‘You code like a girl’

NIU to offer ‘Just for Girls’ game development summer camps
to help underrepresented gender gain experience with new technology

Video games are becoming increasingly popular with girls and women.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, “Forty-two percent of all players are women, and women over 18 years of age are one of the industry’s fastest growing demographics.”

With such a high ratio of female players, one would expect more and more women to pursue careers in game development and the high salaries that come with them.

According to “Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2010 Report,” the “average salary for direct employees is $90,000.”

Women, however, are dramatically underrepresented in game development. Recent studies show that only about 4 percent of video game developers are women.

NIU’s Digital Convergence Lab is hoping to change that with their summer games camp, “Just for Girls.”

The camp is designed to teach girls entering fifth- through 10th-grade, the basic concepts of game design and help them gain confidence in their ability to work with technology. Sessions will run Monday through Thursday the weeks of June 18 and June 25.

During Week 1, students will explore popular video games, meet women who develop games and begin developing characters, stories and goals for their own games. During Week 2, girls will learn about virtual worlds, build avatars and other objects in 3D environments, and create their own virtual communities.

The cost for participation in this program is $160 per week. Students can sign up for one or both weeks because each week covers different content.

Aline Click

Aline Click

Aline Click, co-director of the DCL, will lead the “Just for Girls” camps. Click’s doctoral research focuses on the ways girls gain confidence with technology. She says that girls seem to avoid technology careers because they lack confidence in their ability to learn science and math and they don’t often see female role-models in these fields.

“Last year, we held a two-day games camp with girls from Enhancing Engineering Pathways, a program for girls offered by the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, and noticed how much more engaged the girls were in an all-girl classroom in comparison to our co-ed camps,” Click says. She is excited to expand that idea into week-long camps where girls have the opportunity to dig deeper into coding and game development concepts in a supportive and challenging environment.

The “Just for Girls” camp also focuses on career paths for women in technology. “We will provide presentations and interviews with women in the game industry, so that girls can identify with role models, and be inspired,” Click says.

According to Click’s research, girls also see careers in technology as more solitary and less creative than some traditionally female careers. Her camps focus on character development and storytelling in games that allows students work together and exercise their creativity.

“As someone with a bachelor’s of fine art in electronic media, I have always seen a nice blend between the arts and the sciences,” Click says. “I feel our games and virtual world camps offer a fun way to help kids see that science and math can also be fun and creative.”

Click says that she sees the “Just for Girls” camp as a way to introduce girls to a variety of careers in technology. “We hope that by the end of this camp, girls will be able to see themselves as not only game developers, but also computer application developers and graphic artist.”

More information and registration for DCL’s “Just for Girls” camp are available online or by  contacting Click at aclick@niu.edu or (815) 753-0673.

Information on the DCL’s co-ed games camps also is available online.

by Gillian King-Cargile

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