Yesterday, 11 October, was International Day of the Girl Child. I want to celebrate this and share a story about four girls that made a game this summer. Gender inequality is about more than aiming for an equal gender balance in workplaces. How can we have more variations in the storytelling in games? How do we help young girls gain confidence in creative software technologies? I believe that one of the ways to prevent gender inequality is to expose girls to games development at a young age. With inspiration and motivation, we can encourage girls to tell their own stories through computer games.
Game Girl Workshop is a part of this mission. It is an initiative and an NGO that I co-run next to my job as a User Experience Researcher at Unity. In July this year, we ran a Game Girl Workshop in Malmö with four girls in the ages of 8 — 11 years. This was the first time we ran a workshop with a younger group of girls, and as always, it was super inspiring and insightful.
Exploring the creative tools
What I enjoy most about Game Girl Workshop is the process and development that the girls go through. All the girls are introduced to the disciplines of game programming in Unity, game design, graphic design, music and sound design. In the first couple of days, they all get to do hands-on exercises in Unity and build a level. The reason we do this is to make them understand how to build up an interactive game world.
The next step for the girls is to come up with a story that they can turn into a game. In Game Girl Workshop, we do not work with game templates, such as a platformer, puzzle, maze, or shooter game templates. We focus on the stories that the girls come up with themselves and guide them in turning their ideas into game mechanics. Sometimes the girls end up with a game that is partly an interactive story and partly game mechanics. That is totally OK. The aim is not to make a perfect game. It is about exploring the computer game medium and express their own stories through storytelling, sound and graphic art. A big part of participating in a Game Girl Workshop is also about collaboration. Just like in the real world — the girls learn to collaborate and build a prototype of their own ideas that they can show off to the world.
Gustav Vasa — the baby and the seafaring king
At the workshop in July, the girls came up with a game about Gustav Vasa — a Swedish king that ruled Sweden from 1523 — 1560. The game starts with the baby Gustav who has to navigate through the level in a 2D sideways scroller game, eat food so he can grow and avoid the spiky enemies at the same time. If he succeeds, he will grow a beard and sail his ship. If he fails to pick up all the food or if he walks into too many enemies, he will end up with a sinking ship. Download and play the game! Mac version can be downloaded here and Windows version can be downloaded from here.
How to play the game:
Click on “Start” to start the game. Use Left and Right arrows on your keyboard to navigate the player character. To jump, press Space.
Quotes from workshop
“It would be really fun if we could continue working on our game the next couple of weeks! Then we could build the whole game!”
-Laura, 10 years old
“If more people knew about this, I think quite a lot of people would sign up. It was more fun than going to the cinema!”
-Nea, 10 years old
Video interview with Laura and Nea:
Facts about Game Girl Workshop
- Started as an initiative by Andrea Brasch and Nevin Erönde in 2010, as a response to the significant lack of women working in the games industry.
- Game Girl Workshop has been running workshops in Denmark, Dubai, Sweden and West Bank (Palestinian Territories)
- Game Girl Workshop is a crash course in games development, where young girls are inspired to have fun with technology and build computer games based on their own imagination and experiences.
- The workshops are run with only female teachers. All the teachers are working professionally in the games industry (artists, game designers, programmers and music composers)
- It’s a safe space for young girls to explore and experiment with technology on their own terms.
- Software tools we use: Unity, Ableton Live, Audacity and GIMP.
- The team: Andrea Brasch, Brie Code, Ene Esgaard, Jennifer Randazzo, Linda Randazzo and Nevin Erönde.