I am really happy to present my interview with Kaye Elling. Kaye is currently a lecturer in Computer Games at the University of Bradford. Kaye has over 12 years industry experience in game design, with titles such as GTA2, Premier Manager and Bratz on portfolio.
Recently she shot to fame after releasing the 51 things every game student should know, which has now grown into the 100 things every game student should know. With all of this game knowledge, I wanted to pick her brain on games, gamification and women in games.
You have a varied career in video games, how did it all start for you?
By accident! In 1995 I had just graduated from university with a degree in illustration and (stop motion) animation, and a complete lack of any desire to go to London where all of the animation was happening at that time. A friend of mine had got a job at a local games company and said they were offering week-long artist internships. I gave myself a 2 day crash course in 3D Studio R4 and went along out of desperation more than anything else. 4 years later I was still there - although thankfully was being paid by then - and had fallen in love with 3D graphics and game development.
What prompted the move from game development to teaching?
Foolish idealism and a desire to be part of the solution not the problem. I had been tasked with recruiting 7 junior artists for my team, and waded through exactly 100 applications from university graduates. Of these only a hand full were good enough for shortlisting, and of the three offers we made only one was accepted. Even I could do the maths on this and so I decided to do something about it. At this stage I had been in games for 13 years and had been commuting on a weekly basis for nearly half that time. I was ready for a change and wanted to live full time in the house I was paying the mortgage for, so decided to take the leap into academia. Silly woman.
I found out about your work through the now 100 things every game student should know. I love it and think that much of it can apply to almost anyone, but what made you decide to produce it?
Fundamentally I am a mean spirited human being who is very adept at complaining and sarcasm. I'm also quite passive aggressive, especially during assessment periods when I have to do an obscene amount of marking and am not allowed to punch anyone. Initially the "100 Things" was going to be a short general feedback slide show for my students, where I could share the kinds of poor practice I saw again and again in an anonymous and pointed, but humorous way.
After I had shared a couple of slides on Twitter just for kicks, I realised that it was getting a good response so threw caution to the wind and went ahead and published it on my blog (which I never get around to updating). The response was huge, and I had over 20K views within a couple of days. Seems that I struck a chord with many industry people who are just as adept at complaining and sarcasm as I am. Huzzah!
You are passionate about women in the games industry. Can you tell me a little about what you think the issues are and how you think we can solve them as an industry.
The issue of Women in Games has been on the industry radar for about a decade, and in many ways not much is changing. There is still a shocking gender imbalance in game development, even though other media industries (e.g. web and graphics) have no such problems. These days though, the main issue is the toxic atmosphere surrounding online games and gamer communications and the extremely vocal misogyny that still hasn't been addressed by industry.
I think this is the main hurdle to getting some of those many female gamers that now exist into development. Until the industry takes a very vocal stand against the appalling abuse of women who have the "audacity" to speak on the subject of games publicly, or heaven forfend to actually play games outside of the pink ghetto the industry has created for them, then nothing will change. I'm getting more militant about this as I get older and as I hear the same woolly, well-meaning discussions again and again. This is why I'm doing a doctorate in this area, because we need some hard hitting figures to make industry wake up and smell the shitstorm. ‘Scuse my language.