Vicky Arundel is one of our invited guest bloggers. Vicky sent some artwork to WIG 2007 conference, and very kindly allowed us to run the DEFCON game there. She shares with us some thoughts on her experiences of working in the Games industry…
Despite some early dalliances with the likes of Monkey Island, Civilization and Populous when I was young, my entry into the games industry was a case of simple nepotism. My brother, Tom Arundel, is one of the directors of Introversion Software, a small (but expanding) and successful independent games developer and publisher based in the UK. Formed originally by three university students in 2001, and with a personal investment of just £200 each, they went on to release three critically-acclaimed, and award-winning titles, Uplink, Darwinia and DEFCON. Not many people know it, but I was part of Introversion’s set-up, albeit informally, pretty much right from the beginning. Shortly after the company was founded, two of the directors (one of whom was Tom) left for a three-month mountain-bike trip around Peru. Anxious to retain some semblance of professionalism, they looked round for a company secretary who would be able to man the phones and more essentially cover up their truancy. Finding a secretary somewhat hard to come by, and a little more expensive than they would have liked, little sis was called in as a last resort. I don’t think any of us would have believed that five years on I’d still be here, but after completing my degree last year, they offered me the chance to return to a full-time marketing and PR role, and it was one I thought too good to miss.
It wasn’t really until joining full-time that I began to get a bit more of an idea about this exciting, frequently manic, and sometimes rather daunting industry. At times the learning curve has seemed impossibly steep: straight after finishing finals I was thrown into single-handedly organizing and managing the marketing campaign for our third title DEFCON, which was released in September last year. I was, however, fortunate enough to be introduced to a couple of experienced women working in PR who were able to guide and support me through these challenges, and undoubtedly its because of this that I can now look back at DEFCON’S launch with a sense of real achievement, something that I also consider paramount to ensuring long-term job satisfaction. Along with Introversion’s successes over the past year, other perks have included the opportunity to expand my horizons by becoming part of the travelling conference circuit and, meeting with a variety of interesting people who demonstrate a real passion for the games they make, play, publish and distribute. Combine that with the luxury of working from home and a flexible work/play timetable, and it is no wonder that my job is often the subject of some envy amongst my girlfriends (and boyfriends)!
Of course one of the first things I couldn’t help but notice about this industry is the sheer ratio of men to women – nowhere was this more apparent than at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, where women seemed to be a rare breed indeed! Over the year, I have met very few women directly involved in the creation and development of games and only slightly more in the areas of PR, marketing and journalism. I suspect that this gender inbalance, and women’s apparent reluctance to join this industry, has rather more to do with perceptions than realities, perceptions that are deeply ingrained within cultural and social ideologies. Gaming is seen traditionally as a male pursuit that has little relevance to the way women perceive and experience the world. After all, most games are made for men by men; they appeal to a core market of 18-30 year-old males, and deal with essentially male subject matter, content that I know some of my girlfriends have regarded as all too often bordering on the chauvinistic and offensive. So why should women join the games industry?
Because the tide is changing. At a recent conference on Casual Gaming, Microsoft revealed that around 40% of casual gamers are female. Other supporting evidence came from a survey in which it affirmed that 1/3 of all people interested in playing on the new PS3 were women. Plus games that appeal to a more female-inclusive audience, such as the Sims series, have been shown to be extremely popular and profitable, so the potential to create an industry that includes women is clearly ripe for the picking. In order to capitalise on this burgeoning interest, developers and publishers will certainly need to employ new methods of making and selling games that capture and engage the female gamer’s imagination. But in order to achieve this, I also believe it will require a systematic effort on the behalf of the employers to include more women in their workplace; put simply, women know best what other women will want to buy. Whilst we may be some way away from these aspirations, there is no doubt that the publisher’s growing interest in the female gamer, combined with the potential for new job opportunities, spells prosperous and exciting times for the future of women in games and I for one feel very fortunate to find myself, albeit rather unexpectedly, a part of it. Nepotism, in this case, truely has paid off.
Vicky Arundel http://www.everybody-dies.com/index.html