At the Bay Area Maker Faire in 2018, we were able to talk to Laila, the founder of Girls Make Games. Laila wanted to create a space where girls didn’t feel alone in the gaming world so she developed an organization for girls ages 8-17, where they can collaborate and learn how to make games for themselves. The girls learn how to code, design, and plan out games while also managing other portions of game development such as funding, sponsorship, and community outreach. Here's the transcript of our chat with her:
Laila: This concept of, "Hey, if you like playing games or if you like telling stories or you like drawing, video games is the career path that's open for you." And it's viable and it's growing. The industry is growing like crazy, so we need more girls. We run summer camps and workshops for girls ages 8 to 17. And we teach them video game design programming or everything that goes into making a game in a team setting. So in the end of camp, they have a fully functional game.
Nichole: Awesome. That's way cool. So what kind of areas of game making are you guys interested in? What do you guys teach? What specific subject?
Laila: It's everything. Like I said we start with game design. So they come in with all these great ideas, but they don't know how to translate that into a game. So we teach them what game design is, what mechanics are and how you can translate a story into something interactive and playable. So we teach them a software called Stencil. If you're younger and you don't have coding experience and if you have some coding experience or you want to learn, we teach you how to work in Unity. Workshops are in about 44 cities worldwide and our summer camps are in the US, Australia and Canada.
Nichole: What's your favorite part about Girls Make Games?
Laila: Just watching the girls go from "I don't know how to do this" or "I don't know if I'm gonna be able to do it" and at the end feeling that pride in a product that they make and the joy of sharing it with their families. They feel really empowered and really validated and who they are. I think a lot of girls that come to camp have had to fight a lot of stereotypes. And if they like games it's because their dad plays them or their brother plays them or they'll say things like, "You know, all of my friends that play games are boys" but then they come to camp and then it's 100% girls and they're really surprised by that because when they look around they're like, "Oh, I'm not the only girl, I'm not weird. There are other people like me." So I think providing that safe space for them and providing that community and love and support. That was really the mission behind Girls Make Games.
When I started doing this and it's still true quite a bit, I don't play a lot of games. So I don't come from the background of feeling the way these girls did but when I ran the camps and I met them, my purpose behind this was to give them confidence and to introduce them to coding. But then all these other things that came out of it and that just sort of solidified the mission behind the organization.
Nichole: That's so awesome. I love the whole thing. That mission, the introducing them to the coding and everything like that. What are your future goals? Like what are you trying to kind of branch out and do in the future?
Laila: Absolutely, so you can imagine we're a small organization. There's only four of us and we are needed everywhere. So we're taking all of the curriculum that we've developed and producing tutorials and videos and a whole lot of fun things and putting it up on the Girls Make Games website and we're calling it the Girls Make Games Portal. Portal because when you entered, it's like a whole new world where you can learn anything and everything that goes into making a game. And you can meet other girls that are doing the same thing anywhere in the world. So that's a project i'm very passionate about right now and we're working on it. We're also, you know, launching a few partnerships where we do game design contests. So you can just write in a game idea and send it to Google, it was in partnership with Google so it's ongoing right now. And if they like your idea, the top-five girls will be flown out to L.A. for like this game developers party, yeah. So we're just trying to get the conversation going and getting this concept of "Hey, if you can, if you like playing games or if you like telling stories or you like drawing, video games is the career path that's open for you. And it's viable and it's growing. The industry is growing like crazy. So we need more girls.