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Wanted: More Female Game Developers
by David Mullich on 08/20/13 12:00:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

When I greeted my game production class a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised. The group was racially and ethnically diverse, but there was not a single woman among the fifteen students. Last weekend I attended my first open house at The Los Angeles Film School, I was further disappointed that there was only one woman among the prospective students who came to hear about the school's Game Production Program. There appeared to be many women taking tours of the Film and Recording Programs, but those of us in the Computer Lab were visited by this one Russian woman who was interested in a career in game programming. Needless to say, the other Course Directors and I tried very hard to persuade her into enrolling in our program.

When I later inquired into the school's history with female Game Production program, I was told that there have been only a handful of women among the hundreds of the program's graduates.

While the Game Industry has always had a reputation for women being a tiny minority among its ranks, my own experience is that I've always worked with women throughout my career, and not just women who worked in Marketing or the Art Department.

At the first game company I worked at in the early 1980s, EduWare, there were two women programmers. Later, when I joined The Walt Disney Company in the late 1980s, my immediate supervisor was a woman, as was one of my fellow producers and the Vice President of our division. When I went on to work for a CD-I developer (I know, I know), the two production executives we dealt with at our publisher, Philips Interactive Media of America, were women. Years later, when I joined The 3DO Company to produce the Heroes of Might & Magic Series, my lead level designer was a woman, and I later promoted her to Assistant Designer. At Activision, our president, Kathy Vrabek, was (obviously) a woman; and when I joined the Spin Master toy company, my immediate supervisor, my assistant producer, and a programmer on my development team were women. So, women having programmer, producer, and production roles has been a constant throughout my thirty-year career, the question for me is: "why aren't there more of them?"

Is it a demand problem? Are there so many hiring managers in the game industry who have a hiring bias against women? I find that hard to believe. If any of my past colleagues have gender bias, they've done a very good job of hiding it from me.

Or is it a supply problem? Are there too few women interested in being game developers? According to 2010 ESRB study, forty percent of all gamers are female, so I also find it hard to believe that very few women are interested in being game developers.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do know one thing. I would love to have more female students in my class. And I'm always on the look out for good designers, programmers and producers to hire; all I care about is your talent.


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Comments


Jess Groennebech
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Supply/Culture.

I work in HR and I personally went to business school. We were ~4 people with interest in starting up as young entrepreneurs, all males. There was none of the girls/women wanting to do that either and I believe it comes down to risk, it's risky to be young and wanting to be a entrepreneur, you put alot of effort into something and you don't neccessarily have a payday.

It's risky to become a gamedev so the girls pick the less risky route. You see the same when you negotiate salaries, males are more willing to say "Nope, 5% more or I'm outta here" resulting in higher salaries(as well as higher unemployment).

Girls/Women simply takes less risks.

David Mullich
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How then do you explain the high percentages of women in such risky professions as acting, art, and fashion design? How about all the female entrepreneurs who have started their own business in retail, restaurants, manufacturing, services, etc., when the average new business has an 80% chance of failure within three years?

Jess Groennebech
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You can pick out a few industries that differs from the norm, sure.

Lorenzo Gatti
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David, you are mentioning activities in which women are well represented as entrepreneurs simply because women are particularly common in all positions (because they are traditionally feminine or gender-neutral activities, or in the case of acting because there's a demand for women).

Female entrepreneurs/professionals in most of these fields are also aided by the pattern of turning well developed skills and hobbies (tailoring, cooking, art) into a job (as opposed to "being an entrepreneur" and choosing an enterprise); this obviously reduces risk.

Monica McGill
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Jess, the empirical research does not support your theory, unfortunately. Females are turned off to game dev (or do not know about it) prior to moving into post-secondary school. Students (even the males) know little about perceived risks at this point.

There isn't a lot of research on why this is happening specifically for games, but there is a lot of research in computing, a related field with a similar gender imbalance (9:1, men:women). Culture plays a huge part in this, not abilities, not perceived risks.

Hope this helps.

Jess Groennebech
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I concur entirely that culture is a large part of it which is why I label it Supply/Culture on the first line but when they're standing with the choice later on in life and they need to decide between two directions, you will see young women take the most secure road in comparison to young males.

This can be seen in any UN report about female entrepreneurs in 3rd world countries, you can also see as the countries develop that more and more females tend to take the more risky approach. At some point they reach the pinacle which at the moment would be Norway I believe, where ~1/4 is female of new entrepreneurs but due to women picking more secure routes, they represent ~33% of the total business owners(males taking bigger risks and closes down faster).

Emily Thomforde
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I have often wondered this myself, but I have a new theory. A few weeks ago a mother asked the women-in-games panel "How can you teach girls to have the confidence to deal with being the only girl in a room full of boys?" (paraphrasing)

Now, as a woman who has spent a lot of time as the only one in rooms full of men, it never once occurred to me that it was anything to worry about. So maybe my mother raised me with confidence, or maybe she just never mentioned that my gender was a confidence issue.

I think we scare girls away by filling them with the insecurities of the last generation. Those insecurities are outmoded. Let's throw them away.

Luke Mildenhall-Ward
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Excellent point Emily. The woman posing that question was thinking about things from the wrong direction. As long as people treat women like they're second to men, even if it's merely positing the question, "how can women be equal with men" then these problems will continue to exist in peoples' minds. Treat girls as though they're equal and never imply there is any difference and they will grow up believing as such.

Christopher Enderle
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That sounds a lot like saying, "Don't bring up the problem! You'll only make it worse by acknowledging it!"

Edit:
But it's true that you don't want to concern troll

Gil Salvado
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Absolutely acknowledged.

All the women I worked with so far were great and talented colleagues - sure they're have to be some exceptions - but I'm always grateful if there is a woman in the room that participates in the discussion about "girly things". A male only perspective can be very clichéd.

Dane MacMahon
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Great comment Emily.

I think there is also a confidence requirement to liking something or being involved with something outside your gender expectations. Those of us who are willing to say "this is what I like so I am doing it, I don't care about expectations or social norms" are more rare than we think we are. The vast majority follow their expected line of progression and behavior.

Luis Guimaraes
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How can you teach girls to have the confidence to deal with being the only girl pursuing a career about making "toys for kids" when all other girls are trying so hard to look and pretend to be "grown ups"?

Stacey Kaminski
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To an extent, it is a concern. The actually appropriate question, however, is "How can you teach people not to single out those who are different somehow from everyone else in the room?" It's not being the only female that's inherently the problem, nor is changing women the answer. It's the people staring endlessly at the odd one out, excluding them from study groups, etc. Confidence is good, but not needing it because people have learned how to avoid being jerks is infinitely better.

Ramin Shokrizade
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This is a minefield I will attempt to negotiate, gently. The last statistic I've seen is that the typical turnover rate in our industry is 3.5 years. By that I mean the average person entering our industry leaves 3.5 years later. If it takes 4.0 years and a lot of money and lost opportunities to train for a career that will last less than that many years, then a person will only do it if they are motivated by reasons that are not material.

I guess what I am saying here is that perhaps men are crazier in their infatuation for making games than women are, on average. Another way of saying this is that women are smarter than men :) It could be that on average women prefer stability over adventure more often than men do. I think this may be tied to the desire to reproduce, and as we advance our species seems to be reproducing less. Thus if this is the trend then I would expect it to balance over time. It could be a long time.

Another thing I am noticing in my monitoring of dating sites (another form of interactive media imo, and a great place to see cultural trends in action) is that these sites tend to promote passive media (by asking what movies, books, or music you like) but not interactive media (only a niche site would ask you to list the games you play). Some sites are outright hostile to gamers, forcing both men and women to hide their true gaming behavior.

Interestingly, while 47% of gamers may be women, they don't self-identify as gamers. They don't see their Facebook games as games for instance. They certainly don't like to admit that this makes them a gamer. It is very rare that I see women voluntarily self-identify as a gamer if they are over the age of 25. Statistically it seems that most of the women gamers are currently over 25, at least in the West.

One example: On one dating site there is a match question that asks "Have you ever played an MMOG?"
One lady, aged 26, answered that she was a recovering addict and that "I love RPG, they're fun. I don't play anymore because I'm a "big girl" now."

So I would say that culturally, and economically, women are pressured not to go into game development. I would also suggest that they are sexually pressured not to because for many this would seem like reproductive suicide. I don't necessarily agree with that last part because this might make it easier to relate to the opposite sex, but there is a perception that they would be relating to the WORST members of the opposite sex (the unproductive ones).

Dane MacMahon
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Good stuff.

While the stability to reproduce theory makes sense on the surface, I think it's far more likely women just have a greater societal pressure placed on them to act "grown up" in those ways, to seek stability over fun, etc.

Though I guess it's a chicken and the egg scenario of motherly instinct versus societal norms of being motherly, and which came first or is stronger.

Rindel Ryan Ibanez
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I like that last paragraph. It seems like some people think that those who play games and make their living with it are less stable than those that... well, do something else. This has been an issue I'm seeing myself when parents of friends ask me what I do for a living. Their reactions are close to "Really? Is that good?". Could also be because they just don't know much about the gaming industry.

William Volk
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Our (PlayScreen) CTO is the superb Sherri Cuono, who happens to be an expert on casino games as well. This is a GOOD THING.

William Volk
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As to CD-I, I may be one of the few who knows why in heck Nintendo licensed Zelda to the platform. :-)

Wikipedia doesn't have the real answer.

Kujel s
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I'm curious to hear the real reason, please share it.

Jennifer Bullard
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As a woman in the industry who didn't have the original burning passion, this is a slightly different point of view. First, it's definitely a boys club. Notice David's list of companies with women were more established organizations, with high professional standards? Most of the companies I've applied to smell like footlockers. And its obviously about as professionally run as a fraternity house. That does not make me want to work for you. I've been to classrooms with all boys, taught by a male teacher and it shows. There is nothing more intimidating to a young woman than being the only girl in the room. And no, those rooms are not designed to welcome young women. All of the posters show nothing but male leaders, where is Ada Lovelace? Edith Clarke? Hedy Lemarr? Why are those women never shown in classrooms? If you want young women to stay interested in STEM then you need to quit discouraging them from Middle School on.

And then there is the subtle misogyny. When will you have kids? Don't you feel your biology ticking? Cause once you have kids you won't work anymore. Obviously only women care about their offspring, and need to be punished for that in their career. Oh, just put up with that porn on the walls, or on the server or our crappy jokes about how women should be barefoot and pregnant. It's no big deal, grow a sense of humor.

I actually had someone say this to me: "But if we go after female speakers (for Captivate Conference) won't the quality of the talks go down?" I have faced misogyny my entire career.

David, look no further than the comments on this page to find out why women don't want to join. Even I don't feel welcome. Two people asserted that I'm "risk adverse" and one said go be a nurse or a teacher. "Security for themselves and their offspring are paramount." At 18 I didn't want kids - ever. And safety? I'm a thrill seeker. How do you know what I am like? That is the very definition of gender stereotyping and is designed to send a not-so-subtle message that women just don't belong. Of course both you politely cower behind 'it's societies' or biology's fault' for this. Well guess what? You are part of society and contributing to the problem. And your biology obviously makes you an insensitive jerk incapable of commitment. Right?

Ramin Shokrizade
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I had the same experience when I was in nursing school doing my clinical rounds at the age of 19. I was the youngest student, and the only straight male student. I got sexually harassed by six of my peers and two of my instructors, ultimately filing a discrimination complaint against the college and leaving for another university (and major). That said, I take your rant with a grain of salt since I've been there. Every time I go into a racially or gender homogeneous class or workplace I get creeped out and usually point it out to the host.

Here you are saying that it starts even before the student gets to college, and of course you are correct. I certainly knew I would be heckled for going into nursing when I did (this was in the mid 1980's). I don't feel the need to go into details, but the level of harassment I experienced was several orders of magnitude beyond what you describe.

So what is the solution? Do we need a form of gender affirmative action to place incentives for women to enter both STEM and computer curriculum? Would that offend you also? This industry is notorious in the USA for being one where young white heterosexual men hire the same. When I went to the headquarters of my new company (Wargaming.net) in Minsk, Belarus (a fairly conservative nation, homosexuality was illegal until 3 years ago) I was floored when I saw that the gender mix was very close to 50/50. I had to ask if it was just that one office but they said all their offices were like that.

Maybe they are doing something right in Belarus that we are not here?

Brandon S
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Hm... well think one major issue is grouping everything under a similar homogenous universal narrative it like saying " Ending Racism Sexism Homophobia etc etc " across the board will solve the conflict with games and lead to paradise . I don't believe such a paradise exist, the origin of any social problem can be as complex and varied as any human society . I do believe you can identify the specific historical conflict of why something is the way it is in your own part of the world/reality and try your best to fix it with a huge possiblity of failure
. Game suffer from a historical traditions of seeing play as evil childish and corrupt in alot of Western European Christian Cultures. Secularism didn't eliminate this , Secularism was just seperation of the Church power from the business of running the state . Puritan are basically "Anti-Fun " obbessively controlling anything that might be precieved as pleasurable .Anything that took away from the seriousness of life was deem a dangerous kinda like the modern hysteria around fantasy novels causing kids to worship the devil.I don't know about Europe, but that impulse definately going strong here in the USA . I know some indie game were Fun become the enemy to conquer as an artistic mantra in some mostly upper-class Western artistic social circles .
Also we have a culture of men who will rebel and a long history of Masculine rebellion from "Good society" Just look at Rock n Roll Heavy metal, The images of the Wild west ,And modern Rap music . We also celebrate this rebellion .While woman are denied access to that very same masculine rebellion because we imagine woman to be more morally pure because of there biological sex etc etccera . So because games in North America and maybe part of Europe are deep in the range of the social Masculine rebellion ,you won't get alot of woman deciding to make it a career

This leaves us with the condition of the gamer , gamer outside of a vocal groups you find on internet forum on kotaku could care less how they are precieved by proper society as being immature. (Don't think Rockers or rapper care either if you want an analogy ) or whatever and COD4 will still sale along with other mainstream game and action films still sale to global audiences across races and genders . One can say Rock Music is Immature , Dancing and Singing and Jamming on a guitar it doesn't look proper or serious . Shouting "FUCK off "

So... it culture and gender role ,but it is a specific society career /culture/gender role configuration with a specific belief on the nature of "fun" related to there own history that creates the conflict I believe
.If Gaming had of developed in the playful culture of Latin america where the entire world stops for Carnival , don't think there would be an issue with woman choosing to be game developer . And there plenty of Catholicism Machismo in modern day Latin America . The japanese don't seem to have much issue with woman playing games either games or comic book , Working on games at least in the Japanese context there are less woman simply because there less woman in the labor force in general in japan . They have a culture were you are expected to settle down and raise a family and get rid of your careers. But has nothing to do with the specific nature of games being precieved as immature .There tons of stuff in japanese media we would call immature but the general public in japan likes it and could care less about are ethnocentric opinons . Like Dragon Quest . One piece which is played and watched by all age groups . From an outsider point of view looking at the obbession with cute and playfullness in all of japanese media you would think the entire culture is immature by our own ethnocentric social defintions .

Ramin Shokrizade
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I see the need for recreation, and dopamine, as an essential part of healthful living. Many of the most severe tortures used by the USA at Guatanamo involve subjecting inmates to recreation/dopamine zero environments, which are terribly debilitating but leave no marks on the body outside the neuroendocrine system.

So while I see this as a biological need, others may describe it as "Hedonism". This is unfortunate. Perhaps hedonism is more permissible for men (we expect that of them) and still a bit shocking when demonstrated by women. In the West this is rapidly changing, and clearly in Japan the use of interactive media for hedonistic pleasure is one of the most socially acceptable ways to recreate there (for both genders).

Dane MacMahon
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It's hard to turn any boy's club into a gender diverse group, no matter what the club is about. And honestly it will probably take a lot of women like Emily above who join anyway, because they want to and have the confidence to be that one woman in the room, to change things. I don't see how else to do it except through government force, as Ramin mentions, which ends up causing its own problems.

I wish gaming would grow up with me but it's stubborn.

we waisala
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Jennifer Bullard,

I am interested in your experiences as a [female] game developer and would like to discuss this in more detail. Thank you for giving the kudos to Ada and Hedy and Edith (btw, it was a WOMAN who was done of the Nobel for DNA research by two sneaky male colleagues!)
senjav@aol.com

Janette Goering
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It's societal and cultural norms and acceptance. I was the second female to graduate with a game programming degree, and maybe 8th to graduate with a game art and animation degree from Shawnee State University. In the 5 years I spent there, I gradually saw more and more young women enter classes dealing with game creation, and sticking to it the best they could (neither degree was easy to obtain, with about a 75% dropout rate by senior year). I am happy to say some design classes I took were 40/60 women to men, and my UDK class was about the same mix. The art courses still had more women on average than the programming courses, but for the most part my classmates had better things to do than judge anyone by gender, and the professors were supportive and welcoming.

This did not mean I didn't get stares about my courses of study in my general education classes. I had to take a class where we spent the semester building up to a 20 page thesis relating to our degree choices. Being a general class, I had quite a few middle aged women coming back to school to pursue nursing or teaching degrees. When I told the class I was dual majoring to make video games, and another young woman informed them she was studying plastics engineering, we got odd looks. We were both able to show them in our presentations at the end of the year why we wanted to be part of our desired fields. I even had several of my classmates tell me they had a new outlook on video games after my presentation.

A good chunk of it has to do with the idea that technology and video games are male oriented, therefore male dominated, and thus women should stay away from them. It also has to do with the social stigma we place on the "male gamer" being childish, immature, etc, and we thus discourage "female gamers" to pull away from games because "it's not something a proper woman would associate herself with". The mass societal view of video games as either "violent, sexist male power fantasies" or "kiddie time wasters" perpetuates such views, even though many people who actively play games realize there's more to video games than just that.

I'm thankful more young women in my generation are shunning the previous views of what is and isn't acceptable for them to want to do with their lives. I'm lucky my parents pretty much said "whatever you want to make a career out of, make sure it isn't illegal, and you have our support". I hope by the time more people who play video games now have children, they don't push them away from what they want to do with their lives. It's still going to take some time to see more women in the game industry, especially Triple A gaming. But I remain hopeful as more young ladies realize it's okay for them to want to make video games, and the people surrounding them encourage them to do so instead of saying "girls don't do that" or "grow up".

we waisala
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janette,
Please contact me to discuss being a female game developer.
senjav@aol.com

Rebecca Warren
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When I was researching what major I wanted to pursue for my Bachelor's degree straight out of high school, I was definitely nudged toward something more commonplace. I was debating between Accounting and Computer Science and Accounting. I ultimately chose Accounting and while it pays the bills, I do not enjoy it. I continued working part-time at GameStop after acquiring a full-time job because I loved the interactions and the atmosphere of the gaming industry.

Last July, I finally bit the bullet and returned to school for a Game Development degree and I have loved every minute of it. My greatest regret is not returning to school earlier.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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I think this is a of what I saw in school as well... "Wouldn't you rather take Home-Ec?" "You know advanced physics is going to be really hard right?" "Are you sure you will need finite mathematics for your future degree?"

Rebeccah Cox
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I'm from New Zealand, and for me at least, I didn't even realise that game development was a career until I was about 21 (I'm 26 now). I played doom and quake when I was younger, and I've played Xbox, PS, and PC games fairly consistently. As some of the above posts have said, I didn't identify myself as a 'gamer', and I still don't think I do now, and I'm a qualified games programmer. I still don't know why I didn't figure out games could be a career until recently, but all we can do is try to let people know it is a valid career move. I'm going to be reaching out to my local schools in the near future, so hopefully we'll have some more girls in the mix soon.

Michael Joseph
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I think your answer best passes the Occam's razor test.

Making games for a living may seem so crazy and so far off the map of sane paths to take in life that it simply never occurs to many folks that it's a valid option. They don't realize that game dev is nowhere near as unlikely, strange or difficult as becoming a magician, shaolin monk, circus acrobat, astronaut, Olympic athlete or the country's Head of State. The paths to those careers can seem especially mysterious... or even fateful.

To become a doctor you go to medical school. Writers can take courses in language, literature and journalism. There are schools for all sorts of careers within film and video production. But it's only been relatively recently that game development specific courses have even come into existance.

Demystification of game development can help illuminate it as a career path.

Katie Chironis
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Ditto here. I grew up playing games all my life, but it never actually occurred to me that you could do that for a living until I was a senior in high school / freshman in college. Even then I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to do that for a living until I got my first internship at EA.

I think most women are just taught that the games they play aren't real games. Sims, Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, facebook games, mobile games -- at the time I was entering college 5 years ago, they were seen as way less legitimate than "core" games. So I never really called myself a "gamer" until I was in my 20's.

Sergio Rosa
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I was just looking at your post about "going indie full time" and you made me think that this is not only an issue about women not working at companies, because women can go indie and work either alone or with a small team.

That would mean "the boys club" thing would be less important because women wouldn't be dealing with many male coworkers anyway. So, as you say, maybe they just don't see it as a viable option.

Stacey Kaminski
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Indie in the small team sense isn't necessarily a haven from the "boys' club" mentality; depending on the group, it can also be greatly intensified. I won't get into details publicly, but I can definitely say that I've experienced small companies where almost every employee exclaimed some variation of, "My god, you're a girl!" on seeing me in the office. This was almost invariably said in the same way someone might say, "My god, you're a sentient starfish with opposable thumbs!" That may have surprised them less if it had been true.

Maurício Gomes
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There is a great documentary by some north european guy, about not only game industry, but all industries women avoid, and industries women join in force.

He was wondering: Why Sweden, that famously touts itself to be the most feminist country of the world, has a huge gender inbalance in the professions, while some patriarchalist countries (like India) has less inbalance?

After a while, he concluded that Sweden is so free, and so awesome to a woman be a woman, that women do what they want, and most of them like to do things that deal with people (like HR, Nursing, Acting, Sales...).

On countries that are poor, women pursue whatever they think will put food on their table, if it is something that they dislike, but pays well and they can do it, then why not?

Monica McGill
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Well, I'm not sure what the hidden biases may be in their culture, and I have not seen this documentary. I will look it up if you can provide a title.

However, I would say that awareness here is important as well. I love the fact that I work with local doctors to create games for patients with Type II Diabetes. I know that through this medium we may be able to reach many, many more people who may not have been reachable before. Games in this case simply serve as another medium for working with people--in health care it has the fantastic opportunity to help both individuals and society. How cool is that?

Women (and men) use other forms of media in their jobs. This one happens to be a bit more specialized, but doable and attainable with great personal rewards.

But if girls (and boys) aren't aware of these opportunities, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, etc., then how can they choose to study this in college?

Ferruccio Cinquemani
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It's a Norwegian documentary. You can find it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrsF7wyUxs8

Curtiss Murphy
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It's the same story these past 20 years. When I was at Virginia Tech, the college killed themselves to get women to sign up for Computer Science. And then as a worker, I was thrilled to have women on my team. And later, as an employer, I jumped at ANY chance to hire them. And even so, if I put all the female PROGRAMMERS (not managers) I've worked with in my career together in one room, you wouldn't need two hands to count them.

When I ran my recent hiring campaign to find a technical artist, I emphasized steady 40-hour weeks and working on meaningful projects such as helping medical students become better doctors. And, even so, not a single resume was female.

Maybe it's society, maybe it's history, maybe it's genes. For whatever reason, women don't seem as interested in being computer programmers.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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I think you are looking far to late in life to see the tipping point. At least for me, the most profound pressure to abandon a high tech carrier came in my highschool days and earlier. By the time I was in university everyone was totally excited to see me (which was a nice change), but in highschool I kept getting asked if I was in the wrong class when I strolled into advanced calculus, physics, chemistry etc for the first time.

Emppu Nurminen
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Like Jennifer said up (and was talked down nicely by Ramin), it's boys club; you can find counterparts all you want, it doesn't make the problem go away. What makes the problems go away is to actually consider the whole concept here about boys/girls club; do we want to work as highly competitive industry in general, or are we an industry, who just want great things to happen more and more often?
Because it seems that majority of guys in this industry want the first one rather the latter by talking down and shit-steering constantly in face-to-face-conversations. You can call it comedy or "that's how he is", but that's an exclusive way to run anything, man. You can have your boys club, but don't go crying to your moms, when people call you out for that. I would be a millionaire, if I get a dollar for every "Your game is awful and so was your momma"- or any other suppose-to-be-comedy iceabreaker from complete strangers. That's nice and welcoming environment you have there! /sarcasm
And I'm not talking about sugarcoating critisism, no sire, the problem is that shoving "This is fucking wrong"-thoughts down your throats showing how superior you are despite you just look like effing asshole. But somehow people don't call this activity out, since, I don't know, they are being assholes too?
And this is what people don't get; when we are speaking about industry that is heavier on other gender than other, it's harder to get involved, if you aren't the most social butterfly. The three years I have been regularly taking part game developers social gatherings, I have literally nothing valid to show off despite being eager to engage with discussions. The only places I have literally felt okay to express my thoughts and ideas have been - surprise, surprise - ladies night, because I've gotten tired of the bullshit parade guys seem to want prance with endlessly.

Sorry for bringing negative attitude here, but I can't simply stand people overlooking these few simple things to make game industry so much more inclusive and welcoming. Most of the times, it need no effing actions to make, just see how things unravel themselves, when you give opportunity to someone else to talk for a while.

Harry Styles
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How about the moves game developing firms are taking to encourage the employment of female developers? I reckon organisations need to start taking some responsibility and tackle the gender issue within some professional areas, along with training institutions. Female developers will surely help cater for broader gaming genres, not necessarily of any interest to male gamers.

Brian Kehrer
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Take a look at middle and high school math and science classes.

My AB calculus class had 2 girls and 16 boys. BC calc had 1 girl to 5 boys. Both our teachers were female, and our BC calc teacher did masters level math research o.O. Why the divide? I have no idea. But let's fix that.

All of the best developers I've met were at some point ostracized for their intelligence, most likely in middle and high school. They were outsiders. In my opinion, this problem isn't gender specific, though the manifestation is biased. We have a culture where intelligence is trumped by fame, and math and science isn't valued. In cultures where math and science is valued, I believe you'd observe a much more normal distribution.

Emppu Nurminen
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...that's just subjective view on developers. There's no industry that doesn't have their own "suffering, misunderstood geniuses", but you should really smell the the fantasy from reality. That same "I'm so speshul"-story has been told in every industry, because everyone likes sappy, emotional stories. Not condoning schoolyard bullying, but whole rivalry "jocks vs. nerds"-idea feeds the problem itself the more you see the world to be a high school (newsflash; it isn't).

Brian Kehrer
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That wasn't really the point.
The OP's question was "why is there a gender gap in this industry?" To which I was asking "why is there a gender gap in prerequisite math classes?" - and proposing one, admittedly, somewhat off-the-cuff rational.

Sure, once we're all grown up we stop seeing the world as high school, the fact remains, a lot of people with potential didn't learn algebra, and therefore anything that followed - and that has lifelong consequences for those pushed out.

I think there is far too much analysis going into the current state of development offices, industry stereotypes, etc, when this is a general problem applying to all STEM professions, and BOTH genders. There is general lack of qualified engineers, period.

I believe this is a problem that starts in primary school, and that means considering how primary schoolers feel, not adults.

Nathan Mates
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I went to Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in the early-mid 1990s. At the time, the undergrad classes as a whole were roughly between 3:1 and 4:1 male:female. And the CS classes (not gamedev specific in any way shape or form) were 15:1 male:female. Any female who got through Caltech's admissions process was smart to brilliant -- many had perfect math SAT scores -- and yet chose to stay away from computer science.

Yes, this is an anecdote. No, I didn't try and ask why or change the system. But, that's how it was.

Emppu Nurminen
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Yeah, but you are assuming that you need math to prove that you are capable for industry required logical and analytic walkthrough, which unfortunately isn't the case especially with artists, designer and others coming from complete other backgrounds than CS. Engineers can only contribute so far, yet that's all people want to concentrate on here. In Finland, they have time to time integrated game development with various art & music related studies than keep it as own thing in CS studies and well, you kind of see that how there is more and more interest among women to come in the industry. Of course, the jocks and nerds-illusion is well and strong since the countless amount of time I've proven the attitude "you aren't a real deal" if person in question do art, design or music.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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"Yeah, but you are assuming that you need math to prove that you are capable for industry required logical and analytic walkthrough, which unfortunately isn't the case especially with artists, designer and others coming from complete other backgrounds than CS."

look at the job board and tell me how many jobs don't come with some kind of tech related degree requirement? Now compare that to the ones that have such a requirement. I don't think anyone is saying you can't break into the industry without a tech degree they are FAR fewer options than the ones that do.

Gil Salvado
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I haven't worked at many game studios so far, but I noticed the approach to female applicants while I was employed at my last studio as being quiet awkward thanks to the state of mind of some of the executives - which by now have all left the company.

If a company's management staff is made entirely or partially of males with a lack of professionalism concerning gender equality, this will result in a boys club. Even if there are some women working in such a studio, you can be sure, that they have been picked for the looks as well.

We should not only raise our daughters to be self confident, but our sons to be fair as well. I am not talking about a feminist education, but about emancipation in its literal meaning.

And at last we as developers should also reach out to our consumers. As our audience starts to consume our products from an early age and we can do our part in their education.

Sergio Rosa
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Having majored in electrical engineering I can say that, while I met many women that were studying civil engineering, chemestry, computer science, but during my entire time at the Uni I only met 3 (across multiple years). Maybe because our culture is different but they didn't care at all about being the only girls in their respective courses.

Some friends opened a gamedev school in my country a few months ago, and when they made some sort of "launch event" all the girls attending the event (all two of them) were someone's girlfriend.
I don't think there's a single answer to this, and maybe (just maybe) we're asking the wrong questions. Instead of scratching our heads as to why there aren't many game maker women, we should ask women who are not game makers why they wouldn't like to be one. Maybe we get good answers, or maybe we get the kind of answer you'd get if you were to ask me why I am an engineer and not a lawyer ("because I find it boring")

40% of gamers may be women, but that doesn't mean 40% (or even 30%) of developers should be women, because only a percentage of the total amount of gamers are developers (truth be told, not every gamer would be willing to put up with all the work needed to make even a simple game). The fact that they like games doesn't mean they would like to make games. The co-writer of our current project is a girl. She likes writing, drawing, photoshop and a little bit of 3d, but she'd be dead before coding anything, and I know her well enough to know she wouldn't be interested on spending 2 years working on a small game (she likes smaller projects).

EDIT: I was just thinking that for women to be developers they don't need to apply to a company anymore. There are many "solo developers" around the world, so why a girl wouldn't want to be a "solo developer" is a different thing, because they don't have to deal with workmates and such, only gamers (who can be rude to anyone regardless of the genre, anyway).

Joshua Dallman
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Two typical game ads:

"Your body is my party... Let's get it started! Click now. WARTUNE"
http://i1.minus.com/j7fW616OWBQS0.png

"She has all the excitement you need! Play now. WARTUNE"
http://i2.minus.com/jMXlcBFw46oc0.png

Can't figure out why our industry is perceived as hostile to women - so confusing!

Dane MacMahon
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I find those types of ads in very poor taste, but at the end of the day they know their target audience and can advertise any way they want. I'm not sure what there is to do about it.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Chinese and Korean marketing techniques can be shocking in the West in how misogynistic they are. It is my understanding that this is just a reflection of societal norms back home, especially in Korea. I'm shocked every time I see a Wartune or Evony ad, but this sort of poor treatment of women is completely legal, and apparently effective (at least in the short run).

Dane MacMahon
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I've sat at large dinner tables in Eastern Europe where men bragged and joked about how often they beat their wives, as said wives gave me coy smiles and served me dinner, never eating until all the men were satisfied and half-drunk.

The world has a long way to go.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Dave, while those ads certainly are racy also, you can't tell me these are atypical when I see those types of ads EVERY time I log into Facebook to test new products. True they don't use real photos of real women anymore, instead I see petite (often impossibly petite) anime women with breasts twice the size of their heads. Some games actually have female avatars with fully 3D modeled women with these proportions. I also noticed that the hot thing in Korea, as of a few months ago, is that someone figured out how to animate breasts so that they "swing" back and forth when the avatar turns. Once one game had it, they all rushed to emulate it.

I was waiting to see them animate the male avatar cod pieces but strangely I've never even seen a hint of a penis in these games. I'm not sure what that says about the Koreans...

Maurício Gomes
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What country was that Dane MacMahon???

Dane MacMahon
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@ Mauricio

Republic of Georgia, Turkey and Ecuador are the main ones. I lived in Georgia for a year, traveled to the others. Gender relations outside North America and Western Europe have a long way to go, in my experience, though obviously I am not speaking for every country out there.

Ashkan Saeedi Mazdeh
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I'm a guy 24 years old in Iran as a country with no games industry. We are just a few companies trying to do the thing and there is a small institute in the capital city of the country teaching gamedev.
I teach Unity there to last simester students and 2 of my 11 students are girls. My sister is studying computer software engineering and will join us in game development and i've been introduced to computer programs by a woman in her thirties.
Art and game design courses have more girls in the institute by the way.

In university we were 50% 50% girls and boys but in the skilled ones group we were 3-4 guys one gal and the gal wasn't in top 3. Our math instructor was a girl about 30 years old and a PhD student herself.

Schools before university are divided in two groups. girls schools and boys schools so in no math/physics/... classes you can not see the only girl in the room, anyone in the class is always either girls or boys.

In universities in most majors other than Physics, Math and electrical engineering and stuff like them mostly classes are divided equally but in industry again most of the work force are guys.

With this background and lots of more cultural background which i can not provide here due to the long post that it will create i think there are multiple factors causing this.

1- Historically in the short history of computers (after the first years) it has been considered as a guys thing, less girls in computer science so less in computer games.
2- men and women are fundomentally different in some aspects, men love skill more than women, women like socializing better than men and ... (the art of game design a book of lenses lists some of these with references when it talks about demographics).
I'm not saying it's because of the sex or culture or ... but it exists, you can see a girl just plays badly to make her friend win and become happy but you'll not see this in men. Even by women, men are considered good if they are more powerful in most cultures.
so less women will apply to jobs which require more technical skills compared to human related skills cause women go for certain kinds of skills less and for some others more. See Ramin's post on top to see places which are girls club.

3- games made until now on (many of them) are not welcoming women as players and creators at all so we have less of them becomming creators but the next generation would be damn different because of the games currently exist.

And a motivation to all girls reading this
This industry requires creative people and hard working people. Women are as creative as men as they've shown in other arts so if you are the kind of person, please start doing something. If you are not hard working, boy or girl then you should start working on your personal before applying to any job.

Ah and i should say that i've fired the first and only girl which came to us for game development for lack of skill. But it was only lack of skill and nothing else.

I think we are watching it from our own direction in games industry but generally world is the same for men and women in many areas. Some areas are man oriented and some woman oriented. Due to men having more power and more roles in industries, yes more of them are toward men.

In some industries you can not talk about this even cause obviously you need both boys and girls as actors, no way out simply.

Andy Thomas
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Here we go again, but my parents once taught me that you can't force a horse to drink water if it doesn't want to.

So what does this have to with the lack of women in the game industry? by the way the author sound it seem to me that the author is assuming there is some underling bias meant to keep women out of the games industry which clearly is not true.

Now the real reason why you aren't seeing many of women in the game industry stem from the fact they just don't want to be in the game industry as its not the career choice they might want. To put things in perspective, you can't expect people to have the career you want them to have because not everybody is going to want it.

In the end its not a lack of women which is hurting the games industry, but rather a lack of visionaries. Other than that instead focusing on a particular group of individuals the focus should be finding and promoting talent as oppose to gender, race, nationality, etc.

Monica McGill
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Visionaries understand that a diverse workforces bring more perspectives to product development and, thus, can reach a broader market.

And, some water pools are more apparent to the "horse" than others. Women have been in the workforce in large numbers for decades. They are "drinking" the water, just not from this water pool.

"Now the real reason why you aren't seeing many of women in the game industry stem from the fact they just don't want to be in the game industry as its not the career choice they might want. " I'm sorry, but there is no empirical evidence to support this. There are many reasons women do not enter the industry, not just this reason.

To become more informed about what is happening and why, I suggest reading about gender imbalances and why they exist in related fields (computing, STEM). There are many, many research papers on this, many publicly available. Also, check out other papers from Forbes and other leading business institutions. Hopefully, you will start to see why so many visionaries are calling for more a more diverse workforce in the game industry.

we waisala
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Now, I enjoyed playing Tomb Raider as much as the next guy (I female); however, IT got to the point where I stopped buying games because the characters in charge were predom male and macho and the games were no longer story-driven but seemed driven by testosterone. I grew up on Myst-type games and liked the meandering, intellectual puzzles (not that I didn't now and again use all my fire power to shoot the crap outta alines when I felt like releasing my aggressive tendencies . . . ). But games have gone decidedly bland imho: candy crush? Mind numbing way to spend time when the boss isn't watching what you are doing (akin to solitaire in the old days). And I simply do not relate to bodacious skimpily-clad warrior-vixens wielding eyelashes and weapons . . . strikes me as the kind of heroine (use the term lightly) appealing to young me and less so to women. I hate that games are being divided into Barbie-type/fashion/cutesy things and shoot em ups for boys. I thought we had progressed beyond that stereotyping . . .sigh
I welcome any female developers/game developer students who are willing to contact me to discuss their experiences with the field/workplace/games styles. Please contact me senjav@aol.com

Ramin Shokrizade
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I've been talking on this subject for years, and advocate a more balanced workforce in every studio I visit. I was really shocked to find that the workforce was almost 50/50 in Minsk, Belarus, despite it's very conservative culture. I'm going to point a HUGE target on my chest and blame social media. Yea. I said it. My favorite example of this is again one of the world's most popular dating sites, OKCupid.

This site asks you to list your favorite movies, music, and books. All passive media. No mention of games at all even though arguable many if not most of the people using OKC play more games than read books or even watch movies. The plot thickens when you see the match questions that they ask to see who you would be compatible with:

"Have you ever spent more than 8 hours straight playing video games?"
Answer choices are "Yes", "No" and "Anyone that does is a loser".

"Do you think video or computer games are childish?"
Yes or No are the options.

"Would you be willing to date someone that plays video games almost every day, for two or more hours a day?"
Responses are "Yes and I would also", "Yes but I would not play that much", "Yes but I don't like video games", and No.

There are no questions asking if movies, music, or books are childish. No questions asking if you would date someone that does a lot of reading. No questions that ask if you would date someone that does ANY activity daily except video games. Even atheists, transexuals, and Republicans are treated better on the site.

Now I've surveyed a LOT of these responders. Most of the women that answer these questions negatively actually are themselves gamers. They just don't self-identify as gamers. They get sucked into the bias in the site and these questions and know they are supposed to answer these questions negatively. Men, meanwhile, know that their match%s will drop if they answer these questions affirmatively so they have to either lie or get less dates.

I could go on (and you know I could!) but I firmly believe these types of sentiments are being widely spread in Western social media, and this is why socially conservative countries like Belarus have almost 10 times as many women (per capita) in game development as we have in the West.

Matthew Calderaz
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It's absolutely a supply problem. Women are pretty well represented in UX design, and in Project Management; but incredibly hard to find in engineering/development.

I went to CSU Fresno for a B.S. in CSCI, I think I saw 3-4 women total in the program over the duration.

My strong suspicion is the imbalance will go away over time, as the next generation is encouraged to study math, science and programming. (Many of my friends who work in technology and have children now are encouraging their daughters to learn these things now.)

In the short term, my wife is in school right now, and I'm strongly encouraging her to consider CSCI as a major!

Curtiss Murphy
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I got my CS degree in '92. There has either been no change in the past generation, or so little as to be imperceptible.

Harry Fields
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Why is there all this time and effor spent trying to micromanage trends. There are far too many variables for any to factually or empirically provide solid evidence for why things are the way they are. Why? Because everyone has their own personality, their own motives, ideologies, etc. For whatever reason, things have worked out this way. Aside from a few stellar standouts, game development was a boys club from the very start. If there is a genuine interest on the part of women to join the field, then the industry will organically evolve over time to reflect the current makeup of the workforce. For now, it's stilted heavily towards younger, single men. There are exceptions, sure, but meh... why engineer false constructs into the argument to tryand artificially create this idealistic 51/49 split that mirrors the population? Shouldn't it be about the best person for the job who wants the job. Women aren't really discriminated against in the industry inasmuch as turned off I would argue... heck, look at what everyone here is saying... how much they'd love to have *MORE* women on their team. So there is demand... And in time, Supply will fill the void and the industry will continue to transform, and away will go the "Grandma's Boy" type of environments in favor of environments with more corporate-like structure that is not a hostile turnoff to women.

Jason Long
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There are a wide range of answers on this page, but I think you can start with one that's more simple: look at games today. Most of the AAA titles simply are not targeted toward women at best, and at worst have a serious problem with sexism, either overtly or subtly. Most of the big money in gaming today is actively telling women that they do not belong. (It's no surprise that many women, even those who game a lot, do not self-identify as gamers.)

You could say this makes it a chicken-and-egg problem, but better way to view it is that there is not one problem, and there is not one solution. You can't just have more women in some class somewhere: you need developers to start producing games with less sexism as well. We all need to work on this problem in order to achieve a better solution. Mentoring programs, programming courses, marketing, developers - everyone is responsible. But to look at this optimistically, that means we're all capable of making a difference.

(Finally, I just wanted to add that if your arguments about women in any workforce include some reference to biology, you are probably being sexist.)

Lane Flores
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I was extremely interested in working in game development in some form--until I learned about the working conditions. I appreciate my free time, and no matter how much I enjoy something, devoting 40-60 hours a week to anything is a recipe for burnout.

Arielle Shander
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I was one of the few women in my game development program (I graduated in December 2012). Fortunately, as time went on, the number of women in my classes slightly increased.

While the industry itself is evolving at an incredible pace, the involvement of women in game development seems to be occurring more gradually. I do think that more women will be naturally drawn to game development as time goes on, but it's frustrating to see it happening so slowly.

Melian Fibonacci
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Perhaps in part a perceived demand problem and therefore self-perpetuating. As a woman I always wonder, when I see an all-male workplace, if it's even worth trying to get in. I assume other women have tried and encountered discrimination.


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