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 The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated.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.
Heather Logas currently works for Telltale Games as a Game Designer. Curious about what that is? Read on.
Name: Heather L Logas
Title: Game Designer
Company: Telltale Games
What is your earliest memory of video games?
My earliest memory of video games was when my mom brought home our Atari 800. My sister and I were very young. I still remember the cover image on the box for Pac-Man, and my mom asking if this was “the right one?” I guess we had seen them on TV.
Did you grow up on games or did you find them later in your life?
We grew up playing board games with my parents. We had a closet full of games. Sometimes this would cause a problem, because they would fall on our heads when we tried to get a particular one out.
What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?
My undergraduate degree is in Art with a Conceptual Information Arts emphasis from San Francisco State University. This was a new media degree where I learned a lot about media and culture and also picked up a few technical skills. I then went on to Georgia Institute of Technology and got a Master’s Degree in Information Design and Technology. This was another pretty flexible new media program where I was able to study games like crazy. Both programs helped prepare me for the industry. Growing up a gamer was a vital part of my education as well.
What type of work did you do before you got into the industry and what jobs in the industry have you held?
I did a bit of everything before getting involved in the industry. Retail, administration, science museum docent. My last job before graduate school was working in a living history program acting the part of a sailor in 1906 on a tall ship and teaching kids about sailor life, teamwork, self-esteem and leadership.
My first “industry” job is in quotes because it was a start up making a huge MMORPG and none of us had a clue what we were doing. Needless to say, it didn’t last very long. I was a world designer there. I had an internship as an assistant producer at LucasArts on Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, and now I’m happily working as a game designer at Telltale.
Was your entry into working with video games planned or chance?
A bit of both. I knew I was interested in games, and my two last projects at SF State were both games, but I went to Tech with it in my mind that I was going to study Virtual Reality. I guess I thought it sounded cooler at the time. But I quickly got involved in games at Tech and realized after attending my first GDC that gaming was where I wanted to be. I had spent my life up to that point sort of picking life goals but never being very passionate about them. Something wouldn’t sound as neat as it did the previous week, or something else would catch my attention. Games are the first things that have really stuck with me. I am endlessly fascinated by them.
How long have you been working in the industry?
I really only consider myself to have been “in the industry” since starting work at Telltale. So that would be maybe seven months now.
What does your job entail?
As a designer, most of my work involves translating stuff from my head into a useable format by other people. So I tend to do a lot of writing and diagramming of spaces, interfaces, etc. I also spend a fair amount of time in meetings with various team members to hash out design details and other aspects of the game. We do a lot of things pretty collaboratively. Most days I also spend at least some time working on PR or marketing stuff, because we are still a pretty small company and everyone has to help out where they can. I don’t mind, it keeps things interesting.
Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.
I get really excited when I come up with a solution that I really like to a tricky design problem. There’s also a great charge that comes with seeing something that was previously only written down on paper be translated into the game space.
What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?
I tend to get frustrated by the arrogance I sometimes find in the industry. Many people are really open to new ideas, but too many are ignorant of what goes on in academia or the gaming world at large and don’t feel that anything outside of their own experience is relevant to what they do. There is a whole universe of games that don’t live on computers or consoles, and there is a whole discipline studying games in great detail. Embracing all of this information can only make someone a better game designer. (There are also those that aren’t arrogant so much as just un-informed, and they aren’t nearly as irritating.
What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?
No one who isn’t in the industry and isn’t a gamer themselves has any idea what I do. They always try to ask if I’m a programmer or an artist. The conceptualizing part is sort of hard to grasp.
Do you feel you are advantaged or disadvantaged as a female in an industry so dominated by men?
Being a woman in the industry is really great on one hand because there are all these other great women to get advice from and commiserate with. I definitely think there is camaraderie amongst the women in the industry and we have a tendency to look out for each other and help each other out where we can. There are also some people in the industry who are seriously interested in getting women more involved, and that can sometimes work to a woman’s benefit.
On the other hand, I think it is hard for women being in a male dominated culture because it is hard for both you and them to know when you have a legitimate complaint about something and when you are being over sensitive. As an intern at LucasArts, I complained about a certain outfit for one of the female characters on the game I was working on over and over, but I feel I was shrugged off because it wasn’t taken as a legitimate complaint. I have also been around some mildly sexist (meant to be in jest) behavior which I wasn’t sure whether it was worth it to say anything or whether I was being a bit too oversensitive. It’s a hard line to draw sometimes.
Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?
I am absolutely a hardcore gamer. If not for the amount of time I currently play games then for the breadth of games I have enjoyed (and enjoy) and the depth to which I enjoy them. Currently I spend maybe 10 â€“ 15 hours a week playing games (on average). But almost all my time thinking about them.
I really enjoy games with interesting stories/worlds and interesting types of Gameplay. I seek out things that are different from things I’ve played before, and different from what the market at large is making. I also will play almost anything that involves pirates. I am obsessed with MMORPGs, but pretty much hate them all (except for Puzzle Pirates.)
There are some 1st person shooters I would like to try, but I can’t deal with not having peripheral vision. I wind up craning my neck trying to look around the edges of the screen. I also am not a fan of games that simulate real world modern warfare or sports. The sports games just don’t interest me, and the war games make me sad and depressed. They are too close to the reality of people who are actually suffering and dying, and to me it feels insensitive to be playing a game about it.
If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?
Oh my goodness! What a question! There are so many great games in the world!
I’ll say Dungeons & Dragons. It introduced a whole new way to think about games and its influence can be felt 50 years later in any fantasy game you play today, on or off the computer.
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 think just consideration. Sheri Graner Ray has her great saying “what if the player is female?” If game developers would just stop and ask themselves that question they might choose to put more clothes on some of their characters or tone down pointless gore just a bit. This isn’t to say they should completely cater to a female audience, just consider them right alongside their male market.
Do you have an opinion about the current state of the industry with regard to females and gaming?
I honestly don’t think it’s terrible. There are inroads that have yet to be made but overall, I think companies are more aware of women as a viable market. I personally have never dealt with a “you’re a woman so you don’t know anything about games” attitude.
If you can talk about it, can you tell us some about the project you are currently working on?
Well, we recently finished Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em, which is a poker game where you play against crazy characters that banter back and forth across the table like in a televised poker tournament. It’s definitely aimed at more casual players. We are currently working on getting more exposure for it: it’s a really fun experience and we’d love for a wider audience to get to enjoy it.
Our current project is an adventure title (think a distant, more mature cousin of your favorite classic LucasArts adventure game) based on Jeff Smith’s comic book Bone. It is a great story with great characters, and we are really excited about the chance to bring it to life in a whole new way.
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to get into the industry?
Step 1: Love games.
Step 2: Prepare! Study the hell out of whatever you are interested in doing.
Step 3: Move somewhere where there is more than one game company.
Step 4: Meet people. Going to grad school, getting an internship at LucasArts and attending GDC all helped me meet people who helped me get my current job.
I used to be discouraged reading stories about how folks got into the industry, because oftentimes it would involve knowing someone and being at the right place at the right time. But it is possible to turn the odds in your favor by moving to the right place and going out of your way to meet others in the industry (or with connections to it). It’s not just about fate.
What are your favorite games?
You may have guessed, but I have a lot of favorite games. At the moment I am really enjoying Sid Meier’s Pirates! (the remake), Yo Ho Ho! Puzzle Pirates, Subway Scramble, and Katamari Damacy. I also just bought this huge pack of old Atari games for the PS2, and am anxious to dig into that.
Moviesâ€¦I have a specialized genre that I call the “life-affirmation” genre. These are movies that inspire me and make me feel good about the world when I’m done watching them. Examples are Harold and Maude, Human Traffic and Pleasantville.
Authors? Lemony Snicket (did you know he went to my High School?), Jeff Smith, Wendy Pini, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman (but not Sandman), William Gibson, Scott McCloud. Probably more that I am missing at the moment.
I tend to find inspiration everywhere around me on a daily basis, but when I am stuck on some design problem I will play other games or read game theory books or articles or even just go for a walk someplace pretty.
What do you like doing in your free time?
As for free timeâ€¦ weeknights are usually pretty mellow. I am usually pretty tired from work. I’ll read, or play games, or watch a movie with my husband. On weekends I try to get out more with friends, or else I’ll work on the apartment some (it needs some work still). I also like playing with our guinea pigs and taking walks in the park with my hubby, or going out to dinner with him and my parents. I usually have a ton of projects I am in the middle of, but I don’t work on them too often because they take a lot of focus and energy and I don’t often have a lot of either when I’m at home.
Thanks for the interview! This was fun!