SCAD Conference Focuses on Women in Games

Students gather to hear the keynote address.
Students gather to hear the keynote address.
Jen MacLean's keynote: "Every I Need to Know, I Learned by Playing Games."
Jen MacLean's keynote: "Every I Need to Know, I Learned by Playing Games."
Game designer Brenda Brathwaite now teaches at SCAD.
Game designer Brenda Brathwaite now teaches at SCAD.

Students came out Thursday at the Savannah College of Art and Design's River Club on Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard to get tips from the pros on success in the video games business.

Pros like game designer Brenda Brathwaite, who now teaches at SCAD, but is a longtime games industry veteran.

"I got into the industry a long time ago, believe it or not, back in the 20th century," she told us. "In '81 of all things."

She says things have changed over the years. "When I got into the industry, there were five women, five female designers and I knew every one of them."

Now, the group Women in Games International is here in conjunction with SCAD's annual Game Developers Exchange.

"Bringing Women in Games International here, this is in order to encourage more women to come into the industry," said Brathwaite. "Nowadays, though, there are a lot of women in the industry. We're seeing much more diversity than we ever used to see."

Graduate student Blair Cooper, whose video game character design work adorned the River Club's walls for today's event, had this to say: "I think whether you're male or female, it's important to realize that today's gamers come from a lot of different backgrounds. And it's also a great opportunity to meet a lot of industry figures. I already met someone whose book I read and really liked and talked with her."

Keynote speaker Jen MacLean, a 15-year games industry vet, now manages Comcast's games operation. She talked about how games can play an important role in everyone's life.

"Fifty-year-old women. Thirty-year-old men. People with a job, people with a family. Kids. Senior citizens. Games are for everyone," she told us. "And the best way to create a great gaming experience is to create a diverse community that makes those games."

MacLean notes that past games which have been successful among both men and women have embraced a different way of doing things. She cites Sid Meier's blockbuster Civilization. " groundbreaking in that at the time, it allowed you to play in a lot of different ways," she said. "You could be competitive, you could try to conquer the world, you could try and build up a great technology, you could try and create diplomatic relations with all of your friends and neighbors. It didn't say you have to play in a certain way in order to win."

The creativity to design the next groundbreaking game is likely to come from the kind of diversity today's event fostered. Which Brathwaite was sure to let us know includes aspiring young women. "It is possible to get into the games industry, and if people tell you it's all men, it's not all men," she said.

Events for up-and-coming game developers continue with the Game Developers Exchange Friday, where the agenda will be more general.

For more on women's growing role in the hobby and business of video games, see: Women Growing in Video Games as Consumers, Designers.

Reported by: Charles Gray,