Women in gaming

There are more women than ever working in the game industry. Here in Sweden, we make up one fifth of the business. The numbers are changing at a steady pace and 2014 the amount of women hired went up by 39% compared to the year before. But there’s still a long way to go. So us girls at Zoink sat down to have a chat about the subject.

Alex: When did you decide you wanted to work with game development?

Ebba: At 13-14 I think. I loved playing games, developed an interest for character design and concept art and started making up my own characters for Tekken and Final Fantasy worlds! But no one really knew anything about working with games at my school at the time, so all they told me was to get into art schools.

No one really knew anything about working with games at my school at the time, so all they told me was to get into art schools. – Ebba

Alex: I recognize myself in that. After high school, I felt an urge to get into the business in some way, but I didn’t really know how or in what way – and the counselors at school didn’t really help. So, in the end, I dropped it. But 12 years later I found myself here anyway, though not as a developer.

Maria: For me it hasn’t been very important to work in the game industry. I was more focused on finding an area that allowed me to create visually! But I had friends working as 3D artists and Level designers, and I got inspired by them.

mariaebbaalex

Zoink’s 3D artist Maria, animator Ebba and community manager Alex.

Alex: I spoke to our CEO Klaus, and he told me that in the last ten years, he has only had one woman apply for a programming job. Why do you think there are so few women in that field?

Maria: One reason might be that there’s a lack of women in areas as math and physics already in school. These subjects are considered difficult and perhaps girls haven’t been as encouraged to pursue these areas in the same way as boys.

There’s a lack of women in areas as math and physics already in school. – Maria

Alex: I agree. There’s been lots of discussion about introducing programming as a school subject at an early age, and I think that’s one key to getting kids of all genders introduced to it and making it less a “guy’s thing”.

Ebba: Yeah, encourage girls with an interest for game and game dev at a young age – and make the environment around games more friendly and open to everyone. Educate people about feminism and what it means, and also talk more open about sexual harassments and what is and is not okay to say and do. This is obviously a problem – even though I luckily haven’t encountered it myself.

Maria: I don’t experience any discrimination at work either, and have never felt excluded from the “water cooler conversations”. But I fear there are a lot more discrimination outside of Sweden.

Alex: Do you ever feel any pressure when it comes to what kind of games you play? Myself I sometimes feel like I don’t wanna talk too loud about some games that I love, since they are labeled as “girl games” by some people and I feel like I need to prove something.

I sometimes feel like I don’t wanna talk too loud about “girl games” that I love. – Alex

Ebba: I used to when I was younger, to prove that I was at least as good as the guys, or sometimes better. But now – meh. I play what I find interesting and don’t give a rat’s ass what others think as long as I enjoy myself.

Maria: I rarely feel that pressure either. I’m not on the big hype-trains around triple-A games, but I still feel comfortable with calling myself a gamer. The people who look down on me when I don’t name  drop FPS-games as my favorites are mostly game-snobs that seem to think you’re not “a real gamer” if you don’t play a certain kind of games.

I like that the conversations at the office are mostly about games. – Maria

Maria: If we’re gonna talk about reasons to work in this business, I like that the conversations at the office are mostly about games – which is a passion of everyone working here. In other industries there might be a bit of separation between people since they don’t have anything in common to talk about.

Alex: Agreed. I really like how game dev collect a bunch of different professions under the same roof. If I were to work with marketing at advertising agency, most of my colleagues would be doing similar stuff. Here we do a lot of different things, while still working against the same goal!

Ebba: Yes, it’s great meeting people with the same interest as you. And also hopefully, however small, being able to help making the industry friendlier and more open and tolerant to everyone.

What do you think is the best way to make the industry more equal? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!