International Women’s Day

Women In Games

By Alice Guy – Product Owner, Electric Square.

I joined the games industry in 2005 aged 28. I was a Producer for Climax Racing in Brighton working with Electric Square’s Studio Head, Jon Gibson, then Game Director. I had worked for several years as a project manager but never in such a technical field, so it was a step into the unknown. However because my husband worked at Climax I did have a head-start. I knew a bit about the company, its culture and the crew who worked there.

Without question it was (like most studios) male-dominated. I was one of about five women in a 100+ person studio, which when you step back and think about it is a pretty mad concept. I was generally comfortable with it, having always been somewhat loud-mouthed and strident! It was a great company/team to work for, and I loved the pace, the passion and the creativity that shone through the often (very) long days.

There was a lot of male banter, for sure, and had I been younger, or single, or less confident, perhaps I’d have found it more intimidating than I did… Now I wonder if I over-compensated, giving as good as I got in order to fit in.  Anyhow, as we moved from an independent studio to being owned by Disney there was a clear (and good) shift change.

Within a year Climax Racing was bought out and became Black Rock Studio, and despite being on maternity leave by then I was offered the role of Director of Production. Mixing motherhood with games development wasn’t that commonplace back then, so I have to big up Tony Beckwith for taking the leap of faith!

The industry, having originally been born out of ‘geeky bedrooms’, had grown up quickly. Teams were growing in size, games-centric graduate programmers were starting to make their mark, and the stakes were growing larger with every new platform release. With that, the balance of diversity started to shift, slowly but surely. When I joined the industry, women tended to be in supporting roles (production, finance, HR, office management), but as time has gone on more and more women are contributing throughout the dev team.

At Electric Square I see brilliant women working in every discipline, doing awesome work, and I love that. But there’s still a lot more to do – the industry can definitely do better!

Nurturing future talent is king, and schools still need to do a better job of promoting STEM subjects to their female pupils, and to better understand and encourage the exciting opportunities of games development as a career. As do parents – again, hopefully that’s shifting as early gamers raise the next generation. As games developers we’ve got the opportunity to enchant, to educate, to challenge, to entertain our audience – and that’s really f***ing powerful.

More games are being designed for gender-neutral audiences. Stereotypes are (mostly) reducing. Creativity, fun and wide-appeal the primary focus – and less about the ‘macho male’ experience vs the ‘social fluffy female’ one. But they’re definitely still present – and I’d love to see more big name publishers take a broader view of representation generally in their games, building on what independent studios have achieved, and being encouraged to take more risks.
Misogyny amongst gamers, and ‘old boys networks’ mentality among developers, can still be seen and needs to be challenged.

I’m hopeful that time will naturally improve this – being a relatively young industry, in a world where equality is improving, and as more and more women show they can boss their fields. However the male voice is hugely important in accelerating it – supporting their female counterparts when they see or hear anything that was best left back in the ‘good old days’.

On top of this, dev studios need to focus on creating environments that appeal to all, ensuring there are no gender pay gaps, and offering benefits such as flexible working opportunities for their female (and male) staff juggling childcare. It’s 2019, we shouldn’t even be having to say this! Thankfully, these are all values that matter a great deal to Electric Square.

But oh dear, this wasn’t meant to be a rant! From a personal perspective I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my games career, even when it’s been tough. I have brought up two children through it. I have worked as a studio director, founded my own company, and now work as a Product Owner. I’ve had great opportunities, and continue to do so. But I can’t deny, I would still love to see more women in the studios I work in, and more women in the publishing teams I work with.

Why should the men have all the fun heh?!