KEYNOTE : Karen Clark

6620Karen Clark

Karen Clark – Project Manager, BioWare

My Thoughts

I got in a bit late to this, so I didn’t catch the title. However, an interesting look at myths of the industry, things to improve the industry and some other topics. A lot more evidence and sources in the slides, which I hope are released.


Game Myths

Games are only violent – Entirely untrue basically, no links to negative behaviour at all.

Games are only for kids – Not true. Thought to be true in the USA (“Others think I design Barbie games”), but obviously not in Japan, and not true anyway – most console games are sold to over 18’s.

Girls and women don’t play games – nearly 50% of players are women who play games regularly! For active gamers, 43% in UK, 42% in france, 41% in Germany are women.

Playing video games is socially isolating – Entirely untrue,

Video games industry is not a place for women:
– Barrier to entry into the industry is in the people’s minds
– Already more women entering at all levels, but overall, women do still remain an untapped resource of talent for this industry
– It is bad business practice not to have a key target demographic represented inside the teams
– industry needs to continue being vocal about opportunities – debunk the myths (especially when the press interviews you), remove the stereotypes.

Video game are really mainstream entertainment played by the old, young, men and women and made by men and women. Need to continue educating people outside the industry!

Misconceptions about making games

It’s so cool to make video games for a living! – Westwood College video – people think that is true! It obviously takes more then just playing games to make video games. It’s a real job, a worldwide market and a huge business (41 billion US$ from Pice Waterhouse Coopers, 2007).

Huge teams – from engineers, to physicists, to project managers, to computer scientists, to artists, to business graduates, to audio technicians…

“Breaking in” to the games industry. Can’t just play games to get a job in industry – a parallel being if you were able to to qualify for a chef was just eating food. You need a background in technical areas despite possibly being taught “game design”. Also no guarantee of a game design course meaning a job, just like business degrees and law degrees don’t guarantee work. “I want to make a game, now what?” “I want to make a game like monopoly, but I don’t know how to make the dice roll”.

Educators and industry support – MIT’s Scratch game building tool, mentoring, EA university work (contact her if you’re an eductator to get in contact!) and resources sites (IGDA, Gamasutra, etc.).

Demographically, 2005 IGDA “Game Developer Demographics” survey:

Gender: 11.5% female
Ethnicity: 16.7% non-Caucasian
Disability: 13% disabled (by their own reckoning, minor impairments).

Although there is nothing wrong with white males, can always strive for more diversity 🙂

From an informal small survey:

Why do you want to work in game development?
– A lifelong love of games (and an outlet for creativity)
– The next frontier for entertainment
– Working with people passionate about games

Are you happy with your Job?
– Yes, it can be challenging, great seeing the product on the shelf
– Yes, great supportive environment, growth and learning
– No, Quality of life vs. pay is terrible when compared to other industries

So, how can we make better games?
– Increasing diversity
– Better individuals with a different perspective
– Create the right work environment for creativity (Ebay, so much stifling – someone goes around to improve creativity by jumping up from behind desks!)

In conclusion, what have we learned about the perception of games?
– Debunked the myths (noted above) including games contribute to problem solving abilities and teamwork.

Stronger, Better, Faster
– People who make the games are professionals, from all walks of life and are a diverse group.
– Crunch still exists, but game creation process is maturing – but never going to get rid of the pressure of a deadline
– External perceptions are changing when young gamers grow up
– Industry is strong, and growing

What can we do?

– Shatter myths by sharing real data (Dr. Jenkins post for instance)
– Encourage people to experience content for themselves (especially with things like being critised for things they’ve never played – Mass Effect sex scene).

– By improving the diversity of the workplace, can improve games and the environment.

Share our passion for games and technology!
– Show how women who are passionate for games and technology. Just as exciting as hollywood or bollywood or any other industry.

Women in Games International member – they do local mixers, offer conferences, community outreach. Spring 2009, an enhanced mentoring program to be launched – or


What about the people who had bad experiences? A site perhaps to do anonomous voting on your employer? – is not industry specific but can rank the companies. Lots of tech folks however. Also some for 3d modellers,, and also Tom Slopers for information.

Violence and games…what about ethical stances of individual employees?
It should be up to the individual to research the company. Sometimes however people don’t know the amount of research they have to do. You could say if you were working in a large game company and in a tools team (for instance) you could ask not to work on the “Gore component” or something. Plenty of work to go around in large companies. Education about the way games are made too.

Pursuing a like-minded for a company is another idea, but it segregates people into groups of only a certain religion or creed. There are opportunities to deal with it, but I don’t know if we have a good solution.

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