Alice Cleaver On What It’s Like To Game As A Female-Identifying Person
June 21st, 2022
Originally from Hayling Island in the UK, Alice Cleaver joined Klang in November of 2021. She never thought that she would move to Berlin, let alone during a Pandemic, but the opportunity with Klang was too good to pass up! Alice loves her role as a Junior Community Manager because she gets to interact with and help cultivate our amazing community. You can find her managing our social media channels, playtests, and player communication. In this interview we talk about her experience as a female-identifying gamer, her path into the gaming industry, and her views on Klang!
How did you first get into gaming?
I’ve played games my entire life. My dad, my brother, and all of my friends were into games and it was something that I loved to do. Originally I never thought I could make a career out of it so I got a history degree, I started a photography company, and I started to stream and play tabletop games. But I wanted to see more women in the video game industry so I started looking for a way into it. Growing up, gaming was a very male dominated community and I didn’t always feel welcome. I wanted to change that and encourage girls to game, partly because I wanted more girls to game with! I have also always loved the community aspect of gaming. Then I found myself at Klang, which is an amazing company that very much has that community feel that I love. I’m really happy to have made it here. I was definitely looking to get into the gaming industry, but I sort of fell into it without trying.
What do you love about video games?
For a lot of people gaming is a competitive activity, but I’m really not competitive. So, for me I love when I can play a game with friends. The best is when you have some friends over, order a pizza, drink a couple beers, and have a laugh. I also really love the single player games that are story oriented, especially ones where I can lose myself in the atmosphere of them. There are these amazing worlds that people have created and you can really immerse yourself in it. That’s just something that I love.
Have you faced any gender descrimination working in the gaming industry or in the gaming community?
Not at Klang, it’s actually amazing how good the company culture around gender is. Our company has a very diverse staff, which is not always the case at other gaming studios. Having other female-identifying coworkers definitely helped me feel comfortable and welcome when I first got hired. It’s great to be surrounded by so many other female-identifying people who are passionate about games! That being said, in regards to representation there is still room for improvement and Klang is constantly working towards being even more inclusive and diverse.
However, I do experience descrimination all the time when playing games. It can be anything from a 12 year old shouting at you to something more aggressive. I have actually received a lot of death threats while gaming online. It’s really awful and it shouldn’t be the norm, but I almost expected something like that to happen. At the time I was playing online with my husband and he never received those kinds of threats. But other female gamers that I have spoken to have had similar situations as well. Behavior like this also depends on what game you're playing. There’s toxicity no matter where you go, but some will have more than others. And then there’s some games, like SEED, which are created with this in mind and strive to create an environment that is welcoming and supportive, not toxic.
Why do you think gaming is such a male dominated activity?
Growing up, gaming was for boys. For example, if you look at the female character designs they are very oversexualized. Even in great games like Zelda and Mario you are rescuing a princess. You’re always saving and rescuing the female characters. There are rarely female heroes. I do think that things are improving a lot, but originally the message was that games were for boys.
What started the shift for women to get more involved in gaming?
I think when social media got louder, women presenting individuals had more of a voice to say “this is not okay”. I think some people just needed to hear that women wanted more representation in games, but the switch definitely came from people talking about it. This led to more and more women getting into the gaming industry and they started to make changes within. And even though we’re just talking about playing a game, which may seem insignificant, it is important because our actions influence young girls who are playing games. Also, seeing women in the gaming industry gives girls who love gaming the message that they can also get involved. When I was a girl the idea of working in gaming wasn’t even an option. When I first joined the gaming industry I was worried about being the only female, but I’m not! It’s really encouraging and makes me want to work harder to help make a change.
What is a common misconception that people have about gaming?
I think some people think that games are bad for kids, that they ruin their education, or that they inspire violence. But the gamers that I know are some of the most logical people. This is because you have to really use your brain for most games. There’s also the misconception that we’re all super nerdy, that we only wear nerdy t-shirts, and we never go outside. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of us like that, but we do other things too. I think a lot of people would be surprised to find out that there are a lot of gamers who they don't know are gamers. Take Klang for example, we have such a diverse staff filled with people who present very differently, but we all love games! This is because gaming doesn’t have to be someone’s whole personality. There’s a lot of other things that I do and I have a lot of other hobbies. I’m a gamer but that’s only a small part of me. For example, I grew up on an island, so I spent most of my days at the beach swimming and kayaking, and then I would go home and play a game. And there were lots of people that were shocked to find out that I gamed because I was “outdoorsy”. But the reality is you can be both!