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 The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated.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.
Terri Perkins is the Online Product Manager for Funcom. Curious about what that is? Read on.
Name: Terri Perkins
Title: Online Product Manager, Funcom
What’s your earliest memory of video games?
I had Atari thumb in most of junior high due to Space Invaders and Pac Man. Next, I discovered and became addicted to my first pc game “The Count” in the early/mid 80’s. Of course I wouldn’t admit to playing it as it wasn’t an “in” thing for teen girls at that time! After that, I didn’t touch a game again until “Internet in a box” came out. The internet gaming side brought out my true geek nature and I stayed with the gaming world from then on, beginning with Moos and Muds.
What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?
My education was quite varied ..public and private schools, public and private Universities overseas and in the U.S and post graduate computer courses. Studies ran the gamut from journalism to combat photography to Education and psychology and later to Microsoft certification. I believe it all helps somewhere. Perhaps most important is the ability and desire to learn. I think this is vital in the industry.
What type of work did you do before you got into the industry and what jobs in the industry have you held?
Out of the industry — Hotel Management, Air Force Combat Photographer, Teacher, Info Tech Director and consultant.
In the industry — Immortal, Senior Guide, Host, game reporter, ARK Personnel Director, Online Product Manager.
Was your entry into working with video games planned or chance?
Completely planned. The first time I encountered a GM in an online game, I thought there could just be no better of a job. It became my goal then to learn how to get into the industry and how I could make myself most useful to the games.
What initiated your interest in working in this industry?
Originally it was a hobby. Before graphics came into play, those of us involved in the text games thought it would be a wonderful job but didn’t believe anyone would really pay us to do it.
How did you get started in the industry?
By volunteering. I volunteered in it for many many years and learned all I could. I volunteered to design areas, build customer service programs, some designing with MUDS, write white papers and text books and to review games for websites. When I finally felt I had the experience needed, I begged a lot and wrote proposals and applied. I think eventually Funcom hired me to get me to stop spamming their email.
How long have you been working in the industry?
In volunteer management and design since the mid 90’s. My first full time paid position was 2 years ago.
What does your job entail?
My job is a bit of a catch all. In general I handle advertising and work with marketing, P.R and Sales in conjunction with the rest of our great team.
What is an average day like?
There is no average day! It normally starts around 4:30 a.m so I can meet with my coworkers and contacts in Europe and is filled with emails, ICQs, research, agreements and contracts, NDA’s, reading and writing, tours, meetings, interviews, conventions, planning, proofing and testing. Sometimes I can sneak in a small nap in the early afternoon and then about 3pm the west coast wakes up and it starts over again.
Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.
There are sooo many! Launch days are incredibly intense and stress filled. Nothing can compare to those! My absolute favorite moments are probably the press tours and conventions. When people unfamiliar with the games are introduced to the amazing worlds and you see eyes bulging and jaws dropping.. or an awkward silence and you ask if everything is okay and they reply that they are just in awe. Nothing can beat that!
What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?
My least favorite thing is dealing with little things that can mess up your day, like broken links or things that can go wrong at the most inconvenient times.
What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?
That it’s all fun and games. It’s an incredible amount of work that requires constant attention and time. Yes it’s fantastic to mingle with gamers across the globe but it also requires enormous hours of work behind the scenes that people generally don’t think of. I wouldn’t trade it for another job in the world though!
Do you feel you are advantaged or disadvantaged as a female in an industry so dominated by men?
I don’t feel you have any advantages being a female in the industry. It’s not like someone says “Oh since it’s a female I’m dealing with we’ll make this easy!” I don’t expect any advantages for race, gender, religious preferences or nationality either. I have definitely had times that people felt I didn’t know gaming, technology or wasn’t aggressive enough because I was female â€” but I don’t think the perceptions lasted long . At some conventions for example, you are assumed to be a receptionist, secretary, booth babe or someone’s girlfriend just due to your gender. If you are working in a role that is normally handled by males then you have to do the job wonderfully and be much more aware of your actions and how they will be perceived, and still some will assume you got a job because of sleeping with someone. Maybe men get this too? As women take on more of the senior roles I believe this issue will diminish over time as it has with other industries. Bottom line is this: If you’re a weak person (no matter your gender) this industry isn’t the right place for you.
Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?
Yes..definitely a hard core gamer. I play pretty much every moment of free time I have. This greatly varies and there are days where I will play for 8 or more hours and many days in a row where I can’t play at all.
What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?
Most: Online Persistent worlds.. setting doesn’t matter to me.
Games I enjoy least are those that depend on how fast you can click a button with little to no thought processing.
If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?
One of our future titles! For games already in existence, I have to say that over the long term, AO is the only one that has been able to hold my interest for several years outside of MUDs.
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?
Choice. There is no one thing that appeals to any group of people. I think you need to have options and choices to appeal to a variety of player desires. I don’t like it when people “aim” games at females personally and have yet to see one that was designed for this that worked. An example of this is character selection. When I go to choose a character I want a variety, not one choice of an avatar that is 36-23-36 with flowing blonde hair. There is no universal trick to this. Nothing appeals to everyone, the more choices you have then the more likely you are to appeal to more people.
If you can talk about it, can you tell us some about the project you are currently working on?
Future titles and projects that will revolutionize the world as we know it! I can’t say more..the security guards are giving me “the look”..sorry.
Do you have any advice for females who would like to get into the industry?
I get asked this a lot and it’s the same answer I give to the males. Find what you want to do and start doing it. Volunteer, take classes, read. Doors don’t just open for you, you have to make them open. Make sure you truly have a desire and love of games that goes beyond playing the games. I don’t think there is a difference for males versus females in this other than with any other predominantly male industry. You’re going to have to work harder to prove yourself. No one, (to my knowledge) says “Ok we need a woman for this job”. They look for qualifications, so make sure you get qualified!
What are your favorite games?
Anarchy Online is still my main game and favorite MMO, for text I like DragonRealms and for standalones..Sam and Max.
Matrix 1, Monty Python, Casablanca, Office Space.
Dan Brown, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Crichton.
Elonka Dunin, Walt Disney, Tim Berners-Lee, Jean Paul Sartre.
What do you like doing in your free time?
I wish I could say mountain climbing or something exotic, but I have very little of this and generally spend it catching up on family and friends or sleeping. My hobbies and work blend into one.