Series Opener: Every woman has a different story. Mine is just one. But it’s a good one. It’s filled with laughter, desk flipping emojis, and life lessons. So sit back, brew some coffee, and buckle up for my personal experience as a woman in games.

Disclaimer: These opinions are my own and not reflected of my employer. If you have a question, hit me up on DMs in twitter. I’d love to include it in my series. 

“Q: What’s it like being a woman in games?”

-asked by new developers and fans regularly

Frustrating

Before games, no one asked me this question. Whether pitching to investors or posing for pictures in cosplay, I didn’t think about my gender. It was another trait in a long list of traits that made me a “Lauryn.” I thought about the business, the brand, or had fun doing something I loved.

Now, it’s moved higher in a list of traits for some fans and coworkers that I end up spending more of my time trying to push my other traits (hard work, passion) up above it and less time improving others (self-care, mental wellness).

We’re going to Good, Bad, Ugly this but in reverse order. I believe in ending on a high note.

The Ugly: Defined by my gender, not by my work.

When you’re a woman in games, the things you do subconsciously, whether they are or are not, all become a “part of being a woman.” Some days I forget. I go back to my meetings, work, the page–and I forget. I become Lauryn again. These are my most productive days.

Then, someone makes a stupid comment. And I’m reminded that I’m a girl not a developer.

From communication to user experience, anything that someone (usually a man) deems as feminine becomes an “obvious choice” for your skill set. In games, this means you’ll find more woman marketers, user experience designers, narrative designers, than you’ll find combat designers, weapons, or economy/balance.

I have done both. I have done both well. And this is not arrogance talking.

It’s my team.

Because when people beat you down enough, the things that you should be proud of just become another weapon to use against you.

The Bad: The Idea Thief

When’s the last time your idea got ignored? What about stolen?

Being a woman in games as of 2020 means this has already happened to you. Whether or not you were there. I’ve made the conscious choice to embrace the idea thief. Nothing is worse than when an idea you originally pitched is blatantly restated by someone else. There are small infractions from overwork, burn out, and forgetfulness where this is likely to occur.

I’m not talking about those.

I’m talking about highlighting problems of the game, things to improve, them getting side-lined and ignored. Then someone else speaking the exact same thought and them taking the credit for it. In my experience, another person who says my idea is usually a man. I’m sure it happens across the gender spectrum.

My ideas are not usually heard, acted upon, or engaged with. Over time, I build up silence. I don’t want to share our ideas anymore or give feedback. So I keep it to myself, or to a small support network.

Sometimes, that network communicates my ideas, and nothing happens. On rare occasions, they get in! Everyone loves them! Wow! And usually life goes on. However, in one case–and I’m going to clear, only once–I remember my name came up and I could feel the downcast expressions as some members of the team realized an idea did not come from the person who communicated it but from the person they ignored. Oof.

Often, my support network tells me to respond, to engage, and to not give up. Thank God for them!

The Good: A Stronger Support Network

Games has strengthened my resolve to talk about being a woman. I don’t have any inherent female super powers that make me better at my job. I’m not suited for a role because I’m a woman. I’m suited for a role, because I kick ass at it.

Identifying as a woman in games, and more importantly any minority, created a foundation for my industry peers & friends to fight this systemic profiling. We could engage in better discourse. We could speak up for someone if they were being ignored in conversations from ingrained biases. Our conversations were more diverse, more impactful, and a free exchange of knowledge–across the game dev disciplines!

Owning what makes me different led me to kick-ass devs that uplift me and push me to become a better designer.

That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To be better at what we do.

Thanks for reading!

My next post in this series covers what MEETINGS are like for women in games. Have an idea, experience, or question? Email me at games@laurynash.com to let me know!

Lauryn Ash

Game Designer & Writer

About the Author

A full-time game developer and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I analyze the world through video games and coffee. Sharing my experience in game design, coffee, and writing. All opinions are my own. Patreon coming soon!!

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