A video game developer aims to make the industry more appealing to girls | Way of life
Before Erin Robinson Swink started developing video games professionally, she thought her love for making games was lame.
“I was doing it as a hobby, and I didn’t really tell my friends about it because I thought it was silly,” she says.
Robinson Swink, now a senior quest designer at Guerrilla Games, started making video games in her college dorm. At the time, she was studying psychology, which is the study of the mind and behavior.
“I think I was procrastinating (on) my exams,” she laughs. “I found an internet forum of people who were doing free games, where you make a game and give it away for free on the internet,” says Robinson Swink. She credits this internet community with inspiring her to take game development more seriously.
According to a 2016 International Game Developers Association diversity report, 22% of game industry professionals sampled were women. Meanwhile, an Entertainment Software Association report released in 2020 found that 41% of gamers were women or girls. The gap between those who work on games and those who love games is huge.
Robinson Swink acknowledges the difficulties of feeling underrepresented.
“I was like, ‘How did I get here?’ … when, you know, there are so few people here who look like me,” she says.
The 34-year-old says her perspective as a female developer makes her better at her job. “I try to push genres a bit and do things that interest me,” she says.
Although she loves a classic fighting game, she also loves making games outside of that genre. Robinson Swink’s game “Gravity Ghost” is about a 12-year-old girl grieving while traveling in space. She independently released it for PC in 2015 and released it for PlayStation in 2019.
“I want to draw attention to my video games that feel authentic. The things I do are about families and stories and topics that maybe aren’t so common in video games,” says Robinson Swink.
She remembers a game from her childhood called “King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride”, which was developed by a woman named Roberta Williams. It was the first game that Robinson Swink thought was made for her.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is what games can be. They can be anything you want, you can tell these other kinds of stories,'” she says.
Robinson Swink says she hopes more girls have gotten this message because the industry has seen more gender diversity lately.
Advancing the industry
Laila Shabir, game developer and former teacher, hopes her organization, Girls Make Games, can help on that front. Shabir founded Girls Make Games in 2014 to provide programming lessons for girls interested in games. Girls between the ages of 8 and 18 can sign up for its annual summer camps or intensive workshops for beginners to advanced game developers.
“One of the biggest challenges we face with the program is the stereotypes about the games and the girls who play,” she says.
Shabir says there are many girls who could excel in the gaming industry, but they are unaware of the possibilities.
“Being able to expose them to the fact that there is something called a game studio and you could be a designer, a writer, an artist” can make a huge difference in making the industry more diverse, she says. .
Much like Shabir, Robinson Swink says moving the industry forward means more people feel welcome and empowered to love the game. When she released “Gravity Ghost,” she had that in mind.
“If you buy a PC version, it comes with another version to give to someone else,” she explains. “I just wanted to open it up to as many people as possible.”