Two years ago, I attended the virtual Women in Games Conference (WIG) for the very first time. Modulate reimbursed me for my registration ticket, which was something no other company in the gaming industry had done for me before. I felt empowered by this one single decision because I wasn’t asked to prove why this conference would have a return on investment or asked to take notes. I could just attend and explore however I wanted to spend my time.
This year, I returned to the 2023 WIG Conference, but this time, I invited my teammate Amy to come along. Things have changed since my first attendance. When I first attended, I was in my first few months of working at Modulate as a QA engineer. We were about 16 people at the time with no women or non-binary Modulators in leadership. Since then, I was promoted to QA team manager as we rapidly doubled in size. We hired two additional women with director level roles. What I was seeking to gain from the conference has shifted from community and inspiration to a focus on mentorship and education because I want to be a leader who helps bring others up with me. I found this conference valuable to me, and wanted to make sure Amy had a chance to come experience it with me.
Here are a few of my and Amy’s takeaways from this year’s conference.
Disrupting the Status Quo
This year’s theme was Questions of Disruption: Prospecting and Imagining in the Battle for our Future. CEO of Women in Games Marie-Claire Isaaman and Director of Publications Sharon Tolaini-Sage explained that they wanted to be “punchy” and intend to “upset the apple cart” a little bit with their Women in Games Manifesto, which lists 14 reasons for supporting women in games.
After checking in with each other after the virtual conference, Amy shared with me that the Women in Games conference was eye opening for her. Prior to attending, she hadn’t often heard talks centering women’s perspectives (even at much larger games conference events).
In particular, she was shocked during the talk titled “What's going wrong with women's dialogue in video games?” Final Fantasy X-2 is a game with 3 female protagonists. However, statistics show that the female characters' dialogue only covers 45.2% percent of the total dialogue. Amy reflected, “When I see a female character, I’m just excited to be able to choose a character that represents my gender. These stats made me realize most women characters are created from the male perspective; they are seen as and mostly amount to eye candy. My hope for the future is to see more women characters to be made from the female perspective. Each female lead can be as unique and as dynamic as the next male lead of a game.”
Behavior Modeling and Leadership
This year, Eve Crevoshay, executive director of Take This Inc., gave a talk titled “A New Framework in Addressing Toxicity” that resonated with me. She spoke of transforming leadership, specifically around transparency and vulnerability, through "modeling the behavior that you know will be healthy for your team." She proposed that if we want the industry as a whole to improve, we have to start internally within ourselves and in our development teams.
Amy and I were wholly in agreement with Eve. I aim to have a sustainable work life balance, and encourage my direct reports to do the same. I feel proud of my team for reciprocating this idea back to me if they see I’m overexerting myself and encouraging me to take time off as well. In taking care of our mental and physical health, I hope that we can have a healthier relationship to work rather than have periods of crunch. Amy resonated with Eve’s insights around proactive accountability, ensuring psychological safety, and sharing vulnerability. Being transparent can help those that have experienced the harm feel the healing, feel more welcomed and build strong cohesion internally. “Games are highly influential; we need games that serve communities to (as Eve put it) ‘enhance well-being and build community,’” shared Amy.
Protecting Your People
Another memorable moment during the conference was during Keywords Studios’ discussion around “How can we create safer online spaces?” Sharon Fisher and Leah MacDermid talked about how they take care of their “superheroes” internally and give them “armor” through tools, including mental health benefits, empathetic leadership, learning opportunities, and frequent check-ins. They acknowledge that their superhero moderators are subject to the worst of the internet, but still strive to make the online world safe every day. At times, they may be literally fighting and saving lives. Near the end, Sharon mentioned Modulate’s work with them, which came to a surprise to me and Amy. We felt proud that Modulate has gained recognition in the industry and is working closely with trust and safety experts.
Modulate is always making efforts to improve voice chat and company culture overall. We’ve grown to be fairly gender diverse for our size and I would love to see even more gender parity throughout the company, especially in leadership positions. For example, Modulate’s C-suite currently is all male. I’d like to see an increase in people of other marginalized genders in positions of leadership in the future and will continue to push that effort forward.