Games4Women - Games and Activities of interest to Women - Logo Games4Women - Games and Activities of interest to Women - Logo

Women in the Game Game - Interviews


Ever wondered how games are made? Who makes games? Could you make games?

Games4Women talks with women in the game business. You might be surprised to find how like you they are!


Carla Humphrey of Last Day of Work

Name: Carla Humphrey
JobTitle: Executive Producer
Company: Last Day of Work
Game(s) Worked on: Fish Tycoon
    Virtual Villagers
    Virtual Families
   
Favorite Game(s): PacMan
    Donkey Kong
    Barbie
    Playmobil

G4G: You are a husband and wife team. How did you get into making games?
Carla Humphrey (CH):
I must admit that if it weren't for my husband, I would probably not be working in the gaming industry. When I first came to the US (I am originally from Italy) I thought I would apply my business and marketing skills to Arthur's newly formed company and not go look for a job. I have slowly learned about video games and their design by living and working close to him, and now I bring to the table a woman's perspective, a casual gamer perspective and sometimes even a non-gamer perspective.

G4G: Was Virtual Villagers you first game? Were you involved with that too?
CH:
Our first game was a fish breeding simulation game called Fish Tycoon. Virtual Villagers came soon after that. I have been involved in all of my husband's games.

G4G: What's the significance of the name "Last Day of Work"?
CH:
In this jungle of similar names, our intention was to have a name that was extremely easy to remember and one that differentiated well from all the others. We didn't want the classic formula of an adjective + animal. We were very much inspired by game company names like Running With Scissors. The funny thing is that some customers, when they see my signature, they reply things like “Good luck with your new venture”...

G4G: Let me compliment you on making the game so appealing? Can you discuss some of the elements that I have discovered:

      G4G: Pets underfoot and on the bed.
      CH:
The pets were demanded by players. The least they could do is follow around the little people.

      G4G: Need for attention by player - food, house emergencies, illness and showering.
      CH:
We wanted less micro-management of the villagers, so really they will take pretty good care of themselves and do not have to be told to go to the bathroom.

      G4G: Mood changes - exhausted, elated.
      CH:
Managing mood is a challenge in this game, as much as in real life. Many factors have incremental impact of the mood and energy of the family. Figuring these things out is a big part of the game.

      G4G: Importance of money.
      CH:
We always like to have an economic meta game in our games. This is a means of unlocking content to reward the players' diligence.

      G4G: Your attention to detail - aging, sounds.
      CH:
Our eye for detail, we hope, will someday be regarded as our trademark.

      G4G: Good balance of involvement for the player. Not overwhelming like in the Sims.
      CH:
We wanted to go beyond the tedious (for us) parts of a family simulator such as telling people when to eat and go to the bathroom. We wanted to capture more the drama of life and have players make important decisions that effect the life of their little people: who to marry, when to start a family, play doctor, etc

G4G: Is there a bias that men get sicker/depressed and don't work as hard as the women?
CH:
All the individuals have subtle personalities differences that make them unique. Some of them are visible to the player, such as likes and dislikes, some others are hidden. There are no gender differences, however.

G4G: What are the social interactions? Pets seem to automatically bond with the peeps but the peeps don't seem to interact with each other unless implemented by the player.
CH:
The social interactions are a bit subtle but they are certainly there. The adults can also interact with the children, telling stories etc. One of the challenges we had here was allowing the player to initiate these interactions, but maintaining our extremely accessible and intuitive mechanic of simply dragging people to things. We could have done more but the user-interface would have had to be more complex.

G4G: How far can the player depart from the standard husband /wife family?
CH:
Not very far. For technical reasons we had to chose to stay close to the standard scenario of husband and wife family. It's really hard to be able to represent thoroughly in a game every possible scenario that occur in real life.

G4G: Have you incorporated your own values into the game - items purchased, house upkeep, praising, scolding, professions and salary? Your characters don’t' seem to have very many bad traits.
CH:
We did incorporate our own values and experiences in the game, probably more than what we wanted or had planned to.

G4G: Are you planning mods, updates, a new game?
CH:
We are working on Virtual Villagers 4 which is coming along beautifully and will be ready this coming fall/winter. As far as updates and mods for Virtual Families, an update or an expansion pack is certainly not off the table in the near future.

G4G: I noticed in the forums that players are creating new objects - horses for pets, fancy swimming pools. Did you expect this and/or how did you encourage this?
CH:
We expected this and encourage it. This is why the games' graphic assets are not hidden nor encrypted. The players have made some fantastic mods, such as Halloween mods, Christmas mods, zombie mods, and many other wonderful and creative contributions.

G4G: Do you have an idea of the game's demographics?
CH:
Generally our customers are players of all ages and backgrounds. For Virtual Families we have noticed a slighter increase in woman and children of 10+. We always try to aim for everyone, not a specific demographic, but this is what we have observed.

G4G: Did either of you play games as children?
CH:
My husband played all kinds of games. I wouldn't even know where to start from. As far as what I am concerned instead, when I was a little girl I only recall playing two video games: PacMan and Donkey Kong. On the other hand, I have played many classic games like Barbie, Playmobil and the Smurfs.

G4G: What were/are you favorite games?
CH:
Currently my favorite games are ones with a pause button (UNLIKE World of Warcraft) so my Husband does not become trapped in a lengthy session and unavailable all night.

G4G: Advice to girls who might want to get into the game industry?
CH:
Don't be scared of a male-driven industry. If you don't like games and want to get in this industry, just go for it. It's just like any other job. If you are passionate about video games, then it's a no-brainer and you will have a clear advantage over the suits and will be bringing to the table a woman's perspective.

09/2009


Annie Fox

Name: Annie Fox
JobTitle: Annie Fox, M.Ed., educator, author, and online advisor.
Game(s) Worked on: Putt-Putt Joins the Parade
    Putt-Putt goes to the Moon
    Mr. PotatoHead Saves Veggie Valley
    Madeline and the Puppet Show
    Madeline’s European Adventure
Favorite Game(s): Scrabble
    Othello
    Mancalla
    Yahtzee
    Crazy Eights
    Dinner Dash
    Burger Shop

My first meeting with Annie Fox was about computer games published by Humongous. But Annie's interest wasn't simply games, with her MS in Human Development and Family Studies she quickly focused on teens and their problems. The InSite, http://www.TheInSite.org, is the web site she developed for teens. Her two recent books from her Middle School Confidential™ series are reviewed on our sites.

G4G: You originally did a book, The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating that looked at a whole range of relationships. The two new books are quite different both in content and design. Be Confident in Who You Are deals with identity and self worth and Real Friends vs the Other Kind with decision making and peer pressure. Why did you choose these two topics?
Annie Fox (AF):
Be Confident… and Real Friends… are Books 1 and 2 of my new series. There are at least 2 other books coming. Each one focuses on a common major obstacle for 6th-8th graders. For these first two, because so much is changing in the life of middle school students … their bodies, their emotions, their relationships. All of that is going to affect the way they feel about themselves as well as the way they relate to their peers.

G4G: What drove the graphic design of these two books - it ranges through comics, letters, bibliography and some straight advice?
AF:
I love the design and look of the books! I knew I wanted to hook the reader with stories of fictional characters… and since graphic novels are so popular with this age group, it seemed like a natural to present part of the content in comic book format. Not only do I have the pleasure of working with Matt Kindt (a Harvey award winning comic book illustrator), my publisher, Free Spirit, has an outstanding design department and they did the layout and graphic design.

G4G: The layout is very unique - from comics to bibliography to personal stories - all with different graphics. What was your intention?
AF:
Because 11-14 year olds are accustomed to web pages with lots of stuff going on, it was obvious that the non-comic book content needed to pop off the page. Throughout the series, we’ve got several recurring elements: quotes from real teens, quizzes, smart-talk life skills (aka Insider Tools), advice, recommended reads and websites. Each is treated as a unique graphic element. And each book has it’s own color palette. So in addition to the content that middle schoolers love, the look of these books hooks them right in.

G4G: How did you get into writing about teens? You have two children - now grown?
AF:
When I first came up with the idea for my teen website our daughter was 17 and our son was 11. For these past 12 years I’ve been on the receiving end of email from tweens and teens from around the world. Responding to those emails was what got me into writing for them. There’s so much drama in their lives… that appeals to the story-teller in me. And there’s so much preventable suffering… and that appeals to the educator in me. By connecting with them daily through the emails and the student assemblies I do at schools, I am constantly reminded of what they’re dealing with. So my writing is really fueled by that intimate knowledge plus my expertise in teaching them how to make more conscious choices. When they do that they are more in control of what’s going on… and happier.

G4G: What took you away from game design into concern about teens and to advising them?
AF:
Designing games was great fun and I feel very proud of the products I worked on. But by 1996 I had gotten to a point where I felt I personally had learned what I needed to learn from designing games. And I was looking to have more of an impact on the behavior of tweens and teens. One night I literally had a dream about a teen website. When I woke up, I knew what my next creative challenge was going to be. I just revisited the About page for TheInSite.org “It’s all about discovering real ways to make the planet, as well as your own personal corner of it, a saner, cleaner, more equitable place to live. By focusing on doing what it takes to make things better and sharing the personal stories of people actively involved in all aspects of that process, The InSite will help you unleash the infinite power for positive change within us all.” Twelve years later, that’s still what all of my work is about.

G4G: Humongous was such a great design house - my grand children as still playing Freddi Fish. Do you think you could use your concern and knowledge about teens to design a video game based upon your experience with teens?
AF:
I’m sure I could. It’s all about meeting them where they are in terms of their development, their fears, their aspirations, and their very real obstacle to self-confidence which I see mostly as the pressure (internal and external) to be something other than who they really are.

G4G: Tell me a little about your web presence?
AF:
Theinsite.org is still an active site for teens. It’s got all kinds of information young people need to know about their emotions, their body, drugs, sex, relationships, social justice issues, environmental activism. It’s wide and deep and a terrific resource. My other site is anniefox.com, which has resources for teens, parents and educators. My blog is there as well as my new podcast series “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting,” http://familyconfidential.com.

G4G: What's in the future?
AF:
The future is unknowable but, currently I’m awaiting the final art for Book 3 of my Middle School Confidential series. The book will be published in January 2010 and is called “What’s up with my family?” (A question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another.) I’m working on Book 4. It’s about school and how to deal with bad days, teachers, homework, rumors, annoying people! LOL That one is due out January 2011.

G4G: Your husband, David is still in the game business - doing what?
AF:
He’s peripherally still in the game business. But that could change at any moment, which is what we love about being free-lancers! In fact David and I worked together in 2007 and 2008 on game designs for Disney. That was very fun! And we got to go to Tokyo and Hong Kong! Currently David is Technology Director of Newstrust (a media literacy site), http://newstrust.net/, plus he free-lances as a web designer. (He’s also my webmaster and the sound engineer for my podcasts.)

G4G: How did you get into games design?
AF:
In 1977 David and I started the Marin Computer Center in San Rafael. It was the world’s first public access micro-computer center. We didn’t sell computers, were all about easing people into the computer age mostly by teaching classes and giving people a chance to play computer games. You can read more about it on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marin_Computer_Center. Our first client was Children’s Television Workshop. I’m not sure how they heard about us! But they hired us to design a kiosk game for their theme park Sesame Place. We created “Mix and Match Muppets” and so… my game design career was launched.

G4G: Does that industry hold any promise for girls?
AF:
If by “promise” you mean promising products that girls and women will be drawn to… well that is going to take female game designers who can get funding to develop games the female players really enjoy. And what, perchance are those kinds of games? I’ve been involved in that discussion for decades. For tween girls, at least, believe that girls like to work together and to use in-game tools to create worlds in which social interactions (managing friends, etc.) rule.

Thanks Annie. Sounds like the Fox's are really in love with their work.

08/2009


Stevana "Stevie" Case of fatfoogoo

Name: Stevana "Stevie" Case
JobTitle: Vice President, Sales and Business Development
Company: fatfoogoo
Favorite Game(s):Quake
    Tetris Attack
    Mario Party
    Guitar Hero

In the multi-billion dollar game industry, there are few women who have experienced it as a top pro-gamer in the Cyberathlete Professional League, a game tester, designer, technical head and now, business development and sales executive. Stevie "Killcreek" Case, is a widely recognized figure in the videogame industry and her experience can be helpful to girls who are enamored of games and might to pursue a career in the game industry. Early on her interest was in science, politics and constitutional law. It is interesting to read how she came to be in the game industry. Currently she is the Vice President of Business Development and Sales at fatfoogoo, the leading in-game commerce solution for monetizing online games and social networks.

G4G: You bested John Romero, the designer of Quake, Doom, and Wolfenstein in a death match. How did that come about?
Stevana "Stevie" Case (SC):
I'd gotten into Doom and then Quake through some friends at the University of Kansas. We all formed a clan and ended up as one of the top teams out there. Eventually folks online figured out that I was a woman, and I gained some notoriety as a competitive female gamer. Around this time I was socializing on a private IRC network with some great gaming people, some of whom worked at the various companies based in Dallas at the time making games. One thing lead to another, and one of these friends told a guy working at Ion Storm about me. They told Romero, and in fact threw down the gauntlet on my behalf – and even told him they thought I could beat him! He took the challenge and I came down to Dallas to play.

G4G: Describe Cyberathlete Professional League.
SC:
The CPL was a professional gaming league started and run by my old friend Angel Munoz. Way back in the day Angel emailed me out of the blue and asked me to join the team of pro gamers he was putting together. He paid us a monthly salary and sponsored us as gamers. This grew into the league which spawned some fantastic pro gaming events over time.

G4G: What were your interests as a young girl (8-12)?
SC:
Oh my gosh – I was a very serious kid. Too serious! Growing up I was fascinated by politics and constitutional law. I did all of the school activities, and right around that time won my first election as Student Body President in junior high. In fact, through my first year in college I was intent on going to law school and becoming a practicing lawyer and eventually running for office. I'd imagine kids who knew me back then were quite surprised to see where I ended up. I was also always very into science. My dad is a biologist and teacher, and we grew up on nature reserve and he ran a summer science camp every year that I attended and later worked at.

G4G: Parents often try to limit children's time in games and there is a concern that too much game playing is not good. What kind of answer do you have for the kid and for the parent?
SC:
This is close to my heart as I am a mom now and my five-year-old daughter is just starting to play games. At this stage, I am fighting to keep her away from the TV, so I am always thrilled if she'll play games instead! I'm sure there will come a time when I feel it's too much, but for now, I love it. I think as long as you're involved in your kid's world and decisions, games can be a very healthy and productive pastime. The most important piece of the puzzle is ensuring that you're comfortable with the content your child is being exposed to and that they learn to regulate their own behavior in a healthy way.

G4G: You have had a career in games for 15 years - so much experience. How did you use your game experience to advance in the game industry? Describe the different levels.
SC:
I feel very lucky to have experienced so many different aspects of gaming. The key for me in advancing in my career has always been a willingness to learn. You have to be open to trying things you don't know or understand, and then you need to be receptive enough to learn from experiences – both good and bad. I never thought I'd end up in sales or business development. However, I just followed the path in front of me and I had an opportunity to learn and grow so I jumped at it. My background on the creative and productive side of gaming has been a huge benefit to me in this role.

G4G: You are currently the Vice President of Business Development and Sales at fatfoogoo. Where did the name, fatfoogoo come from? What is your responsibility there?
SC:
The name comes from the Japanese dish "fugu" – prepared from the meat of a pufferfish. It's lethal if prepared incorrectly and is therefore quite a delicacy.

My role at fatfoogoo is to spread the word in North America about our technology for in- game commerce and to license this technology to video game developers and publishers, as well as creators of online communities and virtual worlds. Our platform is intended to allow these creators to support virtual economies in their worlds and to sell virtual items for real or virtual money. It plugs into an existing game or world, which allows a developer to focus on gameplay and the things they know best while we handle the "boring" side of making money – transaction tracking, taxes, accepting payments globally, etc.

G4G: Can you explain "monetizing" and micropayments?
SC:
Well, everyone wants to monetize their game and make money. The big question is how to do so, especially as the traditional retail model gets more and more challenging. Our technology allows a developer to monetize their game either through the collection of a monthly subscription, or through the sale of virtual items or currency. Many of our customers create "free-to-play" games – this means just what it sounds like: gamers can come to their world and play for free. Often there is a virtual currency in the world that can be earned through gameplay and used to purchase clothing, weapons or other items. We offer the technology to support this. Many of our partners also sell a bundle of virtual currency for us in their worlds – say 10,000 in-game coins for $10 – that can be spent in the game or virtual environment. Yet others offer a premium subscription to access certain parts of the experience. It's a very flexible model to allow for the sale of single virtual items, or the processing of payments in very small amounts (micropayments).

G4G: Newspapers are concerned about getting reader revenue from their online sites. Consumer Union sells one month use of their site's information - there is currently PayPal. How does fatfoogoo fit into those schemes?
SC:
This is essentially a very basic subscription and something our technology would support. The models we see in gaming are actually much more complex and interesting, but similarly game creators are also trying to reach past advertising as it hasn't proven to be such a solid monetization strategy here either. In gaming we're seeing VIP clubs, premium subscriptions, virtual item bundles and other creative offerings that go way beyond a simple pay for access setup. I think the great thing about this is that instead of relying on indirect sales through ads, this model allows gamers to pay money directly for something they want – something that actually enhances gameplay! It's a win-win. Developers make money and gamers choose how and on what to spend their money as they play.

G4G: Charges on-line are different for adults than for children. Is there a safe way for kids to use microtransactions besides using their parents charge cards?
SC:
Absolutely. Monetizing a younger user base is one of the bigger challenges game developers and publishers face, and it's an issue that we address in our technology. Within the fatfoogoo platform, we support a couple of models that can help. First we support many types and kinds of payments beyond charge cards as not only do many kids not have them, but users in other regions around the globe do not use them as often as we do in the states. We can collect bank transfers, PayPal, mobile payments that charge to a phone bill, prepaid cards, and soon we'll also be offering some great alternatives like participation in market research or similar to buy virtual currency. Second, we support a parent-child wallet which allows a parent to fund a child's account with a specified amount of money at one time or on a recurring basis that can then be spent without oversight by the child.

G4G: There is a great push to get girls into the science, math and technology fields. How does that square with a profession in the game industry? Might girls have special skills and attributes that would serve them well or will games remain male-centric?
SC:
The game industry is in desperate need of a female perspective. I think anytime you diversify an industry you end up with stronger products. Women have so much to offer, so many perspectives to offer, and they are very needed here. Backgrounds in science and math are a great launch pad for a career in gaming. One of the best things about gaming is that it's a pretty egalitarian industry. If you're smart and you're good at what you do, you will always have a job. The key is getting more women to give it a go in the first place, which I hope we will see more and more of now that games are so much more mainstream and the offering is more diverse.

G4G: What advice do you have for girls today?
SC:
My best advice is don't be intimidated. Don't let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Be true to what you know and what you love, and follow the path of your own choosing.

Thanks Stevana, I forgot to mention that you are a mother too. You gave and excellent description of "monetizing". Good luck with the fish.

07/2009


Lin Shen of Papaya Studios

Name: Lin Shen
JobTitle: President
Company: Papaya Studios
Games Developed: Coraline
    Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey
    Larry Boy and the Bad Apple
    Whirl Tour
    Top Gear Dare Devil
    George of the Jungle
Favorite Game:God of War, Disney Princess

G4G: We don't usually find women as president in this field. How did you get into it?
Lin Shen (LS): Drawing and playing games are two of my favorite things to do since I was a young girl. I graduated from Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena as an Illustration major in 1992.
Mike Dietz, one of the most amazing animators and directors whom I respect dearly, gave me a chance and hired me as a Jr. Artist working at Virgin Games. Global Gladiator (Sega Genesis), Cool Spot (Super Nintendo), and Aladdin (Sega Genesis) were some of the early games I made.
Throughout my career, I was extremely lucky to meet talented people and friends who taught me the art of making games. As I grew as an individual and with opportunities that were given to me, I expanded my knowledge on leadership and management.

G4G: What is a development studio? Where does it fit into the whole game sequence/production?
LS: A development studio is where all of the fun and creativity of making games happens. Generally speaking, a development studio ("Developer") is hired by a publishing company ("Publisher") to create, develop, and produce a game based on a movie, a TV show, an original story or idea. In most cases, the Publisher provides the funding to the game developer as well as marketing the game once it's ready to go out to the marketplace.
The Developer's job is mostly very creative and it begins with a game design document (GDD") that explains, details, and maps out an entire game. Its details include characters, abilities, worlds/levels, art style, how many players, inventory, puzzles, and so forth. Based on the GDD, the Developer starts working on the technology the game requires, game mechanics, control, art assets, sound, music, voice over, etc. It is the developer's responsibility to make sure the entire game is fun and working, bug free, on time and on budget.

G4G: What is it like running a development studio?
LS: It's fun, fulfilling, exciting and an absolutely amazing experience. Papaya has a great culture in which the teams are like a big family. We spend a lot of time together (lots of long, late nights working) so we get to know each other very well.
In the past 10 years, the most satisfying thing for me in running Papaya is to see people grow and move on to the next steps in their lives. I've found tremendous joy in being part of my lead artist's wedding, helping one of my designers get a new car, and supporting my lead engineer when he becomes a father for the first time. We all share the love of games and making games and it brings us together.

G4G: Tell me a little about Papaya Studio?
LS: Papaya Studio will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year! I started Papaya Studio along with 2 good and extremely talented friends of mine in a one-bedroom apartment where we made our first game demo. Since then, we have grown a lot as you can imagine.
The studio is a friendly and family oriented work place. Employees are welcome to bring their dogs with them to work - there are a number of them, even a cat. We have a kitchen, a pool table and a lounge/conference room, which has all the game platforms for employees to play games or watch movies during lunch or after work. I think it's a pretty cool place to work.

G4G: You just produced Coraline. What are the things you have to be aware of in making a game from a movie?
LS: Movies are not interactive and can deliver moods, emotions, and story in a direct, linear and an uninterrupted way. Games are interactive, require player input to progress and are more difficult to setup drama. Therefore, making a game from a movie, especially a non-action movie, in many ways is very challenging.
The developer needs to make sure the game follows the same vision, style, spirit and direction of the movie and at the same time create gameplay mechanics that are fun and interesting. During the development of Coraline, we constantly had to remind ourselves the tone of the movie as well as the personalities of the characters in the film. For every move and ability we put into the game for the player, we had to make sure that it was something Coraline would do in the Coraline world.
For example, if you pay attention to the movie, the word "exploration" was mentioned a few times. Coraline's personality and the premises built in the story lead the game to be focus on exploration. Another example is that the Other Mother loves playing games and she suggested playing a 'hide and seek' game in the film. This led us to create a lot of minigames for the videogame not only to provide various game mechanics, but also to enhance the spirit of the license.

G4G: Being president must give you great freedom in what you want to develop, what message and experience you want to put into a game. What is it that you want to accomplish?
LS: Being president does give me tremendous amount of freedom and with that I've learned that with great freedom comes great responsibility. Back in the mid 90s, I was an entry level artist working on Aladdin and Earthworm Jim (Sega Geneis games). I experienced the feeling of making a great game and saw how it impacted and influenced people/gamers. It is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling feelings. My goal and the goal of Papaya is to produce the best games possible with the best quality that we can.

G4G: Do you think that there are special sensibility that girls might have that games can address to make a more satisfying game?
LS: Generally speaking, in the research and focus testing we conducted we found girl gamers tend to like features such as customization, collection, pattern puzzles, quizzes, music, and memory type game mechanics that do not require a long and precise combo. Classic games such as Tetris and Pacman are super popular among girl gamers.

G4G: What were your interests as a young girl (8-12)?
LS: Since I was little, I love to draw, read manga and play arcade games and still do. My parents, being the most traditional and conservative people I know, wanted me to do well in school, so they banned manga and games. I had to sneak manga into my room and read it under my blanket with a flashlight. I would sell my lunch at school to get enough money to play games in the arcades.

G4G: What advice do you have for girls today?
LS: Girls today have a lot to deal with - parents, boys, friends, school, prom, society, fashion, style, what's cool and un-cool. I don't know if I could survive with the competition and challenges girls are facing today.
My advice would be to really know and learn about yourself, find out what you like and dislike, what you can and cannot handle and what's cool and not cool for you. Knowing yourself makes decisions and choices a lot easier.

3/09


Cara Ely of Oberon Media

Name: Cara Ely
JobTitle: Producer
Company: Oberon Media
Games Produced: Dream Day Wedding
Dream Day Honeymoon

Casual games have a particular appeal to women gamers - they're non-violent, can be enjoyed in short bursts and often contain subject matter that appeal to women's sensibilities. None more so than Dream Day Wedding and Dream Day Honeymoon. Here, Cara tells us more about how the "Dream" came to be.

G4G: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into the gaming industry?

Cara Ely (CE): I started at Sierra Online (a division of Vivendi Universal), as an Associate Producer (AP) that was a hands-on education in how casual games are made. I had previously worked as a talent agent and casting director and Sierra hired me (in part) to direct voice actors and scriptwriters, but I worked on game development from initial design to final launch. I was an AP on about 10 externally-developed titles, including several of the You Don't Know Jack games (which I still play!). After that, I moved to the Hoyle Games team (an internal development group), where I eventually became a producer.

G4G: Is Oberon Media your company?

CE: No, I work in the Oberon Games studio in Seattle, but Oberon Media is the parent company that is headquartered in New York; we haveoffices across North America, Europe and Asia. Oberon was founded in 2003 and is currently the world's leading multi-platform casual-games company, with expertise in online games, mobile, and even the interactive television.

G4G: You have designed Dream Day Wedding and Dream Day Honeymoon. How did you get the idea? What is your next one?

CE: Well, I thought about the way that weddings impact so many people - not just the bride and groom, but families, friends, and so on. Plus the fact that so many elements of a wedding are incredibly beautiful to look at - gowns, cakes, flowers, invitations - the theme seemed very compelling. As for the next one - well I am not at liberty to say, but there will definitelybe another chapter in Jenny and Robert's story.

G4G: How did you get your games produced? Find an outlet?

CE: Fortunately, I work for Oberon Games, a leading publisher and developer of mass-market casual games, so getting the game published was not too difficult, once we created a prototype and pitched it to our executive team. Oberon gave me the creative freedom to develop my idea, and see it through to completion. That's definitely rare in this industry and it made a big difference during the development of the game.

G4G: You spoke to many women before you created the games. What specifically did you discover about women gamers?

CE: The answerto that question depends on the gamer! There is a game out there for almost every interest and skill level - that's why this audience continues to grow. I have read some interesting articles about the different ways men and women process and remember information. The gist is that women often prefer (and excel at) visual memory exercises, which may be why the "seek and find" games have such a large female audience. On the Dream Day games, aside from the realization that the theme skewed strongly female, the goal was to make a game that would be fun for everyone.

G4G: What can you say to girls to get them to consider getting into the gaming industry?

CE: Well, the game industry offers unlimited opportunities for talented women and men. Creating casual games takes engineers, artists, project managers, production assistants, marketing specialists, quality assurance testers - it's a fast-paced, creative industry and I highly recommend it! Making a game from scratch and seeing it released into the market is incredibly satisfying for everyone involved.

G4G: You know what a success Ms. Rowling had with Harry Potter. Is there something that you can say to our population of "grandmothers" to encourage them to pick up the mouse and create a game?

CE: Well, great game ideas can come from almost anywhere - you don't need to work in the industry to come up with a compelling design. Take a closer look at the games you already play and enjoy - what do you like and why? How does the game actually work? How do you win or lose? How difficult is the game? What keeps you playing?

G4G: Any final words?

CE: I hope that all your readers will continue playing new games and old favorites. No matter what our age, games have the ability to entertain, educate, relax and excite us. Have fun!

8/07


Alana "Ms X" Reid of girlz 0f destruction

Name: Alana Reid
Job Title: Professional On-Line Game Player
Company: VIA Technologies
Favorite Game: Quake

The all-female online gaming team girlz 0f destruction will tell you just how much practice it takes, how they support each other in the highly competitive field of online gaming. Excitement and travel are some of the perks of the job.

Alana Reid is a co-founder of girlz 0f destruction, a professional 7-member all-girls PC gaming team representing Canada, China, New Zealand, Spain, Russia, Sweden, UK, and the USA. girlz 0f destruction members participate as individuals in deathwatch style Quake III tournaments, and last year swept the top 3 positions at the inaugural Ms.QuakeCon tournament, claiming US$30,000 in prize money. As professional gamers, the girls prepared for QuakeCon by playing over 10,000 matches, training on average 5 hours a day.

G4G: We don't usual think of females in Quake competitions. How did you get into it?
AR: I always played games, as long as I can remember... but it was always console like Mario games. I never had a computer growing up so I wasn't exposed to PC games until a few years ago when a friend from work showed me.

G4G: What is the excitement, the pull of the game (Quake)? What do you get out of it? What are the advantages, skills and experiences you have gained doing this?
AR: I really like the competitive aspect, and the game overall excites me because when playing on a competitive level there is a lot of mental skill involved and it's a lot of fun, to me it's just like playing any regular sport.

G4G: How important is the "team" in this endeavor?
AR: My team is very important to me, I couldn't imagine always going to events alone and such. We have a really great time together and get along very well. We met on the internet through playing games, and now live together, and I believe we will be friends for life.

G4G: How many hours do you "practice" the game you are in competition on?
AR: It really depends, if there is a tournament coming up then it will be more than usual. It can range from anywhere from 2-10 hours per day! When working and living the average lifestyle it can be pretty difficult to find the time to get in some solid practice but thanks to VIA Technologies we are able to actually live in gaming house where we can play to our hearts desire.

G4G: What is behind your name choice?
AR: Secret ;o)

G4G: Is your base really the House of Chrome in Sweden? Where do you hail from.?
AR: I am currently living in Sweden at the Home of Chrome, but my hometown is Vancouver Canada. My parents are from Scotland so I've also spent some time living there as well.

G4G: How old were you when you first played? What was your introduction to computer games? What other games do you play?
AR: The first game I ever played was Cabbage Patch Dolls on a system called Coleco, and I was about 5 years old at the time. I was totally hooked from there, and couldn't stop playing. I went through all of the Nintendo's, and now I'm stuck on PC games which include Quakeseries, Unreal Tournament series, Wolfenstein, Counterstrike, Warsow -- pretty much any FPS game.

G4G: What do you do when you are not playing computer games -- school, interests, sports?
AR: I like to travel ... it's a passion of mine and I love to visit new places in the world. Besides from that, I like to go back to Vancouver and spend time with my friends and family -- who I do miss!

G4G: Future plans. How do you see yourself five years from now?
AR: Very good question. I know this wonderful lifestyle won't last forever and for now I don't want to think too far ahead into the future. I take things day by day :)

G4G: Are you interested in other opportunities in the game field?
AR: I would love to pursue gaming as a career, it is of course my passion and that's where I would like to spend my time .... I've done the 9-5 working in a cubicle and after this, I really don't know if I could go back to doing something I really don't enjoy.

G4G: Not many girls play games like Quake?. What is it about the game that could appeal to them? Can that game be changed to appeal to a wider audience?
AR: I suppose gaming is like any other sport or hobby. Some love tennis, some love hockey -- every individual is different, and most girl gamers have been introduced by a male influence in their life. But I think anyone that enjoys Mariokart, or any type of game could also really love violent style shooter games like Quake too.

G4G: Is there a career path for girls who want to be involved in the game industry?
AR: I think so, of course it's not something that happens overnight but I myself already have a job in the industry and the more live events you visit and the more people you get to meet. I believe there is definitely opportunities out there for careers. I've always seen it as -- it's not what you know, it's who you know!


Jamie "Missy" Pereyda of girlz 0f destruction

[an error occurred while processing this directive]


Nancy Drew - Danger on Deception Island: Michaela of Her Interactive

Name: Michaela
Job Title: Intern
Company: Her Interactive
Game Worked On: Nancy Drew - Danger on Deception Island
Favorite Games: Morrowind III. Syberia, Splinter Cell, Nancy Drew

G4G: We don't usually think of young girls in this field. How did you get into it?
M: I have always had a love for computers and technology, and I had the privilege to attend a school that incorporates the every-day use of laptops in its curriculum for four years. I had started playing the Nancy Drew games while I was at that school, and I tested the Nancy Drew games for Her Interactive. Last summer, I thought that it would be worth a try asking if they did summer internships, and it worked out!

G4G: Tell us about your job?
M: I went to Her Interactive twice a week throughout the summer. While I was there, I helped them with whatever their needs were at the time. I was also given the opportunity to meet with many of the Her Interactive staff and was able to observe the game development process first hand. Her Interactive provided the opportunity for me to experience many different aspects of the workplace in a warm and nurturing environment.

G4G: Would you like to work in the game field and what part would you like to do?
M: Yes, I would love to work in the game field. As far as what I would like to do goes, I would love to work in the 2D or 3D graphics department, and I also think it might be fun to form the storyline of the game.

G4G: What class are you in school? How old are you?
M: I am a tenth grader, and I am 15 years old.

G4G: Do you have favorite subjects?
M: My favorite subjects are probably Humanities, (a mix of English and History), Biology, and Spanish.

G4G: What are your favorite books?
M: I love the author Garth Nix, and I love all of his books. I also like The Da Vinci Code and I love the Harry Potter series!

G4G: What do you do for fun?
M: For fun I play the violin, I love to sing, dance, and act, and of course, spend the day at my computer!

G4G: What kind of games do you play?
M: I play all sorts of games such as Morrowind III: The Elder Scrolls, Syberia, Splinter Cell, and of course, Nancy Drew!

G4G: Do you prefer a certain type of game?
M: I really like Role Playing Games, and I like games that let me think about what I'm doing and why I would do it before I do. I also really like strategy games.

G4G: What kind of games do you think girls would like?
M: There are all different types of girls, with all different interests and appreciations. I think that girls who like Her Interactive's games would also like games like Syberia and the Myst series. However, ideally, I think that one day there should be as many different games for girls as there are girls themselves.

G4G: Do you have an idea for a game?
M: I would really like to explore the limits of games. I think that if I were ever to make a game, I would want it to be an ongoing project. I would always be adding levels or parts to it so that it would stay exciting for the players. As far as what kind of game, I think that I would really be interested in the adventure game section, but I'm open to anything!

Ed. Note: There is no photograph of Michaela to accompany the article. She is a minor and we wish to protect her privacy.


Syberia: Marie-Sol Beaudry of Microids

Name: Marie-Sol Beaudry
Job Title: Project Manager
Company: Microids
Game Worked On: Syberia
Favorite Games: Adventure, The Longest Journey

G4G: It is easy to identify with Kate – she is smart, adventurous, attractive and has a sense of humor. What was the inspiration?
MSB: The day-to-day modern woman. Ambitious, strong but still human. We really wanted to paint a portrait of an actual woman representing the reality of young female of the 21st century. It's an icon, or an image, you don't see a lot in videogames.

G4G: How was it decided to have the protagonist a female human and the secondary character, Oscar, a male automaton?
MSB: It's a bit obvious but it's easier to communicate emotions through a female character than a male character.

G4G: How was the idea developed to have Kate's character grow to where she dumps her controlling boyfriend. This is not a male point of view.
MSB: The whole scenario comes from Benoît Sokal's imagination. The whole scenario is based on the fact he wanted to write about a woman, for women. Kate's personality was developed from his perception of the reality experienced by a 20-something female lawyer driven by ambition but also emotions.

G4G: Can you describe your role in game creation?
MSB: As the project manager, my role is to supervise the production of the game. The team is separated in five different groups: Artists, Animation, Design, Programming, Integration. Each group has a leader reporting directly to me. I also act as a bridge between the author, the other departments and the team.

G4G: Were there women involved in developing the story?
MSB: In terms of the scenario, there were no women directly involved in the creation of the story. But there were a few women who worked on the creation of the game. Apart from me, two of the artists who worked on the environments were women, Johanne Drolet and Melanie Tremblay.

G4G: Does a female market player have any distinguishing characteristics that are different from the general game player. If so, do you make any accommodations for her?
MSB:The main difference between female and male gamers is about the importance of the story. Female gamers pay much more attention to the story. They are asking for a deeper scenario, attaching characters. Action is less of an issue with female gamers. (Obviously, I'm talking generally).

G4G: What prompted the company to embark upon such a female friendly game? It's pace is unhurried, no one gets killed, the environments are beautiful and it has a decidedly feminine point of view. How do you see men approaching this game.
MSB: I don't think the company's decision to develop a game like Syberia was based on the fact it was a female-friendly game. The whole concept was interesting and original. When Microïds got across the preliminary scenario and the storyboard, the company knew it had something special in its hands. Now that the game is out, we saw the reaction of men gamers and it's pretty positive. Not that we had any fear of their impressions but we're happy to see that they enjoy it too.

G4G: Now that this one is out, will there be more? Will Amerzone be reissued?
MSB: Syberia 2 is in the work and Amerzone is still available in some stores…

G4G: Do you have anything to say to girls who might want to plan a career in the game industry?
MSB: Make sure you don't believe it's a man-only industry even if most of the people working in it are men. There's some room for women in this industry. Women will come up with a different point of view. Read a lot, develop a familiarity with a broad range of culture, and play games.

G4G: How did you get to be a project manger?
MSB: Basically I knew someone. It is important to get involved and be around people who are in the industry. Find a mentor. Let people know what you want to do.

G4G: What were you like as a 12 – 13 year old – teenager?
MSB: I was pretty much your average teenager. Liked sports, basketball, soccer, hung out with my friends.


Darkening Skye: Diane Strack of Simon & Schuster Interactive

Name: Diane Strack
Job Title: Producer
Company: Simon & Schuster Interactive
Games Worked On: Darkening Skye, Sabrina the Teenage Witch

G4G: It is easy to identify with Skye – she is funny, charming adventurous and cute. What was your inspiration?
DS: The designers and producers are huge fans of Buffy. We love the hip attitude, the sly humor, the self-awareness. We love how Buffy is a powerful hero, yet a real person with realistic concerns and problems. Another inspiration was Xena, Warrior Princess – a strong heroine and a show with a wonderful satirical tone.

The success and popularity of these shows was appealing. At its peak, Xena was the top- rated show in syndication and Buffy has been one of the top shows on both the networks it has aired on. We noted the popularity of games like Tomb Raider and its female protagonist. We thought there was an audience out there for this kind of product and this kind of hero. Our working tag line: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Meets Lara Croft!"

G4G: Was it your vision to create a female epic?
DS: If what you mean is an epic specifically geared towards females, that's not what we intended. We wanted a game that would appeal to both male and female players. Shows like Buffy and Xena, have a huge male audience. We know the majority of gamers and consumers of Lara Croft products are male. We know that both males and females will play and enjoy a game with a female protagonist.

We simply wanted to create a game that would both appeal to males and not TURN OFF females. We wanted a smart, resourceful heroine the player could relate to and root for regardless of gender. If she's pretty, or sexy, like Buffy or Lara Croft, that's great, but she's not there to just be eye candy.

G4G: Can you describe your role in game creation?
DS: This question is about defining the role of the producer in a product, how to go back and forth and in between all the various players to make the vision come true. Something like making a movie, with writers, designers, game designers, artists, animators and programmers. All bring a necessary part to the creation and all voices must be heard, balanced, negotiated, balanced again and again while you work it out. Since the story was so important to the adventure and the gameplay, that was a huge focus in the beginning. And of course it took months and lots of revisions to get to where it is now.

During this phase, we looked at a couple hundred conceptual drawings, provided by the developer and his studio of talented artists. At story meetings we'd go through the drawings, using them to bounce off story ideas, puzzles, settings, characters, etc. The artists had some wonderful ideas – really unique visions, and their imaginations ran wild.

Eventually the script was finished and the voice actors were cast. Finding the right actors was important and auditions were held in Boston and New York. The woman who gave voice to Skye was great – a good combination of teenage attitude coupled with strength and intelligence. The actor voiced Draak was hysterically funny – he had us all laughing in the studio.

G4G: How did you put together a game where all the different elements enhance one another?
DS: It's like any kind of art – hard to explain what the process is and all projects have their own unique process. If it's done well, it's just about the parts coming together into a harmonious whole. Good collaboration.

G4G: Did you do other games and will there be more?
DS: Yes, and yes.

G4G: How important is it to have a female protagonist in a game?
DS: Certainly there are plenty of successful games out there with female protagonists. As women, we certainly felt there was room in the world for one more female hero. We think what's important about our heroine is that a: she's smart-mouthed and funny and b: she's intelligent AND attractive.

G4G: Do female market player have any distinguishing characteristics that are different from the general game player. If so, do you make any accommodations for her?
DS: We did some products about 5 years ago based on research that showed there were differences in how girls and boys used computers. Especially girls aged 8-14. The research told us they wanted community, and communication and didn't care about winning, earning points or making their way through the levels of traditional computer games. The products, which were designed as a sort of teen magazine-on-screen, were well received by girls in focus groups, teachers and parents. However, they were not commercially successful. At the same time the Barbie line of products were launched with huge success. It was obvious that girls liked to play on computers the same way they like to play in life. This could include board and other games and many girls even enjoy earning points, being competitive and advancing through levels. We had great success in the girl-games arena with our next series of products, based on the popular TV series Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Sabrina is a strong, attractive heroine with the added advantage of possessing magical powers AND she's a teenager – perfect model for girls and games.

The bottom line is that many girls are into games and if they have characters they like and care about, they'll play the game even more. The same is true for women and games.

G4G: Do you have anything to say to girls who might want to plan a career in the game industry?
DS: Just like any career – if you love it and do it and keep at it, you can find your way.


Who Makes Nancy Drew?

From the president through artists, scriptwriters, technology officer, producers, production managers to marketing - at every stage of the game there are women. Can you see yourself in one of these positions?

Name: Megan Gaiser
Job Title: President
Company: Her Interactive, CA
Game Working on Recently: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake

At the helm of Her Interactive, Megan has guided a company that has produced games for women and girls since 1995. Even in their early games the company ventured into interactive dialog in McKenzie & Co. and Vampire Diaries. Knowing that women make up the majority of mystery readers, and that there are now at least two generations of Nancy Drew readers, they are on a roll with the Nancy Drew mysteries. The newest one, "Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake" is number six.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
MG: I never intended to get into the interactive gaming field. In fact, I knew very little about the interactive entertainment industry when I started at Her Interactive. When it comes to career matters, I have always followed my heart. Creating interesting content has always been a consistent focus. I've always been drawn to storytelling ... in various forms. I came from the film industry and I enjoyed making films for 11 years before I decided to move from Washington DC to Washington state to find a job creating interactive media. I worked for Microsoft for a few years as a Producer creating content for the web. It was then I became aware of a company that was creating interactive entertainment for girls, Her Interactive. I was excited by the opportunity to work with a creative team to bring the mysteries of Nancy Drew to life via a game experience. I was surprised to learn that at that time, most games were designed specifically for boys. The realization that in 1997, Barbie was about all there was to entertain girls in the form of interactive entertainment was more than enough to spur me on. Working for Her Interactive in 1997 was an opportunity that presented itself rather than a goal I set out to achieve.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
MG: Playful, curious, and mischievous. I loved watching movies, dancing to funky music, putting on plays for anyone who would watch, board games, films, books, TV shows and pretty much all sports. I played tennis, kickball, softball, hockey, pool, ping pong and basketball. Boys were also quickly becoming an interest of mine.

Name: Sheri Hargus
Job Title: Chief Technology Officer

In her role of Chief Technology Officer, Sheri is responsible for driving the bus named software development. She oversees company development strategy, engine architecture, new features, development schedules and testing. And when not doing all that, she is writing code!

G4G: How did you get into the field?
SH: I started working with computers when I was in college studying electrical engineering. After getting a degree in this field, I worked in the area of biomedical engineering. The work I did involved a lot of programming because the processors in the medical instruments needed to be programmed in order to work correctly. Realizing that I enjoyed software more than hardware, I went back to school and got a masters degree in computer science. I worked for many years in developing key applications in the desktop publishing and business productivity arena. After working for big companies, I branched out and started a small children's software company as well as doing consulting. I was also raising a family of four children. When the opportunity to work at Her Interactive came along three years ago, it was a dream job as it allowed me to make creative and intelligent software for girls, something that I passionately believe in.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
SH: When I was 12, my family moved from Hawaii (where I had grown up) to Africa. After a year in Africa, we moved to Australia for a few more years before returning to the US when I was in high school. This traveling gave me an appreciation for other cultures and a fascination for travel. When I was 12, I was an avid reader and had an intense interest in math and science. I wanted to be either a librarian or a scientist when I grew up. Living in warm countries on the water, I was also at the beach almost every day and loved to swim and body surf. When not at the beach or in school, I was most likely in my bedroom with the door locked, deep into a book. All my babysitting money and allowance went into buying books and my library required a few extra boxes when it came time to ship our household goods back to the US! Amongst those books, there were quite a few Nancy Drew mysteries - and they went around the world with me!

Name: Anne Ludwick
Job Title: Scriptwriter/Producer

Anne came to Her Interactive by way of commercial television. She spent several years in Los Angeles serving as the Story Editor on Vegas and Fantasy Island. After moving to the Seattle area she served as a Story Consultant for Matlock, writing and editing scripts for its entire eight-year, two-network run.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
AL: I loved to read when I was growing up - the Black Stallion series, Nancy Drew (of course), science fiction and fantasy - I loved using my imagination. I used to carry on pretend conversations with my favorite TV characters and imagine myself in different situations with them. So I guess without realizing it, I was writing for television even before I knew there was such a thing. Computer games, especially the Nancy Drew games, are a lot like TV shows, in that you have a main character who meets and talks to other characters in the course of solving some big problem. Although technically the two media are quite different, the principles that guide the writing and production of their content are amazingly similar.

I loved horses but, being a city girl, I had to go to camp every summer to ride them. I was very awkward socially; I got along with everyone, but I wasn't part of the really "in" crowd. I didn't have any boyfriends, but I wasn't really ready for that anyway. Besides, at that time few people in real life could compare to my imaginary buddies. And I always knew that all I had to do is hang in there and things would get better. And they definitely did.

Name: Jennifer Beers
Job Title: Program Manager

At Her Interactive, Jennifer is responsible for coordinating the production of a top quality game. She works directly on building game logic and interface files, manages the overall schedule, and coordinates art, production and development efforts. She also oversees the asset management process and manages focus group, beta, configuration and usability testing.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
JB: When I was 12, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to work with computers at our school. We started with a small Commodore Pet that read data from cassette tapes, and we were very exited when we got an Apple II with a color screen. I enjoyed playing computer games, writing programs, and studying math. Outside of school, I liked to read books, watch movies, and invent games and secret codes with my friends. In high school, I had many different interests, but I always enjoyed mathematics, and kept returning to computing in some form or another.

Name: Kris Ulmer
Job Title: Lead 2D Artist

As lead 2D Artist, Kris is responsible for the illustration of realistic 2D texture maps, hotspot graphics, and puzzles for integration into 3D environments, as well as the design of puzzle layouts and functional prototyping.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
KU: I've always loved to draw, to build, and to fix things. But, it wasn't until I had taken my first art class in high school and received encouragement from respected teachers, that I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the visual arts. I went to college on the East Coast and graduated with a BFA in Illustration -- which, at the time, combined traditional painting, drawing, and graphic design. I soon became interested in digital media and the possibility of combining traditional art methods with newer technology. So, after doing some post-college traveling around the country, I signed up for classes in digital art and design in San Francisco, and worked as a freelance illustrator for children's software companies in the Bay Area. Eventually, I moved to Seattle, began work as a photographic retouch artist with a photography studio, and then, as a 2D digital artist with Her Interactive, where I've worked with a truly inspiring art team for about 4 years, now!

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
KU: Growing up surrounded by peach orchards in South Carolina, I was a true tomboy: I loved all sports (especially soccer and softball), spent hours and hours shooting hoops in the backyard, and wouldn't be caught dead wearing a dress. I was also into jigsaw puzzles, motorcycles, and music. I played the piano, fiddled with my grandfather's archtop guitar, and began playing the clarinet in the school band when I was thirteen. These interests have stayed with me passionately ever since..

Name: Ayu Othman
Job Title: 2D Artist

As 2D artist, Ayu is responsible for the creation of realistic 2D maps, hotspot graphics, and puzzles for integration into 3D environments. Born in Malaysia, Ayu has been living in Seattle for the past 11 years.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
AO: Although I loved to draw, I never thought I could make ends meet as an artist, so I went on the science track throughout high school until midway through college when I rediscovered my passion for art in my first ever formal art class. I was hooked and, with my mother's support, took the plunge into the art world. I had no idea whether I could make a career out of being an artist but I loved it enough to take the risk. After college, I went and got my associate's degree in Computer Animation but still had no idea what I'd be doing career-wise, whether it was in traditional animation, Flash, games, or illustration. After several months of freelancing and job-searching, I became a contract artist with Her Interactive, eventually coming aboard full time.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
AO: I was really into cartoons, comic books, and anything else that had action and science- fiction written all over it. Sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons while drawing was certainly preferable over school, much less my dreaded homework, but I also spent countless hours reading just about everything, from Japanese Mythology to the Song of Beowulf to the latest Tin Tin adventure. Consequently, if I wasn't inside drawing, reading, or watching cartoons, I was out in the yard slaying dragons on horseback or shooting arrows at imaginary goblins or flying robotic lions through the stratosphere.

Name: Amy Janas
Job Title: Marketing Manager

As Marketing Manager, Amy manages strategic relationships, promotions, online channel sales and online initiatives and develops the Her Interactive web site.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
AJ: I got into the video game industry by accident. I was looking for a part-time, holiday job while in college and came across a "Get Paid to Play Video Games" advertisement by Nintendo for game play counselors. I loved playing the arcade games when I was a teenager (Asteroids, Frogger, Super Mario Brothers, Pan Man and Space Invaders) so I went for it. I had the opportunity to work on several projects at Nintendo, and later worked on the Nintendo web site. I was fascinated by continually observing how video games can open up the technical world to people.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
AJ: I was a sports-playing, book-reading Nancy Drew! I was outside, played soccer, softball, volleyball and was on swim team or was inside reading, reading, reading. On the weekends, my sister and I along with other neighborhood kids ran a detective club. We mainly read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown books and hung out in a special club house (named the Wonder Woman Club House) that my dad built and we painted. There we did not solve that many cases and we did not have the reputation of Nancy Drew, but we were always ready!

Name: Carolyn Bickford
Job Title: Vice President, Marketing & Sales

Ms. Bickford guides the company's sales and marketing efforts.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
CB: My first introduction to computer games, and to computers in general, was about 15 years ago when I took a job in marketing and advertising for a company called Egghead Software, a chain of software stores. I worked there for seven years, and then moved to a company called Edmark, which made educational computer games for kids Then I found out about Her Interactive, and the Nancy Drew games. I have always been a big Nancy Drew fan, so I jumped at the chance to work here. It's been a fabulous opportunity to spread the word to girls and women everywhere about these fabulous new Nancy Drew games!

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
CB: I was very quiet and shy, but I loved to read and write. I was editor of the school newspaper, and loved writing articles for the paper, especially if they helped people or changed things in a positive way. I was actually quite a rebel -- as long as I didn't have to talk! That love of writing stayed with me. I majored in journalism in college, and then pursued a career in public relations and marketing. Now I get to write about Nancy Drew all the time, which makes me remember how much I loved reading every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on when I was a girl.

Name: Charity Garner
Job Title: Office Manager

G4G: How did you get into the field?
CG: Like most people, I kind of stumbled into the gaming industry. I had just moved from Hawaii and was looking for an office management job when I came across an ad in the paper. I looked up the company online and it blew me away. Instantly it just felt right to me and I try to always follow my instincts and heart. I was so excited because I always read Nancy Drew as a kid and still love mystery books of all types. I loved the message of promoting technology for girls and really clicked with the overall company culture at Her Interactive. I'm so glad that I made the right decision to go into this industry and to work with this company. It has actually changed my life!

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
CG: I was a shy and self-conscious kid at that stage in my life. I loved to read anything and everything from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie to Nathanial Hawthorne and the classics. I had just picked up the oboe and the saxophone and loved them! I really felt like I could express myself better when I was playing and it gave me an outlet and a release for my feelings. My family moved from San Antonio to Japan when I was 13, so adjusting to that was a bit of a challenge to say the least. New schools are always a little scary, but they definitely get better if you give them a chance. I eventually made great friends and had the time of my life!

Name: Laurie Mendez
Job Title: VP of Sales Operations

An innovative manager who develops staff, motivates teams and improves operating efficiencies.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
LM: Like a lot of people I know in this industry, I pretty much fell into it. My education and first jobs were not what you'd think would have prepared me for this industry. My degree is in clinical psychology and I worked for some time as a counselor at a Juvenile Hall facility. After some time, I found that I loved the sales & business operations management side of businesses but I also wanted to be really excited about the product. Almost 10 years ago, I got a call from a recruiter who told me about an opportunity in a game software company and I jumped!

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
LM: Well, I was certainly inquisitive and I "pushed the envelope" every chance I got. I wouldn't say that I was a really bad kid...but a few days in Juvenile Hall were probably in order for more than one of my stunts!

Name: Alena Saunders
Job Title: Production Assistant

G4G: How did you get into the field?
AS: A mix of luck, confidence and my personal charm.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
AS: High energy kid who wanted to go around the Earth and protect all unfair offended and abused people and wild animals.

Name: Maureen Carroll
Job Title: Administrative Specialist

Maureen is responsible for keeping the office running smoothly. She handles all incoming an outgoing mail, answers questions and feedback from our website.

G4G: How did you get into the field?
MC: Pure luck, I was employed in the communication field when I heard about a really intriguing company. It was a software company designing interactive computer games aimed at young woman. I grew up in the Midwest in a very male dominated community, so I am very proactive in anything that promotes equal opportunities for women. I met with Megan and the staff at Her Interactive, and was very impressed. More importantly, I felt comfortable with them right away.

G4G: What were you like as a 12-13 year old?
MC: I grew up with two much older sisters so I learned to entertain myself with books and my own imagination very early. I enjoyed all the adventures and knowledge I could obtain just for opening a book. I also had five surrogate brothers so I got into all the mischief that boys get into. According to my father I gave him all his gray hair, I think it started going gray around that time. I also enjoyed anything outdoors, sports, animals and gardening.


An interview with Kelly Standard of Presto Studios.

Name: Kelly Standard
Job Title: Computer Artist
Company: Presto Studios, CA
Game Working on Recently: Myst III, Exile

G4G: if you were designing a game that would appeal to women - what would you pay attention to?
KS: My female instinct would have me paying a lot of attention to the look and feel of the graphics. I like to be visually stimulated in this area of entertainment. If a game is ugly, I won't play it. I'd also tend to incorporate quite a bit of story and symbolism since the meaning of things (the over analyzing of things) tends to be a female trait. I'd aim for something relatable. I'm not much of a shoot 'em up kind of gal.

G4G: Tell us a little bit about working on Myst III: Exile. What is your part in producing the game?
KS: I have never been a part of something so anticipated, which brings to this experience ample amounts of excitement and pressure. I've been a texture artist on the Age of Edanna on the Myst III project. I was all by myself in the Veggie Age, and what a grand time I've had of it! It was a challenge to make things look organic, but it was a challenge I grew to love instantly. I also took over what we call the 'greeble pass', which involves extra little pieces of eye candy, simple modeling, and anything to help sell the environment as authentic, natural. One challenge after the next; it’s really kept me on my toes...

G4G: How has the game industry changed with women entering the field?
KS: Perhaps this industry is changing with women entering in on the fun. I'm not aware of what things were like before I got here, but for whatever reason, I think the industry is growing up. Perhaps with women in the mix, the work place is more like real life. I suppose it offers a bit of reality to the otherwise fantastic, virtual world. Women in the industry satisfy the eternal balance of things.

G4G: How did you get into the game industry?
KS: I fell backwards into this industry---- and I thank God every day for it. I've been an oil painter since I was a wee tike, and got my degree in fine art from U.C. Santa Barbara. After college, I helped run a really great gallery downtown, but I got tired of just scraping by. Reluctantly after those two years, I chose a different career direction. I was working through a temp service, doing some accounting and other horrible, non-artistic things with the sad impression that my passion would have to take a back seat to the reality of paying rent. But then it happened. I ran into an art director for a local game company (literally ran into her in the lobby of the building before lunch one day), and she knew I was a painter. She invited me upstairs to take a look around their studio because they'd been looking for artists. She took a great big chance on me; she said it was easier to teach an artist how to use modeling and drawing software than it was to teach an egghead to have a vision. I learned volumes in a very short amount of time; I kind of surprised myself. You never stop learning in this industry. Things move and change so quickly, and there's so much competition. Never a boring moment. I love it.


An interview with Sarah Stocker of Stormfront Studios.

Name: Sarah W. Stocker
Job Title: Senior Producer/Asst. Dir. Of New Business
Company: Stormfront Studios, CA
Game Working on Now: Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor for PC; Legend of Alon D’ar for PSX
Favorite Games: Zelda 64 - Ocarina of Time, Magic the Gathering
Favorite Books: The Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter

G4G: We don’t usually think of women in this field. How did you get into it?
SWS: When I moved to the West Coast I saw an ad for a game company and sent in my resume. They were working on Dungeons and Dragons titles, so I wrote three chapters of a novel in a Dungeon and Dragons style to show them along with my other writing and poetry. The president liked it - I got the job. Before working in games I’d been a teacher and a journalist.

G4G: What were you like as an kid (8-12)?
SWS: I’ve always been a writer and a voracious reader. I started writing when I was 8. I kept a journal, wrote poetry and read everything I could get my hands on. In the library, when I found a book I liked, I would read through everything in that section, say 808.7 to 808.9. It was like eating candy! The school I was at was very supportive of creative writing. They made me feel that writing was special and valuable.

G4G: What kind of games have you worked on?
SWS: Everything from fantasy RPGs to children’s mysteries. My first game projects were the Eagle Eye Mystery series (Electronic Arts), mystery stories about boy/girl twins, Jake and Jennifer, set in different countries. It’s unusual because of the reversal in roles - the girl is the gadget freak and the boy is the socially adept one. After that, Star Trek, Deep Space Nine (Viacom New Media), Byzantine the Betrayal (Discovery Channel Multimedia), and Starfire Soccer (Purple Moon). I love writing science fiction, it’s very similar to fantasy as a genre. Science replaces magic in the world. Instead of the Orb of Water Fates, you have a laser pistol. The magic carpet becomes a space ship.

G4G: What kind of games do you think girls and women would like?
SWS: Girls play more with their minds than their thumbs. They want games with compelling stories and deep and complex characters - women characters that are risk takers, heroic, gorgeous, smart and powerful. No patsies or victims! I think the huge presence of women in online games has to do with the social interaction and storytelling possibilities there.

G4G: How is writing a story different from writing a game?
SWS: They begin the same way - with characters and stories that you try to make deep and complex. In the fantasy genre, we embrace a mythic and epic saga and give the player the opportunity to become heroic by solving problems. When writing for a game, rather than a book, you must always keep in mind what the player is doing. Always ask yourself, ‘What is the player’s action here?’ The game must provide the player with a clear instance of accomplishment in reaction to successful actions. Goals and information should be clearly given in the backstory. Player should be left with a feeling of achievement.

G4G: Have any advice on how to break into the field?
SWS: Start anywhere. Be willing to take on any task. Be organized, egoless, and motivated. Be part of the solution - people will notice and want you around.

G4G: What do you do for fun?
SWS: Needlepoint, writing poetry, bike riding - I ride to work. And I love fishing!

G4G: Tell me a little of Pool of Radiance.
SWS: It’s a PC D&D role playing game based on the new 3rd edition rules. The story is set in the capital of the ancient fallen empire of the elves, a kind of elven Camelot. The themes are all about the quest for lost glory and ideals. The action is driven by growth of the player characters and their successes in driving out evil and bringing back the remnants of that lost glory. My writing partner on the project is Ken Eklund, writerguy. He’s a wonderful writer and creative partner - and a real gamer. We can’t wait to see it on the shelves!

G4G: And The Legend of Alon D’ar?
SWS: It’s an action RPG for the Playstation 2. I’m the Senior Producer on that one. The writer is Christy Marx. She’s a terrific writer who’s done work for games, television and comic books. The story is an epic saga of good versus evil with themes of redemption and growth. We’re very excited about it.


An interview with Mary DeMarle of Presto Studios.

Name: Mary DeMarle
Job Title: Game Designer/Writer
Company: Presto Studios, CA
Game Working on Now: Myst III, Exile
Favorite Games: Gauntlet, Diablo, EverQuest. Role playing games and arcade games. Anything with a strong role-playing component, where I can lose myself in the creation of characters.
Favorite Books: Nancy Drew series, Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series

G4G: What is your part in developing the game?
MDM: My part in developing the game is to first come up with the basic gameplay and story idea—that is, what is the glue that is holding this game together? What is the player trying to achieve while playing and why are they trying to achieve it? I don’t do it alone—there’s a team of designers I work with at Presto but the other designers tend to focus on the game’s artistic design, rather than its story. Most of the story-related stuff is up to me to work out. Then, once we have the basic idea and story of the game solidified, I write the scripts for all the live action sequences, and the journals and story related materials that go into it.

G4G: How would you define good game play?
MDM: I has to be fun. You lose yourself and for a period of time you are away from real life and are connected to the story.

G4G: We don’t usually think of women in this field. How did you get into it?
MDM: I have loved science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid. I’ve also wanted to be a writer since I first learned how to spell. I have a lot of friends—some women friends but mostly male, I guess—who shared my interests and knew I really wanted to write science fiction and fantasy stories. So, when a writing opportunity came up at Presto, one of those friends thought of me and, after I went through an initial interviewing process, I ended up here.

G4G: What did you do before working on MystIII?
MDM: I’ve had a really varied work experience. I was a creative director at Hanna-Barbera for a while, working in the marketing and licensing divisions, before leaving to pursue a freelance writing career. Most of my freelance writing has been for the entertainment industry, writing ads and video box packaging. Right before coming to Presto, I worked as a freelance writer/designer for a company that made computer-based instructional training programs. So I picked up a lot of technical knowledge about computer programs and what goes into making them. It was very different than what I’m doing now but I’ve found that everything I’ve done in some way has a bearing on what I do next.

G4G: What were you like as a kid (8-12)?
MDM: I read a lot. I would spend a lot of time locked in my bedroom reading. But I also had four brothers who would drag me outside to go hiking in the woods or play softball or “hot box”. I also had some really great girlfriends to hang out with; we’d talk about our favorite movie stars (Harrison Ford), television shows, and stuff like that. I was a good student and in the academic spotlight a lot because of my grades. I was pretty shy for an achiever and tried to avoid the attention as much as possible. All in all, I was pretty tame as a kid.

G4G: What kind of games did you play?
MDM: Mostly imaginary games. My friends and I would pretend we were the Nancy Drew characters, and solve little mysteries around the house. Then, after becoming addicted to Star Wars and the TV show Battlestar Galactica, we would pretend we were members of the rebel alliance, hunting imperial stormtroopers. I didn’t get into computer games much back then, and it wasn’t until after college that I first played Dungeons & Dragons.

G4G: What kind of games do you think girls and women would like?
MDM: I think girls and women would like a lot of the same games men do—games like Half Life and Quake--but only if these games focused more on cooperation and less on the competitive, “I’m better than you” approach. AND if the gore and violence were tamed down considerably and not such a focus of the game. The gameplay behind these types of games is actually a lot of fun and I think women would enjoy the action, but not in the way it’s currently packaged. Girls multi-task much more that boys do and so they like to do more than one thing. They like to have someone share the fun with them. They like interaction and solving problems.

G4G: What should I study if I wanted to get into making games?
MDM: If you like to write, then read. A lot. If you like art, then take 3D modeling and art classes. Get familiar with computers. I’m not saying you have to be a tech head, but being familiar with a computer and what it can do at even the most basic level is very important in this industry. Get any kind job in the game industry you can - receptionist, mail room, office clerk - and get to know people.

G4G: What do you do for recreation?
MDM: Read, of course. And travel as much as possible. I love seeing new places and cities. I also like to go to plays and movies whenever I can. I’m also an athletic person so I love being active outside. I like tennis, but my favorite outdoor sport is rock climbing.

NOTICE
Unless otherwise indicated, games, movies, books or other products which are reviewed or mentioned on this site have been given to us by the respective authors, publishers, distributors or their public relations representitives.

Alphabetical list of all reviewed games
Chronological list of reviewed games
Reviews - Computer Based Games
Reviews - Console and Hand-held Games
Reviews - Multi-Player Games
Reviews - Mobile and Casual Games
Reviews - 4OurDaughter(s)
Reviews - Products, Software and Toys
Coming Soon
Oldies and Goodies
Reviews - Books, Movies and DVDs

Return to Games4Women Main Page
Go to Games4Grandmothers Main Page
Go to Games4Girls Archive Site (GinghamGames.com)



Games4Women is produced by Metron Studios, a division of Metron Computerware, Ltd., Oakland, CA
Copyright © 2001-2007 Metron Studios
Web presence by Metron Studios
20101010