When it comes to developing using a third-party game engine, Unity has positioned itself as a leader. The company is the creator of the world's most widely used real-time 3D development platform. Unity has powered a range of video games, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) titles. It powers over 50 percent of all new mobile games and 60 percent of all AR/VR content, while more than 40 percent of the top 1,000 mobile titles also harness its tools to create interactive 2D, 3D, VR and AR experiences.
Unity mobile games developers have generated an estimated $12.4 billion in net revenue over the past two years (18 percent of all 2015/16 Worldwide Net Mobile Games Revenue), and the games and experience they'd built reach nearly three billion devices worldwide and were installed 24 billion times in 2017 alone (three times the world population with 750 downloads per second). That's because Unity gives developers the ability to target and optimize their content for more than 25 platforms from Xbox One to iOS and Facebook.
But the company does more than power the real-time revolution; it's also serves as a resource and catalyst for women in tech. It's team of more than 800 engineers work alongside tech giants like Google, Facebook, Oculus and Microsoft, and have even broken into other industries like the automotive, film, architecture, engineering, construction industry and more. As a company, Unity has grown to more than 2,000 employees in 30 locations worldwide, and it's been touted as one of theBoardlist's 2018 tech companies with the most diverse board. theBoardlist, which introduced qualified women leaders to opportunities that serve on private and public company boards, announced the top 30 tech companies with boardrooms that represent diversity and inclusion — and Unity made the top 10.
In fact, in addition to the games and projects made with Unity, the company has even started funding human rights projects. The company recently launched its first annual Unity for Humanity grant, which funds projects such as Terminal 3, an AR documentary exploring Muslim identities in the US. The $25,000 grant intends to support creators developing Unity projects that feature themes such as healthcare, science, social awareness, education and the environment, which was inspired by projects like Terminal 3.
But not only does the company make an effort to embrace diversity in its project, it also embraces diversity within itself — it's a top company for women in tech. Unity offers beginners courses and workshops to help them develop fundamental Unity skills to start on their own journeys of becoming Unity creators. There are courses for "Programmer, Developer & Engineer Pathways," through which women can learn the skills necessary to start programming, developing and engineering their own games and experiences.
Almost 8,000 developers responded to the company's Skill Up Survey 2018, 75 percent of whom said that they set aside time to learn new tech skills at least once a week, and 39 percent of whom said they dedicated time to it every day. The respondents overwhelmingly said they prefer to learn at their own pace using accessible resources like courses, instructor-led training and via learning from peers. In fact, those who earn the highest salaries are even more likely to favor self-paced learning, with 80 percent of those respondents earning over $90,000.
We reached out to several women who use Unity to share how the company can be a major educational resource for women in tech looking to advance their own skills.
After I completed community college near my hometown in Virginia, I desperately needed a change of pace. So I decided to go to a 4-year university here in the Bay Area (I'd been coming to visit my sister in Oakland for about 10 years). After exploring my options at school, I chose the path of video game development, deciding that it was the perfect blend of math and art that I had been searching for. I did an internship at an industry-adjacent startup during school, then I interned at Unity before landing a job here at Visual Concepts Entertainment as a Technical Artist about six months after graduating.
As a Technical Artist for the NBA 2K series, I work at the part of the game development pipeline between artists and engineers. I work with dynamics, rigging, tools engineering, and more. The best part of being a Tech Artist for me is that your tasks are very diversified.
Unity was the first engine I ever used. I remember my first class in school, we just had to make a scene where you walked around that had some sort of beginning, middle, and end. Nothing fancy. Unity is so accessible that, even as a first-time user, it was so easy to make something that felt really cool. It was a staple during my education, and getting to work at Unity in San Francisco was such a treat after having used the software for more than four years.
I had such a unique experience, being able to actually work at Unity. During my time at the company, I got a much deeper understanding of the software and those who use it, and the games industry in general. With such a wide user base, it has always been easy to find people in the Unity community to create with and learn from.
The company itself has such a large number of women who want to support each other in terms of career growth and leveling the playing field (pun intended). People there are having the tough conversations about what's wrong for women and other minorities in the industry, and I really felt like I was helping to flip that coin when I was working there.
As far as the software itself, in my experience, the games industry is based a lot on knowledge that is communicated from person-to-person. It's not the most well-documented industry and it can be really difficult to break into. The accessibility that Unity provides with their interface and documentation makes it possible for all kinds of people to make games, not just those who have a ton of experience.
If you're looking for a change of pace career-wise, it's an excellent place to work. There's so much opportunity there, and so much freedom to take it. As for the software, I couldn't recommend a better place to start your foray into the challenging, but rewarding world of making games.
I graduated from Abertay University. I did the Computer Games Technology course and then went on to help set up an independent games company with friends called Team Junkfish. I have been working there for almost five years now.
I work as one of the core programmers in the team. Focusing on gameplay/graphical effects and shaders. Though usually it can be a mix of everything due to how small our team is.
I first used Unity after finishing my fourth year at uni. I took part in the summer competition Dare to Be Digital where I helped make an AR game for children using Unity. Then I went straight into making games with Team Junkfish. We chose Unity as it was a well documented engine and was easy to get up and running asap. Especially for a team with no seniors, as we all graduated the same year with the same experience! (None!)
It has helped me to understand the processes that go into making games a lot quicker. It allowed a small start up company to ship a full 3D game in two years with no prior experience and helped us get to where we are today. The constant engine improvements and additions have also helped to make getting systems implemented a lot faster than it would have taken a few years ago.
It has a nice learning curve and is not too daunting to start off with. The community in general is really nice and always offering to help out and again it is well documented.
Don't be afraid to try things outside of the box! Best thing about Unity is the freedom and simplicity for experimenting on all areas to try and help you find what excites you most about game development!
I had the opportunity to do an internship with a video game company in 1998, back when going to school for game development did not exist. Knowing Photoshop got me in the industry. The internship turned into a full time gig where I learned a ton and eventually became a VFX artist. After years of full time employment I switched gears and became an independent freelancer.
I’m a freelance Senior VFX Artist. I work remotely with various companies around the world creating particle effects, materials and occasionally animations for their projects. You can check out my work at www.starcmade.com
I started using Unity around 2012. The studio I was working at used it to make Le Vamp, an adorable endless runner about a vampire boy who is being chased by an angry French mob.
I’ve used a ton of different game engines, but Unity quickly became my favorite. It was easy to learn and enjoyable to work in; it has played a huge role in my success as a freelancer. I found a lot of contract jobs through Unity’s forums and job boards.
I think anyone with the interest and motivation can learn Unity. It’s free to download and there are a ton of online resources to learn from. I’d love to see more women in game development — I think they have unique ideas to contribute to the industry.
I started my career with a Masters’ in Computer Science at UCLA. I first came to know about Unity as part of a game development workshop at UCLA. I’ve always been a visual person, with keen interest in beautiful UI and UX and rich visual effects. I wanted to somehow marry this with my strong background in computer science. That’s when I discovered Unity3D — a versatile game engine which caters to all sorts of audience — artists, designers, hobbyist programmers as well as software professional.
I recently joined Samsung Next’s AR Cloud team as a staff engineer leading development work around a new generation of Augmented Reality applications entailing multi-user, cross platform, shared AR experiences and applications at scale.
My career with Unity kicked off with an internship opportunity which gave me the first exposure to working in a game team. I loved the interdisciplinary environment with programmers, artists, game produces and level designers. It was a perfect mix of creativity, talent and technology and I sought a full-time opportunity in a game studios. I got hired at Tic Toc Games as a lead Unity developer where I built the Monster High iPad game. It’s still one of the proudest moments for me to think of the day the game made it to App Store. After a year with Tic Toc Games, I discovered the magical space of Augmented Reality. I joined Qualcomm’s Vuforia team as a Unity Application Engineer and spent two years learning about the space by building several prototypes and showcase applications for tech demos and conferences. I then moved to DAQRI — an AR company building smart devices for industrial workspaces. I lead development of several applications in Unity to showcase different types of industrial use-cases and run on DAQRI smart glasses. I later on contributed to the Unity SDK so as to enable third-party developers build rich mixed-reality experiences in Unity.
Working in Unity takes much more of a creative muscle than anything else. Whether you’re a technical artist or a game designer or a level designer or a programmer, having a creative approach to building things is critical — an area which comes naturally to women. If you have a strong urge to bringing your creative ideas to life, Unity can be an excellent career choice for you. I personally never saw or felt that I was a representative of a minority. I only saw opportunities that let me build fun things and collaborate with passionate and talented people. The developer community, especially using Unity is evolving into a much richer/larger demography and men actually never see that difference that we generally tend to stress upon. There’s indisputably a disproportionate percentage of men using Unity than women but I never saw that as them dominating the space but rather as lack of exposure and proper mentorship that we’ve had in the women community.
Another reason why I think this is a good starting point in career for a lot of women is you get to work amongst people from various discipline and work on technologies that demand a wide range of skill-sets. There’s a huge benefit in being in that space:
I think men dominating the Unity space is only a mindset issue. Many co-workers I’ve interacted with have been more than happy to mentor me early on in my career. If you’re talented, it’s hard not to get noticed or get opportunities to grow. As I mentioned before, if there’s one thing we could do better than men, it’s expressing our creativity — and Unity is an excellent tool for that. So ‘dominating’ this space with a thriving career as a Unity developer is only a mindset-shift away.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.