Encouraging Empathy: Attending the Women in Games European Conference 2019

I’m Tash, I joined Third Kind Games in June 2019 as a QA Technician. I also assist with production work. I enjoy learning about every part of game development, with that I enjoy attending conferences, conventions and expos to be a part of discussions, new experiences and technologies emerging.

Attending a Conference

Women in Games European Conference 2019 in London was sold out for both days. This is a conference I’ve attended previously and is always full of panels, keynotes and workshops with speakers from across Europe. Topics vary wildly, from behind the scenes views of how a game has performed, analysing game development from various size studios, how best to help students enter the games industry, to more serious areas of discussion such as the gender pay gap and harassment in the industry.

It’s always going to be difficult to condense two days of any conference into something that someone is willing to sit and read the whole way through and actually get something from. That being said, I’ll focus on what I thought were the notable bits for myself.

Everyone I spoke with was fantastically nice and everyone loved spending the two days around each other. It was a nice change of pace from what I’ve usually experienced spending time in London. I enjoyed what every speaker had to say, but I cannot forget to mention the hosts; The Nerd Pirates. The entirety of the two days felt like a joy thanks to these two (along with the free small pastries!)

A few running themes through the entire conference were those of diversity, empathy and supporting each other. Everyone seemed to embody these themes, from the hosts, the speakers and the audience. I ended up leaving after two days feeling full of new-found confidence in myself. I believe it was thanks to the kind atmosphere this created that we were all able to have a great back and forth with the panellists on stage. 

Awesome panels

“Drawing from other things outside games can make the games you develop better.” 

This is something I scribbled down during “The Age of the Heroine” panel. Multiple panellists had come into the games industry after spending a significant part of their career in a different industry. War journalism, construction, archaeology, arts; these women all take inspiration from things outside of games. They also pointed out that some industries such as arts have been using some technology for years longer than games; VR and AR being examples. 

Another panel, “When There’s a Will There’s a Way”, explored the different paths that people can take to enter the games industry. As with the panel described previously, the panellists all entered the industry at different times in their lives and careers. Some from different industries, others changing roles within the industry. Hearing their stories, and other similar stories from other panels, is important for students taking their first steps in this industry to have a solid idea of what they could expect. I think it’s also inspiring for people who want to change careers to hear about this too, that it’s always possible and that creative people from any industry are welcome. We need only look at Black Mirror: Bandersnatch as an example of how TV, film and games merged together; if we continued exploring other industry inspirations, imagine what could be made.

Online Toxicity

I also attended a workshop about Tackling Toxicity hosted by Bryter Research and Ditch the Label. A few people I’ve spoken with since have expressed an idea that as there will always be some form of negativity or toxicity online. So what’s the point in trying to do anything? Well…why not at least try? It’s one thing to try to get rid of toxicity in an established community, it’s another for a company to embrace and support their communities from the start to help curate the type of community they can be proud to be a part of. It’s not a quick or simple task, but it’s always worth it to give it a shot. 

A lot of us spend the vast majority of our time online in some form; it shouldn’t be an impossible idea to want to make that experience a pleasant one for everyone involved. Women in Games European Conference 2019 received many good ideas from this workshop on how we can go about approaching solutions. These include having a code of conduct, rewarding positive actions; as well as ensuring an efficient reporting system with a moderation team that can handle reports swiftly. This is only a few of the suggestions; ones that online forums and chat rooms have been using for years, none of the ideas are new. Before a game goes live I really believe this kind of thing needs to be discussed; so that a company can ensure a community that everyone can be happy with.

Thanks for reading!

This is only a small selection of the panels and workshops from across the two days, the official Twitter account for the conference did a great job at highlighting other moments throughout, which can be found here: https://twitter.com/wigj 

With everything discussed, there was a similar message throughout. These discussions about equality in games are happening. They have been happening for a while and it’s important that companies be a part of them. The entire industry is a part of this; consumers, students and employees alike. I highly recommend attending a Women in Games Conference if you’re able to, or to check out the livestreams on Twitch to see previous talks: https://www.twitch.tv/wigj/videos

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