PAX East 2016 Ladies Panel

PAX East 2016 – It’s Still Really Rad Being a Female in the Games Industry

Contrary to popular belief, it's not about oppressing this and oppressing that. It's about finding yourself and helping each other out.

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For those of you who haven’t been following the panel since PAX East 2014, I want to give you a little background story on this amazing panel. If you know me well enough, you know I absolutely dread the idea of public speaking. I’ve suffered from social anxiety for a very, very long time. The thought of having to speak in front of more than two people at any given time has me frantically searching for my anxiety medication, adding more to the irony as to why I chose to do this panel in the first place. It was back in 2014 I had decided I wanted to put together a panel – but I wanted it to mean something. Talking with my then-editor-in-chief Jeffrey Wilson, he suggested, “why not something about the positives of being a woman in this industry?” How could I say no to that?

So I head to the land of the Twitterverse, and shouted out to the majestic interwebs seeking women who were also interested in speaking on this topic. Susan Arendt, Sarah LeBoeuf, Maylene Garcia, Dianna Lora and Karen Rivera were all quick to join the cause, and I had a full panel ready to go. We filled up the Bumblebee Theater, and most of us were incredibly nervous (if you watch the first panel, you can see me very nervously moving my hands throughout the entire thing). My voice was shaky for the first portion, and afterwards I was in shock I even had the guts to do it. The second year was somehow even more terrifying – my grandmother was on her death bed, I had gained a lot of weight, and the pressure of doing it all over again to inspire a whole new crowd was intense. We did it though, and the feedback was even more powerful and inspiring.

This year was very different, as three of the panelists had to drop due to other engagements and scheduling conflicts, and my moderator from the previous year (Johnathan Gibbs) wasn’t planning to make the trip out to Boston this year. I was faced with a different kind of stress: not only did I have to do it all over again, but I had to find new faces. Again heading to the Twitterverse, I called out to see if anyone was interested in joining Sarah and myself for the third year of spreading good vibes. Fortunately, I quickly got messages from Sabriel, Jamie and Mercer.

Mercer was an audience member the first year, and started her career after the panel writing for Karen’s old outlet. Jamie was a member of the second year’s audience seeking information on how to create a network among the women in this industry (plus, she’s an artist for Harmonix!), and Sabriel was also an audience member and freelance writer. Once I locked in the three new panelists, I called Johnathan and gave him a nudge. He knew if it weren’t meant to be, I wouldn’t have called him. He too, started booking his trip to Boston. To have new faces and a new perspective on certain parts of the industry excited me! But in the back of my head, I still asked myself, “do I have the guts to do this?”

After almost missing my flight to Boston, us forgetting the SD card for the camera in the hotel across town (thanks Ryan, for saving the day), and sweating because of the humidity, it was time to take the stage. I opened my backpack and stared at my anxiety meds, and had one of those magical life realizations: How could I tell people the truths of fighting the anxiety and fear, if I myself couldn’t fight through it? I had decided at that moment I had nothing to be afraid of, and that my purpose was to give these people honest guidance of how to handle the obstacles of being a woman in the gaming industry. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

I hope, as I’m sure my fellow panelists do as well, you enjoy the panel we did this year (those who attended, and those who weren’t able to and are watching it here). It is because of all of you we get up there, and fight the fight. This panel helped me come out publicly with my bisexuality and anxiety – every person up there unveiled something about themselves, everyone up there became a hero in some sort of way – and we hope this panel helps you in some way too, no matter what gender you are. We meant every word we spoke up there, and I’ll say it again: we are all human. We should treat everyone as we wish to be treated, and it is important we find ourselves and stand up for our ideas and what we believe in.

Until next year, Boston! Please continue to use the hashtag #radladygamers on social media to give feedback, and if you’d like to reach out to any of us, here is our info below:

Johnathan Gibbs – @blasianFMA
Sarah LeBoeuf – @sarahthebeef
Sabriel Mastin – @Sabriality
Jamie McKiernan – @JamieMcKiernan
Mercer Smith – @mercenator
Tatjana Vejnovic – @digital_vix3n

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Tatjana Vejnovic
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