She Games Interview: Valerie Quintana
Valerie Quintana is a Hawaiian and Texas resident making strides in the technical sectors of video game companies such a Greybox. She is also a Twitch streamer who creates close connections with viewers and other gamers by fostering a community of care and respect.
What was the first game you remember playing, and who introduced it to you?
The first video game I remember playing was Super Mario Bros on the classic Nintendo console, also known as the NES. My Dad bought this system for my older brother, but I ended up picking up the controller when he wasn’t on it. Can’t say I was great, but I tried my best to replicate what my brother could do on-screen.
Tell me about the video game that had the greatest impact on you, and what age were you when you played it?
The video game that had the greatest impact on me was Halo 1 on the PC. It was ported to PC imperfectly which introduced lots of bugs and very high ping to users who were far away from the servers. This challenged me to overcome the issues that the game had, not to mention that I was playing on a laptop that wasn’t meant to be for gaming, so I was dealing with a lack of FPS (frames per second). Let me tell you, my laptop could not handle gaming which made it almost impossible to play! I was 18 when I first started playing this game. I started to take video games more seriously after high school. At that time, Halo 3 was out for Xbox 360 which I did play, but incidentally, I enjoyed the PC port a whole lot more because of its imperfections and smaller community. I made a lot of friends from that game that I still speak to today.
When did you realize that video games were more than just a hobby or a pastime to you?
I realized that playing video games was more than just a pastime when I went to community college. I was unsure of what I wanted to study. While I was looking at the degrees that the college had to offer, one of them was for Game Development. That blew my mind! I thought to myself: If I’m going to go to school, I want it to be for something I’m familiar with and passionate about—Gaming!
In elementary school, and junior high, how did your peers react to you being a “girl gamer”? Was your uniqueness accepted or rejected?
Back then, I played games more casually. I don’t think the term “girl gamer” existed until the late 2000s to early 2010s when PCs and consoles were heavily obtained by family households and esports became bigger. Around the 2010s, I would say yes, I was heavily rejected by the online community and by a person, whom I was in a relationship with at the time, did not like that I played video games.
Are there any stereotypes about female gamers you want to disprove?
There are so many stereotypes out there, but there is one that bothers me the most. When someone thinks “gamer girl,” she is immediately objectified because of being a girl. There are some girls that stream video games but put the attention on themselves more than the gameplay. That is NOT something that every female who plays video games does and it affects other gamers who are trying to prove that they are just great at playing video games. Physical appearance and gaming are NOT synonymous, and society needs to separate the two.
Have you ever been targeted or harassed in an online game for being female?
I’ve always been targeted for playing an online game while using its voice communication system like in Halo 3 (via Xbox Live). There’s always someone that says something toxic, sexual, or threatening whenever they hear a female voice. Over the years, I’ve learned to not care what others say and just play the game anyway. When I created my gamer name, I did not want to make it obvious that I am a girl (i.e., using Lady, Girl, Miss, etc., in my name). That shouldn’t stop anyone from naming themselves whatever they want in fear of being attacked, but I’d rather not have that kind of attention.
Do you believe this game should increase their monitoring of harassment or implement more serious penalization policies?
When Halo 3 came out in 2007, Xbox Live had some policies and they had a report system, but the punishment didn’t stop these users from playing the game or being on Xbox Live. The best thing that Xbox Support can do when you report someone is to not be matched with them again. I think they’ve been better with monitoring toxic players over the years, but it’s still a problem that needs to be changed in our society. It is not the game’s responsibility to teach players how to act. They’ll continue to do it because they think they are being funny or they are fishing for a reaction.
Has gaming impacted your dating life? Was it a positive or negative influence?
There have been some bad times but mostly good times gaming while I’m dating someone. I think if they don’t enjoy playing video games too, then the relationship will not work. It is necessary to be with someone who enjoys the same things as you!
What do you believe is the best method to get more young women to enjoy videogames and be interested in the video game industry?
Back when video games first came out, the consoles and technology were extremely expensive. Now that the cost has gone down, the equipment is affordable for almost every household to get a controller in a child’s hands. Schools should start to implement video game development, design, and programming into their regular school courses. I believe more young women will be interested in video games and the industry if schools can introduce these kinds of classes to everyone at a young age.
On the Video Game Industry
What inspired you to work in the digital entertainment field?
I’ve always wanted to express my creativity and love for games. When I found that there is an industry where people can make games for a living, I wanted to be part of that. There is something unique and special about being part of this ever-growing industry and I love it!
Which company do you really respect in terms of their video game content and strategies?
I have a lot of respect for Nintendo. They are the longest surviving company on any game developer list, and they undeniably have impacted the industry for many years. Without Nintendo, the video game industry wouldn’t nearly be as popular as it is today. They created masterpieces that everyone can recognize, even for non-gamers. Titles like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda are a couple of the biggest Nintendo franchises.
Do you have any specific game design role models?
When I was creating PC video games for school and for fun, I looked up to Christer Kaitila (also known as McFunkypants). He is the creator of the game jam called One Game A Month. This challenge encourages game developers to literally make one game a month. He is very enthusiastic and inspires many young developers to get out there and make something, even if you have no experience in creating games. Another game developer that I look up to is Brenda Romero. She has been in the video game industry since the '80s and has her name on about 50 different game titles and counting. She was rated in the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Game Development in 2018. It would be an honor to meet her one day.
Does being a woman in the workplace present any unique challenges?
I have read true stories of women who have faced a variety of challenges in male-dominated careers such as mistreatment, inequality, an overlooked voice, and so much more. This can push away women who are potentially interested in working with video games.
What kind of impact would you like to have on the gaming world and industry? What would fulfill your career?
It would truly put a smile on my heart to make an impact on gaming today by influencing my viewers on Twitch to do what they want to do in life no matter where they come from. If I can get more people to get involved with the industry of their choosing and spread positivity, then I have done my part to help push everyone’s potential forward. If I were to ever have kids, I would want them to pursue their dreams even if they are the minority. Coming from my experience, I think everyone should get out there and do what they love no matter what anyone tells you!