Investigating Women’s Pathways in Games


Digital games are a popular medium for entertainment, creative expression, and play. Research reveals that—in the right context—they can also support learning and engagement. In light of the increasing prominence of games, it matters that women comprise only 22 percent of the game development workforce (IGDA, 2014), filling as few as 4 percent of some of the highest paying roles in the industry (ESA, 2013). For my dissertation research, I chose to investigate the pathways and experiences of women who work in the game industry. I independently designed and carried out two qualitative studies. The first study was a thematic analysis of Twitter conversations around why women pursue–or leave–jobs in the game industry. For the second study, I conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with women in games about their learning pathways, contemporary industry experiences, and expectations of the future for women in games.

Findings from the Twitter conversations reveal the myriad ways in which women feel silenced and de-professionalized, but that many women feel inspired to due to their passion for the industry, outstanding support networks, and drive to make things better. Through analysis of the interviews, I identify four types of roles that women take on in order to make the game industry a better environment for women in the future, including education, advocacy, serving as role models, and taking on roles as leaders.

To translate this project into actionable recommendations, I developed a framework from the findings to point educators and industry stakeholders to steps they can take to create more equitable opportunities for women and other groups who are underrepresented in games and technology. Some examples include making games a part of girls’ possibility space early on and emphasizing the diversity of professional pathways that can lead to successful careers in games and technology. By identifying and outlining critical issues in women’s educational pathways, experiences, and expectations, my hope is that this work contributes to broader efforts to support diversity and equity in games and technology.

My dissertation and other publications based on this research may be available upon request. Please contact me at amanda(dot)ochsner(at)gmail(dot)com if you are interested in reading more.