Acclaimed game designer, community activator, innovator and diversity expert Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie has achieved a great deal, but when asked what she’s most proud of, she responds “I have so much more that I want to do, so I’ll get back to you on that!” That says something about the Curtin graduate’s inner drive, but also reveals something about the state of the video game industry according to Raynes-Goldie: that is, there’s a lot of work to do.
Raynes-Goldie holds a BA in Philosophy and Semiotics from the University of Toronto, a PhD in Internet Studies from Curtin and is a graduate of the CFC Media Lab’s Interactive Art and Entertainment Program in Canada. In 2015 she was a finalist for the Curtin alumni Professional Achievement award. More recently, MCV Pacific named her one of the most influential women in the Australia and New Zealand games industry for the second time running, and she was named 2016 Achiever of the Year at the WAITTA INCITE Awards.
Her well-deserved accolades are the result of the staggering effort and initiative that Raynes-Goldie brings to her calling. She founded Games We Play in 2007 (then Atmosphere Industries) and is Director of Games and Interactive at FTI. It’s clear that she deeply cares about the games industry, what it can do for people, and how it can benefit WA as a whole.
“Right now I’m working hard to support game developers who are not receiving the support they should,” she says. “Victoria has supported its industry for a while now through government grants, loans and other initiatives, and as a result they create 50 per cent of Australia’s games. WA produces 7 per cent, which is actually pretty good considering what we have to work with! Imagine what we could do with the same investment from our government that we see in Victoria.”
Raynes-Goldie would like to see WA produce as much as 20 per cent of Australia’s games. In her role at FTI, she has been gathering support for a trial game development co-working space called LEVEL ONE, and hopes to receive a share in a $20 million government fund to support innovation in WA.
Tapping into a global industry worth $100 billion obviously makes good financial sense, but Raynes-Goldie explains how a healthy games industry has potential cultural and societal benefits as well.
“Games represent the intersection of people, creativity and technology. They can tell stories, make you laugh and cry, help you to think differently, and facilitate joy and mischief. It’s why I love them.”
Raynes-Goldie is known for her advocacy of women in games, which she has been involved in for many years, even writing letters to Nintendo as a child due to the lack of girls in their advertising. Around that time, game advertisements essentially sent the message that video games were the sole domain of boys. “But things are changing,” Raynes-Goldie says, and explains that she is currently enamoured with The Witcher 3, an open-world epic fantasy style game featuring strong female characters and what she jokingly calls “equal opportunity sexual objectification”.
“I have always been passionate about trying to leave the world a better place than I found it and have been actively involved in fighting for environmental issues and social justice. I see supporting diversity as an extension of that. Obviously being a woman in the field also makes it a very personal issue. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the stuff myself and many of my colleagues have,” she says.
Despite some inroads being made, Raynes-Goldie laments that a lot of today’s blockbuster games still have a target audience of straight, white males, which isn’t reflective of their more diverse consumer market. It’s likely due to a lack of diversity behind the scenes.
“Right now, 50 per cent of gamers are women, yet only 10-15 percent of the people actually making those games are women,” she says, but she is quick to point out that it’s not just an issue faced by women — people of colour are also underrepresented. She simply says, “I want to see the demographics of the industry match the demographics of the greater society.”
“There’s also a lot of research showing how diversity supports innovation and increases profitability for companies, so it’s not just about doing the right thing,” she says. To this end, she has even set up raynesgoldie consulting with her sister Alex “to help companies and organisations harness the innovative power of diversity through training, inclusive events and recruitment support.”
Raynes-Goldie has continued her association with Curtin after graduating from her PhD studies in 2012 as a Lecturer in the Department of Internet Studies. When she began her role at FTI as the Director of Games and Interactive in 2014, she was appointed an Adjunct Research Fellow within the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts.