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GI 100 | Game Changers - M - R

All 100 profiles of individuals and organisations working in diversity, accessibility, charity, mental health, progressive politics, uniting communities, and much more
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Olivier Madiba

Kiro'o Games

When Olivier Madiba first started Kiro'o Games in Cameroon in 2004, it was all part of a grand plan. In those early years, he says, it was more of a "student side project" with a clear underlying objective.

"The (super naïve) idea was that one day Ubisoft would notice that I was a genius and they would make me come to France to help them make great games," he says. "That was literally my (naïve and dumb) plan at 19 years old."

However fanciful that notion may have been, Madiba would go on to make a huge impact in a different way. He considers 2012 to be the year that Kiro'o Games became a "real professional studio" -- at which point there were only a small handful of studios in the whole of continental Africa.

"And there were not any games designed in Africa for an international audience with African themes," he adds. "We wanted to show the creative potential of games based on the Nubian themes and visuals and sound."

In Madiba's view, Japanese games often carried a sense of "nuclear trauma," games made in the US were generally about "fighting tyranny with a bigger gun," while European stories showed a strong Christian influence. In each case, they reflected the history of the region, and with Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, Kiro'o Games would do the same.

"Aurion has a lot of analogies with real African history, but not only about the past -- also about the potential and the stakes of the future," Madiba says. "Africa had a lot of great empires far back in the past, but… what kind of future do we want to build? The goal is not to recreate New York in Africa, but what vision can we propose to our people and our kids?"

In terms of its place in the international games industry, Africa is still evolving. Madiba believes that it has a bright future, but in the here and now he would like to see better support for the region's developers -- from investors and publishers (Kiro'o is actively seeking equity investment), and also visibility in the games media.

"We would be happy if one of the big gaming [websites] finally reviewed our first game," he says of Aurion, which was first released in 2016. "Why was the first ever African-Fantasy RPG ignored by the big majors after its release? That's a mystery."

Olga Makushenko

Women In Games ambassador

Earlier this year, Olga Makushenko started Mentors Dialogue, an initiative with the aim of normalising the practice of mentorship in Russia. Attendees are encouraged to speak openly about any issues they're facing, whether it's advice on a specific project or more general guidance on how to grow their business.

Creating equality of opportunity in the Russian industry also drives her work around diversity. In 2017, she started the "Wonder Women" series meetups in Moscow, promoting frank discussion of female representation in the country's games companies, as well as helping attendees to build self-confidence as they navigate their careers.

"Being in a leadership position for a few years now, I noticed individual differences between women and men colleagues, often even working in one team," she says of her position as managing director of PC and Console Games at 101XP. "For instance, men were approaching me with questions about salary raises much more often than women. It didn't depend on their position or experience, or level of skill -- everything came down to self-confidence.

"When I was doing my first steps in the industry nine years ago, I wasn't lucky enough to have other women around me to advise me or simply give feedback. Now I seek to change it. The central part of my work is focused on mentoring other women, encouraging them not to be afraid to act, sharing my own experiences and lessons I've learned."

While Makushenko believes Russia has an equivalent number of women working in its games industry to other countries, she still sees room for improvement. More pressing is the overwhelming proportion of men in leadership roles.

"Ask anybody to recall key people in the Russian industry, and they will name you a list. How many women will be on that list? Not much," she says. "Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for this, but the outcome is indisputable.

"Unfortunately, the situation with equal pay is also far from being solved. The major video games industry salary research conducted this summer in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus showed that the difference in pay between men and women is enormous. Women, on average, make 35% less than men in the same position."

The solution, Makushenko says, will be found by raising awareness, and she is working hard to do exactly that. There is a plan to move the Wonder Women meetups online, to better reach Russian-speaking people in Eastern Europe, and in May this year Makushenko was named a Women in Games ambassador.

"The best way is always... to spread the word," she says. "I believe that one of my personal missions in the world is to help others. Thus, I would be extremely grateful to anyone sharing information about Mentors Dialogue and other events with those in need of it, or simply within the industry.

"This way, we won't just help people on an individual level, but bring positive change in the entire industry."

Lual Mayen

Junub Games

For the young Lual Mayen, video games were far more than simple fun. Born to Sudanese parents fleeing the country's civil war, Mayen spent the first 22 years of his life in a refugee camp in Uganda. When he first played a video game, he immediately saw the medium's potential "to bring communities together" and create a better future.

"Growing up in the refugee camp, I never thought games were created by people," he recalls. "I thought they fell [from] heaven... It was [in the refugee camp] that I taught myself to use computers, write code, and build video games. I decided to dedicate my life to using the power of video games to promote peace and create social impact."

Mayen is now based in Washington, where he pursues that goal with his studio, Junub Games. His first project, Salaam, uses the mechanics and tropes of runner games like Temple Run, but instead puts the player in the role of a refugee escaping a country ravaged by conflict. Familiar systems like depleting energy bars and the need to purchase supplies to continue the journey take on a grim resonance.

"The game is a reflection of my personal life, featuring the story of my parents' escape on foot during the Second Sudanese Civil War over 25 years ago," he says. "Two of my sisters did not survive the 220 mile journey. I was born on the way."

Junub is also working on a virtual reality experience, which will use the immersive qualities of the technology to explore the way small decisions can contribute to violent outcomes and have "devastating and far-reaching consequences." Mayen hopes the games will show players how to resolve conflict, and "avoid the path of war."

"I am currently on a journey to start a foundation with a mission to equip refugees in displaced populations with digital and technical skills to access meaningful careers and opportunities," he says. "I believe that talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not.

"The displaced persons or less privileged people who live in the refugee camp, their connectivity to technology or learning skills are not only a lifeline but a key to success in life -- which is part of my story, and I believe that we can use our experiences to create a sustainable future for others."

The Lual Mayen Foundation has already raised funding, and Mayen hopes to fully launch the project later this month. Among the services it will offer are a digital archive for family photos and videos, which are often lost by refugees in the process of displacement; "Cyber Centres" that will allow access to the internet and video games, as well as serving as community hubs; and structured learning programmes in STEM-related fields.

"So far I would say I have gotten great support from the game community and [a] few game studios," Mayen says. "The biggest help for the future is to find resources to continue to learn from this incredible community of games creators and players."

Ally McLean

The Working Lunch

If the games industry is to develop a more fair and inclusive culture, the act of holding the door open for underrepresented groups will be vital. According to Ally McLean, that was the impetus behind The Working Lunch, the Syndey-based group offering mentorship to women and non-binary people building careers in the games industry.

"As a result of my privilege and the access that being a bit of an 'online personality' at an early age afforded me, I had some transformative experiences with mentorship when I started working in games," McLean says, referring to the large community she built through her Eve Beauregard pop culture and cosplay brand.

"I was working at a job that, in some ways, made me more aware of the challenges of progressing your career in games when you're not one of the guys. I started mobilising my close friends and confidants in the industry around the idea of opening up our networks more formally to entry-level women who didn't have the same support I benefited from. The problem I wanted to solve was access."

With the backing of Australian trade body IGEA -- and particularly its COO, Raelene Knowles -- The Working Lunch grew rapidly, and expanded its remit just as fast. McLean now expresses regret at the group's early focus being purely on those who identify as women, but The Working Lunch adapted to encompass all underrepresented genders, working with local organisations like Queerly Represent Me and bringing in a more diverse group of mentors and "chapter leads" to guide and shape its initiatives -- which now cover Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide in Australia, and Wellington in New Zealand.

"I see this as the first baby steps towards making Working Lunch the most powerful launching pad it can be for the people in games who deserve a seat at the table," McLean says.

In addition to mentorship, The Working Lunch produces a "handbook" that includes resources and advice on areas like goal setting, salary negotiations, and more. McLean has a longer term objective of producing a master handbook that could be distributed -- for free -- in schools, conferences, and games companies, addressing the problem of the best advice often being too expensive to access for those who need it the most.

Each year, The Working Lunch organises Next Exhibit at PAX Australia, which showcases games made by diverse creators, and is the joint effort of a paid staff of people from underrepresented groups.

"Whether it's writing press releases, creating artwork, running social media, photography, working on the show floor -- these are all really valuable transferable skills and experience to have on your resume," McLean says. "I'm really proud we can facilitate that and pay people to do it."

In 2021, The Working Lunch aims to extend its support from entry-level people to those in the middle of their careers, and on the path to seniority. To learn more about this and the group's many other activities, McLean is keen for the industry to make contact and start a conversation.

"Talk to us!" she says. "One of the strengths of Working Lunch is we can be an intermediary to connect your desire to help with the right people and the right opportunity. If your company wants to do more to grow the industry for the better, I would love to hear about it."

Andreea Medvedovici Per

Romanian Game Developers Association

Andreea Medvedovici Per is the executive director of the Romanian Game Developers Association, vice president of the European Game Developers Federation, and co-founder of Women in Games Romania. Oh, and she also does biz dev for Door Kickers studio KillHouse Games.

She's only been in the games industry for five years, but has clearly put her professional history in association management to use in her time here.

"I am a great believer in the power of together in general and the power of industry associations in particular, and I believed that creating a powerful association in the industry will do wonders," she says.

As for the KillHouse position, she took that job to better understand the inner workings, struggles and successes of an indie developer and better inform her work with the RGDA and EGDF.

"The knowledge I gained and am still gaining here is invaluable," she says, "It also showed me how wonderful this industry is for women, but also how much a woman's perspective is needed in this industry. That is why I joined my colleague Cristina Neamtu in co-founding the Women in Games Romania Association last year, because I believe that only with a coordinated and collective action we can actually change something!"

As might be expected of someone with Per's workload, there are people at every organization supporting her to make her work possible.

Per credits RGDA president and Dev.Play Conference founder Catalin Butnariu with having the guts to hire her despite her lack of gaming-specific experience, and the patience to let her get up to speed. She's also grateful to the entire Romanian development community for their trust and support, as well as her colleagues at the EGDF, president Hendrik Lesser and COO Jari Peka Kaleva, for making the federation possible and driving its vision.

Rounding out the list, she mentions the tireless work of her Women in Games Romania co-founder Neamtu and the efforts of KillHouse developers Mihai Gosa and Dan Dimitrescu to support her and make her welcome in what had been an all-male studio.

Given her roles in the industry, Per says the best ways the industry can help her are the ways it can help itself.

"Sharing best practices is critical in my opinion," she says. "I am thus participating in any event that can teach me how to support the industry better, how to make the industry better, and how to develop games for better (for good). I believe in the extraordinary force of games as the cultural medium of our times! We need representation for that. It's crucial. It's a must.

"Participate in events, learn how to do things better and fairer (if that is a word!), organize events, share what works, invest money in educating the future generation of devs, answer our calls as community organizers, support our activities, and make the industry a better place!"

Mikko Meriläinen

Tampere University

Academic studies into video games and the surrounding culture are rather thin on the ground when compared with other entertainment industries, but Finnish researcher Mikko Meriläinen has dedicated much of his career to them.

His main focus is the relationship between gaming and young people -- a topic where he believes the discussion is "often far too black and white," with few opportunities for young people themselves to contribute.

"Through research, public speaking, and discussions with different actors around gaming cultures, I do my best to further sustainable gaming cultures -- whether it relates to parenting young game players, industry practices, or player conduct and well-being," he says.

"During my work I've found that many of the problematic issues in gaming cultures stem from lack of knowledge and reflection. These are complicated, multi-faceted issues, and there's often a call for simple answers, which I don't think exist. I try to help people embrace the complexity and outright messiness, live with it, and navigate it as well as possible."

Meriläinen completed his Master's thesis on role-playing gamers in 2011, after which he spent a few years working at Finnish non-governmental organisation EHYT ry, where he contributed to a project exploring ways to reduce harmful excessing gaming. It was during this time he identified gaps in how gaming was addressed in the media, in parenting and even among gamers. This prompted his dissertation on these subjects, for which he received his doctorate earlier this year.

And, he stresses, it's important for the rest of the industry to get more involved in academic research if these gaps are ever to be plugged.

"From a research perspective, collaboration between academia and industry is useful -- whether it's allowing access to data, commissioning research, helping with funding, or actually taking notice of things we do," he says.

"From a societal impact point of view, I always enjoy it when game industry actors work alongside media educators as well as other professionals tackling the more negative aspects of gaming, such as problematic gaming or toxic behaviour. It's easy for game creators to resort to an, 'It's a parenting issue, societal issue, or an issue completely out of our hands' argument, instead of proactively seeking ways to address issues through responsible design and consulting experts."

Fawzi Mesmar

Fawzi Mesmar has an impressive resume as a developer. The head of design at EA DICE has worked in gaming for more than 17 years now, with stints at King, Gameloft, Atlus, and more that saw him as part of the development community in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, and now Sweden. Along the way he's worked as a designer or director on 20 games from a cross-section of popular genres, even being named a Game Dev Hero along the way.

Mesmar is part of the GI 100 not for his successful career, but for his continued efforts to share the knowledge and experience he's gained over that career. He wrote "Al-Khallab on the Art of Game Design," which is believed to be the first textbook on game design written in Arabic. He shares his experience in talks at conventions and game dev schools around the world. He co-founded the Berlin chapter of the IGDA.

The instinct to share knowledge and help others seems to have been present from long before he entered the industry professionally; he recalls writing strategy guides in school notebooks to help the other kids in class finish games.

Of course, people who help others often receive help themselves, and Mesmar credits the support and encouragement of his family and friends with helping him do what he does, as well as his various employers.

"My managers at different companies that I worked and still work in support me," Mesmar says. "They allow me to dedicate my free time to game design and development education, they support me speaking and attending conferences, and they often encourage me in helping out and mentoring underrepresented peeps around the world. My wonderful colleagues and peers in the industry, they taught me a lot, took a chance on me, supported me even with words of encouragement, inspired me by doing amazing things. I feel very fortunate to know them, they are too many to count."

Mesmar says everything good in his career happened because someone took a chance on him, so he urges others to take chances on people as well.

"How can you help someone realize their dreams today?" he asks. "How can you spend a little bit of your time extending an arm to others? How can you inspire someone to switch their mindset from saying 'That's impossible' to 'I can do it, too!'? How can you give a bit of your time to help others make their games better?"

Raquel Motta

Sue the Real

When Raquel Motta, Marcos Silva and José Wilson started the independent studio Sue the Real in 2018, they had a very specific goal in mind: the creation of "Afro-diasporic games," which would speak directly to the culture of the overlooked majority in Brazil.

According to Motta, who is both creative director and writer, Sue the Real's founders wanted to understand their African ancestry, but struggled to find any games that addressed that part of Brazil's history. In part, she says, this is due to the popularity of imported culture of all kinds in the country, but the real problem is both deeper and more troubling.

"As a colonized country we learn to hate what we create and love what other countries do, and in games it wouldn't be different," she says. "Brazil is the largest country in the world with Africans outside the African continent -- we are 56% of the population according to IBGE, PNAD 2019, out of a total of 209 million people.

"Even though we are the majority, we realize that we are not present in films, books, comics, and games. This happens because of the structural racism that we have in Brazil, the last country to end slavery and undoubtedly the most racist in the world.

"The importance of having Afrogames is to enable the entire Black population of Brazil and the world to be able to tell their own stories, with the same equivalence as other stories already told. We are experiencing a cultural erasure that has begun in history books, and ends each time a Black person is brutally murdered."

Sue the Real's games encompass both the contemporary, such as One Beat Min, and the historical, such as Angola Janga: Picada dos Sonhos, which is based on Marcelo D'Salete's account of a kingdom of runaway slaves in the late 16th century.

"With ancestral and current references, we are inspired to tell stories, whether being ancient times, contemporary or futuristic," Motta continues. "Identity is built at all times, and understanding the history of our people helps us to have goals in the creation of games.

"Now I would like to ask a question: why do we have collective imagery established about the philosopher's stone, and we don't know anything about òkútas stones in Yoruba sacred rites? This probably happened because we didn't have the opportunity to tell our stories, but little by little we are changing that."

Sue the Real is not alone. Motta names Game e Arte, Aoca Game Lab and Mangrove Game Studio as other developers exploring this territory, and she hopes to see that number grow in the years to come.

"Games are challenging to develop, and when we do not have the structures to do so it becomes even more difficult," she says. "If you really want to see a positive change in the world, buy, help, share, and demonstrate how important these devs are.

"With Afrogames, it's not an accomplishment only when we are able to create. Our dream is directly linked to seeing other Black producers creating. Ubuntu."

Taina Myöhänen

We In Games Finland

Taina Myöhänen is the president and co-founder of We In Games Finland. The organisation was initially created in 2019 as Women In Games Finland, but its history goes back to 2011, when a Facebook group was established under that name.

"Over the years, the Facebook group grew to a community of nearly 2,000 people, and the need for a formal organisation that could push the agenda further became more apparent," Myöhänen explains. "My personal aim is pretty straightforward: when entering the games industry in 2006, I found games to be a great place to work, and I want everyone else to feel the same."

Myöhänen has worked tirelessly towards that goal ever since, alongside We In Games' board members and activists.

"This definitely is not my show," she says. "Our members reach us to give ideas and suggestions to take this organisation further, and we have other companies collaborating with us. It would be very difficult to raise anyone above the other, as every action matters and everyone contributes what they can."

When the organisation was officially established, it kept the name of the Facebook group due its "historical value," but its mission was always to champion all aspects of diversity and inclusion in games regardless of gender -- which is why it became We in Games this year. The organisation provides networking help, mentorships, and support on topics such as understanding Finnish labour laws, how to tackle impostor syndrome, and more, sometimes partnering with IGDA Finland.

"We support the careers of our members by offering mentoring and arranging workshops and lectures around the topics our members find important," Myöhänen says. "It is important to see that someone like you is working in the industry. Representation matters. One of our biggest initiatives is that we keep up a speakers list -- we want to make people from different backgrounds visible and [elevate] new faces and experts."

For Myöhänen, the biggest step towards change is to listen to what people discussing diversity and inclusion are saying.

"Every little step counts," she says. "These are topics where we all keep learning, and we learn by listening to others. In Finland, we've had fantastic support from game industry companies that have funded our events and projects, and from other organisations who have offered their resources and help for many things we have done. I am very grateful about this."

Sithe Ncube

Prosearium.net

In 2013, Sithe Ncube was working at Bongohive, a tech and business incubator in Lusaka, Zambia. While there, she was encouraged to explore her own interests -- one of which was encouraging Zambians to make their own video games.

"As an avid gamer, it was really amazing to me that there was a possibility of us making our own games right where we are, so I held onto that idea," she says.

Soon after, she went to study in South Africa and was made aware of the country's indie development scene, as well as gradually taking on roles in community management and assistance with game development events in Zambia.

"It started out of curiosity, but when I saw the possibility of Zambians and Africans being able to have their own say and influence in the industry, that was a larger goal that I have steadily kept in sight."

Now, Ncube is the founder of Prosearium.net, an initiative to document 1,000 African women of all backgrounds and their experiences creating and contributing to games. She has also been a regional organizer for Global Game Jam since 2015, using the event as an opportunity to discover and connect with other game development communities across Africa.

Recently, she was brought on as an advisor for Humble's Black Game Developer Fund, which she hopes will be a continuation of her work towards resource accessibility and tackling systemic issues faced by Black developers, and particularly African developers, participating in the games industry.

Ncube points toward Prosearium's Patreon as a way to support her work with the project, noting that donations enabled her to hire two Zambian women part-time to assist with bringing more visibility to African women in games.

"In general, I would really like to encourage the industry to direct more support to Africans interested in early careers and skills development," she says. "Possibly the largest challenge faced by many African developers, whether they are hobbyists or aspiring studios, is finding the capital to invest in the early stages of game development. The risk is almost too large for many developers to make serious investments in game development without any secure income or reliable funding available on the continent.

"So if you really want to invest in people on the continent, hire an African developer or advisor or someone in a relevant capacity such as research, writing or voice acting. Maybe sponsor a high schooler to study a game development or game design degree. I know a few young people who would definitely take that up -- seriously, hit me up if you want to invest in some enthusiastic aspiring game developers."

Hannah Nicklin

Die Gute Fabrik

Hannah Nicklin has been many things throughout her career: teacher, PhD, producer, playwright, interactive theatre maker, performer and storyteller, community and installation artist, and activist.

But she is perhaps best known in games for her work as writer and narrative designer on award-winning adventure game Mutazione by Copenhagen-based Die Gute Fabrik, and her ongoing efforts to push for better diversity and inclusivity.

This is a cause she is now more empowered to pursue having been offered the role of CEO and studio lead by the company's co-owners Christoffer Holmgård, Nils Deneken, and Douglas Wilson.

"Giving up power in itself is a radical act," she says. "I couldn't be in the position I am today without the trust and giving up of the leadership of Die Gute Fabrik by Christoffer, Nils, and Douglas. I've not talked about my vision for the company in public much yet, but I hope it involves something similar -- that after a decade or so of excellent projects, I can hand the leadership and vision for the company on to someone else for whom that power will mean something greater."

Nicklin now leads the team on an unannounced project, but she is just as excited for the possibilities afforded by her new role as she is the creative challenge ahead.

"Part of the driving force behind my accepting [the role]... was the singular power it gave me to create not just a new game, but also to create a framework to radically rethink how to run a studio and development process.

"Process is a radical work, and I'm more interested in building radically empowering systems for work than I am in producing radical works -- though they're good too, of course. Material conditions are a thing. I wanted to try and build the best I could within the bounds of late capitalism."

She acknowledges that her work, both as a creator and an activist, is an ongoing pursuit -- "not something that is ever 'achieved' or 'finished'."

In fact, Mutazione is a prime example of this.

"I worked hard to make it as sensitive and complicated and true as possible," she says. "We worked with a diversity consultant especially on Kai's racial portrayal, among other things. But was it okay that our team was entirely white? No. And while I didn't have the means to affect that then, I store the reflection and act on it when I have the resources to put it into practice."

Nika Nour

IGDA Foundation

As the world's largest non-profit membership organisation serving the games industry, the International Game Developers Association has a reach that's invaluable to its charity work through the IGDA Foundation. The latter has been committed to improving the life of marginalised people in games since 2008, and that mission has taken a new dimension under the leadership of executive director Nika Nour.

"I joined the IGDA Foundation in 2019 to advance the careers, goals, and passions of underrepresented communities in games," Nour says. "Too often, I witnessed poor treatment of remarkable, diverse talent in the industry. As an experienced problem-solving gamer, I brought a history of success working in policy and public affairs with a multi-faceted background in crisis communications and technology. I am steadfast in seeking solutions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion standards within technology and video game companies."

The IGDA Foundation runs several programs and scholarships to help underrepresented communities build sustainable careers, including -- but not limited to, Nour points out -- Black people, women, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ groups. Its work has also proved invaluable this year to help developers affected by the COVID-19 crisis, raising money via the Stay in the Game Relief Fund.

The IGDA Foundation is powered by a team of volunteers and a board of directors, and supported by sponsors such as Xbox, Riot Games, Niantic, Activision Blizzard, and Unity.

"In response to COVID-19, IGDA-F pivoted away from in-person GDC scholarships, and built scalable virtual programs for early- to mid-career developers seeking jobs and professional options in 14 countries," Nour says. "The best ways to support the IGDA Foundation are through volunteering, mentorship, and sponsorship. Our work is made possible by the contributions of executives, financial partnerships, indie veterans, and young volunteers.

"I am so proud of our team and the IGDA Foundation for paving the way for the next generation of game developers. I can't wait to hear from those who are interested in getting involved through email: Nika@IGDAfoundation.org or www.igdafoundation.org."

Michael Othen

Out Making Games

Out Making Games is a UK network for LGBTQ+ professionals in the games industry. Michael Othen co-founded this growing organisation in November 2019 for one simple reason: it didn't exist.

"Amazingly, there was no such network, so we had little visibility on how well represented we were," Othen explains. "We weren't sure how many people would show up to the launch party, but the turnout was incredible.

"Historically, the games industry hasn't been the most diverse place to work, but fortunately that's changing rapidly. A connected community is an empowered one, so that's what we hope to achieve with OMG."

Othen is one of the 11 members of the leadership team, alongside Andrew Rogers, Elli Shapiro, Ian Masters, James Wright, Leon Killin, Liam Price, Robin Gray, Suneet Sharma, Ugonna Nwosu and Zoe Brown. Together they work on bringing the community together, primarily through events, and raise awareness of their mission through comms and sponsorship.

"Naturally, physical events had to take a back seat this year, so we've been taking things online," says Othen. "This has included 'Lunch & Learn' sessions, a game jam, online quizzes and an upcoming Christmas party. It's not quite the same as getting together in person, but hopefully real world events will resume at some point next year."

In its first year, Out Making Games has made connections with key partners in the UK industry, but Othen is keen to see more support from those willing to offer it.

"Awareness is the first challenge, so spreading the word about OMG is always hugely appreciated," he says. "We're also always looking for spaces to host events, sponsors and prizes for things like charity raffles.

"When a studio shows support for networks like ours, not only does it send a positive message of acceptance, but it helps make the industry a more welcome place to be."

Othen is also the creative director at a mobile games startup called Included, a studio he co-founded with Michael Heywood. Little has been shared about this venture thus far but Othen is particularly optimistic about what they'll be working on.

"As the name implies, we're all about inclusion -- both behind the scenes and across our games," he says. "It's very early days, but I'm excited to see where we can take it."

He concludes: "The games industry tends to lag behind other forms of entertainment when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. It's getting better, certainly, but there's still a fair way to go. I believe this is partly due to the fact that, for various reasons, LGBTQ+ professionals tend to occupy more junior roles and so their voices aren't heard. We can overcome this through meaningful drives towards more diversity and inclusion, mentorship, and celebrating LGTBQ+ role models within the industry."

Sun Park

Out of Index

The indie boom of the late 2000s changed the course of the games industry, but not every global region felt its impact. The South Korean scene, like others in East Asia, grew and changed in a different way, with the vast majority of companies focused on free-to-play mobile games -- whether ambitious MMORPGs, or more casual games from smaller teams.

"But not everybody does that," says Sun Park, founder of the Seoul-based indie studio Turtle Cream. "After PUBG and some Korean indie studio's big successes on Steam, the number of PC and console game developers keeps growing."

Park is a fundamental part of that growing culture of independent development in South Korea -- a group of what he calls "digital artists who create things that haven't ever existed in the world." To give that community a focal point, he helped to start Out of Index (OOI), one of the first events of its kind in the country.

"We need to do more experiments to make better creations," Park says. "Out of Index exists for encouraging game developers. We'd like to let other developers be shocked by the games we are showcasing. We believe that could make people do their own experiments from those inspirations, and that finally could make the game industry more creative."

In addition, Park is one of the organisers of the monthly Seoul Indies meetup, the regional organiser of the Global Game Jam in South Korea, and the founder of the monthly Project.99 experimental games workshop. In each of these endeavours, Park acknowledges a huge amount of help from his friends and peers.

"Unfortunately, we make almost no profit with OOI because we always spend all of the money we earned to make better festivals -- organizing festivals is totally volunteering," he says. "So I'd like to thank all OOI staff, including past organizers Jake Jonghwa Kim and Jay Jaewoo Jeon, current OOI co-organizers Jaewon Yoo and Sanghoon Park, and the past and current festival art director Yeri Kim and Yuri Baek. Also I'd like to mention Marc Flury, who is co-organizing Seoul Indies.

"OOI always needs to get more spotlight from [international] media, so please keep watching what we're doing as an organization. Every kind of collaboration with other festivals or sponsors is welcome."

David Parkin

Luggarrah

The talks at games conferences in Australia all begin in the same way -- with an acknowledgement of the indigenous people of the country, and the elders of the clans who once occupied the land on which its cities and towns are built. It is a small concession to the awful reality and legacy of colonialism.

Some people are doing more, however. With Luggarrah, managing director David Parkin is using technology to preserve Aboriginal culture, and educate students from diverse backgrounds through immersive and interactive learning programmes.

"Luggarrah devises and delivers cutting-edge technology events that appeal to youth -- and the whole of the community -- from regional and remote areas, as well as those who are disengaged or from diverse backgrounds," he says.

These events help to forge a link between technological and digital media industries -- video games included -- and people from Australian communities that would otherwise be missed by typical outreach strategies. Like everyone in Luggarrah's ownership group, Parkin is indigenous Australian himself, "a proud Trawlwulwuy man." Needless to say, the mission behind the organisation is deeply felt.

"Luggarrah ran six events in 2019, with 400 student participants from 23 different secondary schools, where 26 industry professionals presented an overview of the different industries that they were from," Parkin says. "The issues that we are trying to solve are re-engagement of youth with education using technology and games, and connection to country, place and people from a cultural perspective.

"Working in regional areas, we focus on engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students -- culturally and linguistically diverse and neurologically diverse cohorts [such] as these are usually underserved, and they need greater opportunities."

The Australian games industry has been supportive of Luggarrah's mission -- Parkin names Mighty Kingdom, Big Ant Studios, DragonBear Studios, and the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association among those who have helped the organisation -- but with more companies at its back, even more can be achieved.

"The best way for the industry to help support the work that Luggarrah is doing is to reach out and have a discussion, to see where they can best provide support and what needs to be considered going forward."

"Wulika," Parkin adds. "Finish."

Melissa Phillips

Silver Rain Games

"It's not about championing diversity, it's about building a safe space for developers to find their place within the industry. Championing diversity alone doesn't create change -- it needs action, and this has to start from the top and be present at all levels of management in order to be effective."

When it comes to Silver Rain Games' mission, the UK studio was co-created by Abubakar Salim and Melissa Phillips in March 2020, the message is clear.

"I couldn't have even considered doing half the things I'm doing now without the support of Abubakar Salim," Phillips continues. "Silver Rain has this unusual setup where our creative director is also off being a Hollywood actor, starring in a sci-fi drama directed by Ridley Scott, which obviously brings its pros and cons.

"But without Abu and his commitment to making a game, none of this would have happened. He's an incredibly open and curious person who has helped to create the environment of the studio. It means we are not afraid to try different methods and see what works best for the team."

Silver Rain's aim is to create games that welcome new audiences, games that might encourage someone who has never been interested in them before to pick up a controller and have a go. Phillips was nominated for our Game Changers list for her work "leading the most extraordinarily diverse studio around" -- but it's a label that can be difficult to carry.

"I think there's a huge amount of expectation and power given to individual voices to speak for a whole group of people in this industry," she says. "For example, I'm often asked to speak on behalf of 'being a woman', when the reality is that everyone's journey is incredibly individual and a result of many different things coming together.

"There's a certain exoticism that we receive as a result of the makeup of the studio. We are often described as 'mysterious' or 'unusual' when the press are looking to explain the diversity of our leadership. This can be unhelpful as they're describing our physical representation and not skills and abilities that we possess as a team.

"In order for this to change, I think we have to focus on having diverse representation at all levels of our community and industry. I look forward to a time where every studio looks like ours and we aren't seen as being 'brave' or 'risky'."

POC In Play

Some organisations only long for one thing: the need to not exist anymore. POC in Play is one of them.

"The day POC in Play is no longer needed will be the day our work is done," says Adam Campbell, director of product at Azoomee, and one of the co-founders of the organisation, alongside Chella Ramanan, narrative designer at Massive Entertainment. "Until then, we're looking to build small initiatives into things that can grow in the weeks, months and years to come.

"Everything we do is designed to tackle the intersectional challenges that pertain to representation, inclusion and access for racial minorities. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to help communities in the UK, or internationally, so we need to work with solutions that can bring together our common struggles, along with those which are more targeted."

POC in Play was unveiled in February 2019, with a goal to address the representation and inclusion issues faced by racial minorities in the video games industry. It is Europe's biggest organisation for racial inclusion in video games.

"Pre-pandemic, we hosted monthly face-to-face meet-ups, which quickly became one of the biggest and most consistently attended games industry meet-ups in the UK," Campbell continues. "Hosted at Ustwo Games in London, we saw a diverse attendance of all levels to speak about work and play, and we also hosted a number of exclusive talks. As part of a widening participation drive, we also provided a monthly travel and accommodation bursary to enable people from outside London to access the event. Not wishing to stop there, we established POC in Play North the same year to offer events in the north of England.

"We have also seen huge success through online visibility initiatives on social media, such as the BAFTA x POC in Play Takeover for Black History Month, BHM Games 100 list, and the international #IamPOCinPlay hashtag, all with incredible engagement. Going forward, we have more visibility campaigns, events and educational opportunities we're excited to launch."

You can support POC in Play's work by following and boosting its social media activity (@pocinplay). For those who would like to offer sponsorship or specific services in support, the organisation can be reached at contact@pocplay.org.

Ryh-Ming Poon

Xsolla

Ryh-Ming Poon has been in games for almost 25 years, with experience at companies ranging from AAAs like Activision to smaller start-ups -- but always in comms and PR. Though usually behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight, Poon has worked to bring awareness to and influence hiring practices at whatever company she's worked at, advocating to expand hiring pools, maintain experience-based pay equality, and improve diversity.

She says she has her mother -- who has three sisters and raised three daughters -- to thank for her passion for seeking diversity and equality, as well as personal experience. Growing up, she says people "made a big deal" over the hyphen in her name to the point where for a period of time, she went by her "Western" name. But while cold-call pitching at Activision and still running into people who messed up "Caroline," she opted to reclaim her Chinese name and identity.

Since then, Poon's work behind the scenes has included not just pushing for more diverse hires, but also constant efforts to flag potentially insensitive or inappropriate content in games marketing, spreading awareness of both the ethical reasons to push for diversity as well as the business reasons for reaching out to a diverse audience. She's volunteered to take on mentees, and has taken on speaking engagements to share her experiences and thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Earlier this year, Poon joined Chief -- an organization created to drive more women into positions of power in the games industry and keep them there. Chief was specifically designed for women at the highest levels -- VPs through C-level executives -- to expand their power, cultivate lasting relationships, and sharpen executive skills.

"From learning what it takes to get on/be on a board and be more effective in creating more diverse and inclusive companies or building and supporting DEI at your current company, to working on ourselves as leaders to be someone employees can believe in, while supporting ourselves in learning how to stop and appreciate what we have actually accomplished already. We have constant coaching seminars and breakouts of ethnic groups for more specific discussions and problem-solving, to inspirational talks with icons like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. All in the pursuit of being better leaders who can bring everyone with us.

"We all know that the pipeline for new talent is a major part of the problem with getting more diversity in the gaming industry...I strongly believe that we should all be working to help young women understand that there are exciting and fulfilling careers in gaming/tech, and that it can be a warm and welcoming industry."

Poon says that while the topics she engages with aren't always easy to discuss, conversations following events like the MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter have improved awareness of these issues. Poon believes this has carried over into large companies as well, with many gaming giants trying to be more aware, open, and aggressive in making changes for the better. She specifically names Meggan Scavio, Gordon Bellamy, Kiki Wolfkill, and Vince Zampella as inspirations -- leaders who are trying their best to push for change at the highest levels of the industry.

"There are so many layers of DEI that need to continue to be worked on, but it does start with awareness," Poon says. "It also starts with the pipeline of talent, and breaking the endemic -ism patterns via education and action. I have a budget to partner with more gaming associations next year, so hopefully, we can bring forth more compelling content and highlight the people and progress of the hard work everyone is charging forward with."

Liz Prince

Putting the G Into Gaming

Liz Prince is the long-serving business manager of recruitment specialist Amiqus, but for the past two years she's had a second venture to focus on: Putting The G Into Gaming, an initiative designed to address an ongoing issue in the games industry.

"Through my work at Amiqus and as a woman in games myself, I know how important it is for the industry to step up when it comes to attracting more women into the industry - and then keeping them here," she says.

Putting The G Into Gaming -- also known as G Into Gaming or GIG -- is a campaign that explores ways to accelerate gender diversity in the games industry. The bulk of the work is largely educational: Prince writes articles on the issue, speaks at events, and works directly with studio heads on improving their diversity and inclusivity initiatives. G Into Gaming has also sponsored other projects with a similar goal, such as our GI 100 of the most influential women in the UK games industry.

In that regard, Prince notes that plenty of studios recognise the gender imbalance and have publicly vowed to do something about it -- but that can sometimes be where the effort ends.

"Many don't actually know where to start to make good on those pledges, particularly the smaller indies who may not have dedicated HR departments," she says. "I spend lots of time having one-to-ones with studio heads, HR departments and CEOs in games businesses who want to know where to start with the diversity journey, or want to chat through the things they're already doing.

"I also invest lots of time in research -- reading and learning from other industries and from world class D&I specialists to bring best practice into games and bridge the knowledge gap."

G Into Gaming has also collaborated with other diversity and inclusivity organisations, such as Women In Games, POC In Play, BAME In Games and Out Playing Games. And Prince has the venture's next major goal already in mind.

"At the start of this year, I started planning something aimed at C-Suite level, to bring peers together to start to learn from one another and to begin to tackle the issues of D&I at the top," she says. "A change in mindset and approach must be led by senior management teams. Too often we see heads nodding in agreement, but then nothing changes. It will take ambition and action to ensure our industry is diverse and inclusive.

"This must come from the top. It is the leaders who can set and direct the collective vision for a diverse and inclusive industry and bring it to reality in their studios, as a priority for their businesses. COVID got in my way a little this year, but I'll restart this plan, alongside other leadership focused activities, for 2021 -- and support from the industry on this would be amazing, as I believe that this will make a huge difference."

Yadu Rajiv and Kinshuk Sunil

GameDev.in and BYOG Game Jam

India has been a point of great interest for the games industry for many years, but principally as a huge new market of potential players. The country's development community, on the other hand, has received far less attention from international publishers.

In that kind of emerging development scene, community builders like Yadu Rajiv and Kinshuk Sunil play a vital role. They have been making games together since the mid-2000s, but despite India's vast population, in those days it was all but impossible to find collaborators.

"We would aggregate on platforms like SourceForge and build international teams, but not find many folks from India. It was strange that we couldn't find people who were interested in making games like us; hoping to solve this problem, we set out to build a space that could bring all those interested in making games together."

What started as a mailing list in 2008 grew to a community of 150 developers within a few months. The following year, the pair started organising in-person meetups -- Sunil in Delhi, and Rajiv in Bangalore.

In addition to starting a company together, Hashstash, Rajiv and Sunil have started a range of projects that helped to galvanise India's professional games culture. Indie GameDev India (now GameDev.in) is regarded as the country's longest running developer community, creating opportunities and visibility for its members, as well as serving as a hub for knowledge sharing. Similarly, the Build Your Own Game (BYOG) Game Jam has been running since 2010, with the most recent edition attracting 87 submissions from 300 different developers.

They are also both deeply involved in organising the India Game Developer Conference -- formerly the Nasscom Gaming Forum. Among their contributions are a comprehensive directory of the Indian games industry, the creation of the country's first ever developer awards, and a game jam contest aimed at school children.

"Anando Banerjee, Hrishi Oberoi, Rajesh Rao, Shailesh Prabhu and Shruti Verma have been our industry mentors and collaborators," they say of the people who have helped them along the way. "Joel Johnson, Rishikanth Somayaji, and Tejas Shirodkar have been our fellow conspirators over the years, contributing in some form to pretty much everything that we ever worked on.

"The best way to support us in our future initiatives is for everyone to be more open and supportive about sharing knowledge and best practices, participate in community initiatives like local meetups and game jams, and keep doing the good work that they are doing."

Renata Rapyo

Women Game Jam Brazil

After participating in her first Women Game Jam event in 2018, Renata Rapyo suddenly found a number of new doors opening.

Women Game Jam is a game jam event for women and non-binary individuals that takes place in the second half of the year. In its last physical manifestation, it held events in eight different countries in Latin America; in its digital event in 2020, there were over 1,000 entries from 15 different countries.

The game Rapyo created in her first year won a scholarship to GDC in 2019, where she then spoke in two roundtables about the game jam and its importance and impact. And she was invited to organize the São Paulo site for Women Game Jam the following year, which she accepted. But she also asked Women Game Jam organizer Nayara Brito if she could make it even bigger.

Now, as the organizer of Women Game Jam Brazil, she keeps in touch with event leadership across the eight different countries currently represented in the event, as well as any up and coming new event sites. She does outreach to introduce new participants to the event, and speaks with sponsors to emphasize its importance and convince them to sign on.

She also works at Brazilian indie studio Rogue Snail as a producer and game designer.

"After joining a game studio I realized how little women worked in the production positions and how it could use a different perspective," Rapyo says. "Those were my main motivations -- showing people an entrance on how to begin working with games in a friendly, safe, and learning environment, and also to change the number of women working in games.

"I really like working at Rogue because of how diverse it is and how they truly believe in the same things as I do. Our team is diverse and we hire with this in mind, providing opportunities to everyone."

Rapyo is grateful to the country leaders of Women Game Jam, a list that includes Jazmín Giolito, Vania Catorceno, Alice Abreu, Ana Antar, Lizy Novo, Maia Lomelino, Margarita Pino, Sandra Castro Pinzón, Diana Rodríguez, Hugo Legorreta, and Sol Sánchez.

She says the best way for the industry to support her and her work is to hire more women.

"Not only to junior positions, but also if they are juniors and decide to leave the industry, talk to them and try to understand why. Because it's not only a matter of hiring people, but making the work environment a non-sexist place; a place where women can work freely and without the fear of being harassed, or needing to prove their arguments way more strongly than men do, or making them feel they need to show their Gamertag all the time.

"Besides that, if your company has the budget, try and support inclusiveness organizations and events. Because all we work to do is to make the games industry a better place."

Red Candle Games

The Taiwanese indie studio Red Candle Games formed around a project: Detention, a survival horror title that received critical acclaim in 2016 for its resonant depiction of a complicated era in the country's history. Indeed, that exploration of Taiwanese identity was the force that first brought the team together.

The idea for Detention originated with a prototype created by Coffee Yao. Henry Wang and Light Wang were drawn to the project by the vivid recollections of Taiwan's history, and they were joined by Doy Chiang, Finger Chen, and Vincent Yang. The six developed the idea together, but working remotely, and Red Candle Games was founded when the group decided to find a co-working space.

"For Detention, at first Coffee simply wanted to replicate the nostalgic feelings of his school days from the 1980s," Red Candle says. "But since it's a horror story to begin with, while searching in our own history for inspiration, we felt that White Terror, a period when Taiwan was shadowed by dictatorship, could enhance the psychological horror aspects of our game. We thus changed the game setting to the 1960s Taiwan to fit the historical timeline"

Red Candle's second release, Devotion, did explore Taiwanese life in the 1980s, this time using the country's folklore and spiritual beliefs and rituals as a context for the horrific aspects of its narrative. The team speaks warmly of the strides made by the national indie development scene in the last few years -- mentioning Opus: Rocket of Whispers, Half Light, and Vigil: The Longest Night among many notable games -- but Red Candle was a pioneer in its simultaneous embrace and analysis of Taiwan's past.

Indeed, Red Candle was put forward for Game Changers for exploring an identity that "has been culturally and politically oppressed in some parts of the world" through works "not only of representation, but also of retrospection."

"We grew up playing and getting influenced by video games, yet it's rare for us to stumble upon a title that represents our own culture," Red Candle says. "For both Detention and Devotion, this thought inspired us to blend Taiwanese mythology, cultures, and local belief in the game to tell a story of Taiwan.

"We hope that for the players around the world, they can enjoy our work, and at the same time discover a bit about our country through the medium of the game."

Astrid Refstrup

Triple Topping

"Our first business pitch did not have one game, but was a pitch on how to make the best workplace."

Astrid Refstrup co-founded Copenhagen-based Triple Topping with Simon Stålhandske in February 2017. Since then, the pair's vision of the type of games it wanted to make evolved, but it stuck to that idea of building the best workplace.

"I believe we need to work more actively with creating a safe workplace," Refstrup says. "Alcohol is a big part of how we network in the games industry, and especially in Denmark. [But] if alcohol is the main social reference, many people are actually left out. This is why we don't serve alcohol at Triple Topping -- people can arrange going out themselves, but I don't think I should advocate for a drinking culture by serving my team beers."

In one of the GI 100 nominations advocating for Refstrup's inclusion, she was praised for her ongoing efforts to create a transparent, climate-friendly, crunch-free and family-supporting workplace, but also for her willingness to share that experience and knowledge with others. The studio's employment contract and handbook are both available on Triple Topping's website for anyone to read. They include salaries, as the studio has a flat pay structure.

"Everyone gets the same -- I make the same too, because I want people to focus on making the most amazing games, not compete with each other," Refstrup says. "I want to send the signal that everyone in Triple Topping is equally valid to the company and what we do."

Finding the right balance in terms of working hours to avoid stress and burnout has also been at the core of Triple Topping's vision.

"Working fewer hours is possible even for that person on your team who will keep trying to convince you that they love working 24/7," Refstrup says. "We debated [having] a four-day work week, but ended up with a solution where we work five days but leave earlier.

"There is not one right solution. But one [piece of] advice I would give people is that they should focus on what life situations the whole team has and what challenges it gives them. One example is when people with kids go to the office in the morning, so much work has been done while they were taking care of their kids -- parents therefore end up working nights or weekends to compensate. But if I let everyone leave at the same time, no one has to compensate.

"Oh and then there is the free baby stroller. Dads in Denmark can take paid leave but very few do, and I can't force them to do it. I designed a taking leave bonus, so if anyone in the team takes parental leave, we will give [them a] stroller… Hint hint, men!"

Fernando Reyes Medina

Latinx in Gaming

Fernando Reyes Medina joined Microsoft in 2013 as an intern, became a full-time software engineer a few years later in 2016, and is now a game designer on Halo Infinite. From his early career at the company, Medina has been advocating for the Latinx community both within the company and without.

As an engineer, Medina was involved with an internal group called Team Xbox Latinx, where he began to notice certain patterns and specific challenges that the Latinx community faced in trying to become game developers.

"Once I went through those hoops and started meeting more people in the community, I felt the responsibility to send the elevator back down and create meaningful and systemic change so others that want to follow a similar path to mine don't have to go through the same challenges, or have assistance and guidance along the way so they succeed in their pursuit," Medina says.

Medina is also the co-founder and LATAM director of Latinx in Gaming, a non-profit that works to increase Latinx representation across the entire industry. There, he is in charge of connecting the opportunities that the organization provides to everyone in the LATAM region, and developing a network with local community leaders that establishes the needs of each country and how Latinx in Gaming can help more effectively.

He attributes much of the success of Latinx in Gaming so far to his fellow co-founders, as well as the organization's LATAM country leads.

"Inclusion efforts are primarily volunteer driven, so I am very thankful of being surrounded by such an amazing, talented and selfless group of people that are constantly fighting for improving the industry for our community and paving the way for the next generation of Latinx creators," he says.

Medina says he wants to see more industry support for the Latinx community at large, specifically from publishers, venture capitalists, and investors looking for opportunities.

"And support Latinx in Gaming so we can support others," he concludes. "Since we have been doing this for a while now we understand the panorama, and we can help connect the right opportunity to the right person/company. And we can use all the help we can get, from financial support to being an ally and helping us spread the word of the wonderful and talented Latinx community."

Johana Riquier

The Overlooked Audience

Johana Riquier had never been a part of the games industry until she joined Unity Technologies, and it didn't take her long to recognize one of its problems.

"I started attending gaming conferences back in 2014, and the quasi-inexistence of people of colour attending the conferences shocked me," Riquier says. "I had the need to understand the reasons why we were so few, and what could be implemented to change the demographic landscape."

Riquier's first role at Unity had her working with studios in Western Europe and Africa, giving her insight into markets the industry has traditionally catered to as well as those it traditionally has not.

"Working at Unity helped me understand that the platform could make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, as I had witnessed the impact on indies in Europe. I was meeting them on a regular basis, and they were all grateful."

Riquier worked on building out her network in the industry, and says she started to more aggressively champion African games development soon after, seeking out new African developers and connecting them not just with each other but with the wider European and American game industries.

While much of the work she does is not public-facing, Riquier has also been putting together The Overlooked Audience, a global initiative to raise awareness about Black women in the industry -- something that came about after speaking to a friend about the challenges of being a Black professional woman in gaming.

"I remember that several questions came at once in my head," Riquier says, "Is the experience of all Black women in the gaming industry the same? Do we really have a community to support for recruitment, retention, growth? Are we being recognised? How can we face our challenges, and celebrate our victories?"

In May, Riquier put out a call on Twitter looking for Black women in the industry to speak with for the project. She describes the response as unprecedented.

"I was gobsmacked," she says. "The work could start, and I started interviewing Black Women from around the globe."

A proper website compiling The Overlooked Audience and Riquier's other advocacy efforts is in the works, but some of the individual interviews can be read here, here, and here.

At the moment, Riquier is producing The Overlooked Audience on her own, but hopes to expand the project greatly, and interested volunteers (whether they're content curators, developers, community managers, tech developers) can email her at jr@johanariquier.net.

She also remains open to collaboration opportunities centered around women in and outside of tech, as well as African game development.

Diana Rodríguez Aparicio

Women in Gamex

Diana Rodríguez Aparicio's journey in games began eight years ago when, with her partner Luis Castrejón, she co-founded Big Monster Games.

In the course of her work with Big Monster, she began to notice in the international events circuit that many game developers and potential future business partners were surprised to see her -- a woman -- in B2B meetings. As this happened again and again, she began to question the circumstances that led to this reaction -- the lack of representation of women in games.

So in 2019, she had the opportunity to make a change after helping organize Women Game Jam's Mexico event. While there, she noticed a need for something more, and shortly after founded Women in Gamex, an initiative that actively advocates for the representation of women in game development across Mexico and LATAM.

"I realized how many women I knew that were in the industry, but very few were leaders or as CEOs," Rodríguez Aparicio says. "That's when I knew that I had to make something, so we started making content, stimulating women to participate in the community, and that way inspired many more to be part of it."

Now, in addition to her work with Women in Gamex, Rodríguez Aparicio is also a Mexican ambassador for Women in Games, and continues to be an organizer for the Women Game Jam Mexico location. Though the event was digital this year, Rodríguez Aparicio says it saw 100 participants from Mexico alone in 2020, and a total of 800 participants from 13 different countries.

Rodríguez Aparicio is supported by her partner, Castrejón, as well as her friend Sandra Castro Pinzón, who has her own entrepreneurship called Tan Grande y Jugando, which advocates for the development of the industry in LATAM. Pinzón is the one who first introduced Rodríguez Aparicio to Women Game Jam, and together the two have continued to encourage women to get involved in games.

"As a result of our efforts, Luis, Sandra, and myself had the support of our new community," she says. "All of our work culminated in Women in Gamex, which presented professional and enthusiastic women of the video game developing industry and actively advocates for the inclusion of women in it."

She encourages those who want to support her work to volunteer, mentor, or directly offer monetary support to any of the events she's involved in -- she says they have plenty of space for partners and sponsors.

"But the best way to advocate it is to share our content and promote actively that women are included in the video game industry," Rodríguez Aparicio says.

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