Women at GDC 2016

With GDC 2016 just a week away, the conference has released teaser videos of the many panels and speakers scheduled during the event. Here’s a list of those sessions that feature female game devs, designers, writers, audio composers, or other creative gaming types sharing their experiences.

Making the World of Firewatch

This is a postmortem style presentation about the art production challenges Campo Santo faced when developing Firewatch. The talk will discuss the reasons behind various production decisions and how we dealt with other unexpected issues. While showcasing visual examples from the first person narrative game, Jane will explain the methodology behind our scene management, asset modeling and world streaming. The talk will go into some details regarding the specific tools required to achieve the art style in Firewatch, and offer some advice on how small art teams can make the best use of their time and resources.

Speaker: Jane Ng (Artist, Campo Santo)

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Women Lead VR: Executives Discuss Content Creation and Diversity

Executives from four women-led VR companies discuss production in this emerging medium and the value of bringing diverse voices into the creation of meaningful, impactful content. With backgrounds in traditional film and television, journalism, digital content, and tech, each panelist will discuss her path to virtual reality and unique perspective inside the VR ecosystem. They will explore the ways they’ve navigated this traditionally homogenized industry to rise to its forefront, and where one can find biggest opportunities for new voices in 2016.

Panelists: Christina Heller (CEO, VR Playhouse), Christine Cattano (Executive Producer, Framestore VR Studio), Shannon Gans (CEO, New Deal Studios, a 21st Century Creative Studio), Nonny De la Peña (CEO, Emblematic Group)

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Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: Creating Inclusive Environments for Women

With the emergence of various campaigns to increase the number of women in STEM-related degrees and careers, the games industry in particular has a less positive reputation for supporting women. Women simply aren’t thriving here due to a variety of systemic factors. One of these factors is “impostor syndrome.”

This session will define impostor syndrome, name behaviors and unconscious biases that contribute to this industry-wide issue and discuss its impact on women (especially those in technical roles). This talk will also offer insights on how to recondition oneself from the effects of impostor syndrome, as well as provide simple tips to create workplace environments that encourage women to thrive.

Speaker: Jess Loeb (Software Architect, GSN Games)

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History Shaping Design: Gender Roles As Shown In Centuries of Game Design

While gender has always played a role when it comes to games and toys, those lines have not always been clearly defined. From western Chess to Mall Madness, we’ll explore how game mechanics can change who gets to play, and how marketing pressure and seemingly unrelated TV deregulation can restructure a whole industry. We’ll examine some surprising parallels between more recent games like Twister and older parlor games, and see how gender roles have changed through the years - and stayed the same.

Speaker: Julia Keren Detar (Game Designer, Untame)

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Indie Dev in a Vacuum Roundtable: Benefits and Bummers of Being a Remote Dev

Part of the appeal of independent game development is that games can be made anywhere at anytime. Though this reduces the barrier for entry into the industry, it is easy to forget about the psychological aspects of completing your game and the emotional fortitude it takes. When isolated from a larger developer community, independent game creators can find it difficult to find the resources they need to keep going. How can these problems faced by game developers around the world be addressed? Come to share your challenges and successes with others in the same situation and maybe pick up a few tricks to take home, wherever that may be.

Panelists: Lisa Walkosz-Migliacio (Game Designer, Intropy Games), Beth Korth (Narrative Designer, Independent)

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Community Engagement at the Intersection of Games and News

What does the rest of the world know about engagement? Hear what influential disrupters in media know about the community engagement and formalize your understanding of community management at the same time. This presentation furthers funded research to understand how games can address the biggest problems in news media. Facilitated by the research fellows who spent 2015 working with the biggest names in news media, attendees get a chance to learn about their findings and provide feedback and insight. What happens when you bring adaptive, creative, high energy, game-fluent people to solve the biggest problems in community engagement? There’s a jolt of new solutions to the problems plaguing the consumption and production of media. How does game design and marketing translate into practicable solutions? Join this talk to start answering all these questions and gain greater insight into the world of community engagement.

Panelists: Lindsay Grace (Director, Creative Director, American University Game Lab), Joyce Rice (Fellow, American University Game Lab), Cherisse Datu (Fellow-Jolt Program, American University Game Lab), Kelli Dunlap (Fellow, American University Game Lab)

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IGDA Game Design SIG Roundtable

Join industry professionals and newcomers for a roundtable to discuss how the IGDA Game Design SIG can help game designers become better game designers. We will talk about how we can better share questions, ideas, and information in our group discussions and how the group can implement initiatives.

Speaker: Sande Chen (Writer and Game Designer, Independent)

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Beyond the “Sound Guy”: Self-Promotion, Freelancing and the Work-Life Balance

Have you ever been called a “sound guy”? Women in game audio face unique obstacles in building their careers, particularly as the industry is moving more and more towards a freelance model of work for audio professionals. Let’s work together to explore what some of those obstacles are and how to overcome them. In the first session we’ll focus on self promotion, freelancing and work-life balance. In the second session, we’ll focus on women in the game audio workplace.

Panelists: Karen Collins (CEO, Veemix), Jennifer Lewis (Director & Creative, Maple Syrup Sound), Becky Allen (Audio Director, Composer, PopCap/Electronic Arts), DB Cooper (Voice Actor. Narrator. Casting & Directing VO for Games, DB Cooper VO, LLC.)

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VR Microtalks: Intersections of Design & Technology

Five leaders from a variety of creative backgrounds will share practical advice collected from exploring VR. Learn about experiments and accomplishments of technology and design in the current VR renaissance.

Panelists: Samantha Kalman (Creative Technologist, Timbre Interactive), Theresa Duringer (Co-Founder, Temple Gates Games), Holden Link (Founder, Turbo Button), Ben Throop (Founder/CEO, Frame Interactive), Chandana Ekanayake (Game Director, Uber Entertainment)

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Practices in Procedural Generation

Procedural generation changes the design approach of every system it touches, offering infinite variation. But how is it used in a concrete way, for developers actually at work on their game? Designers from Dwarf Fortress and Moon Hunters will share their tools and methods for implementing procedurally generated experiences, by live-editing their game systems during this session.

Panelists: Tanya Short (Creative Director, Kitfox Games), Tarn Adams (Toady One, Bay 12 Games)

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How Game Mechanics Helped Players Embody 19 Year Old Nina

Games are great at creating spaces where players can explore identity. Sometimes, games help players explore their own identity by giving them tools to express themselves within the game’s world and systems. Games can also ask players to perform as and better understand another identity. Designer Nina Freeman will explain how, in Star Maid Game’s Cibele, she designed a system that asks players to embody a young woman falling in love with someone over the internet. Nina will speak about how players can understand a character in an honest and intimate way through mechanics that support embodiment and performance.

Speaker: Nina Freeman (Level Designer, Fullbright)

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Micro Postmortems

Making games in small teams is difficult, but massively rewarding. Full creative control, purity of vision, and the ability to take risks. These three games did just that, though they came from different backgrounds, and represent totally different experiences - from a cyberpunk first person slasher made in Texas, to an intricate visual novel made in Washington, to an abstract platformer from Korea, these three teams will share what went well and what could have gone better during the development process.

Panelists: Sun Park  ( Creative Director, Turtle Cream), Young-Min Park  (Programmer, Turtle Cream), Aevee Bee  (Writer and Co-Creative Lead, Mammon Machine), Christine Forbus  (CEO/Co-Owner, Super Duper Game Company), Garrett Cooper  (Gamemaker and Co-Owner, Super Duper Game Company)

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Q&A Panel: Managing Your Game’s Social Media & Communities (presented by Unity Technologies)

Join Unity’s Social Media and Community Management team for a panel style Q and A. We’ll be answering basic questions such as “When do I start engaging with my community?” and “How often should I be posting to social media?”, as well as taking questions from the audience. Take notes, but don’t stress, each attendee will receive a FAQ guide to take home for future reference.

Panelists: Hollie Figueroa  (Community and Social Media Manager, Americas, Unity Technologies), Sara Lempianien (Community Manager and Answer Lead, Unity Technologies), Kristyna Paskova  (Social Media Management Lead, Unity Technologies), Aurore Dimopoulos (Community Management Lead, Unity Technologies)

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Sarah Warn is the Editor-in-Chief of and an avid player of console and PC games of all kinds. She was previously the founder and EIC of, and online editorial director for MTV Networks. Follow Sarah on Twitter.

Sarah Warn is the Editor-in-Chief of and an avid player of console and PC games of all kinds. She was previously the founder and EIC of, and online editorial director for MTV Networks. Follow Sarah on Twitter.

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