Tülay McNally: It’s more than making games, It's impacting gamers’ lives
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Every gamer has wished to be their favorite character. To fulfill this, game developers are increasingly aware of how inclusion, representation, and diversity impact players' experiences and lives. “We want gamers to connect more with the world that we are creating, feel the sense of belonging, and feel like they are authentically and respectfully represented,” said Tülay McNally, Director Inclusive Design & Product Development at Electronic Arts (EA).
The upcoming speaker at Friday Stories is a woman with 15 years of experience in different positions for companies like DICE, BioWare, Sega, and Square Enix. Tülay McNally's talk will be about her experience in inclusive design and representation for video games. But her professional journey is an inspirational story about inclusion for women and immigrants.
A player by heart and inheritance
Tülay's passion for video games comes in her DNA: she is the daughter of a gamer. McNally grew up seeing his dad’s all-night Super Nintendo marathons and playing with him classics like Mario Kart and Puzzle Quest. It wasn’t a surprise when in 2006, she left her journalism career and took a turn into the games industry.
Her professional journey has made her travel from Germany to Canada, London, and Sweden. As well as navigate different areas in the industry, such as Localization, Quality Assurance, Business Management, Product Development, and Inclusive Design.
Timeline: 15-years journey in the industry
Like many others in her situation, Tülay didn't know how or where to start. The first steps were a mentorship and a job, which led her to use her language skills to enter the industry through the Localization door. 15 years and several international moves later, inspired by her own story as an immigrant and woman in the industry, she is now a leader of inclusion and representation in video games.
2006 - Montreal: In her first job, she translated texts from English to German. Then she quickly moved to Online Technical Support.
2007- London: Square Enix hired her as a project coordinator. Then, she also had a job in the Business and Negotiations area.
2008 - London: Tülay came back to the product side with a Language Quality Assurance position at Sega.
2010 - Montreal: She worked for 8 years at Bioware, managing Quality Assurance and Quality Engineering for titles like Dragon Age: Inquisition.
2018 - Stockholm: She moved to Sweden and started a job as Senior Developer Director at DICE.
2020 - Stockholm: She was a volunteer at the EA Stockholm's Women's employee resource groups' steering committee for many years, so in 2020 when EA created the position of Director of Inclusive Design & Product Development, she was an obvious choice.
“Our players are our future workforce”: video games impact and resonate with society"
Tülay’s job is to guide this positive impact by supporting game teams in the decision-making in the context of representation, inclusion, and diversity. “It’s not only about ethnicity or gender, but it also has other dimensions, for example, how to represent people with different faces,” explained McNally.
Her job is about raising questions rather than giving answers. She aims to educate developers on how to think about inclusion in a way that doesn't feel like “ticking a box” or “we have a woman, so we are diverse”. It is about guiding teams through reflection and questioning to avoid stereotypes and connect them with an authentic diversity sense.
The expert recommends these 5 key questions to rethink and evaluate creative works in terms of inclusion, according to the EA impact report 2020:
How often do we seek to tell stories of underrepresented people?
Are we portraying people of diverse backgrounds authentically?
Are we imparting any unconscious bias into our narratives?
How diverse and inclusive is our mode/story/game?
Is our game playable for as many players as possible, and are we making efforts to make our game accessible for players with disabilities?
“To create powerful experiences for our global community of players, our games, characters, and character experiences must be as diverse as the communities we serve,” as stated in the EA impact report 2020.
“I am not just making games”
Dragon Age: Inquisition helped her realize that her job goes beyond developing games. This game had a powerful impact on her, from an inclusion’s perspective and the positive memories of the development process.
“We were at a meet-and-greet with our players, and they were telling us how Dragon Age helped them overcome difficult situations in their lives. That was the moment when I realized: “I am not just making games. I am making a difference in someone else’s life,” recalled the Director of Inclusive Design & Product Development at EA.
In her current position, she can make a difference since the beginning of the development process by guiding teams on how to be inclusive and handle political and controversial topics through “the intent of doing good.” For example, LGBTQ+ representation and non-binary language.
In the last three years, the change has happened by the pressure and influence from social movements such as Me Too or Black Lives Matter. “In the past, it was a "nice to have" if there was a budget, but now it’s increasingly essential,” she stressed.
From her perspective, the biggest gaps in the industry now are: bringing more diversity into the leadership positions in big and small studios and working on the unconscious bias in the industry workforce.
Tips for peers
There is no formula to enter the industry, but Tülay shared some of her advice to start the journey.
Networking: going to game events and conferences.
Mentorship: there are plenty of platforms. Don’t be afraid to contact people that could help you.
Be a gamer: to enter the industry, passion for what you do is key. It also helps you to learn the lingo and obtain context.
Apply for jobs: even if you don’t always tick all the boxes. Technical skills can be learned on the job.
Use your previous experience: don’t be afraid to start if you are not in your 20s.
The Great Journey and our events are made possible with the support of the European Regional Development Fund, Region Värmland, Karlstad kommun, Karlstad Innovation Park and Embracer Group.