The Womenize! Wednesday Weekly has awakened from its long hibernation and is finally back again!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For our first edition after this long break we feature Valentina Birke, head of Indie Arena Booth, curator at the PLAY festival and part of the jury for the Deutscher Computerspielepreis. Read more about Valentina in this interview:
Hey Valentina! You’re the head of Indie Arena Booth, curator at the PLAY festival and now also a part of the jury for the Deutscher Computerspielpreis. How does a workday usually look for you?
A usual workday is non existing. As both jobs are having really a lot of different levels of conceptual work, it’s different everyday. At the moment we’re starting with the preparations for PLAY19, so there’s a lot of conceptual work to do. Like how will the festival be like this time. We evaluate the things which we wanna keep and also brainstorming for new stuff we want to try out. Also of course the discussions about the festival theme and so on which is – as every year – my favourite and my least favourite part. Some of the program parts already have a kind of routine, after doing it since a few years. But I really do enjoy all of the parts.
The work at Indie Arena Booth is mostly conceptional work as well at the moment, with basically the same stages of work: defining what extras we want to have at Gamescom and also planning smaller events like participating the Berlin Gamesweek celebrations in April. Right now is the time of funding, brainstorming and also preparing the submissions for Gamescom, which will start mid march. The brainstorming part is my favourite as everything’s possible then. We are having so many exciting ideas what to do and it’s really a great thing to brainstorm with such a creative team. We are having some ideas what we want to do at gamescom to give the devs even more chances to network and more reach for their games and also we will have some nice new collabs planned for this year’s Indie Arena Booth. Also we’re of course working on other concepts of where we want to go with the booth, it’s a really interesting start of a journey for me.
The nice thing about my job is, that I got to play a lot of games. As I was invited to be a judge for the Deutscher Computerspielpreis my year already started with playing about 40 games for this occasion. When the submissions for Indie Arena Booth are starting there will be another 200 games to play AND after the submissions for the Creative Gaming Award another 200. This year will be the first year where it’s just impossible to play them all, what I did the last years as I was just participating in the Creative Gaming Award. Gladly there’s a great team, so there will be a bunch of people playing all of these games.
I really liked the work for the DCP though, it was my first time being a member of a jury and we had some really good discussions, which I totally enjoyed. I do like when the industry comes together and discusses matters of the industry and the DCP was a really good platform to do so.
What were the first steps you took into the gaming industry?
My first steps related to the game industry was during an internship at Initiative Creative Gaming. I joined the PLAY – Creative Gaming Festival (which was still located in Potsdam that time). I always had a passion for video games. Since my internship I worked as a freelance media educator, showing teenagers the creative use of video games, and a freelance video game curator. I used to work at this projects on the side, since I decided last year it should be a full time thing to do, so I quit my job as a social worker (which is basically the same thing as a project manager) and joined Super Crowd. It is my first “commercial” job in the gaming industry so far, but the Indie Arena Booth is not so much different from the exhibition I do at PLAY – Creative Gaming Festival. It’s about curating and scouting for new talents, so I’m super happy with that. As I really do love exploring games and getting a new inputs, this jobs are perfect for me and I’m happy I took that step to quit my other job, even when I also enjoyed it a lot.
What is the most important thing to learn as a woman new to this industry?
I think an advice I can give to women especially is to not define yourself solely on your gender and as a woman in the industry. Not that women tend to do so, but the other people around you will sometimes. For example, all this panels about how to be a woman of the gaming industry are still needed but if you’re just invited to panels to speak about your gender and not to panels related to your actual work, it can be problematic. I want to see more women on stages talking about their work and not only about how it is to be a woman in this industry.
More general advises which should work for everyone are: Speak out if you experience something that goes against your morals, or search for allies in situations you don’t dare to talk yourself. Try to address problematic behaviour in any occasion, even when it can be exhausting. If you don’t dare to speak out in a situation, that’s alright as well, not everybody is capable of doing this. Sometimes you’re just too paralyzed or don’t know what to say. Search for allies, talk to other people, that would be my general advise.
And last but not least, which also works for all genders: Do not participate in sexist or racist bullshit. Seriously, it’s not cool, never will be.
We couldn’t agree more with that. Thank you for your time Valentina!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. Today’s edition features Hamburg-based media educator Christiane Schwinge who is deeply involved in the gaming industry, always supporting the next generation of creative game makers. How? Read on to find out:
Hi Christiane! You’re a media educator and lecturer based in Hamburg, but you’re also very involved in the gaming industry. Can you tell us a little bit about how you became active in games?
Actually I studied education sciences to work at a theater afterwards. During my studies I got in touch with media education and I recognized that I want to become a media educator because of the huge relevance of media – not only for children and adolescents but for the whole society. For my main study period I moved to Hamburg in 2005 and I quickly got in touch with the local scene of media education. I joined the jaf e.V., a non-profit club for hands-on media education. Together with some other guys from this club we hosted a film festival at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn in 2006 where we also showed machinimas. This became the hour of birth for the independent and non-profit Initiative Creative Gaming that we founded in 2007.
In 2008 the first PLAY – Creative Gaming Festival took place and we also developed our first game design and machinima workshops for students and further training for teachers. Since then I’m very active in the field of games, arts, culture and education. Always with a twist because Creative Gaming means to play with games, to break rules, to make the game a toy or to use it as a tool. Today I’m the speaker of the Initiative and the artistic director of PLAY and – to close the circle – one of my foci is the intersection between theater and games. This topic always appears in the program of PLAY and besides that I’m experimenting with young people, for example how to transfer a digital game into the classroom.
To work with games is essential for me because it’s such an important and gigantic medium. It offers lots of possiblities to be creative, to tell your own story, to learn how to code and so on. Working with digital games also means getting in touch with so many different people, for example: students, parents, teachers, librarians, artists and so on. That’s what I really appreaciate about my work.
Can you give a little insight on what you do as a leader of ComputerSpielSchule Hamburg?
The ComputerSpielSchule Hamburg (CSH) is a project from Initiative Creative Gaming, funded by the Bücherhallen Hamburg, Hamburg’s public library and it is located at the Hoeb4U, the public youth library. It takes place every Friday afternoon at it’s open for everybody who is at least 10 years old or at 5th grade.
Together with my colleage Vera Marie Rodewald I run this project. We have a team of about 8 to 10 students from different universities and every Friday two students and one leader are conducting the CSH. This is a very important aspect because students that work at the CSH get a lot of practice and training over the long term. This is why the project became also important regarding the promotion of young media educators.
Since its opening in 2015 we are always working on the complex concept of the CSH. On the one hand it is classical hands-on, like producing your own Let’s Play or drawing new characters for an existing game. On the other hand it has a gamification frame. If you join the CSH you receive a questlog with lots of different quests and visible experience points. This is a huge incentive for the participants to come back which is pretty important because most of the participants could also just play at home, but they like being in the CSH because of the quests and the people.
Every second Tuesday we have a team meeting where we talk about the „school days“ and paedagogical questions, about technical stuff and of course about games that we would like to play there. Leading a project also means doing lots of organisational stuff such as team planning, accounting and fundraising. And besides that we are often invited to give insights into the concept of this project all around Germany.
You co-founded Initiative Creative Gaming. What is your agenda with the initiative in the long run, and what are current projects that you are excited about?
A very important aspect is to reach as many adolescents as possible to join our workshops. In our workshops they change their perspectives by using games not in the way they were supposed to be used and to develop something new. Through this change of perpspectives they become aware about games as something that is made by people. They realize that they also can become a game designer in principle. This is a basic goal of media education: to empower people to produce media to impress their own opinion.
To create enduring structures it is very important to get funds for longer projects such as the CSH. But also teachers play an important role because if they do not only cooperate with us by inviting us to conduct workshops at their schools but also join our further training, they will work with games in their lessons by themselves. We developed a very functional further training where we support and accompany the teachers for a while before they can use Creative Gaming methods for themselves. Providing further training for many more teachers would also lead to more enduring structures.
Last but not least I’m always excited about our festival. PLAY18 just took place one week ago but we are already planning PLAY19 which takes place from November 14th to 17th in Hamburg. What I love about curating this festival is that I deeply get in touch with one topic for a whole year. This year’s motto was „Ready Game Change – Create a New Tomorrow“ and the program dealt with the question how games can help to create a better future. Right now I’m collecting ideas for the next topic that will be announced in spring – so stay tunded! 🙂
Thank you for taking the time!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. Jana Reinhardt is an entrepreneuer who co-founded her own indie game studio named Rat King together with her friend Friedrich Hanisch, and they have been releasing numerous games since. According to Jana, creating games (as fantastic as it is) can sometimes be a struggle – and not just a timely one. Find out why:
Jana, you’re one half of the Halle-based game development Studio Rat King Entertainment. What led you to the decision to co-found your own studio with a friend instead of working with larger companies in the industry?
There were several reasons why I decided to found my own studio. One was that I just didn’t know where to apply after finishing my studies as a Multimedia Designer. There were a couple of companies in Germany I would have loved to work at. But I was insecure about my skills. I can create games from scratch, but I never specialized in anything really. I’m not a 3D modeler. Or texture artist. Or an animator. Nor a project manager. I love to do all of that, but not exclusively. The other reason is that I started creating games with Friedrich, the co-founder of RAT KING. We wanted to explore where our own game and design ideas would lead us. We already created several projects in university together and had an amazing division of work. I wrote my thesis about indie game studios – it would have been a missed opportunity not to try the same as the guys I covered in that thesis.
Working as both an Art & Games Designer and Games Journalist, how do you balance the work of those two different passions?
It’s not easy to balance both. Though I don’t think that they are very different disciplines. I’m a game addict and this is a welcoming possibility to analyze current games from the perspective of a game developer and a journalist, and talk about both worlds. But the truth is: whenever I play someone else’s game it takes time from my own creations. It is a constant struggle – for most game developers, I guess – to still find some space for playing games while the overhead of leading a studio already eats up time to actually create games.
I’m still not sure if I should rather focus solely on creating games, but I would very much miss writing about games and using my platforms (radio, Twitter, etc) to showcase interesting and innovative niche productions.
If you could change one thing about the gaming industry, what would it be?
There are a lot of problems we are still facing in the game industry, from the underrepresentation of minorities in games to sexism to neglected game workers rights. But I think that games are still mostly about violence and shooting is a shame. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooters and swords fight A LOT. But I wish there were more games about politics or issues we face in our daily lives. Seeing what is happening in the world right now (right-wing politicians gaining more power, climate change, pollution and waste in the oceans, the refugee crisis – to name just a couple of those) I feel bad for simply creating adventure games for fun.
I don’t know if that’s the fault of the game industry or the games market or that we mostly cater to fun and entertainment. It really is a challenge to get out of my own comfort zone and try to create more meaningful games myself. I hope creating those becomes more relevant in the future than just technical innovations.
We hope so, too and wish you best of luck!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. Rae Grimm is head of GamePro, and has been writing about games for more than seven years. We wanted to know how she’s gotten to where she is today and what advice she has in store for women aiming to work as a video games journalist.
Hi Rae, how does one become head of GamePro? What’s your story?
Usually, when someone asks me how I got where I am I say “I just wanted to buy a Wii and things kind of escalated from there” which is actually true. I rather stumbled into writing about video games when I bought one several years back. While searching for games that might interest me, I found a small website looking for editors. I always wanted to be a writer or a journalist, but traditional journalism never felt like a good fit for me. So I applied for the freelance editor position and got it. It was unpaid but it taught me the basics of writing about video games and showed me that writing for an online audience might be the right path for me.
I did an internship for the movie website “moviepilot” afterward to see if working with a “real” editorial team would be something for me. While moviepilot couldn’t employ me after my internship, I left a lasting impression there because of my passion for video games. I got my first job as a full time editor at IGN Germany shortly afterwards where I was for two years before the folks of moviepilot approached me, asking me if I’d be interested in building a new website for video games with a small team of my choosing. It was a really great opportunity and so “gamespilot” was born.
The website existed for about two or three years, until our owner (Webedia) bought GameStar and GamePro from IDG. At its core, the values and ideas of GamePro and gamespilot were very similar but when it came to strengths and weaknesses, they balanced each other out quite perfectly. So when I was approached if we’d be interested in merging both websites, forming a bigger team with me leading it, there wasn’t much to think about. I talked to my team and we all agreed that this was a great opportunity for us. This is how the “new GamePro” or “GP 2.0” as we called it, was born. In the past, I often said that I got “lucky” when I got my position. I guess luck was part of it but mostly it was hard work, passion, and maybe a vision of what I always wanted: A mainstream gaming website where everyone could feel welcome.
Are there any recent projects you’re working on that you are excited about?
There’s always something brewing! On a day to day basis, my focus is on leading the team of GamePro.de, helping them with their projects as well as doing the longterm planning. At the moment I’m mostly working on where 2019 will take us. There are some exciting things happening but unfortunately, I’m not ready to talk about them just yet. I’m also more and more involved with mentoring younger video game journalists which I really enjoy.
Do you have any career advice for upcoming video game journalists? What did you wish you knew when you started?
There are so many things I’d tell my younger self who was just starting out, I could probably fill books with it. I feel like a lot has changed since I first started out in video games. The industry itself changed as well as how I approach everything. It seems to be a different beast than a decade ago, maybe even five years ago. And maybe that’s the most important thing to keep in mind: Things change. A lot.
A few years ago we had different kinds of games than we have now and the medium keeps changing – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The trick is to always stay flexible and curious and not cling too much to the past. Because while you might be busy bemoaning that gaming (journalism) is not the same it used to be, a new generation of gamers never knew those times and most likely doesn’t care. Always remember who you are writing for and consider what they want and need.
Oh and never forget: You don’t need to be born with a controller in hand to be a good video games journalist. Nobody knows everything or has played everything. Just need to be curious and willing to learn and the rest will sort itself out.
Thank you for your time Rae!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. Catarina Macedo is program manager for Xbox from Seattle, Washington. Born and raised in Portugal, Catarina set her mind on going after the job she always wanted and told us what sacrifices she made to get there.
Hi Catarina! In spring 2017, you scored your dream job working for XBOX as a program manager. Can you give us a little insight on what you do at your job?
As a Program Manager in the Xbox Live Social team, I am responsible for some of our Xbox Live services and own some feature areas and experiences that Xbox gamers interact with every time they play! Everyone in my team makes sure that the Xbox Live services are all up and running properly, while thinking about new ideas in the social space and making those a reality. We want to bring more and more people into our ecosystem so they can interact in new and exciting ways, and make sure that our fans get the features that are important to them in order to keep them engaged with their friends and communities (which is something I am incredibly passionate about!).
What kind of struggles did you face in the industry, going after the job you wanted?
Being from Portugal, where we don’t have an overdeveloped games industry (although we have amazing game developers who make incredible games), and because I had the very specific goal of coming to work for Xbox, I would say that the first and biggest struggle to get where I am was the actual move to the US. Working at Microsoft in Portugal was a huge opportunity, and once I was in, I kept telling everyone what my dream was. I worked with some inspiring and empowering people, they all took a bet on me and motivated me to never give up and just go after it. After I moved to the US, I again found nothing but support from the team I joined here to continue pursuing my dream, and had great mentors within the Xbox team as well. Now that I’m here, it was as inspiring as I thought it would be – I feel extremely supported by the entire organization and I am able to do my best work with my team here.
On your Twitter you wrote that you want the gaming/eSports industry to have a more meaningful impact. What change would you be happy to see in the industry?
This is my mission in life. I totally believe in the power of videogames to change lives for the better: be it in the social, cognitive and professional space, playing and developing games has so many benefits and helps so many across the world, that we just need to dare to dream to imagine the true impact videogames can have. A few things that are on top of my mind: having esports programs within schools and colleges, where pro players feel supported in their careers and pursue an education; how videogames can revolutionize the way we set up our education systems (Minecraft for Edu example comes to mind, and the “Reality is Broken” book has some really great examples here) and how kids can be more engaged in what and how they learn; how videogames can increase the quality of life of patients in hospitals and how they can empower people with disabilities in such a revolutionizing way; and how all the new jobs in videogames can be seen as viable, fulfilling careers.
We as an industry know that everything we do, every day, be it videogames as an entertainment medium or something more, is changing and affecting lives across the globe – so it’s my deepest belief that we should all shape our thinking to maximize that impact and make the world a better place!
Thank you for your inspiring message, Catarina!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. This week, Glenna Buford of COUP did us the honors of speaking with us about her work as an iOS engineer and her passion projects #girlsgamesworkshop and Women Who Code.
Hi Glenna! Straight off the bat: Can you explain what you do at your job as an iOS engineer for COUP?
Sure! I joined COUP in June, and the iOS team was in the final stretch of rewriting the app to improve stability. I was relatively new to Apple’s programming language Swift, so I spent a bit of time coming up to speed on doing things the Swift-y way and relearning some of Apple’s UI frameworks I hadn’t used in a while (because in games we use game engines for layout, not the built in iOS Frameworks). But, after a few weeks of digging into the new code base and working on smaller tasks, I was pretty much up to speed. We were working on the last remaining features of bringing the new app up to par with the currently released version. I’ve worked on various features including our sign-up flow, a little revamp of our network stack in preparation for a new internal app, as well as squashing a few bugs ;).
In short, mostly coding and reading design specs 🙂
Before COUP, you worked at @Wooga and co-founded #girlsgamesworkshop there. What made you go ‘this is something that we need to do for young girls’ and what can they learn at the workshop?
Besides the obvious? 😉 This is actually something I’ve been passionate about for a long time. In university, I studied math, and I can remember running a program where we visited local high schools and middle schools to do a fun and interactive math lesson to try to inspire kids to be more interested in math. Then, enter my computer science career, and I’m usually the only woman on my team or in the engineering department. I think the workshop was just an outlet for us (all of the volunteers and people who support the workshop) to introduce games as a career option to girls when they are still impressionable, and haven’t written programming or games off as a “boys thing”. When I had the chance to create this workshop, I was really excited to give it a go. I found a wonderful group of volunteers, Wooga was very supportive, and the tech and games scene in Berlin really got behind the concept.
At the workshop, we teach them about game design — what makes a game? How does one win/lose a level? How do you progress? What are the key game mechanics? Are there characters? — questions like that. After they’ve got the basics down, we give them some mobile devices to play around with different games installed and do research on the different types of mechanics we just discussed. Then we pair them up into teams and they start designing their own game on pen and paper. Next we give them a brief introduction to Scratch — we’ve learned over the course of the workshops that we’ve run not to hand out the computers before we’re ready for them to play, otherwise they will go wild — we are always very impressed at how curious the girls are and how they try without fear of failure to do things in Scratch.
We introduce basic programming concepts to the girls with fun interactive and amusing tutorials (e.g. making a cat “meow” in a loop 10 times…) our team of volunteers has built. And after we give a small overview of basic programming concepts, we let them run loose on programming their own games they designed earlier. Usually, they get about 2.5-3 hours to program on their own game, and at the end of the day they get to demo the game to their parents. I think all volunteers will tell you that we are always very impressed with the games the girls come up with and how far they get in programming their game.
You’ve been director of Women Who Code Berlin since 2016. What’s the initiative about and how can women benefit from it?
Women Who Code is a global organization aimed to help women excel in technology careers. This can mean anything from helping women at the start of their technical careers, to providing coaching and training for women already in technical careers. We want to see more women in all levels of technology careers, from junior positions to management to C-level. We have networks all over the globe, and I help run the network here in Berlin.
We currently offer two varieties of regular meetups in Berlin — Hack Nights and Talk Nights. At Hack Nights, we create a sort of co-working space where people who are working on side projects can come together and work in the space. This is especially good for beginners who are learning to code, as they can come and work on their projects and if they need help there’s usually someone in the room that can help them. Talk Nights are more like a mini-conference. We have 3 speakers present on any kind of technical or soft-skills talk relevant to technology fields. We’ve had talks ranging from Natural Language Processing to video encoding to augmented reality to dealing with and preventing burnouts.
Through Women Who Code, people can get a sense of community and, one of the most important things I think is, see women in technical roles of varying levels. We foster the building of relationships and mentorships for newbies and senior level women in technical and management roles. We also provide women with opportunities to attend conferences with financial support.
Thanks for your insight, Glenna!
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. Our beloved collegue and friend Jenni Wergin is leaving our office to take the next steps in her career, so we’re dedicating this week’s WWW feature to her! Jenni has been working with Booster Space for 3 years and has been the driving force behind Womenize! as project manager. We couldn’t be more proud and of course we wanted to know about her journey:
Hi Jenni, you’ve just completed your master’s degree in European Media Studies at University of Potsdam, yet you’ve been working in the games industry for several years. What was your stepping stone, how did you end up with Womenize?
In 2015, I took a weekend’s course at uni where we developed a news game with Michael Liebe, who is head of #gamesweekberlin and CEO of Booster Space. I asked him if he needed any help with gamesweekberlin and he said they were in need of a speaker manager, so I started doing that.
It’s almost like a little fairytale, because just two weeks later, Michael and Ruth Lemmen were at #gamesweekberlin and were looking for a project manager for their new project, which was Womenize. And if you get offered a job, there’s a two-second-rule: Either you say yes straight away or you hesitate too long and your chance is gone. So I said yes without any previous experience in the job, dived right into it and gave it my all. From 2015 until the end of September 2018, I did my job with great passion.
How big of a challenge was it to build a career in games while you were busy as a master’s student? Got any tips?
Actually it’s a lot like in any other industry, you just need to start somewhere. It helps to know which field you would like to go into. The games industry is very young and innovative, so Berlin especially is a hotspot for vastly different jobs and companies that are looking for employees. Often times people don’t really know about the variety of jobs there is, next to the classics like game design, programming or game art.
My advice is to try and gain as much work experience as you can during your master’s degree (it’s doable). That, of course, is only beneficial if you don’t plan on getting your PHD (in that case, pursue your academic career). Even if you end up with a good grade in your master’s, it’s often work experience that future employers are looking for the most.
Another advice is: Apply to more than just your dream company and gather experience in the application process. It’s sometimes easier to talk to companies if it’s not your dream job that is on the line. And it boosts your confidence.
You’ve just started work as the new funding manager “games” at Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. What are you looking forward to the most at your new job?
What I’m looking forward to the most as Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg’s funding manager, is boosting the games industry locally as well as nationally. There’s so many young and creative developers here who are not able to gather enough start-up capital to realize their dreams and goals. On top of that, there’s a lot of potential in Berlin’s indie scene and I am happy that I get to make a difference for them. Boosting the games industry, pushing forward – that’s the most amazing thing about my job. I’m right at the source of new ideas, trends and developments, and I’m super excited!
Thank you for your work and dedication – you go, girl! ❤
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. We had the pleasure of speaking with UI (User Interface)/UX (User Experience) designer Anisa Sanusi of Hutch Games this week. She tells us about her work and why she is “fighting for inclusivity” in the industry:
Hi Anisa! First off, how did you become a UX Designer what led you to specialize in UI/UX?
My mother bought me my first Sailormoon comic book at age 7 and I was immediately inspired to draw just like it. Ever since then I loved all things comics, animation and video games. I went to university to study Computer Animation but whilst there I befriended a few people in the games course. I helped out a programmer on his final year project where I did all the art for his side-shooter game. That project, alongside prior experience at an animation studio got me my first games job as a 2D Artist. Just getting into the industry wasn’t enough, that was just the beginning. I didn’t know how I fit anywhere, as I wasn’t really a concept artist or a competent 3D artist either. Somehow though, all the UI work felt very natural to me – they were elements of the game that most people find boring, yet I thrived working on.
It wasn’t until I was working on Planet Coaster whilst at Frontier that I started looking up this discipline called “user experience”, or just UX. The theme park management game was UI heavy, and the game design behind it all was extremely intricate. I was in a unique position where my UI work could make or break the game. Fortunately I was part of a huge UI team that was compromised of both coders and artists, and I’m very proud with what we’ve achieved. It opened a door to me that I didn’t know existed – great game design could be hampered with bad or absent UX design. For the first time I felt like I had influence over a games holistic experience that just isn’t some menu buttons hidden in the options screen. For me, art was getting the door open and entering the industry, but UX design was finding the seat with my name on it.
Last year you switched from Frontier Developments to Hutch games, a big change of direction in your career. How come?
Frontier is a bigger company of 300 or so employees with a rigid internal structure based in the quaint town of Cambridge. They mostly made PC games but also port them onto consoles. Hutch on the other hand is a much smaller company of 60 people based in the very beating heart of London. Hutch focuses solely on mobile games, specifically in the automotive and racing genre. Both are great games studios, but Hutch as a whole fits my personality and working style much better. Frontier granted me chances to work on well known titles with great reach, but I felt like I work better in smaller teams where I could have a stronger influence on the final game. I’m a lot more hands on here at Hutch, and wear multiple hats of designing, making art and implementation too. Doesn’t hurt that it’s based in London, a city I’ve always dreamed of living and working in! It was a big risk when I made the jump, but as I get older I’m much more aware of how I am as a person, a developer and an employee which also means I know better what kind of work place I can thrive in.
I think it’s very important for young aspiring game devs to understand that you shouldn’t put too much value to working in a “popular” studio as a measurement of success. Games has such a wide point of entry that you get people fitting in so many different slots – AAA, or indie, development or management, journalism or PR. Once you’re in the industry, the next challenge is finding where you belong – and from there you can start carving out your mark, regardless of where or when. It’s not a race or a competition. It’s a place for you to grow and create at your own pace.
You’re an advocate for ethnic diversity of women in the games sector. What personal background story and experiences motivated you to inspire diversity in games and tech, not only in gender but especially in ethnics?
So I’m currently based in London, UK. As you might expect, the landscape of the industry is mostly male and white – unlike me, a south-east asian female immigrant. I would say that I’ve been pretty lucky in my career path that I haven’t endured any traumatising negative experiences, though sometimes I attribute that to my naivety. Looking back at my university or early days in the industry, there were a some incidents that at the time I thought was just bad luck with people – but with better understanding of the socio-economical implications now, they were definitely acts of microaggression. Older women are a lot more in tune with recognising and calling out unwanted behaviour. I had one woman in power help me through a tough time at my first games job. I hope to do the same with new incoming women into this industry. I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.
Being an immigrant grants me a certain perspective that is unique to people of this category. I get people on the street shouting asian slurs at me. I see actual islamophobia in the media. I am not strong in that I believe I can change the minds of people different from me, or even that I have solutions to these problems. But what I do know, is that sometimes all you need is an empathic ear, a shoulder to lean on, or someone to just say “yeah, I understand how that feels”. Rami Ismail, a fellow muslim developer, said that his goal isn’t to make everyone on earth to make games – but it’s to make everyone that wants to make games, feels welcomed and safe. I agree with him, diversity isn’t the end goal. We’re fighting for inclusivity.
Thank you for sharing your insights!
Interested in more inspirational women? Come to Womenize! Games and Tech Cologne Edition and connect with an abundance of incredible talents from the industry!
In light of the second edition of Womenize! on October 12+13, 2018, we’re bringing back our Womenize! Wednesday Weekly feature! WWW – for short – is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. This week, we’re thrilled to speak to Johanna Janiszewski, indie game developer (Monkey Swag), founder of Tiny Crocodile Studios and recent winner of Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2018. Read more about what Johanna is up to now:
Hi Johanna and congratulations on winning the Deutscher Computerspielpreis for your mobile game Monkey Swag this year! What’s the next steps your going to be taking from here?
Johanna: Thanks! With the Deutscher Computerspielpreis, we can work independently on new ideas. We are developing a concept for a new game right now. The game’s focus will be narration, and maybe we will go on another journey with the monkeys. However, since we are very early in the concept phase, we don’t want to give away too much information yet. Also, we engage with social issues. For example, we are organizing a game jam with the topic “peace” right now. Follow us on Twitter @Treasure_Monkeys to stay tuned!
In 2016, you founded Tiny Crocodile Studios. Looking back, what was the easiest and hardest part about becoming an entrepreneur?
Surprisingly, the easiest part was the paperwork. I assumed that this would be harder, but I got support from the company firma.de, who helps entrepreneurs step by step to accomplish the founding process. The hardest part was and still is the management of all the stuff you have to do as an entrepreneur. My work is 80% organizational, and I am delighted when I can find some time to work on a game myself.
Before your own game development studio, you quit your job at another games company. What advice can you give other women in the business who are unhappy with their workplace?
Try to improve your situation actively. If that does not work: invest in yourself. Apply to other companies. Learn as much as you can, put money on the side and build on becoming the person that you want to be. Work towards the moment when you can afford to part from your current workplace – no matter if you’re going to work for someone else, be self-employed or an entrepreneur. Gain knowledge and experience even from your current unhappy situation. Do not hold any grudge against your boss. It does not improve the situation, and it makes it worse. Say to yourself: this situation is not right for me so I will find the right way for me to leave it.
Thank you for your time!
Interested in more inspirational women? Come to Womenize! Games and Tech Cologne Edition and connect with an abundance of incredible talents from the industry!