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 Geogrify CEO and former IGDA executive director Kate Edwards discusses her experiences from a 26-year career in games and offers key advice for aspiring industry professionals looking to break in.
Edwards will be a speaker at Pockett Gamer Connects Seattle, which takes place on May 13th to 14th.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Kate Edwards: I would say that I have two roles in the games industry. The first and foremost is my culturalisation consulting, in which I essentially strive to help maximise the global reach of a game so as many people as possible can enjoy it.
This involves both hands-on content reviews of many aspects of the game, from the conceptual art and scripts, the character and environmental designs, and so on, as well as higher-level strategic advice for releasing a game in a specific market or region and what the implications might be.
My other role is that of an industry advocate, striving to be a force to positively change the industry and overcome its challenges. These include how the games industry is perceived by the public, caring for the physical and mental wellness of creators, making the industry more inclusive, and instilling a sense of fairness in how we treat each other.
On this last point, it's one reason I've founded the Game Creators Legal Defense Fund.
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?
In my academic career I've pursued aerospace engineering, industrial design and then finally geography and cartography, so quite a breadth of fields.
Given that my work is focused on content culturalisation, my geography background certainly is the strongest contributor to my work in games, but the experience on the art/design side also helps tremendously.
For aspiring game creators, the courses you take are of course highly dependent on your specific field of pursuit.
What I do encourage is to be open-minded and explore the possibilities of your talents. You may think you want to do a specific kind of job in games, but you might find something else that is even more appealing and you're really good at.
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?
I started in games through the job I had at Microsoft, which was as a cartographer on Encarta Encyclopedia and Encarta World Atlas.
You may think you want to do a specific kind of job in games, but you might find something else that is even more appealing and you're really good at.Kate Edwards
I saw various product groups making repeated geopolitical and cultural content mistakes in the products, so I was inspired to create a new kind of internal team called Geopolitical Strategy.
My responsibility was protecting all Microsoft products across all locales from these kind of risks, and that included all the PC and Xbox games
What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?
Without question, my favourite role is serving as a mentor. I've mentored many people in and around the games industry, and done some mentoring deals with my culturalisation work, but much of it is general career guidance
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
For my work, a lot of games creators will view it as some form of 'political correctness' or trying to placate people who loudly complain about a specific cultural issue.
But in reality, it's about assisting game designers to create worlds and content in those worlds that are compatible with as many different cultural expectations as possible.
We will never satisfy everyone, but we can strive to show respect to our players and to their cultures and geographies, and for me that's fundamentally what my work is about.
Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?
Well when I joined the industry 26 years ago, it was quite different from now. But I think if there's one thing I wish I had known, it was having better visibility on the working conditions that games creators have to endure.
While it's slightly improved, it still needs to change and it's part of what drives the advocacy side of my career.
What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
First and foremost, you must understand why you're passionate about games. Secondly, embrace your talents as they are and commit to constantly striving to improve.
Be open to constructive criticism of your work, be open to finding a mentor to help guide you, and strive to interact with other games creators. Networking is the foundation of finding the good jobs in this industry.
Is there anyone in the games industry (or anyone else in general) who inspires you?
Beyond my amazing parents, it's really hard for me to call out a single individual; there are SO many who inspire me and who have played a role in helping me become who I am.
People who have been in the games industry for about 20 or more years. Their view is priceless, seeing things that stay beyond trends.
You can read more profiles of some of the incredible women working in the games industry right here.