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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update

Welcome back again.  As you can see, we are starting to populate the site with new content.  There are few new writers and contributors waiting in the wings with new content.  If you are interested

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update, GaMExpo, Nerdvana Con, Life Updates

What to Watch: You Tube

Top 5 YouTube video’s of the past week (with one blast from the past). Each week, on Tuesday, I am going to post 5 videos I think are worth watching on YouTube.  I’d love to hear what you

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What to Watch: You Tube

Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Bac

Welcome back to Killer Betties! It’s been over three years since I’ve made a post, but I am back. Before I get to what I’ve been doing for three years, I want to talk first about The

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Back, TWD, The Bar, and Other Random Thoughts

Football Manager 2017 Review

Football Manager 2017 is a football management simulation video game for the PC developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega. Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, it is really fun. You can create

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Football Manager 2017 Review

Volunteers Wanted

Killer Betties is going through some growing pains and we need more bodies (and pens) to keep up with it. If you have any interest in writing video game reviews, previews, interviews or editorials, p

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Volunteers Wanted

Killer Women: Eri Izawa

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by on February 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 39% of game players are women. While the percentage of women working in the industry is still small, these women are paving the way for equality in this environment as well. More and more young women are going to technical schools and getting hired by game developers who see the value of a female perspective when creating video games.

So, how did these women get started and why do they do it? Those are the questions I want answers to, so I ask. This will be a continuing series of profiles of the women who have broken stereotypes and taken jobs in the video game industry.

Eri Izawa, a Game Designer for Perpetual Entertainment, agreed to be the subject of the latest Killer Women feature. How did she get started and what exactly is a game designer? Read on to find out.

Name: Eri Izawa
Title: Game Designer, Perpetual Entertainment

What’s your earliest memory of video games? Did you grow up on games or did you find them later in your life?

My first video game was a Pong-like system (replete with skeet gun). Once personal computers came out (yes, this is prehistory), I got hooked on Zork and whatever else I could play on an Apple II, and from there went to various UNIX games and MUDs at college. It would be years before I got a PC that could play the “hottest” games, sadly.

What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?

I have a bachelor’s degree in physics; some background in engineering or science is quite useful for systems design. Knowing basic coding, even if just simple scripting, is almost mandatory. My lifelong personal interest in writing and artwork has also been very useful.

Designing, writing, and running roleplaying games with bright, headstrong, sleep-deprived college students was highly educational. Likewise, playing MUDs was an excellent introduction to online gaming, back in the era before the Massively Multi-Player games. (And I thought I was wasting time!) I also dabbled in writing very simple computer games off and on for years.

What type of work did you do before you got into the industry and what jobs in the industry have you held?

After college I wrote unpublished fiction; I did some Perl scripting, web development and software QA; only after all that did I get a job in the game industry as a game designer. I’ve done systems design, content and level design, story writing, lead design and management, and now UI design.

Was your entry into working with video games planned or chance? What initiated your interest in working in this industry? How did you get started in the industry?

One reason I chose my college was because it was the birthplace of Infocom games (and the setting of The Lurking Horror). Despite this, working in games was something I never took seriously until I realized (1) I didn’t want to do hardcore science, (2) writing fiction was unlikely to result in income anytime soon, and (3) game companies in my area were hiring. Thanks to gaming in college, I had contacts in the industry. Eventually I got a break – a particular start-up company couldn’t demand years of professional game dev experience because no one there had any, either! My writing samples and my amateur game writing experience helped tip the scales.

How long have you been working in the industry?

About 6 years, give or take.

What does your job entail? What is an average day like?

Working at a small game company means that a person’s tasks change week by week, month by month. Right now, I’ve somehow gotten into UI design, but I’m also doing social system design and other systems design. In the future, I’ll probably be doing something different. During any given day, I am most likely to go from Word to Excel to Photoshop and back, but I might be called upon to do lots of other things.

Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.

Well, I’ve had lots of exciting moments – such as when coming up with an interesting way of handling a design issue. Every day can be exciting (in both good and bad ways, lol).

What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?

Many experienced designers throughout the industry can (and do) tell corporate horror stories that make “Dilbert” look tame. It doesn’t help that more people want to enter game development than the industry can currently support. People who have families may especially have a hard time, such as when competing against unattached people who can immerse themselves in games and game dev 24×7. I’m definitely thankful to be working at a great company with a mature outlook!

What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?

I suppose the primary misconception is that it’s an easy job. Sometimes it’s easy – much of the time it’s a real challenge that calls upon practically every field of study from your school years. It is a lot of fun, but it also calls for a lot of thinking.

Do you feel you are advantaged or disadvantaged as a female in an industry so dominated by men? Do you have any examples of situations where you feel you had an advantage because you were female? Any where you think being a woman played against you?

For me, at least, the only time being female seems to make a big positive difference is when it comes to getting interview requests for female gamer publications . I’ve certainly seen some gender-negatives in the past. Hopefully it’s all getting better, a little at a time.

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer? How many hours a week do you get to play (besides the title you are working on)?

There was a time when I played Dark Age of Camelot 60 or more hours a week (I was unemployed then). I think that counts as “hardcore” . Nowadays, though, I can’t muster more than about 12 hours a week.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

Right now, I most enjoy DAoC’s Realm-vs.-Realm style of PvP combat, and hope to someday get high enough in WoW to have fun with PvP there. I’m pretty tired of PvE these days, even with a WoW- or EQ2- or CoH-style quests. I think I have played and enjoyed every major type of game out there, some types more than others. I reluctantly avoid first person shooters for the sole reason they make me incredibly motion-sick.

If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?

Computer games have so much variation, and each “era” has had such different levels of technology, that I think it’s fairly meaningless to speak of a single “best game ever.” For example, Tetris is an incredible game, but it hasn’t a hint of the story or emotional depth that even a mediocre Japanese console RPG has. Likewise, Zork was tremendous fun, but I’d imagine most modern RPGers would prefer EQ2. It’s like trying to pick the “best” invention ever – it’s too broad and subjective.

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a female audience, what would that one thing be?

The one thing would be thought. If intelligent game devs just take the time to really think about appealing to women, and make it a real development priority, more games would appeal to a female audience.

If you can talk about it, can you tell us some about the project you are currently working on?

Well, it’s a cool and exciting Massively Multi-Player game :). Can’t say much more.

Do you have any advice for females who would like to get into the industry?

In part, preparation depends on what you want to do; following your heart is the most important thing, because you never know where your path might take you – you might happily wind up somewhere far from your original intentions. That said, study the essentials of your craft (and it never hurts to brush up on writing skills in this industry). Meet, play games with, and work with people who share similar goals. Also, in my opinion, it helps to approach everyone you meet with unconditional good-will – this does not mean letting people walk all over you, but it means having an underlying positive attitude. Lastly, have fun, even at interviews. If you’re not having fun, you’re probably not performing at your best. It’s easier to have fun and perform well as a result, than to try to make yourself perform well and do neither!

What are your favorite games? Favorite movies? Favorite Authors? Inspirations? What do you like doing in your free time?

Favorite Games: Civilization I, various Infocom and modern Interactive Fiction works, Tetris and its descendants, The Sims, Total Annihilation, Sim City, Dark Age of Camelot, the first half (but not second half) of both Xenogears and Final Fantasy VII. Photoshop, paint programs, and music composition programs qualify as addictive interactive toys. I also have nostalgic fondness for an old UNIX multiplayer game called xtank.

Favorite movies: Lately I’ve been pretty happy with most Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli works, like “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (“Spirited Away”). I especially like “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.”

Favorite authors: Western fiction: J. R. R. Tolkien and Steven Brust (fantasy), Agatha Christie and Rex Stout (mysteries). Manga authors: Takahashi Rumiko, Soda Masahito, Sasaki Noriko, Matsumoto Leiji, Tezuka Osamu, and many others. On more serious topics I enjoy just about any author who has interesting or useful insights; among my favorites are the writings of C. S. Lewis, Ben H. Swett, Peace Pilgrim, and so on.

Anything that conveys truth (as I perceive truth to be) is inspiring to me.

In my spare time, I hang out with various online communities (only some of which are gaming-related), work on online essays, draw web comics, read gardening catalogs, try to keep my relationships meaningful, and last but not least, seek the highest path that I know.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Valerie Massey

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by on February 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 39% of game players are women. While the percentage of women working in the industry is still small, these women are paving the way for equality in this environment as well. More and more young women are going to technical schools and getting hired by game developers who see the value of a female perspective when creating video games.

So, how did these women get started and why do they do it? Those are the questions I want answers to, so I ask. This will be a continuing series of profiles of the women who have broken stereotypes and taken jobs in the video game industry.

Valerie Massey works for NCSoft as a Community Coordinator on Auto Assault. What’s a Community Coordinator do and how did she get her start? Read on to find out.

Name: Valerie “Pann” Massey
Title: Community Coordinator, NCSoft

What’s your earliest memory of video games?

The first video game I remember playing was “Space Invaders” on the Atari that my father bought for my brothers and me when I was a kid, maybe around age 10 or so. We had “Pong,” as well, but I liked “Space Invaders” the most.

What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?

From middle school through high school and college, I was very involved in drama, speech and journalism. All of that has been a huge help to me in learning to communicate effectively, particularly written communication, which is a major part of my job on a daily basis.

What type of work did you do before you got into the industry?

Before I married and started a family, I had the typical student-type jobs, working at the campus library, a salesclerk in a department store, a receptionist/copy writer for an advertising company. After the birth of my first child, I was a stay-at-home mom and later the sole caregiver for my grandmother for many years before I got into the industry.

What jobs in the industry have you held?

Since starting my career, I have always been in community, though public relations and project management are also interesting to me and I’ve been trying to learn more about them as opportunities present themselves.

How did you get started in the industry?

It was during those years of taking care of my grandmother that I discovered Ultima Online and started down a road I didn’t even realize I was on until it took a sharp turn and I was suddenly standing on the bow of a ship off the coast of Iceland, whale watching with my then 15 year-old daughter who turned to me and said, “Mom, we sure are a long way from Jewett.”

Jewett, a very small Central Texas town with a population of less than 700 people was where we’d lived until 2000 when we moved to Austin, where I married someone I’d met through Ultima Online. If I’m ever told I have one year to live, I’d go back there because every day seems like an eternity. I guess I wasn’t cut out for farm life and the dial-up connection made for such unbearable lag that my UO friends dubbed me “The Lag Queen.” Still, that was my link to the outside world on those long, lonely days and I was grateful for it. When you’re taking care of someone who’s housebound, you’re pretty well housebound, too.

It was also through UO that I met Mike Wallis, currently the producer for Middle Earth Online. Back in 1998 when we first became acquainted, Mike was working for GTInteractive. He then went to Simon and Schuster Interactive and in 2002 began negotiations for S&SI to publish Eve Online, which was in development by CCP in Reyjkavik, Iceland. Mike liked the things I’d written for an online fansite and knew I had experience moderating message boards as well as the experience I had from my time in UO as a counselor and a seer. Mike told me that if he landed the contract, he wanted me to be his community manager, a real dream job for lots of gamers, particularly since I could work from home in Austin.

He got the contract and I got the job, staying with Eve until 2004 when I came to work at NCsoft. I am currently working with the Auto Assault crew and we’re ramping up for launch in Q3 2005.

How long have you been working in the industry?

I have been working for a paycheck since 2002, though I had written for a fansite for several years and also spent two years in the UO volunteer program. People who volunteer for games or write for sites without being paid work just as hard as any of us who are actually employed by a game company. The passion is the same, the hours are similar… I have a lot of admiration for them.

What does your job entail on an average day?

An average day includes lots and lots of e-mail and meetings. When I wake up in the morning, even before I get my first cup of coffee, I check my Inbox to see if there’s anything that needs immediate attention. That’s not so critical at this point, while Auto Assault is still in development, but for live games, you never know what could have happened while you were sleeping. Next, I’ll look at message boards and then head into the office for the daily round of meetings and such… and more e-mailing.

The e-mail load is an occupational necessity. As the information hub between the developers, the community and the online fan and news sites, there’s always a lot of fact-finding and information sharing that needs to happen. It’s not always the same questions being asked over and over again, which keeps it from getting monotonous.

Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.

There have been a lot of exciting moments, but probably one of the best so far was the day we launched Eve Online. I had arrived at the CCP office in Reykjavik about 30 minutes before the game servers were supposed to go up and I was so tired and jet lagged that it was just caffeine and adrenaline that were sustaining me. We all piled into the conference room and watched on the projection screen as one of the devs entered the game. It was so exciting to see all of our hard work come to fruition with these first players. One of players said, “I hope they bring the servers down at some point so I can eat and take a shower.” It was a huge compliment and we were giddy as a bunch of little school girls.

What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?

I don’t like not being able to give someone what they want – whether it’s a beta account, an interview, or assistance with a problem they’ve had with the game. There is always a reason why I have to say no, but I don’t like it.

What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?

From interactions I’ve had with various people, I find that the common misconceptions are that all I do is moderate message boards or that I have all this free time to play games. Neither is true.

Do you feel you are advantaged or disadvantaged as a female in an industry so dominated by men?

I sincerely feel that my being a woman has nothing to do with it, though I will certainly acknowledge that women are still in the minority in the industry overall. There was never a time at Simon and Schuster Interactive or at NCsoft that I felt being a woman had any bearing on how I was treated or my ideas were received. Maybe it’s different at other companies and I’ve been really lucky not to have worked for them.

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?

Oh, yeah, definitely hardcore, though I don’t have as much time to play as I used to – which is kind of ironic, I think. Since my husband and I are both avid gamers, we tend to spend our weekends gaming together so that’s when I get most of my playtime in. I try to play for at least a couple of hours in the evenings during the week, then put in another 20 or more hours on the weekends.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most?

I’m a fantasy nut, so the games I’ll go for are usually “sword and sorcery” types, like Neverwinternights and World of Warcraft. I loved City of Heroes, too, which kind of surprised me since I’ve never really been into comic books. MMOs will usually win out over stand-alone games since I’ve gotten used to interacting with other people and really enjoy that more than wandering through a game world alone.

If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?

Phantasmagoria is still my favorite all these years (and games) later. That was long before MMOs were popular, so it was a stand-alone horror game back in the day when Sierra was in its prime. I had never seen anything like it, all live action, and the story was compelling and creepy (in a good way!)

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a broader audience that includes women, what would that one thing be?

Stop trying to figure out what women want and just focus on making a fun game. If it’s fun, women will play it, the same as men. The women gamers I know don’t care about fancy hair-dos or pink nail polish on their avatars. They want to blow things up, improve their characters and have a good time. That’s not gender specific. That’s a basic principle of good game design.

If you can talk about it, can you tell us some about the project you are currently working on?

The game I’m working on now, Auto Assault, is a vehicular combat game set in a post-apocalyptic world. Through the clever use of the Havokâ„¢ physics engine, players can smash into things, jump over stuff and pretty much blow up anything they see on the screen, so there’s lots of action. It’s unlike anything else in the growing list of MMOs and we’re very excited about it.

Do you have any advice for people who would like to get into the industry?

Stay the course, don’t get discouraged and never stop learning. It’s not as easy to get your foot in the door as it used to be and you’ll need to be the best in your field to accomplish that. If you want to be a world builder, use mods to make map after map and hone those skills. If you want to be an artist, stay on top of the latest and greatest programs and learn them inside and out. If you want to write fiction, read everything you can get your hands on and then draw from that knowledge to create awesome stories. Get involved with game communities, make contacts whenever possible and don’t give up.

What are your favorite games?

My favorite games, besides the aforementioned Phantasmagoria would have to include Ultima Online, which I played for about six years, because of its versatility. I also loved many of the other Sierra series like Gabriel Knight, Quest for Glory, Laura Bow, and King’s Quest. Rollercoaster Tycoon was a favorite because I loved building the parks even if I never managed to build a decent roller coaster.

Favorite movies?
I could do page after page of favorite movies because I am a huge fan of so many different ones. If I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say my absolute favorites are The Wizard of Oz, Braveheart, The Godfather (I & II), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Pulp Fiction, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Boondock Saints, The Usual Suspects, Steel Magnolias, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Death to Smoochy and – of course – Hook.

Favorite Authors?
My favorite authors include John Steinbeck (East of Eden), John Irving (The World According to Garp), Stephen King (It), and George RR Martin (The Song of Fire and Ice series. Where’s #4, George?!!).

Inspirations?

I am inspired by people who stay true to themselves and their ideas, keep their word and actively seek to encourage others without ego or unsolicited judgment. I admire Richard Garriott for his creative vision and unparalleled generosity, Steve Snow for his drive and determination, Carly Staehlin for paving the way and Richard Weil for his infinite patience. My mom ranks high on the list, too, for the way she managed to raise three decent human beings while gaining success in a predominately male industry.

What do you like doing in your free time?

In my free time, besides gaming or watching movies with my husband, I love to spend time with my daughter. I’m very fortunate that we managed to get through her teen years (so far) without any of the dreaded angst and drama that most mother/daughter relationships endure. She’s nearly eighteen, so we still have a ways to go, but so far it’s been much better than I’d expected and I’m proud to say that she’s one of my favorite people in the whole world.

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in Interviews

Killer Women: Ellen Beeman

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by on January 28, 2005 at 12:00 am

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 39% of game players are women. While the percentage of women working in the industry is still small, these women are paving the way for equality in this environment as well. More and more young women are going to technical schools and getting hired by game developers who see the value of a female perspective when creating video games.

So, how did these women get started and why do they do it? Those are the questions I want answers to, so I ask. This will be a continuing series of profiles of the women who have broken stereotypes and taken jobs in the video game industry.

My first subject is Ellen Beeman. She works for Monolith Productions as a Producer on the upcoming MMO title, The Matrix Online. How did she get started and what does she do as a Producer? Read on to find out.

Name: Ellen Beeman
Title: Producer, Monolith Productions

What is your earliest memory of video games?

My father brought home a brand-new Atari 2600 when I was a kid, and that was it, I was hooked! I played a lot of Apple II and other games in high school, and even did a little game programming on a TRS-80.

What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I could have a career in video games when I went to college. If I could go back in time, I would have studied programming, and also taken more art classes, even though I’m completely useless as an artist. All of that knowledge would have been tremendously useful to me in my career. When I went to college, I thought I was going to have a career in the State Department, and took classes appropriate to that.

What type of work did you do before you got into the industry and what jobs in the industry have you held?

I worked in television for several years as a freelance writer, and also started writing novels, then went to Sierra as a project manager. After Sierra, I worked at Origin as a project director. After several years at Origin, I went to Electronic Arts. After EA, my husband and I started our own game development studio, Illusion Machines. I worked with Mary-Margaret.com as a recruiter after we closed IMI, and when I realized that I really missed working in an internal development studio, I joined Monolith as a producer.

Would we recognize any of your freelancing? TV episodes we might have seen?

I wrote for “Jem” and three other childrens’ television shows. My two “Jem” episodes were recently released on DVD, actually.

What kind of novels did you write? Anything I can go buy at the store today?

I’ve written three modern fantasy novels, two of which were with Mercedes Lackey, and one science fiction novel, which was based on the Wing Commander game universe, actually… I was a writer and/or project director for several of those games. I publish as Ellen Guon.

Was your entry into working with video games planned or chance? How did you get started in the industry?

Completely by chance. My friend Christy Marx, a very talented television writer (who had also helped me break into television), was working with Sierra, and somehow convinced them to interview me, even though I only had very minimal project management experience. It was probably the strangest interview ever… I casually mentioned that I was also an Irish fiddler, and coincidentally enough, it was their company holiday party, and an employee had brought in her violin. The next thing I know, I’m playing a Scottish jig for the entire company. They must have liked it, because they hired me.

How long have you been working in the industry?
Do I have to admit that? Okay, I will… since 1989.

What does your job entail? What is an average day like?

My current job is unusual, in that there are multiple producers on this title, and we share responsibilities. As of today, I’m involved in legal issues, recruitment and personnel, and game story and dialogue. My specific role varies on a daily basis, to be honest. In a more typical internal development producer role, I’d be responsible for the overall quality of the game, scheduling, and being the liaison to the publisher.

Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.

Too many to count! The best moments are when you “Gold Master” a game, and later when you see it on the shelf in the stores. There’s nothing like that.

What games did you work on that went Gold?

Too many to list! Twenty-nine games, at the last count.

What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?

I think the misconception is that producers have all the power in a game project. It’s just not true. You lead the team, but they have to want to go in that direction. And you always have to answer to someone.

Do you feel you are advantaged or disadvantaged as a female in an industry so dominated by men? Do you have any examples of situations where you feel you had an advantage because you were female? Any where you think being a woman played against you?

Not really. I think this industry values people with talent and drive, and that matters more than anything else. Veteran female programmer Nicky Robinson tells a great story about how she burst into tears to get someone to return her company’s dev system to her, but I don’t have any great stories like that!

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer? How many hours a week do you get to play (besides the title you are working on)?

I am a hardcore gamer, and as for the hours a week I get to play… not enough! At the moment, I’m primarily playing some of our competitors’ MMP titles.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most?

I love massively multiplayer online games, casual games, first person shooters, real-time and turn-based strategy games, racing and flight combat simulators.

If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?

The Matrix Online, of course! The team is doing some amazing work, and the Matrix movies setting is perfect for a massively-multiplayer online game.

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a female audience, what would that one thing be?

I think it’s more what –not- to put in your game, as opposed to what you put in. I’m a big believer in “gender-inclusive” game design. Just don’t put in anything that alienates the female player, basically.

Do you have any advice for females who would like to get into the industry?

Learn your chosen craft. Build up a great skill set and portfolio. Connect with industry people who can introduce you to potential hiring managers. Be ready for the opportunities when they come your way. “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

in Interviews

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