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Kids are the key to true diversity in our industry, says Kim Swift
Kids are the key to true diversity in our industry, says Kim Swift
January 3, 2013 | By Mike Rose




"I hope that there's a little girl out there that sees me and thinks to herself, 'Oh look! Girls make games too.'"
- Kim Swift, the renowned video game designer best known for creating Portal, believes that the best way to introduce diversity into the video games industry is to teach kids that anyone can make games.

Kids are receptive to all sorts of ideas, she says in a rallying blog post on her website, and therefore can be shown from an early age that their hopes and dreams -- including those about making video games for a living -- can come true.

"A grown adult isn't going to change their mind about their inherent beliefs or their personality because someone gave them the stink eye (or an Internet reaming)," Swift adds. "Kids however are impressionable and full of those innocent hopes and dreams that may one day turn into reality."

"When I blather endlessly about a game I'm working on until my eyes bleed, in the back of my head, I hope that there’s a little girl out there that realizes her dreams are achievable."

Says Swift, she doesn't believe that the lack of diversity in the video game industry can be solved in a year, or even five. Rather, she reasons that over the next twenty years, as these impressionable kids all grow up, that's when we'll really begin to see change.

Swift's thoughts come in the wake of the highly inspirational Twitter hashtag #1ReasonWhy, which just over a month ago exposed sexism in game industry.


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Comments


Carlo Delallana
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My favorite professional moment of 2012: I was playtesting my game with kids, boys and girls around the age of 8-9. Two of the girls stayed a bit longer to talk about the games they loved to play and I told them "You know, you can make games too!"

Their eyes lit up and they smiled from ear to ear. I proceeded to write some things they could try playing with and some free game tools they can ask their parents to download so they can start making their own games.

Christopher Totten
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This and the TED talk by the developer of Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure are seriously getting me jazzed to make game development more open. In the past year I've been using the example of Slender: The Eight Pages a lot. Some guy gets into Unity, scripts an enemy to follow you around, and uses mostly standard engine assets for the level design (minus the landmark objects and Slender Man himself) and millions of people download it. Brilliant.

With our new game, one of the coolest things to tell people is that we made it in a free engine (Unity), with free 3D software (Blender) and released it on a market with little headache to get into (iOS and Android.) So yes, nowadays anyone can make a game.

Doug Poston
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This is why I've been mostly involved in game engine development for that last 14 years. ;)

(shameless plug: Torque3D is free and open (MIT) https://github.com/GarageGames/Torque3D )

Carlo Delallana
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Game design would be a wonderful class to teach in an elementary school setting. It engages so many subjects at once (math, language arts, visual arts) in a collaborative setting.

John Teymoorian
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There are some schools that do teach game design for young children interested such as ID tech camp in Campbell. I might send mine there in a few years.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I generally try to avoid making games, or help with the making of games, that are aimed primarily at men. I had a studio last year I was helping with a mid-core game aimed at women, and he asked me if I thought he should hire some women in his studio... I just rolled my eyes and said "duh". When I was at the last GDC I saw more than 10% of the people looking for interviews were women, but they seemed to be getting a hard time of it. If I was hiring on a project that women were expected to play (and seriously that is where the money is, not more male-oriented titles), I certainly would give preference to any potentially qualified woman applying.

Lyon Medina
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What a great sentiment, and I agree with miss Swifts assesment.

I have two young nieces myself and just the other day I was playing Minecraft on the 360 and they were just sitting on my lap watching me play.

(Ages 6 & 8) For two hours they would tell me where to go, where to dig, and to fight monsters or make potions or whatever they desired mind you.

The best part is my older niece pretending she was a creeper and trying to scare me that there was one always around, and then one actually showing up and surprising all of us into laughing session that had us all in tears.

I hope one day they can look back at these moments and really enjoy them, or maybe even one day inspire them to make games that will allow others to have moments such as those.

Chris Toepker
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I am of very mixed emotions on this. Mostly because my own daughter's reaction to the whole thing would most likely be a sharply quizzical: "What do you mean we *can't* make games?!" Likewise, I have had experiences like Mr. Delallana's with *both* boys and girls lighting up to the possibility that games can be a livelihood. So, maybe its where I am (greater China), where making entertainment is not a "serious" pursuit and so encouragement is always a light up. Maybe its my own "Free to Be You and Me" outlook. Maybe its my sincere belief in vocation...not just employment...which calls one no matter the gender. Maybe its the awesome (pretty equally male *and* female) professionals I've worked with at places like Wizards of the Coast. Whatever it is, sitting back and thinking "I hope there's a little girl..." always strikes me funny. For myself, I always think: "I hope there's a child...."

Ben Grater
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100% agree with this! Just think how many smart talented women go into other creative fields simply because they never consider making games or don't feel that they belong here?

Despite the recent negative publicity about diversity in the industry, I actually feel very optimistic about the future. I mean, with the broadening of this medium and an increasingly wider range of role models I think kids of all kinds have much more to inspire them to make games than ever before.

Jonathan Jennings
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I had a huge smile from ear to ear when my nephew walked in on me working on a prototype game for my girlfriend ( and later an even bigger smile when i found him playing one of my prototypes for 45 minutes) . I let him know making games wasn't that hard and I had wanted to do this since this age . I asked him what he wanted to do when he Grew up and he said " probably the same thing" maybe not the deepest conversation but it was fun knowing that i may have at least birthed a seed of possibility in his mind . I know for myself for a long time and many of my friends games always seemed like something someone worked on far away that magically showed up on my console and/ or device . the fact my nephew could stumble upon me working on one in the living room is a good thing to me .


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