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Ally's Evolution From Cosplayer To Gaming's Heavy Hitter

Ally McLean's pathway to becoming a video game developer was unconventional.

At 19, McLean became one of Australia's first professional Cosplayers. She travelled the world attending events, making costumes and meeting other people interested in games.

McLean's work drove her ambition to become involved in game production and with this desire came something she always knew would become a reality.

Due to women being underrepresented in the gaming industry she had her doubts.

Ally McLean Started her Career In Cosplay
McLean spent her early career as a professional Cosplayer. Image: Getty Images

"I didn't think there would be a place for me or that I would be allowed to make games... but through Cosplay, I started convincing companies to let me do more," McLean, 29,  told 10 daily.

"It was really hard, particularly as a young woman, there are many more hoops to jump through to convince people to take you seriously or listen to your point of view and also to take a chance on someone who is not super experienced as it is much more likely to be a man in that industry."

Ten years on and a whole lot has changed.

McLean started in community management and then moved to social media, marketing and eventually she trained in game development. McLean also recently announced she will be speaking at TEDx Sydney in May this year.

But the struggle of being a woman in the gaming industry isn't something that has disappeared.

McLean's own experiences with online harassment and feeling uncomfortable expressing her opinions saw her start The Working Lunch Collective, an organisation that mentors underrepresented people into successful careers in gaming and tech.

Mclean is the founder and CEO of the company.

READ MORE: Considering a Career Change? Do This First

The Working Lunch
McLean is the founder and CEO of The Working Lunch. Image: The Working Lunch

"I know what it is like to feel alone, to feel directionless and to feel like there is no support network and I remember how good it felt when I found my support network," McLean said.

The Working Lunch offers programs to underrepresented people including women, non-binary and First Nations peoples across Australia and New Zealand.

With a combination of seminars, one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring and workshops, the year-long program guides people at the beginning of their career in tech.

READ MORE: The Seven Bad Habits That Could Be Ruining Your Career

Focus topics include everything from how to freelance, networking, workers rights, to what job titles mean and how to assess your value as an employee.

These conversations give underrepresented people the chance to build careers in the gaming and technology industries.

"Diversity means having people from all points of view being given equity in whatever format that may take, to be able to represent themselves, to speak for themselves and to have a seat at the table when decisions are made," McLean said.

McLean also said The Working Lunch tries to open discussions about widespread issues in the workplace.

One of the biggest of these in the gaming industry is online abuse.

A Working Lunch Event
A Working Lunch event in 2018. Image: The Working Lunch.

"Existing online as an underrepresented person in the games industry in itself is really difficult," McLean told 10 daily.

"You are constantly doing the math of, 'will I be harassed for this, will someone try to share my phone number and email address and home address for sharing an opinion about the video game' which is wild."

At the very heart of combating this issue is allowing people to share their experiences. Building understanding through diverse perspectives underpins the change slowly growing in the gaming industry.

"I want to play better games, I want to see new stories told, I want to see innovative design, I want to see beautiful things made and you can't do that if the same people and the same groups of people are the ones making creative decisions," McLean said.

"If they are all just the same people, we will never elevate as a medium, we will never grow as an industry."

Ally McLean
McLean wants to give underrepresented people a voice when decisions are made. Image: The Working Lunch.

McLean is confident a bright and creative future is ahead in the industry she is so passionate about. In starting The Working Lunch she's contributing to that future by bringing the underrepresented into the mainstream.

"One of the most exciting things is that we have a revolution coming to our platform and to our medium, so embrace that or fail basically," she said.

"It’s coming whether you like it or not."

Ally McLean will be speaking at TEDx Sydney on May 24, 2019. Tickets to the event can be purchased here.  

Applications for 2019 The Working Lunch program close February 2019.  Apply here

Featured Image: The Working Lunch. 

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au