DirectX co-creator's daughter slams his "toxic waste trash fire" approach to development

Alex St John thing

DirectX co-creator Alex St. John caused an ugly stir earlier this week with an article on VentureBeat arguing, among other things, that long periods of “crunch” are beneficial, and that game developers who insist on fair pay for work performed are “wage slave” whiners who aren't really committed to their craft. It's odious stuff, and has spawned numerous rebuttals, including one of our own. But none of them carry the weight of the response written by Amilia St. John—Alex St. John's daughter.

In her post ”I am Alex St. John’s Daughter, and He is Wrong About Women in Tech”, she pulls no punches, opening by describing her father's behavior as a “horrific toddler meltdown.” She acknowledges her distance from the senior St. John, noting that, despite being only 22 years old, she has not lived with or near him for many years, and leads “an independent existence.” But her response isn't mere venting. She explains how and why she got into tech, before digging into what she sees as the real reason for the relative lack of women in the field—which “is NOT, as he insinuates, a result of women 'claiming victimhood.'”

“The majority of U.S. K-12 schools do not even offer any Computer Science curriculum in the first place. In fact, only 5% of U.S. High schools even offer the Computer Science AP exam in the first place. As a result, many women enter college without even considering Computer Science as an option, and may only choose to transition to the major after their freshman year,” she wrote. “Even if they do eventually decide to switch majors, it can be difficult or nearly impossible to finish within four years as a late transit. Adding to this adversity, many women and minorities feel intense isolation when confronted with the hard reality that they do not fit in with their overwhelmingly male classmates. Worst of all, many women enter into CS majors only to find that they are already hopelessly behind as they discover that their male counterparts already know the material from tinkering in their childhoods.”

Things don't get much better for women who complete a CS degree and take it on as a career. St. John says women in tech “begin to get weeded out of engineering roles in favor of client-facing roles that 'perfectly suit' their 'stronger social skills'.” That, she notes, is precisely in line with what her father advocates in his now-infamous PDF presentation on recruiting, in which he says, “Better communication skills often make [women] better architects, technical writers, QA, or technical support people.”

“Widely held beliefs like these are playing a huge role in hindering women from continuing as engineers. While many of these 'more social' roles may be high paying, they remove truly technical women from technical jobs, furthering the imbalance,” St. John wrote. “This directly impacts women later in their careers as it has been shown that technical positions are more likely to lead to senior roles in the industry. My Father’s suggestion to continue the practice of 'promoting' women out of engineering roles will only further reinforce gender norms in the workplace and ultimately harm the supply of senior female technical executives.”

The article—which I would urge you to read in full at Medium—includes links to resources for women and minorities in the tech industry, and ends on a personal, but still very cutting, note. “And it is from here that I beg my father, for the love of his daughters, to stop hindering our progress as women in the industry and start using his influence to promote positive experiences for minorities in tech,” she wrote. “{And to stop promoting abuse and exploitation of people with Aspergers. And also to stop being an obnoxious lunatic.}”

In the aftermath of the uproar, St. John's blog appears to have gone offline: Attempting to connect to currently results in an “error establishing a database connection.” Interestingly, a Google cached version of the site reveals that he posted an “apology” before it went down, but not the expression of regret you might expect. Instead, St. John apologized to “the disenfranchised minority victim groups” who were left out of his previous posts, like people with gluten and lactose intolerance, before launching into a long, bizarre tale of workplace accommodation for vampires at WildTangent. As you might imagine, it speaks for itself.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.