subscribe: Posts | Comments

Women, you’re welcome in the games industry


Gina Jackson, CEO, Women In Games Jobs

WVoN talks to Gina Jackson, CEO of Women In Games Jobs about why women should be welcome in the games industry.

When women in the video game industry were asked to give #1ReasonWhy there aren’t more of them, the responses on Twitter came thick and fast.

Games designer Brenda Romero tweeted: “When announcing MY new game, an industry publication referred to me in the headline not by my name but as John Romero’s wife”.

Designer Marina Rossi wrote “Because I’ve been told ‘we don’t need women in order to know what female players want from this industry’.”

And a male tweeter in the gaming industry added, “None of my women developer friends will read comments on interviews they do because the comments are so brutally nasty”.

Perhaps this apparent culture of sexism goes some way to explaining why the percentage of women in the UK videogame industry has actually dropped from 12 per cent in the 90s to 6 per cent at present.

But rather than write an article bemoaning the sexism in the industry, I decided to talk to one of the women who is endeavouring to turn the tide.

Gina Jackson, a gaming industry veteran with over twenty years experience working for companies such as Ocean Software, Eidos and Nokia, is the CEO of Women In Games Jobs, (WIGJ) a non-profit network for women working in all areas of the gaming industry.

I spoke to her about her experiences and the work WIGJ do.

WVoN: How have things changed for women in the time you’ve been in the industry?

Gina Jackson:  I had some shocking experiences when I started in my early 20s – I felt quite vulnerable, being in very male environments, with men showing off and thinking it was acceptable to say certain things. That’s what I found most shocking about #1ReasonWhy – that there’s still a lack of voices saying ‘This is unacceptable, we will stop this’.

That said, people are starting to speak up. There have been a lot more stories tackling sexist characterisation in games, which is great, and recently, people stood up against the Hitman campaign.

What do you make of the argument that games have to be designed to appeal to men because ‘that’s what sells’?

I just don’t think that’s true. For one thing, as Keith Stuart’s Guardian piece says, 46 per cent of gamers are women. There was a comment under that piece, saying ‘Just because you play Angry Birds, doesn’t make you a gamer’. I thought that encapsulated the whole issue.

The language that’s used is important. We talk about Triple A titles, which are seen as ‘traditional’ games, and we talk about ‘casual’ games which are mass market games. Women are more likely to go towards casual games, but then people immediately start saying casual games ‘are not as good as’ Triple A games.

Tell us more about WIGJ’s aims and successes so far.

We’re trying to take women in games and normalise their roles. You rarely see a magazine interview with a woman talking about games and you rarely see a conference with women talking about games.

We want to balance all these bad stories in the media of how terrible it is to be a woman in gaming, with a whole bunch of women talking about the great stuff they create.

Our biggest success is probably our LinkedIn group which has 3500 members. Our last conference had 26 women speakers and 180 delegates.

We’ve also just run a photographic campaign to provide women with a decent professional image they can use for their on-line profile. It’s a simple thing, but it’s been really successful because as women we’re all so aware that we’re going to be judged on our looks.

We’re hoping to partner with other groups that are already doing great things.We’re talking to Women in Film and TV and SoundWomen to learn about their mentoring programmes. We’ve also  been talking to E-Skills, who run computer clubs for girls aged 10-14, about perhaps introducing a gaming element to these clubs.

What do you think men can do to support women getting into the industry?

Men need to realise that, just because we’re raising the issue about women, doesn’t mean we’re saying ‘Men are bad’. We just want to have a sensible debate – ‘OK, there aren’t enough women in our workplace, let’s talk about why that is’.

A group of guys approached me saying there weren’t any women in their company but they wanted to get them on board, so next year we’re launching ‘Women, You’re Welcome’. It’s a simple signpost whereby companies can put our logo on their website to show that they may not look female friendly, but they are actively looking to recruit more women. The idea is to say to women “You’re more welcome than you may think you are!”.

I had a new start-up contact me this week, who said ‘We can’t exist without women’. All their board members are male but all the support work – bookkeeping, website work – is being done by their wives and partners. So it’s worth remembering the women are there, they’re just not as visible as they should be.

You can follow Women In Games Jobs on Twitter @WIGJ. They also have a Facebook group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *