Editor’s note: This is hopefully the first in a long line of features to try and give some balance to the influx of stories from non-devs of how bad it is to be a woman in the gaming industry, and explore whether there is any substance to the charge. I believe this narrative is doing more damage than good, and keeping young people from pursuing a career in game development.
I had the chance to talk with Veronica last night and we had a great conversation over Twitter. She is a young developer just getting started in the industry so her insight into getting into dev, and the perception of young people is important to this topic I think. I’ll do my best to present our conversation in a less disjointed manner than it appeared on Twitter.
F&B: In your opinion what’s the biggest hurdle getting started, what makes young women second guess their desire to get into gaming?
VT: I mean for me personally I wasn’t aware it was a career option. I left my HS after I finished last year because I wasn’t having a good time there, but i went to a catholic all girls school and they kinda push art, and English, and medicine as careers on you. They don’t have a science or tech club which I would have loved.
F&B: What made you think it wasn’t safe?
VT: There are a fair portion of guys who come off as not so female friendly and personally that was the second biggest factor for concern.
F&B: Guys in the industry or people you talked to before getting in?
VT: I mean yes a few guys I ran into who stalk hashtags and keyword and just the whole “dudebro” culture that has been around games for awhile and recently deteriorating. I mean it just looked like the gaming world was a negative place overall and, I’d not really heard of women video game makers either.
F&B: So do you feel it was more perception than reality with a few isolated cases of it happening?
VT: For the most part. I think there is a very aggressive nature of a branch of the community and that’s a mix of ideologies and gender. I don’t think it’s all white cis het men. I think it’s clearly a mix and variety of people, but it still exists and yes I heard harassment stories that seemed concerning but ultimately it inspired me to get into the industry.
F&B: You said you hadn’t heard of women in the industry before. Are you finding the games press focuses too much on the negative rather than showcasing women like Roberta Williams etc?
VT: I found this podcast called Isometric and it interested me, and that was the first time I’d really heard of women in video games. Yeah I mean a lot of press is written either about stories of sad things happening to female gamers (which is important) but not really clearly displaying that women are in the industry or recognized beyond harassment. I mean its messed up that a lot of women in tech are better known for having been harassed than for making a game/their work.
F&B: Now that you are in the industry are you finding that a lot of the ‘horror stories’ are blown out of proportion? Has it been a good experience so far?
VT: Sorta. I’ve been okay because I’m not well known, and I’ve only been harassed 4 or 5 times, and 3 of those times were with people who aren’t even GG related [referencing the consumer revolt to expose unethical journalist that communicates with the hasthtag #GamerGate]. I think some people take it farther than others for example, I do not agree with a lot of what Anita [Sarkeesian] or Brianna [Wu] say and I find they have a very strong sort of “white feminism” if u asked me. I’m a very critical feminism analyst and I don’t tolerate trans/queer exclusion or ableism and I find that super popular people have done that but I think that harassment, especially the harassment of marginalized people (trans, queer, POC ect) exists and is important but it’s tough for me to classify.
F&B: What about within, your fellow developers? Have you experienced the sort of negative atmosphere that we hear is so pervasive in the industry?
VT: Not to the extent i expected, no. In what games contain and what happens online yes it’s pretty severe. From what I see in the real world it’s much more subtle and people are more quiet because they’re more wary of repercussions, but online interaction provides a safety net that they can get more open behind. I’m not really professionally in the industry or a company yet. I work on my own in my free time outside of school, but I interact with a lot of adults in the industry and their main constant harassment comes from online. Now the trans people I know have it a lot worse irl but obviously that’s transphobia and violence against trans people.
F&B: So would you call yourself an indie, or still studying? Are you working on a project you can give a summary of, or some little information?
VT: I’m indie in the sense that I’m unknown and independent. I’m always learning (arent we all) and currently all self-taught. I already made a game for a game jam with a Legend of Zelda theme and I’m gearing up for another game jam beginning June 1st where the protagonist has to be yourself.
F&B: So what did get you into gaming? Chance, a friend, parent?
VT: Well I started gaming when I was 7 because we had a working N64. The first game I ever played was Ocarina of Time. I fell in love with the LoZ series then and there. No one really got me into games it kinda happened all on its own. it just clicked with me.
F&B: One of my favorites as well, is Ocarina your favorite or one of the others?
VT: Skyward Sword is my fave then Twilight Princess then OOT
F&B: What would be your dream game/franchise to work on when you hit it big?
VT: I’d be happy to make Nintendo, a sensible and bearable company but I’d actually love to run my own company. I have at least 3 relatively developed, intense game ideas I think a lot of people would like. So long as I get to be in charge of something I think I’ll be happy.
F&B: So the dream is bringing your own ideas to the market?
VT: Yeah. I think a lot of companies are going to get caught in a loop of the same old thing pretty soon. we need new ideas. Games are art and have so much potential and I feel like there’s so much we could do that we don’t.
So there you have it readers. Direct from the young, fresh mind of a developer just getting into the industry. You can follow Veronica on Twitter at @hologramvron and her blog at Holographic Ideals. She shared her first game link with us if you want to check that out as well and see Veronica’s budding development ideas at work.