WHEN MICROSOFT announced earlier this month that 20-year software vet Julie Larson-Green would run a branch of the company that oversees Xbox, misogynist gamer dudes went all flying-spinning-kick on her. She’s “hot,” but “would have been cuter 20 years ago”; she “slept her way up”; she’ll bring on apps “dedicated to baking and knitting”; and so on. Google her name today and the first autofill suggestion is “plastic surgery,” thanks to sexist twerps accusing the exec of having gotten work done.
Can a woman possibly hope to thrive in a position that requires catering to all this unchecked testosterone? Darn right she can, fellas. And this particular woman is exactly what Xbox needs right now.
Don’t forget that the last person to run Xbox, Don Mattrick, slinked off to the floundering game platform Zynga after the botched launch last month of the company’s first new gaming console in nearly a decade, the Xbox One. Sure, the console’s speed and power specs were every bit as good as those of archrival Playstation 4, produced by Sony, but Microsoft found a way to lose this round of the console wars by plugging its ears and ignoring its customers. The Xbox One was not only $100 more than the PS4, it was going to force users to pay a fee or prove ownership if they wanted to swap games, while also requiring them to be connected to the Internet at least once a day to play anything. (The PS4 has no connectivity requirement and no restrictions on game trading.)
Initially, Mattrick dug in his heels. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, he told videogame journalist Geoff Keighley in an interview. Stick with our old console. Soon enough, however, Microsoft backtracked, reversing both policies.
Oh, and during a demonstration of the new fighting game Killer Instinct at the launch’s press conference—which pitted a male Microsoft employee against a female employee—the guy said to the woman, “Just let it happen. It’ll be over soon.” Microsoft later had to apologize.
Xbox’s new leader might have handled the launch with a little more savvy. Her first job after graduating from Seattle University with a master’s in software engineering was in customer support, answering phone calls for 10 months straight. She once told the Telegraph of London that she has “an ability to forget what I know and think instead like a customer.” Indeed, while Larson-Green does not have a background in gaming, she is a pro at “user interface,” which is the way we actually use our videogames and tablets and computers. She previously handled the company’s redesign of Windows 7 and the 2007 redesign of Microsoft Office (to more accolades than vitriol).
But, but! Videogames are for dudes, aren’t they, and how could a woman possibly understand our sweaty, smelly needs? Sorry to break this to you haters, but 45 percent of the gaming audience is female.