It’s no secret that the games industry suffers from a lack of diversity, something many developers and publishers in the space are trying to change. For International Women’s Day this year, the women of FuturLab got together to talk about career experiences, what it’s like to work in games, and how we can encourage more diversity into the industry.
I’d like to give a big shout out and thanks to Hayley Blundy, Studio Assistant, Sofia Emmanouilidou, QA Tester and Kirsty Rigden, Development Director, for agreeing to take part.
How long have you worked in games, and how does it compare to previous experiences?
Hayley: “I’ve been at FuturLab for two years, and it’s my first job in games. I’ve worked in a few male-dominated environments and encountered many old school attitudes that made career progression feel like an uphill battle. I never felt respected, and I started to lose the desire to want to be good. When I came for my interview at FuturLab, what struck me the most was how encouraging, open, and honest they were. It was relaxed, less formal, and different from other experiences I’ve had, which put me at ease. At the time, I was suffering from post-natal depression, so it was a big step to be putting myself back out there. I felt like this is a company that wants you as you are, not to fit into a certain type of mould and is welcoming; that’s how it’s different.” On joining FuturLab, Hayley went on to write an article about her experience and how she is championing mental health, you can read that HERE.
Sofia: “I’ve worked in games since June last year (2020), but I have been trying to get into the industry for around eight years. As a foreigner trying to make something of myself in this country, I have felt like I can’t be too vocal if I want to progress my career, especially in male-dominated environments. FuturLab so far has been amazing; I felt welcomed as a woman and as a foreigner, and like they hired me for me, not just on merit. My manager, Toby, has been one of the best people I have ever had as a manager. As my first experience in the industry, he has made it one of the least stressful environments I have ever worked in.”
Kirsty: “I’ve always worked in games. My first job was in 2001, I started as a QA tester, but I knew from age 15 that I wanted to work in games, so everything was geared towards that. For the most part, I have loved my career in the games industry, it’s had its ups and downs, but I’ve had a lot of fun and met a lot of nice people.”
Having strong female role models can be a defining factor in encouraging more women into the industry. What women have inspired or helped you progress your career?
Sofia: “I had a mentor called Daphne when I was studying 3D Art at university in Greece, who was a very dynamic and empowering person. She was the only female teacher in the department, had had an amazing career and was incredibly encouraging. She has been an excellent role model, and we’re are still in touch now.”
Hayley: “I met a woman called Nicole early on in my career who encouraged me to apply for a role I didn’t think I was qualified for. Ultimately, she helped progress my career and taught me about professionalism; how to not feel stupid for asking questions, the balance of gender roles and made me realise that I am as important as the next person.”
Kirsty: “There are lots of women who I know and look to and admire within the industry such as Tamsin O’Luanaigh (CPO at nDreams), Jo Twist (CEO of Ukie), Siobhan Reddy (Studio Director, Media Molecule), and Liz Prince (Head of Amiqus and campaigner for G-into gaming), so although I haven’t had a single mentor, there are lots of women who have and continue, to inspire me in lots of different ways.”
What does International Women’s Day mean to you, and do you think women-specific initiatives are essential?
Sofia: “With International Women’s Day, there can be the misconception that it’s about favouritism or special treatment, but it’s about striving for equality and providing more opportunities for everyone. It is not about excluding anyone either; having men that support us makes a huge difference; it’s something that we all need to work together on.”
Kirsty: “I used to think I don’t want to win a women-specific award, but the older I’ve got, I realised it’s not necessarily about me; it’s about providing that platform to younger women and showing that you will only be what you can see and showing women down the line that you can do it. I put myself forward for the (MCV Businesswoman of the Year) award, which I felt uncomfortable doing at first, but I took stock and realised that actually, I have done a lot, and I don’t shout about it ever.”
Why is it important to encourage more women into the games industry?
Hayley: “More diversity offers different perspectives and opens more doors. I only learnt about the diversity problem in the games industry because of Kirsty; looking at her work with Into Games, she works tirelessly to put women to the forefront of the gaming industry.”
Kirsty: “The audience that plays games is massive; it’s not just one type of person that plays, it’s completely diverse, and as game developers, we need to be able to tell their stories and appeal to them, something we can’t do without greater more diverse representation. The games industry is massive, it has massive opportunities, and there is a place for everybody in it, all that’s needed is exposure to information and to change the perception and stereotypes of what working in this industry is.”
What are you doing to drive change/what can the industry do to drive change?
Kirsty: “I don’t like to be picked for something just because I am a woman, for jobs, for panels, so I had to think in practical terms, what could I do? So, I set up Into Games with Declan (Cassidy) about two years ago. The idea is that the best way to improve diversity in the games industry is to make people aware of the different available opportunities. Into Games pulls together loads of resources for people wanting to get into the games industry. You can find out about different careers, activities, and initiatives that you can get involved in depending on your age and career level, as well as a digital mentorship scheme.
What advice or message would you like to share with the next generation of women in games?
Kirsty: “Just do it. The only person holding you back is yourself; you’re going to encounter problematic people along the way, but that isn’t specific to the games industry. It’s pretty common to not believe in yourself, but if that’s the case, you have to push those doubts aside and pretend, that’s what everyone else does!”