This E3, I gathered with friends and former colleagues around a high top at Hooters, swapping small talk and tales of cosplay catastrophe at Video Games Live. You could smell the nerd (and hot sauce) for miles.
Much like my experience in the games industry, it didn't matter if you were woman, man or monkey -- our table was an equal opportunity gathering.
For six years, I've been a woman in the magical land of video game PR. For six years, I've felt as welcome as any man to fulfil my career aspirations, contribute new ideas, set high scores and geek out on pixels.
I'm not looking to defend the craft, but Katie Williams' article about sexist PR at E3 caught me off guard.
My career exemplifies chance, change and "girl power" in video games. So if there is confusion about what women can and can't do, let me be the first to clear it up.
After snagging some enviable client PR cred, I abruptly quit my job last month. Now officially rogue, I attribute my non-concern over self-employment to being a woman in this industry for so long. It's empowering and it didn't come free.
If press releases count, I've been published everywhere from the New York Times to shark enthusiast websites. I've ghost written for Target, built Lego models with gaggles of children, won awards.
I'm not saying ignorant and rude assumptions aren't made. I know what it feels like. When I worked at Gamestop in college, nearly every shift, I had to explain to some doofus that "yes, I play video games". It was ridiculous. But retail clerkship and the video game industry itself are two very different beasts. Professionals know better.
Achievement Unlocked: Girl Power
A woman who isn't confident and determined won't last long in the video game industry, nor will she who does not "know her shit." We, as women, have to prove ourselves, yes -- just like everyone else, in every other industry.
But among the male majority, women in the game industry bring something different and increasingly valuable to the table. It's kind of like turtle power, but less amphibious, and better, because girl power goes both ways. Women have added opportunity to shock, awe and succeed in video games.
When people expect you to lose, winning is more fulfilling. Being the underdog is fun. That's how you change perception and overcome adversity -- just go out and do it, and be good at what you do.
Attractive young females are a staple in marketing and PR in any field, not just video games. Girl power isn't about flirting or short skirts, it's about applying the female perspective to situations where men fail miserably.
In a business like the game industry, there are a LOT of shoes to fill -- no one skillset or mindset or character trait or strong suit will cut it. That isn't gender; it's human nature. But if you want to break it down and put traits into columns, gender is one way to do it.
Women and men are different in specific, measurable ways. Our brains are wired differently for important professional functions like problem solving and communication. That's a big deal! What other industry would even consider it normal to have such lop-sided groupthink?
Women know what women want. Even Mel Gibson knows that.
When an industry fuelled by men wants to go mainstream, it needs a new perspective; it has to impact non-traditional audiences to keep growing. If you bring something different to the table, anyone can help move the gaming industry out of the niche and into the future.
Bright eyed, bushy tailed, fresh out of college (and Gamestop management), with my psych degree in hand, I began a video game PR career that could have gone on forever. My first client was Disney. I sent out God knows how many physical press mailers for boxed console game reviews of titles like "That's So Raven" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody".
As time went on, boxed copies gave way to PC and online games, then mobile, then the App Store. Then came Facebook, the cloud… Some of my clients were literally cancelling plans for DS games in lieu of social platforms.
Before I knew it, boxed console games were a distant memory. And girl power was in higher demand than ever. Why?
We were dealing with new platforms and new audiences that had never played video games before. We were answering tough questions about online safety to parents who barely understood the Internet. Anyone who might have once questioned my womanly capabilities stopped when it came time to pitch to parents, educators or socialites. They needed girl power. I had it.
What does a mum think when she walks down an aisle to purchase video games? Why is learning about how to behave in an online forum important for childhood development? What makes a woman want to share something on her Facebook wall?
Yes, men can answer these questions too, but they'd probably start by asking a woman.
Make It Game
When you look at how video game concepts are being applied to new fields, you can see how some women are already profoundly affecting the industry's future.
Today, the game industry encompasses mainstream entertainment, education, fitness, finance and all sorts of things it wasn't before. Everyone wants a piece of gamification, and it often has little to do with video games. To keep up and to keep growing, women are invaluable.
Not to be coy, but the game industry really isn't all fun and games. It's hard work at a viciously fast pace. In PR especially, the responsibilities keep growing and social media is making things stone cold crazy. But, for me, the rules have always been fair. Being a woman has not hindered me; it makes me better at what I do.
The only thing I haven't been able to do as a woman in games? Grow a beard.