Electronic Arts COO Says Female Game Developers Are The Future Of The Gaming Industry


If you were following the majority of news around the time the Gamergate scandal exploded into the mainstream, you might be forgiven for thinking that women were only a small minority of the video game industry. Sure, they are most definitely and overwhelmingly disproportionately targeted by misogynists, trolls and online stalkers, but there is a larger community of female gamers than some people may think.

And let’s be clear, by “scandal”, we mean the way certain women were viciously attacked and threatened online for A) simply being female, and B) being part of a universe that has traditionally been an exclusive boy’s club. People like Anita Sarkeesian, who hosts a Youtube show dissecting the way video games misappropriate representations of women, and game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu became the victims of targeted attacks where anonymous bullies exposed their personal details publicly online (known as “doxxing) and in one extreme case Anita was due to speak at a University in Utah but a feminist hater threatened a mass shooting if the college allowed her to speak.

Needless to say the University cancelled her speech for safety reasons. The fact that there are trolls and bullies out there willing to go to such huge lengths as threatening an extreme violence act gives you an indication this isn’t just some silly squabble to walk away from and ignore. It has affected the every day lives of some of these women and it is very disconcerting.

To get more of an in-depth look at what female gamers and developers put up with on a daily basis, we encourage you to check out the documentary ‘GTFO’ where various women talk about being bullied and harassed online.


Despite all of this, it is a testament to all the female gamers out there that they are growing in numbers. A new study by the Entertainment Software Association has released information that says women now occupy the largest demographic in the gaming industry. Women over 18 made up 36% of the gaming population, followed by adult men at 35%. Teen boys only make up 17% of the demo.

The study also saw a boom in female game players over the age of 50, which means the average female gamer in this category has been playing for 13 years. Additionally, the audience for computer and video games is now an even 50-50 split between male and female genders.

“All of that means that stereotypes are breaking fast in the gaming industry, particularly the longheld stereotype of the adult woman as an outlier who sticks to mobile games and “social” games on Facebook while the more hardcore gamer, the “serious” (male) gamer, goes for console games,” writes Aja Romano at the Daily Dot about these new figures.

The trolls may not yet be used to the new status quo when it comes to gaming, but industry leaders certainly do. Electronic Arts, one of the biggest game producers in the world who also make the EA Sports FIFA series (which notably just released their latest edition which finally featured female soccer players for the first time) is keenly aware of the trends going on with female gamers and are responding accordingly it seems.


In an interview with Fortune Magazine, EA’s COO Peter Moore identified how the increase of female lead developers means they will ensure their powerful dominance in the industry.

“We’ve gone from the personification of what we believe women should look like in a video game, to actually involving women in making video games, to today where at Electronic Arts we have some of our most powerful franchises overseen by women who manage hundreds of men,” he said.

He tells Fortune that 40% of the ‘Sims’ development team are women, and that there is a significant female presence in their mobile gaming department. Since joining the company in 1999, he has witnessed first hand the growth of women and how instrumental it has been to their success.

“You can look at the last twelve months with everything that has gone on with Gamergate, that it’s made us all pay attention to this issue. When we talk about what I call D&I, Diversity & Inclusion, at EA, it’s never far from our minds when we make hiring decisions,” he said.

One of the ways he plans to invest in this female boom is to target girls while they are young. EA recently hosted a team of young female coders from the Girls Who Code organization who worked with developers for 7 weeks creating their own apps.


“At EA we’re encouraging girls to think about programming as a career as young as high school, even before you get into college and focus on where you go for computer science degrees,” he said.

This is important because a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse found that the number of women graduating with STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math) bachelor degrees in the US has declined over the past decade. Out of that group, Computer Science degrees fared the worst for women. In 2004 the number of graduating females was 23%, in 2014 it was down to 18%. Essentially what EA is doing is trying to flip the script for the next generation coming through the schooling system who will hopefully grow up not viewing any STEM job as “male-dominated”.

Peter’s focus on diversifying their back end while also reaching out to new audiences is an integral part of the company culture at EA.

“We all need to step back sometimes and think about the environments we create for our people, the opportunities we create for people internally, and equally importantly how you bring new blood into the company,” he said.

He says the biggest lesson from Gamergate is the need to cater to more women so that men don’t just see this industry as theirs exclusively.


“It can’t all be white males. As a result, I think that hiring managers at EA over the last couple of years have had a sharper focus on diversity. If there’s been any benefit to Gamergate…I think it just makes us think twice at times,” he concluded.

As for the inclusion of female soccer players in FIFA 16, he said the USWNT World Cup Win this past summer was a big factor in deciding to diversify their player options. And with the 2016 Olympics in Rio where the women will once again have a chance to snatch the top prize, he says this could affect the sales of the game. At the moment it is still too early to tell how well FIFA 16 has done in terms of its female audiences.

This is encouraging to see all round. While it is easy to listen to the negativity that unfortunately gets a lot of space online, it is important not to let that dictate the conversation. If there are any female gamers out there or aspiring female game developers looking for more role models and representatives of what is possible, look no further than EA.

Here is a list of some of the top female lead game developers as reported by Fortune just to get you started.

“Sara Jansson serves as executive producer at EA DICE on the first-person action game Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, while Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir at DICE is senior producer of the multiplayer action game, Star Wars Battlefront. Rachel Franklin is executive producer of The Sims 4. Senior vice president and general manager Samantha Ryan is heading up EA’s mobile initiatives. Amy Hennig is creative director at EA’s Visceral Games working on a new Star Wars game. And Jade Raymond is heading up EA-owned development startup Motive in Montreal to create original games, while also overseeing Visceral Games and working with EA developers like BioWare,” writes John Gaudiosi.

Ladies, it’s time to level up!








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