Geek Speak: Zoe Curnoe, co-chair of Women in Games Vancouver
Zoe Curnoe is quick to tell you that she’s a “huge” fan of Wonder Woman. She also loves to inspire women to get into the video-game industry.
Born in London, Ontario, Curnoe is the 40-year-old co-chair of Women in Games Vancouver, a group that promotes career and education opportunities. On September 12, Women in Games held an event called “Rescuing the Game Industry: Women and Children First?” at the Electronic Arts campus in Burnaby. A panel discussion, focusing on how the industry is broadening the appeal of its games, was followed by networking.
The Georgia Straight reached Curnoe by phone at her home in Vancouver.
What is Women in Games Vancouver up to these days?
Well, we just did the biggest event I believe we’ve ever done. At the event at EA, which EA sponsored, we did an all-female panel—five panel members and a moderator, all very experienced in the games industry. We think we had about 155 people turn out for it. It was an hour and a half panel just talking about “Should we be developing and marketing games for women, and how do we try to appeal more to that market?”
We were a bit quiet in the summer. A lot of people were on vacation or busy working on games. So we’re trying to commit to doing at least one event a month. A smaller event then a bigger one—switching back and forth.
How can video-game companies market more games to women?
That was one of the highly debated topics at the panel, and they didn’t really come up with a solution for it. The big gist of it, and definitely something that Jennifer Hepler from BioWare—who’s a senior writer there—said is it’s not really targeting or marketing to women. It’s looking at making console games more accessible to non-gamers, whether they’re male and female. That’s what we should be looking at, and I tend to agree.
What goals is Women in Games working toward?
Specifically, it would be to increase that 10 percent. In general, 10 percent of video-game developers are women—and that’s not marketing or HR. That’s actual hands-on, on the game team, making games—whether you’re an artist or a programmer or a producer. So we would just like to push that needle up in the percent.
Is the current state of the Vancouver video-game industry affecting female developers in a different way than male developers overall?
That’s a very good question, and I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t have a definitive answer. I would say that it sometimes can be more challenging for women to find roles in games, because they often will come from different industries. There just aren’t as many women in that hiring pool. A lot of VFS game-design classes only have one or two women in them—or none. So that pool feeding the people you’re interviewing is much smaller.
But our next Women in Games event is going to be in October. Matt Toner—who’s the NDP candidate running on kind of “Let’s pay attention to this games industry and stop them from leaving Vancouver”—he’s going to come, because he particularly wants to talk to women who work in games about their experience and how he can add that to his platform. That will be in October. We don’t have a date for that yet.
What are you working on right now at Electronic Arts?
At EA, I work for a centralized content development group. In that group, I am working on some training and development plans across two studios. We also have a studio in Orlando, Florida. I’m not so focused on an actual game title anymore.
What’s your favourite game to play?
Right now, I am trying to finish Mass Effect 3. But the weather is so nice that I’m having a hard time dedicating myself to it. The other game that I am currently addicted to is a little indie iPod game called Outwitters. It’s a hexagonal-based asynchronous multiplayer game that’s a bit like chess.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? You can tell Stephen Hui on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.