The significance of women engineers on International Day of Women and Girls in Science lies in the fact that they play a crucial role in advancing and shaping the field of engineering, and their participation and leadership is essential to the growth and sustainability of the industry.
Women engineers bring unique perspectives, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving, and we interviewed Anushka Bajpai, Senior Software Engineer, Zynga to get her insights and perspectives on women in gaming. Edited excerpts below:
What inspired you to pursue a career in the video game industry and how did you begin?
I have always been fascinated with the power of technology and the transformative change it can bring to our lifestyles. Also, I have always had a knack for analyzing and solving problems. The gaming industry was fascinating to me because of the community of developers, designers, and artists that we get to work with across the world. The fact that technology can unite us while building games that people will enjoy gives me the utmost satisfaction.
After getting experience as a software engineer for a few years, I decided it was time to grow. And what could be better than the gaming industry which has always captured my keen interest?
How has the video games industry changed since you were a child and now?
It’s been quite an evolution if you think about it but that’s how technology works, its inherent characteristic is to keep innovating. When I was a child there were limited game options to choose from, the hardware was expensive and the storylines in the games were simplistic. What we see now, is a completely different landscape, for every individual, there are different types of games. There is something for each one – multiplayer games, games on cloud, simplistic games, and complex games. You think of it and it is accessible to you.
How is the video games industry evolving in terms of diversity and inclusion in all aspects?
The gaming industry is evolving in terms of diversity and inclusion, but there is still a long way to go. In recent years, there has been increased attention paid to the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the industry, and many companies are taking steps to address this issue. Many companies including Zynga are working to diversify their hiring practices, in an effort to create a more inclusive workplace. This includes recruiting from a wider range of backgrounds and promoting diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
Even the games we are developing have a more diverse representation in terms of the gender of characters, their lifestyles, etc. So, there is a concentrated effort to make sure all aspects of the industry grow with the current times.
How can the video games industry better support and uplift women in leadership positions and overall?
The industry is already working towards helping women employees shine brighter in the workforce. But I am reiterating some of the things that really help women employees at all levels. Companies should invest in training and development programs that help women build the skills and experience they need to succeed in their respective roles. A couple of other policies that encourage women to excel are flexible work hours, inclusive policies, and strong work culture. Companies must encourage and support mentorship programs that connect women with experienced leaders in the industry, providing them with guidance, support, and access to new opportunities. These are a couple of initiatives that I think will help women excel.
What is your stance on the controversy surrounding violence in video games and its effects on players?
Just like any other entertainment industry, the gaming industry works within the social and legal norms while catering to a variety of audiences. It strictly conforms to the ESRB board which assigns age and content ratings to consumer video games. Besides this, the gaming industry is conscious of the implications that their games bring. It works to fix issues and pivot strategies when needed.
What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities of the video games industry in India? Why do you think so?
Like any industry, gaming also faces challenges and there is quite a bit to be happy and proud about.
Limited domestic market: One of the biggest challenges for the gaming industry in India is the limited size of the domestic market. The market is still relatively small and there is limited awareness of video games as a form of entertainment, particularly in rural areas.
Lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce: The industry in India also faces challenges related to a lack of infrastructure and a shortage of skilled professionals which is slowly and steadily changing.
On the other hand, one of the biggest opportunities for the industry in India is the growing digital market. With the increasing availability of the internet and mobile devices, there is a growing demand for digital games, and the industry has a huge potential to grow.
High demand for local content: Another opportunity is the high demand for local content. There is a growing interest in Indian culture and history, and video games that are set in India or that feature Indian characters have the potential to be very popular.
Cost-effective development: India is also known for its cost-effective game development, which is another opportunity for the industry. Companies can take advantage of the lower cost of employment in India to develop and launch games at a lower cost, making them more competitive in the global market.
What do you believe is the role and responsibility of video games in society and how does it impact people’s lives?
In today’s world games are played to relax, unwind, entertain, and educate oneself. The impact of video games is massive because the industry is bigger than both the music and movie industries combined.
As a form of entertainment: Video games can be seen as a form of entertainment, much like movies or television shows. In this role, video games have the responsibility to provide a fun and engaging experience for players.
As a tool for education and therapy: Video games can be seen as a tool for education and therapy, and in this role, they have the responsibility to provide accurate and helpful information, and to be designed in a way that supports the well-being of players.
As a cultural medium: Video games can be seen as a cultural medium, much like literature or music, and in this role, they have the responsibility to reflect the values and beliefs of society and to promote understanding and empathy.
As a business: Video games can be seen as a business, and in this role, they have the responsibility to be ethical and transparent in their practices and to respect the rights of players and other stakeholders.
How do you stay up-to-date with advancements in technology and how do you incorporate them into making new games?
A great way to learn about the latest advancements in technology is to network with other professionals in the industry. There are many trade publications and websites that cover the gaming industry and report on new advancements in technology. Developers can stay informed by regularly reading these sources. There are numerous online communities and forums where developers can share information and learn from each other. Social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, can also be a great way to stay informed and connected with others in the industry.
Your response to criticism about the gaming industry’s impact on people’s physical and mental health?
From a physical health perspective, playing games can improve hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and cognitive flexibility. Additionally, gaming can be a fun and engaging form of exercise, as some games incorporate physical activity through motion controls or virtual reality.
From a mental health perspective, video games can provide an outlet for stress, anxiety, and depression, and can also be used as a tool for therapy and rehabilitation. Gaming can also provide a sense of social connection and community, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals who may have trouble forming real-life relationships. Ultimately it’s what you make of the product given to you.
Can you share a story about a project or accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?
My biggest accomplishment in recent years is being able to enter and contribute well to the gaming industry, especially in a space that has conventionally not been gender-neutral. To be able to perform, and be creative is something I’m very proud of.