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Archive for the ‘WIG 2008’ Category

I was thrilled to see Karen’s presentation on Scratch, I first heard of this innovative toolset for teaching programming some years ago and was curious to see how the project had developed. Originally conceived by Mitchel Resnick LEGO Professor at the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab (what a job title!), Scratch was designed to help young people develop modern learning skills. A freely downloadable environment (published under GPL), Scratch has benefited substantially from Web 2.0 community tools and consists of a thriving development community using the tools in a variety of contexts and application. Karen gave a fascinating presentation on a unique toolset that should be more widely used in an educative context.

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Paulina shared her experience of developing Singstar over the past 4 years. In discussing the evolution of the product she emphasised the need for inclusion of the target market in the design process. Initially Singstar started as a narrative-based game in which the player sang to bring the world to life, it soon became apart that singing was seen as compelling enough in itself to not need this framing. Singstar is a social, competitive and authentic (i.e. real music) product influenced by media and pop culture. The initial market was imagined as female, but the product appeal was widely seen to be much broader. Music is universal. The development team used music as a way of segmenting target audiences, i.e. through music genres. The key lessons Paulina has drawn from Singstar is that it is all about the user and their experience and that it is central to innovative game design to prioritise what brings most value to the experience.

Paulina then moved to the second section of her keynote and talked to the future of gaming, user generated content (UGC). After name-checking Clay Shirky’s book “Here comes everybody” to lead into her emphasis on social networking potential to allow users to coordinate themselves. Old notions of amateur and professional are changing and access to re-creative tools for distribution is significant. The games industry is rapidly reorienting itself to include the player in the gaming experience.

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Thursday kicked off with an inspirational presentation from Eileen, a senior Microsoft Evangelist. Eileen emphasised the importance of personal stories in encouraging girls and women to engage in the IT sector. She pointed to the rapidly diminishing female IT work force and stated that Microsoft currently have 13000 job openings! I hadn’t realised the IT skills issue was so massive! The promotion and focus on role models for women in technology is central to opening the area up for women as re-entry to work targets as well as for girls at schools. Microsoft runs a MVP (Most Valuable Person) programme which looks to engage, and indeed employ, product fans in evangelical and support roles for the company. This is one small step in including the community with the IT sector. Eileen talked to the need for us all to act as role models for others on an individual and personal level.

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In her opening keynote on Wednesday 10th, Sara presented her work running Coventry’s Serious Games Institute. SGi is building a stable of games, projects and companies that evolve the field of serious games within the UK, taking a world-class position in the sector. Serious games stands for the emergent field of using games as a mechanism to drive non-entertainment sectors, as a starting point do look to the Wikipedia entry. Although initially framed as a research, innovation and business activity, the field of serious games offers a lot of potential to games companies and universities alike to diversify the reach and impact of game form to new application.

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I am sat in Karen Clark’s final keynote listening to her advice on working in the games industry. Karen is Project Manager at BioWare and is currently working on Dragon Age. She has talked to the common myths about the games industry and reminds us of the importance of IGDA membership for those interested in supporting the evolution of the games industry. Karen is active in the Women in Games International initiative and is passionate about developing the forthcoming Mentor Program. Karen is looking to improve the working life in the games industry, whether it be increasing diversity, evolving process or creating a good work environment.

She points to sites like Glassdoor.com as a way of ranking employers that could be useful in our industry to get a sense of who the best companies are.

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This just arrived in my inbox:

Female Programmer on Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise organising Women In Games conference

Nicola Bhalerao, a female games programmer on Rare’s upcoming title, “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” is co-organising this year’s Women In Games Conference with Jane Sinclair and Sara Kalvala, both Associate Professors in Computer Science at nearby Warwick University.

Nicola is in the minority as a female in the industry, and even more so as a programmer.  She realised there were so few women working in games, and wanted to do something about addressing this issue.  That is why this year’s conference will be looking at such things as what the perception of the games industry is to outsiders, and reasons why girls are turned off technology at a young age.

Sign up rates of students studying Computer Science have fallen in recent years and women are very much in the minority. This is why Jane and Sara wanted to get involved in the conference.  Computing in games is one career choice available to Computer Science graduates, though not always obvious to all, but a very attractive and creative industry to be in.

There is plenty of research going on into why and how women play games, and the way they are portrayed, and this is another aspect of the Women In Games conference that makes it so fascinating.  Bringing together academia and industry to discuss all these ideas, and explore ways in which more women can be encouraged to seek careers in games makes for a unique conference.

Although concerned with women this conference is also open to men! The industry needs a meaningful dialogue between the sexes as it moves forward.

THE CONFERENCE IS NEXT WEEK! Holy cow…

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This just in from Conference Central:

The Women In Games conference encourages research and seeks to promote careers for women within the games industry. If games are to become a true sibling medium to music and cinema, the industry needs greater balance in its audience and its workforce. The Women In Games conference welcomes participants from both industry and academia, providing a forum for presentation and discussion of issues relating to all aspects of women’s involvement in games, including game development, game playing and women as portrayed within games.

Although this conference is concerned with women and games please note that men are also very welcome to participate! The industry needs a meaningful dialogue between the sexes as it moves forward.

This year’s conference is co-organised by games company Rare Ltd (www.rare.co.uk) and the Computer Science Department at the University of Warwick (www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk)

Further details of the conference and this year’s themes are available at the conference website: www.womeningames.com

The Speaker Submission deadline has moved to Monday 23rd June 2008

Thinking of submitting a talk, or offering to participate in a panel, but thought you were too late? Think again! We have extended the deadline to Monday 23rd June to allow you some more time.

We are keen to have more offers on the themes, “Dressing up Programming” and “Technology in Schools” in particular, but submissions on any of the themes still welcome.

For more details on how to submit, please check out www.womeningames.com

Keynotes Announced

I am pleased to announce our Keynote speakers for this year’s Women In Games conference:-

Karen Brennan (Scratch, MIT)

Sara de Freitas (Serious Games)

Eileen Brown (Microsoft)

Karen Clark (Bioware)

Paulina Bozek (Sony)

I invite you to check out www.womeningames.com for more details on these excellent speakers.

Conference Dinner at Warwick Castle

We have a fabulous conference dinner, a mediaeval feast arranged at Warwick Castle, sponsored by Blitz Games Studios (www.blitzgames.com). It is included in the conference price, and is sure to be an excellent night!

Sign up Now

Registration for the conference is open, sign up now to ensure your place. Conference-standard accommodation is available on campus – no need to drive during the conference, parking is free, and evening meals and entertainment all included!

Advertise

Got something to advertise? Get in touch to find out what sponsorship options we have on offer. The conference relies on the generosity of our sponsors.

For further details see www.womeningames.com or contact nicola@womeningames.com

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