Dames Who Make Games

Dames Who Make Games: Gina H.

Dames Who Make Games Gina H. | Gamerwife.com

Dames Who Make Games Gina H. | Gamerwife.com

Photo by Mattias Graham at GAMERella Game Jam 2014


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 edition of Dames Who Make Games is a little different because my subject, the amazing Gina H. considers herself primarily a film maker. However, through her work with the Technoculture, Art and Games Reasearch Center at Concordia University (a.k.a. TAG Lab), she found her way to games as a form of expression and has been a vital part of helping new comers and women feel welcome in the local independent game scene. Part of this mission includes co-founding and coordinating for GAMERella, a game jam especially for women and first time game makers that aims to lower the barrier to entry in game development and create a creative space where anyone interested in game development can participate, whatever their skills or experience.

Gamerwife: Let’s start at the beginning, what was the first game you ever played?
Gina H.: It was probably Prince of Persia (the original for norton commander) on a school computer. Later I remember I watched my cousin play video games, but he never let me play. Then I read walkthroughs in gaming magazines for years without having a computer or ever playing any games. The first game I actually owned was Age of Empires. I still love that game.

GW: How did you get into making games?
Gina: I don’t actually think of myself as a game maker. I studied new media art and I did a lot of very ‘game-y’ interactive art pieces. When I joined the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center (TAG Lab) I realized, from a different point of view, that these works could be interpreted as games.

GW: Tell us about getting involved with TAG Lab.
Gina: I first joined the Lab during my MFA as a research assistant. I was interested in the roles of games in storytelling and in the exploration of connections between film, art and games. TAG is an interdisciplinary centre for research/creation in game studies and design, digital culture and interactive art. After graduating I was helping out with TAG’s game incubator Critical Hit, of which I am now the co-director.

Although I don’t have a background in games, I had worked with other interdisciplinary arts and technology centres before and I really felt home at TAG, so I understood the dynamics and connected with people very quickly.

GW: What inspired GAMERella?
Gina: I remember how intimidated I was at my first game jam and working at TAG showed me that it is not uncommon for women to feel similarly and to have a hard time going to events like jams, not to mention diving into the industry itself. GAMERella was conceived by Charlotte Fisher and myself to create an environment that is a safe and exciting for women, minorities, as well as anyone who feels they haven’t had a chance to make a (video or board) game in a city ruled by industry giants. Besides being a creative space, GAMERella also focuses on helping to improve people’s skills, to meet developers, and above all, to have fun.


Dames Who Make Games | Gamerwife.com

GW: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Gina: I studied new media arts at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest and at The University of the Arts London in the UK. Then I studied at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. For weird and complicated reasons I have two master degrees, but no undergraduate degree.

GW: What are the best/worst things about working in video games?
Gina: The answer to both best and worst for me are the similarities to the film industry. I feel there is a lot I can learn as a filmmaker from game makers. I just gave a talk on this at RIDM. I don’t just mean that games have fascinating and unprecedented ways to tell stories, but also that the game scene (at least the indie one) has a stunning force within its community.
The worst? Similarities about gender inequality in both employment and representation.

GW: Have you ever had issues with harassment or discrimination as a women in video games?
Gina: Not personally, but there are way too many sad stories around me. Discrimination as a filmmaker? Whole different story. Just the other day a taxi driver didn’t believe me when I said I direct films. He thought I meant I was an actress. I’ve heard this dozens of times in my life. I find that this is a small symptom of a much larger problem within society, a problem which enables things like GamerGate. And it’s the same whether you are making films or games.

GW: What advice do you have for other women who want to be involved in game development?
Gina: Be persistent and stand up for yourself. Also, look up what impostor syndrome is!

GW: What games are you playing right now?
Gina: Mostly Minecraft. We have an insanely modded server at the Lab. I was just told it’s one of the most modded ones out there. I am also working on a short documentary about the lab members’ life on the Minecraft server and in reality and how they connect.

About Gina H.

Gina Haraszti is an acclaimed filmmaker and artist with a background in art & technology, interested in the experimental aspects and transmedial forms of visual culture. Currently she is a Art & Tech Researcher and Filmmaker at the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center (TAG Lab) in Montreal. She is also the cofounder of the GAMERella game jam, a special jam aimed at women and first time game makers. Currently she is working on a feature length documentary about women who identify as geeks called Otaku no Otaku.

You can find more information about Gina and all of her projects on her website, or by following her on Twitter. You can also support Gina’s projects directly through Patreon.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Ari Carr
    December 1, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Fantastic interview! It’s really interesting that she talks about how film and games come together.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      December 2, 2014 at 12:08 am

      Thanks, Ari. I also feel like film and video games could learn a lot from each other.

      • Reply
        Ari Carr
        December 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm

        I completely agree- as a screenwriting student, I’ve thought a lot about how the narratives are similar, or how open-choice can affect the narrative of a video game. When you get films that are non-standard narrative, there tends to be quite a lot in common.

        • Reply
          Mariko
          December 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm

          Not to mention how work forces are organized or distribution channels…

  • Reply
    GAMERWIFE INTERVIEW « Gina Haraszti
    December 1, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    […] Mariko, a.k.a. Gamerwife is a Montreal based geek lifestyle blogger.  For her website she often interviews ladies who make video games. Dames Who Make Games, as she calls it, has featured many people from QA tester to company VP. I was very honored when she asked me to join this illustrious list of women creators. Here is a little intro to the interview. If you are interested in reading the full post, please visit her blog GAMERWIFE. […]

  • Reply
    Joie Fatale
    December 3, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Wow! I looked up Imposter syndrome, and it seems like it is something that the world consistently pushes women to have! (and Otaku No Otaku sounds like a fun doc)

    • Reply
      Mariko
      December 3, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Yeah, women definitely have much higher instances of Imposter syndrome. And I’m glad you’re excited about the doc. Gina is great. 🙂

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