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Excellent Resources for Women Getting into Game Design

The year is still young and full of opportunity. It’s a prime time for new beginnings and taking chances, or a time to learn something new.

Maybe that something is game design, in which case we’ve gathered a slew of resources, software, and communities helpful for women looking to get into coding and designing. The tools described here are a great way to jump right in and get started building your first game.

Online Communities

Recent years have seen the establishment of a wealth of support groups for women programmers. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, these communities will welcome you with open arms. Be sure to check and see if your local community has any in-person meetup groups or other clubs targeted towards female game developers.

Women Who Code

Women who code is a non-profit organization that does it all. They’re an advocacy organization for women looking to start coding, women who are looking to boost their careers, and they also act as consultants for companies hoping to improve their inclusivity. Women Who Code also has a large number of local groups, so it’s well worth seeking out a Women Who Code branch in your community.

Girl Geek Academy

Australia based Girl Geek Academy hosts a plethora of workshops every month for women developers. The courses are held online to ensure access to all, no matter where in the world they might live. Girl Geek Academy also hosts “hackerthons” and “makerthons” once your coding skills develop a little.

Women’s Coding Collective

Women’s Coding Collective offers a range of two week paid online courses for $50, which isn’t too shabby. If you’re on a budget though, they also host a number of meetup groups across the United States. Local meetups host lectures, hackathons, movie screenings, and more. It’s a great resource if you’re looking to bond with other women in tech while learning a new skill at the same time.

Glassbreakers

Glassbreakers is an online mentorship community and safe space for anyone who identifies as a woman. You can join the group by registering or pairing your LinkedIn account with Glassbreakers. Women share articles relevant to professional women in tech, organize meetups, and offer a strong circle of support. It’s a good place to network with other women and unite around the organization’s primary goal-to shatter the glass ceiling.

Software

It’s a great time to get into coding. There’s a wide range of software tools with visual interfaces to help you jump in right from the beginning. These programs let you play with raw code if you’re looking for some intensive practice. When you need a break, though, you can design your game visually using the tools these programs provide.

Twine

Twine is a 100% free, open-source storytelling tool that allows you to create choose your own adventure games. This program gives you plenty of practice in crafting “if then” statements. Once you finish designing your game in Twine, you can export it into HTML to share with anyone you like. Since the final format is HTML, that means you can add music, videos, and pretty much anything else the language supports into your game. Twine uses a visual interface while also teaching you the basic foundations of programming, so you’ll learn a little and create something neat-all without being scared away by intimidating strings of code. Looking for some inspiration? Check out Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest, or Queers in Love at the End of the World by Anna Anthropy.

RPG Maker

RPG Maker has been around for a long, long time. It’s a powerful game making program accessible to beginners. The program is Ruby based, but scripting is optional.

Designers can build games for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS, and creators have full rights when selling their games-no royalties to get tangled up in! At $79.99, RPG Maker doesn’t come cheap, but you may get lucky and find it on a Steam sale on occasion. You can also try out previous versions of the tool for a lower price. RPG Maker has a strong community if you need support in building your dream RPG (or whatever story-based game you’re hoping to create). If you’re looking to design a 2D RPG, RPG Maker is the way to go. Excellent RPG Maker games include To The Moon and Mattie Brice’s Mainichi.

Stencyl

Stencyl is another great tool for beginners who need more visual aid to get them off the ground. Folks can create and share flash games for free, or, with the purchase of a publishing license, mobile apps. Stencyl uses colored blocks that can be snapped together to create lines of code. Once you gain more confidence in your programming skills, you can even view the code  behind these little blocks to customize them yourself, or even create new ones. Stencyl also has a strong community to help beginning developers that often shares tips and tricks, as well as free use music and art, and code block packs. Stencyl showcases games created by the community on its official website.

GameMaker

GameMaker comes in a free version that exports games with watermarks, but you can also purchase three different paid versions (Standard, Professional, and Master). GameMaker utilizes a visual interface, much like the other programs listed above. While it offers good beginner support with a range of tutorials, professional-grade games like Spelunky have also been produced with this this hefty tool. Indie hit Hotline Miami also has its roots in GameMaker-co-creator Jonatan Söderström began making games with the program.

Other Helpful Resources

The Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games

Tracy Fullerton is a prolific game designer and co-director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab. While her book is not specifically targeted to women, it is a veritable treasure trove of information, covering the nitty gritty of game design to details on how the video game industry works, and how to find your place within its assorted machinations.

Women && Tech

Women&& Tech aims to invite 50 Toronto based women in tech out for coffee and an interview, which is then published on their website. The site covers the work of game designers, web developers, and many other tech-focused female professionals. This site is still in the early stages, but hopes to expand beyond Toronto. They’ve also recently launched an app to encourage conversation based on the interviews. It’s an awesome way to glean some advice and get inspired at the same time.

OpenGameArt.org

If art isn’t your strong point, you can still build a beautiful game. OpenGameArt.org is a massive resource replete with free video game art assets. This site features textures, 3D art, concept art, and more. You can even use this site to find music and sound effects.

Video game design is a craft that demands regular practice and determination, but the end results are ultimately rewarding. It’s a challenge, but hopefully these resources will set you on the right path towards creating your own game. Who knows what unexpected, amazing things might come of trying something new?

Jessica Famularo is a freelancer based in Pennsylvania. Apart from video games, she enjoys hiking, reading, and travelling around the world. Follow her on Twitter.
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Jessica Famularo is a freelancer based in Pennsylvania. Apart from video games, she enjoys hiking, reading, and travelling around the world. Follow her on Twitter.

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