SAN FRANCISCO -- Independent gamers have more opportunities than ever before, possibly with some of the biggest gaming companies worldwide.
That was one of the themes that emerged during the fourth annual Women in Gaming awards luncheon on Thursday afternoon amidst the 2012 Game Developers Conference.
Jenna Seiden, director of business development at Microsoft Studios, explained during the panel discussion that while Microsoft has the responsibility to be loyal to its core gamers (mainly those on the Xbox platform), the Redmond, Wash.-based enterprise has multiple screens at its disposal now.
That ranges from everything between Windows Mobile to the upcoming Windows 8.
Seiden acknowledged that not every developer wants to produce titles that span across all platforms (i.e. mobile, PC and gaming consoles).
Nevertheless, that story, Seiden said, can be told across multiple platforms and hit broader audiences that the Xbox might not have reached on its own. Then again, stories that span multiple platforms also have the potential to bring new audiences back to the gaming console if they find a particular title of which they cannot get enough.
Beyond indie developers, that has opened the door for Microsoft to ink deals with new partners that might not have made sense before, such as PBS's Sesame Street and National Geographic.
Another prevalent theme during the panel discussion was the current state and growth of female consumers in the casual and social gaming markets.
The panelists and many of the audience members at the event generally agreed that while there is a huge population of female consumers who are interested in gaming but generally don't see much outreach in this industry, this demographic could be better served with more women on the development side.
Christina Coffin, an independent game developer who recently founded her own company, Light & Dark Arts, admitted that it is a bit lonely sometimes, and that "not all of us are blessed to work on a developer team with a lot of women."
"There's sort of an extra layer of beautiful diversity when you have a female developer's take on a game's design," said Coffin, adding that engineering, in particular, is one sector that is pretty light when it comes to female employment.
Jane Pinckard, associate director of the Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz, concurred, but admitted that this can be difficult to achieve because "women can be made a target because of their visibility."
"The flip side of that is that no one should have to be a role model," Pinckard said, "No one should have to speak for their gender."