Girls Behind Games

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On International Women’s Day, some of our developers share reasons they’re passionate about games, and let girls thinking about getting into the industry know that we need their voices.

We also took over the Girls Behind Games Twitter account on March 5th to shine a spotlight on some of the women behind our games. Here are their stories.

Melissa Davidson

Hello! My name is Melissa Davidson, I’m a gameplay designer @BioWare with a focus on creature design #GirlsBehindTheGames
I spent 10 years as a freelance game designer and artist. I graduated from animation school into the 2008 recession, and there were no normal jobs available—particularly for new grads with no experience.
I started my own business, doing outsourced art and design for indie games out of my home. Years later I was ready for a change, so I moved across the country to work on Disney’s Club Penguin. After that, I moved back to Toronto and continued freelancing.
I decided to work for BioWare ~9 months ago because I love RPGs. I believed I would bring a lot of value to the studio, and that it would help me grow as a developer. So, I moved to Edmonton.
I could have easily given up in 2008 when I realized there were no jobs. Instead I thought, “Hey, I’ll try being self-employed for a few months, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll try something else.” That persistence totally changed my entire life.
You have to be willing to take a chance on yourself—on your perspective, and on your own view of life. Go for it! You’ll be very surprised by how ready the world is for you.
BioWare was founded by 3 doctors, and I don’t think the studio would have been anywhere near as amazing had it not been for their unique perspective. However, you don’t have to be a doctor to make a difference or to make really cool stuff.
Diverse teams are so necessary in this industry. Game development pulls from such a wide range of fields—not just programming and art, but architecture, psychology, history, law, science, you name it.
There’s a whole world of opportunity waiting for you. Come join us.
PS: My first video game was Zelda III. My uncle came to visit 4-year-old me on vacation in 1991 with a brand new SNES and introduced me to the game. I was so obsessed that my parents bought me a SNES after he left.

Shanda Wood

Hi. I’m Shanda, the Studio Recruiter at BioWare. Let’s talk about the best way to get a job with a game studio. #GirlsBehindtheGames
The most important thing is to carefully read the job description. Make sure you understand what the role entails and the skills required, and then highlight how you meet those qualifications throughout your resumé.
Likewise, your portfolio and demo reel should highlight examples of what the studio is asking for.
“A strong resumé needs to have:
-Contact info and a link to samples of your work
-Work experience or education
-Details highlighting your relevant expertise
-Hobbies or interests that show unique qualities you bring to our team”
Include links to your work, preferably at the top of your resumé. You want your reel to be easy to find and review. Also make sure your reel is polished and complete.
“When a recruiter calls you, that’s a good sign. 😊
Do your research about the company and position, then have questions for us.
You also want to ensure this will be a great fit for you and your career.”
“Don’t be afraid to apply. You belong in this industry and have the ability to succeed here.
You are in the driver’s seat of your own career, so make sure you have the tools in place to make your next move.”
If you are passionate about games and want to join the BioWare team, please visit our careers page at

Asa Roos

“Hi all. My name is Åsa Roos, and I’m the principal UX designer on @AnthemGame #GirlsBehindtheGames
UX stands for User eXperience, which means I design how the game talks and explains itself to the player. In other words: interfaces. ”
When @ShandaRecruiter asked me if I wanted to interview for a UX position, I had to make sure my friends weren’t pulling my leg. I love BioWare games so much, so I thought they were pranking me.
I’ve been a game developer for about 18 years. When I started out, I was one of very few women in the industry. It was kind of lonely and it was rare that I had female colleagues.
What felt worse is that I rarely got to work on games that reflected my experiences or put me in the role of the heroine. I felt left out and alone—like I didn’t have a place in the industry.
“I tried hard. I became super skilled at games so I could beat my colleagues and prove I was like them.
But no matter how much I tried, there was always someone who would tell me I’d never belong because I was a girl.”
“Once, a colleague looked me straight in the eye and said, “”Women can’t make games.””
To me, this was an unfair metric. No one should be judged by traits they can’t control. Being a woman doesn’t make you bad at games. So, I decided to change things.”
As one of the few women in games, I was also very visible. I was invited to give talks, grant interviews, and participate in debates. I used the opportunity to point out an unfair system: women were being excluded because they were women.
So I debated, wrote articles, held talks, and butted heads with everyone from commenters on internet articles about women in games to people representing powerful interests within the Swedish gaming industry.
For a long time, I felt like nothing was happening. I had my share of setbacks. I was harassed. I was told I was scaring women away from games by pointing out these issues. I was told to be quiet, sit down, and not rock the boat.
“Then the most amazing thing started happening: the debate opened up!
More people joined in, and they had similar views to mine. I was supported by other women, but not just women. Even the game development community started to agree; something had to be done.”
We can talk about games in a completely different way now. We are represented in games. The feeling I got the first time I stepped into Shepard’s shoes was indescribable. I could be tough, flirty, and brave. I could save the world. I belonged. At BioWare, I belong.
Over the years, I’ve had women tell me I’ve made a difference for them. My persistence and willingness to demonstrate that there are women in games and that we deserve to have our stories told has encouraged others to go into games.
They’re the ones who have kept me going. I wouldn’t have tried so hard to change things if I didn’t have all these other women to help solve problems, rant with, and talk to. The more of us there are, the harder it will be to resist change.
I truly believe games can change the world and how we perceive it. But I also think each of us can change the world, and that by being persistent, I have.
When I started, I never could have imagined my work to change the Swedish gaming industry and culture would be recognized by the University of Skövde with an honorary doctorate, or that I’d be named Gamer of the Year by Sverok.
“For me, those awards mean two things:
1) The world is changing.
2) One person can make a difference.
There are quite a lot of us. Imagine what we can do together.”

Emily Taylor

There are a lot of misconceptions about how many girls there are in games, so we wanted to take a moment to share some facts.
Multiple recent studies report that 41–48% of gamers are women. This includes a broad age range and is consistent across first-world nations.
And while it’s commonly thought women are mostly mobile gamers, a Pew survey on technology found more female respondents owned consoles than males (36% of men vs 42% of women)
“When we look at teenage girls, per one study of girls in Pennsylvania, only 19% said they don’t play games. In another Pew study, 59% of teenage girls said they play video games.
The market is shifting!”
“Girls play games but aren’t as social about it as boys. In a Pew survey, 47% of girls said they prefer to play offline.
Of those who played online, only 28% used voice chat (compared to 70% of boys).”
“Gaming is full of women, and they are a critical part of the industry’s future.
We’re waiting for you. Come join us.”

Sam Maggs

Hi, I’m Sam Maggs, associate writer here at BioWare, and author of books and comics!
I grew up in a very nerdy household and have always loved games (shout-out to Burger Time on the Intellivision), but I never thought there was a career path for me there.
I’m a writer with a BA and MA in English, and always thought I’d need a degree in computer science or programming to get a job in games.
As I got older and I started to be more vocal about the nerdy things that I loved, I discovered an open and welcoming community of other women online waiting for me!
Playing through the Mass Effect trilogy for the first time in 2014, I tweeted about my experience and bonded with a ton of other gals who couldn’t wait to share their ME stories with me.
I met one of my best friends, @megsauce , this way. I fell in love with her Commander Shepard tattoo, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Through the Mass Effect community, social media, and the connections I’d made through conventions and my writing, I discovered there was a whole other side to the games industry.
A side that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with programming or tech savvy—a side that involved creating characters for people to love, or hate, or sometimes both simultaneously.
I’m in love with the storytelling potential in games— the way you get to tell your own story and have real agency in your choices and relationships, and how those in-game relationships can forge ones IRL.
So, what does that mean if you want to write for games? Well, I came to my job first through digital journalism and then traditional publishing, and had lots of advice and mentorship from online friends in the industry.
My first piece of advice would be to connect with people online who you admire—people who’ve made games you love, yes, but also people around you, your own age, who are forging their own careers in games.
Form genuine relationships with like-minded people, and you’ll be able to help each other as you come up in the industry together.
“My next piece of advice is to write! People always tell me they want to be a writer . You know what? The only difference between someone who wants to be a writer and someone who IS a writer is writing.
Have you written something? Congratulations, you’re a writer!”
Thanks to the internet, the barrier to entry is so low for creating your own content that you don’t need to wait for permission.
Start making your own games! Your voice is unique, and we need it. There’s a whole audience out there hungry for the interesting life experiences you bring to the table.
Become familiar with Twine. It’s an awesome and free online tool where you can build your own text-based games (like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel).
Twine will help you learn some basic coding, and will teach you how to handle branching dialogue options. I even did my writing test for BioWare in Twine!
Writing for games forces you to work super creatively within constraints, and also lets you work as part of a collaborative team to improve your ideas. I love that.
Ultimately, people take a ton of different paths into games, and there’s no end to the skillsets we need to bring these things to life. It’s important to encourage girls to get into STEM, but there are a ton of arts-based careers here, too!
“So read a lot, write a lot, make a lot of connections, and play a lot of games.
I’m sure I’ll see you soon. Please let me know if you have any questions and we can chat!”

Karin Weekes

Hi, I’m Karin Weekes, lead editor at BioWare. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite moments from my 12 years in the industry.
Talking with an entire family who were cosplaying as the Normandy crew, complete with a stroller tricked out as the ship itself. Hearing about what the characters, worlds, and stories meant to them, and how they enjoyed that game being a party of their family experience.
Being told “that gay/mature female/transgender character in a BioWare game was the first time I saw myself reflected in a video game.” Being a part of that process is special, and very, very important.
Getting gas for my car after a long day, and then seeing the face of the young woman behind the counter light up when she sees my Mass Effect t-shirt, talking with her about how excited she is for Mass Effect 2 to come out, and her thanking me and my colleagues for making games that are special to her.
When I’m lucky enough to go to conventions and meet women from all over the industry, present panels with them, play Cards Against Humanity and Rock Band with them, and realize how many of us there actually are!
Becoming comfortable with not being a “typical” game designer. Who I am encompasses adjectives like “middle-aged/female-identifying/mother/bi-racial/pansexual.” Those traits are assets I can use to make suggestions or ask questions that might make part of the game more inclusive for another player somewhere.
That geek chic has expanded so much in my 12 years in the industry, and includes so many more sizes, styles, and patterns that actually fit me! (A.k.a. “You can pry my lacy Captain America shrug out of my cold, dead hands.”)
The very many men in this industry who value my skill, and not only “don’t care” that I’m a woman, but who recognize that fact as being valuable. And my male colleagues who want to work in studios and make games that are inclusive and have varying perspectives on the world.
Devs of all genders who realize no one person knows everything, and that it’s good to actively reach out to others to find out what you’re missing as you do your best to create appropriate representation. And who forgive you when you misstep, and help you do better next time.
The amazing creative ingenuity of cosplayers. Tips shared, groups joined, and getting to see that painstakingly-crafted templar armor in person . (This is me meeting @HemiArt IRL at @GeekGirlCon in 2012. She’s now a #GirlBehindTheGames at @RiotGames which makes me smile a lot.)
The smiles and nods you get from the other people wearing N7 hoodies in public.
My sons’ teachers telling me with a laugh that they have me speak last during “Come Talk To The Class About Your Job” week, because not many other jobs seem as cool as making games.
Twitter. (Yes, really.) Meeting people who make and play games through Twitter has allowed me to make connections, learn so much about so many things, and let me coo over cosplay from the other side of the world. Any negativity is dwarfed by fun and emotion and good experiences.
“Getting chances to tell anyone who wants to work in games but doesn’t feel like they conform to the “traditional game dev mold” that they can be here.
They should be here.
We, the industry, REALLY NEED you to be here. Can’t wait to see you. 😊”

Danielle Butkovic

Hi! I’m Danielle, @BioWare’s finance manager. #GirlsBehindtheGames
I’ve been here five years, and have worked on @DragonAge, @MassEffect, @SWTOR and @AnthemGame.
I lived in #YEG for years without knowing we had a games industry. I never thought I could work in games because I wasn’t a programmer or designer. But there are so many different opportunities in the industry, and BioWare works hard to create an inclusive workplace.
“We also work in our communities to encourage girls to get into games.
Recently, 25 high school girls visited our #YEG studio for a workshop we put on with the Alberta Girls Engineering and Technology Summit and @LearningCode.”
We taught them about the different jobs available and the opportunities to change your career path within games. The jobs many of them will have likely don’t exist yet, so it’s important to be a good communicator and team player.
The more diverse voices we have in our industry, the better our games will be. This is why we invest back into our communities to let people know games are for everyone.
There are so many ways to get involved in this industry. Whether you’re an artist, a programmer, a writer, an accountant, a business manager, or support staff, we’re waiting for you. Come join us.