Pride Month Employee Spotlight: Ladimir Geake (he/him)
As we celebrate Pride Month in June, Zynga is proud to spotlight members of zPride, an LGBTQ+ employee resource group of more than 300 participants. Since 2010, zPride and their allies have been collaborating together to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment in gaming and beyond. We are honored to share their powerful narratives as they reflect on their personal journeys and discuss how they are creating affirmative spaces for everyone to show up as their authentic selves.
As part of our spotlight series, meet Lad Geake, a Product Marketing Manager at Zynga who co-leads zPride. We spoke with Lad about how he uses his personal identity and experiences to inform inclusivity and belonging — at work and at home.
Tell us what you do at Zynga and what you do for fun outside of work.
As a Senior Product Marketer Manager at Zynga, my role is to identify strategies that provide our most engaged players with a positive, personalized experience with the brand.
Outside of work, I co-lead an LGBTQ+ eSports group with the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) where we build a community of “gaymers” to play weekly tournaments in a non-toxic atmosphere (which can be incredibly hard to find!). I also play volleyball, attend board game conventions, and am an ice cream connoisseur.
What would have been helpful for you to see in gaming when your personal identity was first taking shape?
I grew up in the 90s and early 00s when the games I played had little to do with identity building or deeper narratives that I could safely explore or express myself. Comparing that to today, so many games feature unique narratives with dynamic personalities, or even highly customizable character creation screens that allow you to be exactly who you’d like. Having the ability to play with gender norms or more open relationship options within games would have provided base level validation in a safe environment, which would have been incredibly valuable to me!
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I’ve always loved games and even as an educator early in my career, I incorporated gamification elements into my daily lesson plans. After five years of working for an education non-profit, a friend, who was with Zynga at the time, showed me how my skill set would be highly transferable to a role that was open in account management and I leapt at the chance! Now, five years later, I’ve moved into a position within marketing that allows me to make a larger impact for the business and proves that there’s a lot of flexibility and opportunity within the industry.
How do you see your work contributing to creating more diverse and inclusive gaming experiences?
Fostering community amongst LGBTQ+ peers is really important to me because we’re still fighting to achieve and retain equal rights at a national and global scale. At Zynga, our queer employee resource group, zPride, is able to foster an environment where LGBTQ+ issues and themes are discussed regularly. As a byproduct, this has allowed our group to be a visible advocate and resource for folks across the company who have room to create diverse and inclusive content within their games. Our Play With Pride initiative is a great example of that!
How has the gaming industry evolved in terms of its representation of queer identities?
I’m inspired by the lists that you can search online of games with LGBTQ+ themes and storylines, at a time when access to games is ever expanding. More and more, games are reflecting the unique identities of the people who play them, which feels like a huge step forward from the limited skin tones and strict gender binaries that we saw just a few short years ago. Any game that allows me to pursue character development on my own terms immediately has my attention!
What are your hopes for the future of the gaming industry in terms of representation and inclusion of queer identities?
One of our focus areas for zPride in 2023 is to identify how to best help next-generation LGBTQ+ game makers find careers at Zynga. While the gaming industry is evolving in terms of the content we can play, there’s still more work to do to ensure that folks from all backgrounds have the same opportunities to break into the industry. Diverse teams make stronger products, and it is my hope that LGBTQ+ representation (along with representation of all kinds!) continues to expand within game teams to further influence new and interesting products.
What advice would you give to other queer individuals interested in pursuing a career in the gaming industry?
As a person who took a lot of time to come to terms with his queer identity, the luxury of thinking through career aspirations came a bit later in life. Gaming helped me get through tough times by providing a space to escape and build community. It didn’t dawn on me until my late 20s that I could actually pursue gaming as a career, and I’m so glad that I did. There are a ton of jobs that a gaming company needs that you might not have thought about — marketing, product management, user experience, animation, art, game design, engineering, technical support, economics, data analysis, copywriting, or customer support, just to name a few. No matter what your personal skill set is, there is a role for you somewhere within the industry and your unique point of view is an incredible asset that will take you far!
Learn how Zynga is celebrating the LGBTQ+ community year-round by visiting https://www.zynga.com/playwithpride.