Comment & Opinion

Emma Raz: How I found my way into gaming

NumberEight's Emma Raz profiles her change from cybersecurity to mobile gaming, what she loves about the industry, and ways it can better support women

Emma Raz: How I found my way into gaming

Emma Razz is director of commercial at NumberEight.

I didn't come into gaming with a specific purpose. Instead, I stumbled my way into it.

To be honest, I didn't play many video games as a child. It was only once I started working with games studios that I learned how much I love and enjoy gaming. Now, I couldn't imagine not playing at least an hour a day.

So how did I end up here? I've started my career in cybersecurity, working with hardware manufacturers. But I wanted a change, to focus more on commercial decisions, and the mobile games industry is a perfect fit: a world of performance marketing and monetisation.

In my first role within gaming - as games advertising client partner at AppNext - my main responsibility was working with gaming studios and getting the right type of people playing their games. This necessitated knowing the games and how to market it, and engaging with gaming studios more directly.

I’ve always enjoyed solving the commercial puzzle and helping companies be profitable, but it felt twice as important to get the business model right in gaming, as the economy has to become part of the gameplay itself. Finding the right balance between making the game fun to play and a fully functioning business has been challenging and very rewarding.

It was only once I started working with games studios that I learned how much I love and enjoy gaming.
Emma Raz

It is why, in my work at NumberEight, I want to explore ways to take economy design to a new level by bringing physical entertainment data into the virtual gaming world.

Where we falter

However, it hasn't all been smooth sailing, and my journey had a share of bumps along the way. For one, as a non-gamer coming into gaming, I felt like a fraud for the longest time.

But more importantly, being a woman, I was often viewed as a decorative tool at gaming events. The term "booth babe" is a little outdated, but it remains an unstated reality. The true problem lies in the fact that I know I am not alone in feeling this way. It is heartening to more and more women at gaming events, but the truth is that we still have a long way to go.

There is a wider issue, as a woman working in tech – not just in gaming – and especially in a leadership role: I often had to work twice as hard and prove myself many times over to justify my place. Whenever I joined a new company, I remember having to 'justify' myself more so than my male colleagues.

It is the same influence that makes women more prone to imposter syndrome. We, as a society, keep sending women conflicting messages: be confident but not too much. Take control but don't be too bossy. Is it any wonder that most women find themselves confused and unsure one time or another?

We, as a society, keep sending women conflicting messages: be confident but not too much. Take control but don't be too bossy.
Emma Raz

The underrepresentation of women in gaming also impacts the gaming experience for players, and the use of male validation to signal success within the game design and storyline. I sometimes question how some studios design games for women, when they have to seek approval from a male NPC on what they wear or how they look to win a stage or level up. I dress for myself and would prefer a compliment from a girlfriend to some guy I barely know. But what makes it truly horrible is the narrative we are telling young girls taking their first steps exploring the world of gaming.

Games are just as important as any other media formats in shaping social conventions and beliefs. We are responsible for players and the content we encourage them to consume. To create a more balanced and diverse narrative, we must better represent the diversity of games' companies, the people within, and those playing the games.

How we do better

If representation is a key factor in solving industry-wide issues, how can we better support and encourage women to join the gaming industry and take on leadership roles? I believe that the answer lies in a four-step approach:

Games are just as important as any other media formats in shaping social conventions and beliefs.
Emma Raz
  • Recruitment: diversify our channels and continuously provide space to include more diverse voices. It is known that women tend to wait until the last date of a job application submission to have more time to work on the application. Therefore, if you want to give women more opportunities, make sure not to close the application early, or you will be missing out on great candidates.
  • Acknowledgement: not all employees have the exact needs and requirements. Not all employees communicate their needs and conditions in the same way. It is up to us to provide the suitable space and opportunity for their voices to be heard and then have the foresight and understanding to take these diverse opinions and shape more flexible and inclusive policies.
  • Education: to believe you can succeed, you often need to see someone like you growing first. Role models help more women believe that they can make it. However, education doesn't end with women. To be successful, we must educate every employee on a diverse working environment and how different communication and working styles can be just as valid as their own. For example, an emotional response – even tears – isn’t strictly a negative or unprofessional reaction.
  • Support: Journeys experience setbacks, struggles, and challenges along the way. This is why a solid foundation of support is vital in inviting women to join the industry and encouraging and supporting them in every step they make. The most important feeling is from special training programs, communities, or simply open conversations. Most importantly, knowing that you are not alone.

Is it even possible? Can we really fundamentally change the system? Of course we can.

One of my favourite quotes from Alice in Wonderland is: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Even if something seems unreachable, we first need to believe in it and choose to try for it to become a reality. I believe in this industry, this community, and the fantastic people that made it to what it is today. We can make it even better, though we will need to continue striving towards what might seem impossible to others. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.