Honoured as WAITTA Incite’s Professional Achiever of the Year for 2015/16 for her work supporting diversity and growth in WA’s games and tech industries, Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie is an entrepreneur, diversity expert, researcher, educator, community activator, game designer and advocate for women in tech.
We recently spoke to Kate, who is a Curtin alumna and now Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, about the state of the games industry in WA, her passion for diversity in games and a gender gap that’s changing, albeit slowly.
You’ve been named one of the most influential women in the Australia and New Zealand games industry (again) and you recently received the Achiever of the Year award. What would you most like to achieve in the games industry in the future?
Yes, it’s a huge honour and is helping me to help a lot more people.
Right now I’m working hard to support game developers who are not receiving the support they should be. This means game developers from diverse backgrounds — I’ll speak in more detail about that later on — but also areas like Western Australia where we have historically not done much to nurture our games industry despite it being worth $100 billion globally and an important art form and driver of innovation.
Victoria has supported its industry for a while now through government grants, loans, and other initiatives like a game industry focused co-working space called The Arcade. As a result they create 50 per cent of Australia’s games. WA produces 7 per cent, which is actually pretty good considering what we have to work with! Imagine what we could do with the same investment from our government that we see in Victoria.
So what would I like to achieve in the future? I’d love to see 20 per cent of Australia’s games coming out of WA. As part of my role as the Director of Games and Interactive at FTI, I’ve been working to get support to take our trial games co-working space, called LEVEL ONE, to the next level. Our state government has just announced $20 million to support innovation in WA, so I’m hopeful we’ll see some of that going towards our games industry.
You were a finalist for the Curtin alumni achievement award: What achievement in your career are you most proud of and why?
I have so much more that I want to do, so I’ll get back to you on that!
You’ve certainly done a lot for gamers and to improve the industry. What motivates you?
I’ve always been passionate about trying to leave the world a better place than I found it and have been actively involved in fighting for environmental issues and social justice. I see supporting diversity as an extension of that. Obviously, also being a woman in the field also makes it a very personal issue. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the stuff myself and many of my colleagues have.
I expect you get this one a lot: What’s your favourite game personally and what do you like most about it?
I have a lot of favourites, but the one I’m currently enamoured with is The Witcher 3. It’s an open world game where you ride around a ye olde fantasy countryside helping people and slaying monsters. Often games where you can’t pick what kind of character you want to play (race, gender, orientation, etc.) are heavily geared towards straight, white male players, which is, let’s face it, representative of so many blockbuster games these days. But the Witcher 3 is great because there’s something for everyone — silly quests, a great story with strong female characters and what I like to jokingly call “equal opportunity sexual objectification”. There’s female AND male “strumpets” and the very attractive main character, Geralt, is often featured with no shirt on — it’s a nice change from games where it’s usually only the women wearing next to nothing.
You’re obviously passionate about the inclusion of women in games and tech. What kind of progress would you like to see on that front?
I want to see the demographics in the industry match the demographics of greater society.
When I was a kid, Nintendo had lots of advertising on TV that featured only boys. I used to write letters to them about it. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it turns out that around 1984, after years of being on the rise, the number of women going into computer science started decreasing and has stayed that way ever since. There’s a great Planet Money podcast about why this is the case — 1984 was the year that video games and personal computers were really heavily advertised on television, using mostly men and boys. In the podcast they argue that this started telling women and girls, and their parents, that video games and computers aren’t for girls. The rest is history.
Right now 50 per cent of gamers are women, yet only 10-15 per cent of the people actually making those games are women. Racial minorities, including Indigenous creators here in Australia, are also hugely underrepresented. It’s a problem in the tech industry more broadly. But things are slowly changing.
There’s also a lot of research showing how diversity supports innovation and increases profitability for companies, so it’s not just about doing the right thing.
This is why my sister Alex Raynes-Goldie — who also comes from the male dominated field of architecture – and I have set up a consulting company (raynesgoldie.com) to help companies and organisations harness the innovative power of diversity through training, inclusive events and recruitment support.