Heather Payne

Girls and Video Games


Last summer, we ran a week of Girls Learning Code summer camp that focused on game design. Once again hosted by Mozilla, the camp gave 40 girls the chance to collaborate in teams to design and develop their own platformer game using Stencyl. We split the girls into groups based on their age: nine-year-olds worked together, 13-year-olds worked together, etc. With the help of a group of amazing mentors, the girls created some truly awesome games and showed them off at the end of the week at their very own Demo Day.

The fascinating thing? Nothing about any of the games the girls created indicated that they were designed by girls. There was no pink, there were no unicorns or hearts or rainbows. For the most part, an uninformed gamer would have no idea who created the adventure they were enjoying – girls, boys or a mixed group. We had games where pieces of bacon had to avoid being fried, popsicles had to fight fire and collect ice cubes, turtles had to go up against sharks and crabs, and of course, the token celebrity game where Hannah Montana had to avoid the Bieberbots. You can check out all of the games our campers created here.

What does it mean? I’m not sure. After all, our sample size is small. But for adults who interact with girls, it’s worth noting because perhaps our assumptions about girls and what they like  – especially when it comes to games, and maybe even technology – are wrong. My ask to parents, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, and anyone else who interacts with children, is to simply not assume anything. Or assume everything. Assume that your daughter is just as interested in learning how a lawn mower works as your son is. Don’t ever automatically exclude her from that lesson, because it will send totally the wrong message – trust that she’ll let you know if she’s not interested. And at that point, you might want to teach her anyway.

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