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.
Leanne Loombe is the Vice President of External Gaming at Netflix, who have had a pretty good year in 2022, with plenty more coming in the new year.
PocketGamer.biz: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?
I started making games about 20 years ago in the UK working on titles such as Scrabble, Risk and Magic the Gathering. After working for a Tsutaya Game publishing division in Japan for a couple of years, I returned to the UK and joined Electronic Arts as a Senior Producer. It was here that I married my love for cars and games by heading up multiple Need for Speed titles including leading the transition to a community-run live service. After that I went on to create and head up Riot Forge - the external publishing division of Riot Games, making a variety of League of Legends story games including Ruined King. Today I am vice president of External Games at Netflix, where I oversee a team that curates and builds a large portfolio of externally developed games for our 223+ millions of members and aim to change the way we play games through Netflix.
What first attracted you to the gaming industry?
I always knew I wanted to make video games, I started playing when I was young because my best friend was lucky enough to have an Atari ST, so we played together. The (Original) Streets of Rage on the Sega Mega Drive was the first game I fell in love with, it brought me so much joy, it brought my friends and I together during difficult times and it created a passion inside me to become a creator and make something for people that would bring them the same joy. It was also the first time I saw a strong female protagonist in a game, one that was a complete badass and not just a pretty face - It made me realize that I could be a part of making games like that, for people like me. Whilst at University the mortgage firm I worked for put me through all my qualifications to become a financial advisor, which I successfully completed, so after my degree I had a really tough decision to make, do I stay as a financial advisor or take a job as a QA tester making hardly any money at all. Much to my mothers dismay I took the job as a QA tester and started my career making games, of course now looking back I know it was the right decision, and today, so does my Mum :)
What effect do you think the culture within which you grew up has had an influence on your career path?
My mum was a very hard working, single parent with two kids, she instilled in me the belief that anything is possible. I grew up in a tough environment but it was one that pushed me to always focus on being the best I could be which has greatly influenced the way that I approach my career. I'm a creator, I always want to do my best work, make fun things and have a positive impact on those around me.
What challenges have you had to face during your career - thinking specifically about being a female in the industry?
Working in a male orientated industry is challenging because when you are different, your voice sounds different and the expectations you are held to can be different. Bias is a natural human tendency, sometimes they can be a positive thing and sometimes they can be negative. At times, I have felt the need to work harder in order to prove myself but in those moments I always remember to remain authentic to myself and persevere through whatever is in front of me. These two values provide me with my north star to get through any challenges.
What advice would you give to companies looking to improve equality within the workplace?
It takes hard work that you can not shy away from, equality and diversity are fundamental elements of success. You can not innovate without creativity, you cannot create diverse games and serve diverse players without a diverse team. To build a diverse team you need to create the safety to lean into differences, have the freedom to be creative, take risks and have the frameworks to ensure equality. The biggest advice I can give companies is to hire leaders that truly care about building diverse teams and are passionate about ensuring equality is part of their strategy, not a separate strategy but woven into the fabric of what the business is trying to accomplish because without that it will always be an add-on and improving diversity and equality cannot be an add-on.
And what advice would you give to other women joining the industry?
Making games is fun, I would encourage anyone wanting to make games to find a place where you can have fun. Working more hours will not result in higher success so be clear on your boundaries, because you are the only one that owns them. Always remain authentic, be brave and lean into your uniqueness.
Who inspires you the most (not necessarily from within games)?
There are so many people that inspire me everyday. I am grateful to work with such a fantastic team at Netflix and spend my time with insanely talented people. The External Games team is the best I have ever worked with, full of wonderful people that want to make great games.
In the games industry I am inspired by women like Tara Mustapha running Code Coven and Audrey Leprince running Wings, both paving the way for more women to be able to make great games! Outside the game industry there are 3 people I follow, Brene Brown, Simon Sinek and Adam Grant, they all have great perspectives on building teams, leading and creating the right environment for creativity and success.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
I'd love to see more successful women being highlighted on a regular basis so that we can talk more about the amazing women changing our industry, making great games and paving the way for more women to be inspired about becoming creators.
If you could only keep 3 games on your phone for the rest of time, which would you choose?
I was going to list 3 cat games but that might be too much! Even though I love cats, the 3 mobile games I cannot live without are Cats and Soup, Love and Pies and Clash Royale.