Volume seven brings our viewers gaming and creativity, as we’re joined by Naomi Clemens, a Game Developer for Roblox, Simple Games. The evolution of gaming has been incredible, not only in terms of the profitability that has emerged with the play-to-earn model but the increased popularity in a need for creative escapism. With so many societal pressures, thriving careers and expectations, people of all ages use gaming (whether it’s VR, Xbox, Nintendo, and maybe even Tamagotchi for the dedicated) as a way to relax and express themselves. Today we see NFT crypto games taking flight as a career option for many and competitive gaming becoming a sport. But what’s to be said about female presence? We’re joined by Naomi who shows us how a career can evolve from hobbies and interests that we wouldn’t have even considered. Naomi highlights the importance of finding a passion, and her career prospects in gaming have derived from her love for fashion that she discovered at a young age. Watch the full episode now as we explore the presence of women in games and female representation in the world of gaming.
Could you start off by introducing yourself and give us an overview of what inspired you to enter the world of gaming, and your journey so far?
I’m a game developer for a platform called Roblox, where I am responsible for managing projects and for creating 3D apparel. So, any outfit you’d see on a character in a video game, I would create with their new software called Layered Clothing. Me and my team at Simple Games have made a ton of different games on the platform, but I started getting more involved in the community manager side, where I get to interact with different player bases and answer any questions they have.
I had also spent some time exploring coding, which led me to develop my own games and founding a company. And now I specialise in the clothing element of gaming and creating the catalogue for people to buy clothes. I think the love for clothing design in specific came from when I was younger and working in a secondhand store where we could also take some stuff home that wasn’t able to sell on the shop floor. I would often have pieces that were too big for me and need to tailor them myself and I began cutting up shirts and putting them back together. I really enjoyed this, and I loved quilting, so it seemed so fitting when I heard that technology was evolving in a way that games would need clothing.
What conversations have you been privy to as a game developer that have challenged the idea that games are for boys/men and not women?
It was obvious through the history of games that they were centered more toward the male demographic just because that’s who developed them. But I think there are many examples of where that’s not the case anymore, where there are games that have a more female game loop that are very successful. I think the idea that it’s only for men now is an outdated idea. The idea in general that women shouldn’t be gamers or game developers is inaccurate and we still have a lot to do to prove that mindset wrong. And in a lot of games now, we also have characters that aren’t defined by gender because they aren’t even human. So, to have the idea that it should be only for men is is kind of silly nowadays.
Working at Simple Games, how do they ensure the environment is gender-neutral, and women are also given a fair chance?
I think Roblox does a good job at trying to create an inclusive environment. The team is diverse enough, and female voice is welcomed in any meeting. Team members have the space where they can say ‘Okay, guys, we’re missing a whole demographic in the game’. People are encouraged to speak up and working in this way means we don’t overlook any demographic.
Working specifically in Roblox is great because we were lucky to be able to have those voices as well. Whereas I see some people struggle with a lot with game development as they create a game loop but don’t have a voice to challenge them. So, they can say ‘well I’m a guy, so I’m just going to put male characters in here’, whereas I think it’s really important to zoom out and take different opinions into account. It’s important to ask things like: how do we make everybody feel comfortable in that game loop? That’s what I love about Simple Games; the fact that we have people at all levels who support and look out for ways to make games more inclusive and dynamic.
Could you give our viewers your top 3 tips on coping with stress?
I think my number one tip would be identify what stress it is. Explore where is your stress coming from, whether it’s stress or you have too much on your plate. We can fear that we’ll not meet a deadline or worry about a lack of motivation to get what we need to do done. That way, once you know what it is it can be worked on. Secondly, don’t be scared to speak to your manager to help prioritise or vocalise your stress and concerns. After you’ve had that conversation then you can start working together on whatever it is that is concerning you. This may be that you need to have a member of your team support you in completing a task or even pushing the deadline further.
I think maybe my number three tip would be talk to somebody else. Speaking definitely helps with stress because not only have you let it out, but you’ll be able to understand what others are also going through. Speaking to a teammate or friend helps you to not feel alone – which is a great way of alleviating stress. Sometimes when we get stressed it can spiral into this bubble of feeling alone and not being able to break out of the mindset.
Have you had a project that you absolutely loved working on?
I’m personally really excited about a current project that is a fashion style game, which is right up my street because I do 3D apparel. I’m most excited about being able to see the players ways of expressing themselves in the game and see how they like all the clothing and various elements.
I think I’m most excited because it’s a combination of both my love for apparel and the fact it’s my efforts behind it. My contribution is creating something that other people are going to enjoy and be able to express themselves with. It’s a great process to watch a concept or a sketch of an outfit come to life and be modelled and then program it for it to be something you’ll get to see in games and see players wear and have fun with it.
I remember watching kids play a game that I’ve worked on and it’s really fun to see them discover those little things you’ve hidden or enjoy the game loop or compete with their friends about who can be the best. But it’s not only amazing to see what they do within what you’ve created, it’s also amazing to see what games and play they come up with outside of what you created. Players make their own fun inside of your game, which is probably the coolest part of it. I love seeing what they want your game to be and how they play your game versus what you created is really interesting and fulfilling.
Games including women have generally held women as a sexualised figure – with beauty and revealing clothes (even in battle). Or even in dress-up games having the perfect figure and vision of beauty. How do you think we can combat this now and through future generations of game developers?
Well, our games at Simple Games are centered toward a younger audience, so the age is roughly between 7-15. And we are on a platform where Roblox is very aware of what you’re showing that demographic, so there is a lot of moderation. Kids that age are so impressionable and the way a character in a game dresses up can definitely influence them. In one of our games, we have a little rock monster that you can dress up however you want, like a gremlin or different outfits and it really steers away from any sexualisation.
There definitely are still games that that have that controversial attire, especially for women. We see women have no armor suitable for the female form in fighting games or dressed inappropriately despite the game setting. But hopefully steering the younger kids toward being more creative rather than focusing on the societal pressures and issues that will help further the idea that there’s no need to make them look like that. A game is for enjoyment, so why add in the element of inappropriate content. It’s best to instill the fun, care-free element from a young age to show kids that it’s not as important to look a certain way.
What encouragement can you offer young gamers, particularly female, who have a passion for the industry?
If you want to do it and find it fun, being a lady won’t necessarily hinder you. I think there definitely was a time when it really did hinder you. Women were once maybe one of thirty in a room, but now it can be a way for you to stand out and be proud rather than nervous.
I would say if you find something you enjoy and love, then it can definitely become successful path for you. So I would definitely say go for it.
It’s really important that women take credit for what they do. For so long we were quiet or unwelcomed but it’s a different time so don’t be scared to take ownership of something you achieved. I know a lot of younger people get inspiration from seeing things happen, and so you taking credit for working on a game as a woman will also inspire other young girls and women. People can’t get inspired if they haven’t been able to see what you do. Remember that there is no shame in being confident in your abilities, not in a cocky way, but more in a way for your own success and also to inspire others.
Lastly a bit of fun – if you had to be a game character, who would you be and why?
You work with the characters to help them in the game, so I think they’re either an expression of yourself already or somebody who’s going through like very tragic or unique circumstances. Because normally you’re trying to help them out of whatever situation they got themselves in. So, I don’t really know! But if I had to pick then it would probably be the little toads from Mario. Those do keep getting kidnaped though, so I don’t know if it was best that I would pick those.