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Response: I4U Embraces Sexism Blaming PR Issues on Marketing Manager’s Maternity Leave

Posted on August 2, 2016 by Renee Gittins

This morning I came across an article on I4U’s site titled “The Sweet Reason of Niantic’s Lack of Communication About Pokemon GO Troubles”. Intrigued, I opened the article and read it. If I had been drinking coffee, I would have spit it out all over my desk.

I4U’s Luigi Lugmayr placed Niantic’s Product Marketing Manager, Yennie Solheim Fuller, at the center of the blame for Niantic’s poor communication with their fanbase.

Why is Niantic basically silent throughout the turmoil of viral growth that cause all kinds of issues?

The person who is responsible for PR and Marketing at Niantic gave birth two days after the launch of Pokemon Go. Yennie Solheim Fuller is on maternity leave.

First of all, I am not sure how Lugmayr decided that Fuller was responsible for the PR of Niantic. While she previously acted as the Marketing & Communications Manager when Niantic was still under Google, she left that position for her role as a Marketing Manager a year ago. Although she still may have been responsible for public relations before her maternity leave, there are no indications anywhere online that is the case.

Secondly, if Fuller gave birth two days after launch, you can bet that Niantic had months of time to plan for her absence. If Fuller had been in a car accident instead, Niantic wouldn’t have had months to prepare, and would she have still have been blamed? Though this is a rather moot point if Fuller was not in charge of public relations at all.


Lugmayr does state later in the article that “Because nobody at Niantic anticipated the extreme popularity of Pokemon Go, the company has likely not prepared a replacement for Solheim while she is on maternity leave.” Though this statement removes some of the blame from Fuller, it falls painfully short after blaming her maternity leave from marketing as the reason for Niantic’s public relations failure.

Lugmayr also fails to recognize that Niantic has been well known for its slow response times and lack of communication with its community. The “silence” his article focuses on as a huge issue has been Niantic’s normal behavior ever since they launched Ingress in 2013.

Articles like this are extremely detrimental to the game industry and the women who are part of it. It is no secret that the game industry has problems with sexism and low amounts of female employees, only 22% according to IGDA’s 2015 survey. The women who are part of the industry are often victims of harassment, are paid less than men, and rarely receive maternity leave at all.

Calling Fuller’s maternity leave the “sweet reason” that Niantic is being unresponsive will make companies shy away from hiring women and providing maternity leave, and discourage other women from pursuing careers in games knowing that they may be unfairly incriminated for a failure of their company.

This shameful article not only places unwarranted fault on Fuller, but it features her image as the banner photo along with the jeering “sweet reason” in the title, effectively painting a target on her. Fuller’s Twitter is full of harassment and blame.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/YennieSolheim”>@YennieSolheim</a> You are doing a horrible PR &amp; Marketing. Quit NOW!</p>&mdash; Réudrigo (@Aristeaux) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Aristeaux/status/759936407284527105″>August 1, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/YennieSolheim”>@YennieSolheim</a> so the reason that <a href=”https://twitter.com/NianticLabs”>@NianticLabs</a> has been silent since the game released is that ur on maternity leave?</p>&mdash; Venkat Krishnan (@krish_ven) <a href=”https://twitter.com/krish_ven/status/756236892056715265″>July 21, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Women in the game industry need support of the public and press, not to suffer attacks for failures outside of their control, especially while on leave. It is shameful that Lugmayr would make Fuller the scapegoat for Niantic’s habitual lack of communication. With a USA Alexa rank of 31239 and a global Alexa rank of 82870, one would hope that I4U would have better quality journalism than is contained in Lugmayr’s article.


Pre-GDC Bootcamp Prepares the Next Generation of Public Figures in Games

Posted on March 16, 2016 by Renee Gittins

This last Sunday, the Games Diversity Alliance hosted a bootcamp called “Amplifying New Voices” at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The event was hosted to help prepare diverse developers that are rising in the game industry for the challenges that await them.

Oculus was the main sponsor of the event and also provided a number of the mentors who worked with the small teams of developers. Other sponsors included Intel, who has been working extensively to promote diversity in the game industry, GDC, Funomena, and Zebra Partners. In addition to receiving one on one mentorship, networking opportunities and some nice swag, the attendees were also provided with a $1,000 travel stipend, All Access badges to GDC (which currently cost $2,099), and access to a professional photographer who was taking headshots for us to use in the future.

The following application guidelines were posted on the site for Amplifying New Voices:

We’re seeking mid-career games and VR developers who offer perspectives that are currently under-represented in the industry, especially those who are not yet an active public figure. This includes women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone who is willing to share how their perspective adds to the “diversity of thought” in our community.

Specifically, the following guidelines are a good rule-of-thumb of who we are looking for:

  • 4+ years in the games, VR, and/or entertainment industries

  • 2-3+ titles/projects shipped or work-in-progress

  • A developer role, including game design, software engineering, art, animation, production, audio design, etc.

  • Represents diversity of thought in the industry

  • Fewer than 2-3 major speaking or media events

Luckily, I was accepted as one of the attendees and was able to experience the event firsthand.

Robin Hunicke

Robin Hunicke.

My mentor was Robin Hunicke, who has extensive experience in game design, production and public speaking. Her public speaking skills are highly regarded within the industry, especially by other women in the industry. She will be on stage as one of the hosts of the Game Developers Choice Awards being held tomorrow.

I was honored to have her as my mentor for the day and greatly enjoyed her supportive yet critical advice. My group itself was diverse, including men and women from various countries, backgrounds, ages and identities. Robin made sure to give us each advice tailored to who we were, both as we wanted to represent ourselves and while taking into consideration how other people will view us.


We had three breakout sessions, one of our biography, one on speaking and one on answering interview questions, and the amount of consideration that must have to go into self representation in each of those blew me away. While some of the advice felt like it should be obvious, hearing it directly and in the context of our behaviors and responses made me realize how novice I am in the skills required to present myself well.

There was no dancing around that my gender would color how I was viewed. I was informed in a very matter-of-fact manner that my personal examples would be more highly criticized, that many questions directed towards me wouldn’t be on my talk, but as my experiences or opinion as a woman, and that I would have to fight to not be dismissed because of my gender.

Before Amplifying New Voices started, I was unsure if I would get much value out of the event. It blew my expectations out of the water and I feel like I have gained invaluable knowledge and connections for the advancement of my career and image.


While I can’t provide the same tailored feedback and knowledge that I received to you readers, I would like to share my notes, in hopes that they will be of help to others:


Your biography should be short and goal-driven. Consider who you are writing the biography for and what you are trying to convey before you begin writing. When you write your biography, use empathy and don’t stylize your writing. Write all of the points you think you should cover, then work on editing and trimming it down to a few short, impactful sentences that highlight the essentials of how you want to be seen.

Several revisions on my biography resulted in the following:

Renee is a multi-disciplinary leader with expertise in software engineering and creative direction. She is the CEO of Stumbling Cat, creator of Potions: A Curious Tale. She led engineering and server development at Fixer Studios, designed and developed cognitive evaluation mini-games and health management systems for X2 Biosystems.

Renee is a passionate advocate and connector for developers and diversity in the game industry. Renee organizes game-jams, panels, job fairs and other developer events as a board member of IGDA Seattle, contributes to Broken Joysticks, and actively mentors game development students at Foundry10.

Public Speaking

Assert confidence to the audience and show that you are in command of the subject you are speaking on. Ensure that your talk has a narrative and flows across its points without any jumps. The audience should all be able to answer why your talk is important after listening to it.

Use few words on the slides themselves and use pictures and examples where possible. It is your job as a speaker to expand upon your points, not the job of your slides.

Public Relations / Interviews

Consider the image that you are trying to present and keep your image focused on those points. Feel free to even write down the points you want to stress and keep them on you to reference for the directions you should steer all questions.

While media in the medium, reports are the filters and they are looking for stories that will bring traffic their way. They look for new stories, ones that relate to current events and holidays, show conflicting views of popular held opinions, or are unusual or sensational in some manner.

Finally, the medium itself greatly varies the form of responses. For all media and interview questions, keep responses small so that they can be used for soundbites and also so that they cannot be taken out of context. When doing pure audio interviews, make sure to smile while talking, which is apparent in your voice. Similarly, in video interviews, use intentional body language to compliment your words.


A Small Dev in a Big Industry: My Trip to D.I.C.E.

Posted on February 24, 2016 by Renee Gittins


Last week I crawled out of the cave that is my home office and traveled to Las Vegas to attend the D.I.C.E. Summit, an elite game industry conference where the biggest and most influential players in the game industry meet to network, receive awards, and enjoy some time away from work for a few days.

A ticket at the door will set you back $3700, which is far outside of my modest indie developer budget. Thankfully, I was one of five lucky recipients of the Intel Indie D.I.C.E. Scholarship, which Intel and the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Foundation, who hosts D.I.C.E., sponsored this year. While this was their first year of sending indie developers to the Summit, they have supported a scholarship for game development students for a number of years.

D.I.C.E. was amazing. I have attended countless industry conventions and meet-ups, but the density of powerful members of the industry had me completely floored. It seemed like everyone I met was a CEO, executive producers or lead developers from one AAA studio or another. Truthfully, for someone generally so bold and outgoing at similar events, I also felt an unexpected twinge of shyness; My accomplishments are few and minor in this realm of giants.

Read More


Cliff Bleszinski talks State of the Industry

Posted on February 26, 2013 by Jason Bassett

According to Cliff Bleszinski, it seems as though the time is not right to be a console developer. That’s what Bleszinki recently said during an interview with GameIndustry.biz. In his interview Bleszinski states that:

“This business has not been in a state of transition like it is right now since the video game crash of the ’80s”. He goes on to say: “”I really think we’re in a massive state of turmoil. I think Nintendo could possibly be faced with the situation of becoming a company that only makes software moving forward. I think Sony and Microsoft are about to come to major blows. But at the same time, people love playing games on their iPad. The PC is going through a wonderful renaissance right now. I think we’re ready to do digital download games all the time…I just want to see what happens. In regards to the industry, it’s like the Super Smash Bros. of business right now, and I want to see if Peach or Mario wins.”Read More


38 Studios Files for Bankruptcy

Posted on June 7, 2012 by Jason Bassett

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios have declared chapter 7 Bankruptcy earlier today. Currently an FBI investigation is under way for the game developer for neglecting to pay their employees, according to a report filed by WPRI News.

During the development of Kingdoms of Amalur back in 2010, the development house agreed to a $75 million dollar loan from the state of Rhode Island in order to move its company and its employees to the state to create more jobs. Unfortunately, due to the strain of developing an MMORPG and the poor sales of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the developer could not pay a loan back to the state. This set off a chain of events that lead to the closing of Big Huge Games that 38 Studio’s purchased in 2009.

To make matters worse for the employees, 38 Studios have said that they will not repay the mortgages that employees were told they wouldn’t have to pay back for houses still in Massachusetts.

On a positive note, Big Huge Games will be purchased by Epic Games and will hire each employee that was working with the company at the time.

Today, at least for now, the ugly story of 38 Studios has come to an end.


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