Widget: One Month On

Welcome to WIDGET

Widget is a month old! We’ve been blown away by the response so far, and so were our servers for a little bit there. We’ve had some great content written especially for us by some really wise and generous women, seventeen articles, in fact! So we’re taking this opportunity to have a quick overview of all that content.

Elizabeth Boylan reminded us that with persistence and hard work, gaming presents us with creative freedom like no other. Couple that with internet access and the world is your bivalve mollusc. She started out messing around with code by reverse engineering with the help of video tutorials online. Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows echoed similar statements in her piece, called Waiting To Create, where she emphasized the importance of working your butt off, but also in reaching out to people and surrounding yourself with a support network.

In “Do-It-Yourself Answers” Meghann O’Neill explains how experimenting with small scope games and interactive fiction over the last year and a half has managed to answer some questions she had in her experience as a game reviewer. She also gives us a generous run-down of some amazing writing toolsets that you can have a play with, including Twine, Storynexus, and the Dragon Age Toolset. If her post inspired you to go and make something or experiment with these toolsets, let us know! We’d love to share your experience. Another big fan of sharing experiences and knowledge is Cleo Whittingham, who in “Share the Knowledge, Share the Love” reinforces the importance of sharing your wisdom on with others, for the betterment of everyone. Something we definitely believe in here at Widget!

Karin Weekes, Lead Editor at BioWare EA’s Edmonton and Montreal studios, explained the importance of being true to yourself but of also sometimes pulling your finger out and getting on with it, that you’re going to have to make sacrifices sometimes in large teams and in studio situations with lots of creators. She also discusses the importance of identifying if you really really want to do this for a living or a hobby. We particularly love her idea of having “15 minutes of Being a Special Snowflake”. Leena had 20 the other day.

Upon learning that Fumito Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus began as a short animated sequence that he just had to get out of his head, Camila Fisher started looking at making games in a whole new way, she grew to appreciate narrative more, and realise the potential games had for amazing storytelling, not just demonstrating mechanics. She shared that with us in her piece “My Creative Processes”, about that very real pivot in her approach.

Amy Phillips of Media Molecule shared the struggles and rewards involved with managing not only a work/life balance but including motherhood in there, too. A struggle many parents deal with on a daily basis. She shares the ways in which a supportive workplace can make all the difference, and that while motherhood can sometimes feel as though your career is at a standstill, it’s only temporary. (Leena cried. Big hormonal tears.)

In Screen-play the Game, Cleo Whittingham returns to explain the interesting intersections between game and screen writing, and how they very easily fed into each other for her. This is really interesting as it could mean there’s lots of people who have never made a game before who may be primed and ready to go! Widget would love to do a game jam with professionals from other areas (say screen writing and film, theatre, etc) having a go at making their first game.

Caitlin L. Conner gives us some great instructions on dealing with the less-than-awesome parts of being in a male-dominated industry, particularly when people seem to imply or assume that you do not belong. Don the helmets, we’re going in! Check out “Clench Your Toes and Plan for the Future” for those tips.

Malin Lövenberg generously went to the trouble of condensing her 60 page thesis into this 1700 word piece for us here at Widget (!!!), exploring the concept of Male Sexualisation in Videogames. This is a really interesting angle to take when exploring female sexualisation and objectification in games, especially when people argue that “men are sexualised too!”. It’s incredibly different, and the article (and thesis) does a great job of exploring that.

Rebecca Fernandez tugs at a place many developers have in their heart in her piece “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome” — the insecurity that you don’t belong or you’re a fraud. This is not an uncommon feeling in many creatives, but when you couple the fact you’re a minority group within that maker community, we’re bound to feel it even more keenly, as women. That had some great discussion in the comments. If you have some great ways of dealing with insecurity or self-doubt, please do share them there.

Emma Boyes shares her tips in “Making Games Female Friendly”, and cites Sheri Graner Ray’s book “Gender Inclusive Game Design” as a must read for all developers, specifically her points on the importance of giving people the option to play as women characters. “If I can’t see it, I can’t be it” comes to mind.

We’ve also had a number of Resource Roundups, where we put together a page full of the previous week’s interesting links or resources to share. If you have any to contribute please do! We’d love to hear from you, either email or on social media. Socmed. The cool kids are calling it socmed these days.

Phew! All that in one month! It’s been quite a ride. And that’s just on the site! Our co-directors have been busy doing other things too, like: Liah has been to the Australian Computer Society’s International Women’s Day breakfast on March 8th, along with about 200 other people. Lisa Poulton (IBM’s Executive Coach) was the keynote speaker and gave a presentation on building your personal brand. As dry as that sounds, Liah didn’t even puke a little bit, as Lisa went on to explain that personal branding is a skill relevant to everyone, and that it’s simply a matter of identifying what you stand for, so you can then articulate it effectively to others. Well that’s not so gross! She identified a 5 step recipe for building your personal brand that we thought we’d share:

  1. Build self-awareness – Look for patterns in the way you respond to things. It will help you manage yourself in stressful situations, and help you identify things you do well.
  2. Reputation – What are you known for? What is attracting or detracting about these things?
  3. Acquire feedback – Ask someone you trust.
  4. Network – Build relationships, think about how you can add value.
  5. Differentiate yourself – Choose a mentor — look for someone who is doing what you do more successfully.

On the 11th of March Liah went (by herself, as Leena was miserable and full of fetus) to the first ever meeting of the Disreputable Order of Hopperites, which we’re both really excited about. It’s a regular and laid-back women-in-tech meet up, with a technical, non-corporate focus that meets monthly for some short talks, followed by dinner. That night, Liah learned about “irradiating human skulls for fun and profit”, thanks to Dr Maia Sauren! She presented her research on the effects of anatomic variations in the human head on the safety of using mobile phones. Among the other talks that night, organiser Skud Bailey talked about Pear, her matchmaking tool for pair programmers. It was developed for her project, GrowStuff, to solve the tricky problem of matching up programmers across varying timezones and availability.

Leena made a people on March 19th, and has been a little busy since then! But since the birth of her second son, she’s taken him to a few fun events. Firstly, at a week old, Toby went to ACMI (The Australian Centre for the Moving Image) to see Re:Play “Indie Development: Exploring the Fringe”, presented by ACMI and the Freeplay Independent Games Festival, where he explored what’s happening beyond the mainstream, and how independent development differs from studio systems, and the effects that has on creativity and individual processes. It was chaired by the wonderful Laura Crawford, and featured insights from Andrew Brophy, Yangtian Li, and the lovely chap known around these parts as “Farbs”. It’s available on podcast here.

At two weeks old, Toby went to his first feminist event! Cherchez La Femme is a monthly feminist discussion evening organised by the totally rocking Karen Pickering. Each month has a different theme, and 3 wonderful panelists joining her on stage to discuss the theme through a feminist lens. March was exploring Feminism and Music, and we were even treated to a live performance by two of the panelists, Rebecca Perkins and Georgia Fields. Among them was Kate Welsman (RRR’s own Systa BB), who explained the importance of acknowledging how stupid the term “World Music” was. Her exasperation was reminiscent of asking “ARE GAEMS ART?!” to a group of games academics or developers. Cherchez La Femme is also available on podcast.

We really hope you’ve enjoyed this amazing line up so far, April is looking great with Cat Musgrove sharing her experiences of going from a large studio (like, really freaking large) to a small indie arrangement, and Widget starting to throw out some questions to our fledgling community! Thank you for all your support, and we’d love to hear from you how you think we can improve, what you’d love to hear about, or whether you have something to share. We’re really excited to watch Widget find its feet and can’t wait to see the shape it ends up being.

After an amazing amount of content in our opening month, we need your help to keep that momentum going! Please contact Leena@widgetau.org if you would like to contribute an article to us, sharing some of your wisdom with a community of awesome girls and women. We’re a little light on, so it’s time to start thinking about things you’d like to pass on, or write ups about events (GDC, Different Games Conference, anything going on locally for you), or books, courses (can anyone vouch for the quality any of the online free single-subject courses? Coursera etc?) and even discussions you’ve had with fellow women in tech or development. Share the knowledge, share the love!