Coding

Female game developers


I follow a bunch of female game developers on Twitter. Now, I also follow a bunch of male game developers on Twitter, too. In fact, it’s fairer to say that I just follow a bunch of game developers on Twitter. But that’s exactly the issue, isn’t it?

What are you talking about?

The point is, a few days ago, @whitney – one of the game devs I follow – tweeted the following:

Folks contact me b/c they need a female game designer. Makes me want to relabel a giant jar of mayo with MAGIC GIRL SAUCE & carry it around.

Then followed it up with:

Was also going to say I can’t wait until “female game designer” sounds as antiquated as “female doctor” but uh, people still say the latter.

And then:

Pilotess! Doctorette! Police officerina! Game designelle?

Well she’s right, you know

Well, maybe. I’m sure that in many cases – and probably the original case she mentioned – it’s just hiring managers ticking a checkbox. “Must have X number of female developers on staff.” Or worse, clueless wanna-be Zyngas thinking they can hire @whitney and have her sell them The Secret Behind Bilking Ladies Out Of Money.

But on the other hand, there can be an incredible value in adding a female to an already all-male team.

Doctorette!

Imagine you have to go into the doctor’s office and have your, ah… sensitive areas examined – you think your partner might have been cheating on you, and that rash down there is hella embarrassing and worrying. But the only doctors available are of the opposite gender.

Sure, maybe you’re strong enough and un-self-conscious enough to go get it done anyway, but there are going to be plenty of people out there who are embarrassed to the point where they may skip having the examination done at all.

Having a female doctor on-staff may save lives.

Police officerina!

10-16! 10-16! We have a domestic disturbance! Car 460, you are closest, please respond!

And yet car 416 has only male officers. Arriving on-scene, they’re able to separate the squabbling couple. The man insists that his “stupid bitch” of a wife is trying to ruin his life and he doesn’t remember who started swinging first. The lady is too intimidated by the large male police officer to say anything. In this case, having officers of both genders on-site ensures that both parties get fair, unbiased, caring, and un-intimidating treatment.

Yeah, but Pilotess?

You got me on that one. That IS ridiculous.

Okay, so… Female Game Developer, then?

I still think this one has merit. I went to a presentation at PAX East last year on “Expanding Your Game’s Market”, and expected tips about SEO, or cross-brand promotion, etc. How wrong I was. The entire presentation – the entire presentation – was about finding entirely different markets for your game. Not how to advertise better, but how to think of and appeal to entirely different people.

A great deal was said about transgender gamers. Transgender people typically tend to be very brand-loyal – when they find a company that values them and values their values, they make go out of their way to reward that effort with increased patronage. Many of the people on the panel were blown away by the fact that there were no games or game companies falling over themselves to appeal to transgender people.

But really, how can they without having someone on-staff who understands the position of transgender people? I’ll be honest, I don’t know the first thing about what it’s like to identify as transgender. I don’t have any transgender friends, or even acquaintances! So how am I supposed to make a game that appeals to that market without hiring from within that market?

Now, a market that games companies are falling all over themselves to appeal to is women. Yet a great many game companies are still composed entirely of men! Now while we all (generally) know some women that we can consult with or at least mentally model, how much more beneficial would it be to actually have a lady on-staff that can contribute regularly and meaningfully?

Hypocrite!

A little. We don’t have many female game developers at Hitgrab, true. And yet we somehow manage to put out a game that does appeal to women.

But it’s hard.

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – successfully – is difficult. We’ve lamented a few times the difficulties we face in trying to appeal to the various play styles and tastes of the people who play MouseHunt, especially when we don’t share those same tastes. We do our best to put the stuff we’d like to do in the game, as well as listen to our community, and put in the things that they request.

But it’s hard.

Many great, game-changing ideas fall by the wayside because they don’t have a champion. Many incredible ideas never get raised because nobody with that point of view is there. Many good, cross-gender-appealing ideas do make it in the game, but they have rough edges that only get polished off once the game is live and a full cross-section of our players have the chance to realize what does and doesn’t work.

Like I said, it’s hard.

So would I hire a female game dev as a magic bullet to make my game appeal to women? Heck no.

But would I hire a game dev with insight into the mind of a wider market – all other qualifications being equal? Sure. And that dev would have an excellent chance of being female, I’m sure.

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