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 The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated.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.
Name: Theresa Pudenz
Title: Public Relations
Company: Flying Lab Software
What’s your earliest memory of video games? Did you grow up on games or did you find them later in your life?
I started playing video games when I was a little kid. My mom lifted me up to play arcade games at three years old and I grew up playing console and PC games as a casual hobby with my dad, uncle (49ers > Giants in Super Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo Entertainment System) and sister (my sister, Angela, was always Luigi in Super Mario Bros. â€“ I still feel bad for constantly stealing Player 1 throughout our childhood). My sister and I often played Mario Kart and Mortal Kombat on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System too. Once I hit age 14 I played Quake online, via the good â€˜ol 28.8 modem, more than anything else. Iâ€™ve played video games on a regular basis to this day.
What kind of education do you have and has it prepared you well for this industry?
After high school in Iowa, I basically moved straight to Los Angeles, California and started working in the video gaming industry. Iâ€™ve taken classes specifically geared for my career and theyâ€™ve helped immensely. Iâ€™ve made a personal commitment to continue taking time throughout my career to attend classes, because I believe it really makes a difference.
What type of work did you do before you got into the industry and what jobs in the industry have you held?
I was pretty young when I landed in the gaming industry, so before that I had the great job of painting houses and barns in the summer. I had a paint spray-gun, which was both really fun to use and extremely helpful when I was up eight stories high when hornets attacked. I was known to yell, â€œEat paint, hornets!â€ while spraying paint everywhere. Painting: not exactly my forte.
The jobs Iâ€™ve held in the industry have been mostly in QA, or Test departments, although my career-path is starting to lean towards public relations more and more. Through contract positions, full time positions and volunteer work, Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of working at Disney Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Angel Studios / Rockstar, The Behemoth, Ubisoft, Inside the Game, Penny Arcade, Microsoft and now Flying Lab Software.
My entry into the industry was all chance. A friend of a friend suggested that I should hop on over to Disney Interactive and check out their contract positions for testing. When they said all I had to do was play a game and I would get paid for it, I was hooked (I didnâ€™t know then, but now I know that this isnâ€™t the case about testing video games!).
Coming from a small town and loving Disney as I do made the move to Southern California like rolling around in treasure at the end of the rainbow, with unicorns and butterflies made out of cotton candy at armâ€™s reach at all times. In Hollywood, many people I worked with made kung-fu movies, so I had more than one opportunity to play a dying person at the hands of a kung fu master. At Disney, I was extremely happy to be working on Winnie the Pooh Baby, though I grew to dislike Winnie the Pooh. For that specific job, I was required to hit the keyboard as a baby would, in order to make Winnie the Pooh and friends react on the screen. Howâ€™s that for a starting job? I gained a lot of experience switching out hardware and printers to test the performance side of the game as well.
I have very fond memories of that job, as it was my first â€œbig cityâ€ experience after moving from Iowa. There were celebrities all over the city, I had sushi and calamari for the first time, it was the first time I saw people put lemons in water (Amazing! Delicious!) and IKEA was the best store ever.
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How long have you been working in the industry?
About six years.
My average day is filled with gathering public opinion and staying up-to-date with current industry news, opening channels of communication with other companies, organizations, and everyone else, putting the right people in the right place to keep the public informed and preparing and delivering press releases while sticking with our press plan. When Iâ€™m not buried in Outlook or Excel, Iâ€™m researching LANs, conferences, and conventions to bring Pirates of the Burning Sea to upcoming events around the world.
Tell us about the most interesting or exciting moment for you in your job.
Spying on people that talk about Pirates of the Burning Sea with Google Alerts. But really, the most interesting, exciting, and fun part is working with the people that I do, meeting new people and seeing old friends throughout the gaming industry.
Trying to come up with fun ideas to promote FLS initiatives is also one of the best parts of my job. While many ideas go straight to the trashcan, once in a while they work out and are given the go-ahead. That â€œgreen lightâ€ is one of the biggest reasons why I love public relations work.
What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?
Working in test has made me realize that test is almost always disliked by other departments in one way or another. Itâ€™s sad and weird, but it makes sense. No one wants to hear that their latest update to the build has a problem or ten. Testers are known to spend around 100 hours a week working hard on finding all the issues possible or that show-stopper before the game ships. The dislike of test is slowly changing as test departments are changing and thank goodness!
What is the one misconception you feel people have about working in the industry in your type of position?
That marketing and public relations are the same thing, when they are actually very different.
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?
In some ways I feel there are advantages, in other ways I feel definitely disadvantaged. I find it easy to get attention, but hard to be taken seriously at times. Though I have come to learn that if you know what youâ€™re talking about, people will at least listen.
Also, it may be my outstanding sense of style, but I get more comments on my outfits than the guys in the office do.
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 more a hardcore gamer than I am today, Iâ€™ve gone from about 80 hours a week down to about 40.
What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?
I love fast, online multiplayer, PC FPS games. My PC is â€œunder constructionâ€ at the moment so Iâ€™ve been away from Enemy Territory and Quake (Guess which game Iâ€™m really looking forward to? I’m a total id Software fan-girl). Like many PC gamers, I pay attention to mouse weighting, the rough/smooth surfaces on my mouse pad for speed or control and system performance from the RAM and video card, down to what kind of monitor Iâ€™m using. A recent upgrade to Vista has transformed my machine into a large paperweight, so Iâ€™ve been playing on the Xbox 360 much more than in the past. Currently I am playing Rainbow Six: Vegas, GRAW 2, Guitar Hero, and Texas Holdâ€™em at night on the Xbox 360. When Iâ€™m not playing online games, Iâ€™m usually up to my ears in single player RPGs.
Slow-paced FPS has never really appealed to me. Nearly all of the gamers I play with online and offline have talked to me, trying to get me to play these games, and I would rather eat a sandwich with gross mustard spread all over it.
If you could pick one game as the best game ever, what would it be?
No One Lives Forever. Castle of the Winds. Maybe Gitaroo Man for the PS2, or The Elder Scrolls Morrowind for the PC. I loved Morrowind and the pro-active modding community. It could be Kingdom Hearts because it made me get all teary eyed. As you can tell, itâ€™s really hard for me to pick a game as the best game ever.
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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?
Have the characters that are agility-based, or the female characters in general to be some of the hardest hitters. While this can sometimes be the case in fighting games, theyâ€™re usually falling out of their outfits. I am somewhat sick of being pulled into an RPG battle and always having the girls die while the guys save the day. I would love to see a game where the developers are creating outfits that they would let their 13 year old daughter wear in a battle. I think the developers of Beyond Good & Evil did a great job of this, while making sure their game was also fun to play.
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 women in gaming industry positions should make the most out of where they are for our next generation of girls. Work hard and keep up the great work! Once itâ€™s regular to see female developers, female gamers wonâ€™t be so out of place. Even just yesterday, while playing Texas Holdâ€™em online, someone said â€œWhoa! Youâ€™re aâ€¦ girl?â€ I get that a lot.
I would love to see more female gamers playing online so that the guy to girl ratio isnâ€™t as one sided as it is now on the various game servers. It really makes a difference that women are at least out there and making themselves visible. Hopefully in 10 years, it wonâ€™t be as weird to sound like a girl over Ventrillo or Xbox Live, and that day will be outstanding.
If you can talk about it, can you tell us some about the project you are currently working on?
I work full time at Flying Lab Software on the Pirates of the Burning Sea team! In general, I spread the word about this upcoming MMORPG, and keep people informed about the latest news at http://www.burningsea.com. Since I joined Flying Lab Software a year ago, the game has changed tremendously. Heck, itâ€™s changed tremendously since last month. Right now, every update to the Pirates of the Burning Sea beta server dramatically improves the game. The last few updates have been related to avatar combat, missions, the economy and the art. Iâ€™m constantly by our art team! Their ability to make the game so beautiful while keeping game performance in check is incredible. In addition, the content team has recently completed their goal of creating 1000 missions for each of our 3 nations! The visuals, performance, and game-play for Pirates of the Burning Sea are constantly improving. Iâ€™m really excited to see how the game will be received.
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to get into the industry?
Other than endless practice in something youâ€™re passionate about, I recommend moving to a city where there are gaming companies and applying for the jobs that catch your interest. You can find game developers near you (or far from you, if thatâ€™s what youâ€™re looking for) on this handy map: http://gamedevmap.com. Linked-In (www.linkedin.com) is also a handy tool to get your name and resume out there.
I also recommend keeping up to date with the companies youâ€™re interested in. I like cruising http://www.gametab.com, http://www.gamepolitics.com, http://www.gamasutra.com, and http://www.next-gen.biz.
What are your favorite games? Favorite movies? Favorite Authors? Inspirations? What do you like doing in your free time?
In my free time, I like kayaking, tennis, snowboarding, biking, attending classes, cruising Youtube, and spending time with friends. Friends and my family are mainly where my inspirations come from. Iâ€™m a fan of Eleanor Roosevelt as well:
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Some of my favorite games are Castle of the Winds, No One Lives Forever, Skies of Arcadia, Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls, Quake (1, 2, & 3), Enemy Territory, Beyond Good & Evil, Populous, Darkstone, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy VIII, Rune, Super Mario Sunshine, River City Ransom, Guitar Hero, Thief, The Sims (1 & 2), Populous, Age of Empires III, Lumines, Tetris, Gitaroo Man and Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2.
A few of my favorite movies are House of Flying Daggers, Willow, Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day, The Jerk, The God of Cookery, Love Actually, Kal Ho Naa Ho and My Neighbor Totoro.
A special thanks to Theresa for taking the time to answer our questions