Home Features Interviews Media Molecule’s Siobhan Reddy on the games industry, visibility and being Australian

Media Molecule’s Siobhan Reddy on the games industry, visibility and being Australian

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Siobhan Reddy, co-founder and Studio Director of Media Molecule, has an ever-growing list of accomplishments. Named one of Britain’s most powerful women in by the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, she was then named QANTAS’ Australian Woman of the Year in 2014.

Back in Australia as a finalist in the Advance Global Australian Awards, Stevivor had the chance to sit down with Reddy to discuss the industry, her career and being a role model for women looking to break into video games.

Moving from Australia to the UK at the age of 18, Reddy spent her early years at Burnout developer Criterion. While loving the atmosphere and work, there came a point where she wanted a change. With a group of friends, Reddy helped form Media Molecule, the studio behind such titles as LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway and the upcoming Dreams.

“I’d been at Criterion for seven years at that stage [when deciding to form Media Molecule] — and made two Burnouts — and I was at the point where I wanted to work in a more creative way. I wanted to be able to work on more artistically-led projects,” she explained. “I felt like at Criterion, I was really learning the craft of making games. I wanted to go and make the types of games that I’ve always wanted to make.”

After a string of successes at Media Molecule, Reddy said she’s never been happier in the video game industry.

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“The more the years go on – I’ve been working in games for 17 years now – and the bigger it gets, things just become better and better,” she mused. “This is the best time ever for games; there are so many different types of games out there. It’s really becoming a medium rather than a one-trick pony. People are using the medium to do all sorts of different things now.

“People are at home making games as a hobby, like people play guitar at home like a hobby. They’ve used the skills that they’ve learned playing games to go and work in games, doing things like composition.”

Being named as one of Britain’s most powerful women thrust Reddy into the public spotlight. Now using that name-recognition to encourage and empower women to consider a career in video games, Reddy confessed she wasn’t always prepared to do so.

“I was very conflicted,” she said of being named. “It wasn’t in my comfort area. Games are made by teams, they’re not made by individuals.

“The reason why I do it, such public things – I’m not a very public person at all – is because I became really aware of the fact there aren’t many visible women in the industry. I had several conversations [with friends] – talking about how I could use the list as a positive thing.”

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One damning statistic really brought Reddy around to becoming a positive role model for the industry.

“One of the stats I was hearing was that 30% of young girls are put off technology – particularly games – by the time they finish primary school, and usually by a parent, teacher or peer,” Reddy explained. “One of the reasons that was also listed as a sidenote to this is because young women weren’t seeing people like them.

“It’s a brilliant industry and I’ve had a wonderful career, and I’d hate to be put off it because there wasn’t visibility. I felt I needed to make more of an effort, and also encourage all of the women I know – especially those within the studio – to do a little bit more.”

Taking it one extra step, Reddy explained that Media Molecule is quite active in trying to encourage young girls to consider a career in video games.

“We actually focus on doing more work experience within the studio,” she said. “We really try to say yes when school groups get in touch with us, because they’ve been so proactive to get in touch.

“If we can make people outside of the games industry more aware of the positive side of it, then it’s worth it. I want to be an advocate for the games industry, and for diversity within the industry.”

Reddy still considers herself very much to be an Australian, and was named the QANTAS Australian Woman of the Year last year.

“I’ve lived in the same town in England for sixteen years. Where I live, it looks a little bit like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture,” she said, laughing. “It’s really, really beautiful countryside, and that definitely shapes some of the games we make at Molecule.”

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Visits back to Australia are very important to Reddy.

“I have to come home every year; I have about a twelve month cut-off where I start to get twitchy if I haven’t come home,” she said. “With things like Skype, I feel more connected to Australia than I have in a long time. That’s also come from the fact that I’ve met a lot more of the [Media Molecule] developers down there in Melbourne. There’s also a lot of interesting conferences happening here, things like GCAP and the new one starting up in Sydney next year, and I think that’s going to be very good for the industry as a whole.”

She said she basically gets the best of both worlds, living in England, yet constantly visiting Australia.

“As much as I have a home in England, I will always feel Australian there. When I come home [to Australia], I’m someone else. I’m not going through the things everyone here goes through, so I can get really excited by the little things; I don’t have to live through stuff here day-to-day.”

Join us next week for a continuation of our interview with Siobhan, discussing Media Molecule’s most recent title, Tearaway.