In 2016, you would think we'd finally be past the point where companies throw parties involving dancing girls dressed in attire that's on the verge of stripper-wear. Apparently, someone forgot to tell Microsoft that conduct like this alienates many women in the industry - game designers, developers, PR, executives and countless other members of the community. And at Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week in San Francisco, Microsoft's event planning team somehow once again let things go off the rails.
To its credit, Microsoft apologized for conduct at its party almost immediately, but we wonder who behind those Redmond walls thought it'd be a good idea to bring dancers in school-girl uniforms to a party that both men and women alike will attend. Role-playing like that is be best saved for home, not a public venue with press, analysts, game developers, and so forth--certainly not a professional event.
Microsoft might be able to shore-up its defenses a bit with the fact that it also held a "Women in Games" lunch, but you can pretty much guarantee that it didn't feature men wearing schoolboy uniforms. As a result of this brouhaha, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that his company will have "unconscious bias" training in the future to prevent something like this from happening again - but really, are we not at the point where something like this should be considered common sense?
Xbox Chief Phil Spencer also apologized, writing in part:
It has come to my attention that at Xbox-hosted events at GDC this past week, we represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely not consistent or aligned to our values. That was unequivocally wrong and will not be tolerated. This matter is being handled internally, but let me be very clear – how we represent ourselves as individuals, who we hire and partner with and how we engage with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. When we do the opposite, and create an environment that alienates or offends any group, we justly deserve the criticism.
It’s unfortunate that such events could take place in a week where we worked so hard to engage the many different gaming communities in the exact opposite way. I am personally committed to ensuring that diversity and inclusion is central to our everyday business and our core values as a team – inside and outside the company. We need to hold ourselves to higher standards and we will do better in the future.
Unfortunately, finding example images from the event is getting tougher, as many who shared them online have decided to pull them down. The one that's floating around can be seen above, and is apparently without a source (no, it's not a Grand Theft Auto screenshot).
Will this party be the last of its kind at mainstream gaming events? Time will tell. We're still not sure how this ever got the green light in the first place.