Game designer, Morgane Lainard specializes in games. She knows how to transform a learning concept into real life and is a UX specialist as well. She tells us about her passion for video games from an early age and shares her views on the place of women in the gaming industry.
by: Apolline Weirich
photo: Ryan Quintal on Unsplash
Why did you choose a career in the video game industry?
I started thinking about it as a teenager, after seeing the FF7 commercial on TV. I was dazzled by the “realism” (at the time) of the graphics, so I wanted to do the same. After playing FF9 in high school, I was amazed by the deep themes in the game. I didn’t know what game design was then, so I started to move towards 3D, naively thinking that it was the only way to create emotions in a game. As I dug deeper, I realized that game design was a discipline and that’s what I wanted to do. It was the fact that bringing something to my player motivated me enough to build a career in video games.
Were you encouraged in this decision?
Absolutely not! The first hurdle was convincing my parents who didn’t think video games could lead to real jobs. Then came my teachers: they were convinced I risked being the only girl in a male-dominated environment. It’s because I was stubborn that I was able to ignore these unproductive opinions. I taught myself and took up training courses and an internship which finally led to me entering the industry.
How did you fall into the pot of gaming?
It started at a very young age. I must have been 3 when I played my first video game. It was on SNES, Super Mario or Street Fighter, I don’t remember. The console belonged to my cousins. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I had to use my cousins’ or my male friends’ game consoles to play video games. When I was about 15 years old, I saved my Christmas and birthday money to buy my first console.
You work for a French freelance developer. Is this your choice or an opportunity that came up?
A bit of both. Basically, I didn’t want to start with a big company. I was afraid of not having enough experience and of not having a varied job. If I had the choice between working for a big company or as a freelancer, I would have still chosen to be a freelancer.
I was lucky enough to be selected for an internship at CCCP (indie studio + French serious game). At the end of my internship, they offered me a full-time role and I accepted as the philosophy of the studio was in line with my ideals. Moreover, the work is very diverse when you work on projects with teams of less than 10 people. You get to be involved in several projects simultaneously and the areas you work on change all the time (medical, ecology, professional reconversion, etc). I have been with them for 10 years now.
Do you dream of collaborating with a major publisher (e.g. Blizzard)?
Someday I’d still like to try working for a big company. As much as I’m a little afraid of the rigidity and slowness of the decision-making process, I’d like to see what it’s like to do projects with more human and financial resources. I think a first step would be to sign with a major publisher (when we mainly work alone or with private clients).
Do you think the current offer in video games is more inclusive?
I’ll start by talking about within the games itself. If we dig a little deeper (especially on the indie side), the current state is varied and is increasingly inclusive. On the other hand, on the AAA side, my opinion is more mixed. These last 5 years, we have seen more female main characters. Heterosexuality is no longer systematic. However, there is still a lack of diversity when it comes to handicapped, trans and non-binary main characters.
As far as the industry itself is concerned, female players are making their voices heard more loudly. The players have always been there but they did not dare to speak up, which is fortunately no longer the case. Unfortunately, the more vocal among us are harassed just because they dare to express enthusiasm about video games or demand more diversity.
On the developer side, we really do have it all. There are a number of extremely inclusive studios like “boy clubs” or even those in-between. In general, I have the impression that the mentality of the developers is changing faster than that of the players. The scene is also becoming more feminine. In France, we are currently 15% women in the whole industry. This is not much but it remains in the same order of magnitude as the tech industry in its entirety.
There are more and more professional support networks being created for and by minorities in the industry, the best known being Women in Games. While we still have a long way to go, it is getting better each year.
What advice would you give to a young girl who wants to get into the industry?
There’s a quote from Jacques Cœur that I love: “With a valiant heart, nothing is impossible”. That’s really my advice. It’s not easy to get into the industry, it can be discouraging to hear people express their doubts. Remember: If that’s what you want to do, DO IT! Dare to express yourself, dare to train yourself, rely on women’s networks in difficult times, ask for advice but don’t let yourself be stepped on!
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Get a copy now!