As I opened Marvel’s Storm #1 a few months ago, I immediately noticed a full-page ad for Full Sail University on the front cover. The ad featured women in game design. Since there’s a lot of discussion and debate surrounding the inequity of women in game development (especially with the GamerGate controversy), I decided to reach out to the school to see what women in the field have to say.
Alumna Katherine Winter answered my questions about what it’s like to be a woman in her field, where our gender still represents a minority. Katherine received a Bachelor of Science in Game Development from Full Sail University. She is currently a software engineer.
Tara M. Clapper: Why do you feel that women are underrepresented in the gaming industry?
Katherine Winter: I know the Game Developer Salary [Survey] came out recently. They said that women are paid less than men in the gaming industry. That hasn’t been my personal experience. I am treated extremely well where I work and feel like an equal. I haven’t researched the topic enough to comment further.
TMC: What is your dream job?
KW: Being a software engineer has been a dream of mine ever since I was 10. I started messing around with HTML when I was into Neopets. It never really dawn on me that there are real people on the other side making the games that we know and love. When I beat Fable 1 there was a piece of the credits that showed how many pizzas, Chinese, etc. that they ordered during the development process. It really impressed me just how hard these people must have worked, and how closely they worked together.
TMC: Why did you decide to apply to Full Sail University?
KW: To sum it up: YouTube. I had a friend on YouTube who posted a video of one of the final project presentations. I was so impressed. I knew right then that I wanted to learn how to make games too.
TMC: When you decided to enter the field of game programming and design, did you encounter any resistance from friends or family? If so, was it based upon your gender?
KW: Everyone was VERY supportive of me. I knew it would be a good industry to get into if I worked hard.
TMC: What resources does Full Sail University give you upon graduating? Did they help you make connections in the real world?
KW: Full Sail would have interviews on site and would send me job posting over email. One of the great things about Full Sail is how close you become with your classmates. As a result, if one of your classmates gets hired somewhere, they are likely to help you out too. Additionally, the alumni are quite active, and are happy to check sample code that you might want to send out to potential employers.
TMC: Do you feel that having more female game designers will change the types of games made and the characters who inhabit those games? If so, how?
KW: I don’t think so. There are several women in the industry as it is. Even if there were more I don’t think the characters would change. If there were lots of women game designers on Street; Chun-Li’s body figure would more than likely be the same. I know a lot of people would disagree, but it’s true. You can even take note that Chun-Li is one of the most popular cosplays there is.
TMC: Feminist gamers (female and male) often want to find and support games that promote equality in the storyline and female playable characters. Where should they go to find out what games to support?
KW: Find your favorite feminist gaming blog and see what they have to say.
TMC: What is your reaction to Ubisoft’s claim that a female assassin is just ‘too hard’ to animate?
KW: In reading a statement from Ubisoft, they said not that it’s too hard, but it’s would be too expensive. Time is money. There is a lot that goes in to adding new features into a game: voices, animations, flow for picking the character, etc. All that takes countless hours of many people’s time. A secret about the game industry: if they can cut a feature – typically they will. When you have a set timeline – something has to give. If there is only two weeks left, the team has 50 bugs to go, AND they want to add a last-minute character? – Not going to happen.
TMC: What is your advice for other women hoping to enter the gaming industry?
KW: Work hard, have ambition, and network.
Based on the recent press surrounding female game developers, this wasn’t what I was expecting to hear from a woman in the field. It’s very encouraging to hear about a positive experience from a software engineer. Hopefully this type of experience remains (or becomes) the norm in the industry. Are you in software development or another aspect of the gaming industry? Do you want to discuss your experiences? Email Tara at email@example.com and let us know what you have to say. We’d be happy to learn about and publish your experiences.