Sacramento Women In Games
Imagine a place where people can find the top Sacramento area women in games. Who would those women be? What would these women be involved in? Are they our spouses, mothers, friends, sisters, cousins, co-workers, and classmates?
The stigma I’ve noticed in our region is that games promote an unhealthy lifestyle and culture. Gaming is often perceived as a predominately “male only” activity. Images of boys and adult men screaming into headphones and sitting in front of a console or PC are depicted throughout general media. Let’s start changing the conversation, shall we? According to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2018 industry data, adult women represent 33% of the video game-playing population and 45% of gamers in the United States are women.
In an effort to encourage women and girls from around the greater Sacramento area who have contemplated getting into the games industry but didn’t know who to turn to, I present the following ladies and their stories as to how they set out to achieve their dreams, build community, and help others. These women encompass various aspects of games from programming to business, artists, designers, producers, broadcasters, event organizers, educators, eSports, and tabletop gaming. Learn how these dynamic women have played and will continue to play important roles in our growing local games industry.
Are you an aspiring game creator?
This is for you.
Do you want to learn more about Sacramento area women in games?
This is for you.
Do you want to support Sacramento area women in games?
This is for you.
Are you a games enthusiast?
This is for you.
Do you want to break misconceptions about women and gaming?
This is for you.
Our future is bright! I encourage you to reach out to these women and introduce yourself. Their social media accounts are mentioned below.
When looking at my background, I am a very unlikely tech founder, let alone head of an indie game studio. My background is in nursing, quality and business and I never considered myself a gamer. I love simulator games like The Sims series or Second Life or more casual games that I could zone out to. And I enjoyed watching others play survival horror or action-adventure stories with strong narrative aspects. It wasn’t until I met my cofounder and husband that I learned how wide open the world of games is. He was the one that taught me that though I didn’t look like a “typical” gamer, I was one. My husband, Jonathon, took me to my first Sac Dev Collective meeting (IGDA Sacramento at that time) and from then on, I quickly grew enmeshed with the community, and now serve on the board of Sac Dev Collective.
Back in 2016, we launched our first studio, and struggled like a lot of studios to get our footing. It took two years for us to find our direction. And that may seem like a long time, but it’s okay. Failure is learning. In May 2018, we renamed ourselves, incorporated, and built an app that used gamification rather than a full game. We opted to use our skills in games a different way, that allowed our company to grow and shortened our development time and allowed us to learn faster. In January 2019, we’ll be launching our first hyper casual title: Breaking Baaa; and we’ll also be working with the city of Henderson, NV to develop a gamified app and website to solve a civic challenge.
In addition to juggling my work with our startup, Jonathon and I are also founding board members of Sprite Tech Lab, a community organization that teaches teens valuable tech skills by using game development. And to top it all off, I’m a mom to a very busy toddler and volunteer my time in various other groups
Being a mom who is also an entrepreneur, community organizer, and studio head is not always easy. And at times it can be stressful, but it’s so worth it. By letting my son see my growth, I’m teaching him valuable skills for the future, especially learning to pivot. Too many times we set ourselves on one path and when the wall comes up that blocks us, we spend a ton of energy either trying to go over it or quitting. I’ve learned that sometimes you must go around it. Pivoting may seem harder because it may take longer to get somewhere, but I’ve learned that it’s a valuable tool when used appropriately. This is especially true in the games arena, because we’re not seen as typical tech founders, so sometimes access to programs can be limited. If we hadn’t struggled and then made a shift, we wouldn’t have the opportunities that are now presenting themselves to us.
My advice to women who want to break into games, especially women of color, is to make your own path and be hungry. People are going to underestimate you because you don’t have a certain look, or you don’t play certain types of games. Realize that the market is bigger than just a handful of titles that are incredibly popular. Make the games you find interesting. And remember that you are going to create a bunch of duds, or not finish some at all while you’re finding your way. Just keep creating. Start small, maybe a game that has one mechanic. Doing that one mechanic well can be very challenging. And don’t be afraid of criticism. Let people talk and just keep doing you.
And most importantly, it’s not only programmers who make games. Artists, writers, and even business people (who can run the gamut from finance to project management) make up teams. Find your strength and find others who have the skills you don’t have. Diversity makes teams stronger.
I'm Cathy Ford and I'm a gamer. My favorite types of games are board, card, dice, or role-playing games. I like all types of games from easy filler games to deep strategy games that take hours to play. I've been playing games all my life but I discovered modern board games in 1995 when I found RoboRally. After that I was hooked. However, school got in the way for quite a few years and I got back into the hobby again in 2013 when I was introduced to Power Grid, 7 Wonders, and Munchkin. I was in LOVE!
In 2015 I discovered gaming podcasts and became hooked on The Dice Tower, On Board Games, and Low Player Count. I was surprised at how few women there were on these shows and startled that there seemed to be none where women were the leading hosts. So, in 2016 I reached out to my women gamer friends and asked if they wanted to start a gaming podcast with me. Five of them said yes! Our Turn! Women on Gaming was born!
We've evolved over time and changed our tagline and logo but Our Turn! has always been about including everyone in the fun. We joined the Dice Tower Network in 2017. Now we're branching out and have formed a non-profit organization called Your Turn Community Game Events with the goal of diversifying and growing the Sacramento gaming community. We're planning our first events in the first quarter of 2019.
BoardGameGeek.com: Guild #2600
Catie is a game designer who decided that she wanted to create the change she wanted to see in making women feel that they belong in the game industry. She was a writer and a gamer as a child, loving creative stories and to play Donkey Kong and Zelda. She didn’t believe that she could be a game designer until she was 25 when she decided to study game design during her masters. When she was a teen, she was a self-taught fashion designer. She has married her talents with writing, designing and 3D to become a game developer.
Though Catie always thought of herself as being shy, she made a lot of contacts in the game industry by being friendly. In 2015, she started making a Facebook group where she invited women who were in the game industry to join, and to meet in person at local cafes. She realized she felt very inspired by these women, and she wanted college students to feel inspired by women in the game industry too. She reached out to her old school, UC Santa Cruz, to get college students involved in the group. Now the group has almost 500 members, including women and transwomen who are currently or who aspire to be in the game industry. They now organize an annual one-day conference where there are panel talks, which you can see on Twitch.
Through her community, she met Clorama Dorvilias, who is making a virtual reality app that addresses biases and measures human behavior. She learned a lot from Clorama about creating a business, and how metrics are being used to quantify human behavior, which will be more widely used in the future. They are creating fun VR experiences that also teach players about how bias works in everyday social interactions.
Catie is a mentor and helps out with Gameheads and ARVR Academy, where she commonly tells people about how networking in the game industry creates positive social bonds. She believes that technology will create a positive social impact, as long as designers and developers have ethical intentions. She aspires to always do what she loves and what she believes in during her career.
Gaming a Life Philosophy
By Leslie Loy
It's 5:47am on a cold winter morning. The storms have been beating against much of Northern California for several days now. The kettle is set to boil so I can try to beat away a sore throat. I can hear light snores coming from one room and the stirrings of a roomate in the next. I have a sliver of a window to think about games and my life right now, so I will write. As a working mother, I fit in the other, less domestic, less family-centric, parts of my life in the nooks and crannies where I can—after I roll out of a snuggly nap, before the house fills up with everyone again, late after everyone is tucked into bed and settled, on a lunch break. Any hobbies or interests that I have don’t have a designated time, and as my life gets fuller, my time and energy for these interests wanes. So, out the gate: I am a person who is curious, but I don’t have much time for hobbies—my friends and family are the center of my world, and I’m always trying to find ways to bring us together.
So, at the center of all of my purpose is a question: how can we spend time with one another in a meaningful way? How can I make sure that not all the time I spend with people is, necessarily, in front of a screen—whether when we watch a movie, play a video game, or videochat with friends and family? I wish I could get out and exercise more or, perhaps, take a class, develop some hobby or passion, but I haven’t found the magical way to make that happen in my life yet. Instead, I play (board) games when I can. My growing four-year-old learned how to play games at an early age—I tried to make cleaning up toys a game (throwing things into a metal bowl that clanged and calling it “She Shoots, She Scores!” to make the seemingly mundane both organized and fun); as she was able to sit and focus a bit more, we began in earnest to play games like First Orchard and Animals on the Farm and dominoes and memory-based games. When I’m in my best space, I can find a way to make the rules fun. When I’m in my practical space, I make the rules undoggedly dogmatic.
Throughout the years, when I can, I gather people in my home and we play games from our game shelf. Years ago, I joined a cooperative game library that my friend began, and, over time, I helped host biweekly game nights where we opened a growing game library to the community for a night of open-ended gaming. As the years wore on, my little one has watched people play games and is now learning more about the joys to be found in playing games, in learning about basic life principles through games—how to gracefully win and lose, how to invest yourself in something and have the strategy not pan out, how to communicate with others, how to take turns. I have a friend who suggested to me that you could tell a lot about a person based on how they play a game, and I have come to agree with that theory.
When some of my friends became involved in organizing megagames in California, and subsequently across the country, I was intrigued. The anthropologist wannabe in me was thrilled by the opportunity to observe lots of different games, mechanics, and players all interacting in the same space. Megagames, by definition, are multiple small, simple games with different objectives and play styles, interacting together. Typically, different players on a team each represent these subgames and are required to play their games well in order to help their team meet their objectives. Megagames are process-oriented games, meaning that they have no real end point except that set by the game master, and they can be played in a variety of unpredictable ways, depending on player agency. I will be honest: I was more interested watching how people’s strategies played out, and how they handled that feedback loop, than I was in playing myself. I was intrigued to see who came across as naïve but was actually quite cunning, who was a sore loser, and who had the stamina for long-term gaming.
I got to see how those who wanted to take over the world, pitting teams and players against each other in a great power struggle, thought—and subsequently better came to understand some of why the world seems to work the way it does. I witnessed how attached people became to their ideas, even as they careened into catastrophic failure, and how incredibly creative some people could be in solving their problems, fluidly dealing with each decisions as they needed to be made, but with little insight or strategy as to the actual end results (this is my play style). More than anything, I came to realize how little control we have over so much of our world and how much we hold onto the idea that we do have control. I suppose this is what gaming has taught me: to not get too attached to how I want things to be, because the gameplay is littered with other peoples’ brilliance and unintentional mistakes, all of which will likely impact my own path; I should know my options, but I can only plan and enact so much and only in limited actions per turn.
That has become a reminder for life: as 6am edges in, I know that soon there will be whimpers and pattering feet and meals to prepare. The game of Life, not the Milton Bradley version but my own, will continue on for me. I will put aside my scratchy throat and help little ones understand the rules of the morning; we will then get into a car and do our best to safely follow the rules of the road, interacting according to strategies new and old with people throughout my personal and work life. At the end of the day, I will see how being up at 5am affected me. The minigames of my life—from being a mama to being a professional to being a housemate and a friend and a community member—will intersect all day long, affecting one another; I will be the one representing each of these as I play with different teammates to meet different objectives. Frankly, this is what it is to be a human, someone who is just trying to figure out what decisions and rules to best employ in order to design the life that will bring me the greatest joy and sense of accomplishment, while benefitting the most good. That, I think, at this time, is really the objective for this player. But, who knows, that might change in the next turn, too.
Bayan Mashat is a game designer & developer, receiving her degree in computer science from the University of California in Davis in spring 2019. As a firm believer in the power of games, she aspires to create fun and meaningful experiences that resonate with players for educational purposes, to raise awareness about mental health, or to simply learn about themselves. While serving as the co-president of the Game Development & Arts Club, she worked on designing and directing an educational roleplaying game, with a team of 7 members, used as assignments for the online course "Introduction to Research", taught by Prof. Angelique Louie throughout all UC campuses in spring 2018. The game is designed to provide players with a broad introduction to prominent researchers throughout history and basic research concepts. Currently, she's working on assisting the senior data scientist in National Language Processing research for Will Wright's next game, Proxi, an artificial intelligence simulation game based on player’s memories and interactions.
Sarah Reed is a board gamer, board game designer, podcaster and LEGO fan.
Sarah has played board games all her life. First with the classics as a kid then roleplaying, Munchkin and Magic: The Gathering in high school and college, and then finally other modern board games. It was games like Dominion and Agricola that launched her and her husband head first into the deep end. In her pursuit of exploring the hobby, Sarah created the Play 10 Board Games 10 Times Each Challenge, which is a yearly challenge to dig deeper into the strategy and fun of a few games rather than constantly pursuing the new hot game. Here is the link for 2019’s challenge on Board Game Geek: www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/249797
In 2012, Sarah’s husband Will wanted to make a board game as a surprise for her birthday, but realized he couldn’t do it by himself due to his severe vision disabilities. Once he told her, she was beyond excited to explore game design. Moving forward together, they found a board game store, The Game Getaway, where the owner organized a game designer meeting. Sarah soon after took the reins of organizing and keeping the group going. In 2014, their game Project Dreamscape launched on Kickstarter and in 2017, their game Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture launched on Kickstarter. Both were done in partnership with Ben Haskett under the label Undine Studios. Both games are still available at: www.undinestudios.com
Talking about board games has always been something Sarah has enjoyed due to her passion of the hobby. She’s been a podcaster on several different podcasts, either as a host or a guest, and is currently a co-host of Our Turn Podcast: Gaming for Everyone! It first started out as an all women group of podcasters for women, but has expanded to be more inclusive with a wide variety of hosts and topics discussing the hobby. It is currently on a weekly schedule. More information can be found here: www.ourturnpodcast.com
With all this focus on board games, it’s surprising how Sarah and Will can manage time for another hobby, but they are also avid LEGO enthusiasts. They have a large collection and regularly build together. They belong to Sacramento Brick Builders, a club that meets once a month to discuss and share the hobby of LEGO. The club regularly puts on displays at events around Sacramento. To find out more about the club and its activities, visit: www.sacbb.org
Whether it’s newly played games, game designs in progress, LEGO builds or the daily struggle against depression and low self-esteem, Sarah is constantly posting to Twitter. There’s something about a creative mind that struggles with positivity and confidence towards the self, but Sarah is in pursuit and hoping to help others in their struggle. So while Sarah shares a lot of fun pics of games and LEGO, she also discusses the challenges facing her in her daily life. Please follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/EuroGamerGirl
My early encounter with video games was with the Sega Genesis. I was too young to understand what video games were but it sure seemed to be popular amongst my brothers. I was considered as their designated “cartridge blower,” because they were too lazy to do it themselves and thought that it would fix their problem (let’s face it, that didn’t work). My true gaming experience didn’t start until I was about 7 or 8 years old, and unlike majority of gamers, I started off with the PlayStation 1. I played a wide variety of games from Crash Bandicoot (my favorite), Metal Gear, Gran Turismo, Tekken, and more. For a long time, this was my favorite pastime that many didn’t know about. As my brothers slowly started to grow away from gaming, I picked it up where they left off and continued. From PS2, PS3, Wii, DS, PS4, PC, and Switch, my love for gaming continues to grow into adulthood.
I have to thank video games, for making my college life more bearable than usual. It was my way to relax and escape reality and the business mentality for a couple of hours. As I was approaching graduation, I wanted to volunteer for events. Randomly, I saw a Sac Indie Arcade poster at La Bou and they were looking for volunteers. I looked into the organization and saw that they show cased indie game developers. I thought that that was unique, because Sacramento isn’t known to have a variety of gaming events unless you’re within the community. The day of Sac Indie Arcade was awesome and seeing everyone’s work was eye opening! From the very simple games to the full on intricate ones, I was amazed at the talent and craft. Getting to know Briana Aea, better known as Bree, has honestly been amazing and truly inspiring to see her business and passion combine through SIA. In addition to meeting her, seeing all the developers light up when people would demo their games or ask questions and just have a full discussion about video games; SIA was definitely a well put together event and I was excited to volunteer for the following year.
Funny thing is that after I graduated, I was in a stump of what industry to really aim for and wanted to start my career/gain experience. Of course, the first thing that everyone thinks of is money, so I didn’t really think about the video game industry at the time. Fortunately, Bree connected me to Nathan Allshouse from Square One Clubs. Listening to his ambitions about the gaming community was really inspiring, but as someone who hasn’t partaken in the community, it was a bit difficult to see the true potential. When I started working for Square One Clubs, I was able to apply my business knowledge and even develop new skills, and at the same time get to know the community. The community is truly fueled by passion and their passion is not dead. Meeting new people and seeing them at events like Progressive Game Jam and Global Game Jam was incredible to see how their interaction as a team and to see their devotion. Being around gamers and people who have passion, it motivated me to start applying for companies like PlayStation, Intel, etc.
Even though, I am not as active since I was last working with Square One Clubs, I still have love for the community. I’d like to make an effort to help game developers or anyone that is interested in being a part of the industry to accomplish their dreams. Although, I am not a game developer, I am a business woman ready to assist anyone who needs the motivation and guidance into becoming an entrepreneur. I believe that with the right people, passion, and motivation the Sacramento gaming community can grow and achieve greatness.
My name is Jamie (the stage/public name is Jamie Summers), and I’m a huge geeky nerdy autistic drag nun feminist. I love video games, pinball, books, music, art, cosplay, drag, and occasionally still some anime. I am also quite the activist, working for the rights of women (all women, trans and cis), and autism awareness (and I do NOT support Autism $peaks), Asexuality awareness, and LGBTQA+ rights. When I’m not doing all of that, I’m playing pinball at home and harassing my cat, Midna (aka Miss Middles Patiddles), and chillin’ with my hubby, Dan.
Orange Lounge Radio and VOG Network (vognetwork.com)
Mistress of Propaganda for the Capitol City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Freelance Graphic Design
Publication Head for DerpyCon
LoLEffect at MassEffecting: tumblr.com/masseffecting
Autism Awareness: tumblr.com/aspergyaru
Hosting and guesting on past podcasts including Monday Comics Mania, Under Sedation Live, Geek-Life Podcast, and Girls Gone WoW.
Twitch streaming (again!)
Cosplaying at SacAnime
Drag performance at DragCon
Crochet and knitting
Donna “BasicTaq” Walters is the Vice President of Stinger eSports; a recreational eSports club that started in spring 2017 at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). She is also a Student Ambassador for CORSAIR and one of two main hosts for post-production gaming variety TV show, GPU.
Walters was unknowingly introduced into the gaming world at a young age when the second-hand IBM computer her parents bought held a hidden copy of Duke Nukem 3D. Loving every minute of game play, she spent years thinking it was a relatively unknown title and didn’t realize that what she had in her hands was actually viewed as ass kicking, bubble gum chewing gold.
After graduating high school, Walters moved to San Diego, CA where she roomed with two PC enthusiasts who spent countless hours playing online games. Curious as to what could possibly hold their attention for so long, she asked her roommates to introduce her to their hobby. With a little help, she built her first gaming PC and pre-ordered The Orange Box bundle by Valve. Soon she would go from casual gaming “noob” to an advocate and full supporter of an all-inclusive gaming culture in the Sacramento region.
Although she faced sexist and derogatory remarks regularly, she continued earning top placements on leader boards. During one of her sessions she came across two brothers who later extended an offer for her to administer The Old Folks Home; a Team Fortress 2 server.
Because of her previous negative experiences, Walters used her administrative abilities to maintain peace within the community and promote inclusivity of all gamers. She barred the use of toxic remarks and removed anyone from the server who harassed or disrupted the enjoyment of the game by any player; highly skilled or not. Within weeks The Old Folks Home became a huge success and had a constant queue to enter the server. Soon, members started donating to gain priority access and life-lasting friendships were formed. The server closed after the popularity of Team Fortress 2 declined, but Walters can still be found playing with several of the members on other multiplayer games.
In the summer of 2018, she decided to return to college and continue her education at the university level. She was accepted into the College of Business Administration at CSUS as an Organization Development/HR major and immediately started searching for gaming clubs on campus, to improve her competitive edge. She attended her first eSports club meeting with high hopes but received a less than warm welcome and discovered that there were no coaching opportunities available. As she was leaving, a male member in the small group even taunted her by saying, “Have fun losing…”.
It became clear that Walters had to generate her own opportunities, so she reached out to the club’s officers and formed a partnership. Working with the club’s President she started a Twitter account to promote the organization, helped rebrand the club’s look and mission, and worked with the officers to produce a professional logo. The hard work paid off and residents started to notice Sacramento’s newest upcoming eSports organization.
Listening to the needs of industry partners, Walters then pushed for the club to include multiple genres of game enthusiasts; PC gamers, console gamers, members of the fighting game community, and mobile gamers. Using this information, and through the generosity and support of outside organizations, she created marketing material and recruiting programs that increased membership by roughly 1,000% during the fall 2018 semester.
As the fall 2018 semester began, she received an invitation to become a Student Ambassador for CORSAIR. This opportunity would allow her to further explore her passion of helping others while bringing more benefits to members of Stinger eSports. For her first assignment she was invited to speak at the 2018 CORSAIR student leader workshop, as a part of TwitchCon’s program, where she helped educate student leaders on how they can build up their gaming and eSports organizations.
Simultaneously, Walters auditioned for and received the position of main host for upcoming Access Sacramento cable TV show, GPU. In this role, she would bring information about gaming related events and activities to Sacramento, highlighting the positive aspects of the community and illustrating how gaming can be used as an educational and social tool.
Walters also builds on professional opportunities for Stinger eSports members and her business partners through the forming of relationships with professional gamers, streamers, industry personalities, game developers, and event hosts. Through these developing relationships, industry leaders gain a larger following of clientele and CSUS college students gain access to invitation-only tournaments; professional networking opportunities; and a more clearly defined path to becoming a professional player.
Because Donna “BasicTaq” Walters is very passionate about the gaming communities she serves, she puts her heart and soul into making each one she works with a safe place where people of any age, sex, race, background, and orientation can enjoy doing what they love; gaming. It’s not the act of gaming that she loves, but the communities that make her efforts enjoyable. She especially inspires female gamers to keep playing and to not give in to the negative comments by encouraging them to, “use those negative comments as fuel to grow stronger, be bolder, and to prove that you can be just as good, if not better, than the haters. You don’t have to be a pro to win and if you are doing what you love, you’ve already beat them.”
My name is Jenny Yao and I’ve recently graduated from CSU Sacramento with a Computer Science B.S. Like most of my peers, my reason of going into Computer Science was because of video games. I wanted to learn how to make video games and see what I could learn, but in the end, I only ended up taking two classes that sort of related to games. The first one was to learn object-oriented programming where the overall semester project was learning how to create a game through different incremental stages. The other was a 3D Modeling class, which was actually an elective that wasn’t necessary towards my degree. They did offer a Game Engineering Certificate, but I didn’t get into the classes on time and I’ve heard that it was all done in Java. In the end, it was a great decision to not pursue that and I’ll go into that later. But through the requirements for my degree and the curriculum, I only barely scratched the surface. But through technicality, I did learn how to create video games, just not in the way most people think.
My first semester into Sac State, I managed to find the Game Developers Club. When I first entered, it was basically just go to a meeting, watch a tutorial with no emphasis on people taking out their laptops to follow along, end, and rinse and repeat. I met people through that club and other clubs who wanted more out of the club, so I pursued an officer position while vowing to want to learn how to better approach this club. Fast forward to 3 years later, I can say that the club is growing and has reached new levels of potential. Since then, we’ve hosted 7 Game Jams and 2 Art and Asset Jams. I’ve graduated yet I need to help pass on some help for one more semester. So much has happened, I’ve met so many amazing new connections through Hacker Lab, where I learned about Square One Clubs, and now I can proudly say that I’m directly involved with the Sacramento Developer Collective community, which is the heart of the game development scene.
I’ve found myself more and more interested in connecting people into this community rather than creating the games myself. Because through my path of pursuing Computer Science, I learned that I disliked programming in specific languages, and that included the necessary ones for game development in C#. I found myself preferring the creation of assets through Maya, so my interest redirected from game development to game design. But I’ve adjusted from being a school club organizer to a community organizer, so down time to learn how to game design has been difficult but I’m proud for having gone this far.