By Richard Burnett
With computer clicks and keystrokes, Carmela DeNero can put the spiral into a Peyton Manning pass, the speed into Adrian Peterson’s touchdown run and the roar into a stadium crowd.
An associate producer with EA Sports’ Maitland studio, she is working on the mobile version of the popular “Madden NFL” video game. She’s one of just a few women in game development at the Maitland operation — a role she says she has navigated carefully but successfully.
“There are definitely a lot more men here, but that never feels odd or intimidating,” DeNero said. “There are some tremendously talented women here, scattered about the studio. It’s easy to get to know all of them because it’s a pretty small club.”
DeNero, 26, is part of a growing minority of women in the video-game industry: tech professionals who have turned their love of gaming into a career. They grew up on lighthearted games such as “Super Mario Bros.” and role-playing games such as “The Sims.”
They were unfazed by the “boys’ world” dominated by so-called shooter games, which have been criticized for portraying violence against women.
But although more women have cracked video gaming’s predominantly male work force, the business still has a gender gap, particularly with higher-paying engineering jobs, experts say.
Women make up the fastest-growing consumer segment of the $15 billion-a-year business and the fastest-growing niche in its work force, doubling during the past five years, according to industry estimates. But women still hold only 22 percent of the jobs, the International Game Developers Association reported.
To keep the momentum going, game developers say, they have to recruit more women who can bring a female viewpoint to games and ensure that games showcase, not exploit, female characters.
It would help, for example, to have more characters like Lara Croft, the adventurer in the popular “Tomb Raider” game, said Alice Hayden, a lifelong gamer and small-business defense contractor who uses gaming technology in her firm.