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!
We’re excited to share Avani Jain’s story with everyone. As an Associate Producer at a AAA studio working on a brand that is recognized by almost everyone in the gaming world, she’s come far. Read on to learn more about how she strives towards achieving work-life balance and fighting off imposter syndrome!
Give us a brief introduction to yourself
Hi! My name is Avani Jain (she/her) and I’m an Associate Producer at Treyarch. I work on Multiplayer Maps development for Call of Duty and have been at this studio for about two and a half years! I’ve been working from home for the past two years but I have an extremely fluffy kitty that keeps me company. My hobbies include playing the piano and learning Japanese.
Have your parents always supported your career path?
Hmm, I wouldn’t say they’ve always supported my career path. Going into the film/TV/games industry wasn’t really—and still isn’t—the norm for a lot of South Asians. A majority of us are expected to follow a career path in medicine or engineering, so you can imagine my parents’ shock when I told them I wanted to do art.
In their defense, they didn’t have a baseline of successful South Asians in this field, so I was essentially venturing out into uncharted waters. In our social community back in New Jersey, I was one of the first to move out to California to pursue a job in entertainment. What changed for them I believe was me working on Call of Duty. That’s a franchise they recognized and saw value in so I definitely think it helped them respect my career choices.
How can workplaces make for a more inclusive environment in your opinion?
This is a tricky one. Workplaces can only be inclusive if leadership and those higher up make a conscious and consistent effort to elevate the voices of minorities. It takes a collective force to be better, and it shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of those discriminated against to do the heavy lifting. Making sure there are proper DEI channels and spokespeople that can dedicate their time to highlight and empower others is a great way to start. For me personally, the best thing I can do for others is to be transparent about my experience and the realities of the industry—which I try to be on social media.
You’re an Associate Producer in a AAA studio working on a brand that everyone in the world of gaming knows. I know you’ve talked about fighting imposter syndrome: what methods have you used that you find successful?
To be honest this is something I still struggle with. Treyarch contains some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met and it’s intimidating working alongside them. Not only that, but working on Call of Duty is an honor in itself. Our fan base and community is one of the largest in the world so I try to do my best not to disappoint others.
When it comes to imposter syndrome, something I’ve been practicing recently is maintaining a kinder dialogue with myself. I tell myself that I was hired for a reason and I wouldn’t have moved up if I wasn’t qualified. It’s not just talented individuals at Treyarch AND just me; I’m included in that bucket too. For me, words of affirmation is something that really sticks with me so I try to save all the positive notes and emails I’ve received over the years which helps instill that confidence back in me.
What is one thing from the Indian culture that you want to share with everyone?
Indian culture is such an integral part of my life. I’m a first generation Indian American so growing up with Bollywood, Indian food, festivals, etc. was my primary experience in America. If I had to pick one thing to share with the world it would be the food. Indian food has a special way of bringing people together. When I was living in Los Angeles, I didn’t have any family there and I felt very isolated for years. I found a small Indian community and became really great friends with a few girls. We would bond by having Bollywood nights and eat Indian food together, just to have a little taste of home.
Is there a video game title or character that you think accurately and respectfully portrays your culture? What/who was it and how did it achieve this?
Haha I’m going to brag about Call of Duty a little bit, but I really do appreciate our new operator in Call of Duty: Vanguard named Padmavati Balan. She’s a soldier in the Indian National Army that fought against the British occupancy in India. Her aesthetic, back story, and voice acting have all been culturally accurate—which I respect.
You’ve previously talked about the pandemic helping you recognize the importance of work-life balance. What tips do you have for people who struggle with that as they chase their passions?
This took a long time for me to understand and realize but you won’t be able to produce your best work if it’s consuming you. If your brain is fixated on work 24/7, then you will naturally burn out.
It’s important to take breaks regularly to allow yourself to breathe, get a change of pace, and have an opportunity to get inspired by something else.
I spent the past two years of the pandemic fixated on my work and allowing it to take over my life. I didn’t have any boundaries set, nor did I prioritize my life outside of work. I think there are moments where that’s okay, but it’s really easy to let it take over completely.
Part of my New Year’s resolution this year was to prioritize my personal life first and put work second. It’s still a work in progress but I have definitely noticed an improvement in my quality of life. I make time to be social and explore new places. I set aside time to learn new skills and hobbies. A solution I’ve found that works for me is blocking time off in my work calendar ahead of the time. That way I’m reminded and “forced” to take that break—but at the same time, my coworkers see that I’m busy too and can schedule meetings accordingly.
At the end of the day, work will never stop, nor will you have control over what happens at work. But your life is the only thing you do have control over and is the only thing unique to you, so why not put yourself first?
Where can people continue to follow you and your journey?