Women in Gaming

The Changing Landscape of the Gaming Industry

Gaming is activity that brings people together from all over the world with different backgrounds, cultures and genders. It is no secret that the gaming market is one that is continuously growing and diversifying. With Juniper Research estimating the market to be worth $200 billion by 2023, audiences are also changing. According to Interactive Software Federation of Europe, women now account for 47% of video game players in the EU, however, for many years, a large portion of games have been made for men by men. This can be reflected in the lack of representation within the games presented to us, protagonists appear within only 12% of games. Research has shown that the few existing characters mostly harbour gender stereotypes; often through the lens of objectification and sexualisation.

Women Making Games

Furthermore, misrepresentation also lies within the lack of visibility of women working within the gaming industry. This is often credited to barriers such as pay gaps and toxic work culture. A 2020 study of the leading 14 global gaming companies unveiled that a staggering 84% of executive positions were held by men. The percentage of women within the gaming industry is already very low and they often do not receive recognition. It is vital that women are given the opportunity to be vocal about their experiences and work within the industry, helping to inspire a more diverse talent pool. Women in Games and Wings are associations dedicated to finding talented and diverse teams and providing funding to build inclusive and sustainable studios. In doing so, unique ideas and voices are given a platform to create games that cater to wider audiences. Some companies within the gaming industry are already taking action to advocate gender diversity such as Intel, one of the leading organisations within technology, who have invested $300 million into working closely with gaming companies to multiply the number of women developers.


Women Making an Impact in the Industry

The goal for this article is to showcase the viewpoints and experiences of different women working in the gaming industry.

Lorna Van der Stighelen

Lorna Van der Stighelen is a freelance artist and illustrator from Scotland. Lorna’s love of games stems from a young age playing games where the art styles captivated her imagination. Primarily, Lorna’s focus was on painting, however her love of games, animation, comics and graphic novels led her to illustration/animation when entering art school. As an artist, Lorna is always trying to adapt and learn new techniques and styles, her portfolio shows a range of portraiture, fine art, digital art, game art and concept art. Lorna’s first project in the gaming industry was a collaboration with Game Doctor for Remedy Quest that she credited as being “easily one of my most enjoyable experiences as an artist.”

For Lorna, gaming’s embracement of art and narrative is what excites her the most about the current climate of the industry. “The field now attracts much more women/female presenting individuals.” Whilst the industry is becoming more accessible for females, Lorna describes the challenges this movement brings with it. “Being taken seriously as a female/female presenting person is difficult in any field. I see some shifts in this but it’s still a long journey.”

It is the misconception that games are purely for consoles that Lorna wishes to dispel. “Indie games, mobile games, desktop games, there is so much to play with in this field and it can be used for so much more than just a pass time.” It is not only their medium that is diverse for Lorna, it is gaming’s purpose within health and education.

Lorna’s Advice:

“You never know what someone might see in you and your work and what that could lead to, even just getting to have a conversation can be so beneficial and can lead things later down the line.”

Favourite Childhood Game: Kingdom Hearts

Sandrine Neill

Sandrine Neill is a Junior Lighting Artist at Sumo Digital from Scotland. Whilst relatively new to the industry, Sandrine’s portfolio of work is both inspiring and impressive. Being a gamer from a young age, Sandrine noticed the potential in gaming becoming an art form with the hopes that the artistry would progress to match traditional media, such as film or tv. It was this hope that inspired Sandrine to be part of the digital revolution we are witnessing over the last few decades.

When asked what misconception she wished to dispel, Sandrine discussed the perception that gamers are sitting in their parents’ basements playing games all day. “In seriousness, there are all sorts of people who work in the games industry. More and more we’re seeing large teams with lots of very varied people who work in lots of diverse disciplines.” It is this variety of opportunities that Sandrine is most excited about as there are higher chances for people to impact industry.

Sandrine’s first project in the industry was working on Forza Horizon 5 reaching over 15 million players. “It’s mind-blowing to see players appreciating the work you’ve done for a game.” Sandrine is currently working on two new projects at Sumo Digital that she is looking forward to sharing in the near future.

Sandrine’s Advice:

“Put as much time as you can into your portfolio: seek out advice and feedback from developers in the industry. If you are passionate about working in games, you can 100% get that first job.”

Favourite Childhood Game: Zelda, especially Ocarina of Time

Ashlyn Sparrow

Ashlyn Sparrow is the Assistant Director of the Weston Game Lab at University of Chicago. Ashyln creates games for social change, educating users on topics such as climate change and public health. Ashlyn is passionate about developing play-centric experiences that provide users with rich and important stories about the human condition. “ I chose this career path due to the nature of the medium being highly immersive and interactive.”

Video games, as Ashlyn describes, “take the best elements from both novels and cinema—like storytelling and music—and add interactivity and player agency.” It is this immersive element and “mirror-like” quality that Ashlyn feels motivates both designers and players to contemplate how society functions and the importance of our roles within it.

Ashlyn’s gaming journey began after her father bought her a Playstation for her birthday one year, being inspired by the end credits and seeing the names of the people developing games. “I thought I had to learn to draw, since that’s the first thing you see in a game so my mom got me an art teacher.” The realisation soon kicked in that Ashlyn’s interests lay in computers. Her first project within social impact gaming was being a lead game designer in a collaborative project with University of Madeira and a local whaling museum creating Eco-Marino that taught users about climate change and plastic’s threats to the ocean. “To see two kids steering the submarine we’d created—and controlling the arms to pick up [virtual] litter from the ocean—that was a magical moment for me.”

Ashlyn’s Advice:

“Upskill yourself constantly. For me, it was like, “Let me join this game design club. Let me take some programming classes. Let me get my master’s. Maybe that’ll get me closer.”

Favourite Childhood Game: Xenogears

Mariya Vizireanu, PhD

Mariya Vizireanu is a senior research analyst at Jam City situated in Los Angeles, using consumer research to communicate what players like & dislike and what motivates them to play. After receiving her PhD in Global Health, Mariya focused her research in gaming, which she has always felt passionate about. Her love of games stemmed from genres such as survival horror (Silent Hill) and dialogue-rich experiences (Broken Sword). “I used to joke that I learned what parts of the United States looked like by playing games like Silent Hill, just to later notice that the area I moved to in Los Angeles has some of the same names as locations in the game.”

Mariya discusses the shift in the belief that learning and games don’t mix. From the use of Kahoot! in a classroom to prepare for a quiz, to accidentally learning a bit about quantum mechanics while playing Spider-Man, Mariya believes that games can be an incredibly valuable tool in learning. “I’m truly excited about this intersection of gaming and learning. It’s amazing that there are games that can help understand difficult topics in STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) as well as sociology, civics, etc. I’m also excited to keep learning about the role that something like casual mobile games can play in our everyday lives.. such as feeling connected to friends and family through play when we couldn’t physically visit each other.”

Mariya’s Advice:

“Play lots of games! Notice what you like.. talk to friends and family about what draws them to any games they might like. Understanding players is key to creating something that will be truly enjoyed. And games are definitely made to be enjoyed!”

Favourite Childhood Game: Silent Hill


The Future of Gaming

Women are the beating heart of the gaming industry. Our skills and talent are showcased in all types of roles, ranging from technical, creative, business, marketing and research. We bring passion, drive, energy and innovation to the industry and will help the gaming market scale to its predicted heights.It is important that women feel seen within development and games themselves in order to inspire new generations of diverse gaming communities. Studios and companies must look inwards and assess the part they play in this movement because we create more impactful games when all voices and perspectives are heard.

Helpful Resources and Links:

Women in Games


Resources for Women in Gaming

If you have any questions on the article or would like more information, please contact: info@gamedoctor.co.uk

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