Untold Stories: Lizzie Wilding, Dovetail Games.
In this series, we will be telling the ‘untold stories’ of the games sector and shining a light on the many women who helped contribute to the UK games industry the past thirty years. This time, we’re joined by Lizzie Wilding from Dovetail Games to hear about her 22 years in the video games industry.
30 Years of Play: Tell us who you are, what you do and a little bit about your career in the industry.
Lizzie Wilding: I'm Lizzie Wilding, I'm VP of Publishing at Dovetail Games. I started my career in 1997 at Gremlin Interactive and since that time worked my early years for EA, then PlayStation, Codemasters, Naturalmotion, Jagex and here at Dovetail Games. I've worked in Web, Community, Marketing, and Publishing.
30 YOP: How did you start working in the sector?
Lizzie: I knew I wanted to work in games from the age of 11, playing games on my ZX Spectrum. I finally got my first games job as Webmaster at Gremlin Interactive by working in the early years of the internet (95-97) learning website creation. I also ran a large MUD (online multiplayer text adventure) in my spare time and that online community experience got me hired at EA in 1999 as their first European Community Manager.
30 YOP: What was the British games industry like in the early days of the sector?
Lizzie: I don't think I ever realised how many people I was going to know for the next 20+ years, which is a complete joy. It was smart but a little scrappy back then, but an extraordinary place to work and learn.
30 YOP: What was it like to work early in the industry as a woman?
Lizzie: It was daunting to walk into large rooms as the only woman. I definitely used to engineer conversations that could demonstrate how much I loved, played and knew games, to 'make sure' I'd earned enough credibility to give strong feedback, ideas and workable opinions. I felt in those early years I needed to work harder, achieve more, stay later, all to prove my commitment - and in hindsight I suspect that was my own pressure rather than anyone elses.
30 YOP: Were there any big challenges that you faced in the early days of your career?
Lizzie: The only challenge that I really recall is that working online in those years meant there was limited understanding of how how much online and community was going to change everything. I championed that for many years, to pretty much anyone that would listen!
30 YOP: How did your role in the games industry change and what drove that transformation?
Lizzie: The changes in my career all came from mastering new skills and learning as much as possible from other people. I absolutely recommend learning as much as possible about things you don't have direct experience in. Know marketing but don't know finance, business, production, QA or retail? Spend time understanding it and talking to people. I have honestly never come across anyone who wouldn't discuss how something works in their world and that amount of sharing and knowledge is very special.
30 YOP: Have you got a memorable anecdote that shows what the industry was like when you first joined it?
Lizzie: It's more about online community than the industry, but in the early days of online games communities I built official forums and managed communities for immensely large global titles. My online name on those forums was short, easy to remember, easy to type and you couldn't immediately perceive gender from it. Only after a year or more of being the go to official person on that forum did the community suddenly 'get' that I was a woman - because I declared I was going on maternity leave. The place was absolute mayhem for a weekend as this news was taken on board. It was all very affable but quite a lot of people suddenly realised the ease to which they assumed I was male...
30 YOP: If you could change one thing about the sector, what would it be?
Lizzie: The industry never slows down and always iterates. While in the early years there was a mystical 'window' in the summer where work eased a little, games as a service, release schedules and the enormous about of development and marketing activity that can run constantly means there isn't much time that can be used for creative ideas or looking back. We all run at high speed, so ensuring there is time ringfenced for experimentation, ideas and creative thinking is something dear to my heart.
30 YOP: What would be your one piece of advice for someone starting out in the industry?
Lizzie: Be curious and ask the question you have, no matter what room you're in.
Want to keep up to date for more untold stories? Follow out new twitter account @30yearsofplay