- It’s International Women’s Day (March 8th, 2017). We are happy as a clam to be spending it with with Anisa Sanusi, who recently joined Hutch as our new UX/UI artist. We took the opportunity to sit down with Anisa and talk a bit about what brought her to this point.
We see that she has already been greeted by Winnie, our office dog. Winnie is a jack russel, part welcoming committee and part motivational coach. Always there to greet any new guests and known for being wagged by her tail, so ferocious is her enthusiasm.
Hutch: Happy International Women’s Day, Anisa! This is your official first week at Hutch, hooray! You’ve been here before visiting our packed London studio full of scrum boards, die-cast cars and lego pieces. It’s good to have you back. Tell us how your week is going, and some of the recent events we see you’ve been involved in.
Anisa: Sure, great to be here! I’m just back from a masterclass hosted at the BAFTA’s headquarters in Piccadilly Circus. In 2014 I joined the BAFTA Crew Games where video game developers and industry professionals get together to network and exchange knowledge with one another. This BAFTA Crew network was already in place for the film and TV industries but this model was recently replicated specifically for the games industry. The other night in particular we watched and discussed the new Star Wars VR game, which looks incredible.
There is this other group that I follow, called Ladies That UX, which is a women’s focused group where they have talks about UX design and practices. They have monthly talks where you can mingle with people coming from different tech sectors outside of video games. As a UI/UX designer I find this very useful and I try to apply some of the things I learn from other creative industries to my own work in video games. Nowadays being just a UI artist or UX designer is not enough, I am constantly working to blend the two to create something better. A great week so far thanks!
Hutch: Story time. Let’s travel back and take a good look at how everything started for you. How did you decide to become an UI artist?
Anisa: I first came to the UK to study 2D animation. I tried 3D, but 3D didn’t like me back! My first job in video games after I graduated was as a 2D Artist. This is where I learned more about UI design and more specifically how a game is developed through different kinds of disciplines. It wasn’t until recently when I was working at Frontier Developments, specifically on Planet Coaster, that I started looking into what UX design is. It’s definitely more than just making buttons or icons look pretty! UX has been around for as long as websites have been around. They’ve cultivated into a lot of best practices for the digital market. Video games have just recently embraced UX as a discipline to hire for. This is definitely a niche that isn’t fully tapped yet and is worth getting involved in.
Hutch: It sounds like the past few years have been an incredibly exciting journey for you. Something we want to touch on is the oft-quoted statement that “the game industry is an environment dominated by men”. Do you feel this is true, and what is it like to be a women in the games industry?
Anisa: There are indeed more men than women in the games industry. Perspective on this really depends on who you talk to. If you speak to other women they’ll tell you that it’s relatively difficult and that we don’t have enough role models. It can get a little tough sometimes. Some women are not as assertive as men and as a result they might feel like they’re missing out on opportunities.
On the flip side, if you talk to some men they’ll say that it’s easier for a woman to fast-track their way up the ladder in the games industry. Women are perceived as scarce resources and apparently, this works in our favour to make ourselves heard. I remember someone saying to me that if a woman writes a piece about something like programming, she’ll have more chances to get noticed than a man covering the same topic – due to the fact that she’s a woman, and there’s so few women programmers. I think men have certain privileges but women also have certain advantages that men don’t, eventually both parts will balance each other out.
It’s better to talk less about being a woman and more about what we’ve achieved. The point we are trying to reach is where we can just talk about the products or games we’ve created and the processes we’ve used to reach that goal. Video games are a platform for everyone, it’s a competitive space regardless of who you are. Both men and women are trying their best, it’s tough, no doubt.
Hutch: You’ve talked previously about your desire to become a role-model for other females to enter the game industry. Your activities speak for themselves – you joined the campaign run by Education & Employers to inspire women in the Arts and you won “DevelopHer” Award in November 2016 for your authentic work as UI female artist. You’ve grown into someone who is inspirational and determined to empower young girls to pursue their dreams. What drives you to be a role model for young female artists?
Anisa: I went to GDC last week in San Francisco and attended a talk by Laura DeYoung, an art director for League of Legends at Riot about redesigning the League client UI. Just seeing her on stage talking about it got me super excited. Not only is she managing a huge team of artists and designers, but she’s also up there inspiring other young minds to follow their passion. Seeing her speak on stage felt like she was saying “Hey, you can do this too!” to the audience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of role models when I started out. There were only three women in my first job, and I was one of them! My boss truly cared about me and listened to me when I needed to be heard. She encouraged me to speak up. It’s very important not to feel isolated and to engage with people around you, especially when you’re just starting your career. Sometimes just sharing your ideas can be a confidence boost, it really helps.
I wish I could be like Laura DeYoung one day and empower other women the same way she inspired me. It’s all about building confidence in your fellow developers. Sometimes you need people who are a bit more visible and outspoken to make others feel included. I’m part of multiple creative communities, but what we all have in common is that as a video games community we are tolerant, inclusive and open to everyone. If you want to do programming, design, marketing, HR, or even voice acting, please do come to us and ask about it! Regardless if you are from the East or the West or whether you are black or white, man or woman, everyone deserves to feel like they belong.
Hutch: You have designed myriad games for both mobile and PlayStation. As an artist, how different are the two categories from each other? What industry do you enjoy the most? *cough mobile games, right?
Anisa: Ask me this question 10 years ago and I would have immediately said “PlayStation, definitely!”. I wanted to do a PlayStation or an Xbox game because all my friends were playing them. But now everyone is on mobile! Smartphones have become an extension of ourselves and it’s more accessible to reach people of all ages. From a nostalgia point of view I just love console games! Currently as a UI/UX designer I feel like mobile games are far more exciting. The video games industry has been trying to reach this uncanny valley of 3D realism for a long time now and it’s fascinating to see how we push technology to its boundaries. The real challenge, however, comes when we try to create immersive and gorgeous art into such a tiny piece of hardware. What I love about mobile games is that we need to constantly innovate and challenge ourselves to do so much with so little.
P.S. I am still playing on my PlayStation, old habits die hard! (laughing)
Hutch: Over the past years the studio has been seizing any opportunity to widen the appeal and the potential of the mobile racing category. From multiplayer features to partnering with Mattel and releasing the addictive Hot Wheels Race Off, we are continuously innovating our games. With Race Kings and Top Drives lined up we are incredibly excited by what the future holds. It feels great to see our “squad” of rockstar designers growing! Before we wrap up this lovely chat, do you have any piece of advice for young females aspiring to work in the games industry?
Be confident in yourself even when you feel like you’re not creating your greatest work today. Someone else might think it is! When you are starting in the games industry the competition will be tough, not gonna deny it. This is exactly why you have to stay confident and always share your artwork and projects with others.
If you are a visual designer there’s a website called Dribbble.com where there’s a ton of great visual UI work. I get my daily dose of inspiration from there! If you are active on Twitter then you may want to follow other developers – they are simply amazing and are open to share their creative process. If you are into indie games itch.io is another great platform where dev put their work up there almost for free.
Many thanks to Anisa for this awesome introductory chat. Hutch are proud to have the UI expert, Anisa Sanusi, joining the team in our London studio!
*News flash: The Hutch team is continuing to grow!*
We are a team of passionate designers, engineers and artists hell-bent on creating fun and authentic games for our players. We want to work with like-minded individuals that are into this space as much as we are.
Hutch is looking for a Game Analyst to join the team in our Central London studio Apply here
Anisa’s short bio:
Malaysia-born Anisa Sanusi is a UI and UX designer based in the UK where she has proven her
devotion to cultivating good UI and UX practices across a number of games released on multiple platforms. Sanusi is also an advocate for women and people of diverse backgrounds entering the games industry, volunteering at industry events, offering feedback to students and game jam participants, and is an active member of the BAFTA Crew Games in London. In 2016 she was ranked in Develop Magazines 30 Under 30 list. In 2017, Sanusi was a speaker at the very first UX Summit held at GDC in San Francisco