Women in Games - NZ Game Developers Association

  • Hon Clare Curran
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

Thank you for inviting me here tonight to speak to your group on this very important topic of diversity in the game development sector.

In particular, I would like to thank Zoe for the introduction, and Emma for sharing your experiences of being a female game developer.

Tech sector

As Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media one of my goals is to grow the tech sector to be the second biggest contributor to the economy by 2025.

This is an ambitious goal. And while our tech sector is growing, we need do something differently if we are to achieve our aspirations.

We don’t want our success as a nation to be judged on GDP alone.

So it’s vitally important to this Government that people’s well-being is at the heart of everything we do.

One of the key things we as government can do is to support parts of the tech sector that have for too long been overlooked.

Game development is one of the industries that have fallen through the cracks.

Game development, at a base level, sits at the interface of the creative and the technological. And because of this, it doesn’t fit neatly into any government policy.

We all know the game development sector is growing at an impressive rate - largely because of the hard work, creativity and dedication of many of you in this room.

But I know if government and industry work together, we can grow it at an even faster rate and take game development in this country to an even higher level.

The annual revenue statistics, released just this morning, show a massive 43 per cent annual growth, with an annual revenue of $143 million.

The top challenges for the sector, according to the Annual Industry Survey, include attracting early stage development funding, attracting investment, quality and experience of tertiary level graduates, and attracting international projects.

MBIE Officials are already looking at the challenges around lack of capital and investment for high-tech start-ups.

The Digital Economy team at MBIE continues to support the Digital Skills Forum to address issues around skills shortages in the tech sector.

The Digital Skills Forum is currently looking at internships and graduate programmes, and how these can be made more effective in New Zealand.

I’m really excited by is the potential of the sector.

Worldwide the gaming economy is estimated to be worth around $200 billion. (source: Newzoo’s 2018 Global Games Market Report)

And I believe, with the right support, our gaming sector can play a bigger role on the global stage, showcasing our talent to overseas markets, helping grow the skills of our game development workforce, and make a greater contribution to the national economy in terms of revenue and exports.

Maximising the impact of New Zealand’s creative tech is one area in particular the government is keen to explore.

The game development sector is one of the most mature and commercially viable examples of ‘creative tech’. As such, it’ll be useful to follow game development more closely  and explore areas such as IP, skills development, innovative business models and research and development, that are important to the wider creative tech sector

I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Interactive Media research report when it comes out in December. This report commissioned by NZ Tech and the New Zealand Game Developers Association, and supported by Government, will for the first time, give us a thorough understanding of New Zealand’s interactive media sector.

In addition to giving a snapshot of the current status of interactive media in New Zealand, it will also explore how New Zealand can in the future better exploit this disruptive technology for economic growth as well as its many social and education benefits.

You are all well aware that gaming is not child’s play, but rather, has far-reaching benefits for us all.

While the Digital New Zealand 2018 study found the main reason for playing games is having fun, New Zealanders are also playing for social connectedness, whether that be with family or friends. They’re playing to reduce stress, to be challenged, to learn, to keep their mind active, or for physical and mental health benefits.

New Zealanders are also playing for educational reasons – to learn about business development and experience the realities of becoming an entrepreneur.

And I’m one of the first ministers in a long time to take the gaming industry seriously.


One of the new developments in the gaming sector that I’m really excited about is CODE – the Centre of Digital Excellence proposed for Dunedin.

CODE would cost around $10m over ten years and will build on existing gaming and digital businesses and the existing academic centres.

It’s the opportunity for Dunedin and the wider Otago region to develop a sector that will deliver new economic growth and highly skilled sustainable employment.

The initial elements proposed for CODE included a new Chair of Computer Gaming at the University of Otago, an incubator space to accelerate digital start ups, and a funding pool aimed at attracting young talent to the industry.

I met with the team behind CODE earlier in the year. They’re working hard on the business case to be made to the Provincial Growth Fund later this year for money to cover the costs of establishing and running CODE.

The Dunedin City Council, its economic development agency and Otago University have teamed up on the funding application.

When CODE is up and running it would be great to see lots of amazing women from the gaming industry getting involved.

In the meantime the team developing the proposal are keen to talk to others as they develop the details.  I encourage you to do this if you are interested. 


The tech sector employs more than 120,000 people in New Zealand, of which only 23 percent are women.

However, this year’s annual industry survey shows that the game development sector only has 21 per cent female employees. I want that to change.

If we want to grow our game development sector in New Zealand, we need to encourage more diversity in the sector.

I have been very vocal about wanting to see more women employed in the technology, science and engineering professions, including game development.

While increased diversity benefits the people who enter the sector, it also benefits the sector itself. It becomes all the more richer by opening the door wider to capture differing ideas, viewpoints, skills and ways of thinking.

A diverse game development workforce, and the diversity of ideas it brings, can contribute to more creative games, games that reach new audiences, and games that break away from the norm, like more collaborative games, games for older people, and educational games. 

Close to half of all players of video games in New Zealand are women. Yet this is not reflected in the people making our games

I want to see more women represented in the sector pushing the boundaries of innovation, and playing an equal role designing the technology of tomorrow.

It is a sector that offers many diverse and interesting roles and those roles pay well. The median salary in New Zealand is $48,800 (source: Statistics NZ Labour Market Earnings) whereas the median salary for a worker identified as skilled in digital technology is $82,000 (source: Digital Skills Report).

So encouraging women to participate in this industry will bring economic reward at the individual level as well as more broadly for addressing the gender pay gap.

We have further opportunities to embrace the ethnic and cultural diversity of our country.

For example, Māori and Pasifika are part of New Zealand’s unique cultural and creative identity.

This identity is utterly unique, and could be a significant point of difference when taking our games to the world and improving player inclusivity.

And how fantastic would it be for Māori gamers, Pasifika gamers – all New Zealand gamers – to see their culture reflected back in the world-class games they play?

For this to happen, we need to boost the low numbers of Māori and Pasifika people in our game development sector.

New Zealand examples

While we have a lot of work to do on diversity, it is important to acknowledge there are some great initiatives already underway in the sector.

For example, the Girls Behind the Games movement started by Runaway, promotes gender parity and diversity in the gaming industry.

As many of you will know, using the hashtag #GirlsBehindTheGames, it profiles women in the gaming industry on Twitter to shine the light on their talents and achievements. It also speaks to the next generation of women game designers and developers by promoting game development as a possible career choice.

I understand that Girls Behind the Games has had over 5 million tweet impressions and hundreds of women sharing their experiences and successes. It’s received international attention, as well as the attention of our own Prime Minister.

With Girls Behind the Games, Runaway is also creating a register of women in the gaming industry who are interested in presenting their work or industry experiences to help improve women’s representation at conferences.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to commend Zoe, managing director of Runaway, and her team there for embracing gender diversity, and inspiring others through their success.

Another example is the work by the Media Design School in Auckland. The School offers a ‘Girls in Games’ scholarship for one female game artist and one female game programmer.

For the last 6 years, Media Design School has also hosted Girls in Games Workshops for secondary school-aged girls. These workshops offer young women an immersive, hands-on experience in game development, game art and game design, and the opportunity to learn directly from the School’s female faculty members.  

I should also mention the good work by She Sharp [She#], which connects young women with women working in the tech industry so that they can see the opportunities that tech qualifications can provide.

And also Girl Code, where young women who are new to coding, learn to build a web application, allowing them to discover what it’s like to work in the industry.


I want to thank all of you in this room for contributing to the progress that’s been made in creating a diverse and inclusive game development workforce.

Please keep working towards that goal.  Please keep speaking out, tell your stories about how you’ve come to this space. Go in to schools and talk to young people about the opportunities that are out there in this sector and how exciting it is.

Let’s get a strategy, a plan that’s government-backed and takes this sector into the stratosphere.