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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 08:45 GMT
Move over game boys
Lynn Robson
Lynn Robson: Building bridges between East and West
As part of its series on women in business, BBC News Online talks to video games developer Lynn Robson about making a living in an industry traditionally dominated by men.
As a teenager Lynn Robson lived and breathed music. Since then she has launched a record label, spent seven years in Japan, written two technology culture books, and co-founded Frognation.

The company creates soundtracks and television shows and designs and translates Japanese video games for the UK market.

Along with her partners in Tokyo and her international team of designers and developers, Lynn is creating the video games that thousands are playing today.

Lynn runs the UK office of Frognation, while her two business partners run the Tokyo office.

Together they have spent the last five years ago working across borders and time zones to bring together artists from east and west.

New breed of games

Frognation represents producers with great game ideas and helps them as they present their ideas to Sony or Nintendo in Tokyo.

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Once the games go into development, Lynn and her team provide advice on everything from the music soundtrack and graphics to the game programming and characters.

The result is a new breed of video game, created by artists, programmers and animators who believe in creating art and culture, as well as engaging game play.

Lynn believes that her success in this traditionally male-dominated industry is a result of being comfortable with technology, and also her understanding of other cultures.

Her Japanese operating system, Apple computers and, of course, e-mail make it possible to work across borders.

"Without e-mail," says Lynn, "our company could not exist."

Bridging cultures

Cultural understanding is equally important. When she is in meetings in Japan, Lynn plays the role of the westerner giving Frognation international credibility, and making decisions as to what will work in both countries.

Lynn Robson CV:
  • MBA specialising in finance and marketing
  • Lectured in universities in Hong Kong and Japan in business and english
  • Helped set up Frognation Tokyo in 1996
  • Returned to England in 1998 to set up Frognation London

  • In the West, Lynn becomes the Japan expert, giving clients insights into Japanese culture that can help them in the European market.

    When her Japanese partners come to meetings in the UK, Lynn works hard to ensure that their ideas are being presented in the best possible light, and navigates conversations carefully to eliminate any cultural misunderstandings.

    A strong respect for other cultures also helps Lynn as she manages international teams of designers and developers. Frognation frequently hires people in the US, Japan and the UK to work on single projects.

    Entire games can be created virtually with teams working together on a game, wherever they happen to live.

    Everyone who works for Frognation understands both the UK and Japanese culture.

    If a designer in Tokyo sends e-mail to the international team saying that they are taking a break and going out to the 'konveni' for an 'onigiri,' everyone nods at their screens knowing that they are going to the 24-hour convenience store for a riceball.

    Working together

    Lynn believes that women's strong multi-tasking abilities, creativity and management skills make them a natural for the video game industry.

    "There is a camaraderie rather than rivalry," says Lynn, which is a huge asset in an industry that relies on strong teams being able to work together.

    If she is right, the timing could not be better.

    Video game sales are sky-rocketing, with annual revenues expected to exceed the film industry by 2005.

    There are thousands of opportunities to build careers as game designers, producers, art directors, programmers or animators in the video game industry but, so far, women have been reluctant to consider gaming as a career direction.

    Today most video games are created by men, and for men. So it is no surprise that almost all the video games sold annually are either sports games or shoot-em ups.

    With more women like Lynn joining the video game industry, however, things could change. Tomorrow's gamers could have the opportunity to live and breathe a whole new era of gaming.

    Emma Smith founded the Wired Woman Society in 1996 and co-authored Technology With Curves in 2000. She now runs At Large Media, a new media consultancy.

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    08 Oct 02 | England
    13 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
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