Access All Areas: “I’ve since spoken to kids who believed that their poor hearing would hold them back in the industry. I can tell them now that it doesn’t – or, at least, shouldn’t”

How does someone without any industry qualifications or any kind of previous experience make an impact in video games? Especially when they are one, older; two, female; and three, disabled. This is my experience as to how I did that – and I honestly must say here, that I still am not sure how it happened other than by dumb luck and by being in the right place at the right time. Eventually.

In my spare time I like to practice painting. I’ve been doing so since I was a small child, when I decided it was something I wanted to make a living at when I got older. However, when I first attempted to break into the games industry as an artist back in the late 1990s, I was told that my art skills were weak and that no studio would even look twice at my work. I was also told rather blatantly that the industry was not for people like me – not for females, that is. I so badly wanted to get into the industry and my art was the only way I really knew how, but in 1998 the industry had revealed itself as a Boys Only Club.

So, being an outsider, it wasn’t until almost 25 years later that I actually succeeded in getting into the industry, and believe me – it wasn’t without push backs along the way. The more rejections I received, however, the more it fired me on to try harder and work smarter. I began to realise that it was not down to what I knew but who I knew. It also became obvious that despite having two history degrees, it was forever assumed that I knew nothing about games. To those on the outside, I was some generic blonde female gamer, a stereotype I tried time and again to push against.

In 2020 the pandemic hit and working from home seemed to have become the norm. This suited me fine, as the parent of a young child and someone without a driving licence due to my disability. Unfortunately I live in Derbyshire, where there aren’t too many studios, yet despite the increased number of roles allowing for remote working, I faced many of the same issues as before, and of course the increasingly convenient excuse of having no direct experience.

2021 was a good year for me, I was on a panel for Games Accessibility Conference EU and everything just seemed to snowball from there. Joining Many Cats Studios was very much a catalyst and without Chris Goodyear taking me under his wing to be the community manager of the company, I’d probably still be emailing studios and begging them to take a chance on me. If you’d had told me twelve months ago I’d be nominated for industry awards and sitting on award ceremony juries – I would have laughed
at you.

And in this last year, I have figured out that sometimes I am welcomed with my opinions and that being an older person in the gaming industry with a hearing disability puts me at a unique perspective, especially having had full hearing abilities once upon a time. I have to buy headphones that allow for my hearing aids now, I can no longer use AirPods and my audiologist has banned me from working in loud environments, but making an impact in the videogame industry is what I’ve always wanted to do – even if I had to go about it the hard way.

I’ve since spoken to kids who believed that their poor hearing would hold them back in the industry. I can tell them now that it doesn’t – or, at least, shouldn’t – and that persistence will take them further along their path than any resistance there might be in front of them. What matters is that the more of us that make this journey, the shorter it will be for those that follow.

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