In 2016, when I started writing Loathe at First Sight, a workplace romantic comedy about a female Korean-American producer who works in the video game industry, I had the full intention of writing a lighthearted romp. One of my best friends is a producer at a large, well-known game developer and she led an all-male production team. She was my muse. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, I don’t think anyone’s tried to write a comedic novel about a woman working at a fast-paced, exciting game company. I want to be the first!”
I asked my friend J if she could give me a tour of her company. She not only did that, but she treated me to lunch first.
“Are you writing about Gamergate?” She asked as she spooned partially-company-subsidized frozen yogurt into her mouth. “I hope you do. Because everything that happened, and is still happening, is so fucked up.”
Gamergate? I’d heard friends who worked at game companies bitch about the long hours without the corresponding pay for said long hours. I’d heard about Xbox parties from the early days that featured near-naked women parading around launch parties, serving drinks and doing other not-so-legal things. I’d read only a few articles about Gamergate and seen some nasty stuff on twitter, but I was no expert on the matter, nor did I want to be. So nope, I said, I’m not planning to write about that. Everything I read about it was confusing, convoluted, and dangerous. I wanted my book to be humorous and fun, not scary and depressing.
After a lengthy and informative company tour, she sent me on my way with posters, stickers, and other cool swag. With my arms full of gaming freebies, I thought that was for sure the part of gaming I was going to focus on in my book— the fun, whimsical, thrilling part. But on my drive home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that glamorizing an industry where racism and sexism are rampant was a disservice to my future readers. I made an agreement with myself: I’ll do the research and I’ll write what is true. I’ll take my story where it naturally goes on its own.
I went into heavy research mode for months and collected all sorts of quantitative and qualitative data: I attended industry panels, read a ton of articles and books, scoured message boards, and interviewed friends who worked at game companies (both men and women). I have a background in marketing research and I take pride in being thorough — I don’t half-ass my data collection so I can provide thoughtful insights and analysis.
This photo below is just half of what went into researching this book.
Here’s what I learned: the gaming industry is not fun and games for women from marginalized backgrounds. Some of the things that take place in my novel are inspired by my own experiences working at various tech companies, but most are from (now fictionalized) events that I uncovered in my research or from stories that women and men who work in gaming shared with me in interviews. Most of what you’ll read in Loathe at First Sight is absurd and humorous, but there are some cringe-worthy and very serious parts as well that were important to my story. My goal was to provide balance and I hope I was successful.
I set out to write a lighthearted novel, but the story took me in a different direction. Library Journal reviewed it and said it’s “smart, punchy and memorable,” and Publishers Weekly said that I wrote a book that makes “tough topics go down easy by couching them in wry humor.” I hope as media sheds more light on the gaming industry, it will continue to evolve and change for the better, because I can’t wait to write a lighthearted novel about it.