When it comes to women in video games there’s no shortage of female
characters; from Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) to Chun-Li (Street Fighter)
to Jill Valentine (Resident Evil) to Tifa Lockheart (Final Fantasy VII)
there’s a long history of virtual women kicking pixel ass. But things
are different in the video gaming industry, where real, flesh and
blood female developers and industry experts are still a bit of a
rarity. A 2005 survey by the International Game Developers
Association estimated that only 11.5% of those working in the game
development industry are female. A more recent 2007 survey in
Game Developer Magazine estimated that href="http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/21/business/fi-gameswomen21">women
comprise 1 in 5 workers in the business, which indicates
that the number of women in the gaming industry is on the rise at 20%,
but that women are still clearly in the minority. Yet, according to the
Entertainment Software Industry, href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-08-05/business/sc-biz-0806-women-gamers-20100805_1_international-game-developers-association-game-development-gaming-world">40%
of video and online game players in the United States in 2010
are women.



Without factoring in variables like genres and game types, 4 out of
every 10 gamers are female. Why, then, don’t the employee rosters at
game development companies seem to reflect the trend? Ten Ton Hammer
spoke to industry professionals, both male and female, to get their
perspectives. We asked whether they felt women were given equal
opportunity in the gaming
industry currently, and bid them to tell us how they saw the
role of women in
gaming evolving.



Emily Taylor

Game Designer II

Sony Online Entertainment



That’s a difficult question to answer because it I can’t speak
authoritatively for the entire industry. I can really only speak for my
experiences at Sony Online Entertainment, and I have certainly never
felt that my gender was a problem, or even particularly relevant, while
working here. Although men are still in the majority, there are many
women in all sorts of positions at SOE, and I have always felt like
just one of the team.


style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 300px;"
border="1">

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/90000"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 300px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90000">

The Order
of Rime sails the Fens of Nathsar in EverQuest II.

SOE’s
Gamers In Real Life
(G.I.R.L.) blog has recently
started doing little Q&A sessions with women in various
positions in the game industry, both in and outside SOE. We hope this
will help show all the different positions that women can and do hold
in the industry, as well as hearing their thoughts on what it’s like to
be a woman in gaming. As you can see if you skim the interview posts,
most of the women we’ve talked to so far have felt they were given
equal opportunities and have generally had positive experiences. That
said, it’s unfortunately true that some women in the industry have had
less than positive experiences, and I don’t want to trivialize the
issues they have had. There are certainly still some attitudes out
there that could be improved, and I think that it’s important for all
women working in gaming to be aware of that and speak out if there is a
problem.  



As the current main contributor to SOE’s G.I.R.L. blog, one of the
topics I often come across, and one that concerns me most, is why women
are still such a minority in the industry. If there isn’t an active
discrimination against hiring or promoting women, then theoretically
game companies should reflect the country’s population and be roughly
50/50 male and female. Clearly this is not the case, because the
unfortunate fact is, far fewer women than men even apply to game
industry positions. As long as that remains true, women will probably
continue to be a minority in the game industry. It seems that the
gender inequality related to games starts long before women even start
submitting job applications, but there are many factors involved (too
many to list here) that all add up to the result that we may get only
one woman applicant for every ten or twenty men interested in a
position. How to identify and address those factors is an ongoing
problem that should concern all women in the industry. Although the
number of women in gaming is slowly increasing, I don’t think we’ll be
able to approach a 50/50 gender ratio until we can identify and remove
the deterrents that are discouraging girls and young women from even
considering the industry as a viable option.



The Gamers In
Real Life program at SOE
 was established to help
address issues like the ones I’ve discussed. We hope to help through
our blog and twitter feed by making the many roles of women in the game
industry more visible and discussing some of the issues that do affect
women in gaming. The annual G.I.R.L. scholarship aims to educate and
recruit more women into the video game industry by raising awareness of
women in games, and giving scholarship winners the opportunity to see
the industry from the inside through our intern positions, as well as
contributing towards tuition and other expenses. Although it’s just one
small step of many needed, we hope to encourage others to step forward
so we can all work together to encourage more women in the gaming
industry in the future.




Kate Paiz

Executive Producer

Turbine | The
Lord of the Rings Online
| href="http://tentonhammer.com/ddo">Dungeons &
Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited



Since I began in the MMO industry 10 years ago, I have seen a distinct increase in the number of women in game development and leadership positions. I do still feel game development is a male dominated profession, primarily because the game market is also heavily male dominated and because there are less women in general in the technology industry.




Meghan Jenks

Senior Community Manager

Turbine | The
Lord of the Rings Online
| href="http://tentonhammer.com/ddo">Dungeons &
Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited


cellpadding="10" width="253">
style="font-size: 20px; line-height: normal;">"It’s my
opinion that working in the game industry will become more appealing to
women when games themselves become more appealing to women."

When I started in the games industry in 1995, most women at game
companies were in administrative or marketing roles, not development or
other tech (and href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberta_Williams">Roberta
Williams was probably the only woman with wide
name recognition). Since then the number of women has grown by leaps
and bounds and you’ll find tons of talented women in all sorts of
positions across the industry. That said, there’s still a lot of work
to be done; I don’t think it’s so much that women are being held back
as it is that they’re not entering the industry to begin with.



It’s my opinion that working in the game industry will become more
appealing to women when games themselves become more appealing to women
– while many women play “hardcore” games now, and more women are
playing games (particularly social games) than ever before, the
majority of big budget triple-A titles are still developed for, and
marketed to, the 13-35 year old male demographic.





Izmar

cellpadding="10" width="253">
style="font-size: 20px; line-height: normal;">"As gaming
professionals on the cutting edge of technology, we have a chance to
push the limits of what’s possible to make the industry more flexible
in terms of merging successful family life with a successful career."

English CCM

Ankama | DOFUS



Community management is an area of gaming and internet culture that is
currently populated by more women than men, and I believe it’s a trend
that will continue. Communication, personal relationships and
understanding nuance are vital skills in community management and many
women excel at these tasks.



It’s is also a highly portable job when you have the assistance of
laptops and internet-ready phones, which makes it ideal for working
women with families. As gaming professionals on the cutting edge of
technology, we have a chance to push the limits of  what’s
possible to make the industry more flexible in terms of merging
successful family life with a successful career – thus making it more
welcoming to women who want to have it all.




Padma Fuller

Product Marketing Manager

Sanrio Digital | href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/847">Hello
Kitty Online


style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 300px;"
border="1">

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/90001"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 300px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90001">

The
colorful world of Hello Kitty Online.

I believe the industry is changing in a favorable way, but I can only
speak from my personal experience. There are aspects of the industry
that are opening up more and more for women, although in general it is
still a guy’s world – that’s not to say that a handful of dedicated
developers and publishers are seeing the importance and making
changes. 



At Sanrio Digital there are many women who work in all aspects of the
development process of our Hello Kitty® branded video games. We feel
that we are heard and our opinions are taken seriously. In the
industry, we are gaining ground in the more creative aspects in game
development. While we have women who work on the technical side, it is
still very male driven. I suppose this is purely because historically
women have not pursued coding for gaming the way men have.



However, having had the chance to spend some time with MIT students, I
am excited to see so many women studying game programming.  It
is a very young industry and I can’t wait to see what the future will
hold for  the video games industry as more and more women
become involved.




David Post

Founder

Next Island, LLC


style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 300px;"
border="1">

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/90002"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 300px;" alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90002">

A female
avatar scans the landscape of Next Island.

The playing field is rapidly becoming level for women in the games
development community, much as it has in the Web community as a whole.
Next Island, LLC
is committed to the female developer and the female
player. The female members of the team at our development studio are
extremely talented and bring an eye for design and an appreciation of
beauty to everything they do.  



Not only is the opportunity for female developers broadening but the
female user base is also growing as games evolve beyond shooters and
other games that are marketed directly to young men. We believe in the
case of our upcoming virtual world, style="font-style: italic;">Next Island, we
will have as many
female players as male players, and in time we will find an increasing
audience in women of all ages.  Our rich 3-D world offers a
variety of gameplay options that appeal to every kind of player, from
hardcore gamers looking for “the kill” to more casual gamers looking
for a social medium to connect and bond with other players. We’re
aiming to appeal directly to college-aged women who were so much a part
of the success of Facebook and can lead our movement as well.




Nicole Hamlett

Google Social Gaming


cellpadding="10" width="253">
style="font-size: 20px; line-height: normal;">"I imagine
that there are still a few boys clubs lurking about, but in general, we
live in a very progressive community of developers."

I think that women are given as much opportunity as they have the skill
for. Traditionally, women have served as marketing and public relation
people; you would see a lot more female community managers etc.
However, it is my pleasure to know some outstanding female designers,
tech leads, artists and even producers. I imagine that there
are still a few boys clubs lurking about, but in general, we live in a
very progressive community of developers.



In terms of evolution, gaming has long been considered to be “too
geeky” for the mainstream girl.  Games that cater to the
person instead of the gender has changed this mindset and we see more
women getting interested in this form of entertainment which then opens
the market up to more women applying for different jobs.  I
think that one of the amazing things about our industry is that people
are rewarded based on their passion, intensity and ability to do the
job.



[Editor's Note: Nicole Hamlett has focused her career on community
management for the
last several years and served as the community manager for style="font-style: italic;"
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/306">Jumpgate
Evolution, the Community Lead for Cryptic Studios on style="font-style: italic;" href="http://tentonhammer.com/co">Champions
Online
and href="http://tentonhammer.com/sto">Star Trek Online,
and now works in the Social Gaming market for
Google.]







The responses to our survey of game developers varied, but they touched
on the importance of women in roles that highlight communication
skills. They indicated that there are opportunities for women
in gaming, but that fewer women apply for positions than men, and
suggested that the gaming industry might welcome more women
once games became more accessible to female gamers. At least one woman
we spoke to, who, in the end, declined to be interviewed, expressed
feelings that women might be afraid to speak up against what she deemed
was a well-guarded No Girls Allowed treehouse.



Clearly, more women today sit behind keyboards or controllers engaging
in virtual worlds. Not only is there a better chance that the person
behind the character who just jammed a dagger into your back on a PvP
battleground is a woman, but there are better odds now than
ever that there are women on the dev team that brought that world to
life. And as the current generation of gamers--the girls clutching
Wiimotes and going head to head against the boys in games like href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/287"> style="font-style: italic;">Free Realms
or style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures--
matures those odds are only bound to increase.
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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