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Category Archives: Women in Gaming

Posts about Women in Gaming

Influential Females Character: Alice Liddell

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Alice Liddell is the protagonist of American McGee’s Alice, a game that takes place years after Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. While Alice has been away, Wonderland has become corrupted, or maybe Alice has. Now, she has to return and fight to make things right again. That way, she can save Wonderland and herself.

American McGee’s Alice was created by American McGee and released in 2000. The game is inspired by and takes place in the world of Lewis Carroll’s works, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Thankfully this world lends itself well to the gaming genre.

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Alice has lost everything since her return from Wonderland. Her family and home are gone due to a fire. She even seems to have lost her sanity. At the start of the game, she is being treated in a mental institution called Rutledge Asylum. Alice’s guilt has put her into a catatonic state. The only thing she has from her childhood is a stuffed white rabbit.

Alice is then sucked back into Wonderland by the White Rabbit.  Apparently, Wonderland has been turned into a twisted and macabre version of what it once was under the rule of the Red Queen. With the help of the Cheshire Cat, Alice must bring Wonderland, and possibly her mind, back to rights. She completes tasks and fights her way to her enemy. Only then can Wonderland be restored and, hopefully, Alice’s sanity.

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Alice has always had a soft spot in my heart. I love the idea of taking a such a well known character and being able to say, “well, what if?” What if Wonderland is real? What if Alice is insane? What if the two are tied together? Then, making a world from there that is full of danger.

The fact that Alice is allowed to question her sanity makes her a very important character. So many people deal with different mental illnesses every day. We fight our way through each hour. Alice also has to fight to be sane. That struggle has not always been a focus in story lines.

Alice is a strong character who is allowed to struggle.

The game is also well constructed with an interesting take on Wonderland.

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Always keep sparkling!

Catlilli Games – When Science meets Board Gaming

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I had the good fortune to meet the driving force behind Catlilli Games at my first game demo at WashingCon last month. I was immediately hooked by Tacto, a programming in the guise of Tic-Tac-Toe that both teaches programming AND is genuinely fun to play. Catlilli Games has successfully bridged the gap between learning AND fun, developing educational games that are exciting to play in addition to teaching STEM.  Since the company was formed they’ve won numerous awards including awards from the Imagination Gaming Awards and three International Serious Play Awards this year. This week I sat down again with Catherine Swanwick to talk about women in games and game development.

What prompted you to get into game design, and why educational games?
I’ve loved board games my whole life.  I used to collect them and my parents would become exasperated when they took up so much room.  When I became a teacher, I started creating them (simple, short ones) whenever I could for the classroom.  One of my colleagues, Jon Nardolilli, did the same thing, and I discovered that not only was he a board game lover, too, but that he had designed his own actual full-length game.  I became inspired and started to design games, also.  We decided to form our own company, Catlilli Games (part of my first name and part of his last name).  We are both STEM teachers, and as a former scientist, I am passionate about educating the public about STEM concepts.  It’s the reason I became a teacher.  My company, Catlilli Games, is extremely mission-driven.  We want to transform STEM education with gaming.

How long have you been gaming?
I’ve collected/played/loved board games my entire life. I only started designing games in Jan. 2015 when Catlilli Games was founded.

Do you feel like the game design industry and tabletop community is positive towards women? Why?
Overall, I have to say that no, I don’t feel the game design industry/tabletop community is welcoming towards women.  I haven’t experienced outright animosity, but I am naturally excluded from gaming groups, and I do feel slightly uncomfortable when I want to attend game nights at stores but they are mostly men.  However, there are pockets of very welcoming communities, such as Labyrinth on Capitol Hill (Washington DC), where I have found men and women present in equal numbers and I have always felt a warm, friendly, accepting vibe toward women.

Whats your favorite game? Least favorite?
My favorite game is so very difficult to choose!  In general, I like cooperative games (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Mole Rats in Space – basically anything by Matt Leacock), although I do have a special place in my heart for Machi Koro.  My absolute LEAST favorite game is PieFace – I call it my archenemy.  It goes against everything I stand for as a game designer.

Why do you think educational games are beneficial/important?
Games are important for education because they are a natural way of engaging students.  They automatically stimulate their attention, and they let them interact with the material in a hands-on, creative, exciting way.  Even better, they allow students to talk through questions/problems and learn from each other in many ways.  I also believe that gaming experiences will help them retain the material for longer periods of time.

Whats your favorite stage of the design process?
My favorite part of the design process are the very earliest stages, when I or my former partner had the seed of an idea and knew it has the potential to make a great game, so we would sit for hours going through all the permutations to set up an initial prototype.  The excitement is indescribable.

Looking for an entertaining way to help a kid in your life with science? You can purchase Catlilli Games from their website. (And try Tacto – its outstanding!)

Kathleen Mercury – Game Design with the Future in Mind

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Whats more exciting and inspiring than a woman game designer? A woman game designer thats also teaching a whole new generation how to make games. I sat down last month with Saint Louis’s Kathleen Mercury to talk about game design in the classroom and inspiring kids to create and play.

What inspired you to teach game design?

I got into gaming after going to a gifted education conference, actually.   It was about games you could have gifted kids play in the classroom, like stratego, and so afterwards I started looking into boardgames and found out about this whole other world that I had been oblivious to.

After playing a lot of games on my own I realized how great these would be for students to make in the classroom because it’s the Robert Sternberg trifecta of creative, analytical, and productive intelligence.

My big thing is that I want students to be creators not just consumers. I love that with game design, there is actually relatively little content they have to learn and the vast majority of the difficult work is struggling through the process.

All students, not just gifted kids, need to work with difficult problems that they create and that they have to design the solutions for. And then test, analyze the feedback at their given, and respond to the feedback by making changes that others have suggested. This is very difficult for adults, and in a lot of ways my students are better at doing this in seventh grade. They get feedback all the time from teachers so this way they learn how to work with giving a d getting feedback as part of an ongoing process.

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Do you feel like the tabletop community is positive towards female designers?

I’ve only had positive experiences as a female game designer, so I’m glad that I can say that because I know others have not always reported the same. I think whenever women are entering a male dominated job or hobby like gaming, we will stand out. We just will. And I think especially in gaming, it takes a while for people understand that I’m not just there because I’m the girlfriend of a gamer, I’m a gamer in my own right and a designer as well.

For myself, I was a gamer and got involved in the gaming community before I really started to present my games. And even in the beginning, I was pretty limited in what I did. I did not contact publishers to set up meetings for game conventions, which is probably the most common way of getting a game published, but I did sign up for the BGGcon speed dating event for one of my games.  (That game is actually in the process of being developed which is super exciting. Several years later after the event, but nevertheless it looks like it’s going to get made). Going to game conventions like BGGcon, Origins, and of course my local favorite Geekway to the West here in St. Louis, is what aspiring designers need to do. You’ll get to play a lot a prototypes, meet designers, and meet publishers. I’ve only ever had a blast going to game conventions and meeting people and I think that’s when the reasons why I can say I’ve never had any negative experiences. And I found that a lot of the gamers, designers, and publishers that I’ve met have been incredibly supportive when I’ve had games that I want to play test would have them take a look at.

What do you think gaming brings to the classroom?

I think gaming is one of the best activities for kids to do, both at school as well as at home. (I take a lot of pride in that I’ve introduced my students to so many games that they are now looking to games on their own, watch podcasts, and follow reviewers, so they bring in games that I haven’t even played yet.)

Gaming is a great social activity the way gaming online can never be. Negotiation both in terms of the rules of the game as well as learning how to navigate social situation is improved with gaming. Learning how to play nice, win nice and lose nice, how to clean up after yourself, and probably most importantly to engage in intellectual challenge for fun and recreation.

Especially for gifted kids, the population I work the most with, they need complex problems that they can solve, or try to figure out different strategies to solve, or these kids create their own problems to solve later. Plus they get to creative and take on different roles, whether it be a pirate or a snooty-faced European trade merchant. Kids love to have fun, as we all said, and I’ve probably laughed harder during various games with my students because of what happens in their responses to what happens and I think just bringing joy and fun into their lives is worth it.

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How is teaching teens game design different from teaching adults?

Kids are much willing to take risks and go with what they think is fun and funny. Adults tend to take a more measured approach and think more realistically about the type of game they’re designing and how it would fit into the existing marketplace.

Of course, when kids are analyzing games it tends to be determined in a limited way like how much they like it or not, and adults can more clearly articulate the strengths and weaknesses of a game or prototype.

Everything kids encounter in their life for the most part are things they’ve  never done before so they are used to just jumping in and giving it a try. Adults tend to be more cautious and more concerned about failure from the beginning.

But for either group, you have to work to shift their thinking from success and failure as mutually exclusive binary constructs but instead to see failure as a setback towards the ongoing forward-moving process to success.

What at do you find the easiest about teaching design? The hardest?

I think it’s all hard! Just kidding. I’m not mathematically inclined myself, so sometimes when it comes to working with designs to make them balanced or to intuitively understand how to make a game more balanced, that’s definitely a weakness of mine.

Rather than easiest, I’ll say the most fun part is that amazing feeling of having a really great idea. Either the really big idea that gets the whole design in motion, or a really clever inventive solution towards a difficult problem.

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Favorite game? Why?

I think my favorite game from a design standpoint is Survive! Escape from Atlantis, currently published by Stronghold Games. There are a lot of really great games out there and game designers that I admire tremendously, but for me, Survive is so much fun to play. I almost don’t even care if I win. The theme and mechanics are integrated so well and it has a great balance between what I can do to help myself and what I can do to impede others. It has great components, and the possibility for laugh out moments quite a bit.

Especially when playing with kids, who sometimes have a really hard time and even melt down if something bad happens to them in a game, this game has so many opportunities for bad things to happen, both to you and to other players, of it that it actually helps to make losing easier for kids.

What do you hope educators get from your website?

When I first decided to teach game design, I found very little out there to help me. Most of it was either designed to be used by video game designers or what I could find was not really that helpful. I had to adapt a lot of what I found, like from board game designers forum, to make activities that I could use with my students and even now I do very little actual lecture or paperwork, I’ve created a lot better activities to help kids learn how to design games.

Having kids understand what the most common mechanics are and how they can use them in a game is the most important thing towards them designing games because otherwise they will stick to what they know which is for the most part roll and move and event decks.

I started using the game UnPub as a way for them to develop a whole wide variety of game concepts and if they didn’t know one of the mechanics on their card, than they would have to look it up. It lent itself to lot more discussion about mechanics and themes and how they could be applied. The kids’ games and understanding of mechanics have become better since I started using that to teach mechanics, as opposed to the PowerPoint that I used to do.

Teaching really is game design. Anytime you’ve come up with a lesson and then when the lesson, seen where the problems are, trying to create solutions for them, and make it better and more interesting for the next time is exactly what game design is.

I think for me the most exciting thing is hearing from gamers and teachers all over the world who discovered my website and say things like oh my god this is exactly what I’m looking for, thank you so much for doing this, totally makes my day. All of it’s free because I just want people to have access to use it to learn from it. A lot of homeschool groups are using it, it’s being used at all different levels from elementary through college, and I’m always happy to collaborate and consult with anyone at any time on just about anything related to gaming.

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How would you like to see more gaming implemented into the class room in the future?

More after school clubs at least so kids have access to really great games in that critical time after school, before their parents get home from work, when they might be more inclined to be on the computer playing games. I don’t have any problem video games at all, but if we can keep kids engaged with each other socially and at school, that’s a great thing. Plus it’s more kids come to my game club, when I have them in class they already have exposure to so many really great games that it makes working with them in game design a lot easier. They have a lot of ideas and I’ve already seen a lot of things they like and don’t like.

As far as the classroom itself I think there’s a lot of really exciting things happening with the gameification of the classroom, and not just a point system is overlaid over what you’re already doing, but more ways to figure out how to get kids to create their own answers given a set of information rather than being presented with incorrect/correct answers. Turning dry lessons into games, even if they aren’t great, will get a better response and more engagement from students then just straight up facts being taught.

Big announcements or upcoming news?

I have two games in development with different publishers! So the next couple of years should be especially exciting, when those hit the market. I’ll keep you updated when they get announced!

 

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Kathleen is also a character in the upcoming Heroes Wanted: Elements of Danger! Check it out on Kickstarter!

Unity Promotes Women with Workshops

Unity Promotes Women with Workshops

CiLi4fcWEAAUzCxIt’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of encouraging more women to get involved in the gaming industry. While I lack the education and computer know-how to start making games myself, I applaud the women who are able to pull through the negativity of the media constantly telling them “it’s a man’s industry” and do what they love.

That being said, Unity has launched a series of free and open global workshops, called “Women in Gaming,” in an effort to empower women and encourage them to pursue careers in the video game industry.

These workshops discuss many of the issues women face when attempting to advance their careers in gaming. At the same time, they allow for the people in attendance to network with each other and learn from each other. Other topics covered in the workshop include organizational dynamics, leadership skills and strategic thinking.

The first two workshops have already happened. The first took place in Amsterdam on June 1st. The speaker was Fiona Sperry, the founder of Three Fields Entertainment. The second workshop was in San Francisco, CA, at UC Berkeley with Professor Dana Carvey.

The next three workshops are below:

  • July 28 – Shanghai, China. Special Guests: Amy Huang (AVP at NetEase Capital), Evelyn Liu (CTO at Firevale), and Yanyan Xiong (Founder of Shenzhenware).
  • September 22 – San Francisco, CA. Special Guest: Nanea Reeves (President and COO of textPlus)
  • Early November (date TBD) – Los Angeles, CA at University of Southern California. Special guest: Professor Tracey Fullerton.

1441576529unity-logoEach of the special guest speakers has been successful within the gaming industry. In the workshops, they will be sharing their experiences and insights with those in attendance.

While I wish we didn’t need to have initiatives like this within the gaming industry (and other “male-dominated” industries such as computer programming – see Girls Who Code), I applaud Unity for taking this step. As a woman myself, I can attest to how many times I’ve been told, “but that’s for boys,” in regards to video games or other nerdy things that I enjoy. Initiatives like this not only bring us just a little bit closer to eliminating that negativity in the world, but also gives young gamer girls strong women to look up to.

All of the workshops are free and open to the public. If you’d like to register for one, click here.

 

Giving Thanks to Games

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Since this is the time of the year for reflection and thankfulness, I thought I’d ask my fellow admins what games they were thankful for. This is what we had to say:

 

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My sister has always been my best friend but, as we get older and life becomes increasingly more hectic and stressful, our time together is precious. For the last couple months, we have started playing Hearthstone together. It’s almost a tradition now, where we play the latest Tavern Brawl and chat with each other. I spam the emotes and she gets annoyed. It’s a good time, really! It can be so easy to be consumed with all of the stuff around us that we get disconnected with some of the people that make life great. So thank you, Hearthstone, for being a wonderful part of our friendship and helping us connect around brutally hitting each other’s faces with beasts and mechs and stuff.

~ Avenue

Dungeons & Dragons has been ever-present in my life. Even though I didn’t start playing until I was in my early 20s, I’ve found that D&D has always had a special place in my heart. My brother and his friends played it weekly and two of my older sisters would join in every once in awhile. My brother was always talking to me about it and telling me all about the monsters and the races, etc. By the time I was old enough to play, my oldest siblings were already out of the house, so I had nobody to play with. Fast forward to 2013, when Crymson invited me to play in my first campaign. I’ve been playing ever since. Not only has it brought me closer to many of my good friends, but it’s also allowed me to connect with my siblings in a way I couldn’t before. So, thank you Dungeons & Dragons. I hope you continue to bring people together.

~ Vanri the Rogue

I have had one game that has been a constant in my life. My whole family plays it. We trash talk and make bets. It is mini golf. I know, I know. This doesn’t sound like the type of game that we would normally be blogging about, but it is a game that I love to play. My mom, dad, younger brother and I played a lot of mini golf. It was affordable and fun. My dad used to patiently try to teach me how to line up a shot while reminding me to just stay calm. It was good practice for life and playing other games, since I get so frustrated with myself.

My older cousins and their kids play with us now and there is a lot of competition. We go in a big group and split up in different teams. We play, we tease each other and then we eat ice cream. It is always fun. We tell stories about playing on the same courses when we were kids. Most importantly, we all get to be together.

~ Thia the Bard

The first video game that I ever got for myself was Pokemon: Yellow for the GameB
oy back in the year 2000. I had been collecting the cards, so getting the game just seemed like a natural outgrowth of that CCG obsession (I managed to snag 5 Charizard cards over my collecting career, by the way, all booster pack pulls. I still have three of them). Ever since then, the Pokemon series has held an important place in my gamer heart. I got at least one game from each generation. While I may not have caught ’em all since the early days of the games (I mean, really, who has time to catch over 700 ‘mons these days?), there is something exhilarating about that ‘click!’ when a pokeball successfully loc photo gt2gRINSHI_zpsq9jrztt7.pngks tight around a rare pokemon, even after all these years. It makes me so happy when I can help my friends by breeding pokemon that I have and they need. Most importantly, though, Pokemon led me to be a gamer, and, without that, I may never have made the wonderful relationships that I have, including my husband, my best friend, and many of my closest friends. So thank you, Pokemon, for turning me into a Real Woman of Gaming, and for making my life complete.

~ Rinshi

I have to say the game I am most thankful for is EverQuest. It was my first MMO. The people I met through that game and the experiences I had there helped build my beliefs on how women can be just as included in games as men.

I had a good guild and was never harassed. I made great friends and, even though we all went separate ways, I still remember the experience as a great one and always strive to find it again in anything I play.

~ KinkedNitemare

I can’t say that I am thankful for any one game, really. Everquest was my first MMO, and it did make an impact on my life. I was first introduced to it when I stopped by a buddy’s room in the barracks while I was stationed in Alaska. I was amazed at the game. I would just hang out and watch him play for hours a night. Eventually, he let me make a character and try it out for myself. I was hooked at that point. I got my own account and would play for hours after work and all weekend long, many times pulling 24+ hour marathons. For $15 a month, I was transported into a new world, making friends from all over the planet. I played steadily until 2005 when a bunch of us in Afghanistan got into playing WoW, which ended up taking the place of Everquest for a few years (though I would still jump into it every so often). Eventually, I got burned out on the daily grind of WoW and moved back to EQ. MMO’s were my escape from the daily grind of work and deployment.

~ Fluffy the Necromancer
When I was a kid, my grandmother worked at Kiddy City and the Nintendo was the newest thing, so she bought it for us that Christmas. At first, I really wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I got my

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Credit: Victoria Mallon

hands on Super Mario Bros and was hooked. Mario was not my first love, though, Final Fantasy was. My father had picked it up and helped me play. It got to the point where we would talk about things that happened in the game. It was exciting and new and a great bond I had with my father. That is what got me into gaming but, all these years after his passing, I have those memories to look back on and remember him and all the fun we had together so fondly. I often wonder what he would think of the games out today. I hope that one day I can share a bond like that with my daughter.

~Crymson Pleasure~

What games are you thankful for? We’d love to hear your stories. Thank you for reading and have a great holiday!

How my Feelings About Felicia Day Changed Within a Week

How my Feelings About Felicia Day Changed Within a Week

I don’t remember the first time I heard the name Felicia Day. It had to have been around 2011, but, then again, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t introduced to Dr. Horrible (the first thing I saw her in) until my senior year of college 2 years later. If I remember correctly – which isn’t always the case – I first heard about Felicia Day from one of my friends, who happened to be in the Ultima Dragons group with her.

From the first time I heard about her, I felt a dislike for the red-headed actress. Whenever anyone said her name, I typically responded with, “Ugh, I hate Felicia Day.” Before you bite my head off and tell me about everything she’s done to help female gamers, let me tell you why. When my aforementioned friend told me about Felicia Day, she mentioned that she hadn’t been in contact with her for a long time. She told me that as Day got more and more famous, she became less and less active in the group. This is reasonable, as she’s obviously a very busy person, since she produces, writes, acts and runs a company.

Apparently, I’m not a very good listener because I heard something different. What I took from that conversation was that, once Felicia Day became famous, she thought herself too good for the Dragons and refused to be a member of the group. I can’t abide by that kind of behavior. Do you see how that would warrant animosity from someone she’ll probably never meet? No? Okay.

You’ll be happy to know that a series of events caused me to make a full 180 in regards to my feelings about the aptly titled “Queen of the Geeks.”

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The Guild (2007-2013)

The first event happened because I was bored. Lately, instead of letting myself get bored, I typically try to work on something that will help me gain a better understanding of what I do, which is contribute to a blog about gaming. So, I decided to suck it up and finally watch The Guild. Half-way through the first episode, I was hooked. I relate to Codex on a spiritual level (I’m also super awkward with a high amount of social anxiety). So, knowing that Codex/Cyd was based on Felicia Day, as well as written and played by Felicia Day, my dislike of her began to chip away. My world was upside-down.

The second event happened directly after my binge marathon of the web series. My friend, the Dragon, told me that Felicia Day was as nice in person as she always was online. My response, as could be expected given the misconception I’d carried around for 4 years, was, “Wait… what?!” She explained to me what really happened and helped me to realize my mistake. Felicia Day was never a too-good-for-the-little-people actor type. She simply didn’t have the time to keep up with it. My friend continued on to say that Felicia Day recently got back in contact with the Dragons (within the last couple of years) due to the loss of a friend in the group, which really meant a lot to them. Cue heart melting.

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YNWOTI Cover (2015)

The third event, which was in direct relation to the second event, was my reading You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir. As we were speaking, through comments on Facebook, I went to Amazon and ordered the book. Through Day’s funny prose and highly interesting anecdotes, the final stage of my transformation was complete. I was an official subject of Queen Felicia.

It only took me 4 years to realize that everyone was right.

Check back next week for my review of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir.

-Vanri the Rogue

+2 Comedy Podcast

plus2logoRinshi and I had the honor of being on the +2 Comedy Podcast *clears throat* severalweeksagoI’msosorry *clears throat* and had an amazing time with Noah and Will. Aside from the fact that we were both extremely nervous and awkward, good times were had by all. But that’s kind of our modus operandi so, really, it was like home. I sucked at the chosen IMDB game (I tried REALLY REALLY HARD), and a fan walked away with a pasta boat, 3 versions of love letter, a deck of steampunk playing cards and a map from the Prototype video game. We had a blast and hope to get invited back right after Will drops those stalking charges (just kidding, charges were never filed). Plus, we are excited that we will be seeing Noah again at You’re Not Alone on July 18th.

In case you haven’t heard it click below:
Rinshi and Crymson Pleasure on +2 Comedy

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