This article was originally posted on October 27, 2013 on Gamnesia.com
As the games industry continues to diversify, we see great strides in the further integration of individuals atypical to the average white male. Some of the best contributors to sites like Kotaku and IGN are women. Some of the largest gaming franchises, such as Assassin’s Creed or God of War, are also headed up by women. Games retail has become another area that’s seen dramatic growth in female integration. In Texas, retailers such as GameOver VideoGames have embraced women as leads, helping diversify the sales experience to allow broader connections with an expanding consumer base. Yet, as great as it sounds on a periphery level to see women enter this retail space, seldom have stories been told highlighting their experiences. I sat down with a female GameStop employee to gain insight on what it’s like to work in a male-dominated environment.
Being Harassed and Feeling Helpless
Imad: How did the first bit of drama start?
When I was hired, I was in the running for Senior Game Advisor. But before they promoted me, they wanted to see how I worked first. So as I was working, there was another employee there who was also a Game Advisor, and he was always told that he would be a Senior Game Advisor. And there was this huge drama between me and him… Everybody at the store thought it was because I was a girl, and I was the only girl at the time working.
Imad: What would this coworker say?
He held this huge grudge against me, kept on telling me that it’s because I was a girl, because I had boobs, and the manager only liked me because I was a girl. He had been there much longer. He worked there for a month I think, and he got transferred to another store. I got promoted to Senior Game Advisor.
Imad: How did you feel having him accuse you because of your gender?
It was horrible! It made you feel that, no matter how hard you worked, people would always judge you for being a girl in the gaming community. I knew I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t start or snap—I had just gotten there and promoted so quickly.
Imad: How else would this employee harass you?
He would call me red, because of when I blush. He would call me “saddlebags.”
Imad: What are “saddlebags?”
It’s when you have a lot of extra weight on your thighs. He would also slap my ass a lot. He would, like, kind of slap it.
Imad: What’s halfway slapping your ass?
When turning his hand would hit my ass.
Imad: Can’t that stuff just happen?
But it would happen a lot.
Imad: Why do you think you got promoted so quickly?
I think I got promoted because I made a good impression in front of corporate every time they came and visited. I really went out of my way to be friendly and give better customer service.
Imad: Have you had any negative experience with customers?
Guys come, ask for a game, or a headset, or something, whatever it is. I would recommend him a headset, he would think about it, and ask the exact same question to my employee. The customer would say that he will go with his suggestion “cause he’s a guy.” So, we’ll get customers like that, who will outright just say something like that, and I’m like “are you kidding me?”
Imad: Has your boyfriend ever been upset by what’s happened?
Yeah, when this whole thing with Hideki, he was like you know maybe you should look for another job. I used to tell him about all the times I would get numbers, he would get upset and say, “oh…that’s cool,” he trusts me, he knows I would never act on it. As long as I’m behind the counter. It’s not like I’m going out with these people.
Although abuse from coworkers has pretty much come to an end, some customers tend to be less than savory. She receives phone numbers from individuals three to four times per week. At first she came off as very apprehensive, but realized that it was bad for customer retention. Now she simply says that she has a boyfriend, but thanks them for their interest. When she has her back turned to the front counter, there are customers that try to grab her attention by saying, “ Hey, sweet cheeks,” or something equally misogynistic.
Advantages of Being a Girl
“On the other side of the spectrum, my previous employee, she used to use her flirting abilities to get people to buy her stuff. She got this one guy to buy her a knife for her number. So he brought her back a thirty-dollar pocket knife, and she gave him her number. She would do that all the time, and I’ll admit we all do that, I’ve done it to get [sell] membership cards. She got some guy to buy her a PlayStation.”
Imad: What else would she get?
She got all kinds of free stuff, and they would just buy her stuff. She got a PS3, a ton of new games, Starbucks, people brought her food all the time… She was really good at it.
Imad: Have you ever tried that?
Never to get free stuff, but I do flirt with people to sell cards and stuff.
Imad: Do you think it’s somewhat hypocritical for you to do that?
Yeah, it’s really hypocritical
Imad: But you guys are just forced to hit these numbers?
Yeah, by like our manager
GameStop’s Lack of a Support Structure
Imad: What do you think GameStop could do?
I know that GameStop does have a female leadership conference. I had never heard of it, so I asked my manager what it was, he said, “something for girls.” He procrastinates, he doesn’t get things done.
Imad: Do you think GameStop could do a better job getting the message out there?
Probably. I had never even heard of it… if they have it available, I’ve never been invited.
Imad: Have you ever thought of working somewhere else?
Mhm, yeah. Lots of times. GameStop doesn’t pay you well, they don’t treat you very well. They just don’t value their employees. You start off at minimum wage, and the Senior Game Advisors—the middle one, those ones—I think I got paid $9. As Assistant Manager, I asked for more, and I got $11.50. Well, it was $11.25, but you get an annual raise, so I got 25 cents.
Imad: Do you want to go further in the company?
I thought about becoming manager before, because I pretty much run our store now, but GameStop’s just not… Being a manager there, as opposed to being a manager at another location, is not necessarily about the money; it’s about the workload, and the fact that we don’t get enough hours to run our store. So we can’t hire enough people, and we’re just in constant chaos trying to catch up with all things that they change every week and every day.
Imad: Would you say it’s a poorly run company?
They cut corners as much as they can, and it affects us directly—it doesn’t affect them, the corporate. They do everything they can that doesn’t affect them that affects us to save themselves money, and that sucks because we feel it hard every day.
Imad: How so?
With payroll, you know, we get four extra hours for a whole week to run a midnight launch, so that gives us until 1:00 at night. But then they don’t take into account the next day, when we have extra volume of traffic people in there, and people who come in to pick up the game that weren’t there for the midnight. So we would need an extra person there to help run the store, but we don’t get enough hours to have another person there…
Editor’s Note: I reached out to GameStop for a comment. They have never responded to my request.
Investors Come First, Employees Come Second
Overall, GameStop as a company could do more in training their employees about harassment. It’s imperative to set up individuals within the company who can address the abuse that women receive within the stores. GameStop has become so incredibly steadfast in increasing profitability, especially with an ever-looming digital marketplace, that little focus or energy has been placed in dealing with these issues. I asked my interviewee, if she were CEO of GameStop, what sort of changes she would make to the policies. She would like to adopt the Costco model, where employees are paid well, given benefits, treated with respect, are promoted within, and ensure that their work environments aren’t too stressful. However, for a company like GameStop, these standards may be too far out of their comfort zone.
If you would like to see GameStop change their policies, tweet this article to @GameStop.