Ahead of next month’s Women In Games Annual Conference, Vince Pavey asks a panel of 2023’s award nominees from Keywords Studios about why it is important we keep celebrating the achievements of women in the industry.
On March 1st, we held the MCV/DEVELOP Women in Games Awards, our annual celebration of the amazing female talent found within the UK games industry. It’s an event which aims not only for these incredible women to inspire both each other and those following in their footsteps, but to encourage them to network and get to know each other professionally.
Now that some months have passed, we’ve checked in with women from Keywords Studios that were shortlisted for the 2023 MCV/DEVELOP Women in Games Awards, to see how they’re feeling about both their awards nominations earlier in the year, and the state of the industry for women today.
How did it feel to be nominated for a Women in Games Award earlier this year?
Charlotte Pook (Electric Square): Being nominated for this award by Electric Square and Lively was a real privilege. I take a lot of pride in my work, and being formally acknowledged this way was truly special. Being nominated alongside so many amazing women in the industry was a very humbling experience.
Louise Andrew (D3T): I was nominated for it last year, which I was really chuffed about, but unfortunately I didn’t get shortlisted, so I was super happy to have made it to the shortlist this year! It never occurred to me that I might actually win the Career Mentor award! Amazing!
Devon Pearce (TrailerFarm): I really feel so honoured to have been nominated, and it makes it even more special that the nomination came from the team I work with day to day. Reading up about all the other nominees was a little daunting, but to be considered and recognised alongside such incredible and inspiring women was a huge compliment!
Anita Wong (Indigo Pearl): A surprise, haha! In an industry with so many incredible women, it’s always a pleasant surprise to realise that your peers recognise and value your work too. A very humbling experience and one I’m very thankful for.
Hannah McCarthy (Liquid Violet): I felt so honoured to have been nominated for this award. I absolutely love what I do and have a real passion for voice casting but it’s such a niche part of the industry, so to be recognised for it by my colleagues is something I will be forever grateful for. Then to have been shortlisted made it even more special!
How important is it to you that the games industry supports the efforts of women working within it?
Charlotte: The games industry has a lot of work to do regarding diversification. It is extremely important for games studios to put time, effort and self-education in when researching how best to support diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives. At Electric Square & Lively, we celebrate diversity and equal opportunities.
Louise: Women make up around 22% of game developers now – more than ever before. So we should be acknowledging and celebrating the part we play! It is really important that we support women working in the games industry. There are many instances where women feel very isolated and don’t realise that they are part of a really huge group of women game developers. We can share stories, give advice, reassure each other and cheer each other on!
Devon: When statistics show that 49% of gamers are female, and gaming is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, it’s imperative that we continue to diversify and encourage female talent to shine within it. In general, women are less inclined to self-promote, but in order to encourage fresh, young female talent in, it’s crucial that the games industry supports the efforts of the women working within it and provides platforms for them to be recognised and provide ongoing mentorship.
Anita: It’s important because the games industry is booming like never before, so there’s a fantastic opportunity here to hire a diverse workforce as more and more roles open up. At Indigo Pearl, many of our senior roles are held by women – something that’s really important to the team and the culture here.
Hannah: The gaming industry is in an incredible place right now, evolving at a rapid rate year on year and forever pushing the boundaries of the player experience. It is a special industry to be part of and women should be right there at the heart of it – our stories and skills should be shared and celebrated!
In turn, we look to inspire the next generation of women in games and allow them to see that there is such a special place for them here.
Do you feel that the wider industry is heading in the right direction in its support for women in games?
Charlotte: I believe there has been an improvement during my short time in the games industry. However, there is a long way to go, and some companies still have very archaic working methods. I hope this will improve with time, and more studios will start to see how valuable it is to support women in the games industry.
Louise: Oh yes definitely. It has changed so much in the 20+ years since I have been in the industry! There is far more awareness and sensitivity to ensuring women feel valued and heard. We are not where we need to be yet, but we are moving in the right direction year by year.
Devon: When I first started working in games 15 years ago, it was a very different industry for women. I think more and more women are being championed and recognised and whereas 15 years ago it was relatively rare to see a woman in a senior/leadership position, I’m delighted that it’s becoming more commonplace. There is still a way to go, but generally it’s heading in the right direction!
Anita: Today, women’s issues are more prominent and we finally have the vocabulary to discuss them. The situation has improved – but a lot more work needs to be done to ensure that women’s voices are heard and their rights are protected. As an industry we need to make sure our efforts of championing women don’t end after a day, or a month (or even a social media campaign!) and really commit ourselves to that pledge.
Hannah: Absolutely! There have been huge strides for women in the industry even over the last ten years and I feel like we are celebrated and supported more than ever before. However, that is not to say we don’t have a way to go. I think the female player experience still suffers greatly from sexism but by continuing along this forever improving path within the production side of the industry, I hope that in turn we can improve their experience as well.
What else do you think the industry could be doing for women in games that it isn’t already?
Charlotte: Working in talent acquisition, I am constantly looking at the wider industry benefits for women in the workplace. Some studios would benefit from doing the same and looking at specific benefits that could help support more women within their company; some examples include maternity leave, menopausal support, and safe whistle-blowing platforms.
Louise: There are too many meetings at senior levels where no women are present. Decisions get made with no female voices. Get women in the room when key decisions are being made, get female perspectives and that will filter down throughout the whole game dev process.
Devon: By being more supportive of the unique challenges faced by women and providing competitive benefits and support, companies could create a more inclusive and understanding industry culture that enables us to draw in the best talent and keep them until they rise to the top and appear in board rooms more frequently!
Anita: We’re definitely making strides towards more inclusivity for women, but there’s room to do a lot more. Mentorship programs are really important – encouraging women at university level to get into gaming, and making sure they know the industry is open to everyone. This is something the Women in Games organisation does really well, and is in part why Keywords Studios has a partnership with them to better fund activities.
It’s also important that we work to eliminate toxicity online with improved internet safety and moderation initiatives – so we can create an inclusive games culture at every level.
Hannah: Within production I think we are on a good path at the moment. Companies are recognising the challenges women face in the workplace and improving the benefits that will allow us to grow our careers and reach our full potential. I think there are still a lot of senior positions and conversations that would benefit from having more female voices in the room, but I do think the changes we are making will allow this to become a reality moving forward.
What have been your most impactful projects and the biggest milestones to your success?
Charlotte: During my time with Electric Square and Lively, I have doubled the size of our team and improved our diversity. Our Lively Studio is proud to have women make up a third of their team, with a huge percentage in leadership roles.
Louise: My passion is around getting more women to consider digital art for games as a creative and exciting career. Approximately 80% of A-level art students are female, but we don’t see that statistic in games art, so I have done various things to reach out to A-level and art foundation students to encourage them to consider games art as an exciting creative career. I have also set up a women’s group internally at d3t/Coconut Lizard which is a forum for us to share concerns and support each other.
Devon: The projects that present a new challenge are the ones that have the most impact on my progression and personal improvement – and making mistakes! I’ve made tons of mistakes, but each time I’ve come away knowing a little bit more.
By far the biggest milestone to my success has been recognising the motivations of the people I work with and managing to facilitate their own successes, and helping to build a complementary and diverse team. I’m so proud to work for TrailerFarm, where we have no gender pay gap, and more than 50% of our staff are women, with 60% female leadership.
Anita: As exciting as it has been to work on different titles from indie to AAA, I think the most impactful project has been growing the team in front of me. Watching more women join Indigo Pearl, grow in confidence, and to have even a small role in that has been very rewarding.
Hannah: To be honest, when it comes to what has made the most impact it wouldn’t be just one project, it’s simply the joy of what it means to be a casting director. To be able to work with so many wonderful clients, be brought into the worlds they’ve created and the characters within it. Then to be able to find the voices that are going to breathe life into them. That feels like such a special moment to be part of with them. The impact that a character can have on someone’s life is incredible and I have had the honour to cast some extremely talented women across the world throughout my career and I’m so proud of every one of them.
Have there been any standout mentors or inspirations in your career?
Charlotte: I have been lucky to have had a huge amount of support from all my studio directors and my line manager. I am also inspired daily by the other women working in the games industry who are passionate about their craft. Within my own studio, I would be lost without Kat Henderson, Lorena Sabido and Nina Lomax, who tirelessly support me with all studio & HR needs. I am inspired by their passion for helping our new and existing staff.
Louise: The biggest inspiration that changed things for me was attending the Women in Games conference in 2019, seeing all the amazing women up on stage talking about their careers and game dev journeys. I came away feeling so inspired and big changes followed! I currently work with a very inspiring and supportive leadership team at d3t and Coconut Lizard, who encourage me daily. And the artists and animators on my team are so talented and such a pleasure to work with and are the reason I love my job!
Devon: I’ve been really lucky that even since my first job in games I have had successful women in the industry to work with and learn from, and I’m honoured to sit on the leadership team at TrailerFarm alongside two other formidable women – Katie Reid and Teresa Dearn.
I’ve had amazing female bosses who have taught me everything I know, and actually a few bad bosses who have taught me exactly how not to do it! But attending the MCV/Develop Women in Games Awards back in March was eye-opening for me. I met so many amazing women and the opportunity to work with some of them in my future career, however that may happen, is incredibly exciting!
Anita: I’m incredibly fortunate to have started and grown my career in a company headed by a brilliant woman, Caroline Miller. I do recognise that it’s a unique position within the games industry, and I consider myself very lucky to have the support of such an amazing manager, who encourages me to be myself, for better or for worse!
Also I’m truly inspired by my friend MJ Widomska, founder of creative agency YRS TRULY – we met at a business workshop a few years ago and she’s blown me away with her innovation, creativity and good vibes ever since!
Hannah: I consider myself very lucky to work with such an amazing and talented team at Liquid Violet (half of which are women) and every single person there inspires me with their passion and kindness on a daily basis. When I joined the company, there were only five employees (six years later we have almost quadrupled in size!) and I was the first woman to join.
I will forever be grateful to Adam Chapman for taking me under his wing, giving me incredible opportunities and allowing me to flourish with them. Our current studio head Katie Young is also a huge inspiration to me. She is so hard working, kind-hearted, sees the potential in everyone and allows us to excel in our passions. She also understands the importance of having an equally blossoming life outside of work and she supports us in all we do which we are all grateful for.
What advice would you give to fellow women in the industry, especially for those in the early stages of their careers?
Charlotte: Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Learning constantly and being curious about all aspects of this industry is important. If you are in a place where you feel you cannot ask for help and support, or you are not being supported to look at your career progression, it is time to decide if you are in the correct studio. Please do your research into each studio and its culture before joining them.
Louise: Reach out to other women, especially if you are one of the only women in your company. Join Women in Games and make friends with others who are doing what you do! By being part of a network you can support each other, and also hear about other games studios and their culture.
As Charlotte mentioned, it can unfortunately be way too easy to find yourself in a studio that is not supportive and positive. By being part of a network you can hear how other studios are run and hear other people’s positive experiences.
Devon: Promote yourself. Shout about what you have done well, but take ownership of both your successes and your mistakes (everyone makes them). And connect with women at other studios and in other areas of the industry, because it’s really important and nice to have friends and allies to support you.
Anita: Go to events and network! Building relationships is important, especially in the games industry where everyone seems to know everyone. Also, you’ll meet some amazing people and have a great time.
Hannah: Show you are passionate, do your research and find out what areas of the industry you are interested in, there are so many routes you could pursue. Once you find it, never be afraid to reach out to those working in it to ask for advice. I say to people that my door is always open and I’m always happy to give advice for those that want it. Also, find a company that is the right environment for you. Every company is so different in the way that they work so it’s important you find one that is the right match for your personality and your life.
What advice would you give to men in the industry to help to raise women up?
Charlotte: Be a great ally. If you see or hear of any discrimination, do not ignore it or partake to make the offending party feel comfortable. Educate yourself about the harsh reality for women in the games industry and support your studio to make positive changes to make the workplace safer and more inviting.
Louise: Don’t make assumptions, ensure you get female opinions and have women in roles where they are helping to make key decisions for the studio. And not only have zero tolerance on discrimination, but be brave enough to call it out if you see it.
Devon: Promote us! … and I don’t mean just with job progression. Do some PR for us and help us realise, embrace and improve on the things that are valuable and unique that we offer.
Anita: All of the above, and also please take an active role in any diversity initiatives. Please don’t let women be the ones having to champion themselves on International Women’s Day and more!
Hannah: I echo the point on being a great ally. Don’t turn a blind eye if you hear or see something, take action and help us to make positive change. If we all work together, discrimination will be a thing of the past.