Killer Women: Heather Logas

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 The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated.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 – 15 hours a week playing games (on average). But almost all my time thinking about them.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

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.

Favorite movies?

Movies…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.

Favorite Authors?

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.

Inspirations?

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 time… 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!

Killer Women: Terri Perkins

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 — 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.

Favorite movies?

Matrix 1, Monty Python, Casablanca, Office Space.

Favorite Authors?

Dan Brown, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Crichton.

Inspirations?

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.

Killer Women: Valerie Massey

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.

Valerie Massey works for NCSoft as a Community Coordinator on Auto Assault. What’s a Community Coordinator do and how did she get her start? Read on to find out.

Name: Valerie “Pann” Massey
Title: Community Coordinator, NCSoft

What’s your earliest memory of video games?

The first video game I remember playing was “Space Invaders” on the Atari that my father bought for my brothers and me when I was a kid, maybe around age 10 or so. We had “Pong,” as well, but I liked “Space Invaders” the most.

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

From middle school through high school and college, I was very involved in drama, speech and journalism. All of that has been a huge help to me in learning to communicate effectively, particularly written communication, which is a major part of my job on a daily basis.

What type of work did you do before you got into the industry?

Before I married and started a family, I had the typical student-type jobs, working at the campus library, a salesclerk in a department store, a receptionist/copy writer for an advertising company. After the birth of my first child, I was a stay-at-home mom and later the sole caregiver for my grandmother for many years before I got into the industry.

What jobs in the industry have you held?

Since starting my career, I have always been in community, though public relations and project management are also interesting to me and I’ve been trying to learn more about them as opportunities present themselves.

How did you get started in the industry?

It was during those years of taking care of my grandmother that I discovered Ultima Online and started down a road I didn’t even realize I was on until it took a sharp turn and I was suddenly standing on the bow of a ship off the coast of Iceland, whale watching with my then 15 year-old daughter who turned to me and said, “Mom, we sure are a long way from Jewett.”

Jewett, a very small Central Texas town with a population of less than 700 people was where we’d lived until 2000 when we moved to Austin, where I married someone I’d met through Ultima Online. If I’m ever told I have one year to live, I’d go back there because every day seems like an eternity. I guess I wasn’t cut out for farm life and the dial-up connection made for such unbearable lag that my UO friends dubbed me “The Lag Queen.” Still, that was my link to the outside world on those long, lonely days and I was grateful for it. When you’re taking care of someone who’s housebound, you’re pretty well housebound, too.

It was also through UO that I met Mike Wallis, currently the producer for Middle Earth Online. Back in 1998 when we first became acquainted, Mike was working for GTInteractive. He then went to Simon and Schuster Interactive and in 2002 began negotiations for S&SI to publish Eve Online, which was in development by CCP in Reyjkavik, Iceland. Mike liked the things I’d written for an online fansite and knew I had experience moderating message boards as well as the experience I had from my time in UO as a counselor and a seer. Mike told me that if he landed the contract, he wanted me to be his community manager, a real dream job for lots of gamers, particularly since I could work from home in Austin.

He got the contract and I got the job, staying with Eve until 2004 when I came to work at NCsoft. I am currently working with the Auto Assault crew and we’re ramping up for launch in Q3 2005.

How long have you been working in the industry?

I have been working for a paycheck since 2002, though I had written for a fansite for several years and also spent two years in the UO volunteer program. People who volunteer for games or write for sites without being paid work just as hard as any of us who are actually employed by a game company. The passion is the same, the hours are similar… I have a lot of admiration for them.

What does your job entail on an average day?

An average day includes lots and lots of e-mail and meetings. When I wake up in the morning, even before I get my first cup of coffee, I check my Inbox to see if there’s anything that needs immediate attention. That’s not so critical at this point, while Auto Assault is still in development, but for live games, you never know what could have happened while you were sleeping. Next, I’ll look at message boards and then head into the office for the daily round of meetings and such… and more e-mailing.

The e-mail load is an occupational necessity. As the information hub between the developers, the community and the online fan and news sites, there’s always a lot of fact-finding and information sharing that needs to happen. It’s not always the same questions being asked over and over again, which keeps it from getting monotonous.

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

There have been a lot of exciting moments, but probably one of the best so far was the day we launched Eve Online. I had arrived at the CCP office in Reykjavik about 30 minutes before the game servers were supposed to go up and I was so tired and jet lagged that it was just caffeine and adrenaline that were sustaining me. We all piled into the conference room and watched on the projection screen as one of the devs entered the game. It was so exciting to see all of our hard work come to fruition with these first players. One of players said, “I hope they bring the servers down at some point so I can eat and take a shower.” It was a huge compliment and we were giddy as a bunch of little school girls.

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

I don’t like not being able to give someone what they want – whether it’s a beta account, an interview, or assistance with a problem they’ve had with the game. There is always a reason why I have to say no, but I don’t like it.

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

From interactions I’ve had with various people, I find that the common misconceptions are that all I do is moderate message boards or that I have all this free time to play games. Neither is true.

Do you feel you are advantaged or disadvantaged as a female in an industry so dominated by men?

I sincerely feel that my being a woman has nothing to do with it, though I will certainly acknowledge that women are still in the minority in the industry overall. There was never a time at Simon and Schuster Interactive or at NCsoft that I felt being a woman had any bearing on how I was treated or my ideas were received. Maybe it’s different at other companies and I’ve been really lucky not to have worked for them.

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?

Oh, yeah, definitely hardcore, though I don’t have as much time to play as I used to – which is kind of ironic, I think. Since my husband and I are both avid gamers, we tend to spend our weekends gaming together so that’s when I get most of my playtime in. I try to play for at least a couple of hours in the evenings during the week, then put in another 20 or more hours on the weekends.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most?

I’m a fantasy nut, so the games I’ll go for are usually “sword and sorcery” types, like Neverwinternights and World of Warcraft. I loved City of Heroes, too, which kind of surprised me since I’ve never really been into comic books. MMOs will usually win out over stand-alone games since I’ve gotten used to interacting with other people and really enjoy that more than wandering through a game world alone.

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

Phantasmagoria is still my favorite all these years (and games) later. That was long before MMOs were popular, so it was a stand-alone horror game back in the day when Sierra was in its prime. I had never seen anything like it, all live action, and the story was compelling and creepy (in a good way!)

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?

Stop trying to figure out what women want and just focus on making a fun game. If it’s fun, women will play it, the same as men. The women gamers I know don’t care about fancy hair-dos or pink nail polish on their avatars. They want to blow things up, improve their characters and have a good time. That’s not gender specific. That’s a basic principle of good game design.

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

The game I’m working on now, Auto Assault, is a vehicular combat game set in a post-apocalyptic world. Through the clever use of the Havokâ„¢ physics engine, players can smash into things, jump over stuff and pretty much blow up anything they see on the screen, so there’s lots of action. It’s unlike anything else in the growing list of MMOs and we’re very excited about it.

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

Stay the course, don’t get discouraged and never stop learning. It’s not as easy to get your foot in the door as it used to be and you’ll need to be the best in your field to accomplish that. If you want to be a world builder, use mods to make map after map and hone those skills. If you want to be an artist, stay on top of the latest and greatest programs and learn them inside and out. If you want to write fiction, read everything you can get your hands on and then draw from that knowledge to create awesome stories. Get involved with game communities, make contacts whenever possible and don’t give up.

What are your favorite games?

My favorite games, besides the aforementioned Phantasmagoria would have to include Ultima Online, which I played for about six years, because of its versatility. I also loved many of the other Sierra series like Gabriel Knight, Quest for Glory, Laura Bow, and King’s Quest. Rollercoaster Tycoon was a favorite because I loved building the parks even if I never managed to build a decent roller coaster.

Favorite movies?
I could do page after page of favorite movies because I am a huge fan of so many different ones. If I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say my absolute favorites are The Wizard of Oz, Braveheart, The Godfather (I & II), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Pulp Fiction, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Boondock Saints, The Usual Suspects, Steel Magnolias, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Death to Smoochy and – of course – Hook.

Favorite Authors?
My favorite authors include John Steinbeck (East of Eden), John Irving (The World According to Garp), Stephen King (It), and George RR Martin (The Song of Fire and Ice series. Where’s #4, George?!!).

Inspirations?

I am inspired by people who stay true to themselves and their ideas, keep their word and actively seek to encourage others without ego or unsolicited judgment. I admire Richard Garriott for his creative vision and unparalleled generosity, Steve Snow for his drive and determination, Carly Staehlin for paving the way and Richard Weil for his infinite patience. My mom ranks high on the list, too, for the way she managed to raise three decent human beings while gaining success in a predominately male industry.

What do you like doing in your free time?

In my free time, besides gaming or watching movies with my husband, I love to spend time with my daughter. I’m very fortunate that we managed to get through her teen years (so far) without any of the dreaded angst and drama that most mother/daughter relationships endure. She’s nearly eighteen, so we still have a ways to go, but so far it’s been much better than I’d expected and I’m proud to say that she’s one of my favorite people in the whole world.

More Screenshots

Killer Women: Samantha Ryan

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.

Samantha Ryan is one such woman. She happens to the President/CEO for Monolith Productions. What’s a President/CEO do and how did she get her start? Read on to find out.

Name: Samantha Ryan
Title: President/CEO, Monolith

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

My father was what the industry refers to as an “early adopter.” We always had the latest electronic gadgets, games and devices before everyone else. This included all the early consoles from Atari, the Commodore 64, and a few others.

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

Back in the good old days, there was no such thing as an education for computer games. My degree is in Broadcast Production. Some of this knowledge has crossed over. But most I simply learned through the school of hard knocks.

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

Just before I decided to make the switch to games, I was working for Infinity Broadcasting, which is primarily a radio company. Once I jumped over to games, I started in marketing, but over time, moved into the production side of the business.

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 was tired of broadcast, which felt old and stale. I wanted to be in an industry that was fresh and cutting edge. I loved playing games and decided to make my move. That being said, it was not easy to make the transition. Employers prefer someone with direct experience already, not someone from another industry. You have to be more creative in your search in order to break through this invisible boundary.

How long have you been working in the industry?

About 8 years.

What does your job entail? What is an average day like?

My day-to-day activities flux based on the projects we have in development and the administrative needs of the company. My goal is to hire great people and empower them to make decisions for the good of their projects and the company as a whole. I can then function as the glue that holds all the projects and support functions together.

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?

In my experience, being a woman in a male dominated industry has been neutral. There are rare occasions where I might be at a slight advantage or disadvantage, but these balance out. This may be because the games industry as a whole is more progressive than other industries. I’m not sure. I do know that I don’t think of myself as a woman when I make decisions. I simply do the best job possible as a representative of the human race.

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. I don’t qualify in that category any longer, but I still play a couple hours a week on average.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

I don’t have any setting preferences. As for genres, I enjoy strategy games on the PC such as the AOE/AOM series, StarCraft and Rollercoaster Tycoon. I also like shooters such as HL2 and the Thief games, and MMO’s like UO and SWG. On console, it’s mostly action games like Metroid, POP, and Burnout, or RPG/survival horror stuff like the RE series, FF series, etc. My least favorite genre would be sports. I don’t think I’ve ever played a pure sports game.

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

Monolith currently has four projects in development. The Matrix Online and F.E.A.R. both ship in 2005. The other two titles are not yet announced, although one of them will finally be announced in February.

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

Be in this industry because you love this industry. We are still a young industry in many ways, and this offers a lot of opportunity for those with confidence in themselves and a desire to make great games.

Killer Women: Yngvild Lothe

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.

In steps Yngvild Lothe. She works for Funcom as a Game Designer on Anarchy Online. How did she get started and what does she do as a Game Designer? Read on to find out.

Name: Yngvild ‘Bacchante’ Lothe
Title: Game Designer, Funcom

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

I didn’t find any interest in video games until my younger brother was old enough to get them as presents. I guess I was about 9. It soon became a fight between us who would have the Bombsweeper (game & watch) game, and I spent time after school at my cousins’, since they had a C64. I also remember having a list of stuff to write in order to start my favorite games on my first PC. (got it when I was twelve back in 92) I never understood why I would write “cd games” and then “outrun.exe” or whatever my dad wrote for me, but following the list I managed to play the games which were the most important part for me at that point. From then on I’ve always played games, PC or console.

I have one game that I’ll never forget as well, and that was when we went to a store asking for an adventure/puzzle game, since that was what I wanted. The guy at the store recommended Alone in the Dark, and so my dad bought me that game. I only made it down the stairs and into the first few rooms, I got so scared that I insisted on putting my closet in front of the window so that the monsters wouldn’t get me. I even tried playing at daytime with my parents in the room, but I just didn’t dare to move further. Both the character and the monsters looked so realistic to me!

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?

At college I dated a guy that had an interest in computers besides just playing games or writing a journal and homework, like I did. He showed me some basic programming, and I joined him when he went to a LAN-party in 1996. I was one of two girls there, and got plenty of help from the guys that actually dared talk to me. I learned to use some pixel-drawing programs, looked more into programming, and became a halfway member of what is called “the computer scene” in Norway. Here talented people get together and use creativity and skill in order to make demos and animations. I met people from all over Europe, and especially in Finland there were more girls interested in computers as well.
I think that this background has prepared me well for this industry; I guess I feel like one of the guys here, for good and for bad. =)

After college, I started Computer Science studies at the University in Oslo. I quickly discovered that programming wasn’t really my thing, and got me a job in an office while pondering what I should study. My brother convinced me to test this MMORPG that was currently in beta, and next thing I knew I had my own Anarchy Online beta account and was guild leader for 150 other players. Thanks to that I noticed the ad for customer service personnel that Funcom had on their web page, and sent in my application. I got the job, and after 2 years in customer service, I joined the Anarchy Online Design team in October 2003.

How long have you been working in the industry?

Since September 2001.

What does your job entail? What is an average day like?

I’m not sure there is such a thing as an average day here… but I usually start the day around 10 am. We have a meeting with the team each morning to sum up the latest news and what tasks we should focus on. I think this is an important part of the day since we are working on a live product. Then I read my email and try to make a “to do”-list. This is also where the mandatory morning coffee comes in. I usually then follow up on what kind of events the ARKs (the volunteers of AO) have produced, or if they have any requests, and then I start working on the task that I have. My tasks include designing and implementing quests, NPC dialog and the story in the game.

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

Well, I love when we come up with a new concept on how to do things. Especially when someone tells us it can’t be done, and we still make it! I love doing research and getting to the bottom of things.

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

I think that what’s hitting me hardest is the negative feedback you can get from players. People tend to raise their voices when they aren’t happy with something, and sometimes it feels like a personal hit. I really care for the game, and would of course like to see everyone happy all the time, and when doing your best never seems to be good enough to some people, the job can be really frustrating.

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

Most people think that being a game designer includes fantastic drawing skills. I’m often asked questions about graphics and 3D-design, and to the average person it’s hard to explain exactly what is an online game, what is a quest and how do people talk to the computer.

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?

In my work, I don’t really notice any advantages or disadvantages being a female. There are of course examples of times where I might have being treated differently because I’m a woman, but on an everyday basis I don’t think much about being a woman and the others on my team being men. There have been examples in the past where they didn’t invite me to game nights etc. because they didn’t think I would be interested, but that’s more or less gone now that they know me better.

I’ve also noticed how I probably become an object of gossip whenever I find friends among my co workers, and it’s sometimes hard to keep your female style as it is often commented if you are wearing high heels or a shorter skirt etc.

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 don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer in general, more a part time hardcore gamer! I have a tendency to play so much in a short period of time that I continue playing the game in my dreams, and then I quickly grow tired of it. I think I kind of use up the game too fast, sort of like with tequila. You can have too much at one time, and later when you have forgotten how bad it turned out, you try it again, and all the memories come back.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

I like RTS games very much. I prefer to build up stuff rather than to tear it down. (I was totally addicted to LEGO as a kid.) In my perfect game I will play against an opponent that is good, but not unbeatable. I hate losing. I’ve spent a lot of time with different tycoon games, I also loved C&C, especially Tiberian Sun. I’ve tried a lot of different role playing games (as I’ve been a pen&paper role player for quite some time), they keep me entertained for a while, but I’m still waiting for that one really good game.

As much as I would love to like it, I can’t tolerate FPS games. I tend to get nauseated, upset whenever I get killed (usually way too quickly to my taste), and I get upset by the non-realistic features in the games.

I also try out different MMOs from time to time, but I find it more like work than fun as I always look at it thinking how it could have been better this way, or how I could implement this in our game.

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

Diablo II. I’m not sure if it’s really the best game ever, but it’s the game I’ve had the best time playing. My boyfriend at the time and I usually teamed up as Necromancer (him) and Paladin (me), and kicked ass! I have no idea how many times I’ve played that game, I even think I know most of the game dialog by heart.

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a female audience, what would that one thing be?

Tough question. I think I could write about a lot of different stuff that would appeal to female gamers. I think for online games, it is important to many women that you get on a personal level with your character. It is important that they can have variety in choice of character and the characters appearance. This includes details in looks, clothes, social emotes, interaction etc.

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

Well, I’m working on the game Anarchy Online, it has been out 4 years this summer, and is a science fiction based MMORPG, set 27000 years into the future on the planet Rubi-Ka. Http://www.anarchy-online.com for more information =)

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

Of course, it’s different depending on what type of job you want to do, but in general I think it’s important to brand yourself, get contacts in the industry and don’t give up. Add a good portion of luck and timing as well. Knowing when companies are about to hire more people and don’t expect them to look at the CV you sent in last time they hired and give you a call. Be more aggressive, which I think, in Norway at least, is a skill that is more often seen in men than in women. And be tough! Don’t believe that all good things will come to you, and go grab it instead! I’ve wasted time thinking that justice will happen and that everyone will see what a good job you’re doing and reward you for it. It’s a lot about finding the balance point where you are proud of your work without showing off.

What are your favorite games? Favorite movies? Favorite Authors? Inspirations? What do you like doing in your free time?

Currently I’ve been playing Burnout 3 (Xbox), and I play some Puzzle Pirates when I want to relax, or I can sit playing Civ3 or Rollercoaster Tycoon for a day, but hard to say that I have a favorite game.
As for games, I also play a lot of board and card games, and some of my favorites include Puerto Rico, Steve Jackson’s Chez Geek, Zoff im Zoo, Game of Thrones, Carcassonne and Guillotine.

I’ve always enjoyed Peter Jackson’s movies, and wasn’t surprised that the LOTR version turned out to be so wonderful! I’m also a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. I love the colors and the atmosphere in movies such as Once upon a time in the West and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. City of Lost Children and The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain are simply beautiful movies, in colors, camera angles and casting. A movie I saw recently and enjoyed was The Boondock Saints. I can’t understand how I missed it when it came out, but it’s definitely on my list now. Right now I’m looking forward to seeing Constantine and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. (We are usually a bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to movie releases.)

As for authors, I’m a paperback collector, so I can safely say that I read my books till they are torn and missing pages. I started reading Tolkien as a kid, and when I run out of books to read, I started playing the Middle Earth pen& paper role play. It opened my literature world from being the classic, and in my young eyes boring, works, and to find exciting adventures in the worlds created by Terry Pratchett (Discworld), R.A. Salvatore, (The dark elf and The Icewind Dale trilogies). I read the Ravenloft series of books, and was disappointed to find out that they no longer wanted to publish books, and ended it by revealing the whole magic behind the lands in the final book about Stradt. Luckily I was advised never to read that book, so it’s still unopened in my shelf. My dad gave the Isaac Asimov Foundation series, which I still love reading. I’ve also enjoyed reading Orson Scott Card, but I think my favorite series must be the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. I’m still waiting for the 4th book in the series, and just a few weeks ago he announced on his web page that it was still not done. It taught me how to not start reading a non-finished series of books. I also love Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and his book Neverwhere. I think I can read those over and over and the magic just won’t go away.

I think all of the above is what gives me inspiration for my work, I guess the Norwegian winter is perfect for evenings spent inside reading, watching movies and playing games. I have a tendency to switch hobbies ever so often, guess it’s a matter of attention span, just as it is with games. For one time I was learning Kyudo (Japanese Archery), then only last summer I moved on to start in an medieval styled fighting group, but when winter came I crawled inside for my books and games. 😉 I try to make time to hang out with the girls at least once a week, and in the winter we also go skiing in the mountains in the weekends.

Killer Women: Eri Izawa

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.

Eri Izawa, a Game Designer for Perpetual Entertainment, agreed to be the subject of the latest Killer Women feature. How did she get started and what exactly is a game designer? Read on to find out.

Name: Eri Izawa
Title: Game Designer, Perpetual Entertainment

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

My first video game was a Pong-like system (replete with skeet gun). Once personal computers came out (yes, this is prehistory), I got hooked on Zork and whatever else I could play on an Apple II, and from there went to various UNIX games and MUDs at college. It would be years before I got a PC that could play the “hottest” games, sadly.

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

I have a bachelor’s degree in physics; some background in engineering or science is quite useful for systems design. Knowing basic coding, even if just simple scripting, is almost mandatory. My lifelong personal interest in writing and artwork has also been very useful.

Designing, writing, and running roleplaying games with bright, headstrong, sleep-deprived college students was highly educational. Likewise, playing MUDs was an excellent introduction to online gaming, back in the era before the Massively Multi-Player games. (And I thought I was wasting time!) I also dabbled in writing very simple computer games off and on for years.

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

After college I wrote unpublished fiction; I did some Perl scripting, web development and software QA; only after all that did I get a job in the game industry as a game designer. I’ve done systems design, content and level design, story writing, lead design and management, and now UI design.

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?

One reason I chose my college was because it was the birthplace of Infocom games (and the setting of The Lurking Horror). Despite this, working in games was something I never took seriously until I realized (1) I didn’t want to do hardcore science, (2) writing fiction was unlikely to result in income anytime soon, and (3) game companies in my area were hiring. Thanks to gaming in college, I had contacts in the industry. Eventually I got a break – a particular start-up company couldn’t demand years of professional game dev experience because no one there had any, either! My writing samples and my amateur game writing experience helped tip the scales.

How long have you been working in the industry?

About 6 years, give or take.

What does your job entail? What is an average day like?

Working at a small game company means that a person’s tasks change week by week, month by month. Right now, I’ve somehow gotten into UI design, but I’m also doing social system design and other systems design. In the future, I’ll probably be doing something different. During any given day, I am most likely to go from Word to Excel to Photoshop and back, but I might be called upon to do lots of other things.

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

Well, I’ve had lots of exciting moments – such as when coming up with an interesting way of handling a design issue. Every day can be exciting (in both good and bad ways, lol).

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

Many experienced designers throughout the industry can (and do) tell corporate horror stories that make “Dilbert” look tame. It doesn’t help that more people want to enter game development than the industry can currently support. People who have families may especially have a hard time, such as when competing against unattached people who can immerse themselves in games and game dev 24×7. I’m definitely thankful to be working at a great company with a mature outlook!

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

I suppose the primary misconception is that it’s an easy job. Sometimes it’s easy – much of the time it’s a real challenge that calls upon practically every field of study from your school years. It is a lot of fun, but it also calls for a lot of thinking.

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?

For me, at least, the only time being female seems to make a big positive difference is when it comes to getting interview requests for female gamer publications . I’ve certainly seen some gender-negatives in the past. Hopefully it’s all getting better, a little at a time.

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer? How many hours a week do you get to play (besides the title you are working on)?

There was a time when I played Dark Age of Camelot 60 or more hours a week (I was unemployed then). I think that counts as “hardcore” . Nowadays, though, I can’t muster more than about 12 hours a week.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

Right now, I most enjoy DAoC’s Realm-vs.-Realm style of PvP combat, and hope to someday get high enough in WoW to have fun with PvP there. I’m pretty tired of PvE these days, even with a WoW- or EQ2- or CoH-style quests. I think I have played and enjoyed every major type of game out there, some types more than others. I reluctantly avoid first person shooters for the sole reason they make me incredibly motion-sick.

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

Computer games have so much variation, and each “era” has had such different levels of technology, that I think it’s fairly meaningless to speak of a single “best game ever.” For example, Tetris is an incredible game, but it hasn’t a hint of the story or emotional depth that even a mediocre Japanese console RPG has. Likewise, Zork was tremendous fun, but I’d imagine most modern RPGers would prefer EQ2. It’s like trying to pick the “best” invention ever – it’s too broad and subjective.

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a female audience, what would that one thing be?

The one thing would be thought. If intelligent game devs just take the time to really think about appealing to women, and make it a real development priority, more games would appeal to a female audience.

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

Well, it’s a cool and exciting Massively Multi-Player game :). Can’t say much more.

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

In part, preparation depends on what you want to do; following your heart is the most important thing, because you never know where your path might take you – you might happily wind up somewhere far from your original intentions. That said, study the essentials of your craft (and it never hurts to brush up on writing skills in this industry). Meet, play games with, and work with people who share similar goals. Also, in my opinion, it helps to approach everyone you meet with unconditional good-will – this does not mean letting people walk all over you, but it means having an underlying positive attitude. Lastly, have fun, even at interviews. If you’re not having fun, you’re probably not performing at your best. It’s easier to have fun and perform well as a result, than to try to make yourself perform well and do neither!

What are your favorite games? Favorite movies? Favorite Authors? Inspirations? What do you like doing in your free time?

Favorite Games: Civilization I, various Infocom and modern Interactive Fiction works, Tetris and its descendants, The Sims, Total Annihilation, Sim City, Dark Age of Camelot, the first half (but not second half) of both Xenogears and Final Fantasy VII. Photoshop, paint programs, and music composition programs qualify as addictive interactive toys. I also have nostalgic fondness for an old UNIX multiplayer game called xtank.

Favorite movies: Lately I’ve been pretty happy with most Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli works, like “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (“Spirited Away”). I especially like “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.”

Favorite authors: Western fiction: J. R. R. Tolkien and Steven Brust (fantasy), Agatha Christie and Rex Stout (mysteries). Manga authors: Takahashi Rumiko, Soda Masahito, Sasaki Noriko, Matsumoto Leiji, Tezuka Osamu, and many others. On more serious topics I enjoy just about any author who has interesting or useful insights; among my favorites are the writings of C. S. Lewis, Ben H. Swett, Peace Pilgrim, and so on.

Anything that conveys truth (as I perceive truth to be) is inspiring to me.

In my spare time, I hang out with various online communities (only some of which are gaming-related), work on online essays, draw web comics, read gardening catalogs, try to keep my relationships meaningful, and last but not least, seek the highest path that I know.

Killer Women: Ellen Beeman

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.

My first subject is Ellen Beeman. She works for Monolith Productions as a Producer on the upcoming MMO title, The Matrix Online. How did she get started and what does she do as a Producer? Read on to find out.

Name: Ellen Beeman
Title: Producer, Monolith Productions

What is your earliest memory of video games?

My father brought home a brand-new Atari 2600 when I was a kid, and that was it, I was hooked! I played a lot of Apple II and other games in high school, and even did a little game programming on a TRS-80.

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

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I could have a career in video games when I went to college. If I could go back in time, I would have studied programming, and also taken more art classes, even though I’m completely useless as an artist. All of that knowledge would have been tremendously useful to me in my career. When I went to college, I thought I was going to have a career in the State Department, and took classes appropriate to that.

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

I worked in television for several years as a freelance writer, and also started writing novels, then went to Sierra as a project manager. After Sierra, I worked at Origin as a project director. After several years at Origin, I went to Electronic Arts. After EA, my husband and I started our own game development studio, Illusion Machines. I worked with Mary-Margaret.com as a recruiter after we closed IMI, and when I realized that I really missed working in an internal development studio, I joined Monolith as a producer.

Would we recognize any of your freelancing? TV episodes we might have seen?

I wrote for “Jem” and three other childrens’ television shows. My two “Jem” episodes were recently released on DVD, actually.

What kind of novels did you write? Anything I can go buy at the store today?

I’ve written three modern fantasy novels, two of which were with Mercedes Lackey, and one science fiction novel, which was based on the Wing Commander game universe, actually… I was a writer and/or project director for several of those games. I publish as Ellen Guon.

Was your entry into working with video games planned or chance? How did you get started in the industry?

Completely by chance. My friend Christy Marx, a very talented television writer (who had also helped me break into television), was working with Sierra, and somehow convinced them to interview me, even though I only had very minimal project management experience. It was probably the strangest interview ever… I casually mentioned that I was also an Irish fiddler, and coincidentally enough, it was their company holiday party, and an employee had brought in her violin. The next thing I know, I’m playing a Scottish jig for the entire company. They must have liked it, because they hired me.

How long have you been working in the industry?
Do I have to admit that? Okay, I will… since 1989.

What does your job entail? What is an average day like?

My current job is unusual, in that there are multiple producers on this title, and we share responsibilities. As of today, I’m involved in legal issues, recruitment and personnel, and game story and dialogue. My specific role varies on a daily basis, to be honest. In a more typical internal development producer role, I’d be responsible for the overall quality of the game, scheduling, and being the liaison to the publisher.

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

Too many to count! The best moments are when you “Gold Master” a game, and later when you see it on the shelf in the stores. There’s nothing like that.

What games did you work on that went Gold?

Too many to list! Twenty-nine games, at the last count.

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

I think the misconception is that producers have all the power in a game project. It’s just not true. You lead the team, but they have to want to go in that direction. And you always have to answer to someone.

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?

Not really. I think this industry values people with talent and drive, and that matters more than anything else. Veteran female programmer Nicky Robinson tells a great story about how she burst into tears to get someone to return her company’s dev system to her, but I don’t have any great stories like that!

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 am a hardcore gamer, and as for the hours a week I get to play… not enough! At the moment, I’m primarily playing some of our competitors’ MMP titles.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most?

I love massively multiplayer online games, casual games, first person shooters, real-time and turn-based strategy games, racing and flight combat simulators.

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

The Matrix Online, of course! The team is doing some amazing work, and the Matrix movies setting is perfect for a massively-multiplayer online game.

If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a female audience, what would that one thing be?

I think it’s more what –not- to put in your game, as opposed to what you put in. I’m a big believer in “gender-inclusive” game design. Just don’t put in anything that alienates the female player, basically.

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

Learn your chosen craft. Build up a great skill set and portfolio. Connect with industry people who can introduce you to potential hiring managers. Be ready for the opportunities when they come your way. “Chance favors the prepared mind.”