INTRODUCTION FROM THE EDITOR:
Hey folks! Thanks for reading this series all about women in the game audio industry. I want to briefly introduce composer Megan McDuffee, this series, and then quickly get out of her way!
When Megan first reached out to me with the idea for this series about highlighting women in game audio, I was immediately excited by the idea. I also thought to myself, ‘This will be great! It’s success a relevant and timely issue in the industry today!’ It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realized that the issue of gender inequality in the game industry isn’t timely and relevant: it’s about 30 years old and just now receiving some attention. It’s not timely at all; it’s long overdue.
That’s gender-bias at work right there, folks! And that is exactly why – other than some very light editing and pushing the “publish” button – I’m leaving this series in the very capable hands of composer Megan McDuffee (full bio at the bottom of this post) and the women she’s interviewing. Enjoy, be mindful, and be on the right side of change.
-Dan Hulsman, VGM Academy
Hi, lovely video game musicians. I approached Dan a while ago with the idea of highlighting some upcoming and fantastic female composers in game music, because frankly there needs to be more attention given to these bright creative women! Without further ado, here are my thoughts, research, and spotlights on some seriously talented gals.
Why I’m Writing This Series About Female Composers
To start out, let’s do some stats. Out of curiosity, I recently tallied up numbers from the nationally-known Cinequest Film Festival. Out of 115 feature films, 89 were scored by men and 3 were scored by women. All three female composers shared the credit with men. Short films fared ever so slightly better: out of 105 shorts, 49 were scored by men, and 9 were scored by women (including myself). Of those 9, 3 again shared their role with men. The rest of the films didn’t have composers, or used stock music.
Sadly, as further proof of what my small sample showed, (and what I expected to find), the statistics on women film composers in Hollywood is grim. To quote Bustle magazine:
“Only three percent of top grossing films in 2016 were scored by women. Three percent. And In 2015, it was just two percent.”
Furthermore, the article goes on to mention that in the 82 years of the Academy Awards, only 5 women were nominated for best score. Variety online magazine touts similar findings, with 7 women having been nominated. That’s frightening. Successful film composer Lolita Ritmanis sums up my feelings in observation of her mentor, the late wonderful Shirley Walker:
“Shirley scored some really phenomenal films, and I thought, ‘Why isn’t she being offered big box office films?’ All of those were offered to men. I saw man after man race past her — many that did not have the same talent and vision that she did — but it seemed to be a boys’ club and the girls weren’t invited to the party.”
Back to the Game Industry…
The gender gap in game audio seems to be closing a bit more rapidly than film. From the 2016 GameSoundCon Game Audio Industry survey (http://www.gamesoundcon.com/survey), the findings were that women game composers and sound designers are up to 10.4% of the industry – Up from 7% in 2015 and 3.5% in 2014 (yay!). According to this survey, women still only earn 73% of what men do (not yay).
So why are the numbers between men and women so intensely different? Are we still recovering from old notions of what women’s roles “should” be and long-standing gender biases? Ritmanis’ observation would make it appear so. Are women not getting hired? Or are simply less women interested in composing for film and games? My guess would be a combination of all 3, with some coming into play more than others depending on the situation.
It’s all well and good to analyze it, but what are some actionable goals to change this? I’m happy that many of my male composing counterparts are aware of the gender discrepancy, and that’s absolutely a step in the right direction. I had one friend say, “so how many women composers do you actually know?,” which definitely made me think. In person, the number of female composers I’ve met I can count on one hand. Online, a handful more. Seriously though, not many. So where are they?
Closing the Gap: Leadership and Mentors
Many sources suggest a lack of strong female mentors and role models for our youth and budding musicians. I feel that I was lucky to have had amazingly talented female piano teachers, voice coaches, and music directors as I was growing up. I have no doubt that it subconsciously encouraged me to pursue composition. But I very much agree. What is the first image that pops into your mind with the words “video game composer?” Is it a man? Likely so, and I myself am guilty. We should start changing those impressionable young minds so they won’t fall into the same trap. Of course, as this gender gap closes in both games and film, young women will have more female role models to look up to, and hopefully we can get this ball rolling exponentially!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and ideas on the issue (I shall officially step down from my soap box now). I hope I’ve provided you with some things to think about. Enjoy the upcoming composer spotlights, and even better, tell your game dev friends to hire them!
Attack the Gap! Content (updated on an ongoing basis):
Megan McDuffee is an award-winning game and film composer, specializing in orchestral and electronic music with a dark, melodic edge. Anything sci-fi, fantasy, or horror is her cup of tea (aside from actual cups of tea, which she enjoys immensely.) She’s worked alongside veteran composers and producers, including Penka Kouneva on the multi-award winning Rollers of the Realm. Other games Megan has scored include Galaxy Heist, Mimic: Arena, Solar Crusaders, Rose Racer, and Plunge. She is currently working on a dark, dreamy synthwave-triphop EP releasing early next year. To listen to Megan’s work and feel worse about your own website’s design, visit: http://meganmcduffee.com