Not because we don’t think we can stack up to a supermodel fellating an Xbox controller, but because “wearing our hottest outfit” is an inappropriate measure of our abilities. My boobs can’t write a game review, but my fingers and brain can do a real bang-up job. And while I have nothing against the women who will undoubtedly try out for this gig, I have to question Maxim’s goals.
I’m not going to play the sexist/misogyny card because I know the staff at Maxim isn’t stupid. They know what they’re after, shooting into a pool of attractive young women and hoping to come out with one who knows a lick about video games. They will find her, too, but whoever she is must know that priority one is her image. Quality of content comes later.
If Maxim truly wants a video games writer who is female, then why not ask for writing samples? If my Twitter feed is any indication, the ridicule from both guy and gal games writers alike over this should be a good indication of who and what won’t be present in the candidates that proffer themselves. Any writer worth their salt knows that you need to look and act professional in order to be taken seriously. Posing in silk lingerie with a Wii remote positioned suggestively near delicately puckered lips isn’t the picture of credibility. But good, solid, thoughtful content is.
I understand that sex sells beautifully in this market, and Maxim’s audience isn’t the same as that of Game Informer or Kotaku. I can’t get too riled over this because the magazine’s is all cosmetic fluff and image-oriented. What does rile me up is that by looking for a “gamer girl” in their “hottest outfit” they have dealt another blow to the crazy misogyny and bad behavior that is already sneaking around the underbelly of the industry.
I am a firsthand witness that this nonsense is still going on, and perpetuating the stereotype of the sexed-up attention-starved ever-eager “Gamer Girl” just hammers home the idea that most women in the industry — namely the journalism sphere — are indiscriminate harlots. If we are even the slightest bit open in our presentation, friendly in our communication, some take it as a sign that we are “asking for it,” and when we refuse the damage comes in the form of whispered rumors and upturned noses.
To be blunt, it shouldn’t matter what any of us do in our personal time, so long as we conduct ourselves with appropriate decorum at work and put a solid effort into what we do. Being a games journalist comes with a hefty amount of responsibility, which is why Maxim’s criteria for one most certainly won’t yield them the best of results.
Maxim will find what they are looking for, guaranteed. But whether or not the rest of the industry will take their correspondent seriously is contingent on the weight of the content they produce, not their cup size.
UPDATE: Five minutes after this posting went up, Maxim removed the lines “Wear your hottest outfit” and “First come first serve, ladies” from the bottom of their ad.