Breaking the Glass Level Cap
Why game development is a valid career path for women
Earlier this summer I attended a conference for women in tech. I had the pleasure of meeting other women my age as well as executives of big tech companies. There was a moment in the conference where we all went around, introduced ourselves, where we went to school, what year we were in, and what we’re currently working on. I was last and followed women who were working on robotics/biomedical projects — meanwhile my best friend and I were working on a game that we plan to ship. I told this to the executive, and her response was “Is it supposed to have any impact?” I told her not exactly — this was something that we were doing for fun. She then said this:
“I think that it would be worth your time to make something that has a real contribution to the world. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings but when I see women who have anything to do with a masculine activity like gaming, it’s disappointing because it doesn’t do anything for anyone but themselves. Keep that in mind when you’re on your coding journey.”
I was holding back tears and had no idea how to respond but with a forced “Thank you for the wisdom.”
Video games aren’t intrinsically a masculine hobby. There’s a prevalence of masculinity in the gaming community because of how games have been made/pushed and how gaming ads have been targeted for the last thirty-something years, but there’s nothing inherently masculine about the concept of video games.
Women making games fights that prevalence. More women making games means a greater share of gaming-zeitgeist exists with women in mind, with what women want to do and see and create. For women and girls who like to play video games but don’t like to be inundated with all the masculinity in the community (much of which is toxic), it’s absolutely valuable for more women to be involved in making them. More than valuable, it’s necessary.
Games are quickly becoming a big part of our broader culture. They can do everything from being art or stories people enjoy, create social commentary, inspire people, bring people together or even give differently abled people or those with mental illness an escape or a way to connect with others they might not have the opportunity to do otherwise. Going in to game development is far from selfish or for self enjoyment: it’s a way to create enjoyment, and even unthought of applications, for others.
Big or small there is more than one way for one to make a difference and change the world. In fact, I believe the more “average” aspirations we have from women in tech, the closer we are to true equality in the industry. If all you hear about are the women who purify water with a straw or save the planet, people can still see these women as “special” and “not the norm” so of course it’s okay for them to go into tech. But people might not see the average women as suitable for tech. That is not to say you, nor game designers/developers are “just average” or not amazing! Gaming is awesome and important.
Artistic media like games has so much effect on the world. When games are done well they can inspire and uplift people, get them to think, bring people together, or even just have some fun. And fun is just as valuable as trying to save the world. I’m passionate about this because not only is it a fantastic way of combing art and tech, I believe I’m helping people by adding a new perspective to an already male dominated field, so that little girls and women don’t have to put up with hyper sexualized female avatars, and have games revolving around a female protagonists like Horizon Zero Dawn. No matter what tech should be enjoyable, and knowing how many women play video games I’m confident that there are plenty of people women could help as game developers.
Pursue your interests. Pursue what fulfills you, whether that is game development, or something else. You choose what makes you happy and gives you purpose. While you’re at it be as feminine and flamboyant as you would like to be while doing it. You are helping to change people’s ideas of what a programmer/gamer/game developer looks like. You are redefining what role models look like and making the world a more awesome place by being yourself.