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n a three-storey industrial brick building on Richmond Street, Cecily Carver and Jennie Faber prepare a room filled with glossy red tables and black chairs for the day. Here, there will be social functions and speaker specials, guidance through mentoring and collaborative work sessions—everything needed to create the ideal environment for tech-savvy women to engage in handson technical projects. During the day, workshops and events bring together a diverse blend of women – from beginners to seasoned designers and developers. Welcome to the fascinating world of female gamemaking. These women are celebrating technological creativity through the playing, making and changing of games, all thanks to Toronto non-profit feminist organization Dames Making Games (DMG). DMG, headed by Carver and Faber, is dedicated to supporting women interested in making video games. Carver, a software and web developer, started the organization after her involvement in Difference Engine Initiative in 2011, a program run by the Hand Eye Society and TIFF Nexus, which took a small group of women and walked them through the process of creating a video game. That rewarding

experience inspired her to team up with web developer Faber to create DMG, which was originally just a place for women interested in technological projects. One of these women is Kara Stone, a master’s student in the communication and culture joint graduate program at York and Ryerson universities. She says seeing and becoming a part of the community of DMG gave her a safe space, where, as a woman, she didn’t feel like she didn’t belong or have to prove herself as a “real gamer.” “DMG really helped me to study video games in graduate school. I was interested but not ready to make that step,” says Stone. DMG facilitated the creation of her first computer game, MedicationMeditation, and gave her the skills and confidence needed to continue making games as an artistic hobby. “Even the academic game world is very white, hetero, man-centric and I know women critiquing games from a feminist perspective can come against intense criticism.” However, the group grew quickly. As of recently, DMG has hosted 18 speaker socials with 60 speakers in total, three tech jams for members Photos courtesy of Dames Making Games

features and 15 workshops. A total of 30 women have made their first games through the DMG programs. DMG aims to break gender roles in the video game industry, offering a community for women and others who may not have a proper environment—an opportunity to discover their technological talents. In the past, the organization has invited individuals of any gender, religion, nationality and sexual orientation to join their community since the organization was founded two years ago. Henry Faber, the founder of web application and business development company called The Bento Box, has been a volunteer at DMG since the organization launched its first program back in January 2012. Naming King’s Quest and Space Quest developer Roberta Williams as a prime example, Faber says history reveals that some of the most successful game makers in the 1970s and 1980s were women. But the shockingly low statistic of less than 25 per cent of tech sector workers being female reveals that women haven’t always had the opportunity or proper environment to become involved in technology. Faber believes that more of these talented individuals are somewhere out there— and more could and should be done to embrace them. “Our goal is to make this place as inclusive and welcoming as possible,” says Faber. “My main social circle now includes talented lesbian game makers. Before two years ago, I didn’t know about them.” In the future, DMG hopes to bring more people on board and increase their number of running programs and workshops. The organization is committed to seeing its members go on to greater success, getting its participants past the point of making their first game and seeing them succeed at their dream projects. “We’re really proud to see so many women creating their first games as a direct result of our programs,” says Carver. “I think our speaker socials demonstrate that there are tons of women in this city doing really interesting work in games.”

McClung’s Winter 2014

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Winter 2014