Welcome to Dames Who Make Games, Gamerwife’s interview series with the lovely ladies who make our video games. Whether you’re a QA tester or a company VP, we want to hear what you have to say. And remember to click “Continue reading” for the whole story.
This week in Dames Who Make Games we change gears a little and talk to industry newcomer Meagan Q. We covered everything from getting your foot in the door, to modding games, to why women of our generation didn’t grow up wanting to work in games.
GW: How do you find working in QA? Is it just a foot in the door?
MQ: Exactly! I like it. I hear a lot of people complain about it, but I like it fine. I feel really grateful to be there, every day. Even though it’s “just” QA, I don’t care. This is my foot in the door and it’s something related to gaming.
I just need to stay focused on getting into development. Even without having a lot of experience I feel like that’s where I should really be. I know I’ll get there!
GW: Since you’re pretty new to this, what are your goals in the industry?
MQ: I want to get into design. Level design, environment art, I think those are the things that appeal to me the most. I’ve been modding for years and I know bits and pieces of these things. But because I’ve learned them on my own, it’s all kind of piecemeal. So my goal right now is just to get together a better portfolio to present and convince someone out there to give me a chance.
I am working in QA right now and trying to make contacts. There are a lot of other people that are aspiring to the same thing, so it’s good talking to them. I think really it comes down to who you know.
GW: As far as making contacts, would you consider working at a startup or an independent game company?
MQ: Absolutely! I’m really into indie games. I’m actually hoping I’ll finish a mod with a friend of mine. [we both start laughing because she’s talking about my husband, Rick]. Because that would look really good on my portfolio… [more laughing].
I would really like to get in on an indie game. That would be amazing! I’d be happy to skip the whole “getting in with a big company” thing and just do indie stuff.
GW: I don’t know much about “modding,” do you share the stuff that you make?
MQ: I’ve only just started sharing, I’ve never shared before. I just kinda kept it to myself. I thought “oh, I should be sharing this,” then I didn’t because I had moved on to something else.
When I discovered I could mod games, that was huge. I couldn’t sleep. It was with Baldur’s Gate II, that I realized I could control the game and add things to it and then everything branched out from there. Before I was just playing games, I accepted things as they were. So When I discovered that I could take control of the game mechanics and change things how I liked, it was a huge thing for me.
Over the years I started doing more and more. Especially with Neverwinter Nights. I think that’s probably where I learned the most. And then in Morrowind I started doing scripting as well and that was pretty empowering.
It’s a weirdly satisfying feeling. I’d try to play the game as it was designed as much as I could, and then I would start modding more than I would play the game! Simply getting a mod to work is so satisfying. I would think to myself, “I got it to work, awesome! Now what else can I do?”
But I’d definitely love to complete something now that I know more people who are into game creation. That’s the other thing. When I was learning all this and doing all this modding, I was in a complete bubble. I lived out in the country, most of that time. There were communities online, but I’m shy, I am reluctant to talk to people I don’t know. Also, none of my friends were into it, and I couldn’t seem to get anyone interested.
I actually only had one friend who was into gaming, and he wasn’t interested in modding. I found this baffling! Anyway, so I had no one to work stuff out with. To get inspired by and encouraged by. But really that was my own fault. Like I said, there are plenty of online modding communities.
GW: Being a newcomer to the industry, have you had any issues with discrimination?
MQ: No, no I haven’t. I was a little bit worried because I’ve heard about these things, but so far I haven’t had any issues at all. Or maybe I have and I’ve just been blind to them, because I didn’t believe I was anything but equal.
GW: Do you find yourself maybe being more guarded at work because of things that you’ve heard?
MQ: Maybe a little bit. It might also help that I made friends with my leads pretty quickly. They’re both guys and they treated me equally and fairly, so I relaxed right away. I’ve had some guys being flirtatious, that sort of thing, but nothing overt. Nothing where I felt like I was being harassed.
GW: What do you make of the push now to get more women involved in making games? Organizations like Dames Making Games?
MQ: I think it’s all good. A lot of these issues would be helped if video games were directed more generally. Instead of a lot of them being made for a specific young, male audience that drives a lot of girls away before they have had a chance at a good gaming experience.
It can be frustrating and annoying as a female playing games geared for boys. Being forced to play a male character or a female character that wears bikini armor.
When I discovered D&D based RPG games where you could build your characters I was thrilled! I could finally play exactly how I wanted. Heavy character customization is much more popular these days, and I really love this trend. Regardless of the initial game designers intentions, good customization opens things up to more people.
And not just girls! Age, race, gender, it’s all possible with good customization options. Games, like Baldur’s Gate II, really made me feel like a part of that world. As a person.
GW: What’s the name of the first game that you played? Do you remember?
MQ: I’m not sure I ever knew what I was called. There were a bunch of games. My dad was always interested in technology and he had a Texas Instruments computer with these cartridges.
GW: I had that too!
MQ: That was my first computer, and my first real gaming system. So I just had whatever games my father had. I eventually had it in my bedroom with a little black and white TV and I was like “oh, this is pure fun!” It was so exciting! One of the games was Burger Time. I remember that one! I don’t remember the names of the other ones, but each one was a like special treat.
Eventually there was the Nintendo [NES] and Mario Brothers. But then, in my mid to late teens, I finally owned horses. So it was a toss up between games and doing horse stuff for a while there. Horses kinda won out, but games and technology were always there in the background. I never forgot, and I was always in awe of new entertainment technologies.
I’ve always been interested in computers. I could do a little bit of programming on my dad’s computer. As a kid I was fascinated with DOS and writing simple codes from this book he had. Making something happen! There’s one I remember writing that just made the computer count indefinitely, and another one that made this little cube that bounced from side to side. [laughs] that was great! And it was a wonderful feeling to make these things happen from a few lines of code.
I always played games a bit. I was in and out of it, but it was a constant presence. Then, as I got older, it became bigger and bigger and took up more of my time. Interesting, because I think for most people, it goes very much the reverse!
GW: I guess you’re more of a PC player?
MQ: Definitely PC. I always liked consoles, and I still do, but they were like a luxury item. It was hard to convince my parents to get new consoles or games for me. We weren’t rich. Also, in high school I was really into horses, so that’s where things got prioritized. [And horses are a big luxury and expense!]
It wasn’t until I was in University that I first got into Myst like games and I started playing frequently. All of this was on whatever computer or laptop I had at the time. I did finally get a PlayStation 2, and later an Xbox 360, but it’s still mainly PC. My last two computers were specifically built for gaming. My current PC, I built myself!
GW: What kinds of games do you generally play?
MQ: Anything good. [laughs] I like RPGs quite a lot. A little bit of everything really, in terms of narrative. Probably not first person shooters so much. Except really good ones, like Half Life 2. First person shooters are hard for me because I tend to get motion sickness [from the perspective]. But also, many of the triple A shooter games are very macho, and that doesn’t appeal to me much. If they have a good story and interesting characters (like HL2), then I’ll risk the stomach ache and play. But I played Wolfenstein, back in the day. That was pretty macho!
GW: Have you experienced any online harassment, as a woman?
MQ: I’ve heard this whole thing with women being harassed, but it’s not something I experience because I play so many single-player PC games. When I play online games I tend to play solo there too. Also, I tend to play RPGs, which is a very different crowd from the console shooter gamers.
I mean, the way I grew up was, kind of gender neutral. I grew up in the woods, raised by easy-going back-to-the-land parents. I didn’t really know anything about the reality [of gender discrimination] and I didn’t really experience anything I just heard about these things though the media, and I was like “what?” [laughs] “That’s crazy!”
I mean, I always stuck up for myself if I felt I was being treated a little differently because I was a girl. I wasn’t clueless. I had simply been raised to be who I wanted to be. I guess that was a great gift from my parents.
GW: Do you think that gave you an advantage in some way, because you didn’t have these preconceived notions of how you would be treated?
MQ: Yeah, probably. I didn’t assume any stereotypical female behaviour which I think probably feeds on itself. I mean I loved My Little Ponies and dolls and the color pink, but I also loved toy cars and Legos, catching tadpoles, and stuff like that. As a teen, I never did identify much with my peers. The brief time I did try to act more like the other girls, I think that was a low time for me.
As I said before, my parents were back-to-the-landers in the 70s. I had a really weird early childhood because we lived in the middle of the woods with no power, no running water. It was pretty hardcore. No cable, certainly no Much Music! But that was only until I was around 7. Then we moved and got electricity.
That’s when everything opened up, for technology and computers… Maybe that’s why I was so fascinated with these things. It was just such a huge jump from how I’d spent my early childhood. And I hadn’t been so sheltered that I didn’t know these things existed. We traveled and my parents were always worldly people.
GW: There’s also the idea that technology wasn’t really “a girl thing”…
MQ: Yeah I was always aware of that, in spite of my upbringing, and perhaps that held me back from getting into these things sooner in life. As much freedom to grow as I’d had, growing up, I wasn’t completely immune to outside influence and opinion. Then again, I have always been a bit proud when I am not quite what people expect.
GW: What are you playing right now?
MQ: I’ve been playing Mortal Online a lot. It’s like half torture, half really fun because it’s really about survival, which is great. It’s completely open. It’s a European game, super realistic. You can tame horses… [laughs] I will admit that’s one thing that drew me in to trying it. But a lot of the game involves resource gathering, everything that’s constructed in the game, like all the cities, are things that are built by the players. I find that level of realism and involvement with the “history” of the game world, very appealing.
I’m also playing Lone Survivor, which is a lot of fun. And there are too many more to list, honestly! That’s a problem for me, though. I start games more often than I finish them. And it’s not like I get bored of them, there’s just always a new game that comes out to distract me with its pretty new world… begging to be explored. There have been so many good games that have come out. There’s not enough time to play through them all! [laughs]