How many teenage girls dream of a career in the gaming industry? I certainly didn’t. Growing up in the 1990s, gaming felt like a male domain – with no place for women beyond busty avatars and princesses in need of rescue.
But times are changing. Yesterday, leading women in the UK games industry visited girls from Skinners Academy in Hackney, London in the hope of encouraging them to pursue careers in gaming.
Women representing every part of the industry, from games producers to graphic designers, explained the various opportunities available and helped students to understand how they can fit into gaming.
“Many girls don’t realise that their interests are connected to the industry,” said Elizabeth Mercuri, an MSc student and one of the mentors at yesterday’s event. “For example, some of the students I spoke to were interested in design, but had no idea that this could translate to a job in gaming.”
Mercuri suggests that a lack of parental encouragement to seek a career in gaming and a lack of confidence in their own abilities are also obstacles for girls.
“Girls are used to the interpretation that games are for guys and they just accept this,” she says. “It’s a stereotype that seems so hard to break.”
To help overcome these misconceptions, mentors at yesterday’s event gave feedback on students’ own game ideas, which can be entered into the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition.
The competition, which is open to 10-18 year-olds, asks students to design and make their own game with the help of a dedicated BAFTA Young Game Designers website and video tutorials.
There might be a long way to go before equality is achieved in the gaming industry as a whole, but providing visible female role models is a first step towards lasting change.
“Exposure is the key,” Mercuri says. “Through exposing that there are women in the industry and exposing how many different careers are available, we can start to make the whole industry more diverse.”
The winners of the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition will be announced at an awards ceremony in July – and hopefully, young women will be amongst them.
To find out more about how your school can take part in the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition, visit the competition website