Poornima Seetharaman

Successful Woman Game Designer Bags Esteemed Award

1. Could you give us a brief introduction about your story and what made you get into gaming?

I’m Poornima Seetharaman. I’ve been in the gaming industry since 2006, primarily in the game design domain and worked with companies like Indiagames (now Disney India), Jumpstart (NetDragons), GSN Games and currently I’m with Zynga. I’ve also partnered with Square Enix to run their game development contest in India in the past. I also ran my game design consultancy called Pinaka Interactive and a game development company called Namma Lore Entertainment.

I also conduct workshops for various institutes. I’m a mentor at the Google Indie Games Accelerator, India and an Ambassador of Women in Games (WIGJ)

You can read more about me at http://drowlife.com/

On the subject of what made me get into gaming:

With the access of a PC during my Engineering days, Age of Empires II and Warcraft III happened to me. I made my own campaigns and shared it with my friends in college for feedback. Back then, I didn’t know I was doing a part of game design.

After my engineering graduation, I landed my first gig as a programmer in 2006 in a South Korea based Game Development Company. When a game design position opened up in the company, my classmate from college, who also worked there, suggested to our boss that they should try me out as I used to make these levels and campaigns back in college. So they decided to give me a chance.

It was supposed to be for a game that was along the lines of Neverwinter Nights for mobile. They had provided me with the D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) Manuals aka bible for Role-playing games and I was quite excited. I learnt more about game design and writing a game design document by researching the very minimal content that was available online back then and mostly just figuring it out myself from my gaming experience.

TL;DR – it was by chance!

2. As a woman in a mostly male dominated industry , did you face any difficulties in entering the gaming industry?

Yes, I have. I have had to prove my worth at least twice more than the average man.

And while it has definitely gotten better, I won’t say it is eliminated completely. Even now in many companies, when promotions or leadership roles for core game development are considered, a male candidate is preferred.

Having said that, the reason I’m in this industry is because of men who have supported me throughout. So invariably, it just comes down to people’s nature. But yes, sexism exists in small groups and I have heard this from a lot of my female colleagues as well.

3.Do you think the games industry in India needs to include more women game designers or developers? And Why?

Definitely. While gender specific factors like empathy, organizing etc can be debatable, the question should be why not? Why do we need to restrict anyone from entering the awesome world of games? If anything, we should facilitate women and other marginal communities.

4. What is your opinion about the games industry in India, and the future potential?

Larger organizations have India as an outsourcing arm, funded companies are looking at fantasy sports or Real Money / Skill gaming or free to play models. Few indies are focused on creating traditional premium video games. While we are definitely at a good place with the varied categories of gaming, I would like us to create more global content. We have talent, we need exposure, training and a good support system.

5.What are the projects you are currently involved in?

Farmville 2: Country Escape.

6.Tell us about the games you had developed or have been part of, so far?

Few of the titles I’ve worked on are:

  • For BREW devices (from a different era)
    • Bioshock mobile for BREW devices
    • Predator 3D
    • The Office (US) Challenge 3D
    • Mercury Meltdown 3D
  • A bunch of Cricket titles including Cricket T20 fever
  • Movin’ Maze 3D
  • School of Dragons based on the How to train your Dragons franchise
  • Games based on the Neopets franchise
  • GSN Casino
  • Mx Democracy – a game on the Electoral Process in partnership with ECI and NID-Bangalore.
  • Line Hop – A hypercasual game

7. How has your experience in developing such games help you grow as a game designer/producer?

When I started, there were barely any resources to learn from. Today that has changed, thankfully. Most of my learning has been the whole  “jump right into it and figure it out”. This has (personally) helped me grow. It is also why games like Bioshock mobile, Predator 3D and The Office Challenge 3D are games I’m extremely proud of as I learned a lot while making them. Trying to come up with the best solution against things like device restrictions to deadlines to team capabilities helps you understand what is the core thing you want to create and prioritize it.

Being open to learning, no matter where you are at your career is key. And also, learning can come from anyone irrespective of their seniority.

8. Could you elaborate the event where you have received your award?

Women in Games Global Awards 2020  is an extension of the Women in Games Global Conference. It is run by an amazing group of people who set up Women in Games to promote gender diversity.

Out of 61 entries for the Hall of Fame Awards, 12 were shortlisted by a pool of judges from the gaming industry; and it was then opened up for public vote where 6 women went on to receive the award.

9. Why is this award significant to you and what does it mean to you?

It was an honour to even be nominated for the Global (Women in Games) – Hall of Fame award. alongside some amazing achievers. So being one of the winners is double the honour.

I’ve believed in results and never went after recognition but who doesn’t like to be recognized and appreciated for the efforts they have put in. And sharing the stage on a global platform alongside some great veterans is a huge validation for the contributions I’ve made to this industry at whatever capacity I could. You can take a look at the Women in Games  – Global Game Awards winners here.

Besides that, this award is something I’m hoping will inspire other women and marginal genders to aspire and believe that they too can get here!

10. This is the first Women in Games Global Games Awards event, what is your view on conducting a completely female oriented  Gaming awards  event?

While Globally, this was the first time, the Hall of Fame awards have been happening since 2011. It was originally the European Women in Games – Hall of Fame.

While I’m all for gender equality, the way we are distributed is very skewed. I’ve personally seen more women turn up for women based events than a larger – for all- events. When I’ve asked them the reason, they have said that they feel more comfortable and safe that they won’t be judged. And in some of the larger events, it’s more of tokenism than equal footing.

While we are still trying to break the glass ceiling on a daily basis, platforms like these give you that morale boost to carry on and give you that validation.

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