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 The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated.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, in 2005 43% of game players are women, a number that has grown from 39% in prior years’ research. 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.
Amanda Fitch started her own game development company, which she works on part-time while holding a full-time job. She released a 2D RPG, Aveyond, to much acclaim. How did she get started and what does she do? Read on to find out.
Name: Amanda Fitch
Title: Game Designer / Owner
Company: Amaranth Games
What’s your earliest memory of video games? Did you grow up on games or did you find them later in your life?
I was five years old and my father bought the family a Nintendo. I was addicted from the beginning.
What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?
I have an English BA. My degree has helped me in subtle ways. I apply many of the writing methods I learned in school to the games I create today.
What type of work did you do before you got into the industry and what jobs in the industry have you held?
I’m a technical writer at a small software company by day and a game designer by night. It’s a running joke at my company that the “technical writer” is going to leave and start a gaming empire.
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?
I entered the industry by chance. After college, I became a technical writer and was bored to death. To challenge myself, I learned how to program and paint. One day, I wanted to play a game but couldn’t find anything interesting, so I decided to create one. Since that fateful day, I have been creating games non-stop. I’m truly addicted.
I’d never planned to make games a career, but my last freeware game became very popular. It convinced me that my games might be good enough to sell. I’m extremely happy that I did and the decision has been lucrative.
How long have you been working in the industry?
I have been making games for four years; I have been selling games since January, 2006.
What does your job entail? What is an average day like?
I design each game from the ground up. I manage the contracts with artists, musicians, marketing, and glue it all together.
At the beginning of my day, I go to the Amaranth Games online community and tell my players hello, take care of any troubleshooting issues, and check in with my team. Then, I make a small plan that contains all of the goals that I need to fulfill before the end of the day. If I fulfill the plan early, I get off early. If it takes all night to fulfill the plan, then I work all night.
Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.
Completing Aveyond was really exciting. It was the first game I’d ever released for sale.
What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?
The sheep syndrome bothers me. I don’t like it when people in the industry tell me that things are the way they are because that’s the way they are. I’m a statistics girl, and when someone gives me an argument without statistics to back it up, they won’t convince me to change my opinion.
Of course, the sheep syndrome isn’t a completely bad thing. When there is a blind spot in the industry, it gives someone like me a chance to exploit it.
What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?
There is a misconception that making games is easy. From my experience, about 90% of indies do not finish their games.
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? Any anecdotal stories where being female played a part?
I feel that I have the advantage. Because I’m not the norm, it makes it easier to be noticed. For example, last year when I attended a game development conference, only 5% of the attendees were women. It was hard not to be noticed. Many of the guy developers were curious to know how I got started.
I had one experience that I felt was a reflection of my gender. In a game magazine, a reviewer called me an ignorant idiot for having a female ruler in my game, Aveyond. That was quite a shocker, but amusing none the less.
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 used to be a hardcore gamer when I was young, but I work so much now that I don’t get to play as much as I used to. I probably spend about five hours a week playing games. If Amaranth Games takes off, I hope to have more time to play. Hey! It is important to keep up with industry trends.
What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?
I like fantasy games that have puzzles to solve, monsters to fight, and lots of places to explore. My least favorite games are sports titles.
If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?
Kings Quest VI. It doesn’t have fighting but the story, environment, and quests are awesome.
If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a broader audience which includes women, what would that one thing be?
I would suggest adding some colorful, curious environments to your games.
Do you have an opinion about the current state of the industry with regard to females and gaming? If so, what is it?
I think the industry is beginning to recognize that females play games. New statistics are coming out that challenge the out-dated notion that only 19-year old guys play games.
I think we will see the impact of the new studies in three years.
If you can talk about it, can you tell us some about the project you are currently working on?
My next project begins development this summer. The game is about a dwarfkin boy who must discover who poisoned his village spring. The quest will take the dwarfkin deep into the forest for answers, and this in turn will drive him toward a larger, more dangerous quest in the world of man. Unlike my previous projects, this one is going to be 3D.
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to get into the industry?
Persistence. Plan carefully, avoid feature creep, and don’t stop until you’ve completed your game. Finishing is hard. Once you learn how to finish, you’re going to do fine.
What are your favorite games? Favorite movies? Favorite Authors? Inspirations? What do you like doing in your free time?
Games: Kings Quest, Final Fantasy
Movies: Napoleon Dynamite, Legend
Authors: Robert Jordan, Jane Austen
Inspirations: Roberta Williams, History
Free time: Painting, programming, running
Our many thanks to Amanda for taking the time to talk about herself with us. We also have a full review of Aveyond, so check that out.