Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Eva Vonk, CEO at Tales of Us. She speaks about the importance of a multidisciplinary approach, reflects on her transition from film to gaming, and highlights a project focused on impactful narratives. Read more about Eva in this interview:
Hi Eva! How have your experiences in different fields, including design thinking methodologies and fast-food promotion, contributed to your approach as a storyteller and CEO?

Reflecting on my journey, from interning and working at major advertising agencies, through my time at the Film Academy in Amsterdam, to my current role as a CEO, I can definitely say that my varied experiences have been instrumental in shaping my approach, both as a storyteller and as a CEO.

Embracing a multidisciplinary approach is crucial in today’s information-saturated world, applicable not only in creative industries but also in more conventional fields such as operations and recruitment. Understanding a topic from multiple perspectives – whether solution-driven, strategic, or innovative – is incredibly beneficial.

I am super happy that I’ve got to initially “sharpen my blades” in the advertising industry.Given its commercial nature, this industry, especially in the early stages of my career, often had substantial budgets that attracted great talent in various aspects of content creation. The security this provided to the teams I worked with allowed us to truly think outside the box and strive for innovation. Driving excellence at creating content that persuades and influences behaviour.
At the time, our goal may have been to encourage a purchase, but I believe these skills can be redirected for content marketing aimed at driving more positive actions. Essentially, I view it as a way of channelling what I guess I would refer to as my ‘evil superpowers’ towards achieving positive impacts.

Shifting from a background in storytelling and film production to the dynamic world of the gaming sector. What specific experiences or moments inspired this transition, and how have they shaped your perspective on the potential of gaming?

I began working in the advertising industry at the age of 16, while still in high school. When the time came to choose my field of study, I knew I wanted to further pursue content creation and had always been drawn to the gaming industry. I realised that it is often misunderstood as fringe, despite its immense size, overshadowing both the music and film industries combined.

Despite this, I was captivated by the romantic allure of cinema and chose it for my studies.However, throughout my years in film school, I increasingly felt that the industry tended to self-aggrandize and wasn’t flexible enough to adapt with the times, I found the traditional film industry lacked the innovation I sought, especially since I viewed film primarily as a medium for storytelling, rather than as an art form. In the early days of social media, I embraced it as a powerful tool for disseminating messages, and while working on my first feature film, we extensively used social media to create online demand and anticipation, which inspired my interest in the power of transmedia storytelling. This experience gradually led me to embrace the role of a multimedia producer, with a growing sense of urgency that media should be used to tell important stories.

Fast forward to the early days of the pandemic, our team at the nonprofit media organisation TALES convened to discuss the most important audience to support during those challenging times. We quickly agreed that it would be children confined to their homes.We took a small detour during which our initial idea was to create a platform featuring short-form user-generated content, but we soon remembered the existence and dominance of, ahem… YouTube in that space.

Ultimately, we recognized the immense potential of gaming to deliver impactful narratives and engaging experiences. The addition of multiplayer elements, enhancing our sense of community, truly sealed the deal for our project’s direction.

Can you share an example of a project that you’re particularly proud of and how it has made a positive impact, in line with your commitment to authentic narratives and indigenous voices?

Although it’s not officially completed yet, I am already particularly proud of our game. However, I’d like to cheat on this answer and take this opportunity to highlight some sub-projects within it that were led by three amazing women on the TALES team:First would be our very first Game Jam which took place in 2021.As an organisation new to the gaming industry, we decided to first engage in community projects to better understand the field. This initiative led to TALES funding a game jam in Brazil, which was curated and organised by our team members Marcela Zanon and Manuela Rahal in collaboration with Afro Games and a large group of young game creators in Rio de Janeiro. The outcomes of this jam profoundly inspired our approach to building our own game.

As a team we didn’t stop there; inspired by this experience and further building on our multidisciplinary approach we aimed to enhance our commitment to agency and inclusion. This led us to develop methodologies and workshops that critically examine and challenge the distinction between merely contributing and truly participating in a development process.So the second highlight would be our module called PAD (Participatory Art Direction), spearheaded by Taina Moreno on our team.We share more detail about these initiatives on our public pages, but the PAD is dedicated to collaboratively exploring and deciding the look and feel of the game we are creating: the actual art direction. This initiative unites local individuals from various backgrounds, fostering a collective discourse and eventually informs and shapes how people from different parts of the world can learn about and understand the experiences unique to these communities.

Finally, circling back to what I am personally proud of, it is the opportunity to lead, support, and learn from these incredible women on my team. Their collective impact is immense, and I eagerly anticipate what comes next.

Thanks for this interview, Eva!

Eva’s links: LinkedIn

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Madeleine Egger