Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

Games industry parties and events used to be dominated by scantily clad models, almost all of whom were female, to promote games and grab the attention of visitors. Thanks to criticism and larger conversations about gender equality in the industry, that trend has since plummeted in the West. And that’s what made a single exception to this year’s Game Developers Conference so noteworthy.

On Thursday night, Microsoft hosted a private Xbox-branded party with a number of women dressed provocatively in shirts that reveal the cleavage and midriff, thigh-high stockings and short, Xbox-green skirts, all dancing on pedestals to electronic music. The scene that was filmed by a partygoer and posted to Twitterlooked like something of an average Stories from the Crypt nightclub scene.

The next morning, Xbox chief Phil Spencer sent a memo to Microsoft’s entire Xbox division, which confirmed that the party was “Xbox-hosted”, rather than pledged to another third-party organizer. Spencer’s letter also unequivocally addressed those in attendance who complained that they were uncomfortable at the party.

“We represented Xbox and Microsoft in a way that was absolutely inconsistent or aligned with our values,” Spencer wrote in the memo, which he later posted to Microsoft’s blog. “That was clearly 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 work with, and how we interact with others is a direct reflection of our brand and what we stand for. If we do the opposite and create an environment that alienates or offends a group, we rightly deserve the criticism.”

However, the memo did not clarify exactly which branch of Microsoft was involved in the production and promotion of the lot. Representatives from Assembly Media Inc, the primary PR agency for Xbox and a subsidiary of Edelman, declined to answer Ars’ questions about who organized or produced the party.

This public rejection came after Microsoft held its own Women In Gaming Luncheon hours before the nightclub party in question, and the entire scenario took place alongside a GDC rich with panels on the artistic, business and logistical efforts currently underway to promote more gender equality in the industry. Panels included “creating inclusive environments for women” and “how initiatives for women in games make a difference”.

By akfire1

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