GDC 2011: Jesse Schell On The Importance Of Women To Development
Giving a typically amusing speech at the Women In Games Awards during this year’s Game Developers Conference, Schell Games CEO and creative director Jesse Schell, highlighted the differences in approach between all male and mixed-sex teams pointing out the benefits of female input in any project.
"When you have four guys on a team, what often happens is that they over-scope in a ridiculous way," he explained. "They take on things that they couldn’t possibly do, and often end up with a crashing failure. Whereas when you have a team that has even just one woman on it – and it’s something that I’ve noticed throughout my career – things change… I can’t help but notice that the guys act differently – guys stop and think just a little bit more when there’s a woman in the room!"
Jesse cited a study on collective intelligence, conducted by Anita Wooley, which identified that groups with increased social sensitivity – i.e. an ability to empathise and identify emotions – and those whose members listen to each other without interruption generally displayed higher collective intelligence. Jesse’s wife, he pointed out, was better at both of these things than him. The study found that the number of woman in any given group directly correlates with its overall intelligence.
"In the game world, it’s still pretty much run by dudes – why is this?" he asked. "We used to have the argument that it’s just the nature of the medium – because that’s just how games are. And you can make this argument, if you look at the early days of videogames: you’re in a world where you can do anything you want, no one can possibly get hurt no matter how stupid a thing they do, and it’s really hard to talk to people. This is kind of guy heaven…"
Schell compared this facet of games to Norse legend of Valhalla, where fallen war heroes spend their days locked in combat on a battle field before returning – including the fallen – to the dining hall to discuss their exploits. Videogames, he suggested, have brought this ancient Norse vision to life.
Schell also discounted the idea that men are better leaders, referencing a talk he gave at the PBS [a US public TV network] Kids Producers Summit, pointing out that here was an entire sector of the entertainment industry almost completely run by women.
More importantly, though, Schell believes that the changing nature of the game market necessitates a greater number of women in the industry.
"We know the game world is changing," he said. "Mobile is getting very big, and social gaming, too. Everyone’s noticed over the last two years that suddenly social games are an incredible growth area, because games are better with friends.
"In that time we’ve moved from a place where it was all ninjas and zombies and stuff, to suddenly the big growth games that everyone’s talking about are about farming and yoga and dancing and pets. And I’m going to tell you right now, ladies, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing… We don’t understand how it works, or why people play it – we’re faking it."
In conclusion he added: "This is [women's] time, without doubt, and I for one welcome our new female overlords."