This is where thoughts become things.

Hi, I'm Daniela. Welcome to my personal lair on the Internet. This is where I write about storytelling, activism, technology and pop culture. Sometimes I post videos. I update my lair when the mood strikes me. Follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@dcap).

Tag : gaming

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Women in games: A mini guide to working and thriving in the video game industry

Originally published* on in July of 2012.

By Daniela Capistrano / @dcap

“The single most important thing you can do [to break into the industry] is to make games – even if it’s a mod of a game that you love. Get together with other people and build a game.”—Amy Jo Kim, CEO at ShuffleBrain and Game Designer, Author and Educator

So, you’re a girl and you love video games: twenty years ago this would have been unusual but today almost everyone in the U.S. is a gamer: a 2011 survey indicated that 72 percent of households play video games and the number is growing. A 2013 study revealed that women comprise 45% of the gamer population. Women 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (31%) than boys age 17 or younger (19%).

The struggle: why few women go from gamer to creator

Unfortunately the video game industry is remarkably less diverse; The Boston Globe reports that women account for only 11 percent of game designers and 3 percent of programmers. Gender discrimination still exists both in how games are made and who gets to make them. Not only do we need more female characters in video games, we need more women and girls to create games.

Women still struggle with making a living and being respected in the video game industry. A 2012 Twitter discussion among women working in games (#1reasonwhy) pointed out that sexist practices, workplace harassment and unequal pay for men and women was common. 

There’s a 27 percent gap in average incomes, with women making $68,062 versus men at $86,418, according to Game Developer Magazine’s 2011 annual salary survey.

More roles for women in games

Men historically have had more influence within the industry, but the culture is changing. Female programmers are in demand and more women are taking advantage of video game design programs at universities across the nation. Reuters reports that the number of women hired by game companies has tripled since 2009, according to recruiting firm VonChurch.

To find out what it takes to succeed in the video game industry, Daniela Capistrano spoke with some of the leading women in video games. The result is this mini guide for girls and women of all ages who want a career making and contributing to gaming culture.

If you’re a guy and you stumbled across this, welcome! There’s plenty of relevant information here for you too.

DISCLOSURE: Despite its length, this article full of industry tips and online resources is called a mini guide because it only represents a third of what Daniela uncovered. To unhide all the goodies hidden within this guide, click the “show/hide” buttons.

The beginning: prepare yourself for a job in the industry

Women of all backgrounds have the opportunity to thrive in the video game industry while changing the way that women and people of color are represented in games – but they need the skills, personal habits and networks that will support their career goals.

Students: Do not believe the myth that boys are better than girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – it’s not true. While STEM skills are helpful in the video game industry and female programmers are needed, you don’t need to know how to code to work in video games (but consider learning anyway!).

If you want to make video games, start doing it now and teach yourself about the video game industry. Find ways to make learning fun and practice your developing talents. The path to a successful career in video games (regardless of gender) is similar to what’s required in most industries: being self-motivated, asking questions, learning/applying the necessary skills and finding peers and working professionals willing to offer guidance and mentorship.

We’ll explore how to do all these things further in this mini guide.

College grads and women in other industries: Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t excel at STEM in school, don’t know how to code or don’t have a degree in Computer Science. If you are passionate about video games and want to work in the industry, there are many opportunities for you to apply the skills you’ve attained through other work experiences.

If a kid can make games, so can you (watch this inspiring clip of Globaloria students)!

Some video game positions require more advanced technical skills than others, but all require the commitment to understanding how the industry works, where it’s headed and what you’re best suited to do to support the creation of video games.

“As an industry we’re very male centric but that is changing … I’ve heard people make arguments against why it’s important to have women in the industry. I counter with this: why would diversity make the industry worse? Different perspectives within games – and within actual game creation – is nothing but a good thing.” – Shana T. Bryant, Senior Associate Producer at Capcom

Not sure where to start? Get inspired!

Learn more about what your options are by studying the people who are already excelling in the industry. Here are three women with impressive careers in video games who are leading innovation:

Six tips to help you attain your dream job

Designer. Programmer. Developer. Producer. Artist. You might be familiar with these roles. but if they don’t appeal to you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a career in video games.

1. Be curious and optimize your distractions.

“I always let myself be curious – even get distracted – when something moves me. I follow blogs on strange photography, infinity and fractals, bizarre fashion trends; things that foster different emotions. When I design, I always start with emotions, sensations, revelations – what do I want players to feel, see, learn? I love paradox and juxtaposition, anything that forces your brain to think in a new way or make unexpected connections. I love going out to quiet places: parks and natural settings. Whenever my throat gets tight – something literally takes my breath away – then I know I should capture or try to understand it. Good game design revolves around creating evocative experiences.“ – Chelsea Howe, Director of Design at SuperBetter Labs

More thoughts on how curiosity informs skill-building:

“I still constantly play games and evaluate all the new platforms. I started on the Apple II and the latest platforms are social networks, ios devices and tablets – intellectual curiosity. I remember when I first started playing Facebook games in 2007 and 2008, being fascinated with asynchronistic gameplay with people. It was really intellectually fascinating to me, this new demographic.” – Brenda Garno Brathwaite, Loot Drop co-founder and award-winning game designer and author

“There was no career path laid out, no game design major or a graphical interface for the Internet when I started. I just kept asking questions and finding resources. One of the things you can use social media for is to learn something. Don’t just use it for chatting with friends. If you want to find game designers, look them up online or on Facebook, send them an email. They are surprisingly open to helping people who have a passion for something, who are asking questions and reaching out.” – Shannon Sullivan, VP, Programs and Production at World Wide Workshop


5 Rad Things: ‘Unicorns’ film progress, Sonic for iPhone, iPad 3 release date, Facebook’s Social Design Guidelines, and more

I’ve decided that (as part of this daily blogging experiment) I’m going to kick-off a “5 Rad Things” post that I’ll feature every Wednesday on The Lair.

Hump days are sometimes hard for me, so little factoids/delights that I manage to pluck from the web and turn around in my head are often just what I need to get me through them.

Here are 5 rad things that I’m going to “privately” (ha) obsess over today:

1. Sonic for iPhone

Did you know that Sonic 1, 2, and 4 are available for the iPhone? YES!!!! THEY ARE!!!!

Sonic the Hedgehog was the first game I really got into after Super Mario 3. The Sega Genesis console was the first game system I ever co-owned with my brother, and playing Sonic with him is a memory that brings me a lot of joy. I’m so excited about playing Sonic 1, 2, and 4 when I am on the subway while ignoring creepers. YAY!

If you’re a sneaky devil, there are *ahem* “ways” to get the games for free…. 😉 But you really should pay for them after you’ve tried them out. Developers need to eat too.

2. iPad 3 most likely delayed to 2012

Yup, most tech journalists and insider bloggers are saying that the iPad 3 shouldn’t be expected until March 2012. All you gadget heads out there are probably crying right now. Shaddup, ya babies! This is a good thing. I was actually considering getting the iPad 3 this fall, but now I’m glad it’s being delayed because hopefully that means the new version will role out with even more improved features.

Corvida Fellates Her New iPad 2
Corvida chews on her iPad 2 at a screening of “The Triplets of Belleville”

In our consumer culture, so many folks scramble to buy things they don’t really need. Apple counts on this to feed their bottom line by releasing “new” versions of the same product within months of each other, with only minor improvements. At this stage in my career, it benefits me to have an iPad so I can do product testing. However, it doesn’t benefit me to waste money. So I’m fine with borrowing my friend’s iPad 2 until the iPad 3 is released next year. No biggie.

3. Facebook Studio’s “Creatives Talk” series premieres today at 11am PST

From Cynopsis: Facebook Studio, the page on Facebook designed to share best practices for Facebook marketing from agency pros, is slated to launch a live Web series today at 11 a.m. pacific time called Creatives Talk. The show features interviews with creative thought leaders from fashion, TV, advertising, storytelling and more discussing their creative processes.

The first interview is with Brian Seth Hurst, CEO of the Opportunity Management Company, discussing marketing and multi-platform storytelling. You can watch on the Facebook Live tab on Facebook Studio.

4. Today Facebook released “Social Design Guidelines” on their developers site

Facebook has made it even easier for businesses and individuals alike to create their own engaging products for Facebook and to integrate Facebook into their multi-platform experiences. Check out the guidelines here. As you can see, there’s a very helpful section on plugins and mobile development.

5. I’m so proud of Leah for wrapping principle photography on “Unicorns” last month

Leah Meyerhoff is a friend I met through the Internet in 2008. I don’t remember how I found her, but I remember being struck by the content on her website and wanting to learn from her. I emailed her and she agreed to meet me in person. Since then, over the years I’ve volunteered my time during pre-production on her first feature “Unicorns” and learned a lot in the process. Her Flickr set alone is a wealth of information for first-time directors. Leah is a very loving, driven, and talented person and I’m grateful to know her.

About “Unicorns”
“I Believe In Unicorns” tells the story of an awkward teenage girl who escapes to a fantasy world when her first romantic relationship turns abusive. From Student Academy Award nominated director Leah Meyerhoff (Slamdance Grand Jury Prize winning short Twitch), executive producers Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Things Behind the Sun), David Kupferberg (Magic Valley) and Robin Leland (4th and Goal) and producers Heather Rae (Oscar nominated Frozen River) and Mark G. Mathis (Oscar winning Precious, Brick) Unicorns combines social and magical realism to address issues of teen dating violence from a new perspective.

Unicorns stars Natalia Dyer (The Greening of Whitney Brown), Peter Vack (I Just Want My Pants Back), Toni Meyerhoff (Twitch), Julia Garner (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Joshua Leonard (Blair Witch Project, Higher Ground) and Amy Seimetz (The Off Hours). A Sundance Lab finalist, Unicorns is a supported by an Emerging Narrative Filmmaker Grant from the Independent Feature Project and fiscal sponsorship from the San Francisco Film Society. Unicorns is currently shooting in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’m so happy that she’s reached this benchmark and that “Unicorns” will soon be a visual treat for anyone who can get to the big screen (and I’m sure other screen options as well 😉 ). Her newsletter say they are currently gearing up for an additional fantasy shoot and extensive stop motion animation before heading into post production. If you would like to get involved, contact her. They are also looking for an editor based in New York.

Please send recommendations to: info AT unicornsthemovie DOT com

To stick with my theme of rad things, I’ll end this post with her rad bio:

Leah Meyerhoff is a Slamdance Grand Jury Prize winner and Student Academy Award finalist currently pursuing an Masters in film at New York University. Her short film TWITCH has screened in over 200 film festivals, including Cannes, Palm Springs, Chicago International, Clermont-Ferrand, Newport International, Milan International and Woodstock. After winning a Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance and Best American Short at the Avignon Film Festival, TWITCH went on to become a finalist in the Student Academy Awards and win a dozen additional awards including Best of Fest at the Golden Star Shorts Fest, Best Female Director at the West Chester Film Festival, and an Honorable Mention at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

TWITCH was distributed domestically by IFC and internationally by Reelport and Skandinavia Television. Leah has since directed a Converse commercial and several music videos including TEAM QUEEN for Triple Creme, ETERNAL FLAME for Joan as Police Woman and LIKE OUR FATHERS for Luff, which have screened at dozens of film festivals including Frameline, Reeling, NewFest, and the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. TEAM QUEEN was a finalist for the Planet Out Awards, won Best Music Video at the Fort Worth LGBT Film Festival and is now airing on LOGO, while ETERNAL FLAME is on MTV Europe.

Leah has received press coverage from The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Film Threat and The San Francisco Chronicle among others. She was also profiled on the IFC docudrama series Film School, directed by Nanette Burstein. Leah graduated with Honors from Brown University with a Bachelor’s degree in Art-Semiotics. She continued her studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before transferring to New York University where she is currently a Dean’s Fellow in Graduate Film. Leah has taught undergraduate film courses at New York University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Film Academy, and Polimoda in Florence, Italy. She has also been on numerous filmmaking panels and was recently a jury member for Slamdance and HollyShorts, as well as a current programmer for Rooftop Films.

Leah is currently working on her first feature film, a Sundance Lab finalist and IFP grant winner called UNICORNS.

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

On My Radar: “Design Outside the Box” Presentation, Gaming In The “Real World” & Remix Culture

My colleague Stephen Totilo, Deputy Editor at Kotaku, recently tweeted this interesting info:

Stephen Totilo on Twitter

Stephen Totilo on Twitter

Touted on many gaming blogs as a must-watch about the future of gaming — and the future of life, Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of entertainment and technology Jesse Schell‘s presentation at DICE Summit is full of win.

Totilo previously noted in his post that Schell explained (among other things) where games are heading, beyond consoles and Facebook’s FarmVille.

Schell argued that the leading trend is games “busting through reality,” denying the old notion that gaming’s best attraction is fantasy. Games that have you connecting with people in the real world, outscoring your friends have an undeniable lure.

The Kotaku post on the “Design Outside the Box” Presentation advises you to find an intriguing point at the 20-minute mark.

All of Schell’s thoughts on point systems for everything in your life made me think of this terrifying/awesome book series I read as a kid:

Spirit Flyer Series

In the Spirit Flyer Series, everyone in Centerville (except for outsiders called “Rank Blanks”) live by a point system. The mystery behind who operates the point system is scary and can be interpreted as commentary on the effects of rampant consumerism.

Schell’s presentation also made me think of DJ Spooky’s incredible presentation on “Remix Culture.”

DJ Spooky aka Paul Miller spoke at UNC Chapel Hill in 2008 as a participant of the “Information In Life” Digital Video Series, where he discussed media in culture. Miller demonstrated the unexpected side effects of free speech, law, and copyright while showing the power of remixed art.

Remix culture and gaming definitely intersect and influence each other. From graffiti writers incorporating gaming iconography into their pieces to video games featuring pieces by legendary writers, the spectrum of influence is undeniable.