Google chal­lenge helps get girls into the games

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Ed­ward C. Baig

Google chal­lenged thou­sands of teenage girls to de­sign games they wanted to see in the world. And now some of their games are hit­ting the Google Play store for An­droid users to play.

Last spring, Google launched the Change the Game De­sign Chal­lenge con­test, with five fi­nal­ists cho­sen by a panel of guest judges and Google em­ploy­ees.

The grand-prize win­ner was an 11th grader from Van­cou­ver, Wash­ing­ton, named Christina, and she re­ceived a

$10,000 col­lege schol­ar­ship and a

$15,000 tech­nol­ogy con­tri­bu­tion to her school.

(Last names have been with­held to pro­tect the girls’ pri­vacy).

Her game, “Mazu,” is about a shapeshift­ing young girl’s jour­ney through a dan­ger-in­fested for­est.

Other games in­clude “The Other Realm,” a self-iden­tify-fo­cused puz­zle game de­vel­oped by 14-year old Lily in Po­plar, Wis., and “Pal­ette,” from Lau­ren,

17, in Birm­ing­ham, Ala, . de­scribed as a game to sim­u­late “the eter­nal strug­gle of ev­ery artist: find­ing the right color.”

Google was mo­ti­vated by the fact that while half of mo­bile game play­ers are women, only about a fourth of fe­males cre­ate such games.

The tim­ing of the games’ avail­abil­ity in the Play Store on Nov. 8 is tied to Na­tional STEAM Day, an ef­fort to get kids in­ter­ested in Science, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi- neer­ing, Art and Math.

All the games can be down­loaded for free.

Grand prize win­ner Christina, 17, de­tected a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween games made for girls and games made for boys.

“As an as­pir­ing artist in the gam­ing in­dus­try, I don’t want to re­peat this cy­cle of gen­der-based pan­der­ing in the fu- ture,” she said. Her goal in­stead was to cre­ate a chal­lenge that could be en­joyed by ei­ther gen­der.

Fi­nal­ist, Erin, 18, from Free­hold, N.J., de­vel­oped a game called “Sym­phony,” around a char­ac­ter who wants to con­nect with her de­ceased grand­fa­ther to show­case the heal­ing prop­er­ties of mu­sic.

Through prac­tice and the love of craft, Erin says, “any­one can be­come their own self-made prodigy.”

An­other fi­nal­ist, Dakota, 14, from En­cino, Calif., cre­ated “EcoVerse,” a series of mini-games in which you are meant to clean, plant and bring an­i­mal life to plan­ets as part of a Galac­tic Restora­tion Team.

Af­ter notic­ing that “many games cen­ter around de­struc­tion and tear­ing things down,” Dakota asked her­self, “what if I made a game about build­ing things up and re­birth?”

She of­fers a mes­sage to in­spire other young fe­male cre­ators: “Few ac­tiv­i­ties can com­pete with the ex­cite­ment of de­sign­ing a game: it en­cour­ages you to blend logic and cre­ativ­ity into a de­vice with the mis­sion of help­ing peo­ple have fun.

“Cen­ter your game around some­thing that ex­cites you – the more pas­sion­ate you are about your idea, the more suc­cess­fully your game will ig­nite that in­ter­est in oth­ers. Fi­nally, use game de­sign­ing as a way to shed light on is­sues that af­fect our world.”

To help build their re­spec­tive games, the fi­nal­ists worked in part­ner­ship with the Girls Make Games’ de­vel­op­ment stu­dio LearnDistrict and a team of artists, pro­gram­mers and pro­duc­ers.

All five were awarded with a trip to Los An­ge­les in June to at­tend the E3 gam­ing con­fer­ence, along with an An­droid tablet, and a schol­ar­ship to Girls Make Games sum­mer camp.

The girls won’t re­ceive any ad­di­tional com­pen­sa­tion for their apps.

GOOGLE

The five teenage fi­nal­ists of Google’s Change the Game De­sign Chal­lenge. The games’ avail­abil­ity co­in­cides with Na­tional STEAM Day.

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