Growing up, I was exposed through games by my brothers. The first console we ever owned was a PlayStation, with the addition of a multiplayer adapter after many fights over whose turn it was with the controller. The three of us would play a lot of Crash Team Racing and Spyro, but as the years passed I would resign myself to mostly watching from the sidelines. When we became teenagers and were gifted an Xbox 360, I barely engaged with it.
It’s not like I lost interest in playing games, but I found it more enjoyable to watch my brothers play through titles that I knew I would never play at my own discretion. I was in this position for a few years, opting to watch as opposed to play. Eventually after graduating high school and fumbling around wondering what career path to take, I decided to play a game by myself to alleviate the anxiety of college.
Then after some careful consideration and a few more years of avoiding the question of “what do I want to do with my life?”, I realized that I wanted to make games. But where do I start? I was 20 and had no clue.
If I were a lot younger I could have enrolled for a summer program at Girls Make Games, run by the educational company LearnDistrict based in San Jose. There are multiple ways that Girls Make Games encourages young girls to see themselves as game designers or feel more confident in joining STEM fields. For example, they hold summer workshops that span the course of 2 weeks where girls will break off into teams with a mentor who will guide them into making a working prototype of a game that they’ll show off. Over the past year, more workshops have been popping up in cities, offering girls who are interested in game design a chance to work in a positive environment with other like-minded kids.
More recently, Girls Make Games ran a workshop at the White House during Computer Science Education Week–the first meeting of its kind! CSEd week is an annual program that encourages inspiring students to take interest in computer science. A group of 20 girls (with 8 being GMG alumni) and instructors were able to make a prototype and learn computer science concepts by the end of the day. I’m sure that this experience must have been a great motivator for those girls, and I really do hope they carry this enthusiasm back to their communities and continue coding and creating.
It’s awesome that there’s an opportunity for young girls to get a jump start, but what about young adult women who want to learn to make their own games? Luckily, there are programs like GMG intended for women interested in computer science and game design. For example there’s Code Liberation in New York, which runs workshops, game jams, multi-week classes, and social game nights. If you’re too far away to attend an event, the website has slides and resources from their classes available online so that it’s accessible to women everywhere. Then there’s Dames Making Games and Pixelles over in Canada that serve the same mission: create an accessible place for women to learn how to create games and program.
What if you’re looking for something more local? While you could just Google “how to make games”, there’s an overload of information just waiting to greet you. It can be hard to figure out where to start–I struggled with that a lot. It’s intimidating! As someone who prefers learning by doing, events like workshops are a perfect way to meet other women and hone your skills and learn new concepts. You could join the IGDA and find a chapter near your city to get started and socialize with other game designers. I’m fortunate in that I found a college program that could kickstart learning about game design, but it’s incredibly comforting and inspiring to know that these resources are available to women and girls.
If you could make any kind of game you wanted, what would you create? Let me know in the comments!