Girl Force mentors: Getting young women into the video game industry

Haley
Haley Ritchie
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It’s go time for a group of Ottawa video game professionals aiming to get teen girls involved in the industry.

From left: Jillian Mood, Lindsay Blenkhorn and Jason Nuyens are three Ottawa video game pros that want to mentor young women interested in gaming.

The group launched tech non-profit “Girl Force” this weekend and are planning free game development classes, networking meet-ups and insider presentations to encourage would-be game makers.

“There’s been a lot of press about women not being in the industry, but we thought we should be doing something to help with that,” said founder Jillian Mood, who works for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and has been in the industry for five years.

Ms. Mood said being at the heart of the industry made clear the challenges women face working in a sector that is still very male-dominated.

In 2014, the IGDA found that 76 per cent of the gaming industry workforce was male. Further research from Harvard showed that of the women working in the industry, 56 per cent leave by midcareer.

Women play games – 48 per cent of gamers are women, whether on their smartphone or at home on consoles – but they also want to make their own.

“A lot of people have that interest, but they might be intimidated thinking about programming and developing,” Ms. Mood said. “Our goal is if you have the interest we’ll give you the tools and the space to learn more.”

Similar teaching programs already exist in Montreal and Toronto, but she said the group is excited to launch in Ottawa because of the city’s own booming game industry.

The group is still deciding on exact times for the classes, but the plan is to start offering volunteer-led evening classes in the spring. While the program is aimed at girls aged 15 and 16 before they pick their career path, there’s no age limit to getting involved.

“We want to be really inclusive,” said Ms. Mood. “If people reach out, we don’t want to turn them away.”

Organizations: International Game Developers Association, Harvard

Geographic location: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa

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