In 2020, more people played video games than watched television, driving approximately $179.9 billion in revenue for the video game industry. With over 214 million video game players in the United States, 42% of whom are women, what was once considered a male-dominated industry is changing both in front of and behind the screen.
Chelsea Blasko is one of the women transforming the video-game industry. Blasko was the Chief Operating Officer of Iron Galaxy Studios when we profiled her in a VirtualJobShadow.com job shadowing video. Recently, she was promoted to co-CEO.
We spoke with her about her experience in a male-dominated field, the importance of diversity in the workplace, and how the industry could attract more female talent.
VJS: What struggles have you endured as a female in the video game industry?
CB: I believe the struggles I have had as a woman in games are the same struggles I would have in any male-dominated industry. In the past, before Iron Galaxy, I witnessed sexist behavior tolerated in the workplace, and when I spoke up about it, I was told, "boys will be boys." I didn't let this stop me from being a strong advocate for my team, nor from bringing up new issues as they occurred.
There are also more subtle struggles in networking and relationship building that one learns to manage. I do not believe these barriers are usually intentional. I think as a culture, we are all becoming more aware of our implicit biases. When I am faced with challenges, I push through them.
VJS: How do you think women are changing the industry for the better?
CB: I think women and anyone not in the dominant group are changing the industry for the better merely by being present. We are bringing new perspectives, backgrounds, and ways of relating to the world that were often dismissed in the past. Workplaces and products only get better when there is more representation across all groups and room for listening and healthy debate.
VJS: How can the video game industry attract more women?
CB: I'm hoping that other women see me and other women like me and know that there is a place in games for them. The more positive experiences women currently in games have that we can talk about serves to help others feel comfortable and welcome.
We need to make sure everyone in the organization is getting good mentorship and opportunities. We also need to recognize the unique challenges many women have, often being the primary caregiver and still carrying a disproportionate amount of the housework in hetero relationships.
VJS: Why has it been crucial for you to prioritize diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Iron Galaxy?
CB: We believe that our differences make us stronger and give us access to a broad array of perspectives. We also really want people to be able to be their authentic selves at work and not feel the burden of code-switching. I think when we can be ourselves, we can be our best selves.
VJS: What advice would you have for women wanting to get into the world of gaming?
CB: Don't be afraid! If you want to be in gaming, go for it! Do the research and ask people who work at studios about the culture. When you are interviewing, it's a two-way street. You should also feel comfortable and heard. This doesn't mean you won't be challenged. But, if you are not being respected in the interview, it's a good sign you won't be respected in the job.
VJS: Why do you love working in the video game industry?
CB: I love that it is creative. We get to build fantasy worlds and tell stories that are interacted with by people all over the world. That feels pretty cool.
*Chelsea Blasko appears in the "Chief Operating Officer – Video Games" job shadowing video, which can be found in VirtualJobShadow.com's Career Central.