With a new decade comes the realization that I've worked in or around the game industry now for over ten years. Wow. There are questions people have frequently asked me over the years and one of those is whether I've ever thought of going back into science and the answer is yes, of course I've thought about it, but I love what I do now and don't plan to leave this line of work any time soon. Other questions I've frequently been asked inevitably revolve around my gender: how do I feel about being a woman in a male-dominated industry? Does the ubiquity of porn-star-like female game models ever turn me off of gaming or working in the industry? Do I wish there were more "girl games?" Kotaku's article today about the ten most influential women in gaming of the past decade got me thinking that these questions seem so antiquated now and that our industry doesn't really get a whole lot of credit for the advancements it's made in the last ten years, not just in terms of gender but in terms of sheer quality and maturity. If a site like Kotaku had tried to make a similar list ten years ago they would have struggled to find ten women at all that could be called influential in gaming, and what women they'd have found would likely have been Internet celebrities roughly in the same camp I was in when I worked at GameSpy ten years ago: women who wrote about games or had some kind of online personality cache but couldn't be said to be involved in their development in any meaningful way. Yes, women in game development ten years ago existed, but they were extremely few and far between.
Now we're so commonplace that I feel like the subject of women in games -- words crammed together so frequently over the years that, when pronounced, seem like one word, womeningames -- is hardly a subject at all. The issues that women in the game industry have to face aren't non-existent to be sure, but how many industries that have traditionally been male-dominated can claim to have seen so much gender distribution in such a short time period? Maybe there are many (to be fair, I haven't researched it) but having been a part of it for ten years I feel like so much has changed for us that doesn't get recognized: more games are featuring better designed female characters, both in terms of their visuals and their places in the world and story, and more women are showing up across all aspects of game development: programming, design, art, you name it.
And while a huge percentage of people are still under the misconception that games are strictly for kids, our industry has made huge leaps in the maturity level of our product. I'm not talking about simply the "rated M for Mature" aspect of our games, though that certainly is also the case -- like movies, there's a segment of games designed for adults that contain a lot of blood and violence. But the presentation of games has also matured. First-person shooters with only a shred of a backstory, just enough to give the game's world a reason to exist, had their place over a decade ago and continue to show up as fun, throwaway shooters. Now we have games like Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2, and more that have the depth and presentation of a movie or contain content designed to evoke feelings in you via the one thing that games are good at above all other media: putting you in the driver's seat. We may not always get that right but how long have movies had to evolve compared to the game industry?
So be proud of what you do, fellow game developers. I feel like the next ten years are going to be just as exciting as the last ten.