Here at PocketGamer.biz we celebrate diversity of all kinds. Speaking to various inspiring women at our Pocket Gamer Connects events around the world, and being aware that there is still a real need to shout about the subject, we decided to focus on females for December. In this series of features we will interview various women working in gaming, as well as sharing other stories around the subject.
PocketGamer.biz: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?
I am the Chief Strategy Officer for in-game advertising leader Bidstack, where I have led the commercialisation of the business over the past three years. It has been a rapid journey in doubling our headcount with best of breed talent to over 80, growing our global portfolio of game developers, expanding our breadth of products, raising over $40m and closing Irdeto our first strategic investor.
Prior to Bidstack, I worked with Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP, at the time the largest global agency holding group, and at Jefferies, a US investment bank leading Internet & Media equity research. My experience is steeped in disruptive and new business models where the first mover in the market prospers from innovation and taking risks.
What first attracted you to the gaming industry?
Gaming fosters creativity, connectivity, collaboration and communities. The digital world is shifting away from consumption to creation: people are drawn to experiences they can contribute to as evidenced by the success of TikTok, Roblox, Twitch, Minecraft, YouTube and Instagram.
Gaming as a media channel is a compelling proposition as it is currently relatively untapped given its exponential reach to consumers, where mobile penetration and free-to-play has been a catalyst. In-game currently represents about 1% of global advertising, which highlights the size of the opportunity for game developers and publishers as the structural shift accelerates.
What effect do you think the culture within which you grew up has had an influence on your career path?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia which is far away from the rest of the world. Looking towards global cities has motivated my career choices especially since I did not study abroad. I have established myself in London, UK for over a decade now where I have had the opportunity to travel, work with the brightest minds and continuously enrich my curiosity.
What challenges have you had to face during your career - thinking specifically about being a female in the industry?
Moving beyond the limitations and perceptions of being a female in gaming and technology is liberating, requiring perseverance and conviction in yourself. The size and diversity of the gaming industry creates roles and space at the table for female leaders. These are the positive changes I have observed and experienced. It is vital to embrace differences to drive successful outcomes and trailblazers such as Sarah Bond at Xbox, Laura Miele at EA, Christina Wootton at Roblox and Cherry Freeman at Hiro Capital are pioneering the way.
What advice would you give to companies looking to improve equality within the workplace?
The business case for equality and diversity is stronger than ever as it is proven to drive outperformance and sustainable growth for companies. BCG’s survey of companies demonstrated that those with above average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation.
It is important to have commitment from all members of the executive team to be conscious of hiring decisions and implement a culture of inclusivity from the top down. This approach will also enable attracting and retaining outstanding talent which is at the heart of building great companies.
And what advice would you give to other women joining the industry?
Gaming is a golden opportunity for women of all backgrounds and experiences to contribute and grow the thriving ecosystem. The tailwinds from mobile, cloud gaming, democratisation of creation, interest in the metaverse and access to capital reinforces the scope of roles available. The industry is friendly as there are many events, panels, podcasts, conferences and countless reasons to connect, upskill and reinvent yourself.
Who inspires you the most (not necessarily from within games)?
Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of Darktrace, a UK listed cybersecurity company. She is truly inspirational, authentic and has an approachable style. I first came across her at Morgan Stanley’s 2018 Technology Conference in Barcelona prior to the IPO where I was in the audience listening to her talk about her career. She empowered me to make the changes I did to move out of my comfort zone and into an early stage technology company in gaming.
Since you entered the games industry, what is the biggest change you’ve seen and is this for better or worse?
The stereotype that women don’t play games couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact over two thirds of mothers game globally, particularly on mobile. This demographic is valuable given that women make up 80% of purchasing decisions and control up to 40% of wealth.
There is a seismic shift in perceptions of what this audience looks like. More games are being built with women in mind, female playable characters are being created and women are taking a more prominent role in the entire creative process from writing code to voice acting.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
Alleviate apprehension from some developers around in-game ads. There is ample evidence and data to suggest that there are several alternatives for developers from established right through to independents to create a diversified monetisation strategy.
Unity’s 2022 gaming report shows that more players are watching ads and that ads improve retention. 62% of developers surveyed by IDC believe a combination of in-app advertising and in-app purchases is the best strategy to meet both ARPDAU and retention targets. Across all of our 2021 Lumen eye-tracking studies, 68% of gamers surveyed thought the ads placed in our portfolio of titles were well suited to their gaming experience.
Bidstack’s immersive monetisation formats enhance the gameplay experience which is aligned with the artistic vision of the developers to produce a beautiful and commercially successful game.
If you could only keep 3 games on your phone for the rest of time, which would you choose?
Madden NFL 23 where I am learning the rules of American Football as I prepare for my first game as a spectator next year.
Chess.com where I keep my mind agile as I practise puzzles and play with friends.
DREST founded by the visionary Lucy Yeomans, the ultimate luxury fashion and lifestyle game where I am engrossed in working through a daily styling brief with brands I can only dream of owning in real life.