The Growing Role of Women in Gaming

The Growing Role of Women in Gaming

Have you been to a games conference recently? The testosterone to estrogen ratio is strikingly off-balance.

But gradual as it may be, change is happening. An increasing number of women are taking leading roles in the games business. There’s Kathy Vrabeck, head of EA Casual; Nintendo of America marketing VP Cammie Dunaway; Assassin’s Creed lead producer Jade Raymond; and Uncharted director Amy Hennig, just to name a few of the higher-profile examples that exist today.

There’s also Margaret Wallace (pictured, above right), co-founder and CEO of New York City-based Rebel Monkey, developer of community-based, connected games for the mass market. To her, the increased proliferation of women in the games business is just a matter of time.

"A lot more girls are playing videogames these days," she says. "In about five years, we won’t be asking about how the industry can attract more women, because these young girls and women are growing up as gamers themselves. They’re playing Mario Kart, Dance Dance Revolution and even more hardcore games.

"It’s a generational thing. We’ll see more women and girls entering into the field in the next five years."

Schools are also adapting to the rise of interactive entertainment. More and more schools are beginning to add game design curricula, and as gaming becomes increasingly mainstream, more females will be looking for a game-related education.

Jessica Rovello (above, left), co-founder and president of New York-based casual and advergame developer Arkadium, says, "Right now, if you were to go to a university and ask a handful of women what career options they thought were available to them, gaming would not necessarily be in the top ten, maybe not even the top 50.

"I don’t think women even think that it’s a possibility."

At the 75-person Arkadium, 30 percent of the firm is female. The company actively tries to recruit women, "because we know that’s who are playing our games," says Rovello.

With the rise of "casual" gaming, driven by online games as well as Nintendo’s mass market initiatives with the Wii and DS, the gaming demographic is moving beyond the 18-34 year old male. Yet even in the casual segment, many companies are run by men.

"I’m not sure if I necessarily know the answer as to why that is," Rovello adds. "…Women have a long way to go in terms of being in positions of power in all sorts of companies. Certainly in gaming, you just don’t see a very large representation of women, especially in the console space, which [Arkadium] is not in.

"But in the industry that we’re in, casual games, the vast majority of casual game players are women. It’s kind of peculiar that the people who are creating these games are not necessarily the demographic that’s playing them."

She continues, "There are certainly tons of women I know who would love to work (or think they’d love to work) in an environment where they were the only girl. But I do think it could definitely be an intimidating experience to interview for a position where you’re not just a minority, but such a vast minority that you might be the only woman in the entire company."