Killer Women: Cricket

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by on December 11, 2006 at 4:03 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 The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated.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 in 2006, 38% 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.

Cricket works for NCsoft as a Community Coordinator for City of Heroes/City of Villains. Here’s what she had to say:

Name: Cricket
Title: Community Coordinator for City of Heroes/City of Villains
Company: NCsoft

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

Some of my earliest memories in general involve the Intellivision – I think I was four when we first got it. I don’t remember much about life when I was four, but I do remember playing Kool-Aid Man. (Oh yeah!)

I’ve always had a love for computer games. When I was in elementary school my parents got a Commodore 128: that thing kept me occupied for hours. At the time I was living in a military base in West Germany…there wasn’t much else to do. Sure, I played outside with the other kids, but we didn’t have Chucky Cheese or any places like that. So I played all sorts of games at home, so many I can’t remember them all. A schoolmate lived in the building and I caught the competitive spirit of gaming from him…without him rainy days wouldn’t have been so much fun.

My father is also really into playing video games (and he still is!) so it really has always just been a part of my life. We used to figure out all sorts of adventure game puzzles together. At the time I didn’t realize that these puzzles were making me think – learning can’t be fun, right? But honestly, I think they made me a little bit sharper in the logic dept.

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

I earned an associate’s degree but I never graduated from a four-year college. I actually stayed in college until my senior year – that is something I kind of kick myself for. They all told me “if you don’t go back now you may never go back” and I didn’t believe them. Transferring to another school out of state is a lot harder than I originally thought.

My college work focused on the social sciences. History, geography, and my fav – political science. I had no idea I could actually land a job in the gaming industry. It just never crossed my mind.

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

During my high school and college summer breaks I would work at an amusement park. I didn’t have many jobs I really liked back before joining the gaming industry, but I really enjoyed working in an amusement park. Perhaps it was the fun atmosphere and the gang I worked with, but it really was exciting and enjoyable. I felt very important operating all those big rides – sitting at a control panel with a mic in front of you isn’t so bad.

Besides working in community I also have a few years of GM experience under my belt. I started out in the industry by working as an Ultima Online GM. That is how I found City of Heroes…the game was in beta and they needed more GMs. In just a few months I was a Senior GM, and now here I am in community.

I don’t have any technical experience whatsoever. I have a lot of gaming knowledge and I have a lot of customer service under my belt…that is what got me in the door. However, I must say that email support is VERY different from in-person customer service, or even the kind of customer service you’d provide via telephone. People treat you differently via email, and you have to be very careful with that. You have to remain professional BUT you cannot sound like a robot. That may sound easy, but that is a lot harder than it sounds. I also think it is very important that all responses remain plainly worded. Some people think that is a no-no, but really, people don’t like to try to figure out what you are really saying. Jumping around the issue can agitate players really fast.

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?

By chance…I just moved to Austin, TX and I actually saw an ad to work for EA. When I applied I had no idea it was even for a UO GM position – the ad just said it involved customer service.

I was lucky to even get an interview…I’m sure a lot of people applied for it. In my interview I discussed my customer service and gaming background. I must have done really well, because that afternoon I got the call saying I was hired.

How long have you been working in the industry?

Roughly 3 and a half to 4 years total. (Between UO and COH I did some QA testing for a business software company.) Three to four years doesn’t sound like a whole lot to me, but in the gaming industry I think 3 to 4 years goes a long way.

Heroes vs VillainsWhat does your job entail? What is an average day like?

It depends on what is going on – sometimes we are getting ready for a new patch or preparing a new announcement. Each day can be different.

For the most part the regular activities include various meetings, answering player questions, compiling player feedback, forum moderation, and dealing with lots of internal company emails. Not only do we have to handle whatever may be currently going on but we also have to prepare and manage all upcoming events and content. Everything is planned carefully and teamwork is key– from both NCsoft and Cryptic we have QA, customer support, community, publishing, operations, marketing, and a whole lot more. Everyone has a say in the processes. Is it time consuming? Yes. But it is well worth it. It is very important that we all remain on the same page.

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

By far the best moment was when I received replies back from the selected contest winners. I felt like Santa Clause. Many were extremely thankful, but really, we wouldn’t have picked them if they didn’t deserve it.

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

If you want to work in this industry please be prepared to work long hours. We generally work business hours but we also have to work during game’s prime time hours – evenings and weekends. When you work for an MMO your business doors are open to clients 24/7. But we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to be; the end results are well worth the extra invested time. But the hours can be really tough at times, especially if you have a family.

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

Many things that community folks just post a few times a week and that is it. If only our jobs were that easy. We’re always working on various things behind the scenes – multi tasking is very important. There are some things we deal with that the outside world never gets to see: everything that goes live (either in game or on our website) has to go through all the internal processes first.

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?

This is a very interesting question. I think both men and women in general have to fight stereotypes regarding gender – women are more sensitive than men, men are more decisive, etc. This is certainly a global issue in my opinion.

I don’t know if I have had any accidental or intentional advantages/disadvantages in the workplace …perhaps it is neither. I wish I knew, but frankly, I just have no way of really knowing.

Outside of the workplace (as a gamer) I certainly noticed something. A few years ago I was really into playing FPS games. It took a lot of practice, but at the time, I was a really good shooter. I heard the sentence “you are pretty good for a girl” more than once. I really don’t like hearing that because it implies I have a natural disadvantage at gaming. I also think I had to deal with a lot of re-matches simply because they wanted to see if my win was a fluke.

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 play whenever I get the chance – nights and weekends. Sometimes I don’t get to play as much as I would like, but then others times I need to take a break. I think it is okay to step back away from a game to avoid getting burned out. You want the game to be fun, not a chore.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

I’ve stepped away from FPS games for a bit…I’m really into all sorts of MMOs. And since I work for NCsoft I get to play all of our cool games.

I like the fantasy genre but I have to be in the mood for it. That is where City of Heroes and City of Villains comes in….it is so refreshing to be something other than a dwarf or an elf.

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

I don’t know if I can pick just one. But I can honestly say that I have invested more time playing COH than any other game EVER. And I’m not just saying that because I work for the game. I have a lot of alts.

City of HeroesIf 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?

Cute outfits are wonderful, but in some games you just don’t have a choice in what your character wears. I think it is important to give both genders different styles; let the player decide how much skin they want to show. I like how female characters can dress sexy – but sometimes I want my character to wear full body armor. I think other MMOs can learn a lot from City of Heroes and City of Villains in this regard… leave these decisions to the player.

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 more and more women are getting into the gaming industry. Why? I’m not sure exactly, but I do know more female gamers now than I have ever known before. I think there used to be this misconception that video games were only meant for young males. That turned out to not be the case at all!

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

We just got Issue 8: To Protect and Serve out the door. This update primarily focuses on heroes this time, and boy we’re sure excited over Veteran Rewards!

In the future we’re releasing a skill system called inventions. I can’t really talk much about this now, but I can say that a lot of time is being put into it. I’m very impressed with what I have seen so far. The cool thing about inventions is that it is completely voluntary. And if you do decide to focus on inventions your time and effort will pay off. It’s work, but optional work.

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

Check the job listings for various gaming companies and see what is available out there. What looks interesting to you? What type of positions you see the most? It will give you an idea as to what the current demand is. Do your online research – read more about the position. I think it is important to do all of this before you actually start training. Also remember that most gaming jobs are located in California, so relocation may also be a factor.

in Interviews

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