Brenda Romero: ‘Jiggle physics’ and realities of the gaming industry

22 Jul 2016

Brenda (left) and John Romero at Inspirefest 2016. Image via Conor McCabe Photography

During her keynote at Inspirefest 2016, Brenda Romero, co-founder of Romero Games, effectively ‘dropped the mic’ on a gaming industry obsessed with ‘jiggle physics’ and selling to the wrong audience.

“Erect nipples is probably a phrase you didn’t expect to hear from a game designer, but there you go,” said Brenda Romero when discussing how the gaming industry typically portrays women in the latest AAA blockbuster titles.

Speaking during the first morning of Inspirefest 2016, Romero is by far one of the longest-serving and most knowledgeable on the industry given that she began her career in 1981 after being hired in a bathroom for being a fan of the board game, Dungeons and Dragons.

As one of five women in the entire industry at that time, Romero said during her fantastic keynote that, in the intervening years, gaming companies have certainly added more women to their staff numbers, but they still remain a noticeable minority.

Taking just one example, the recent announcement that the much-anticipated No Man’s Sky game is now finished came via an official tweet from the developers that featured one noticeable trend among its employees.

Who the typical game consumer really is

On-stage, Romero said a significant number of game purchases are made by women and dispelled the notion of the typical gamer being a 17-year-old guy who lives in their parents’ basement, when it’s as likely to be a 43-year-old woman.

“If you are a generally 40-ish woman and someone says you’re not a hardcore gamer, feel free to correct them because you are.”

We followed up on Romero’s claims and, according to the 2016 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry released by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), women make up 40pc of the most frequent game purchasers, while the average gamer age is 38.

If all of this is news to you, then you might want to take note of the genuine gaming industry term ‘jiggle physics’, which defines how breasts move in a video game – something that was apparently to difficul for the Assassin’s Creed developers who said it was the reason why there were no lead characters in the game franchise.

Farmville: a watershed moment

Such disregard for the opinions or concerns of women gamers is changing, Romero said, citing the year 2007 as a watershed moment thanks to the release of the Facebook smash hit, Farmville.

“For the first time in my career I was hearing this like ‘We would really like to talk to you because you’re a female game designer’, not ‘We would like to talk to you even though you’re a female game designer’.”

Following the well-received keynote, Romero’s partner (both business and personal) and gaming royalty John Romero joined her on stage to take part in a Q&A on his life, starting from his early days as a child coding prodigy.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic