A ten-year games industry veteran, Cy Wise has worked on multiple virtual reality titles, including Owlchemy Labs’ Job Simulator: the 2050 Archives — which takes place in a future where robots have replaced human jobs and allows players to experience what it was like to have a job — as well as award-winning games. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she studied sociology with a specialization in video game communities and digital tribes. Cy is currently Owlchemy Labs’ multi-hat-wearing designer, marketer, writer, and community wrangler, colloquially called “Owlmancer.” When she is not professionally managing VR communities, she’s casually managing VR communities as a co-organizer of VR Austin. We’re excited to have Cy on the Latinitas Design Chica VR workshop team.
How did your interest in virtual reality (VR) begin?
It was always a wish of mine. I grew up reading far too many books, and always wished I could just plummet into the story and the world I was reading; to not just read the adventures, but to actually go on the adventures. The infinite worlds were there, if only there was a technology that gave me access to them. And then — wish granted!
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered as a woman working in tech and video games?
There are a lot of assumptions that people make about me based on my gender. What sort of job I do, how competent I am, my position and role in my company, etc. It gets frustrating working around those preconceived notions, for sure. My current job is an exception — everyone is accepting and aware of their own biases and careful with the culture they reproduce, so I know that things can and will get better! But I still encounter it pretty frequently when I leave the studio walls. Not gonna lie though — it does feel really good when someone pigeonholes me and I get to prove them wrong. GOTCHA!
What advice would you tell young chicas that are interested in VR?
Please try it! Try every experience you can and build everything you can think of! Even silly little experiences, and tiny prototypes. Build a box in VR and go look at it — literally everything! VR is a totally new technology and we need everyone (especially YOU) to get in there and see what it can do!
What got you interested in helping with Design Chica?
It’s really hard for people to build on technologies without access to them. How can you think to tell a story or share an experience in VR if you’ve never tried it, and have no access to build for it? The technology is still really expensive and a lot of schools just don’t have the budget. I mean, like I said, VR really needs everyone. I do a ton of demos and talks trying to make more people aware of the technologies for that reason. When Design Chica said they were putting on this event, I couldn’t throw my hardware at them fast enough.
What changes do you hope to see within Austin’s VR community?
I really want to see more people get involved. We’re just at the edge of discovering what VR can do, and I want everyone in on that conversation. I want to make sure that we have a hugely diverse range of people tackling this technology. As a medium that can go really far to give insight on peoples experiences, I want as many of those as possible. It will only serve to make the content and the culture so much better!
Latinitas’ Design Chica Conference is Saturday, April 15, 2017, at ACC Eastview Campus. Throughout the day, girls ages 9–18 of all backgrounds will learn design thinking and work with user experience designers to create their very own website. The day will also include some demonstrations of virtual reality technology. During lunch, girls will meet professionals in various roles in the tech sector.
For more information, or to sign up to volunteer, visit DesignChica.com.
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