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The return of 1ReasonToBe and why we still need it | GDC 2024

This GDC marks the comeback of an iconic panel, with 1ReasonToBe returning in person for the first time since 2019.

Hosted by Pincer Games CEO and Uruguayan Game Developers Association president Laia Bee, the panel will take place on Thursday at 11:30am PT, featuring five women who will share their ‘one reason to be’ in the industry, and their stories in games.

And if there’s one thing the recent hateful movement against Sweet Baby Inc has shown us, it’s why we still need panels like 1ReasonToBe.

“We hope things get better year after year, but we look at it, and we see that it’s clearly not,” Bee tells when we ask about the reasons behind the panel’s return. “And politically, we are seeing it’s getting more complicated for women all over the world. We are seeing more fascist political parties within our elections. We are seeing an increase in online harassment and work harassment. We hope it gets better, but it’s actually not getting any better, so I think that it’s super important to be reclaiming these spaces.

“It’s also a very complicated year for everyone. There’s a terrible war going on, there’s a global economic crisis, and particularly in our industry with the layoff situation, it couldn’t be worse. I simply believe that the panel is going to be super inspiring and more important than ever for everyone this year, because all these women are actually making very impressive work with so little.”

Bee hopes that the panel will show developers in challenging situations that they can find ways to continue to be in this industry even with few resources and despite everything that’s happening.

This role of host has been a long time coming for Bee, who was due to take over in 2020. The initial panel was created over a decade ago as a way to champion and advocate for women in games, and then evolved to feature people from marginalised backgrounds more widely.

“1ReasonToBe was started in 2013 by Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander,” Bee recalls. “It was inspired by the #1ReasonToBe movement on Twitter, and it was a panel to highlight the highs and lows of being a woman in the game industry.

“In 2016, the panel was given to Rami Ismail, and he took a geographically-diverse approach. It was men and women from all over the world, and he gave this platform to devs and that was the first time that I participated as a speaker at GDC.”

In 2019, Ismail advocated for the panel to go back to its roots and organised by a woman, which led GDC to get in touch with Bee.

“I was shocked and honoured by this,” she smiles. “I am not famous like Rami or Brenda, so for me it was kind of a shock, but also very inspiring, because I know the importance of the panel to give a platform and visibility to under-represented folks. That gave me a lot of energy and convinced me to keep going.”

She continues: “Organising 1ReasonToBe resonates very closely with what I stand for. Since 2014, I’ve been doing volunteer work for the industry. So it’s been ten years, through CAVI, the Uruguayan Game Developers Association, which I now lead. And I have helped the LATAM Video Games Federation to create sponsorship for 120 scholarships for all of Latin America. All of that is volunteer work, and I think that it’s super important for people to keep advocating and to create better opportunities for everyone. I think that 1ReasonToBe is that.”

Unfortunately for Bee, the pandemic hit around the time she was contacted to host and 1ReasonToBe didn’t come back until 2021, in a virtual format. The panel wasn’t on the physical event’s schedule in 2022 and 2023, with conference manager Ashley Corrigan telling us that GDC “offered a number of sessions that at the time felt addressed the topics previously covered in the #1ReasonToBe panels.”

Now back in its physical form, Bee wants to make sure the panel honours both what Leigh Alexander and Brenda Romero did to begin with, and how Rami Ismail evolved the concept.

“I combined a little bit of both [approaches]. It’s going to be women from all over the world who have geographically diverse backgrounds. This is the first time that we’re going to meet in person. It’s super exciting for us to be able to do this.”

The panelists this year are:

Aevee Bee, narrative designer at Future Club
Indrani Ganguly, studio head and game designer at Duronto Games
Alexandra Marzuqa Giacaman, software developer at AyHungry, musician and sound designer at Micromoon Bugs
Bahiyya Khan, independent game designer, writer, and filmmaker
Isabel Vásquez, producer and CEO at Pink Bear Games

Bee tells us a bit more about each of the panelists’ careers: “Indrani Ganguly [is] from Mumbai, she’s part of the Game Awards Future Class, and she started one of the first groups for people playing TTRPGs in India, [Desis & Dragons]. And now she has a game studio, [Duronto]. It’s the first time that she’s going to be speaking at GDC, and she’s going to have three talks.”

Bee says that it was important to her that some of the panelists can participate in GDC talks aside from contributing to a diversity panel, to be able to talk about their knowledge and expertise as well.

Bee continues to present her panelists: “Isabel Vásquez is from Mexico. I really love her story, because she’s making a game to protect kids from child abuse, [Patito]. So, it’s a game that teaches kids to know what’s good and bad, and I thought that that was fantastic.

“Then we have Alexandra Marzuqa. She’s from Chile, but she’s a third-generation Palestinian. I thought that it was super-important to have a Palestinian game dev on the panel. She organises game jams, and she gives so much to the industry.”

Bee highlights the financial difficulties for devs in some territories to be able to attend GDC, taking the example of South Africa, where Bahiyya Khan is from – something we recently talked about during our South Africa Games Week special as well, with the cost of attending the SF event prohibitive for most devs in the country (and in a lot of other territories).

“Bahiyya Khan is an independent game designer, writer and filmmaker that has won many awards,” Bee continues. “She won an IGF award with her game After Hours. She explores deep hard topics through her games and it’s incredible all she has achieved with so little resources.

“And then last but not least, we have Aevee Bee. She’s from the United States, and she’s a trans woman. It’s very important to have trans representation in an all-women panel. She has had a really impressive career, but sometimes it’s hard for [trans people] to be in a safe place, for them to talk about their passage through the industry. So, hopefully, it’s going to be inspiring.”

Bee emphasises again the importance of being able to hear from devs from all walks of life and from around the globe for a panel like this one, in an industry widely dominated by Western countries.

“I think that there is something very unique that unless you actually go and sit, and listen to them, it’s very difficult to grasp. It’s very special to grasp the diverse reality of the world within our industry. And the only way that can happen is actually to interact with them, actually listen to these women’s unique points of view. I think that it will really broaden the horizons and inspire the audience in a very special way. There is something very unique about that, seeing that the world is much bigger than you actually think it is.”

Concluding our chat, Bee expresses her hope that the attendance of the panel will be large, so a great number of devs can benefit from the stories the panelists have to tell.

“I hope that people will take positivity out of it, because since it’s so hard for everyone, actually to see that in spite of having zero resources, they are making such special work… I think that is very inspiring. And I think that it will help people to continue to thrive and continue to stay in this industry, because it can be really hard.

“But when you see that people with much fewer resources than you are still there, and still making games, are still telling stories, are still helping their communities, then I think that it will help you see that you are not alone in this. And I hope that people who are losing their jobs and maybe have doubts about [whether] they want to stay in the industry will have a light in a way of hoping that this is going to get better, and that this is worth it.”

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