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IGDA Executive Director Jen MacLean Steps Down

International Game Developers Association executive director Jen MacLean is leaving the organization later this month, the association announced Monday.

MacLean, who lead the IGDA for two years, will stay on the board for a year following her last day on April 12. Lucien Parsons, chair of the board, will be the interim executive director as the association looks for a replacement. MacLean tells Variety that she wasn’t planning to leave the association because there is so much the IGDA still has to do.

“But I was approached by a company that offered me a chance to support developers in a way the IGDA couldn’t in terms of scale and opportunity,” she said.

She wasn’t able to say yet what her new job will be but said it remains in the game industry.

“My time as executive director has been the most rewarding part of my time in the games industry, and I thank the IGDA board and staff for their support and hard work to help our developers. I’m proud especially of how we expanded the IGDA to truly represent our international mission and diverse membership.” MacLean said. “This was the ideal time for me to move on and for us to find a fresh new voice to guide the IGDA into the 2020s.”

During her time as the executive director of the IGDA, MacLean helped to expand the representation of international game developers by adding new chapters in Pakistan, Istanbul, Kenya, and Fortaleza, Brazil. She also assisted with the founding of special interest groups for Latinx and Muslim game developers, along with special interest groups for Analytics, Game Art, and Games for Health.

“Jen’s tenure was a massive success. Her leadership helped us achieve incredible growth in membership signups and renewals,” said Parsons.

MacLean said she believes that the IGDA and the game industry at large have two major groups of issues it still has to deal with: respect for game players and the respect players should have for game developers.

“A large majority of developers love game players and a large majority of game players love games and the people who make them,” she added. “But it’s not tenable to be a game developer when you are afraid to post about your work.”

The toxic environment created by some game players in reaction to design decisions made for some games continues to be an issue in the game industry. Another major issue is the toxic environment found inside some game studios.

MacLean said that unionization is a larger part of a conversation the industry at large has to have about how people who make games are valued. Another issue that concerns her, she said, is the rising number of students pursuing careers in game development when there simply aren’t enough jobs for them.

“I think the thing we need to be honest about, to use the Hollywood analogy, is that everyone who goes to film school isn’t going to be a director,” she said.

She pointed to a recent survey released by the Higher Education Video Game Association which showed that less than 40% of people who graduate with a game development-related degree end up working in the game industry.

While Parsons, who is currently the chairman of the IGDA board, will become the interim executive director on Friday, he said he has no plans to seek the executive director role permanently.

“I think the IGDA is a fantastic organization, but I think whoever takes the executive director role next needs to have great industry connections and also should run the IGDA Foundation, and that’s not a role I see a cis white male taking,” he said.

The IGDA Foundation focuses on supporting diversity and inclusivity in the game development community.

Parsons believes one of the key issues the IGDA and the new executive director will be facing is the growing number of developers.

“The IGDA and the executive director exist to help game developers succeed and have successful careers,” he said. “It’s easier than ever to make video games in terms of tools and availability and its harder than ever to make money at making games.

“We want a thriving ecosystem of successful game developers who have the opportunity to really express their art but also aren’t starving artists.”

The process for finding a new executive director is already underway, he said. The hope is for the IGDA to find a new executive director in less than 90 days.

Until then, Parsons said he will be mostly focused on finding a new director and continuing to support the association’s chapters and special interest groups.

“We’ve had a lot of success over the last couple of years in growing the membership and with the support we are able to offer to our local affiliates,” he said. “So it is really important to me — in the interim period — that support isn’t dropped.”

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