I met Sabine at the Berlin Game Forum. She held a very moving talk about diversity in the games industry. What she said really made me think. I feel more people should hear what she has to say.
Marianna: Sabine, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. How did you end up in the video game industry and what are you doing now?
Sabine: In fact it’s a pure coincidence that I ended up in games back in 2003. I had just finished university (with a Master degree in cultural studies, sociology and journalism) and moved to London where I hunted down a job at a mobile content company. This is how I started my career in (mobile) games.
M: What do you enjoy most about working in games?
S: I’ve had a very intense career within the gaming space with different companies in different countries and with different nationalities. In a nutshell, I’ve learned an awful lot about the industry, about management, about business etc. I’ve seen one of my ex-companies going from a 30-person team to being traded on the NASDAQ, which was super crazy. I am now working as an independent Business Trainer & Coach (and university lecturer) and my heart still belongs to the gaming industry and its fantastic folks. I love technology, I love crazy and dynamic business environments and I love the spirit of the games culture.
M: From woman to woman—how do you see the current situation regarding women in the games industry?
S: (LOL) That topic is so complex that I am actually currently writing my PhD about “Gender in Games & Gaming” and hence I am not sure I can answer this question in few lines… But as a matter of fact: we are seeing change(s) happening as we speak, and I am really happy things are moving and that young females entering the industry do not face similar prejudices as I had to 10 years ago.
M: What do you think is the reason for the small number of women working in video games?
S: (see above) Firstly – there is not one reason, it’s a complex combination of various aspects. It starts with the very old stereotype that women just aren’t interested in Tech, goes to female candidates / participants within game-related degrees, women and men are entering the industry differently, women in general have different careers. For example: we hardly have women in top management positions at games companies in Germany by now. But also factors such as gender pay gap, flexible and part-time working, mindset and attitudes etc. are very relevant. There is a huge list of factors (depending on from which perspective you are looking at the issue) but the good news is that compared to few years ago we now gain some clarity and hence can start activities etc.
M: Could companies profit from hiring more women? What special skills do women bring into the games industry?
S: In my view, yes, absolutely. Firstly, and I am not getting tired of mentioning this argument again and again, more diverse teams have been found to work better (by management research, i.e. McKinsey “Women Matter”). Secondly men and women are constructed in different ways (sorry for simplifying…) and hence do benefit from each other and from different perspectives. And thirdly—half of the gaming population is female by now and I can not think of a single reason why not half of the “game workers” should be female?!
M: What could employers in the game industry do differently in order to attract more female employees?
S: Again, great question but hard to answer in few lines. To begin with I think it’s all about visibility, make yourself visibility and demonstrate you favor a diverse team. Then maybe, become a bit more creative in where you are looking for candidates—why not advertise a specific job offering in “Gala” or “Mädchen” [Note: Women’s magazines in Germany]? But more importantly I believe we need to go back to the school system and need to start encouraging girls to engage with computers, with technology, to learn coding etc. This is a known “Must have” and there are some awesome programs running, even in Germany and I would love to see game companies supporting those.
M: How about the age issue? Do you think there is an age limit for people working in the video game industry? Does a 50-year old game localizer, programmer, or game designer bring more expertise to the team, or outdated views?
S: Great question! I am, amongst others, researching quite a bit on diversity within the gaming space and just recently read an article about the industry’s issue with ageing. I absolutely think we might get an issue with this aspect. If you look at the current top management at games companies in Germany right now—they are all in their 40s. Imagine 10 years from now—are they fit enough to still lead these companies?! What kind of job are you doing once you’ve been the CEO of a company for few years? Not sure. But I think the industry needs to realize it is ageing not only itself but also the people working in the gaming space.
M: If you were a video game character, who would you be?
S: Faith from Mirrors Edge, I adore here style and her strength.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Sabine!
Name: Sabine Hahn
Bio: 10+ years Sales & Bus Dev in games, now working on the clever side of things, teaching and educating people (i.e. about games); Diversity Evangelist, Twin Mum, Coffee & Prosecco junkie
Best game ever played: I am ashamed to admit but I am a casual gamer and love Zuma, Tetris etc.
Currently playing: Fiete (kids app, with my kids)
How do you see the topic of women and older people working in the industry? Please share your opinion in the comments.
In case you are also interested in sharing your game industry knowledge…