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Industry Players Share Insights and Advice at Women in Gaming Panel

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Margaret Foley-Mauvais, art director at Zynga and illustrator Karla Ortiz recently took part in Academy of Art University’s Women in Gaming panel. Photo by Bob Toy.

The video game industry has historically been a male-dominated field, but Margaret Foley-Mauvais, an art director at gaming company Zynga, says more women are in charge now than when she started her career 21 years ago.

“There are a lot more women running the show and making decisions right along with the men, which is fantastic,” she said February 19, at the Academy of Art University’s School of Game Development’s Women in Gaming panel, where she was joined by another major player in the industry, Karla Ortiz, an illustrator at Marvel.

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(L–R) Jamin Shoulet, School of Game Development instructor, David Goodwine, executive director of the School of Game Development, Margaret Foley-Mauvais, art director at Zynga and Marvel illustrator Karla Ortiz. Photo by Bob Toy.

The two accomplished women shared entertaining stories about their careers and offered inspiring advice to a group of students in attendance at Morgan Auditorium, at 491 Post Street. While she joked about being the only woman at the “sausage party” at Paragon Studios, her first industry job, Ortiz explained that at the end of the day, it’s not about gender. “We were all there for the same passions. And that initial feeling of ‘oh I’m the only chick in the room, this is weird’ passes quickly when you have a deadline,” she said.

Foley-Mauvais agreed. “A lot of times I’d be in meetings and I’d be the only person in the room who didn’t put their feet up on the table,” she said. “But I never felt different.”

 

While the influence of gender may not be critical to the success of a project, both women agreed that an increase of female game developers ultimately translates to a more honest depiction of society in games. “To have more ladies in the field makes for better stories,” Ortiz said. “Because now it’s a story about us together rather than ‘bro time 2015.’ In terms of stories and in terms of products, it’s something that elevates the medium and makes it a lot more exciting.”

Foley-Mauvais and Ortiz attribute their success to hard work, but said they didn’t necessarily have to work harder because they’re women, rather because they’re artists. “I work extremely hard to prove to myself that I can get better with each painting,” Ortiz said. “For both men and women, if you’re not working very very hard, twice as hard as anyone else... It’s just a difficult industry and it’s very hard to make it otherwise. So I can’t say that I’ve worked harder than anyone else because I wanted to prove myself or shine brighter than anyone. I just work hard period. Because I want to be a better artist. Because I want my next painting to be awesome.”

Ortiz emphasized how important it is that students make the most of their time in school. “You won’t have any other time to just focus on studying,” she said. “If you land a job in the industry, you’ll be like ‘Oh sh*t, now I just gotta do the work.’ That leaves very little room for experimenting and growing.”

“Talent will only take you so far in life,” she added. “To truly be able to do this—it’s 99 percent hard work, one percent talent. Anyone who has ever made it anywhere, that’s what they do. Opportunity is just a mixture of right time right place, but more so than anything—preparation. If you really want these opportunities in life, prepare for them. Work your ass off.”