10.31.2008

Girl Talk

(Since 1UP appears to be down for many of you, I've cross-posted this here!)

Today ends my career at Ziff Davis Media, where I spent six of the richest years of my life as managing editor for EGM and then the 1UP Network. I'm leaving game journalism and heading over to the production side, where I'll be working at Sega as Associate Creative Director for Family/Casual games. This is a big deal for me. I started at Ziff in 2002 when EGM closed its Illinois office and moved to San Francisco with half a staff. Its managing editor at the time, Dean Hager, decided not to make the big move. I happened to need a job, having been at Next Generation magazine when it closed in December 2001, and I jumped at the opportunity to join EGM.

Six years later, I'm pretty shellshocked it's all over. The end hasn't been sudden -- obviously, my old print team has mostly dispersed, EGM has a bold new look and direction, and I've been working online at 1UP for almost a year. But having spent the better part of a week going through old work files and emails trying to decide what to save and what to toss, I've come to the bittersweet realization that I'm saying goodbye not just to a job, but to an era.

For one thing, being a girl writing about games is no longer as big a deal as it was the first several years I was in the business. Back in 2000, there were very few women editors, and those who were in the biz didn't generally attend demos, meetings, and events. There was an easy explanation for this: women tended to occupy roles like managing editor, copy editor, art director, etc. -- jobs that didn't require knowledge of games. I remember really looking up to Francesca Reyes (then with Official Dreamcast Magazine, now Editor in Chief of Official Xbox Magazine) back then. Fran was a truly rare bird -- she had her own expertise and wrote about the same games the guys did. But aside from Fran and perhaps a handful of others, it just wasn't safe to assume the girls at the mags were gamers. Often, quite the opposite assumption was made: I remember showing up at events and having PR people think I was some girlfriend on the arm of the nearest male editor. Once, one even denied me a press kit: "Editors only!" she chirped annoyingly. Clearly she meant "Boys only," and I've never forgotten the sting of her mischaracterization.

I knew I'd arrived somewhere unusual when, on my second day at EGM, fellow editors Greg Sewart and Chris Johnston invited me along to the Sony gamers' day happening down the street. They'd even RSVPd in advance for me, figuring I would want or need to go. (I doubt they knew what a shock it was for me to be included by default.) It was the first glimpse I'd have into the inclusive culture of EGM, where everyone who played games and could write was expected to play games and write for EGM, whether they were a hardcore fanboy weaned on NES or, like me, simply a gaming fan who'd happened to spend way too much time playing SSX Tricky during her unemployment. The Review Crew suffered no idle hands.

Nowadays, girl gamers are everywhere, and it's no longer safe to assume that a girl in the office can't kick your ass at Call of Duty. It's really difficult to believe what those early days were like and to see clearly just how much things have changed, but I'm really happy to have been a part of the transformation. It may have been a natural evolution, but I also feel like being at EGM helped me force things along just a bit. If I wanted to write a story, all I had to do was ask. Wanna review Tony Hawk 4? Sure thing. Think you're the best person to do a Knights of the Old Republic cover story? Go for it. Got an interesting angle for the GTA Hot Coffee scandal? Write it up. These weren't required parts of my job as ME, and often I didn't necessarily have time to take on the extra work. But I knew that by digging in everywhere I could, I was slowly infiltrating the "Boys only" society. It helped that I worked with a tremendous group of people who valued initiative and good old-fashioned elbow grease. Then again, it wasn't always easy; arguing about why "slut" isn't a fair term to use to describe women and why jokes relying on the "girlfriend" punchline were lazy, and constantly insisting we could do better wasn't exactly fun and didn't always make me popular among my coworkers. But even if there were times I would lose the fight, I'm glad I was there to fight at all. And when I look at the make-up of the gaming press now, I am utterly happy to see so many women playing integral roles.

Still, the changes in journalism aren't the only major difference. If it were just that, I'd be thrilled to stick around. The truth is that the era of the hardcore gamer is coming to an end. I used to dream of the day when women would be viewed as equally important to the creative gaming market as the traditional male demographic. But I genuinely never expected I'd see the day when I could get hired to work in game production, focusing specifically on appealing to new types of gamers. When Brain Age and Wii Fit would be system sellers. When a scenario like this would be not just possible, but normal:


Multi-generational Gaming
Originally uploaded by generaltsao.



Yes, the era of the hardcore gamer is coming to an end, and while I've loved my years at EGM, I've also been waiting eagerly for this time to come. For so long, finding a way to reach women gamers was this magical holy grail -- something people could only fantasize about. Nobody had any clue how to do it, and a lot of people didn't believe it could be done. Casual games on the web, World of Warcraft, and Nintendo Wii and DS have proven that it's not only possible, it's happening NOW -- and I simply can't resist the call to join the cause. This has long been an interest of mine (way, way, way before it was cool or profitable :), and it makes sense that now is the time to jump.

But before I did that, I wanted to take this chance to tell you what it was like for one girl during a different era, and to thank you for reading and supporting me through the years. I'm really going to miss you all, and I hope you'll keep in touch on my personal blog.

13 comments:

liquidcross said...

Congrats, Jen! I'll miss you as the "voice of reason" on 1UP, but their loss is surely Sega's gain.

Tristessa said...

Congrats!

As an old school girl gamer (from the 70's and still going!) and modder in the Unreal Tournament era (and Neverwinter Nights), I can relate to your tale of working through the industry as it changed for women. It's awesome to see how it's mostly no surprise anymore that girls spend time playing and/or making games.

I always enjoyed hearing your comments on the EGM podcast and missed it when you weren't on the new one. Good luck with the new job and I look forward to reading more on your blog about how things go for you as the future rolls on!

Cheers =)

Hitokiri941 said...

Wow, it really is the end of an era.
I read the first issue of EGM that you were in, right after they moved from Chicago. EGM will never be the same. Good luck with everything and hopefully you can turn SEGA around!

Much Laterz and farewell.

Alex said...

Best of luck, and try to convince Simon to greenlight a new Daytona USA game. Please? ::brandishes sad puppy eyes::

Cronqvist said...

I remember when EGM moved to SF, and how it was kinda weird to see a bunch of new people replacing our beloved editors.

Turns out those strangers would become our new beloved editors for years to come.

We're gonna miss you Jenn, but hopefully we'll get to know about you in your new gig at Sega. Congratulations!

MacDork said...

Aw :(

I suppose it was inevitable -- your increasingly decreased involvement in the podcasts has been a sure, if subtle sign that you were looking around for a new opportunity.

Keep us posted on whatever you can, within the rules of what you're allowed to talk about @ Sega.

Douglass said...

Jen, congratulations on the move. Great departure letter: honest and not too long. I felt it captured the essence of your time at ZD. Of course, what would I know? You could be totally lying. But I doubt it. :)

Best of luck at Sega.
Cheers. -- Doug Perry

Ajguy said...

Sad to see you go, Jen, but congratulations! Thanks for all the great work you've done at Ziff. It's always been appreciated. Good luck at Sega!

Justin said...

Good luck with your new career Jen! Might I also add, the number of blogs I've had to bookmark lately to keep up with people who used to work at 1UP is a bit...umm...shall we say it definitely seems like a transitional period over there.

Jennifer said...

hey all! thanks for visiting!

I definitely did cut down on the podcasts in recent months. I did a very brief goodbye segment on the upcoming 1UP FM. And who knows? Maybe Shoe and Crispin will start a Sore Thumbs podcast, which I would LOOOOVE to be on! (That doesn't mean I'm volunteering to produce and edit it though, Shoe ;)

I have no idea what kind of adventures lie ahead at Sega, but I'll definitely try to share what I can here, along with random ramblings and baby photos (fair warning!)

And really, thanks a lot for reading this post. I'm certainly not saying I speak for all women or all gamers... Just that this was my experience, shared from the heart.

Nadia Oxford said...

All the best, Jen! As a female games writer, I appreciate the path you helped pave. ;)

Kadosho said...

Read your 1up post entry from Friday. I must also acknowledge even more congrats going your way. =D
I remember the old EGM, either when I picked it up from a mom n' pops store, to a bookstore, and a subscription. I really miss the old format it ran in, but this reinventing of the magazine is quite a treat.

And now, seeing another longtime EGM crewmember like yourself going elsewhere with your career. I also hope this new position treats you well. Have a great time, and enjoy it. =D

Josh of cubicle ninjas said...

Damn...Congrats Jennifer! I'll miss you very much but I'm happy to hear the move is better for your sanity. Here is too your bright new (game creating) future!

I live right where EGM's old offices were located, so I'll light another eternal flame for a fallen oldschool EGM hero. :)

Take care,
- Josh