Interview

"Your career should not fully define your identity," says Popagenda co-founder Geneviève St-Onge

Women in Games week continues as Geneviève St-Onge highlights the need for identity.

"Your career should not fully define your identity," says Popagenda co-founder Geneviève St-Onge

The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from designers and presenters to directors and writers.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field.

As part of International Women's Day - taking place on March 8th, 2021 - PocketGamer.biz is spotlighting a number of talented women from the games industry under our Jobs in Games series, throughout the week.

Each profile will bring about a certain set of expertise, a different background, and a wealth of knowledge for women looking to join the industry or possibly find a new role within. Most importantly, there will be some key information on how to get started, what common challenges you could face, and why more needs to be done to help push female diversity in games.

Next up, we spoke with Popagenda co-founder Geneviève St-Onge about starting a publishing company from scratch, moving to San Francisco for love, and why your identity should not be defined entirely by your career.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Geneviève St-Onge: I co-founded Popagenda about three years ago, and we are what we call “a publisher for hire”. My primary focus in the company is to design go-to-market strategies for the developers we work with: defining their product positioning, competitive landscape, campaign pace, PR strategy, and doing business development with first parties and other marketing partners.

Launching Hitman GO, Hitman: Sniper, Lara Croft GO and Deus Ex GO were true career highlights for me.
Geneviève St-Onge

I spend another good chunk of my time helping early projects secure platform partnerships or the funding they need for their development.

How did your journey into games begin and how did you progress into the role?

I started my career in the games industry by sheer luck in 2011 in Quebec at Frima Studio, a developer that did mostly work for hire; I applied for an entry-level job doing number crunching and production budget estimates for the pitch team. About a year in, I transitioned over to their intellectual property department to make better use of my marketing degree as a marketing manager, then associate brand manager.

After a few years of launching multiple projects across a variety of platforms, including PC, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox, iOS/Android, and browser-based (even Facebook, what an era that was), Square Enix Montreal approached me to fill a role at their brand new studio as a brand manager to market their creative mobile spins on triple-A franchises such as Hitman, Tomb Raider and Deus Ex. Launching Hitman GO, Hitman: Sniper, Lara Croft GO and Deus Ex GO were true career highlights for me.

In 2016, I fell in love with a very loud and charming American, and decided to move to San Francisco to see where life would take me. Turns out immigration is one hell of a process and after nine months of waiting for my work authorisation document and volunteering at the SPCA as a dog walker, I had gone crazy enough to want to start my own business. That’s pretty much how Popagenda came to be.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

I was fresh out of college and no idea that a career in video games was an actual possibility. However, the second I set foot at my first studio job I knew that’s where I belonged. I’ve always had this very naive plan of having my own studio by the time I was 30, little did I know it would take on the form of a publisher for-hire agency.

What did you study (if anything) to obtain your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

I had a mere business degree from a regional college and a passion for games. I think nowadays there are way more options to study in the field, but I am not in a position to absolutely recommend pursuing a course if you aspire to make it in the industry.

I’m sure it helps, but developing your own skills and finding mentorship makes one hell of a difference as well. Stay up to date on trends, watch talks on topics that you are passionate about and follow industry professionals that inspire you.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

The whole experience of helping the teams bring their games to market is an absolute reward to me. Making a video game is an entire journey on its own, and every day I wake up excited to take the burden off of them for the final stretch of their adventure. I like to think that we make that very last, stressful mile a little easier for them.

What do you find are the most common misconceptions, public or professional, about women working in games?

I think a common misconception (which applies to the workspace in general, not just games) is that we are more accommodating, while in reality, we’ve had to voluntarily take on more work than average in order to be noticed or taken seriously throughout our careers.

It’s incredibly easy to blur the lines between your personal life, passion and career when those three circles intersect...
Geneviève St-Onge

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

That there is a fundamental difference between being loyal to a corporation and being loyal to your career. Businesses thrive with or without you as their employee. You should give them your absolute best in exchange for opportunities of equal value, but always keep yourself and your own career your top priority.

Do you feel female characters are better represented in video games today, as opposed to when you entered the industry?

There certainly is a higher number of female characters in games nowadays, but more importantly, they are written by women. We’ve seen a lot more progress to include non-binary and trans characters as well, and more diverse casts in general, which is even better.

Can you tell us about some of the biggest challenges you have encountered since joining the industry?

Several years into my career, I realised that I had been pouring a disproportionate amount of time into my job in comparison to other fields of my personal life, such as non-industry related relationships, personal hobbies and interests.

It’s incredibly easy to blur the lines between your personal life, passion and career when those three circles intersect, so be mindful of setting proper boundaries in your schedule, relationships and pastimes. Your career should not fully define your identity. I learned that the hard way when I temporarily lost the ability to work.

What more can be done to encourage more women to consider a career in games?

Beyond having more inclusive spaces and friendlier approaches to recruitment in the industry, there should be more long term considerations and measures in place to make sure that women have the proper tools to maintain a thriving career, while often carrying the mental load of family caregiving.

St-Onge spoke as part of a Ubisoft Women in Games panel in Toronto.

We are lucky to be in a very progressive industry, but wanting a family and having a successful career should not be opposite choices of one another. Things like flexible schedules, smart parental leave strategies and unlimited family leave (which are all things we have put into place at Popagenda for our first full-time hires) allow for less stressed out staff and long term benefits for the company.

Any final bits of advice for women looking for a job in this profession?

Find a mentor that fits your style and values, and listen to talks or watch conferences from industry professionals you feel are in alignment with your goals and aspirations. Try to learn as much as possible about the field that interests you with the plethora of resources available online, and build a presence on social media if you can.

We’re in a weird new era with all physical events now being a thing of the past, so meeting your peers and networking will be more difficult than ever. Luckily, more and more digital event spaces are popping up, so keep an eye out and pray that they can bridge the gap temporarily.

Features Editor

Matthew Forde is the features editor at PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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