Q&A with Careen Yapp — Member SpotlightBy Raquel Hayner
"Nothing is impossible and everything can be done in the end."
Careen Yapp is currently the Managing Director at Games and Entertainment Management Group, LLC, a company that provides business development and licensing consulting services in both the interactive and entertainment industries. In the past she has worked for prominent game companies such as Gaikai, Konami, D3Publisher of America, and THQ. She has been a speaker, moderator and panelist at various universities and conferences, including the Game Developers Conference Europe and GamesCom.
When did you become interested in gaming and what games did you like to play growing up?
I love asking people this question because you can tell someone’s age by the first game console they owned. Counting game console ownership is like counting rings in a tree trunk. My first game console was an Atari 2600. My favorite arcade game was Pac-Man so that was the only game I wanted to play on console. One day, during a family barbecue, I was playing at home and I kept winning. My mom came to ask what I was doing and I told her, “I keep winning! I think I can beat this game!” She came in to take a picture and when I turned the game over, nothing happened. It went back to zero. I put the controller down and never picked one up again until my brother got his NES.
What made you want to pursue a career in the video game industry?
My recruiter called one Thursday afternoon in 1999 and told me there was an open position at a company I had passed on about six months prior. I needed to interview that day and start the next. I didn't have enough time to research THQ and had no idea I was interviewing at a games company before I showed up that afternoon. At THQ, I was lucky enough to meet and be mentored by some of the smartest people in the industry. To this day, I still consider them good friends. It was the best happy accident of my career.
What does your career path look like up until now?
As Senior Manager of Licensing at THQ, I was able to participate in and/or manage the licensing negotiation process for film, television, toys, celebrity likeness and music for brands like SpongeBob SquarePants, Scooby-Doo!, Hello Kitty, Star Wars, etc. My experiences at THQ built a solid foundation for everything that was to come.
In 2004 a THQ colleague and good friend, Yoji Takenaka, started the western divisions of D3Publisher. I was the second employee he recruited and our team worked to build a lineup that generated over $140M in revenue in about 24 months. The lineup included amazing brands like Naruto, Ben 10, Flushed Away—several of which reached the Greatest Hits mark—but the project I am most proud of was the acquisition of Puzzle Quest. I loved that game, if “loved” means I played through it three times ;).
As the Vice President Acquisitions and Franchise Management at Konami Digital Entertainment, my favorite memories include working with Universal Studios to have Silent Hill as the first video game property featured in Halloween Horror Nights. When I walked through the finished horror maze with Akira Yamaoka, I was so excited to see everything in person. I kept clapping and thanking the nurses and Pyramid Heads that were trying to scare me.
Another favorite was working with Yuki Furukawa and Chris Melissinos to get Metal Gear Solid into the Smithsonian “Art of Video Games” exhibit. Previously, the fastest selling Smithsonian ticket was to a talk with Annie Leibowitz. The Annie Leibowtiz ticket sold out in a couple of hours. The Hideo Kojima ticket sold out in a couple of minutes.
Finally, as Vice President Business Development and Account Management at Gaikai, a division of Sony Computer Entertainment, I was lucky enough to work with the amazing team that launched PlayStation Now, the best game streaming service in the world.
What are some of the challenges you have personally faced being a female in a male dominated industry? How did you overcome them?
I was naive, as I never considered my gender would be an issue. I have a quote on my computer monitor that says, "Nothing is impossible and everything can be done in the end." I have always approached my career with that idea in mind and I just jump in the deep end and never give up until I figure out how to make it work. I have been mentored by and worked with strong, smart, driven women. There are too many to name but it all started at THQ with Germaine Gioia, Alison Locke, Leslie Brown, Tiffany Ternan, Liz Pieri, and Alison Quirion—and we’re all having dinner together in a few weeks! I do think the issues facing women on the business side can be less pervasive than the ones facing women on the development side of the games industry as at THQ and at Konami, four of the eight executives were women and at D3Publisher, three of the six executives were women.
That said, I have had the experience of being the only woman at a table full of male executives. This just made me feel kind of badass and proud/happy when other women joined. On the flip side, I have been told, “Stop thinking you’re Wonder Woman as no one agrees [your team] did that good of a job,” and “I'm worried this candidate said she was ‘passionate’ about her job and you’re already emotional enough for our entire team.” Like everyone else, I also have another horrible story I'll only tell people I trust—in person over cocktails.
What are some of the problems and issues you see surrounding women in games? What changes would you like to see?
The problems and issues surrounding women are not limited to the games industry. It's an unfortunate fact casual misogyny is a part of our everyday life. I would like to see everyone be the change they want to see—by doing a good job and becoming a role model and mentor, by standing up for someone who is being subjected to sexism, by standing up for yourself when you're being subjected to sexism—and for not letting fear of this misogyny make you think you're helpless, cut you off from social situations, limit your career, and make you forget how to take a joke.
What would you advise to other women interested in entering the industry?
This advice is for men and women interested in the games industry. Our industry is one of the most welcoming so begin by networking with everyone. Have lunch with your colleagues, bring Starbucks to your team, meet people at trade shows, ask for introductions to people and/or companies in which you have interest, ask questions and have fun. Be professional when attending trade events and speak up when you see something happening that shouldn't be happening. Don't forget to jump into the deep end and never give up as nothing is impossible and everything can be done in the end!