Interview

IWD22: “Our efforts of today will empower the women game developers of tomorrow.”

Renee Gittins of Phoenix Labs on how videogames are a key tool to empower women and minorities

IWD22: “Our efforts of today will empower the women game developers of tomorrow.”

Each year on March 8, we celebrate the achievements of women from all walks of life on International Women’s Day. Representation and gender equality in the games industry is an ongoing discussion and something that we believe is critical to creating and fostering an industry we can all be proud to be a part of.

In observance of International Women’s Day 2022, we’re highlighting some of the incredible female industry leaders that we are honoured to have speaking at our upcoming Seattle conference. We could not be more excited to have them as part of our star-studded speaker line-up, and we couldn’t wait until May to get to hear from them and to share their brilliant insights with our PocketGamer.biz readers, so, we had a chat with them about business, games and, of course, what it means to be a woman in games. We recently spoke with Original Fire Games' Carolina Mastretta, you can read our conversation here.

Next up on our Spotlight series is Renee Gittins, General Manager of Phoenix Labs - Vancouver, and a multi-disciplinary leader with expertise in software engineering and creative direction. She is a passionate advocate and connector for developers and diversity in the game industry, with a background that spans across engineering, design, and production. She sits on the IGDA Board of Directors and is outspoken about initiatives to increase diversity both within the game industry and gaming overall to help the game industry grow and improve for everyone.

PocketGamer.Biz: What game has been on your phone the longest?
Renee Gittins: Though it’s no longer on my phone, Love Nikki: Dress Up Queen was definitely on my phone and actively played longer than any other mobile game. I really enjoyed the balance of the creativity, collection, story, and fashion inspiration elements. It is pretty different from the FPS games I grew up on, but I truly cherish the wide range of games that are available these days to enjoy.

When not making/selling/playing games, what do you do to relax?
Outside of game development and gaming, I really enjoy cooking. Much like game development, cooking brings together creativity and science to produce a product I can enjoy by myself and with others. I love food science just as much as I love decorating a cute bento with rice cats and flower-shaped carrots.

Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
The largest barrier I’ve faced as a woman in games is being overlooked– whether it was not being recognized for my work, being assumed to be a romantic partner at an event instead of a developer, or my technical talents being disregarded. While there is a wide range of ways to combat this, my own approach is to assert myself and correct any misconceptions firmly and politely. Most of the time, the people who have made the assumption feel embarrassed when they realise their own biases, so I try to be clear in my corrections without being rude.

Why do you think diversity in the workplace is so important?
A diverse development team will innately build a more diverse and inclusive game, as the team members will incorporate their own backgrounds, experiences, heritage, and culture into their creations. Game developers are now better known than ever before, and the diversity of those creators also inspires the next generation of game developers to follow in their footsteps.

Video games need to be embraced for their ability to inspire our next generation, and diversity within these games is so important to optimise that inspirational effect for all of America’s youth. These digital worlds are a tool to uplift those who most need a hand, and inclusive games empower the women and minorities who play them to tackle challenges and pursue career paths they may have never considered otherwise.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in games?
As a woman in the game industry, I see myself as a proud game developer that acts as a welcoming equal to my peers, no matter their characteristics or background. I also believe that we women developers are the heroes that the next generation of girls looks up to, so we must strive to be the best examples possible while reaching for our dreams. Our efforts of today will empower the women game developers of tomorrow.

Hear more from Renee this summer
Want the opportunity to hear more from Renee Gittins and the Phoenix Labs team? She’ll be leading the conversation at the upcoming Pocket Gamer Connects Seattle among hundreds of other incredible industry leaders. Make sure you secure your spot at our west coast conference today and save up to $275 with our Early Bird offer before prices rise.

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