Ten-year-old Naomi Dickson says she has been coding for only a few weeks, but she already has her heart set on pursuing game design as a career.
“I want to create games that involve animals, like a horse-riding game or a taking-care-of-a-dog game,” says Dickson.
She is one of 100 girls from the GTA who are participating in Saturday’s session of Girls Make Games, an international initiative that lets girls design their own video games. The founder and CEO of the program, Laila Shabir, created it to encourage more girls to join STEM-related fields, such as computer science. She wants to see more women join the gaming industry, as the Entertainment Software Association of Canada reports 49% of gamers are female.
“We need to bring that kind of diversity to the creators so that we can represent more of the consumers,” says Shabir, who started the initiative in 2014.
Shabir’s program teaches girls to create a game story line involving a cat, a unicorn, and a girl. Participants are able to customize different parts of their game, including the colour scheme.
Dickson, a Grade 5 student from Mississauga, sees the event as an opportunity to create games she wants to play, as she feels she can’t relate to the video games on the market. “They have machines, war bots… Who’d create cyborgs that want to kill other people? I really don’t get why.”
Parents like Jen Weinberger joined her daughter, Ella, at the event, and says although she doesn’t own a gaming console, she wanted to introduce her daughter to the field. “It’s a really safe environment to get her excited about these kinds of things.”
Girls Make Games will be hosted at the Thomson Reuters Bay Street building until Sunday.