Reflections from my first Develop: Brighton by Mikayla SineadPosted: 24 Jan 2023
I wanted to share some of my thoughts from my experience at Develop: Brighton attending alone and for the first year.
I’ve heard this event is essential, exciting and positive for the UK game industry. I can see that being the case for those with years of industry experience or for people that are in the majority demographic or for people that know lots of other people there.
However, for me, newer to the sector, therefore, knowing fewer people, identifying in multiple minoritized communities within the sector and this being my first Develop, I at times felt overwhelmed, invisible and low in confidence.
I don’t think anyone was maliciously excluding me, even when some folks looked at my name tag then my face then decided to walk in another direction (that happened a lot). But I can tell you about some stand-out uncomfortable moments.
I am no stranger to networking, I know it can be a little awkward and I can 100% appreciate with the re-introduction to in-person events we are a little rusty with things. However, there was an occasion I found myself in a group chatting and I asked someone direct questions about their work, they then answered my questions to the person they were more familiar with. They turned to face their friend with minimal eye contact with me as if I had gotten in the way of their private conversation. This may have been a socially anxious reaction, or the person may have not realised that’s what they were doing but I had a feeling of “this information is not for you”.
On another occasion, I recognised someone I’d met virtually we’d previously said how nice it would be to speak in person. Right before I got to them they bumped into someone else they hadn’t seen for a while – I witnessed a big reaction as the two friends reconnected, I patiently waited for them to have their moment. When the person was then free I approached and the reaction I received was noticeably different with a limp wave of the hand as they then walked past me. It was one of those look-to-camera moments in an episode of Parks and Rec or The Office I had to shake it off and get on with my night.
But the biggest out-of-place moment came as I first arrived at the Hilton late Wednesday afternoon to the sea of bearded white men with sweat in the hot air. I saw how different I am in this space, the gulp I took as I stepped forward took me right back to my first day at school.
I will reassure you, that I know when I felt out of place, during those two days purely because I have the comparison and can tell you about occasions when I felt completely welcomed and wanted.
When Dom smiled and waved inside Hilton – his kind face was the first familiar face at the event and he gave me a description of where the expo was and how to get there.
When Chris with arms wide waved and asked if I was hugging at the Creative Enterprise mixer event – his warm welcome put me instantly at ease and so I had some great conversations with people in the room including the lovely Helen, Colm and Grace from UKie.
When Edd hugged me at the GI Biz event and took me over to where he was pitched and introduced me to his group – I had been walking around the event searching for anyone I recognised or an “in” to a conversation with that act Edd put me right at ease and I enjoyed the rest of the evening after contemplating leaving early.
When Reese and Kat welcomed me to the Save Point event with reassurance that folks are wanting to meet me and it’s a lovely bunch. I then joined a table that proved exactly what they said.
Whenever I speak about the work I do many say how much it’s needed in the industry. Even though the word I’ve heard the most when people in the industry describe people in the industry is “nice”. I agree folks at the conference were nice enough, but I still didn’t feel totally welcome and THAT’S the difference. That’s what needs work. I am a confident, capable, experienced professional yet I was reduced to a shadow version of myself. I felt it was important to share this. I hope my reflections are useful for someone. I believe bringing folks together is a wonderful and important thing to do. I’d like for us all to take collective care and responsibility for each other during these events. Be more like Dom, Chris, Edd, Reese and Kat!
Mikayla originally posted this on her LinkedIn, and has kindly given us permission to share her story on our website. You can view the original post here.
Mikayla is the founder of Bridge Network Group, and she is on a mission, whilst centering Black Women, to encourage under-served communities to unapologetically carve their space in the gaming world whether through play or career.