As a woman who has managed to stumble her way into the gaming world, I've seen the advent of the home gaming system, the height of coin-op arcades, the first forays into home computing and the beginning of the internet. Technology has blazed ahead at breakneck pace ever since. The only things that seem to be dragging along are the perceptions of females as gamers and as professionals within the game development industry. We continue to struggle to this day to define who we are in that world and are discovering ourselves to be a diverse and diaphanous demographic.
Perhaps I have a unique perspective, having been raised on gaming from its inception. I don't recall ever being told I couldn't play because I was a girl. Instead, I put up with the usual little sister stigma and forced myself into everything my older brother was doing, be it reading his comic books and novels, muscling in on his Dungeons and Dragons games, or stealing time on his computer. The Atari was thankfully a family item from the start, and I spent much of my time flipping the score on Pitfall or Asteroids. My childhood was spent as a tomboy, relatively untouched by the gender issue.
In my twenties, my weekends usually found me at some friend's LAN party. We'd lug mid-tower CPUs and antiquated CRT monitors to someone's overly cramped, badly ventilated apartment to spend a night drinking "swill" (which was really canned Nestea) and playing. I was often the only female in attendance. On rare occasion, a gaming troglodyte would enter into our group and remark on the "cute girl" that was going to attempt to play along. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say the cries of anguish over being killed or beaten by a girl weren't enjoyable.
But it wasn't until I made the decision to attend a tech school that I realized how sheltered I had been from the traditional bias toward women in technology. I was one of three to five women attending out of about 200 students. For the first time, I felt I was an oddity wandering the halls in this predominantly male school. For the first time, I felt intimidated based on gender alone. Most importantly, no one was encouraging gaming or animation as a real career option, in any capacity.
As such, I'd say that my career in gaming began as a happy accident. While I had gone to school with the intentions of attaining a degree in multimedia, things just hadn't fallen my way. After leaving school, I created a small web design company and began writing, on the side, for a small fan site called Aerynth Atheneaum for the MMOG, Shadowbane. It wasn't until I became involved more deeply in the Shadowbane community that things began to look up. I made a few waves as a female author, and when the site manager of Shadowbane Vault, Chris Mancil, was hired by Ubi Soft to become Shadowbane's Community Manager, he offered me his former job. I spent my time working to cultivate my little corner of the community, while occasionally interjecting on behalf of other female gamers.