It still comes as a surprise how the world is running on stereotypes, one of which is that video games are for boys and not for girls. Thankfully there are women who have busted such myths like this with flying colours.
Meet Epic Games India/SEA business development lead-games Saishree Ashwin who is one such example. In conversation with Animation Xpress Ashwin shared how she got into gaming when she started working as a community manager for Ragnarok, India’s first MMOG by Level Up. “After that it’s been a rather seamless journey in gaming- with Zapak and later moved to Disney’s Club Penguin as the country head. And now, I’ve had this fabulous opportunity with Epic. Honestly, I haven’t honestly faced many challenges particularly because of my gender,” she shared.
She further revealed that there has been a spike in the Epic Online Services because of the extensive array of creative tools for developers around the world whether men or women. These tools act as a catalyst in the production of high-quality digital assets, immersive games as well as creative content. Without disclosing numbers of the proportion of male and female developers, she added, “Today, several developers and creators are quickly advancing with their inventiveness, creativity, and content. This idea effectively gave rise to Epic Online Services. Developers and creators can integrate their imagination and the open Unreal tools to build new games. For the past few years now, developers can create and distribute their own games for free on the Epic Store.”
Epic MegaGrants supports open-source technologies like Blender (open-source 3D digital content production), Godot (open-source game engine), Cesium for Unreal (geospatial platform), and other open applications. “It’s also why Unreal Engine supports formats and APIs like USD and OpenXR, and why we make Unreal Engine source code on GitHub transparent and accessible to the community there. Our belief is that all creators should have equal access to quality tools,” she shared.
Ashwin also highlighted that they have a women specific program to inspire, encourage and empower and strengthen the vision that gaming is for all. Ashwin added, “At Epic, we have always empowered creators equally and with the Women Creators Program, we are supporting women creators and aspiring young learners with the resources, training and guidance to work on exciting projects, just like Epic’s Shorts India Program. The opportunity to explore Unreal Engine, build and produce high quality creative content with access to numerous features within the game engine is what makes the learning experience exceptional.”
Earlier there were lesser women in the game development field from India because of the gender discrimination in the mindset of people. Today the time has shifted to build a better ecosystem and women are part of it too, so it is very essential to break the barriers and sensitise the youth that gender discrimination is no good to the society. She expressed, “The general stereotype and a rigid mindset that video games are only associated with the boys and that girls are not interested in tech, let alone gaming. This narrative is one of the reasons for laying out the social construct for others to follow. Recognizing a lot of these women will encourage the younger generation of female talent to flourish. Gamers, developers, content creators, virtual artists and coders are all job roles that do not necessarily highlight gender eligibility. Times have changed and it’s time to change the narrative in this digital age with so many women and young female talent driving growth in the tech and gaming ecosystem. One fine example of this is Shruti Ghosh from Nodding Head Games, based out of Pune, who developed the indie game, Raji: An Ancient Epic with her team, and is also a recipient of the Epic MegaGrant.
Driving change at the very beginning and encouraging sensitization around gender roles for youngsters can bring out massive improvement in the way we build our institutions or workplaces. Deserving, talented individuals will thrive if they have the skills for it, regardless of which industry they belong to.”
Commenting on the future of the game development industry she expressed that going forward women will also have the equal share and opportunity. She mentioned, “There is so much promise in the future for development, gaming, and content production. The AVGC industry has been expanding for more than a year and a half, thanks to new initiatives and enthusiasm from young learners and millennials. Women in the workplace are now encouraged to have an equal share of voice.”
The concept of metaverse has created a massive buzz worldwide and enthusiasts are keen on experiencing this immersive, interactive experience. Commenting on the ecosystem’s metaverse transformation she opined, “It is very exciting that such experiences may not be restricted to the virtual ecosystem, but with the world unlocking and returning to normalcy, the preferences for mixed virtual reality are escalating. Epic Games, as a catalyst in the evolution of the metaverse, is eager to help creators in a world where anyone with the right tools can be a contributor to the metaverse. We are taking the lead in training developers who are keen on making the switch to Unreal, and we are hoping to collaborate with a range of school departments and institutions. We are glad to provide them with courseware, trainers, and curriculum recommendations to establish that foundation of developers from the outset. We seek to cooperate with others in suitable social, cultural, and legal frameworks to get there and develop the metaverse together.”
Going forward India will become a powerhouse of skilled talent, as it is the leading contender to grow in the gaming sector. She concluded by saying, “Equipping the talent with the right tools will translate to tremendous outcomes in the AVGC sectors. Coders, game designers, content creators, animators and artists in the digital landscape can anticipate a bright future for them. We are committed to developing and elevating future leaders from the grassroot level, as they will be the fundamental contributors to the development in the next few years.”