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!