Jessica Horton, a digital environment designer for IllFonic, a video game developer, had no idea that gaming could be a legitimate career path for her. “It wasn’t until I had gone to school for a little while and was accepted into an art program that I realized that gaming was actually an option for me,” she said.
From the beginning, Horton noticed the clear gender imbalance in the games industry. “When I first started in games, me and my friend Felicia were two of three women in a company run by a woman,” she said. “That was it in a company of 60 or 70 people.”
This imbalance persists today.In 2020, women made up 46 percent of gamers but only 24 percent of those working in the gaming industry according to Forbes. In the top 14 companies, men hold 121 executive positions while women only hold 23, making up only 16 percent of executive roles.
“Going to game conventions, it’s usually very male dominated,” Horton said. In her own experience, however, the industry always welcomed women. “They would often be very accepting of me and my female friends and even be excited to see the variety of ideas that would be present.” That said, Horton has heard plenty of stories. “I have heard comments like ‘We don’t need to hire someone just because they’re a woman.’”
When she moved to IllFonic in 2018, she recognized the appeal of working at a smaller studio, where relationships within the company are paramount. “Everybody seems set on having the best working environment as possible and hiring people that would work out,” Horton said. “That was appealing to me because in game jobs you don’t always have control of who you work with.”
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