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Toronto Incubator To Support Female Devs, Diversity In Game Making
Toronto Incubator To Support Female Devs, Diversity In Game Making
July 26, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

July 26, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC, Programming, Design, Production

The Difference Engine Initiative, a new Toronto-based program designed to encourage the work of game makers from under-represented groups, will be holding two free incubators for female developers in coming months.

Participants in the six-person incubators will develop a game over the course of six weekly, three-hour sessions that have "more in common with crafting circles or writers’ groups than a traditional classroom setting," learning about game-making tools and techniques along the way.

The new effort is being speared by Metanet co-founder and N creator Mare Sheppard (pictured), who told local arts blog The Torontoist she's combating the notion that game development takes a certain type of knowledge or narrow skillset.

"There’s this idea that just a small subset of people can make games—you have to be a programmer, you have to know lots of math, you have to be all these things that most people aren't," she said. "So part of the idea for the Difference Engine Initiative was deconstructing that and showing that you don't have to be all those things to make games."

In the future, the initiative will explore issues such as age and race among the development, Sheppard said, pushing for more variety among the community of game makers.

"More diversity means better games, a better environment for game developers and game designers, and ultimately leads to the viewpoints of more people being represented in games and more games being made for different kinds of people," she said. "I think it'll make our industry a lot cooler."

Applications for the two incubators -- one running August to September and one running October to November -- are being taken through July 31.

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Megan Swaine
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I love this idea!

One question though: why the term "incubator"? I was really confused when I read the headline. I think the basic term "workshop" is clear enough.

Cody Scott
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why not just open it up to anybody interested in game development instead of singling people out....that would have been a good idea.

raigan burns
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They did do that, 4 times:

Rebecca Phoa
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I personally attended the information session for the Difference Engine Initiative. While people might think the idea would 'single out' people; if you were a man, you were still encouraged to attend to learn more about about the initiative in general and see if you could help out.

There were about 6 men in room along with the 12 or so women who attended the session. I would not say the initiative was meant to scare men off. Plus, not all the women there were 'gamers,' they were just interested in what was being offered.

And what is wrong about being more welcoming to others? Think of the game industry like any other possible work environment. I think we should be more grateful that people are taking games seriously.

Mare Sheppard
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This initiative is not going to be the perfect solution to the issue of gender disparity in the game development world, but fortunately we haven't set out under that impression. Basically, if we sit around thinking and talking all our lives, waiting for that perfect moment where the ideal conditions exist to magically get more diversity in this industry (both in terms of input and output), then we're going to miss out on chances like this, where we can start making some positive changes and learn from what went right, or wrong, so we have a more robust idea of how to do it even better in the future. We're also hoping to generate some data regarding why there aren't more women making games, and to continue investigating what we can do to encourage underrepresented groups to get involved. Because everyone belongs here, and it would benefit all of us to see what games they come up with.

There are a ton of studies relating to how diversity helps organizations to be more successful. It's pretty hard to deny the insular and homogeneous nature of the current game development industry -- one has only to spend a few minutes at virtually any game-dev related gathering ever or even take a look at the many salary reports GDMag publish, to see the disparity along many measurable lines including gender. That's frustrating, especially since there's no biological basis for that disparity. It's all cultural. We know we won't be changing the entire fabric of society in one go, but Jim and I feel this is a great start, and getting people talking and thinking and acting is imperative to any change taking root.

We want to encourage women to make games because we know there are lots of people with vibrant, innovative ideas just waiting for the invitation to make their voices heard and see their ideas take shape. This is hopefully just one of many such opportunities, and perfect or not, it's an excellent jumping off point.

Arinn Dembo
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Been in this industry for a long time. I'm happy to help anyone make a game, male or female. I have no idea how six people putting in three hours a week for a mere six weeks are going to make anything but a mess in the break room, but good luck with that.

ron carmel
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i'm shocked at the small mindedness exhibited here. jeffrey, cody, arinn, if you want to do it differently, then please do, but sitting on sidelines and bitching about how someone else is doing wrong? i'm embarrassed for you.