women in games

10 Things I Learnt at the European Women in Games Conference 2016

This week was all about the European Women in Games Conference, which took place in the breathtakingly beautiful University of Greenwich, in London. I was lucky enough to be speaking on a panel about race and diversity in games, among a line-up of incredible women, who gave inspiring speeches and discussions and workshops, throughout the day.

If you weren’t there, have no fear because I have created a list of 10 things we can all learn from the European Women in Games Conference.

  1. Scary is Good – Doing something scary is usually worth the nerves and anxiety. As a result of my #GamesSoWhite panel at Nine Worlds, I was invited to chair the ‘Minority in a Minority’ panel at EWIG. That meant standing up and talking to my peers and lots of people I admire, not just interested geeks in various states of cosplay. Throughout the day, various speakers commented on how women can be reluctant to step forward and take power and be visible, in the industry. In short, stepping out of my comfort zone is a good and women in games need to do that more.
  2. Inclusivity is the Key – Women in Games was founded by a white guy called David Smith. And then he started BAME in Games. We need white, middle-class men on our side because they’re the current gatekeepers of the industry. The fight for equality isn’t about usurping one power for another, it’s about creating a balance of voices and experiences that benefits everyone. I celebrate the fact that Women in Games welcomes men to its membership and to the European Women in Games Conference. An open dialogue is the way forward, rather than a them vs us approach, which is why EWIG felt like such a positive event.
  3. There from the Start – the history of computer tech gives us early pioneers, such as Ada Lovelace. In fact, in the early years, there were more men than women studying and working in computer tech, but in the 1970s something changed. Men took over the sector and women stepped aside.
  4. Fighting for Funding – Women are 85% less likely to get funding for a tech business start-up, than men. And women account for 3% of the top positions in ICT (information and communications technology).
  5. Fighting for Exposure – despite gender being irrelevant, when it comes to esports, compared to say, athletics, women currently need their own leagues in order to be able to compete, on any scale. Counterstrike has the lowest representation of female esports players. We need to dispel the myth that men are biologically more aggressive and competitive, making them naturally better at competitive gaming. The ‘gamer girl’ needs to go. A woman who plays games is a gamer, not an exotic anomaly.
  6. Edge Magazine’s Irrelevance – Edge, the gaming magazine everyone used to buy for the very pretty covers and jobs pages, has proved its irrelevance by failing to have a woman in the ‘Soundbytes’ section for 13 months. This month, Hillary Clinton breaks that run. Must try harder, Edge.
  7. Helping Ourselves – Calling all women in games: find allies to support you, whether that’s a mentor or just having a great team. Be generous and enabling. And help other women.
  8. More is More – Women in Games aims to double the number of women in the industry, by 2025. The WIG ambassador program is being launched to expand the reach of the organisation. You can become a WIG ambassador, promoting games as a viable career in the UK and Europe. BAFTA is a charity and it is also looking for female members, so if you’ve got 5+ years experience in making games, sign up.
  9. Bright Young Things – The UK games industry has a wealth of young, passionate, intelligent women, who are keen to make themselves heard and help each other get ahead. There’s an energetic network out there.
  10. Sweat and Tears – Jessica Curry, founder of The Chinese Room (Dear Esther, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture) can bring a room to tears with an impassioned speech about diversity and the toll the industry takes on women. Unfortunately, we were all so hot that day that we couldn’t really spare the water for tears.

In some of the above, I’ve quoted or misquoted some of the speakers at the conference, so assume that the most poignant phrases belong to one of these women: Anne Morrison (deputy chair BAFTA), Jessica Curry (The Chinese Room), Terry Reintke (MEP European Parliament), Isabel Davies and more eloquent speakers.


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