Asian Women in Games: Gabby Llanillo

In this Asian Women in Games series, 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!

This week, we’re excited to share Gabby Llanillo’s story with you all. Whether it is championing the role of QA in the industry, or participating in Employee Research Groups to ensure better representation in the workplace, Gabby walks us through her personal goals.

Tell us about yourself!

Hello! I’m Gabby and I am currently a QA Engineer II at Riot Games with about 4 years of experience in the games industry as a whole. I am a queer, immigrant born, and raised in the Philippines. At the age of 11, I moved to the US with my family to pursue a better education that eventually led to my career in games. My long-term goals in the industry are to increase diversity in both video games and the workplaces that create them, as well as improve treatment and industry-wide recognition for QA.

How can others champion for representation in their workplaces?

One of the best ways to champion for representation in the workplace is to get in the room and become a part of those conversations when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

For example, Riot has ERGs (employee resource groups) that were created to provide Riot with insights and perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace. These groups were also consulted when it came to creating in-game representation of certain identities to assure correct and respectful representation.

Back at Naughty Dog, I was a part of the very first pride task force. This group came together to plan meaningful ways to celebrate pride within the studio and to our players over a few months. We presented these ideas to leadership and were met with huge support which was incredibly encouraging and fulfilling.

What are future changes you hope to see for Asian women in games in the industry?

I hope that Asian women in games continue to be taken more seriously as strong presences in the industry and not just fetishized by the gaming community. Asian representation in video games have historically been portrayed in a fetishizing or culturally appropriative way and I hope that we can continue to steer away from those narratives. I want more Asian women protagonists in games that are complex, and not solely defined by their ethnicity.

Have your parents always supported your career path?

Yes! Luckily my parents were pretty supportive of me pursuing a career that wasn’t related to the medical field haha. I think this is because my mom ended up pursuing her dream career of becoming a dance instructor when she was younger so she wanted me to have that same freedom. Their one condition was that I should have a backup in case games didn’t work out. So me pursuing Computer Science (to have the backup of moving into tech) in college gave them that peace of mind.

What is one thing from the Filipino culture that you want to share with everyone?

My favorite thing to share with others about Filipino culture is definitely the food. My family consists of lots of amazing cooks and my fondest memories are of large family parties with tables of food and karaoke. Most people know about the basics like lumpia, adobo, and ube desserts, but some of my favorite dishes (kare-kare, sisig, sinigang) are harder to find. I’m very fortunate to have homemade Filipino food so easily accessible through my family, and I’m happy they’ve continued to carry on our family traditions.

What ways can workplaces make for a more inclusive environment in your opinion?

Having resource groups for employees or dedicated spaces for Diversity & Inclusion. Going out of your way as a hiring manager to seek out diverse candidates that may easily get lost in a large application pool. Creating equal opportunities for people that come from different backgrounds. Continuously assessing the compensation and titles of the minorities at your company and making sure there aren’t imbalances.

What are fun things you do to destress outside of work?

I picked up climbing over the pandemic and it has been a huge source of my stress relief. I’ve met so many amazing people through it which funnily enough consists of a lot of fellow game devs. I also love to skate, play volleyball, take long walks, and just be outside in general. It’s important to have hobbies outside of work and I’m really glad that I’ve made that a priority in the last year.

Where can people continue to follow you and your journey?

I’m pretty active on Twitter, though I wouldn’t say I only post about game dev related topics haha. I do repost job postings for QA or entry-level jobs pretty regularly and generally try to keep up to date with game industry news. I also try to answer DMs from aspiring QA/game developers when I have the time.

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