It was not so long ago that women gamers were ruthlessly bullied on social media for speaking out about ‘prejudices’ in the gaming industry. However, things changed for the better with various ‘girls in gaming’ initiatives by Facebook, Microsoft, Xbox, Google, etc., where they not only campaigned for players, but invited girls to come up with ideas for future games.
With an overall rise in women gamers, who account for nearly half of the gaming population (thanks to the impact of smartphone and its mobility factor), the gaming industry has been looking up to women as game developers too. The reason – they bring diversity. Though the percentage of women game developers in India is not more than 3-4 per cent at present, compared to around 43 per cent of workforce in other parts of the world, there has been a constant rise in the number, particularly in the mobile gaming applications.
Says Nymisha, quality analyst at Purple Talk, “The gaming industry in India is in a nascent stage; yet, you will find where there was one woman game developer in a company six years ago, there are at least 10-15 now.” But, the reason behind fewer girls getting into the field is mostly due to the misassumption that IT industry is more secure for girls than gaming. In fact, it is the IT sector which has limitations in terms of employment, while games evolve every other day and many companies are coming to Hyderabad too, she adds.
Karthick C Reddy, director, International Academy of Computer Graphics, agrees, “Everyone hears about success stories scripted in IITs and IIMs, but not in the gaming industry. Though gaming is a $116 billion industry worldwide, India’s contribution is $800m, which is just 1/20th part of the entire revenue.”
Meanwhile, for Soumya, Jyoti, Shweta and Hephzibah, who work as a team in various capacities – right from content artiste to game producer, negative perceptions have never been a deterrent. “We have been able to convince our families, though with an effort, who, till then, knew only about IT,” says Jyoti, senior technical artiste.
“When girls go to parents with the wish to become a developer, they say ‘yeh toh ladkon ka kaam hai’ (this is the work of boys). But, we are sure where we will be going in our career. It’s fun in the same way as engineering,” Shravya Reddy, student of Backstage Pass Institute of Gaming and Technology, says with pride.
Coming of age
The Indian gaming industry has come of age. With just a handful of game developing studios, which were outsourcing for foreign gaming companies (concentrating on console- and PC-based games) in the ’90s, the number, mostly startups, has increased to nearly 1,000 at present, with a few located in Hyderabad as well.
“After the advent of smartphone, the market is mainly mobile-driven now. Online and consoles are not accessible to people all the time, but smartphones are,” says Hephzibah Bollam, game producer at Purple Talk.
Karthick adds that right from the conception of the idea to releasing the game is a costly affair. Investors remain sceptical of backing young game developers as gaming remains a hit-driven business similar to movies. That is why only well-established companies are able to make games. And successful Indian startups are either bought or merged by companies abroad.
Still, it’s heartening to see that some of the private schools are teaching game development in schools, he says. Here, gaming art and programming, though two different worlds, collaborate with each other to create a game.
Gaming field certainly has employment opportunities with a lot of things happening in India and abroad, he feels.