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Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: Brianna Wu

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Brianna Wu is a game developer. She is also the head of Giant Spacekat which is a female lead gaming development team. She is also often a speaker on the subject of women in the tech industry.

Brianna found a love of technology early in her life. This would serve her well as that love helped her to pave her own way. She was adopted into a conservative family that she would not always feel like she belonged in. Learning to program and work on computers are some of her happiest memories as a child. Thankfully her family supported her in her love of technology and provided her with resources that have helped her to become a successful woman in the field of gaming.

That support helped her to start her first business as a teenager. From her parents’ garage she would modify cars and computers. By the time she was in college, she had saved up a nice nest egg, which enabled her to leave the program she was not happy in. Brianna went through many changes and challenges that helped her find her own views and voice in the world during this time. This journey would help her discover what she wanted out of life, and gaming.

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Brianna started Giant Spacekat in 2010. The company was not started with a strong feminist stance in mind. Brianna simply wanted to make things that she liked and wanted to see in games. It turns out that what she wanted was a more inclusive gaming space. This tone led to Revolution 60, the first game from Giant Spacekat, that featured all female operatives and strong feminist overtones in the game.

As she spoke with more women in the gaming industry, Brianna found that many of them were having similar experiences to herself. This led her to changing the culture of her studio. It also led Brianna to taking on more speaking appearances and writing about women in the gaming industry.

Brianna Wu is an example of how life takes us on paths we may not expect. Everything is a learning experience and we are meant to grow on this journey we call life.

Always keep sparkling!

 

Influential Women in Gaming: Ashley Johnson

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ashley 2Ashley Johnson is a gamer, actress and overall boss. She has been acting since she was seven years old and is also a BAFTA award winner. Ashley shows yet one more face of women gamers.

Ashley grew up in a creative family which seems to have served her well. Music, acting and even exploring the sea were all things she experienced through her family. This bohemian upbringing has given her many of tools to use. It has certainly helped her start her career early in life.

The first break Ashley got in her career was in the hit show Growing Pains as Chrissy Seaver. Ashley has also done a lot of work as a voice actress. Some of those projects were; the television series Jumanji, Recess as Gretchen who was my favorite character on the show and in Teen Titans Go! She is currently airing in the television series Blindspot. When not filming Ashley is an avid gamer.

pikeMost people have seen her on Geek and Sundry. Ashley has been on a few episodes of Tabletop.  She has also been a host on Signalboost. Her exploits on Critical Role as both Pike Trickfoot and Yasha are both entertaining and inspiring for Dungeons and Dragons players. Ashley has a wonderful way of putting herself in her characters. She also gives them an amazing amount of depth. Pike’s struggle between duty and her friends was always so well played.

Like many of us Ashley balances her career with her gaming life. She is an example of finding a way to both. She is proof that you can hone your craft, and your game, to make yourself a success.  

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Always keep sparkling!

Guest Post: The Number of Female Gamers is Rising, Studies Show, so What’s the Problem?

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Gaming research studies for several years have been dealing major blows to the stereotypical view of the typical gamer as a white guy in his mom’s basement. In 2014, a paper by the Internet Advertising Bureau showed that a shocking 52 percent of the total gaming audience is actually women. It indicated a rise from the 49 percent in 2012. By 2017, the most recent research shows that this number had risen to an incredible 65 percent. The 2017 Google Play and Newzoo study revealed that women are now more than half of the gamer population.

The rising number of female gamers should be a positive sign for women in gaming, who have been long marginalized, discriminated against, and openly harassed by fellow male gamers. The million-dollar question now is, is it really? While women are boosting the multibillion-dollar gaming industry, largely by playing various mobile games, the sector is still struggling to accommodate female gamers. Many women gamers, it turns out, largely feel underrepresented in the gaming sector. Let’s consider some of the contributing reasons:

Persistent Stigma
Female gamers may have the numbers on their side, but the general attitudes in the industry largely stigmatize them. Veteran female gamers complain of bias female gamers still have to face. The stigma can be pervasive enough to drive women to pretend to be men when playing. Researchers have noted that a considerable number of female gamers do not disclose their gender because of fear of being alienated by male players. The “gamergate” scandal brought to light the level of misogyny hardcore female gamers have to face. There are also more subtle hints of misogyny indicated in surveys. Another Google Play survey found that male gamers are more likely to spend time playing with others if they know those other players are also male.

Lack of Female Game Developers
While the female percentage in the player sector is on the rise, the same is not true for women game developers, designers, or creators. Women players may be owning it in mobile games or building their own gaming PCs, but according to the International Game Developers Association, only less than 30 percent of developers in the gaming industry are either female or transgender. This affects how women are depicted in games, obviously. The traditional mold of the female characters in games being over-exaggerated sex symbols is still prominent, which discourages female gamers from trying out some of the top ranking titles. It should be noted though that some activist developers are trying to include more diverse and wholesome female characters in games.

Male Toons are Still Prominent
Women are getting into the gaming scene largely thanks to the rise of gaming apps. Women of all ages and from nearly all walks of life can play games while on the move. Some women, like new mothers, report that mobile gaming is a pleasant distraction. Naturally, these female gamers prefer to adopt female avatars and toons for in-game experiences. However, a majority of games still feature male personas rather than female ones. Google found out that the 44 percent of game app icons on Google
Play feature male faces rather than female ones, despite the majority of women consuming these products. A survey found that over 60 percent of female gamers think no more than one-third of mobile games are made for women.

The fact that the number of female gamers is on the rise should be a pleasant and welcoming development for aspiring female gamers and developers everywhere. But as the points above indicate, gender parity is still far from reality in gaming. Hopefully in the future, with more female gamers and developers, these unequal factors may change for the better.

Written By: Tracy Plunkett, Kiwi writer with a love for gadgets, games, and music. I also have an unhealthy obsession with cats.

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Jessica Chobot

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Jessica Chobot gained exposure in the gaming world when a picture of her licking a Sony PSP surfaced in 2005. That photo has been parodied heavily since and has been attempted by many as an example of the “fake gamer girl” stereotype. Little did anyone know what Chobot would acomplish. Instead of letting that break her. Chobot used it to fuel her career. Since, she has worked for IGN, become a writer, a voice actress for games, and also works for the Nerdist.

There is always a risk of being mocked when a person is un-apologetically excited and open about loving “geeky” things. For women, it is even more so. That is why it is important to share the stories of people who have taken that passion and turned it into a career.

Chobot was hired by IGN full time in 2006. She quickly won over fans with her fun personality and knowledge of video games. As her popularity grew so did her role in IGN. Chobot was able to foray into The Daily Fix, IGN Strategize and IGN GameBreaks for FOX Television.

nerdist-jessicaChobot has been able to traveled for IGN and represent them in multiple forums. She has also gotten to write for; FHM UK, Mania.com and MAXIM print. She has also appeared on many shows such as but not limited to; Attack of the Show, ABC World News, EXTRA!, FOX News Live and CBS News as an industry expert. Chobot has been a weekly commentator on multiple radio shows and has also had guest star appearances on the Syfy channel’s Sci vs Fi.  The Nerdist also currently benefits from Chobot adding her talents to their roster.

Chobot is a very passionate fan of anime. She has been able to use her fame to appear on commercials for ADV’s Anime Network. Chobot continues to find new forums to live her passions. She has also gotten to show her love of gaming by guest staring on Geek and Sundry, including a one shot D&D game with Vin Diesel.  

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Jessica Chobot has shown how important it is to geek out and follow your passion. If you work hard and let your personality shine you will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to. 

Always keep sparkling! 

WashingCon – the District’s Best Board Game Convention

WashingCOn2WashingCon marked its 3rd anniversary as DC’s premiere board game convention with over a thousand gamers attending to play games, check out panels, inspect new releases from a few game studios, and participate in tournaments.

The organization of this event was on point – check in was a breeze, staff were easy to identify in their hot pink shirts (and plentiful throughout the rooms), and even the free game table, while understandably slow, was well managed. Anyone I approached for info was either quick to answer or to help us find who could answer (at one point I was led on a spirited chase across and around the hall to track down the RPG organizer – great pre-gaming workout!) There were notably MANY women volunteers – no real surprise with Labyrinth Games store owner Kathleen Donahue as  WashingCon co-sponsor but certainly awesome to see.

The borrowing library was well stocked with new games as well as classics. Check in/out was a little fiddly but it didn’t take us long to get out into the play space, which was abundant. Ample space between tables also meant there were no ‘dead zones’ (inaccessible spots that just become wasted space) at the center of rows and no one felt trapped once the hall began to fill up. Play was lively, but the volume was tolerable.

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Events were a mix of panels, tournaments, meet and greets, and demos. There were a couple to choose from in each time slot, which gave enough variety to fill up a day but not so much that we felt like you’d be missing tons of things by picking a few to attend. Of particular note was the focus on education through gaming – panels like Pokemon for Parents and Teachers and a special area for educators to check out STEM and language games echoed Labyrinth’s commitment to education and the community. Additionally, events for both new players and new designers created a welcoming environment. My personal favorite was the Women in Games panel featuring retails, designers, and con-runners in a lively discussion about the past and future of women in the gaming community, and creating more inclusive spaces.

(Speaking of inclusive spaces, WashingCon’s Zero-Tolerance policy for harassment is clear, being posted near check in, included in the program, and printed on the back of every badge. There is no wiggle room here, and the organizers are absolute in their desire for every attendee to be comfortable and ‘Play Nicely’.)

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A little room on the east side hosted RPGs. Spaces for games where reserved online, a great decision which entirely negated the long hopeful line we’ve seen at places like PAXU. Games were interesting and well moderated and a good eye was kept out for time. My only issue was volume  – this area was packed full of enthusiastic role players so it was easy for the din to rise enough that you had to strain to hear someone across the table.

Several designers were demo-ing games as well. I was particularly taken with Catlilli Game’s STEM based offerings (enough that I interviewed designer Catherine Swanwick  about women in games and game development not too long ago.) I also tried Twistocity, an hysterical tongue twister game that wound up becoming a must-buy for a friend. I attempted to resist the siren call of game buying but still wound up bringing home Herbaceous and our first Unlock.

WashingCon 2018 is one of my most eagerly anticipated cons this year (out of the twelve to fifteen I’ll be visiting.) It’ll be held at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center September 8-9. Tickets go on sale March 1st. If you’re planning on going send me a note via Girls play Games – lets play something together!

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry Satine Phoenix

satine Satine Phoenix is a true force in the gaming industry. She has been using her fame to promote gaming. Satine has also helped force people to rethink stereotypes about the gamers who play Dungeons and Dragons and how.  

Satine is not what the media portrays a gamer to be and that is important. Too many times we have seen the same depiction of Dungeons and Dragons players. A group of mostly white boys in their mom’s basement. However that isn’t even what most of us gamers in the community are anymore. We are of many races, genders and playing styles. We livestream; play in gaming stores, play on our computers, we gather wherever we can and yes sometimes that is in our parents basements. Satine knows that the perception of gaming needs to change with us.

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Satine has worked in both the porn and fetish industries. There she gained confidence in herself. She also met many different people and found that many of them are huge nerds. Together they would read the same books and game together. Satine decided to use her fame to broaden the spectrum of what a gamer is.

Satine and her friends have made calendars featuring different geeky women. She has used her gifts to draw female monsters. She animates videos. She plays Dungeons and Dragons with all kinds of gamers. In 2010 she started a web series called I Hit It With My Axe.  There she gathered women of all different backgrounds; many some of whom were porn stars, strippers models and a hairdresser, to play Dungeons and Dragons.

satine dance Satine has been also become a big part of Geek and Sundry There she has been spreading the good news about Dungeons and Dragons. She has gamed for charity. Satine has also has an awesome series where she gives Game Masters different tips. She has gotten the opportunity to play games with Wil Wheaton on Tabletop.  

In short Satine Phoenix is a talented, hardworking and giving member of the gaming community. She seeks out nerds and gives them a spotlight. Satine reminds us that it is cool to be different. We should seek out what makes us happy and then share that with the world. She is helping us break Dungeons and Dragons out of the basement and into the mainstream where is belongs.

Always keep sparkling! 

It Takes a Village – Board Game Grrrls and the Importance of Women Gaming Groups

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Games of all sorts are a fantastic way to connect with people whether they’re old friends or you’ve just met. Whenever my partner and I move to a new area our first priority is finding a local game group, and a few of those folks always wind up becoming good friends. For women this can be a little intimidating – sometimes game spaces seem very male dominated, or one or two of the members can be unintentionally (or intentionally) creepy. In the past decade gaming has seen the rise of girl-friendly or girl-only groups both to build positive space for established lady gamers and to create a welcoming environment for new ones. I caught up with Board Game Grrrls facebook group founder Saille Warner Norton this week to talk about games, grrrls, and the importance of  inclusive game spaces.

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Why did you start Board Game Grrrls?

I did it on a whim after Yet Another Awful Thread on another FB board game group. I’ve always been community orientated, and I am one of the admins on another female focused geek group, so it was an easy jump for me to create. I thought I’d maybe get a handful of other female gamers to chat with about gaming. I used “Grrrl” because I came of age during the Riot Grrrls movement of the 90’s, and I think that history and meaning is suitable for us today.

Whats your favorite game? Least favorite? Why?
I have yet to pinpoint my favorite game. I have a number of games that I will always play.  Currently, I’m on a Sagrada kick. I also love Tokaido and Karmaka. Both games are beautiful. My favorite games tend to be ones with gorgeous art and mechanics that match their themes. I also play quite a few 2 player abstract games, like Santorini and Onitama, with my eldest. He’s been playing chess since he was 7, and its one of the only ways I have a chance to beat him!  My least favorite is hands down, Cards Against Humanity. CAH allows people to bring out their worst selves under the guise of a game. It is all the -ists rolled into one. I really don’t understand the fun of that. Now that being said, I hold great respect for the company for putting their ill gotten gains towards a greater good. I’m just not sure the ends justifies the means in this case.
Do you feel like the game community is general welcoming towards women? How could it be improved?
My local community seems very welcoming, in general. Several of our local game stores are woman owned. But I know that is not the situation across the board. I hear reports all the time of women being treated poorly by both store employees and other gamers at the table. One would think in this highly competitive market stores at least would be more welcoming and inclusive. Private gaming groups seem to be much more welcoming. But issues still come up. I think awareness is the number one way to improve inclusiveness. We need men to step in and be the ones calling out misogyny and sexism in our gaming communities. Women need to know that our gaming spaces are safe and that should there be an issue, other players have our backs. Unfortunately, I think online communities still have a very long way to go.
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