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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update

Welcome back again.  As you can see, we are starting to populate the site with new content.  There are few new writers and contributors waiting in the wings with new content.  If you are interested

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update, GaMExpo, Nerdvana Con, Life Updates

What to Watch: You Tube

Top 5 YouTube video’s of the past week (with one blast from the past). Each week, on Tuesday, I am going to post 5 videos I think are worth watching on YouTube.  I’d love to hear what you

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What to Watch: You Tube

Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Bac

Welcome back to Killer Betties! It’s been over three years since I’ve made a post, but I am back. Before I get to what I’ve been doing for three years, I want to talk first about The

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Back, TWD, The Bar, and Other Random Thoughts

Football Manager 2017 Review

Football Manager 2017 is a football management simulation video game for the PC developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega. Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, it is really fun. You can create

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Football Manager 2017 Review

Volunteers Wanted

Killer Betties is going through some growing pains and we need more bodies (and pens) to keep up with it. If you have any interest in writing video game reviews, previews, interviews or editorials, p

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Volunteers Wanted

Killer Women: Christy Marx

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by on April 18, 2006 at 12:04 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, in 2005 43% of game players are women, a number that has grown from 39% in prior years’ research. 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.

Christy Marx is something of a legend. Although she doesn’t mention it in this profile, Christy Marx is largely responsible for that wonderfully empowering cartoon from the 80s, Jem and the Holograms. She is also the creative force behind Conquests of Camelot and Conquests of the Longbow from the early 90s. How did she get started and what does she do? Read on to find out.

Name: Christy Marx
Title: Game Writer & Game Designer

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

The first game I remember seeing was “Cosmic Osmo”, which ran on a Mac. I found it quite clever and interesting and have only this minute (after a quick Google on it) discovered it was made by the Cyan guys.

The games I grew up on were the standard board games (Monopoly, Chinese Checkers), but the one I was rabid about was Risk. I looooved Risk.

But fundamentally, I knew nothing about computer games when I was hired to create them for Sierra On-Line. It was quite a learning curve.

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

I spent a wasted year at the University of Illinois (because I was so wasted most of the time), then I moved to Los Angeles where I learned the craft of scriptwriting by being hired to write them. I figured out what I was doing while I was doing it. I guess you could call me a blue-collar writer, as I learned on the job.

I don’t personally feel a college education is necessary to be a writer. Being intellectually curious, self-motivated about learning, and a passionate reader of just about anything will teach you as much as a college course.

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

I worked for TV production companies, everything from legal to distribution to the production end. Then I became a script reader and finally a full-time writer.

0006My career is rather eclectic, and I like it that way. My earliest writing jobs were animation scripts and comic book scripts. I moved on to develop and run both live-action and animation TV series, as well as story editing and writing. I wrote more comic stories and graphic novels, and had my own original comic book series published, The Sisterhood of Steel. I’ve written live-action shows such as Babylon 5 and Twilight Zone. I continue to work in all of these fields.

I’ve done other types of interactive or game-related writing besides videogames. I did an audio RPG game for Milton-Bradley, and wrote an animation show that contained visual elements that interacted with a toy.

In the past few years, I’ve also expanded into writing educational non-fiction books for kids, and educational manga.

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?

It was by total accident, certainly nothing I would have thought of on my own. At the time I was married to an Australian artist named Peter Ledger. A headhunter, hired by Sierra On-Line, called Peter because SOL was desperate to find artists. I asked whether they’d be interested in a writer-artist team. Given my Hollywood background, they were quite excited about this. We drove to Oakhurst, interviewed, said yes, and moved up there in the space of about one month. I was the designer, writer and director of my games, in control of the entire team.

It was, of course, the most amazing kind of fluke, the kind that could never happen now.

How long have you been working in the industry?

That was in 1988. I’ve worked consistently in videogames ever since.

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

If you’re talking about what a freelancer’s day is like, that’s pretty variable, since it depends on what work I might have going at the moment.

But let’s imagine a “typical” day in the life of this freelance writer.

Christy Breakfast while watching CNN, feeding 11 cats and cleaning cat boxes, checking email/surfing the net/looking for leads on work, dealing with admin, and working on the current project.

Lunch while watching CNN, a short walk, then an afternoon devoted to whatever the current work is.

Dinner while watching a one-hour drama or documentary. I do more email, then my partner and I try to play WoW for a couple of hours, followed yet again by feeding cats and cleaning cat boxes, and then maybe get a little bit of reading done.

However, when a project is in crunch mode, all that goes out the window. This is also a 7-day a week schedule. No weekends off for the freelancer.

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

I love the challenge of starting something new, of figuring out how to make something work. And I love hearing back from the viewer/reader/player who really loved what I did and is moved enough to tell me about it. I love finding out that choices I made in game design and writing are validated by players who appreciated those choices.

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

The lack of appreciation for the need to have a writer involved in game design from day one, and the lack of understanding of how much good writing can help a game.

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

Most people don’t understand what a game designer actually is. They tend to confuse it with just having some “cool” idea for a game.

There are other big misconceptions about letting marketing determine what games should be made. Game creation should be done by the creatives. It’s marketing’s job to find a creative way to sell the game. But marketing should never be used to dictate creation.

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?

Interestingly enough, I don’t think I’ve ever felt at a disadvantage for being female. For one thing, I’ve never worried about it. For another, I haven’t encountered a bias so obvious that I was aware of it. And for another, I’m assertive about my ability and have a low b.s. threshold. For the most part, being a female action-adventure/sf/fantasy writer/creator has worked well in my favor.

World_of_WarcraftDo 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, though I’m pathetically addicted to WoW at the moment. I would rather retain some sense of being in the mainstream as a gamer, so that I can write or design games that appeal to a wider audience.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

I’ve always loved fantasy and mythology, followed by sf and action-adventure.

I have zero interest in sports games, FPS or casual games (such as Tetris or Solitaire).

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

I don’t feel my experience is vast enough to accommodate that question. It may sound conceited, but I still like my own adventure games the best.

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?

A story that creates personal and emotional involvement in the game.

Do you have an opinion about the current state of the industry with regard to females and gaming? If so, what is it?

There should be more women playing, but this will only happen if the culture of game-making changes to be more inclusive, uses more women in the design stages, and breaks away from the T&A that is offensive to women.

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

Can’t talk about it right now.

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

I’m finishing up a book entitled How To Write for Animation, Comics and Games. I’ve been doing a lot of research into what advice to give on that subject, but I’m still formulating what it is. There are no easy answers to this question, and the answers continue to change as the industry itself changes.

It depends on whether the person wants to be a contract writer (very difficult) or be a full-time employee inside the company (slightly less difficult). Either way, you must:
• know how to write, and be able to write quickly and efficiently to meet tight deadlines
• understand games and non-linearity
• research the games market by playing games, reading the major games magazines and reading gamasutra.com
• pinpoint what type of game you want to write for and hone your skills for that type of game
• get as many other kinds of writing credits as you can, especially scriptwriting

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

Games: I love playing WoW.

Movies: Just about anything by Terry Gilliam or Peter Jackson. “The Duellists” by Ridley Scott is a big favorite.

Authors: Tolkien. Mary Stewart. Too many others to name.

Free time? What is free time? If I had any, I’d be doing a lot more photography and traveling.

Thank you to Christy for taking the time to answer our questions. If you would like to learn more about Christy Marx, visit her website.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Heidi Gaertner

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by on February 16, 2006 at 12:01 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

Heidi Gaertner is a Software Engineer on Pirates of the Burning Sea for Flying Lab Software. How did she get started and what does she do? Read on to find out.

Name: Heidi Gaertner
Title: Software Engineer
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?

My earliest memory is of playing space invaders at my orthodontist’s office. I had very bad teeth and spent a lot of time there. Oh, and Chucky Cheese, I loved Ms. Pac-Man.

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

I actually have a degree in architecture and engineering. This hasn’t been the most useful degree ever, since I’ve never actually done architecture or been an engineer. However, there are a couple of parallels with the game industry. One being the bridging of aesthetics and feasibility/practicality. The other is that engineering classes are 90% male.

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

I worked briefly at a structural engineering software firm before jumping over to games. I worked for a couple of small and now dead game companies in Chicago, including FASA interactive which later got bought by Microsoft. At Microsoft I worked in the games group and on the Xbox team. I now work for a company called Flying Lab software where I’m working on graphics for Pirates of the Burning Sea – a massively multiplayer pirate game.

How long have you been working in the industry?

About 9 years.

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

Mostly I sit in front of my computer and write code, or fix code that I wrote yesterday. I also get to hang out with artists and figure out how to implement effects or make things work more efficiently.

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

The most exciting moments are in the week before E3 when we actually try out our game on whatever hardware we should’ve been trying it on before, and I realize that we have an epic week in front of us. Then there’s a week of pure fun and excitement making up for all the performance work I haven’t done all year. This might not seem terribly exciting to somebody watching externally, but really it is quite an adrenaline filled week.

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

Carpal Tunnel and that every T-Shirt ever given to you is size XL.

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

That I need an XL T-Shirt. Although you can sleep in them.

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?

It’s hard to compare male vs. female programmers because there are so few of us women. The few I met at Microsoft in the games group have since drifted into non gaming jobs. I do notice the trend that most games are designed and written by men and for men, which probably means that we’re missing a giant market share opportunity. At best the industry tries to make largely accessible games, but they never seem to target just women. (except for the Barbie franchise, but that’s to depressing to dwell on).

As for work advantage or disadvantage, I don’t think that programmers notice my gender much. I think that programmers are generally nice introverted people, and we’ve been spared the sexism and glass ceilings of other industries. I think producers have it harder then programmers as well, since they have more contact with outside people.

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’m definitely not a hard core gamer. I am however a fairly hard core worker so when I get away from work I’m not that psyched to sit in front of a computer.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

I like god games. I like things like Civ where you build and control your universe. This is probably a character flaw of some sort – thank god I’m not in politics. I’m really not into shooters for two reason – a: I suck, b: the repetitive noise of the guns drives me mad. Oh and Robotron is the best game ever invented. I went as Mikey for Halloween last year (my boyfriend was a tank), but nobody got it.

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

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 they should target women directly – someone is going to make a lot of money some day doing that. Broader audience usually translates to appealing to both dad and my five year old niece, which doesn’t actually mean making a game that 15-40 year old chicks will love.

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

I’m working on a Pirate MMO set in the Caribbean called Pirates of the Burning Sea. Right now I am specifically working on graphics, physics, the ship and avatar motion.

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

I think the industry is maturing and it’s getting hard to just fall into it like I did. Most employers want to see a CS degree these days (if you want to be a programmer).

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

I like to be outside in my free time. I spend a lot of time hiking, climbing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. I also do a few triathlons every year to get some of my competitiveness out of me.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Michelle Williams

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by on November 25, 2005 at 6:27 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

Michelle Williams is the Q&A Lead on Pirates of the Burning Sea for Flying Lab Software. How did she get started and what does she do? Read on to find out.

Name: Michelle Williams

Title: QA Lead
Company: Flying Lab Software

What’s your earliest memory of video games?

My cousin got Pong for Christmas when we were kids. I was so jealous! Later, when he was tired of it, he let me have it. I was so thrilled! I’m definitely not a hardcore gamer, though. Now that we’ve established that I’m an old curmudgeon… I married a gamer, though, and he’s talked me into playing silly, fun things like Super Bomber Man and Dance Dance Revolution.

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

I graduated in 1988 with a B.S. in Math with a minor in Computer Science. No, it really didn’t prepare me for this industry. The computer industry as a whole changes so much so quickly. I don’t want to pan college but if I had it to do again, I would have learned programming at a technical college and gotten internships to gain real-world experience.

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

I’ve been in the computer industry since college and I’ve been involved in almost all aspects of application creation: writing specs, coding, testing, writing documentation, technical support, and training. I worked on mission-critical business applications such as accounting and inventory control software for the restaurant industry, email, version control, and bug tracking software.

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?

My husband and his best friend left Microsoft to start their own software game company. Thus Flying Lab Software was born. Later, I “retired” from Microsoft a bit burned out. FLS had no QA department for the majority of the development of Rails Across America, depending entirely on developer testing and company-wide play-tests for finding the important bugs to fix. As they neared completion and started needing more formalized testing, I was realizing that retirement was boring me to tears and Rusty talked me into becoming their QA department. I didn’t really want to – I was burned out and thought I was unqualified for games testing. Testing games is different from testing business applications and it’s anything but boring! I’m proud of the level of quality Rails shipped with.

How long have you been working in the industry?

I came to work at FLS in 2001.

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

“Average day” Ha! There’s not really any such thing. We’re a small company so we all help out wherever we can. As far as QA goes, my team and I are responsible for testing each build to determine whether the rest of the company should use it, testing each new feature or piece of content (missions, ships, towns, etc.) as it comes online, helping troubleshoot problems non-technical folks (like the artists) run into, recording performance data, and load testing. On top of that, I’m in charge of tracking our progress against the schedule and also for running the Beta. Preparation for Beta has involved creating a knowledge base and configuring the software our beta testers will use for reporting issues. I also helped design the process for accepting and processing Beta applications and I’m sifting through those in my “spare time.” I’ll also train our customer service reps.

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

I forgot to mention that I also run our internal play-tests. For a long time, this was a thorn in my side. Getting 10-20 people into a game and getting them to follow directions is like herding cats. Add stability issues to that – I was never sure whether Bob was ignoring my instructions because he wasn’t paying attention or because the game had crashed. In the past few months, though, tests have been quite fun and the discussion meetings afterward have been almost as fun. Folks get excited: “So then I saw Bob coming at me in his dreadnought and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to damage him enough for Joe to finish him off before he got me lined up for the broadside that would sink me!” It’s rewarding to me to have set up a fun scenario or picked a portion of the game to test that they might not have seen yet.

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

Designing “fun” into a game is quite the hit-or-miss process. We’ve gone through multiple cycles of realizing what we’re doing isn’t going to be particularly compelling and deciding to do something else. From a QA perspective, this leads to periods of having almost nothing to test because the few bits that are actually working well enough to be tested are getting ready to be ripped out and replaced. As a tester, I rate the happiness of my day by how many bugs I’ve logged. If it’s not worth your time to log any bugs, you wonder why you even came to work today. Luckily, we’re in the “polish the fun” phase currently – we’ve built the fun, now we’re adding more fun, and any bug we log is likely to be fixed. Right now, I’m having a blast!

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

The most common refrain I hear is, “You get to play games all day?! I want your job!” Well, it’s not that simple. Games, unlike business applications, often have many random elements to them. So you find a bug: You go from point A to point B in ship C and, once there, fire cannon D and the game crashes. Woot! Except then you try again going from A to B sailing C and firing D and it all works fine. So where’s the bug? Did it have to do with what the AIs were doing at the time? With how much damage was done by the shot? With the angle the ships were facing when they fired? So you try again. And again. And again. Trust me when I say the 12th try is less fun than the first one was.

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?

For a while there, the women’s room was always free but there might be a line for the men’s room. However, now both restrooms are unisex so it’s no longer an advantage to be one of the few females here. 😛

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?

No, I’m not a hardcore gamer.

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

When I do play games, I’m most likely to play games like Tetris and Mahjong. My current favorite is Bounce Out which I play on Yahoo! Games. I use games as a way to give my conscious mind something to do while my unconscious mind ponders some difficult issue. Do you know what I mean? Do you find “sleeping on it” can give you solutions? Sometimes, I don’t have time to “sleep on it” or I can’t get my conscious mind to let go enough to sleep. So I play a game.

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?

If you want to attract more women like me to play your game, make a game where I get a sense of accomplishment from a few minutes of play. Some games have this already with crafting and stuff, although I never really tried them because they’re advertised as being epic adventures that will entertain you for hours on end. My husband (avid gamer) will allocate 2 – 4 hours in a night to playing a particular game, often with the goal of finishing a level or doing a mission arc with a group of friends. I always have something better to do with my time than sit down for 2 hours to play a game – laundry needs doing, we need groceries, whatever. This doesn’t mean I’ve never played a game for 2 hours straight. I’ve often played a game for 2 hours straight – lost track of time trying to beat my high score, for example. But I never go into it thinking I’m going to spend that time. So if I think a game is going to be a fun 15-minute diversion, I’ll play it, often for hours at a time over the course of months. But if I think a game is going to be a huge time-sink, I won’t even start it.

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

Pirates of the Burning Sea is an MMORPG based in the Age of Sail. Customize your avatar and choose a nationality and career then set sail for swashbuckling adventures in the Caribbean. If you like having the biggest, baddest weapon available in a game and causing the biggest explosions, go into the Navy and work your way up the ranks to sail the largest ships with the biggest cannons. If you prefer to zip stealthily around, be a Pirate wreaking havoc on the navies and shipping lanes of the major powers. If you prefer less violent means to your ends, be an Adventurer and participate in political intrigue via missions or change the balance of power by trading in some ports and boycotting others. We’re going to Beta very soon and should ship this winter.

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

When I interview candidates for our company, I look for good testers who understand some of the differences between applications testing and games. If you have QA experience but want to test games, sign up to Beta test multiple games and then actually report problems and help the developers track them down; don’t just play for free. Be prepared to discuss ideas for protecting test cases against the random elements in a game and ideas for using the random elements to help *find* problems. If you want to test multiplayer games, learn what you can about testing client/server applications and networking. Be prepared to discuss ideas for protecting the server from hacked clients. Where can you get ideas on these topics? Read, read, read. There are a million books and web sites out there by folks trying to address these issues themselves.

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

“Free time”? What is this “free time”? Did I mention I work at a small company where I wear three hats and that we’re going to Beta any minute now?

in Interviews

Killer Women: Sheri Pocilujko

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by on April 6, 2005 at 9:16 am

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.

Sheri Pocilujko is a Game Designer for High Voltage Software. How did she get started and what does she do? Read on to find out.

Name: Sheri Pocilujko
Title: Game Designer
Company: High Voltage Software

What’s your earliest memory of video games?

I remember playing on an Atari 2600 growing up as a kid. In fact we even got a second Atari at one point to handle all the gaming needs. I could play for hours on the Atari (who said girls only want dolls!). I also had a NES, SNES, and an Apple IIGS growing up before we got a full-fledged PC. Even outside of video games I was brought up in a gaming household. We played card and board games ALL the time. It was one of the regular ways our family spent time together. In fact even now every family get together usually ends with a game of Trivial Pursuit or some other game if everyone’s not in the mood for trivia. (Sequence has been a good one because of the younger kids in the family.)

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

I currently have an Associate of Arts and I’m working towards a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management. I’ve taken a lot of business courses for management, marketing, etc. and continuing education classes in communication skills, time management, etc. I think the variety of classes I’ve taken has prepared me well for this industry because it has given me many different perspectives.

Coming in to the industry with a lot of business classes helps me understand the business aspects that often frustrate developers. It helps you understand why sometimes the “suits” will make some of the decisions they do, regardless of the current state of the game you are working on.

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

Wow. My first real job (besides babysitting…) was as a bank teller. From there I started doing Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Credit and Collections work (collections is not fun!). My main job previous to this one was mostly Quality Assurance, but at that company I also got to do a lot of other jobs including product, marketing, sales, web, and customer support. It was a unique experience that really let me challenge myself. Now here at High Voltage Software I’m getting challenged even further by being a game designer. Game designers at High Voltage get to be responsible for a lot of different things here and it makes the job interesting and really lets out my creative side.

Was your entry into working with video games planned or chance?

Chance. My boyfriend at the time was a programmer for a video game company and he liked to work the 11-7 shift where as my normal “corporate” job had me working 8-5. So after my shift I’d head over to his company and play the game in his cube and help him find crashes. Being the analytical person I am, I started making my own notes, catching typos, trying unique things out, and finding crashes, etc. all on my own. The project manager, who was also the VP of Product Development, over at the company saw this and said “why don’t you come work for us and get paid for what you’re doing for free already?” (Thanks Larry!) The rest, as they say, is history.

How long have you been working in the industry?

Just a little over 5 years, but I hope to stay in it a lot longer!

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

High Voltage current tasks has me helping place cameras in levels to guide game play and helping to create in-game cinemas in each level. Just prior to that, I was working on a project by designing feature and level ideas as well as placing objects in levels.

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

I think it’s hard to pick just one but I’d probably have to go with the somewhat cliché answer of seeing someone excited while playing a game you helped create. It makes a lot of those tough moments during the development cycle more bearable.

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

Overtime! But wouldn’t everyone say that? Seriously though, I think sometimes seeing a game you care so much about not do as well in the market as everyone hoped would probably be the least favorite thing.

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

Pardon the punned expression but that it’s “all fun and games”. You do get to express your creativity but you also need to be very detail oriented and have the ability to communicate your internal vision externally. Take your favorite game and think about what is in that game. Someone had to sit down and write out a list of every object that game would have, what the object would look like, where it would be placed, what it would act like when the player tried to interact with it, what other attributes it would have, etc. And that’s just for objects….

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

Is “both” an OK answer? I think as a female in this industry there are distinct advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes a developer will come pick my brain as far as a feature or idea he has when he is looking to make it more female-friendly. Although most female developers are probably not your stereotypical female gamer (or casual gamer) in a lot of cases we can innately point out things that might offend the general female audience.

The disadvantage is that when you are dealing with an issue you think would be sensitive to females and you are surrounded by men it can be hard to persuade them. For example, at a previous company I was working on a game where there was some AVIs featuring real life people. The one female in the AVI had a shot where you accidentally see her bra exposed. Although some women would be totally fine with that many women would not, and I don’t think the person featured was asked about the situation. The problem with getting the issue taken care of was I was surrounded by a lot of males who said they’d have no problem if their boxers were accidentally showing and “It’s just clothing.” So in certain cases I’ve gotten a lot of “You wouldn’t understand” type comments or looks. Sometimes you’re also kept out of certain e-mail circles and jokes because they think you might not feel comfortable.

As long as you show them what you are or are not willing to handle though most male developers seem to open up quite nicely. We’ve found on a lot of the dev lists that most male developers just want to know the rules, then they’ll follow them (as long as you’re not going overboard). I’ve also lucked out because High Voltage seems to have a growing base of female developers as well in various disciplines so I’m not alone here.

Do you consider yourself a hardcore gamer?

I am definitely not a hardcore gamer, I’ve known some co-workers who after an 12 hour day still go home to put in at least 6 hours of gaming, so I’ll never be hardcore. The hours I play vary depending on what other things I have going on in my life (school, IGDA work, friends, etc.) and if you count board/card games the numbers jump because I play those a lot too!

What settings and genres do you enjoy most? Least?

I love RPG games (usually the hack and slash ones) and I am a big Dead or Alive fan so I like fighters, but that one is the best out of all of them. I think some of the “all we care about is as much violence and gore as possible” games are the ones I enjoy the least. Although I don’t mind violence or occasional gore, if it is just thrown in there to have it and doesn’t make gameplay sense then the game doesn’t make sense to me.

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

Wow….it is even possible to answer that question? I mean I may think Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore was the best fighter I’ve played but not necessarily the best game. And you can’t compare Dr. Mario with Dead or Alive or Baldur’s Gate or any other game not in that genre. City of Heroes was great too, would be great still if I had more time. Can I plead the fifth on this one? 🙂

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 most of what you put in a game that would attract female gamers (who are typically more casual gamers) would attract casual gamers. So I think it’s not just keep gender but type in mind. The majority of people who buy games are not hardcore gamers, so keep an eye out for your UI, tutorials, manuals, etc.

Do you have an opinion about the current state of the industry with regard to females and gaming?

Females make up 51% of the world’s population. Each year they continue to make up a larger percentage of the game playing population. (They are over 60% in Korea alone!) If executives, marketing, and the developers themselves continue to dismiss females as a part of their various market segments then they are crippling the industry’s potential to grow and furthering the saturation of audience.

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

No can do, sorry. The most I can say is I’m working on an adventure-platform game to be released on multiple platforms. Though my project manager would like me to tell you that “it will most likely be the greatest game that the world has ever known!!! :)”

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

Never settle for anything less than what you really want. Don’t be afraid just because you’re the only girl in the room. Get involved in the industry so you can learn not only what in your portfolio and skill sets to improve, but also who you need to know. That last part is huge; a lot of this business is not what you know but who you know.

What are your favorite games?

Favorite Games: Dead or Alive (any of them), Kingdom Hearts (until the part I got lost in near the end), Dungeon Keeper (I’ve found myself oddly addicted to that game), and Progress Quest – the best satire of an MMO ever! But that’s just video games. I also like spades, hearts, rummy, gin, canasta, Axis and Allies, Scrabble, chess, Sorry, and a whole host of other board, card, and tabletop games that I play regularly with friends.

Favorite movies?

Favorite Movies: Princess Bride – One of the top 10 movies of all time!, The Lion King, Dead Poets Society, any Pixar movie, City of Angels (English version), the whole LOTR trilogy, and a few others make my top list.

Favorite Authors?

Favorite Authors: Roger Zelazny (Amber), Robert Aspirin (MYTH), Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance), CS Lewis (Narnia), Terry Brooks (Landover ), A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh), and many others. I read a lot of non-fiction books too but those aren’t exactly popping names out to me at the moment.

Inspirations?

Inspirations: Dance, Music, Theater, Musical Theater, Movies, Video Games, Books, Friends, Life – you can find an inspiration almost anywhere if you look for it.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Free Time: Wait, did you say we’re supposed to have free time? When I’m not at work or doing my online classes I’m playing games with friends or doing work in the industry or trying to keep my place from looking like a mess. When I can I try to travel, even if it is not that far away. And most of all I >LOVE< my TiVo! TiVo rules! I can't live without my TiVo! (Did I mention I love TiVo? *grins*)

in Interviews

Killer Women: Heather Logas

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by on March 22, 2005 at 11:21 am

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!

in Interviews

Killer Women: Terri Perkins

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by on March 6, 2005 at 6:52 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Samantha Ryan

1
by on February 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Eri Izawa

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by on February 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Yngvild Lothe

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by on February 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

in Interviews

Killer Women: Valerie Massey

0
by on February 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Women who are gainfully employed in the games industry are becoming more and more common. The assumption that video games are a man’s domain is finally becoming outdated. Women are playing and working with video games in astounding numbers. According to the ESA, 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.

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HauntedGrave WitchThe ReckoningThe AwakeningThe SummoningSister of the Dead

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