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The most vital, emotional panel at GDC was #1ReasonToBe

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The #1ReasonToBe panel at GDC 2025 was full of insights from woman developers from across the industry and academic spaces. Now in its third year at GDC, the panel was hosted by industry luminary Brenda Romero (Romero Games), and focused on the experiences of every woman on the panel — her reason to be a game developer.

The panel kicked off with Romero thanking the men in the room — a packed venue in one of GDC's largest spaces. Journalist Leigh Alexander (disclosure: Alexander is a personal acquaintance of mine) gave the first segment, where she talked about the need for everyone in the industry to contribute and make space for women and minorities. "Taking a stand is not everything. We need to create the ethical world we want to live and work in," she said.

The need to deliberately make the effort to make the industry a comfortable place for women and minorities kept coming up throughout the panel. Game designer Elizabeth LaPensee spoke up about her work making games based on indigenous peoples' experiences. "For me, creating games is an act of survivance — survival and endurance," she said. "American Indians make games? Yes, we have always had technology. We have always made games," she said.

The most emotional moment of the panel came up during the "empty chair" segment, where women who have been silenced — out of fear of harassment, or by company policy — had their words played out on the screen.

It was a powerful moment for many in the audience, especially given the prevalence of harassment against women in the industry in the past year.

Critic and academic Katherine Cross (disclosure: Cross is a personal friend of mine) ended the panel with a fiery speech about not giving up or leaving the space, even when the climate has been difficult.

Speaking of her own experience with harassment, Cross explained that she was a crossroads. "I wanted to do anything I could to make the pain stop, so I made a choice: write more about games than ever," she said. Her point was met with a standing ovation.