What COVID19 Closing all Game Dev Events Means for Indie Dev with Renee Gittins

by Brandon Pham
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“I think we really see the value of a lot of indie games in a situation like the pandemic. For example, kind words which came out this last year were remarkably popular because it shows how to provide empathy and kindness to other people, and I think in these times that is something we all really need.”

— Renee Gittins (Executive Director of IGDA)

Renee Gittins is the Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association, the IGDA. She’s also an indie developer who runs a company called Stumbling Cat. Currently, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Though she’s originally from Seattle, WA but because of game development she has traveled quite a bit.

Her first memory of games was when her father got Wolfenstein 3D and she sat next to him and watched him play Wolfenstein  and then Duke Nukem 3D. She finally got Pokémon Yellow, but then her father and her started playing Half-Life together. Her introductions to the world of games started out really young and almost purely on first person shooters, which is definitely not the background that most people her age at the time had. She didn’t even get her first Nintendo console until she was twelve years old.

However, despite being really into games and math being her favorite subjects, she didn’t know that game development was an option. She knew nothing about what the creation of games was like, and didn’t even think that it was a viable or a potential career path.

And it wasn’t until college that she even realized that she liked programming. Renee had considered changing her major in her freshman year to engineering. She got her degree in engineering to computer science, but at the time she was at a very competitive school where 70% of the people were solid Salutatorian  or Valedictorians, and most of them went to private schools.

And all of these CS majors had been programmers in high school, and Renee thought that maybe she was behind on the ball on that.

“Maybe I wouldn’t like sitting in front of a computer all day. You know, I really liked working in the shop and helping make prototypes on the engineering side. So I decided not to change my major.”

“Then in my senior year of college, I actually made a lot of friends in the game industry and at that point I finally realized that game development was something that I could do and that I could do for a living. Fortunately, in my senior year, I actually graduated as an engineering major with a focus and mechanical engineering and project management and I took only 2 programming classes my entire college career, one my freshman year and one in my senior year.

So outside of those I’m a self taught programmer. I graduated from college and I started working in biotech. I worked as an industrial design engineer and then as a system design engineer. While I was working as a system design engineer I started learning programming on the side, so I actually started with JavaScript, and was luckily given the opportunity to design small games to judge the cognitive ability of children who might get concussions. So they were pattern matching games like click the blue butterfly kind of games and it really ignited that passion and showed me that yes, I could do game development.”

Topics that were discussed in this episode:

  • Landscape Looking like for Game Developers when COVID-19 Hit
  • Events Closing Because of COVID-19 and How it Affects Indie Developers
  • Marketing Plan During the COVID-19 Crises
  • 2020 and Beyond Quarantine for Game Developers
  • Remote Working for Game Developers and California AB5
  • Health Risks for QA for coming into the Office During Pandemic
  • Game Delays Caused by the Pandemic and its Implications
  • Game Industry is ‘Recession-Proof’ but is it Pandemic-Proof?
  • Balancing Between Promotion and Making Your Game
  • Resources for Kids to Start Programming
  • Traditional School or Online Learning for Game Dev
  • Programmers Not Being Paid as Much Making Games


If you’re a game developer or you’re interested in game development, my entire job is about supporting you, so please look to the IGDA. We have so many resources and we’re trying our best to support everyone through these times. If you like to sign up to be an IGDA member, it’s only $60.00 a year and you get access to all sorts of discounts and benefits and a wonderful community that is going to do everything it can to support each other through these times.


  • Connect with Renee Gittins:

IGDA | Twitter | Stumbling Cat

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