Monday, 23 February 2015

Women in Games

I've been taking part in a few Women in Games type things recently, and there's been one major theme throughout; if we're going to have a positive impact on diversity in the games industry we need to talk about it.  So here's me talking about it.

But before we get started on all the good and positive stuff, there's a not so quiet elephant in the room that I'm going to address now.  This post is not about GamerGate.  Maybe that will be a post for another time, but all you need to know from me right now is that I do not support GamerGate and if you have genuine concerns with ethics in journalism, I implore you to adopt a different hash tag.   


Recently Next Gen Skills Academy conducted a survey, of which 40% of the women employed in the UK games industry took part in.  The results from that survey show that 45% of women have experienced barriers to their career due to gender and 16% of the women who took part had experienced bullying from a superior.  

Personally my experience working in the games industry has been amazingly positive in terms of my co-workers and employers.  However, at both Game when I was a manager and at conferences such as Develop Brighton I have had to more than once defend my validity in that space.  At Game I can remember very vividly being asked on more than one occasion if there was a man around who knew about a certain game/console/accessory.  The absolute shock that caused one customer to not only double take but also completely spin on the spot when told I was the resident PS3 expert will stay with me for a long time.  And the number of people at Develop who would assume I worked in HR or PR and would be genuinely shocked that I am in fact a Designer.  One gentleman (who worked for Konami but i don't believe his actions represent his company) told me I was 'far too pretty to be in games development'.  I later found out he made one of the students there feel so uncomfortable that she had to leave.  So there are still dinosaurs in the industry and indeed in the consumer space who feel girls aren't welcome in the tree house, but thankfully this is happening less and less and soon I'm sure we'll only remember when it was an issue.

Yes I'm a gamer, no not a fake one!

Based on the information collected by Next Gen Skills Academy a series of workshops were set up, the first of which was an Empowerment workshop with speakers covering 'Finding Your Voice & Understanding Your Personal Branding' and 'Cultivating your Capacity for Creative Leadership'.

My takeaway from the work shop is that I'm already a fairly empowered individual.  I've been fighting against the boys' tree house rules since SEGA vs NINTENDO was the playground banter, I spent most of my first pay as you go top ups helping male friends complete Soul Reaver and Metal Gear Solid and yes I am buying XCOM for myself not my boyfriend, and no I don't think it'll be harder than Dark Souls so are we done here?  It's not that I would say I'm a confrontational person but I won't let people think I'm less capable at (then) playing and (now) making games.  

The second talk was really useful to me in terms of learning skills for delivering talks to groups of people.  As I said, a theme running through these past few weeks has been we need to talk about this more, especially to encourage the next generation of game makers.  When I was at school I was told that making games wasn't a real job (!), if I can make a difference to any young girls playing games who want to make games in the future I will happily go to schools and show them that they can absolutely do that and it's not just for the boys.  I agree we need more female speakers to step up and get involved by being positive influences, it's why I was happy to talk at the Eurogamer careers surgery, why I wanted to talk at Animex and why I'm putting myself forward to speak at Develop.  So to pick up a few tips on how to do that was very useful indeed.  

Eurogamer, Konsoll and Animex

Unity and Cake

Kerry Turner is an experienced developer and coder who decided to start a meet up to teach a group of her female friends how to make games in Unity.  Kind of like a knitting circle but with laptops instead of knitting needles, retaining the tea and cakes of course. 
 This is a perfect example of how to influence and change the industry (for the better) from the inside by helping empower a group of women to be able to create their own games.  

Aside anything else it's an amazing evening spent with wonderful women, and on top of this we are learning invaluable skills and will (eventually) have a game at the end of it!  I can't thank Kerry enough for setting it up and inviting me to be one of the 'guinea pigs' for the courses content.  I do need to decide what my game will be, so far I'm making a Myst like but I'm not sure that's what I want at the end of this.  What's also very cool is that I get to come home and teach Alex some tricks he didn't know, he's already very upset that my code best practice is better than his.

MCV Top 100 Women in Games

Awesome networking.

So this is the big one.  Making the top 100 women in the UK games industry list!  I was very shocked!  Especially when you read some of the other women on this list.  Putting me up there with Dr. Jo Twist, Gabrielle Kent, Roberta Lucca, Siobhan Reddy and many more industry veterans, studio founders and women who have a profound influence on our industry.

Attending the awards was another really positive event with lots of talk about being strong role models for other women in and coming up in the industry.

So when I told my mom I made the list she asked 'what for, you haven't done anything?' (thanks mom), but it did get em thinking about why I should be on the list, or rather if I should be (impostor guilt).  And you know what, I should be.  I don't think anyone should underestimate just how hard it is to make video games, or rather make successful video games as it is, never mind the fact we completed and released two games within a year AND had a baby at the same time!

I hope my story is inspiring to women in and choosing to be in the games industry.  Yes you do belong here and no having a baby does not end your career if you don't want it to.  I worked on Glyph Quest full time until two weeks before the baby arrived, and even then I was still doing press and community management.  And we continued to work even with Willow crawling around, sitting on our laps and otherwise bothering us for attention.  Full time mum and full time game developer.  

It's not easy, but then anything worth doing never is.


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