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 Phoenix Labs’ Renee Gittins, you can read our conversation here.
Hard truth is that mobile gaming, gaming or any kind of entertainment business is still a business and needs to make sense financially, or at least on projections.Marianna Vallejo
Next up on our Spotlight series is Marianna Vallejo, CEO of Daily Magic at Playrix. Marianna Vallejo is a video game designer and project management professional working in both high- and execution-level roles within her areas of expertise. Currently, Marianna manages operations at Daily Magic, a video game development and external development studio recently acquired by Playrix to work on the popular mobile game series Scapes™.
PocketGamer.Biz: What company do you most admire in the mobile games world?
Marianna Vallejo: I really like Rec Room. In the early days of the VR industry they created a very fun and casual VR ‘playspace’ and were successful even though it was really hard to pull off in such a small market. And they are very very bright in turning things around and entering the mobile space. I think it was a wise thing to do once it became obvious that Virtual Reality gaming is very far from being a mature market.
Why did you decide to go into the games industry?
Early in my professional career I discovered a game “Mystery Case FIles: Return to Ravenhearst”. I was very impressed by the deep and thriller-like story, combined with very casual gameplay and somewhat casual graphics. It was mind blowing to me and I saw a niche where I can express myself as a game designer.
What’s the most important key performance indicator (KPI) for you - and why?
I was struggling to figure it out in the beginning of my career, until I started investing. And since then the most important KPI is ‘cash on cash return’. If it's above 7%, I'm good. Hard truth is that mobile gaming, gaming or any kind of entertainment business is still a business and needs to make sense financially, or at least on projections.
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
It’s very sad and kinda gross, but I faced verbal sexual harrassment multiple times during conferences and networking events. I'm unsure why it's still happening in the modern world, there’s a lot of indication that it's not okay anymore and there can be serious consequences. So the way I deal with it is very important to share - if something like this happened I write up a full timeline and details about what happened and send it to my lawyer. My lawyer will coordinate how we deal with the situation and which departments on the harasser’s employer’s side should get involved, then depending on how serious it was my lawyer and that company will figure it out and usually the harasser will get fired. Important remark - my lawyer is not some fancy lawyer, it's just a regular lawyer and lawyers can be found through mutual connection or just in Google.
My proudest achievement is that I kept my studio Daily Magic alive for 10 years without investment.Marianna Vallejo
How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in games?
Aside from verbal encouragement and inspiring social network posts, I think the main incentive can be some kind of compensation for childcare. Especially in expensive regions, like Seattle or the Bay area, the average cost of child care is $1500-$2000 a month. On top of that there’s rent/mortgage and all kinds of other stuff. So it's just ridiculously expensive and very often becomes a barrier to get back to work or pursuing your career goals.
Another thing is company culture and policies enforcment, lots of sexual harrassment and equality trainings I’ve seen are cheesy and people don’t take it seriously.
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement is that I kept my studio Daily Magic alive for 10 years without investment (aside from my own money) and despite multiple ups and downs was still able to sell it to a big gaming company. It was extremely hard to pull off, but it happened and I can’t be more proud of me and my team. Lots of people in my team have been with the company for 5-8 years and I think this is huge too.
Hear more from Marianna this summer
Want the opportunity to hear more from Marianna Vallejo and the Playrix 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.