8 Inspiring Women at Square Enix | Square Enix Blog

For International Women’s Day, we wanted to acknowledge the profound talent and accomplishments from 8 inspiring women across the company here at Square Enix. We asked them to share their personal experiences of working in games, and advice for others looking to break into the industry.

Meagan Marie, Senior Social Media Manager, Crystal Dynamics

Fans of Marvel’s Avengers and the Tomb Raider series will already be familiar with Meagan Marie. In addition to being a veteran community manager, she’s also an accomplished author. Her book, Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play, celebrates the many women in the games industry, from the pioneers who helped establish it, to the next generation of leaders.

Why did you write this book?

I’ve worked in the game industry for close to 15 years now and in that time I’ve had incredible highs, challenging lows, met some extraordinary people, and learned a ton of lessons. I wanted to help create the resource I needed as a young woman breaking into gaming – to help me navigate both the general and gender-based challenges I encountered. The hope was that it would provide insight and inspiration to future game industry professionals.

What are your fondest memories of publishing the book?

The best moments have been when people share photos of them gifting Women in Gaming to youth in their life. A young girl holding the book and sharing a story of how they plan to work in video games made all the stress and sleepless nights worth it!

Also, this video from Girls Level Up had me in tears: https://www.instagram.com/p/BrDxlsKglNY/

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

The video game industry is massive and there are hundreds of ways you can contribute meaningfully to it.

While some of the more visible roles include the vital work of designers, artists, and producers, there are also many options in less visible but equally important roles: user research, quality assurance, systems administration, marketing, public relations, community management, journalism, retail, esports, and more.

Dig deep and figure out what you are passionate about, and start to network with others who share that interest. You’ll find your place!

Kazuko Shibuya, Artist, Square Enix Japan

When it comes to pixel art, few can match Kazuko Shibuya. She played a key role in the FINAL FANTASY series, providing character, monster, menu and title screen designs for multiple games, including FINAL FANTASY VI and FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS.

What do you remember about working on the original FINAL FANTASY games?

I remember the workspace I shared with my teammates.

There would be conflicting opinions, and our discussions over how much disc space to allocate got a bit heated at times, but I think it just goes to show we were all passionate about our work! It’s a nice memory now.

It was tough at times, but even after 30 years plus, they still feel like family to me.

How do you approach creating your art and is there any piece of work you’re particularly proud of?

Most of the time, there already is an illustration to base my artwork off of, so what I take care of the most is to grasp the character’s features so they can be recognized even if they’re stylized.

When I’m working on a character, I am focused on just that one. I approach each project in the same way, so I don’t have a particular favorite.

In other words, I love them all!

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

Say you have a job that you really want to do, and you weren’t able to get it at first. I would encourage you to take care of the work that you do have in front of you, spread out your wings, hone your skills, and establish your network.

The industry is constantly changing, and you will never know what kind of chances may come to you. You should also let those around you know what it is you want to do.

Which women in the games industry are you most inspired by?

That would be video game composer, Ms. Yoko Shimomura.

She’s been my best friend since the day she joined Square, and we’ve been watching each other’s work for close to 30 years.

Unfortunately, she and I were never on the same project together, but her music is truly wonderful and continues to emotionally move people around the world. I hope that I can be someone who influences women in the game industry as well.

Annie Bouffard, Production Coordinator, Eidos Montreal

Annie Bouffard is a problem solver. Games are vast, complex productions and they require incredible co-ordination to get over the finish line. It’s Annie’s job to make sure that the project runs smoothly. That means everything from helping devs manage workloads effectively to helping them find solutions to issues that arise.

How did you start your career in the games industry?

I moved to Montreal in the summer of 2010 as assistant manager of a record store. I was also stage manager and production assistant for a number of music festivals and venues throughout the years. But this never scratched the itch I had – to find a fulfilling career in my true passion: video games.

In the fall of 2013, I decided to quit both jobs on the exact same day and figure out what to do with myself. Within a week, I sent my resume to Eidos-Montréal, interviewed, and was hired as a Quality Assurance (QA) tester.

Was it challenging to go from QA to production?

QA and production are two sides of the same coin – both need to have a clear view of the big picture, what the final product should be, and the priorities for any given milestone.

The transition came quite naturally to me. I’d been taking on more and more responsibilities, so when a production position opened, my manager knew I would settle in swiftly.

There was obviously a bit of “trial by fire” as we were nearing the end of a massive deliverable at the time, but there’s no better way to learn new skills!

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

There’s no substitute to putting in the work. Don’t be scared to start at the bottom of the ladder and work your way up. It’s dedication, passion and determination that stand out above all.

Also, an important one for women in this line of work: don’t be scared to speak louder than the masses. To oppose what you feel is wrong. To argue your point when it is valid. To refuse to be crushed under the weight of the industry.

It’s tough. You might be called “abrasive” and “emotional”. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the project, and how your contribution, spunk and passion will make it significantly better in the end.

Améliane Chiasson, Accessibility Lead, Square Enix

It’s important to open up the games industry to as many different people as possible, regardless of gender, sexual identity or disability. Improving accessibility is a vital part of that drive at Square Enix, and it’s spearheaded by Améliane Chiasson, who took on the role of Accessibility Lead in 2019.

How is accessibility changing under your leadership?

In the past, accessibility champions in the games industry may have felt like they were screaming into the void. That’s changing now.

Having a department dedicated to accessibility is a big deal – it means that we’re now in the loop and workflow of various projects. We now have a network of dedicated experts who each have a role in pushing for better accessibility and we’re able to empower them to have an impact.

What challenges do you face in pushing accessibility in the industry?

It can feel scary at first to start working on a new department dedicated to a new mission we haven’t fully-focused on before. I was initially worried that I wouldn’t get the support from my peers or leadership – but those fears quickly evaporated.

We have extremely talented devs who are eager to learn and do better, and the people at the top genuinely care about inclusion and diversity – they go out of their way to endorse and promote our mission across the company.

We still have lots of work to do to drive greater accessibility across Square Enix, but I’m not alone in the mission and I genuinely think we’re on the right track.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

The million dollar question! Don’t rely simply on a degree, because there are thousands of others with degrees looking to do the work too. Find what makes YOU valuable and capitalize on it.

Make a portfolio, write a blog, make a small game on your free time, develop a feature or write up a pitch, or be a speaker… whatever that you want to do really. These are all small ways you can gain experience while you’re studying or working on changing careers.

Lowey Ding, Marketing Manager, Square Enix

There’s no point in making a game if nobody knows about it. It’s the job of the marketing team to ensure that you hear about the latest and greatest titles, and understand what it is you’re getting. Lowey Ding is a Marketing Manager, working across Marvel’s Avengers and more.

Unlike many people here, you didn’t start your career in the games industry…

I started working on licensed princess dolls as a brand marketer before realizing how unhappy I was marketing for a product I no longer felt sparkles for.

There was a clear disconnect between my current hobbies and marketing toys for toddlers. If I didn’t have the hunger, how was I going to work hard to satiate it? I decided to start looking for something that interested the present day me.

I found an opening at Square Enix and got really excited just envisioning working one day alongside the talented crew that brought the best female characters in gaming to life: Tifa (#TeamTifa), Dagger, Paine, Aqua… I can keep going across all the franchises we have!

What does it feel like to work in this industry?

I wake up fueled knowing there’s girls out there discovering video games for the first time the way I did – hiding in my room past curfew playing FINAL FANTASY VII until dawn.

I want encourage girls that women in gaming can be leaders too. We have so much to contribute to this industry and it’s also bonus XP to get hot off the press intel just by working in the field.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

I’d never thought I would be ‘good enough’ to work in this industry but I took my shot and here I am.

I hope this can inspire others to believe in their own drive to be in the industry. I was so afraid when I was younger and eventually realized: as long as you have the passion, all the other tools can be taught as you go.

Lucy Hale, Video Producer, Square Enix External Studios

Fans of Square Enix will recognize Lucy Hale – and her voice – almost immediately. As Video Producer, she’s filmed, edited and presented numerous shows about some of our most popular games, including hosting the regular Outriders Broadcast.

How did you break into the games industry?

I started at the bottom of the ranks – a customer service agent at the retailer GAME. Ah, being yelled at down the phone multiple times a day – very character building.

In a dash of good timing, the content team at GAME was just starting to be developed. Word had gotten around that there was a new content creator in town – me! – and I was invited to a screen test.

I had to unbox Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for PS4. I went in wearing a BioShock t-shirt (pro tip: NEVER advertise another game when you’re talking about something completely different). I had no idea what I was doing, but my excitement must’ve shone through because from then on, I was the host for GAME’s YouTube channel!

How did you come to join Square Enix?

After being a presenter at GAME for a couple of years and hitting incredible personal goals – such as covering E3 for the first time and interviewing Troy Baker, and hosting a live show with a GUIDE DOG, I received a life-changing phone call.

The Head of Marketing at Square Enix External Studios was looking for a video creator for one of their upcoming games… and my name had been dropped. I basically yelled “When can I start?!”

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

Love what you do. Adore it.

Create a YouTube channel and make silly game reviews because it’s your hobby. Stream on Twitch because you get to chat to like-minded people and play your favourite IP. Stay up til 4am because E3’s on. Discuss announcement theories on Discord with your mates. Write articles and blogs. Play every game you can get your hands on because VIDEO GAMES ARE THE COOLEST THING IN THE WORLD!

Aimi Tokutake, Assistant Manager, Project Communications

Square Enix has teams all over the world, and ensuring they can communicate effectively is vital. The Project Communications team make this possible, interpreting everything from internal messages to press interviews. Aimi Tokutake specializes in Japan to English (and vice-versa) translation.

What do you like most about your job?

I am most proud of being able to interpret for many developers who created the games that I played growing up.

I also get to travel to various parts of the world to support our titles whenever there are gaming events, or Fan Festivals, or in some cases developer documentaries.

It’s always fun to translate at these events, since I get to help these creators and fans communicate with each other. It’s the best when a developer says something funny on stage, and that humor is properly conveyed to the audience through the translation I provide.

What drove you to pursue a career in games?

I have always enjoyed playing games from the FINAL FANTASY series as well as CHRONO TRIGGER, so being part of the SQUARE ENIX team is a dream come true for me.

I actually wanted to make games, but I didn’t really succeed in that respect. That’s when I looked to what I’m actually good at, which was being able to translate between Japanese and English.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

Experience, even in a voluntary position, is great in building a foundation for your skillset.

Before I joined the Square Enix team, I volunteered at an anime convention, helping with email correspondence with guests from Japan, as well as translating for them during panel sessions. I also did freelance translations for manga publications as a student.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I believe getting your hands dirty and doing the actual work is the best way to learn.

Diane Agnan, Senior Back End Programmer, Square Enix Montreal

As Senior Back End Programmer, Diane’s responsible for many tasks that ensure our players have a positive and seamless experience. If you’ve ever been able to retrieve a valuable item you saved online, or even accessed a friends list, it’s because of the work of people like Diane.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

No day can begin without tea! When I wake up, I write down what I did yesterday and what I plan to do today. Then I meet with my colleagues for a daily sync and get to work. 

During the day, people will regularly check in with me if they have questions or need help – much like they’d come to the desk in a normal office situation. I joined the company in 2020, and have been working from home since I started – I  can’t wait to see what the day will look like when we return to the office.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a programmer?

The biggest challenge I had was learning about the designs and architecture for the Star Citizen project. I knew about the technology in theory, but it was my first time using and implementing it.

I had to learn super-fast, but it was awesome! 

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to break into the games industry?

Keep on learning every day because knowledge is never a waste. Don’t stop at the first failure.

Follow your goal, and don’t listen to people that want to discourage you. You are better than you think and the sky’s the limit! 

Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences working here and the industry at large.

Through their diverse backgrounds and fields of expertise, each along with everyone here plays an invaluable role creating unforgettable games at Square Enix and fostering a great place to work.

Their accounts also drive home that that there’s no set route for working in games. If you have the right skills, determination and passion, you can build a career in the industry.

What’s more, games companies can only benefit from greater diversity and inclusion – and that includes Square Enix. If you’re interested in working with us, check our careers site for opportunities – we’d love to hear from you.