Ladies in Gaming Biz

Ladies in Gaming Biz: Anna at Free League Publishing

The name LadiesGamers isn’t chosen randomly, our name sort of gives it away: even when our writers and readers are of different genders, we especially welcome female gamers. After all, that’s how the site started: with the views of an older woman on the world of gaming. And for a couple of years now there are two older ladies at the helm!

We feel it’s time to give women that work in the gaming industry a podium. A lot of avid gamers would probably love to have a job in the industry themselves and we think it’s especially important to encourage girls, in particular, to go for their dream job.

So time for a new series of articles, featuring ladies who are working in the gaming business! Interested? You’ll find the other interviews here. 

Meet Anna at Free League Publishing

Who is Anna Westerling in everyday life? What is your history when it comes to gaming?

Well, in my private life I live in an apartment in Stockholm, and work a lot with games and games related projects.

Over 25 years ago I first heard about larp, live action role playing, and it was instant love. Who didn’t want to be playing say a healer in a fantasy setting in a Swedish forest? It was just as good as I imagined and I’ve larped ever since. Of course the settings have changed over time; I’ve larped everything from Battlestar galactica, Downton Abbey, 70ies collectives, Hamlet, Post-app, Jane Austen, and more. Just like any game a larp can have any setting, it isn’t dependent on technology, but instead everyone takes on different characters and they improve a story together from that. 

Foto by Kristoffer Thurøe

Soon enough I organised my own larps, still doing that now. Actually, this is where I’ve learnt my skills in organising events and project management. It eventually led to me having my own event-company in a pre-pandemic world, and starting to work with events for Free League Publishing.

Oh and besides larp, I play both role-playing games and boardgames. 

Tell us a bit about Free League Publishing

Free League Publishing is a Swedish publisher of role-playing games, board games and art books set in strange and wondrous worlds. We have published award-winning  tabletop role-playing games such as for example ALIEN The Roleplaying Game, Tales of the Loop,  Forbidden Lands and are currently working on The One Ring – a roleplaying game set Tolkien’s Midgaard. As a Lord of the Rings-fan, I’m of course super excited about the last one!

I really appreciate working with Free League because of their ambition, quality and dedication to their game creation, and of course I love the games. I have also been a nerd my whole life so this is truly my crowd. 

How long have you been with the company, and how did you land this job?

You know what they say, how important it is to help other women? In my case I find this to be true. My guess is that I got this job on the recommendation of Boel, who does PR for Free League, after we got to know each other when I did the fantasy and sci-fi stage at the Swedish book fair.

I have worked for Free League for over two years now and am managing their presence at events all over the world, such as for example Gencon, UK Games expo, Essen spiel, and more. I love it and it’s fun to get to create events and get to know gamers from all over the world. 

It is a part-time job, so I also have other game-related jobs such as working with marketing, press, and PR at the video-games studio Might and Delight, and for the national Swedish game-association Sverok.

Does your educational background match your position in the gaming industry?

Not at all, actually. I’m a civil engineer in industrial management, who studied theatre on the side. But maybe it was the perfect education in some sense, since it gave me a great mix of project management, logical, and creative thinking. But I’ve never really worked as an engineer, my heart was always into games and culture. 

Gaming Habits

Do you play games yourself, or have you played them in the past growing up?

Yes, a lot and mostly analogue games such as roleplaying, board-games and larp. There is something about meeting in person and together improvising that story-magic that I really love. Besides organising larps I also organise the indie-roleplaying festival Stockholm Scenario Festival each year.

Ladies in Gaming Biz
Foto by John Paul Bichard 

What is your favorite gaming genre and why?

I enjoy relationships between people, and all the complications that lie in that, so I’d have to say social realism, or just any era with focus on that. To mention a time I’ve been interested in lately it is the first half of the 20th century. With two world wars and a lot of social change there’s a lot to explore that has a big impact on people’s lives.

Women in the Gaming Industry

Do you feel the gaming industry is still very much male dominated, or do you think that has changed or is changing?

It of course depends on what part of the industry. When I began to larp there were really few women, and now it is about 50/50. So change can happen. As for the whole games industry it is slower, but according to the Swedish game developer’s index over 20% of people working in the digital games industry are women. So thanks to a lot of people who worked with these issues and women who stepped up, change is coming. So if you want to join the gaming industry, do it. My next wish is that I want to see more women in actual game design, and women starting and owning their own companies. 

Do you think a woman has a different approach when it comes to making games?

I believe we all carry with us different experiences and that affects the art, games and culture we make, but I don’t believe women have some different approach just for being women. But if we let many different types of people and experiences be heard in the creation of games we will get more diverse and interesting results and games. 

What advice would you give girls who have a dream to one day have a job in the gaming industry?

What is it she says, the Reverend Mother in Sound of Music? “Climb Every Mountain”.

Climb Every Mountain!

So do just that, follow your passion, dreams and walk the paths you find interesting and more interesting things will come. If you love games, play a lot of games, talk about games, go to game events and get to know other gamers and talk more about games with them. Create a game-related project, be part of other people’s projects and if you find an education that excites you, take it. The games industry generally wants people who know their things, and the best way to learn is to do – so find something you find interesting, do it and go from there.

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