25th May 2011

Games designer and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) lecturer Penny Kyburz defies the stereotype of the reclusive, male gamer.

The Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment lecturer is a trailblazer in the male-dominated gaming industry, helping design the popular XCOM and Medieval II war games during her six years at top Australian gaming companies.

Now at age 31, Dr Kyburz has her eyes set on a new challenge: to encourage more women to enter the booming gaming industry through a series of new QUT Women in Games events, starting on June 4.

"Statistics show 40 per cent of gamers are women," said Dr Kyburz, from the Faculty of Science and Technology's Computer Science discipline.

"Women really like playing games but they don't enter the industry. They are nearly half of the market and they are under-represented. There is also a disconnect between the percentage of female players and games for women."

Demand for graduates in the gaming industry is tipped to grow. New research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at QUT found consumer spending on computer and online games would increase by 50 per cent, with Australians expected to splurge $5.8 billion on games over the next four years.

Dr Kyburz grew up playing computer and video games with her older brothers, but it was not until her third year studying for a computer science degree that Dr Kyburz realised the gaming industry was a good career choice.

"I always loved playing games. I loved all the old, tactical games and early fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons," she said.

"But it hadn't occurred to me it was a real career option. It's a big industry and it is a viable career and it's something that's fun to do. I want to give role models to students and women who want to enter the gaming industry."

Dr Kyburz, who was the first woman to work at video game giant SEGA's Brisbane office and the first woman game designer at Canberra's 2K Marin, said women made up just 5 to 10 per cent of students in her classes.

The free Women in Games event at Gardens Point campus will bring together female game developers, academics, teachers and students to network and brainstorm issues and solutions to get more women developing, studying and researching the gaming industry.

"We're trying to use this event as a research opportunity and to look at the issues and barriers facing women entering the gaming industry and steps that we can take to make it easier," Dr Kyburz said.

"I would like to see an increase in women coming into our gaming degree and eventually filtering into the industry or starting their own companies. I'd like to see it more socially accepted for women to work in the gaming industry and raise awareness for women interested in it."

For more information or to register for QUT's free Women in Games event, visit:
Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, media officer, 3138 1150, stephanie.harrington@qut.edu.au

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