"There were other women in the studio; I’m allowed to be here. I never get treated any differently to my co-workers, and there is a weight that is lifted off when you don’t have to worry about the impact of your gender on opportunities within your workplace."

Two years ago, for IWD 2022, we published a blog post featuring words from each of the women here at Balancing Monkey Games. We’ve since hired two more women - Nina, our QA Analyst, and myself - so we thought we’d update things this year! Read on to hear our thoughts and feelings about the industry, and how video games have impacted our lives.

Nina (QA Analyst)

My first game related memory actually isn’t of playing a game - it's of eating an ice block. As a child, there was an ice block company that ran a competition to win a Gameboy Colour and Pokemon Silver - the latest Pokemon game. Pokemon had been an obsession of mine since I first saw it on TV, and boy did I want to catch my own. We entered, and I won. The prize arrived one morning before school. I don’t remember how that day went, but I remember racing to find new batteries, asking my mum to play for me while I had to do chores, and sneaking my Gameboy into primary school. 

But one thing was missing from that game for me, and it wasn’t something I realised until I got Pokemon Crystal one year. Being able to play as a girl, it almost blew my mind. Sure, I could play as a girl in the Barbie games I played, but this was different. The character on the screen felt like me, a collection of pixels that represented me. Being different to the boys I played Pokemon with in the schoolyard, I always felt like an outsider. But within the games I played, I could fit right in. 

A few years ago I bought the game Miitopia for the Switch. This was another time I felt strongly represented - I could create a character with a lazy eye! Being able to dress my character as I wish I could myself, the character becomes an extension of my being. There is something about being able to make characters that feel like me that makes me think “I am allowed to be here”. 

Being neurodivergent, I always struggled fitting in, but I had much the same feelings of inclusion when joining the Balancing Monkey Games team. There were other women in the studio; I’m allowed to be here. I never get treated any differently to my co-workers, and there is a weight that is lifted off when you don’t have to worry about the impact of your gender on opportunities within your workplace. 

My hopes for the future is to see more diversity within the games we play. Gender, physical attributes, clothing. We all deserve a way to express ourselves and feel included. We are all allowed to be here.

Lia (Community Manager)

My (sometimes intense) relationship with video games started when I was very young, where I would find myself playing on my cousin’s PlayStation until my fingertips were red and raw.  Alarmed at how thoroughly sucked in I was, my parents forbade me from owning my own console until many years later - which particularly frustrated me as none of my girl friends in the 90s had access to video games themselves (and my options for mooching were therefore limited). I often had to content myself with forcing my younger sister into playing the very basic pen-and-paper games I’d make for us to play. It was a weird time for women in games, occupying an awkward space where we’d felt like outliers or hangers-on to a culture and industry that wasn’t truly “ours”. 

This feeling of being an “outsider” meant the thought of actually working in the industry was something I’d never considered possible - a feeling that I know many of my peers share. It’s a little funny, then, that working in games has made me feel like I can be more “myself” at work than in any other job. This is particularly true about how I feel at Balancing Monkey Games, where six out of our nine employees are women (!)

A lot has been said about how representation has had a huge impact on carving out a place for women in video games. But more than just these psychological barriers for women, the material hurdles are also very real. There’s an overlap here between gendered wage gaps and financial independence, plus the burden of unpaid care & household labour, and how this all translates to less opportunities for education and the pursuit of time-intensive hobbies. I’m quite proud of BMG for acknowledging this by offering things like a four-day work week and menstrual leave, benefits which we’d (probably) be less likely to have without a woman (and mother) as Managing Director.

The advent of open source and free software has also helped immensely with inclusivity & diversity within game development, for anyone experiencing material disadvantages. There is still an utterly massive gap in the industry between OECD countries and the rest of the world, but as technology becomes more accessible, this is slowly improving. And of course, across most lower socioeconomic strata, it’s women who tend to be hit the hardest. 

Finally, I’d like to list just a few women who are actively working to make the industry more accessible, through freely available resources and the communities that have been built around them. If you’re a woman looking to enter a career in games, I can’t recommend them enough.

  • Victoria Tran - a guiding light for many of us in community management
  • Freya Holmer - an excellent communicator of more “technical” concepts in game development
  • Yasmin Curren - offers a lot of resources on a broad range of topics

We’ve come a long way since the 90s (and the years Before My Time), and it’s almost dizzying to see how much things have changed. 

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to support us, we encourage you to wishlist Beyond These Stars, our upcoming game, or check out Before We Leave. And of course, come hang out with us on our Discord!

Happy International Women’s Day!