A Woman in Gaming – and Business

In early 2014, when I was thinking about leaving my job to become my own boss, I anticipated a lot of challenges – but not a single one of them related to being a female in business. I simply saw problems and wanted the freedom to work on solving them. Formally trained as a graphic designer, I was about to leave the corporate world to work for myself both as a graphic designer and as Chief Operating Officer of Leaping Tiger – a yet-to-be launched social gaming startup. (It wasn’t until about a month after I quit my job that I learned the term ‘startup’! )

If I had known how few women there were in the space I was entering, I’m not sure if I would have been more driven to succeed, or scared away entirely! I consider myself extremely lucky that I have always been encouraged to do anything I set my mind to, and have always felt like I could. From the outside, the stats on funds raised and executive positions held by by female founders worldwide are pretty dismal. CrunchBase data shows that around 550 tech companies raised a Series B (second or third round of funding) in 2015; however, only 5% (30) of those had a female founder/CEO. Of course those statistics come straight from the USA, but there’s no denying the gender gap in NZ business too. We have a severe lack of females in governance, and women face inequality on a day to day basis. There are more men named ‘Dave’ on governance boards in NZ than there are women – of any name. I wish that was an exaggeration.

Being in a male/female cofounder partnership with a male CEO has its interesting moments – I’ve been left hanging on more handshakes than I care to remember. I don’t want to make excuses, but it is tough to change the status quo as an early stage founder, where you constantly feel less important than whoever it is you’re meeting with. I consider myself lucky to feel very supported by a network of people I trust, but I can see how this kind of experience can really wear someone down. However it’s not all bad – in my experience, NZ is a mostly encouraging place to be a young female founder. We’ve got a long way to go in demystifying unconscious bias in business, but I do believe lots of young NZ companies are making some big steps in the right direction.

n late 2015, PledgeMe CEO Anna Guenther crowdsourced a list of New Zealand business women. The list is truly inspiring, and makes it clear that female founders are not alone out there! As a first time entrepreneur I have found there is a support network, and the further you lean in the more people are willing to help. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet so many amazing women in tech AND female gamers along my Leaping Tiger journey! Once you start publicly advocating your passions you begin to attract like-minded individuals.

But what about those who don’t feel comfortable identifying with the term “gamer”? Or who don’t want to shout their love of Skyrim across the work cafeteria?

For me, finding friends to play games with has never been easy. It’s never something my core group of friends has had a real passion for, and certainly not something other women in my circles ever discussed either. I got lucky a few times when I was younger finding female friends online through the games I was playing, but it was difficult, and very, very hit and miss. Leaping Tiger is about more than finding someone to complete a level with. Sure, you can use it that way and it’s fantastic, but for me it’s about having somewhere to discover new friends, and make real connections.

Women in games is a massive topic of conversation. To be honest, it’s much bigger than I could even begin to tackle in this article. As a young woman growing up gaming, I was fortunate enough to rarely receive any negative or unwanted attention. Looking back now, I realise I made my online gaming identity androgynous on many occasions, and I now wonder if I truly did that out of choice, or instinct. It has only been in the past couple of years I have begun to investigate and understand the problems that gender imbalance causes, not only in gaming/tech industries but for society as a whole.

Leaping Tiger began as a conversation with my friend (now cofounder) Jordan about the games we both played. Both passionate gamers and nerd culture enthusiasts, we initially just thought it would be cool to easily see someone’s game collection online, and be able to offer them trades. Both working in an in-house corporate marketing team, we spent a few lazy sundays sketching out our ideas for what this website could look like. The more people we spoke to, the more we realised fellow gamers shared our problems. It’s easy to meet people to game with when you’re a kid – everyone’s talking about the latest level they beat! As you move into high school and university it’s still relatively easy, but groups start to segregate off and you’re pegged as either a ‘gamer’ or not. Once you hit the workforce, you’re far more likely to find your colleagues discussing their latest home improvement accomplishments at morning tea than their Friday night kill streak.

At a basic level, Leaping Tiger allows you to instantly discover a pool of like-minded people that are located near by. As you scan the list of players the app offers carefully selected pieces of information – someone’s name, picture, location and their gaming history. The intention is that we provide just enough information to make common ground from, and give players the tools to connect. Whether that translates to an online or offline friendship at the end of the day, we don’t mind – but we’re definitely seeing a massive increase in the amount of IRL (in real life) gaming meet-ups, even in New Zealand! Our vision is to create a social platform that combats anonymity within gaming and helps players establish more lasting connections. In mid-2015 we launched our minimum viable product, a location-based friend-finding app for gamers now available on iOS, Android and web. Players simply “check in” to the game they are currently playing and are able to discover others in their area, send a play request, and chat though the in-app messenger system.

The launch was met with international acclaim, featured on websites such as IGN.com andTechTimes; quickly establishing a community of thousands. However the current application barely scratches the surface of the Leaping Tiger vision. We see a future where local community gaming events and tournaments are commonplace and easily accessible. Now, I want to succeed not only for myself and the passion I have for this vision, but because I truly hope I can inspire someone. Anyone. All it takes is one great example for people – male or female – to begin believing they, too, can do bigger things than they thought they ever could before. 

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This article was originally written for and posted on The Spinoff.

Gaming – Badass Dogs and Getting Lost in Fallout 4

To be totally honest, I was not immediately aboard the Fallout hype train as it left the station following Bethesda’s E3 presentation earlier this year. I was left standing on the platform, wondering what everyone was so excited about. I didn’t understand the appeal of the game at all, having never played any of the previous Fallout titles. Until about 3 years ago I played a very narrow selection of games, and didn’t play them very often (by my current standards at least) and none of the Fallout games had ever really appeared on my radar. Over the past few months I have watched the trailers release, the hype train hit full steam, and heard so many gamers talk about their amazing past experiences with Fallout. The more I’ve seen, the more my excitement has grown, so I’ve decided to write about my first experience with the Fallout franchise.

THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OF FALLOUT IS AS INTRICATE AS IT IS ENORMOUS

THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OF FALLOUT IS AS INTRICATE AS IT IS ENORMOUS

From what I’ve read, I’ve been assured I’ll have no troubles jumping into the series at the fourth title. While each game is built around a similar story premise, they each occur at a distinct time-stamp on the Fallout timeline. For Vault 111, somewhere between 2077 and 2287 an unknown disaster occurred, leading to the deaths of all residents of the vault, except one…

So as I sit here on the eve of the release of Fallout 4, I’m contemplating what I’m expecting from the game, so I can reflect on this once I’ve spent some time in the wasteland. I’m expecting a full bodied RPG, with shooter tendencies. For me, the allure of this game is an in-depth character system, and the ability to play the game as a wide variety of character types. I’m expecting my character to naturally build towards a play-style that I feel at home with. I’m also expecting to feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of items to collect, side quests to participate in, and vast areas to explore.

Oh, and I’m expecting one super, badass dog.

Fast forward a few weeks, and many hours of gameplay later, I am thrilled to find my original predictions hold true! I haven’t played this much of a game for a very, very long time. Fallout 4 has done a magnificent job of capturing my attention, and every minute I am not in the wasteland is spent wishing I was back there. Fallout 4 offers everything I want an action RPG to have; a gripping storyline, enough crafting to please my inner Sims fan, and characters I thoroughly enjoy learning more about. I’m willing to admit I probably spent too many hours building my Sanctuary base, but y’know what, I had a dang great time doing so! And I’m glad I did – I feel so much more invested in that settlement now, and that’s important. I firmly believe enjoyment in an RPG entirely depends how much you’re willing to buy into the story. If you hotfoot it through the game and skip all the conversations, you’re probably not going to care when those story-lines unfold. Building a community, having somewhere to call home, and eventually becoming a leader, are all important elements in Fallout 4.

THE SIMS FALLOUT 4 WAS A SURPRISE HIT

THE SIMS FALLOUT 4 WAS A SURPRISE HIT

As I had been told, there were absolutely no issues jumping into Fallout this far into the franchise. With the exception of a couple of minor gameplay mechanics, I was on my way immediately and was taught most things I needed to know by the game’s short and sharp tutorial phase. To be clear, this is not a game that will hold your hand – plenty of mistakes will be made. But the good news is you learn as you go, and more often than not, those mistakes make your overall story experience better. I’ve learned I need to cook the meat I find (and should have been all along anyway, hello free XP!), I can change my clothes to get a small skill point buff, and I can have my dog wear goggles and a bandana while he helps me fight the evil guys. Badass dog confirmed.

YELLOW SHORTS AND A SAILOR’S HAT FOR A CHARISMA BONUS, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

YELLOW SHORTS AND A SAILOR’S HAT FOR A CHARISMA BONUS, THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

The sheer size of the open world of Fallout is at times overwhelming. The game doesn’t demand you travel along the story in any particular linear fashion, which in my opinion is fantastic, as the stunning wasteland landscapes invite you to explore. It’s easy to immerse yourself in the many unique and interesting locations and storylines, each equally as rich and compelling as the main quest itself.

The only source of real frustration for me in the entire game has been the Pip-Boy’s clunky user interface design, which I am willing to forgive as it fits well with the primitive vibe of all the technology throughout the game. Fallout 4 is a fantastic game full of surprises, meaningful relationships, moments of real emotion, and is sure to be a favourite contender for Game of The Year.

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This article was originally written for and posted on The Spinoff.