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the girl geeks opening up the gaming industry for women

by Emily Naismith

frankie was a guest of MSI at the Las Vegas-based CES conference, where they announced a new suite of gaming laptops – and that got us thinking about games a whole bunch more.

The gaming industry isn’t known for being super-inclusive towards women, unfortunately. But there’s a league of ladies looking to change that. Girl Geek Academy was started by an all-girl gang who are making it their business for women to feel included and encouraged in the often male-dominated technology and internet industries. We spoke to co-founder Lisy Kane about what it’s like being a lady in the gaming industry, and how Girl Geek Academy is opening the doors to other female-identifying folk who love playing and making games.

lisy kane GGA

Hi Lisy! Tell us a bit about what you do game-wise. My day job is at a game-making studio in Melbourne called League of Geeks, where I am a lead producer. My other job is being co-founder for a company called Girl Geek Academy. It’s a social-good company, trying to solve the pipeline of getting more women and girls into tech, using the internet and starting their own businesses. Given my experience in games, I manage a lot of Girl Geek Academy’s games portfolio.

Why did you start Girl Geek Academy? Traditionally, there’s a majority of men in gaming and tech. When we’d attend gaming events like game-jams or hackathons, we were in the minority. We went to these events and thought they weren’t really for us; we didn’t enjoy them, so we wanted to create our own. We started off running a one-off event called She Hacks, and more than 100 people attended the first event. That’s when we realised these events were the first of their kind – there were no other hackathons for women.

Why do you think it’s important to run women-only events for gaming and tech? It’s just good to have options. The events we run are very different to a traditional hackathon or game-jam. We consider things like childcare and mindfulness. A traditional hackathon usually requires people to sleep overnight. That’s something we don’t want, or believe is effective, so we make sure everyone goes home and sleeps. We make sure there are healthy food options available. It’s just what we like to see! We basically just run events we’d like to attend.

What happens at She Hacks? Do you actually make a game? Basically, the objective of the game-jam is to get together and meet new people – that’s a very big value of our company. And yes, you’re creating a game from scratch, in teams. It’s only over two days, so you have to set yourself the goal of making a really small demo of what this game could be. It’s not to finish the game; it’s not to make the game pretty. It’s just to come up with a potential idea that if you wanted to continue making, you could!

she hacks frankie

Do you face any resistance from the male-dominated gaming community, and if so, how do you combat that or rise above it? Any industry that’s prevalent on the internet unfortunately gets the classic trolls and hateful internet comments. Personally, I have to be really resilient with this stuff. There are some moments where it’s really awful, but I have a very close network of friends as a support group, including the Girl Geek crew. My boss at League of Geeks is a very mindful leader; he talks openly a lot about mental health in the workplace and he’s also very aware of the amount of scrutiny I get online because of my activism, and also being a woman in games – you immediately become a target, for some reason. Therapy is also very important – that’s one of the most useful things I’ve learnt over the years.

What drew you to gaming in the first place? I’ve always been a problem solver and a tinkerer. I’ve always liked the outdoors, too, but as soon as I got a computer as a young kid I was like, “This is something very special,” and it opened up all these different worlds. But I didn’t know games were an option as a career until much later on, when I was in my early 20s.

Do you have to know how to code to come to a Girl Geek Academy event? Hell no! When you sign up for a hackathon or a game-jam we get you to think about what your skills are, and we put you into one of three categories to make teams. We have a ‘hacker’ which is obviously a programmer; a ‘hustler’, which is someone who can think about marketing, branding and production; and then we also have a ‘hipster’, so an artist, designer or audio person. At our game-jam last year, we had a lot of people bring in musical instruments and computers, and we started recording music for the games. It was awesome to see thinking outside the box because that’s an important part of the industry.

What’s your all-time favourite game? The Mass Effect series and The Sims series are really important to me because they were the first games that really made me think about making games. More recently, probably Dota 2 because I’m a big social gamer. I love playing games because it means I’m hanging out with my friends. When people say, “You’re just playing in your basement,” I’m like, “Yeah, but I’m actually also socialising with a bunch of people at the same time!” People forget about that side.

Check out the Girl Geek Academy website here to find out more about future events.

 

The frankie team has had games on our mind since we were invited to the Las Vegas-based CES conference by MSI. They announced a new suite of gaming laptops with the latest NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ graphics so your games look the best they possibly can. Check out the new 17.3" GS75 Stealth and the GS65 Stealth, the 15.6" variant with powerful performance and ultra-portable design, which was awarded the CES Innovation Award.

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