This week is GDC (Game Developers Conference), and much of the party grapevine centered around getting tickets for the Thursday night Xbox party. Tickets were so difficult to score that one bitter conference attendee printed out orange fliers for his "Official 'F*** the Microsoft Party' Party".
Even engineers from Microsoft Games had difficulty getting tickets, since games and Xbox are separate divisions within Microsoft.
Last night, I and a few Google ex-games-industry coworkers were standing around the Sony party, when we recognized a few Xbox engineers that we had worked with. As we chatted with them, the Xbox guys told me, "You should come by our booth tomorrow, and we'll give you a party ticket."
"Aren't these tickets more valuable than gold?" I replied, suspicious why Microsoft would be more eager to give a ticket to a Google employee over one of their own.
What they said next gave me serious doubts about their party: "It'll be great to have a woman there, especially one who actually has a reason to be there and is a former GDC speaker, instead of a hired dancer or model for the event."
Tonight I originally planned to go home and skip the party, but my 7pm meeting at the hotel next door ran long. I found myself 2 blocks from the party 15 minutes prior to its start.
"I'll just go and check it out," I thought.
Since I got there early, I was at the head of the line, which quickly wrapped all the way around the block. At 9pm, a string of women in tight black dresses walked by, followed by dancers in pink bikinis with white sashes hanging off their thigh-high boots.
I got inside, and it felt ... sexist. Unwelcoming. Monitors displayed Microsoft's Xbox games, where big breasts bounced around, rendered in 3-d detail. The dancers in pink bikinis strutted their stuff on podiums, and male conference attendees watched silently in clumps of two or three, sipping beers. The dancers had disappointingly protruding abs and mountainous thighs. What does it say when the Google employees I see everyday around campus are hotter than the hired dancers at a Microsoft party?
As foretold, I was the only woman not hired to be there. This produced a subtle sapping of my spirit, as I was bombarded with the sight of all other women at the party serving the male attendees food, giving them little gizmos, being paid to flirt with them, to dance for them, to smile. The men had judging, patronizing expressions, which didn't change when their gaze flickered from the dancers briefly onto me as I moved about the party. Rarely have I encountered so many instances of men openly looking me up and down.
It was 9:15pm, and I made for the door. When I got outside, I saw Jon, my first manager from Microsoft, now a product unit manager on Xbox tools, standing on his tiptoes peering in, trying to get a ticket.
I walked down the street and ran into the Xbox engineer who had invited me. "What? You're leaving? It's just getting started!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah, it's not my thing," I said.
"You're not much of a party person, huh?"
"I am, but --" I saw his look bordering on bruised ego, and changed my tune. "That's right, I'm super lame like that." I finished.
As I walked to my car and then drove away, I felt my heart lightening. It is like the time when Bob (name changed) went to interview with Microsoft.
"The closer I got to the Redmond campus, the worse I felt," Bob said. "I actually felt physically ill!"
"Just like Mordor!" replied my brother when he heard the story.