Game researcher Annakaisa Kultima summed up the sentiment of the Game Developers Conference's #1ReasonToBe panel today when she said to a packed room of GDC Europe attendees, "I have a fucking right to be here."
The panel was the third of its kind and served to celebrate diversity in games and encourage women to speak out about why, despite the odds being stacked against them in a male-dominated games industry, they stayed and continue to make and work with video games.
Kultima was joined by a panel of speakers that included writer Leigh Alexander, developers Brenda Romero, Auriea Harvey, Siobhan Reddy, Henrike Lode and curator Zuraida Buter. The women each shared stories of how they got into gaming and their reasons for staying. For some, like veteran developer Brenda Romero, she said it was because she had always made games and wasn't aware until much later in her career of people's penchant to divide developers along gender lines.
"I was completely unaware my gender was a function in me being a game designer," Romero said. "In 1999 I suddenly became very aware I was a female game designer, [even though] my reproductive organs have never made a game design decision."
Despite people's insistence on labeling her, Romero said her hope was "we can be an industry where we can all be together and just make games."
For Siobhan Reddy, who leads the studio Media Molecule, her reason was her desire to change things and to improve conditions for her peers. "[And] I have changed things," she said. "I make decisions every day and I change things. I think we all need to think and act progressively and even radically. It's all well and good to want to do something, but you have to do something. You have to represent yourself."
For Kultima, her conclusion was she shouldn't have to justify herself, and nor should other women. "In the end, I don't think I need other reasons," she said. "I have the ticket. I have the right to be here."