When you think gaming, you invariably think Alienware, for such is the legacy of this pioneering PC gaming brand.
From its unforgettable alien logo to its programmable RGB LED lights appeal, from pushing the boundaries of industrial design to exceeding over $3 billion in value back in 2018, the iconic PC gaming brand - now part of Dell Technologies - has come a long way since its founders (including Frank Azor) started the journey back in 1996.
On the backdrop of Alienware's 25th anniversary late in 2021, I spoke with Vivian Lien, VP, Alienware & Dell Gaming at Dell Technologies, to understand how the gaming brand's trying to make gaming more inclusive while also setting new benchmarks for competition to follow. Edited excerpts from the interview follow:
Q) What's a typical day in your life, juggling work from home in the pandemic?
What won't be surprising to your readers is that all of us play different roles in our lives. While I'm the leader of Alienware, I also play the role of a mom, wife and a friend. Typically, my day starts fairly early, so I get a chance to connect with our friends and colleagues in Europe as well as Asia. In between my meetings, I try to get my family ready through the door to school and to their busy lives.
Vivian Lien, VP, Alienware And Dell Gaming, Dell Technologies
Throughout the day, we have a lot of team discussions, whether it's a brainstorming session for things that are much further into the future, whether it's something that's a little bit more immediate. Even before the pandemic started, we tried finding ways to get different members from around different time zones to work more seamlessly together in virtual environments. Not just a lot of Zoom calls, but a lot of ways to find collaboration that increases productivity.
One of the things that I enjoy about my work at Alienware, probably one of my guilty pleasures, is we get samples. And then we get to play with those samples! You know, there's something very satisfying about seeing our entire team's work coming together over time into a tangible product. Something that we know will be in the hands of our customers. You can't beat that feeling. It's also something we take very seriously, pride in our work and our ability to put out world-class products in the market.
Q) How do you define the Alienware DNA?
We don't just think about the Alienware brand's DNA from the traditional sense - its logo, motto, etc - but more about everything Alienware stands for. People want quality products and they find that in Alienware. The brand itself is not only iconic in terms of visual design but in everything that we do.
When you spoke to Frank Azor at CES 2019, we had just announced the new industrial design language for Alienware to maintain its cutting-edge appeal. We spend a lot of resources and our time to think about the right way to portray this futuristic brand, but at the same time, very confident and something that any consumer can own today. And most importantly community is what makes Alienware very unique.
We not only support them and support our community, we engage with them. From loop lighting in the Legend ID to mechanical keys, our community helps define Alienware's destiny in some sense, since we get a lot of insights from our customers that we incorporate into designing Alienware's high quality product portfolio. When we think about innovation, we always keep in mind on how to make it uniquely Alienware.
How's the pandemic impacting gaming globally and here in India?
We certainly saw a big increase in the number of gamers all over the world, over the last couple of years, with everybody hunkering down, staying home. Gamers who gravitated towards PC gaming aren't only in it for the entertainment value, they use their gaming rigs for staying connected with one another.
Dell / Alienware
If you look at the cultural impact of gaming as an activity, it's not just about passing time it's much more than that. For an increasing number of people, gaming's becoming a part of their lifestyle, of who they are. Apart from marking the 25th anniversary of Alienware, this past year we had a number of products that we were able to introduce to gamers around the world, especially also in India to take advantage of this growing trend.
Whether it's just gaming as a hobby or e-sports activities, gaming has gotten a lot of momentum in India. There are a lot of players that get into the gaming space through mobile and smartphones. In my opinion, mobile gaming complements PC gaming in the long run. With over 500 million internet users in India, and over 50% of the Indian population now below the age of 25 and spending more time online, Indian gaming's only going to shine going forward. This makes all of us at Alienware extremely excited about the future of gaming.
How can gaming be made more inclusive for all?
It's something that's very close to our hearts here at Dell with our Progress Made Real initiative, which is our commitment as a company to be more inclusive, which encapsulates what I'm doing here at Alienware.
I'm not only a female leading the Alienware business globally, but we have a lot of female leaders and female team members internally who're committed to make sure that we have these conversations, making sure that we bring different perspectives into our conversations - not just about female ones. With our Good in Games initiative with Team Liquid, we offer talented young gamers mentorships, scholarships and internships.
Our Alienware Arena Community is obviously a global community, which is completely managed by an all-women team. Among other things, they really focus on making sure the online gaming environment is not toxic, that it doesn't make anybody feel uncomfortable regardless of their skill level. It's an effort to make gaming feel more welcoming for all kinds of gamers.
Specifically in India, we partnered with Ankit Panth from Team Brutality to host virtual gaming masterclasses. We put together these masterclasses to allow college students to see the potential, the possibilities for those who want to develop a career in the field of gaming - not necessarily as gamers themselves, but they can be part of the infrastructure that supports gaming. So the opportunities are out there and we take this responsibility very seriously - to not only move the conversation forward, but to offer an inclusive platform for anybody who wants to join the journey.
Q) How are you and Alienware helping move the gaming industry forward?
We need to continue to move forward. In many ways gaming hardware defies some of the laws of physics through our patented designs in order to push the boundaries of what's possible, and those kinds of things as an industry we need to continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.
I have no doubt in my mind that gaming needs to be more inclusive. Females account for more than 40% of the gaming population, and we need to continue to find ways to increase that number. Not just limited to women gamers, but more females need to play different roles in the industry to move gaming forward.
In order for gaming to thrive and not become a place where you try a couple of times and lose interest, get harassed due to your skill levels or suffer from a poor experience, gaming needs to become a much more connected social experience.