Today is International Women's Day and to mark the occasion we'll be highlighting some of the incredible women working in the games industry across both PocketGamer.biz and PCGamesInsider.biz. You can catch all the profiles on PocketGamer.biz here.
Here MiTale CEO and creative director Natasha Trygg discusses her background in art, a successful career in games and why aspiring industry professionals shouldn't be afraid to fail.
Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Natasha Trygg: As an individual that is interested and active in so many things and disciplines, it is sometimes hard to pick one thing as a “current role” but let’s try.
I am CEO and creative director of MiTale, a games development company from Finland that focuses on narrative-driven experiences in mixed reality and gamification.
Besides a day job, I am chairwoman of IGDA Finland and active board member of Neogames and the Finnish Game Developers Association.
I also teach game design and game art at University of Turku, since I am bound to my academic background.
What did you study (if anything) that helped you get into games? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals interested in your areas of expertise?
Good question. My background is in classical arts (painting) and art theory (semiotics, philosophy etc), which is incredibly useful if not even necessary in my current day-to-day work in the industry.
Games development requires diverse expertise and knowledge from other sciences besides tech, since games are experiences – no matter if we speak of entertainment, education, therapy or any other form or impact games have on us.
What I usually say to my students and like-minded people who wish to pursue a career in the industry is to try out different parts of the creative and technical process in developing games. It is very important to test oneself and step out of one’s comfort zone when it comes to making games.
Game jams are the perfect example of such an approach! Therefore, attend game jams, become more active with the local gaming community through local events and activities (IGDA has chapters and active communities all over the world – join!), meet other developers and learn from them: we love to share all the good and bad, do not be afraid to ask.
As for education, there are numerous games development programs available in universities and other schools worldwide.
Depending what your personal interest is, make sure to contact teachers or other students that are in that department. Again, community can help with those advices, just ask!
Where did you get your start in games and how did you progress into what you're doing now? Is this something you ever imagined yourself doing?
In my case, I had two active streams and entrances to the industry. One was during my doctoral studies where I used games as a form of cultural heritage instead of, for example, contemporary digital art pieces in modern museums.
Second was as a freelancer concept artist, character designer and other graphics-related production (2D graphics and animations) that led me to completely commit to the gaming industry.
As mentioned, all previous knowledge and personal interests were a great asset in nailing the first steady job in the industry.
Diverse expertise and possibilities in utilising them is what makes our industry so incredibly interesting and wonderful.
What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?
Creative side (game design, interactive storytelling, still very active with concept art on top of all...) but as every team needs someone to lead and make sure there is a bread on the table to feed our families, I also have to do business development.
Failure is necessary and extremely important to learn from. Just make sure you get up on your feet and try again and again.Natasha Trygg
The business side is also very fulfilling once you learn how to say proper “no”, which takes time. However, no matter how challenging the games business is, the team and what we do together through our games makes it all worth the trouble.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
Definitely! Also being a woman in a leadership position can sometimes be tricky. Not mentioning having a background in art and humanities: how can someone like that lead a successful gaming company?
How I approach these issues is by actively working on breaking those misconceptions through hard work and given results, showing with concrete examples how things can be handled differently, how the team can be treated with respect while supporting their individual interests and needs and how business development can be done without burned bridges or crunch.
It is possible, but it takes more effort. It is, however, our duty to try to be better and to make our industry a better place each and every day.
Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?
To my younger self I would say two things. One: you have no idea what you are actually capable of! And I mean this in a positive manner. I have developed a lot personally as much as professionally and I have had nothing but a very good experience working in the industry.
Second: once others know you are good at business and managing teams, no one will care how good of an artist you may be.
I had no idea this would happen and that is how I always ended up leading projects/teams. I do not mind that, the team is what makes magic happen in our field of work and making sure the team can do what they wish is what makes me enjoy what I do.
What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
Try everything that games development has to offer and do not be afraid to fail - failure is necessary and extremely important to learn from. Just make sure you get up on your feet and try again and again.
Is there anyone in the games industry (or anyone else in general) who inspires you?
There are so many people that truly inspire me! One of my biggest idols is Angie Smets from Guerrilla Games, then Rami Ismail from Vlambeer and also Robin Hunicke from Funomena and so so so many others!
This is as difficult a question as someone asking me “what is your favourite game”, like I can ever pick just one…
You can read more profiles of some of the incredible women working in the games industry right here.
Natash Trygg was a speaker Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki in September. The next PGC event takes place in Seattle on May 13th to 14th. We'll be back in Helsinki later this year.