Grrrl Games Spring Jam

Spring time; bouncing lambs, daffodils, sunshine and the perfect time to smash the patriarchy. Whilst our Spring Jam lacked lambs, we did have a room full of women (trans-inclusive) making games in less than 24 hours.

Supported by UWE Bristol’s Computer Science Creative Technologies department and held at the new steampunk-esque Foundry space – we welcomed absolute beginners and games-curious to come along and have a go at designing and making a game in a fun and friendly atmosphere.

Tend + Befriend

Our theme was inspired by Brie Code’s keynote at last years European Women in Games conference. She spoke about our responses to stress, referencing research that says rather than ‘fight or flight’, most women (and many men) instead respond with ‘tend and befriend’: “Like much other research, most stress research had been done with men and male animals. Prior to 1995, only 17% of stress research had been done with women.” – you can read more about this from Brie here.

 

Food!

We were also lucky enough to get sponsored by BJSS Bristol – we struck a good balance between healthy snacks and yummy yummy pizza.

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A crèche!

When we said we wanted a creche, Jane Berry (acting head of UWE’s Computer Science Creative Technologies department) made it happen! Ideally we’d like to run every jam we ever do with a creche, to widen participation as much as possible. If you are reading this and it’s something your company would like to fund, get in touch.

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And of course… Games!

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South of the river

This month we are heading South of The River to meetup in Knowle West Media Centre as part of the Grrrl Games takeover week there.

We’re going to be doing a speed design session so come and tell us what your ideal game would be and we’ll create game design documents to leave in the exhibition space.

If you need lifts then stick a message on the meetup or fb group and we will see what we can do. Feel free bring a friend along – the more women, the merrier

https://www.meetup.com/Grrrl-Games-Bristol-First-Tuesday/events/244078614/

Grrrl Games Jam: What happened

Back at the start of July we held a 1-day Grrrl Games mini jam at the Bristol Games Hub. Focusing on the theme ‘What game would you like to have played when you were 9?’, three teams of women* who had never worked together before, made three games.

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We used a great resource list that’s been put together by Ciro Continisio (GGJ Rome), which includes a ton of generally free tools for games jammers.

So, the games… Considering our teams had just ONE DAY, they created some amazing things – some of which they’re hoping to continue developing!

Clare, Nat & Lauren decided to focus their game on environmental change, using the domes at the Eden Project as inspiration. Wanting lots of exploration and interaction, the player would walk around inside a big sphere with mini-puzzles contained inside. 

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Nat learnt how to use Audacity during the jam and created some awesome music to be used in the game by mashing together fine different tracks. Lauren took charge of the 3D models and Clare built the scenes in Unity.

Anne and Claire got impressively far with their game Tebahpla! – a platformer word maker crossover. Anne coded it using a phaser.js framework, which she’d just started to learn earlier in the week and Claire made some nice pixel art in Piskel.

You can even try out their playable demo on Anne’s website.

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Last, but by no means least, AJ and Gicela made Teeth Rex, which definitely won the award for most impressive title screen.

Centered around a dinosaur who can’t brush his teeth (cause t rex’s arms are too short – GENIUS), Gicela used Game Salad for the first time to start making the game and AJ took charge of 2D pixel art (see more examples of her work here).

 


It was a great day, with some really good outcomes. We hope to run another one in the autumn and are always looking for people or orgs to help support these kind of activities!

At the moment Bristol Games Hub generously let us use their space, but we’d love more options for bigger jams. Other things we need are people and money… Anyone who is able to be on hand to provide to tech support or if you know of any funds to make our events better, please get in touch!

 

*When organising and running Grrrl Games activities, we define ‘women’ as female, transgender and non-binary people who identify as female.

Workshop with Ben Pitt on TextMesh, Ink & Unity – Sign up now!

This Saturday we’re running a free workshop at the Games Hub in Stokes Croft. From 1-4pm, Ben Pitt has kindly offered to take us through some fun things you can do in Unity with text.

You can sign up for free on our Meetup page, but space is limited so please make sure you turn up!

1-2pm TextMesh in Unity
Come with a laptop that has Unity installed. We’ll be looking at how to make text look nice in Unity.

2-4pm Incorporating Ink into Unity. 

For the second part of the session  we will be having a go at taking narrative text adventures built with Ink/Inky (nb that’s your prep pre-workshop) and integrating into Unity.

Inky is the editing tool to write Ink with: http://www.inklestudios.com/ink/

Download Inky first so you can have a play with it before Saturday and prepare something to work with – there are probably samples online but get that sorted before saturday so we don’t all try and download things on the day.

nb I can make myself available on Friday afternoon if anyone wants to have a pre-workshop meetup to do the Ink side of things – I am not at all expert but will be stumbling through it too!

Head over to our Grrrl Games meetup page to sign up for free – space is limited!

Any questions, email Constance via constance@grrrlgames.org

Come to our 1 day Grrrl Games Jam!

What game would you like to have played when you were 9?

Come and make it in ONE DAY at our Grrrl Games Jam in Bristol! We are inviting women, transgender and non-binary people who identify as female to come and make a game for your 9-year-old self.

No background in tech or previous programming experience is needed – we need artists, sound designers, organisers, writers – and of course enthusiasm!  People will be on hand to help out where you need it.

We advise you to bring a brownbag lunch to the jam on Saturday. A small suggested donation of £3 will cover snacks and refreshments, with any money leftover going towards future events!

The event will kick off on Saturday at 10am, although we encourage people to arrive from 9.30am to get settled in the space and meet your fellow jammers. It will finish at 6pm.

Find out more and sign up >>

The importance of representation

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Spot the girl.

I’ve been busy putting together and all-female panel for a talk on virtual reality at the AIDC at the start of March. We decided that pushing for all women was important, as so many talks in this space (and others) are dominated by men. However, even whilst believing this firmly, I have nagging feelings of tokenism even though I know it’s not true. The women we have speaking are at the top of their field and deserve to be there.

With this on my mind, I read a brilliant article from Renee Gittins on her feelings of imposter’s syndrome – never feeling like you quite deserve what you’ve got and you shouldn’t really be there.

Her experiences chime in so directly with my own – having these feelings gently reinforced, often unintentionally, throughout our lives.

An example of this, which sticks with me to this day, is from my time being the only girl at an all boys school. Every time I did well in an exam or a piece of work, the same response always came from one of the boys – “it’s because you’re the only girl”. I know they (most of the time…) didn’t mean any harm, it was a joke, but that’s the problem with casual sexism – it adds up and affects the way you feel about yourself. Even if you don’t realise it at the time.

So, if you do one thing this week, read this article. Renee Gittins on gender-fueled impostor’s syndrome:

There is one issue, one excuse, one justification for my “luck” in my achievements that comes up again and again: I am a woman.

I dislike talking about my gender. Years of participating in online communities and reading anonymous comments about other women and me have made focus on my gender make me feel uneasy. At one point I was bold about it, proudly affirming to my online companions and enemies that, yes. Yes, I am a girl.

Expected reactions ensued, from accusations of “attention-whoring” to proclamations of love. Often there was denial or requests for proof; even sometimes there was almost no reaction at all. At the worst, there was stalking, sexual harassment, and death threats called in to my own personal phone number.

[…]

I am in a constant struggle. My gender gives me both advantages and disadvantages, but I don’t want to be defined by it. I want to tell other women about my struggles, I want to encourage girls and let them know what they can do, but I am stuck between being an advocate for my gender and trying not to be defined by my gender.

>> Read full article

Weekly roundup: Diversity and development in video games

[Mashable] Diversity report card: Video games passed in 2015, but barely

This is article is one of a cool five-part series that Mashable did, examining strides made in 2015 in movies, television, online video, gaming and sports.

Starting with the recently released Pew study that confirmed what we already suspected; 50% of adult men and 48% of adult women — a nearly even amount — play games. It’s great to see the industry taking note of this, with new titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, ReCore, Mirror’s Edge 2 and Lara Croft GO! all featured female leads and more offering playable female characters.

This is great, we are getting somewhere, however real diversity in games still has a way to go. Most of these leads aren’t minorities and the gaming landscape is still predominantly white. Mashable links this issue of representation to the bleak levels of diversity within the mainstream games industry:

Even in 2015, 75% of the games industry is male, and 76% of its members are white, according a 2015 self-selected survey from the International Game Developers Association. Only 9% of the survey’s respondents were East Asian, 7% were Latino and 3% were black.

 >> Read the full report

Severed

[engadget] Developer diversity changes the way video games are made

Leading nicely onto this next piece, which examines in more details the roles of developers when pushing for diversity in games. The author also briefly explores the backlash from players who don’t feel diversity is necessary, speaking to Dr. Kishonna Gray, director of the Critical Gaming Lab at Eastern Kentucky University:

“Those who have always been reflected in any type of media suggest that diversity and accurate representations are unnecessary,” she says. “Those who make these comments have always been catered to. They have diverse stories. They have meaningful representations. They are not reduced to perpetual stereotypes.”

There’s tons more in this piece, including examples of cool games you should be playing, go read it!

>> Read full article

[Al Jazeera] In Pakistan, some gaming studios have made gender equity a priority

This article caught my eye as I was browsing through Twitter, mainly because Pakistan is not often celebrated for its’ gender diversity. Only about 13 percent of the non-agriculture workforce is female.

However some big studios in Pakistan’s rapidly growing gaming industry are challenging this. We R Play Studios have a 42 percent female workforce, 25 percent of Tintash Studios staff are women and CaramelTech Studios in Lahore are on 23 percent.

>> Read full article

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Level Up: A Geek Romance Rom Com

Lastly, not an article but a free (FREE!) book from author Cathy Yardley. The first in a geek romance rom com series, this book (according to a review) hits on everything that the modern nerdy woman could want. 

Go read it!

Happy New Years from Grrrl Games! Here’s some sort of resolutions

It’s 2016! The new year is upon us! It’s time to make a bunch of resolutions we won’t keep!

We’re starting the year with Constance and I on the opposite sides of the world – Constance is still in Bristol, running the amazing Grrrl Games meetups and i’m in Australia working on some exciting virtual reality projects.

But moving on from this geographical mishap, I want to make some sort of resolutions for Grrrl Games:

  1. Write more: This is a blog and it’s woefully unfilled… One post a week from now on, I promise!
  2. Get some answers: We started our 7 (now 8) questions idea a while back and I still – with not a hint of bias –  think it’s great. We’ll be pestering tons more women for answers in 2016 and post them up here in due course.
  3. Organise training: This is not for lack of trying… We spent the latter half of 2015 pushing for some women-only training days/introductory courses in Unity and we’ll keep on pushing in 2016.
  4. Attend more meetups: This is more of a personal one. Meetups are great and although i’ve been to a couple of VR ones in Australia, i’m still often put off by the fact i’m a minority at them. At the first one I went to, there were two other women there (I came with one of them) and it sucks. But not going to them because it feels daunting solves nothing, it just means there’s one less woman there, so back on the bike (or horse? or camel?) and just go.
  5. Read more / share more: Even if I don’t stick to my first resolution, there’s nothing stopping me reading and sharing other peoples’ writing on women in games.

I’ll start here with some good news from the NYTimes ‘Lara Croft Has Company: More Female Heroes Appear in Big-Budget Games‘, this brilliant interview with Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir, senior producer for Starwars Battlefront and lastly rejoice! 2015 was a landmark for women in first-person shooters.

 

8 Questions: Ana Ribeiro

Constance and I came across the awesome Ana Ribeiro at the SouthWest VR conference a couple of months ago. We loved her presentation (which you can see further down this page) so we got in touch with her and asked her to respond to our 7 questions*. 

*You may have noticed that this is now called 8 questions… Following our last meetup, it was suggested we add another asking women how they got into the games industry – it’s not always a straightforward route and we want to show women as many options as possible to develop their own pathways into games.


Gear 1Can you describe what you do?

Game Designer, Developer, Programmer and creator of Pixel Ripped. Not forgetting to mention that I’m pie and sushi maker and a ice cream addict.

What’s your favourite game?

Today I would say Tetris.

Can you remember the first game you played on a computer/console?

Frogger on the Odyssey 2, I can barely remember, I think I was 3 or 4 years old…

What are you working on now?

Developing Pixel Ripped 1989, my first game to be release in the end of the year for Gear VR, and next year on Valve and Oculus Rift platforms.

Who is your favourite game character to play?

Amazon from Diablo II

What inspires and drives you?

Innovation.
I’m always motivated to create and discover new things, especially related to games.

^ Ana’s presentation at South West VR ^

What excites you about the future of games and/or game technology?

I grew up playing games and saw the games industry booming and becoming what it is nowadays – I feel I’m part of this and I want to contribute.

What excites me the most is the growth of this young industry which has so many things to explore.

I use to say I have a crazy scientist inside of me that feels complete when making games, because there is so many things to explore and learn, with all new technology that this industry is generating, which motivates us to push beyond and try to create the unimaginable.

How did you get into making games?
It is a long story, but here it goes… I used to have a different life. I got a degree in Psychology, worked for the Justice Council making divorces for 5 years. Had a “stable” life, what society and family expected you to do. But then inside of me I was burning. So, in a form of escape,  I started to make pies to some how use my creativity to run from this bureaucratic repetitive work.

Then my colleagues really liked them and ask me to bring in more to sell… in a week the whole corridor was buying pies, and then later, the whole building where I used to work. The pies grew up in such a way that I had to contract 2 people to help me make and deliver them.

It became a small business I had – 4 thousand pies a month. Clients started to ask for a shop where they could go and buy the pies.

This is when my life change happened. At the course I did for how to administrate your own business, I discovered something really important that changed my life. 

2 oculs eyesThey questioned us about what we really liked to do as a person and not just about the business. The course was really intense and pushed me to discover myself . For the first time I stopped and ask myself what I really liked to do and not what I should do for money, society or whatever. 

Then it came to my mind this big realisation: What I always had done my whole life, was play video games.

Then I realise that nowadays, I could actually do a course and make games. I decided then to change everything and follow my dream. I got the money I had saved to build the pie shop and sold my car and left that creep job at the Justice Council and travelled to the UK to make games and here I am!

I did one year of Games Programming course at Sae University in London and then I did a masters degree in Games Design & Development at The National Film & Television School (NFTS). Pixel Ripped was my final project at NFTS and I believe my experience administrating the pie business helped me to get this student project so far. 

June meetup: Watch games, 7 Questions & teaching yourself to code

Pokemon meets Final Fantasy in Claire’s text adventure

We had such a good meetup last night – shared projects, discussed some future plans and decided to make a game, it’s all happening!

Developing games for smartwatches

We talked about developing for different platforms and were thinking about how games could work on smart watches.

None of us own one yet, so we weren’t aware of what was out there already and thought it was a fairly niche platform that will potentially not grow into much – here’s a couple of articles on the topic:

Can an Android Wear smartwatch play games, however? Sure it can! Android Wear smartwatches pack powerful processors, sufficient amounts of storage, and enough RAM to handle some light gaming. Although we’re pretty sure that gaming was one of Android Wear engineers’ last priorities…

–> Best games for Android watch

From location-based adventures to digital pets that live on your wrist, Apple’s arrival could enliven the idea of playing games on a smartwatch…

–> Games for Apple watch

Developers talk a lot about play patterns on smartwatches, and particularly the fact that people won’t be squinting at their wrists for long gaming sessions. Or even medium-length ones for that matter.

Virapen talks about “games for playing in a hundred five-second sessions a day” for example, while Petri Järvilehto, chief creative officer for Best Fiends developer Seriously, talks about games existing “in your peripheral vision” throughout the day.

–> Developers on Apple watch games

7 Questions plus 1

Constance and I shared our old idea for 7 Questions – a series of interviews with women from the games industry. It was suggested we add an 8th question about how people get into making games eg was it a course, working for a company, or just building games in your spare time.

The idea is to show women as many options as possible to develop their own pathways into games

On the back of this, we’re very pleased to have the a new set of answers from pie-maker turned awesome indie games developer Ana Ribera! I’ll post these up tomorrow…

Teaching yourself to code

Claire shared her work-in-progress text adventure game she’s making using Microsoft Visual Studios, whilst learning to code in C#.

She’s been following the free tutorials on Channel 9 and has written almost 2000 lines so far, including battle sequences and maps in this Pokemon meets Final Fantasy game.

Going to be great to follow the development and hopefully get a chance to test it over the next few months.

Geek Girl Dinners

Wanted to draw attention to another meetup for women in Bristol – Geek Girl Dinners is a social and networking group for women who are interested in science, technology, engineering and other geeky things.  They run a monthly meetup in Bristol at various locations with food and wine – the next one is yet to be announced, but join the meetup group to keep in the loop.

Next meetup

Next meetup is already in the calendar for July 7th! We’re going to start making something… Not sure what yet, but may borrow a recent Ludum Dare theme ‘Unconventional weapon’. A starting point anyway and more to come soon!