Taking on a boys' club

Taking on a boys' club

With more girls playing video games, female designers are getting a foothold in the male-dominated industry

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Wendy Chan is one of the few female game designers in the video game industry.
Wendy Chan is one of the few female game designers in the video game industry.
Photo: Warton Li/SCMP
The world of video games has often been viewed as a boys-only club. Female gamers are rare, so female game designers like Wendy Chan are even harder to find.

The 27-year-old started playing video games in primary school. She was introduced to an RPG by her brother and was instantly hooked. But she never thought of it as a career when she was young.

However, she eventually found work at the big animation company Imagi Studios, which helped produce the Hollywood film Astro Boy.

Although working there looked good on paper, Chan found it very limited in terms of creativity and development. While searching for a new job online, she stumbled across an advert by local game developer, Gamespace Multimedia Ltd. Gamespace was then planning to create a game geared towards girls and was looking to add women members to its all-male team.

"With the increasing number of female gamers, we saw great potential for development, which was why Hungry Pet was created," explains Gamespace founder, Mark Chu Kong-ting.

In the past, playing video games meant mastering the complicated pattern of pressing buttons on controllers. But as games move onto more accessible platforms such as phones and Facebook, gameplay has been simplified, leading to an increase of gamers, both female and male.

In the Facebook game Hungry Pet, the player is in charge of cartoon pet characters that go around the world opening dessert shops.

They can interact with other players and there are a range of cuddly pets to play with and desserts to choose from.

Chan joined the Gamespace team as a game arts designer in charge of creating the characters for Hungry Pet. Based on research and personal opinion, she added features, animals and food items that she thought would appeal to girls.

"Men don't care as much about how cute the characters look ... but women are different," says Chan.

Chan is often the only woman on the teams that she's worked with. "There isn't really much prejudice from the guys," she says. "They might think that I don't know fighting games as well as them, but I actually like to play those types of games."

Hungry Pet will be launched at the Asia Game Show 2011, which runs from Friday to Monday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

For more information, visit www.asiagameshow.com

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