<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The cycle of young girls playing video games often follows a similar arc: they start playing when they’re younger, then drop off as they get older, and by the time they’re adults, they’ve almost forgotten about the fun they had when they were younger.” data-reactid=”5″>The cycle of young girls playing video games often follows a similar arc: they start playing when they’re younger, then drop off as they get older, and by the time they’re adults, they’ve almost forgotten about the fun they had when they were younger.

This is what happened to Laila Shabir, who even though she loved sneaking out to arcades with her sister in the United Arab Emirates when she was growing up, had forgotten all about gaming until she moved to the US to study at MIT and met her husband.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“He was a pretty serious gamer and loved both making and playing games,” she tells the Standard. “He opened my eyes to this new way of influencing kids and changing perceptions through entertainment. And one of the best ways to do that is through video games.”” data-reactid=”7″>“He was a pretty serious gamer and loved both making and playing games,” she tells the Standard. “He opened my eyes to this new way of influencing kids and changing perceptions through entertainment. And one of the best ways to do that is through video games.”

Together they started LearnDistrict, a games studio focusing on educational games for children. And this is where they ran into their first barrier: it was really hard to recruit women.

Laila Shabir (Girls Make Games )

“When we were recruiting, the applications we got were 90 per cent men and 10 per cent women. That was really shocking,” says Shabir. “I was head of the studio and I figured if women saw that this was a studio run by a woman that they would want to come to work here.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This makes sense: according to TIGA, the UK games industry trade body, only around 14 per cent of the gaming workforce are female. But there’s no reason why the explanations Shabir was givengirls don’t like games, they don’t play them, they’re not interested in themshould hold true when she knew that wasn’t the case. “It was heartbreaking,” she adds.” data-reactid=”21″>This makes sense: according to TIGA, the UK games industry trade body, only around 14 per cent of the gaming workforce are female. But there’s no reason why the explanations Shabir was givengirls don’t like games, they don’t play them, they’re not interested in themshould hold true when she knew that wasn’t the case. “It was heartbreaking,” she adds.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Not one to sit around and complain, she decided to do something about it. In 2014, Shabir and her husband set up Girls Make Games, an organisation to get girls aged 10-14 into games design and creation to improve the pipeline issues they were seeing.” data-reactid=”22″>Not one to sit around and complain, she decided to do something about it. In 2014, Shabir and her husband set up Girls Make Games, an organisation to get girls aged 10-14 into games design and creation to improve the pipeline issues they were seeing.

At first, it was only going to be one summer camp in San Francisco’s Bay Area but by the third day, they were receiving emails from places including Boston and London, asking them to run similar events there.

“It seemed like there were girls who wanted to do it but they just didn’t have a place where they could go and be themselves and express themselves,” says Shabir.

Next stop: London

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Now, Girls Make Games runs 10 summer camps across the US, and is hoping to add London to the mix. The organisation recently held some free workshops at PlayStation’s London HQ and games studio Media Molecule’s Guilford office, teaching 80 girls how to make games.” data-reactid=”26″>Now, Girls Make Games runs 10 summer camps across the US, and is hoping to add London to the mix. The organisation recently held some free workshops at PlayStation’s London HQ and games studio Media Molecule’s Guilford office, teaching 80 girls how to make games.

PlayStation is one of Girls Make Games’ partners, alongside the likes of Google Play and Xbox, which is why it can offer the workshops free of charge.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Michael Denny, senior VP of Sony Interactive, told the Standard: “Laila and Girls Make Games’ goal is profound and speaks to the very core of what PlayStation stands for – to make gaming for everyone. Our industry is growing exponentially and to continue its momentum, we want to help foster the next generation of great game developers by encouraging their passion and creativity.”” data-reactid=”28″>Michael Denny, senior VP of Sony Interactive, told the Standard: “Laila and Girls Make Games’ goal is profound and speaks to the very core of what PlayStation stands for – to make gaming for everyone. Our industry is growing exponentially and to continue its momentum, we want to help foster the next generation of great game developers by encouraging their passion and creativity.”

During the UK workshops, the girls were creating levels in Media Molecule’s next big release, a game called Dreams. Similar to the likes of Xbox’s Minecraft, Dreams allows you to create and build dream worlds inside the game, without having to know a line of code.

The girls designed their own levels in Dreams, Media Molecule’s new game (Girls Make Games )

“I’ve never seen the ability to do so many things within one space. Even when you have all these game development tools on a computer, you have a thing that codes a game for you, another software that does art, a third software that does music.

“In Dreams, it’s all in one place. It’s mind-blowing.”

Shabir says it was amazing to see the girls getting to work straight away on building their own levels.

“Usually when you start something new there’s a lot of inhibition and a big learning curve, but with Dreams, they were immediately energised and inspired and wanted to keep going,” she says.

What’s next for Girls Make Games?

Already in the past five years since that first summer camp, Shabir has seen the impact the organisation has made with young women who took part in the summer camps applying to work at her gaming studio. But, there is still a lot of work to do.

She says she is often asked by the girls how to turn making games into a career, and how can they convince their parents that this is what they want to do. That’s why the team is currently developing a Portal on the Girls Make Games website filled with resources about gaming careers for parents and teachers.

“If you know kids that want to make games this [will be] a place you can go for tutorials. But, also you can learn about colleges that offer these courses, scholarship information and different careers.

“We don’t have enough exposure about this being a career but we’re working on that.”

Ultimately, Shabir says she wants to make Girls Make Games obsolete. “It’s a funny thing to say but that would be a great time – like why do you need Girls Make Games, girls are already making games,” she laughs.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="For more information about the organisation, visit GirlsMakeGames.com” data-reactid=”55″>For more information about the organisation, visit GirlsMakeGames.com

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