Asian Women in Games: Alexa Kim

In this new series we’re calling Asian Women in Games, we interview women who are currently in the gaming industry to learn more about them, their journeys, and their culture. We want to showcase the amazing women who are already driving change and representation in the industry by being themselves!

We’re excited to introduce you to Alexa Kim and her experience in game design. Read on to learn more about her tips in joining the games industry, her love for rats, and even a soju cocktail recipe she’s keen to share!

Give us a brief introduction to yourself!
Hi, I’m Alexa Kim. I’m a senior designer at Respawn Entertainment. I’ve been making games for about a decade, working at various indie startups before joining Respawn four years ago. I’m a generalist with an emphasis on level design, and I love playing and making first-person shooters.

For our community that’s looking to get into game dev, what are the realities of being a game designer and game development?
The reality is that it is a really fun career that comes with things to love and things to improve. The industry is ready for change, if you want to be a part of it. It is a lot of work.

Game development is also often poorly understood (or explained), so it’s important to get clarity and demystify this craft before you decide it’s the right thing for you.

Have you seen diversity in gaming and game dev improve over your years in the industry?
I think it has, and whatever positive change we’ve seen is accelerating thanks to people and organizations (like AWR!) that boost the visibility of such change. I’m hoping that change further carries over to better representation in games and gaming culture.

What’s still very lacking is diversity in leadership. Change in the faces of new folks won’t matter if we can’t retain it.

Game design means you’re putting your ideas and designs (and to some degree, pieces of yourself) out to the real world for people to enjoy. How do you handle online feedback or criticisms?
A big part of being a designer is interpreting feedback and turning it into actions. It’s invaluable. Feedback cannot inherently be wrong or right. It can however, be kind or mean. If the feedback comes with destructive insults, it’s not worth engaging.

Social media can be a great tool to gather a wealth of feedback, but the best advice I can give to designers is that you don’t need to use social media to get feedback at the cost of being exposed to destructive behavior. Should you choose to, there are people that will give you their honest feedback without being a jerk, while also understanding that it’s up to the recipient to take it from there. Learn to humbly appreciate those and don’t hesitate to ignore the rest.

You share some great tips on joining the industry, how to tackle interviews, and how women can recognize red flags in certain studios and environments through personal stories on your Twitter account. If you had to pick 3 tips for female newcomers looking to enter the game dev space, which would you hammer home?
Here are three things I always yell at myself in my head:

  1. There’s always a mix of good and bad people wherever you go. Make sure you place yourself around good people in power who can help you directly.
  2. Don’t fight other marginalized devs over resources. Create more by encouraging each other.
  3. If something felt uncomfortable, you had good reason to feel so. Don’t doubt yourself or overthink it either. Document everything.

Are there any video games characters that really resonated with you?
Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn was refreshing to me, because she was viewed by other characters as a person and not defined by her gender or looks.

What is one thing from the Korean culture that you want to share with everyone?
Soju is the most versatile liquor that can be made into just about any cocktail. Try this amazingly refreshing lemon drop recipe from Modern Pepper. (Please drink responsibly)

Tell us about your rats!!
I’ve had about 30 rats over a period of 14 years. They don’t live long, but each one leaves a unique impression in your heart with their quirks and charms. I used to take them to the office and have them sleep in tiny beds by my keyboard. Such great officemates. If you want to know more about rat ownership, I can help!

Where can people continue to follow you and your journey?
I’ve been a bit lighter on socials lately, but I still keep my DMs open to people asking about being a game dev. You can find me on Twitter: @alexabkim

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