When I was in elementary school, I played a LOT of video games on our Nintendo Entertainment System. They helped me escape from the tough things in life- like divorce, and bullies, and boredom in a small town. (For all the young people reading this, the internet didn’t exist back then…or DVRs….or Cartoon Network!) They also gave my younger sister and I something to do together. That is a big deal for siblings who fight constantly. We were able to unite by finding common enemies- like Bowser!
I also realize now that a couple of my closest girl friends in elementary school were fellow gamers. One friend, Abby, had way better games than I did, so I’d stay the night at her house and we’d stay up until all hours playing Burger Time, Super Mario Bros. 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Our claim to fame was beating Rad Racer!
I had another friend, Elizabeth, who had an older brother that loved video games, which was a total bonus! They had the Track and Field game with the power pad, Excitebike, and one of my all-time favorites, Ducktales! We’d also go up to the local video rental store and rent games to play for the weekend. One that I distinctly remember beating with her was The Adventures of the Magic Kingdom! She was a popular girl whereas I was a straight A nerd type, but she was a neighbor, and video games were our common bond. Being a child of divorce in the 90’s, video games played a key role in our family setting as well. Video games gave my sister and I something fun to play with my dad when we visited him.
Video games were also a great ice-breaker when my mom remarried the first time. My first stepsisters, my sister and I spent many hours playing Adventure Island and other games on the NES! After the death of my first stepfather, my mom remarried again (you can see how video games could be something consistent in my early life), and we lived on a farm out in the country with only 3 channels on the TV and an old Sega Genesis for entertainment. We also only had 2 games- Sonic the Hedgehog and NBA Jam. I got REALLY good at Sonic, even though I never could manage to beat it! Our stepbrother, my sister, and I bonded over these games even though we didn’t have much else in common.
By high school, my days and nights were spent at school learning, at my job as a pizza maker, at marching band and show choir practice, and playing softball. I didn’t have time for video games anymore, and none of the people I hung out with played them. There is a big gap of time where I missed XBox and Play Station. It wasn’t until I met my husband and friend Phil that I had friends to play video games with again. We spent a lot of time playing a variety of different games, which allowed me to improve my lost skills. Getting used to that XBox 360 controller was no easy task for this NES and Sega girl! Because I was in a comfortable environment to practice , and because these guys are two of the best gamers I’ve met yet in life, I got to reignite my passion for video games. Basically, I am establishing that my core love for video games, the amount of time I spent playing them as a kid, and the way games connected me with people I may have never interacted with is not an uncommon story for many other girls and boys, men and women. In my opinion, I don’t think boys are more encouraged than girls to play video games or go into game development, just like I don’t think girls are discouraged from it. I think circumstances determine whether a person has the opportunity to play video games and/or if they meet someone who tells them or shows them that making video games (through programming, art, music, or management) is a career option.
I am a video game lover and musician who happened to reconnect with my love of video games through my husband Chris and friend Phil (my current team at Outhouse Games). I have these two men in my life who discovered that learning to make games doesn’t require going back to school. Phil went from doing 3-D graphics and animation for another company to learning how to program his own games to incorporate his artwork into. Chris went from being an IT guy working on other companies’ computers and systems to learning how to program and using his business and management experience for his own business. I went from being a classically trained musician and music teacher to learning how to program music so I could implement it into and enhance games with it. We all discovered this avenue after we’d studied, gotten “real jobs” and had enough life experience to realize that we don’t want to spend this gift we’ve been given, life, working for someone else and helping them make their dreams come true. We figured out a way to make our own dreams come true!
I gave a somewhat misleading title to this article, because it seems to be a topic that is currently trending- women in tech. Specifically women in the video game industry. My personal conclusion is that I think if anyone, man or woman, puts in the time and hard work it takes to master their craft, has a great attitude, continues to learn and grow, is passionate about what they are doing, and lines themselves up with the right people, they can be successful and respected in any industry. My goal isn’t to just be a woman in the games industry for the sake of being a woman here. I want to show people that I can make quality music and sound effects that will connect people to a game and make it the best, most complete package it can be. I just happened to have been born a girl!