CHANGE THE CODE (IT’S ONLY BEEN 3,000 YEARS)

By Anne Edgar - The Girls Level Up digital documentary project
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If you played Assassin’s Creed, Minecraft, Candy Crush, Monument Valley, Fortnite, or any other video game in the last year, you are among the estimated 2.1 billion people around the world who also play video games. Almost half of those players are female, but less than 20% of the people who have a creative voice in games–designers, writers, programmers, and artists– are women.Classicist Mary Beard says Western culture has a long tradition of telling women to shut up, going back nearly 3,000 years to The Odyssey when Telemachus scolds Penelope for trying to express herself publicly:

“Mother, go back up into your quarters, and take up your own work, the loom and the distaff. Speech will be the business of men, all men…”

The good news is: times have changed, and are continuing to change. And if you are a girl, teacher, or dude who is cool working with girls on this year’s Games For Change Student Challenge (which is every Games For Change dude, right?) you are a part of making video games the business of all people.

Here’s a way to help things along even more: if you’re a girl, tell lots of people—especially little kids—about how you’re making a video game. Don’t worry about being braggy. Don’t worry that your game’s not perfect. And if you’re a teacher or a reasonably decent guy, encourage the girls you’re working with to work loud. This is about making video game development feel possible to girls who haven’t tried it yet; it’s about changing that Telemachus code still running in the background of our culture.

Which brings me to the GIRLS LEVEL UP digital documentary project and our ASK A DEVELOPER video series. We’ve made a few videos so far, and regardless of your gender, if you’re interested in what goes into making a good video game you should check them out. They cover a range of topics including level design, writing, programming, sound/music, and game mechanics, explained by brilliant women using examples from critically acclaimed games they’ve worked on, like Uncharted 4, Little Big Planet, Minecraft: Story Mode, Journey, and upcoming titles Psychonauts 2, Dreams, and Concrete Genie. Plus, the winner of last year’s Games For Change Student Challenge in Pittsburgh – Kendall C. – and Naomi M. (a Los Angeles finalist), appear in two of the videos.

         

Even if your game is super basic, a lot of the same principles that go into making those games will apply to yours.

If you are a girl and are interested in participating in GIRLS LEVEL UP, fill out this form and ask us a question you have about making games. We’ll do our best to get your question answered by a professional game developer, and you might be selected to be featured in an upcoming Girls Level Up video.

The developers and kids we’ve interviewed say there’s nothing like that feeling you get when someone plays a game you’ve made. I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year!