“I just have one question for people who think that women don’t want to work in games: have you asked them?”
– Elizabeth Sampat (Storm8 senior game designer), GDC 2014
A panel at the Game Developer’s Conference last month, game designer Elizabeth Sampat offered her personal insight to the misconceptions surrounding women in the gaming industry. Myths that women “don’t want to work in games” and that there are “no female candidates” are in her wise words: “bullshit.”
Studies and surveys on the issue have found that women only account for only 11 percent of game designers and 3 percent of programmers. This number is extremely low when compared with the number of women in the larger fields of graphic design (60 percent) and technology (25 percent).
To add insult to injury, female developers earn significantly less for the same job. Women in the gaming industry earn an average of $11,000 a year less than their male colleagues (2011 Gamer Developer Magazine survey). Why is it that women are so jipped in the industry when they can contribute just as much as men?
As a matter of fact, some of the biggest games in our industry wouldn’t exist as they do without female developers. While these examples are by no means exhaustive, these developers are responsible for some of my personal favorites and are owed my deepest thanks:
Jade Raymond: The head of Ubisoft’s Toronto studio, Jade Raymond is responsible for new intellectual property and is currently working on five different titles. Raymond made her name in the industry as the co-creator and executive producer on the original Assassin’s Creed, the fastest-selling new intellectual property in gaming in 20 years. Having recently completed Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, she’s now working on a new Assassin’s Creed game (Unity or Comet?), as well as the upcoming Watch_Dogs. Raymond’s success with multiple blockbuster game franchises shows just how lucrative a woman’s touch can be.
Amy Henning: Perhaps the one person to which I directly owe my love of video games, Amy Henning has been responsible for delivering the premiere cinematic experience in all of gaming (is my fanboy showing?). Responsible for two of Sony’s biggest exclusive franchises, Henning is best known for having served as the creative director and writer for the Uncharted series. She had a hand in everything from the story and actor performances to the gameplay. Think of George Lucas/Star Wars except with much better dialogue. Although she recently parted ways from the studio, there is no doubt that Henning will go on to weave wonderful new stories with characters that will fall in love with.
Kiki Wolfkill: Frankly, Wolfkill should receive rewards solely for how awesome her name is. On top of that, though, she also happens to work on one of gaming’s biggest series. An executive producer at Microsoft’s 343 Industries game studio, Wolfkill not only works on the development of the Halo games but the entire entertainment franchise. This massive scale of transmedia products includes the upcoming Halo 5, novels, comics, a web series, and an upcoming live-action series produced by Steven Spielberg. She previously served as director of art at Microsoft Studios and helped worked on their biggest exclusives such as Forza Motorsport, Project Gotham Racing, Gears of War, and Mass Effect.
Uncharted. Assassin’s Creed. Halo. Three of the biggest IP’s in gaming, all of which wouldn’t be the franchises that you know and love without the help of female developers. The gaming industry is a reflection of the gaming culture. If the idea is perpetuated within the gaming culture that women have no place in gaming development, it becomes harder for women to find (or even be considered) for jobs in the gaming industry.
Sampat’s final words for women?
“If there isn’t room for you in the games industry, then fuck the games industry.”
Ms. Elizabeth Sampat? You are my new spirit guide.