Last month, Warner Bros. Games producer Jesyca Durchin sat down with VFS Game Design Instructor Sarah Tam for an Industry Talk to discuss her career, how game developers can broaden their audience through fostering inclusive workspaces, and the importance of recreating real-world play in digital spaces.
It’s a fascinating conversation on design philosophies, creating games for everyone, and how games can empower their players.
Jesyca is a veteran producer behind countless video games, movies, TV shows, and more. Her extensive credits include the 90’s classic video game Barbie Fashion Designer, the first seven full-length Barbie movies, and Curious George: Cape Ahoy. Jesyca’s latest project is the upcoming Wonder Woman video game, developed by Warner Bros. Games, which will be among the first triple-A games starring a female superhero!
For its part, Barbie Fashion Designer was just inducted in the Video Game Hall of Fame for its innovative replication of how children play and how it spurred the video game industry into creating games that appealed to people of all genders.
By the mid-90’s video games had increasingly been seen by the industry as a space for boys and young men, and games were primarily made with just that one gender in mind. But when Barbie Fashion Designer was released in 1996, the notion that girls weren’t into games was entirely upended.
Barbie’s first foray into video games was an immediate hit. Over 600,000 copies were sold in the first year of release, handily pacing games like Quake and Doom. With that, the myth of video games only holding appeal to one gender was popped. It ushered in more games that were created to appeal to young women and girls, as well as games that were non-gendered in their appeal.
As analysts looked more critically at who played video games, they also discovered that gamers didn’t just play games that were marketed towards their gender. Just as young women played games like Diablo, boys were playing Barbie Fashion Designer too. Video game historians have credited this to the game’s focus on allowing players to engage in “real-world” styles of play and inclusive design, two cornerstones of Jesyca’s design philosophy.
“There is a through line in the idea of play and toys that anyone should be able to pick something up that is a well-designed toy and play with it,” Jesyca shared during the Industry Talk. “There shouldn't be a design limitation based on your economic situation, or a block in your enjoyment because you didn't go to a certain school or know a certain person. There's great democracy to the idea of play for everyone.”
To hear more on Jesyca’s career, what it’s like working with massive media franchises, and the importance granting wish fulfillment in games, watch the video below!
Thank you again to Jesyca for the fascinating and inspiring talk on creating games for everyone!
If you or someone you know is passionate about creating games that are inclusive by design, our next opportunity for the Women in Game Design Scholarship is now open with Timbre Games! This scholarship was created specifically to help address the gender imbalance in game development, and to help make games that appeal to people of any gender.