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GDC: A New Vision for Interactive Stories

GDC: Attracting Women into Game Development

This is a fragmentary capsule summary for a GDC roundtable, hosted by Michelle Sorger and Sande Chen; co-founders of Girls in Games, Inc, a grass roots, non-profit mentoring organisation borne of the IGDA’s Women in Games mailing list. I attended the third and final of these roundtables, which I try to hit every year. Since it was a roundtable, I was unable to record everything that was said since I have never learned shorthand. Therefore, I am sadly reduced to presenting a few key facts and figures in a disjointed fashion. 

“Diversity is happening in the workplace, even if it is really, really slow.” – Michelle Sorger.

Quote from Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, displayed on the overhead: “In 1970, law school was 5% female, med school was 8% and business school was 4%. You could have… concluded that women don’t make good lawyers or doctors. But today, all of these fields are about 50-50.” 

An IDSA report states the following percentages of female players [presumably in the US]:

  • 43% of PC gamers
  • 48% of mobile gamers
  • 35% of console gamers
  • 53% of online games

IGDA game demographics for employment:

  • 11.5% women
  • 3% of all industry executives      are women

Top 6 Favourite Games (reported by women), based upon Girls in Games survey: 

  1. World of Warcraft [Sande observes that this      could easily have been another MMORPG, since the MMO community is always      concentrated somewhere]
  2. Animal Crossing: Wild World
  3. Guitar Hero
  4. Mario Kart
  5. Super Princess Peach
  6. Katamari Damacy

[I’d like to note as an aside that this consists of some extroverted play games, but also of some introverted play games such as Katamari. Although extroversion has a slightly higher incidence in women, it does not follow that social play is the only way to appeal to a female audience.] 

Comment from overhead slide:
“From our research, we get the sense that we ought to be trying to reach girls at the middle school level to encourage them into careers in game development.” 

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A common view that was expressed is that retention of women is low, because it’s hard for minority groups to thrive without support. In essence, it was thought that what was necessary was to ensure that women were hired not in ones or twos, but in more signficant numbers, in order to build a solid enough community to tip the balance  closer to equality.

There were a lot of interesting points raised, but sadly an hour long session is not up to the task of achieving anything in terms of a means to take things forward. There is little room for everyone to share their views on any single point, let alone for a complete discussion on all issues. However, there was a general sense that we have reached the end of the investigation and are now standing at the edge of building an agenda for change.

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