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Photo by Livia Belcea.

Girl Force to increase gender equality in video game production

By Livia Belcea on February 11, 2016

Move over guys, Girl Force is taking over Ottawa, one game at a time!

Lindsay Blenkhorn is a Senior Producer at Fuel Industries. She has been in her role for four and a half years, and oversees the production of projects such as games, mobile apps and websites. She has worked on producing games and content for brands like Warner Bros. and Mattel, to name a few.

Lindsay holds a degree in computer science, and got involved in making games when she combined her love of programming with her love of sports, and got hired as a developer for EA titles. She fell in love with the industry and has been involved ever since. Last fall, Girl Force contacted her to ask if she would be interested in becoming a mentor. Without hesitation, she seized the opportunity.

Apt613 caught up with Lindsay and got the scoop on this great new organization.

Apt613: Girl Force launched last month. What is it all about? 

Lindsay Blenkhorn: Girl Force is a volunteer-run community for women and non-binary folks that helps them develop the skill set necessary to thrive in the gaming industry. We offer the tools and resources required for them to learn from like minded mentors and peers. Girl Force also offers networking and mentoring in regards to career paths and is a community where people who want to become mentors can connect with each other.

How does it work? What does Girl Force offer?

LB: People who are interested in game development can apply for classes through our website, or receive more information by signing up for our newsletter and checking out our Facebook page and Twitter feed. All mentors are established professionals in the game and tech industry, and our classes are offered at no cost, at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority offices at Lansdowne.

What will people learn in the classes?

LB: The classes mimic the total game development cycle: game ideas, coding, design, art and testing. The goal is that by the end of the course, you’ll have made a game.

Wow, making a game is pretty cool. But don’t you need experience in order to make it?

LB: You don’t necessarily need experience but you need to be committed. We ask class applicants to be honest when applying. We try to build our classes so that people with similar experience are paired together. Based on your skill set and interests, you can also decide to concentrate on one area of game development and build the game with your peers.

What if you have different learning styles than your peers? 

LB: We don’t want to limit the way you learn. Our mentors will offer you as much insight and instruction as you need. The classes are instructional with open working time during which mentors are available. You can work with others, or your own.

The classes are what you offer, but how was Girl Force founded and why? 

LB: Jason, a game developer, founded Girl Force. He recognized the opportunity and the need for an organization like this one. It’s a known fact that the gaming industry is a male dominated field, but we’re not totally sure why. We’re trying to get past some of the potential blockers. Getting a program designed for women by women breaks down barriers.

Why is it so important for women and non-binary folks to be represented within the gaming and tech industry? 

LB: ​Gender equality is on everyone’s radar and it’s important. We’re trying to bring equality in a male dominated field. So many women and non-binary folks play games, but the feedback we’re getting is that the games aren’t really designed with them in mind. We want to empower them with the tools for them to build the games they want, which will also bring a different perspective to the industry. We want to offer comfortable spaces to facilitate learning. There are similar programs in other cities that work, so let’s do it in Ottawa.

Right on! What can we expect from Girl Force this spring?

LB: Our first season of class starts on April 4. We’ll be hosting a meet and greet at the end of the month for parents, teachers, students, mentors and anyone interested in Girl Force to come out and see what we’re all about (Monday, March 7 from 5-7pm at CIRA , 979 Bank St. suite 400). Our outreach co-ordinator, Jillian, is out in the community and in the schools spreading the word about Girl Force. We’re also working on a blog, and on offering more classes. You’ll be able to catch us at Community events, and we’re welcoming sponsorship opportunities as well.

How can someone get in touch with Girl Force? 

LB: The best way is through the contact form on our website. You can also reach us on Facebook or Tweet at us.

If you had to share one piece of advice with anyone looking to launch a career in the gaming and tech industry, what would it be? 

LB: Don’t be intimidated or discouraged, but work really hard because there are lots of opportunities. Even with our program, you’ll get out of it what you’ll put into it.

Applications are now open for Girl Force’s 2016 spring program, which will be held on Monday nights April 4th – June 13th. The deadline for applications is March 7th, 2016. They’ll be holding a meet and greet for anyone interested in the program Monday, March 7 from 5-7pm at CIRA , 979 Bank St. suite 400. For more information, see Girl Force’s website, Facebook, or Twitter.