Joanna Haslam is the Design Director at Snap Finger Click, an independent game developer based in Brighton, which makes games that people can play together. She oversees the creative direction of all Snap Finger Click's games and is part of the leadership team. Joanna has been working in games for 15 years and has become a leader in game design, recruiting and mentoring women, and striving to make it an accessible industry for all.
Breaking into the gaming world wasn't easy - and neither was progressing in that world.
"At the start of my career, the games industry was made up of only 4% women. To this day, I've never had a female manager and it's still rare to see women in leading roles, despite the improvement in the gender balance. I was told many times that part of the reason I was hired to work on Buzz! was because I am a woman. I never let that bother me, in fact, I turned into a positive because diversity is important in this industry and companies recognising that is vital. I've always felt my background has given me a different view of making games, not just because of my gender, but because of my interests in other media to try and blur the edges of what makes a game. There were many times when I had to fight to convince others of my unconventional ideas and methods, but it caused me to learn how to communicate and pitch effectively, and has shaped who I am today.
"There are very few female design leaders in the UK and I don't think there are any who specialise in social and party games as I do. When I was younger, I found it hard to speak up, but now that I'm older, I know it's my responsibility to make changes for the better. At Snap Finger Click, I've taken an active role in recruitment. I've helped to improve the language in job adverts to attract more diverse candidates. I've placed job adverts in areas other than games industry websites. I successfully recruited a female production assistant earlier this year and we are well above the industry standard at 50% women."
In common with many women working in technology, Joanna volunteers a considerable amount of her own time to encouraging girls and other women to forge a tech career,
"I have been mentoring with Limit Break, a programme for women and underrepresented groups in the games industry, for the past three years.
"I often collaborate with the WISE Campaign who work with businesses to get women in STEM roles. WISE asked me to create a tabletop game for their awards ceremony in 2019 where I chose to make a physical version of one of Snap Finger Click's games called Awkward. Awkward is a mature party game designed to help the players get to know each other better by answering a series of personal and sometimes controversial questions. I adapted it with new questions that spark debate about Women in STEM. Through WISE, I acted as an expert reviewer for a children's book about video game development to ensure its factual accuracy, as well as running Webinars about being a working parent and retaining women in the technology industry.
"I have also volunteered with the CoderDojo group helping children aged 8-16 to learn code, including participating in their Girls' Day which was an event exclusively for girls.
"I have also contributed to numerous publications including The Guardian and The Washington Post, speaking about my experiences as a woman in games. I'm a visible and prominent voice in the UK Games industry as one of the few female game design leaders."