After working in the gaming industry for 33 years, Sheri Graner Ray continues to see game developers neglect women gamers to the industry’s detriment.
When Ray started her career as a video game designer in 1989, no one was paying attention to women gamers.
“Women weren’t being taken seriously as a market, and I didn’t understand why,” Ray said. “I didn’t understand why no one would consider women as a solid market, because I played games. I could not understand why other women would not be interested.”
In 1994, Ray gave her first talk about women gamers at a conference.
“The topic of the panel was new markets, and I was specifically talking about the girls market,” she said. Outside the conference, men were handing out flyers protesting Ray’s talk.
“They were protesting that I didn’t belong on that panel, that this was not something that should be talked about,” Ray said. “I just could not understand why anybody would want to shut the door on a market. It just didn’t make any sense to me. ‘Why are we making such a dumb mistake? This is money on the table.’”
Women in games
Since then, Ray has become a regular speaker on women in gaming, and in 2000 she founded Women in Games International. Ray also worked on one of the first games made in the United States designed specifically for girls, “McKenzie & Co.” by Her Interactive.
“We got boxes of letters from girls saying ‘Thank you, you finally made a game for me.’ We put them on the walls,” she said. “That just makes your heart roar.”
Despite huge advances in the technology of games, Ray still sees the same problems when it comes to considering women in the industry, both in the workplace and as consumers.
“We are still dealing with the problem of the homogenous nature of the industry, and the fact that the majority of our leadership is white, cis, able-bodied, and male,” Ray said. “Every single Fortune 500 company interviewed by Forbes magazine said the biggest value of a diverse leadership board is ingenuity and the increase in ingenuity and creativity. Well, guess what? Our industry thrives on ingenuity and creativity.
“There is this opportunity for increasing our market share, improving our products. and building better things, and we just don’t do it.”
The best antidote to the problem, Ray says, is encouraging young women to enter the games industry.
“I did this for 33 years and I would not trade it,” she said. “It’s an amazing industry to be involved in, but there are bumps. There are hurdles, but never give up and never surrender. Keep moving.”