GDC 2014
Getting More Women to Work in Games Is Easy

Greg Tito | 20 Mar 2014 05:57
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Having equal gender representation in the games industry is easy. You just have to change everything about your company.

Elizabeth Sampat is an extremely vocal person. She wrote something about how we should all stop going to the Penny Arcade Expo, and has been fighting to have more women in the games industry for a long while. She began as a tabletop game designer, but she's made her bones at the mobile games Storm 8 in Redwood City, California. Sampat gave a stirring speech at GDC 2014 in which she outlined some of the stupid excuses and myths she's heard from studio executives or recruiters about why her gender is underrepresented. The simple ways she advised companies to change wouldn't just result in more women in the industry, it might just make your company better. too.

Myth #1. Women Don't Want to Work in Games. Sampat quickly pointed out that statement was bullshots by citing survey information she gathered by speaking with the women she could find who were either employed in the games industry already or were seeking employment. "45% have said they always wanted to work in the games industry," Sampat said. That means a little less than half did fit the established narrative of a gamer who always dreamed of making the things she loved. This narrative is in place because game companies hold onto the idea that "Anyone who doesn't have passion will be eaten alive," Sampat explained with a bit of sarcasm.

Not only does the myth get disproved by the data, it completely misses the point of the other 55% of women who are currently in games or want to be. These women may not fit the story of the amazingly dedicated gamer simply because a career in games may not have occurred to them. Many people who have an interest in games, myself included, didn't even realize games could be a viable career until someone, anyone, reached out and suggested it.

Sampat's story is the same. She hung out in a town in northern Massachusetts with tabletop role-playing designer Vincent Baker for years, talking and playing games, before her friends suggested she make a game. The game It's Complicated was the result, and she went to Gen Con, the massive role-playing game convention in Indianapolis, to promote it. A man came up to her booth and said he wanted to buy her game, then asked her if she ever thought of "going digital." She hadn't, but thanked the man. That guy was Ryan Dancey, formerly of CCP and Wizards of the Coast and now at Goblinworks making Pathfinder Online, and his words pushed Sampat into exploring her options in video games. It's because of all the people who encouraged her to get into games that she finally began working with Storm 8.

"It's difficult to make the leap without support," Sampat said. "It doesn't even occur to many women that they could be happy here. Ask them to make games with you."

Better yet, when you are recruiting people don't just focus on that tired old narrative of a dedicated dreamer. "If you are in an interview with a candidate stop looking for lifelong desire but instead look for curiosity," Sampat urged.

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