In the past couple of months, the video game industry has been a hostile environment for women. Those who criticize the medium for its flaws and injustices, such as feminist vlogger Anita Sarkeesian, have been intensely harassed and threatened simply for having an opinion. Women working in the industry have not been exempt from the deluge of abuse either. Indie developer Zoe Quinn, for instance, has been on the receiving end of vicious online attacks after her ex-boyfriend posted a verbose blog entry in which he accused Quinn of garnering press for her game Depression Quest by having a relationship with a journalist.
For these reasons alone, parents might be inclined to disapprove of the idea of their children, and especially daughters, taking an interest in a game development job. However, female game developers would like parents, daughters, and all women considering a gaming career to know that it’s not all doom and gloom. The industry could desperately use more diversity, and the best way to accomplish this goal is by encouraging women to join.
A survey conducted and presented at PAX Prime by Bryanna Lindsey, an FX Artist who works for Zenimax Online Studios, found that female developers had a fundamentally positive outlook toward the industry. Many of them liked and admired the people they worked with, loved being a part of the community, and derived limitless satisfaction from watching players enjoy their games. Brianna Wu, the head of development at Giant Spacekat, appreciates the industry’s constantly changing landscape, noting that, “the skill set I have today is going to be completely different in five years.” She also makes the valid point that video games and engineering are high-paying occupations with a good level of job security, which is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Why is it so important that we have diversity in the gaming industry? Bryanna Lindsey’s survey took this question to the developers and came away with several answers. As in any creative medium, diversity enriches the industry with myriad perspectives and new narratives, which in turn spawns a greater diversity of genres. If the gaming industry is ever to grow and mature, it will need to expand its horizons and hire individuals of various genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. Wu adds that, “a common critique in the industry [is] that innovation has stagnated. I think one of the reasons you’re seeing a lack of innovation is because games are becoming a monoculture.” The solution for this problem is, simply, greater diversity.
For all the women hoping and dreaming of a job in game development, Wu offers some final words of advice. “Find one thing that you’re ridiculously passionate about and get to be really, really good at it, [then] go find an indie team that will let you do it and get some industry experience.”
Likewise, the survey’s responders suggest a few helpful tips, beginning with the importance of listening to other people. Criticism isn’t always easy to hear, but it is necessary for improvement. Remember that 99% of criticism is kindly meant and fosters learning. If people truly didn’t care, they wouldn’t be offering suggestions for change. Above all, know that rejection and failure are a normal part of the process and shouldn’t be taken to heart. As a developer, you may have to apply for many different positions before landing a job. But the developers we spoke with stress that you shouldn’t let this get you down, and you should keep working toward that gaming career.