I love playing video games since I was a little child of three or four years. A Gameboy and ‚Super Mario Land‘ as a present, was the beginning of a relationship that should last up to this day and most certainly will forever.
A few years later, while my setup had already extended to a Super Nintendo, my second calling became clear: programming. I had a learning computer which allowed the execution of own code, but unfortunately, the line ‚draw rainbow‘ only led to a ‚syntax error‘ instead of a monochrome, pixelated rainbow drawn on the screen.
A Sega Saturn – (which the guy in the shop told us would be the future and is ‚way better than PlayStation‘) – and (obviously) PlayStation later, I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas together with ‚the Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time‘. Boy, was this feeling amazing when I first entered the Hyrule-Field after completing the Deku Tree dungeon! This was the moment I knew that I want to create my own game one day.
Another-few-platforms-up-to-PlayStation-3 later, I was studying IT and programming my own little game-engine for one of my courses. Today, I’m an IT-Engineer and CEO of my own Game Studio Sycoforge. There’s only one fact that however seems to amaze people all the time: I’m a woman.
I can somehow understand, that during school in the 90’s, the other girls in class wrinkled their nose when I told them that my favorite hobby is gaming whereas the boys found it pretty cool to play a game or two over lunchtime (I’d still beat you in Soul Calibur, Andy!), but I thought that the whole Girl- vs. Boy-thing was a relict of those days. But apparently, I have been very wrong!
During the last year, we had been to many conventions showcasing our game ‚Arafinn – Return to Nangrim‘. As our team is 50% male and 50% female, there was always both gender present on every occasion, so we always had
equal possibilities of people to talk to, but you know what? While it is true, that a lot of people don’t differentiate between man and woman, it still got very obvious that there’s also the other part: those guys and girls (yes, in this case, there’s equality!) that equate women with ‚booth-babes‘. I first encountered this phenomenon at our second convention when there were a lot of people standing at our booth.
We were there in a group of four (again, 50/50 division) and the boys were already talking to people, as my fellow girl-dev, Melena and I realized that people were standing in line behind the guys. We then approached one of the waiting which led to the following dialogue:
Me: „Hey hello! May I tell you something about our game?“
Waiting guy: „Oh, I’ll wait, thanks“
Me: „Wait for what..?“
Waiting guy: „Until one of the devs is free“
Me: „Ehm. We’re devs too..“
Waiting guy: „WHAT?! REEEEALLY?“
First I thought that this was a more or less amusing exception, but I have been so wrong.
The more conventions that followed, the more imminent a certain reaction became: incredulity.
While the male stereotype of disbelief expressed oneself in raised eyebrows and questions like „..and you are really working on this as well?“, the female counterpart mainly consisted of big eyes and astonished „oh really?! Where did you learn that?“, which gave the whole thing kind of a positive connotation, but still.
But the ultimate king of bias was a guy in Zurich (ironically, my hometown) that persistently refused to believe that I’m a game dev, can code, or am doing anything related to game development and insisted on talking to someone who „knows about it“. This was the moment I decided to write a blog article about that topic and this was also the moment I asked myself: ‚is this really a man’s world?‘
Fellow game-devs will laugh about that as we all know that there are PLENTY of women in business that do an equally good job as men. Need some examples? Here in Switzerland alone we have Isa Roesch who wrote her own engine in C++ for her game Cendric, Cécile Amstad, founder of Amstad Digital that brings you immersive VR worlds with Burning Bridges, and who does not know Philomena Schwab, founder of Stray Fawn Studio and creator of award-winning game Niche or Alice Ruppert who develops for AirConsole and is a welcome guest on any big talk? Just to name a few!
So for this International Women’s Day, I wish my words can be one straw more on the back of the camel of awareness, so when the camel’s back breaks, hopefully, we can ask ourselves why there was a need to create such a day in the first place.