Alexa Cafe and Code Like a Girl teach girls the basics of game design and encourage interest in technology so they can create games and help to diversify the heavily male-dominated gaming industry.
Even though many girls love playing video and computer games, the subject matter and design of popular games almost always aim for the interests of a male audience. Part of that lies in who makes the games. Women made up only 11 percent of computer game designers in 2013, and just three percent of programmers.
“We’re trying to create that environment to say, hey, you could be the world’s best coder,” said Code Like a Girl instructor Claudia Ortiz. “It doesn’t have to be … a male. It can be you.”
Girls attending the camps say they find the atmosphere more collaborative and supportive than when they study similar topics in school. Eleven-year-old Kendall McDermott said boys in her class often assume girls cannot code.
“At school, there’s always been a little bit of an issue when we do robotics unit. They think they are the only ones capable of coding and doing the work,” she said. “So, often, it becomes a lot harder to do any of the work, or when you bounce an idea off someone, they’re more like, no, my idea is right.”
By contrast, Kendall says the camps are more collaborative. “You ask someone for an idea and they are very, oh, here, let me help you,” she said.
Kendall said she tends to face discrimination from male players while playing games online. She chooses to play as a “he” in order to avoid the rude comments and harassment that girls often hear.
By having more girls in the coding field, the content of the games they design will likely change, says ten-year-old Scarlett Thompson. “I think girls will make it more friendly and more visual and happy, instead of, like, just gun games and dark and gloomy and scary,” she said.
Warm up questions for your students:
What are some video games that you like to play?
Who designs video games?
Are video games geared more towards boys than girls? Explain.
Critical thinking questions
Why does it matter if there are more male programmers than female?
How will teaching girls to code diversify the gaming industry?
What should be done to address the harassment female gamers sometimes experience online?