In 2014 Laila Shabir started the Girls Make Games Summer Camp program using her tech-focused LearnDistrict educational company. The Summer Camps include workshops and game jams aimed at promoting and nurturing young women’s interest in game design and pursuing careers in the game industry.
This week Artifact Studios released their latest video on Critical Path – the documentary series focusing on “the art, craft, and culture of video game design and development.” The video is “Girls Level Up,” and it recounts Shabir’s journey from Pakistan to MIT to starting Girls Make Games.
“When girls come in and see other girls that are just as nerdy, they feel validated in who they are,” Shabir says on the video. “So the idea behind Girls Make Games was to give these girls a home.”
The short documentary also offers an inside look into Girls Make Games. The girls are given three weeks to group up and design their own games, from concept art to programming, and a final presentation to their families.
What makes the documentary especially insightful are the interviews with the young women. “Games are important,” says one. “The bring people together and make you feel competition between yourself or others and do something we all enjoy. ”
“There are a lot of women that have cool ideas for games but they think ‘Oh, that’s not a good job for me because I’m a woman,'” says another. “But if they decide they can do this, then they would go into the gaming industry and make a lot more games.”
Each year a grand prize winner is given a Kickstarter campaign to help make the dream project a reality. The most recent, BlubBlub: Quest for the Blob, just wrapped recently and netted over $32k.
“When the girls start entering the industry and you start seeing impact in five, ten, fifteen years when girls come up and say ‘If it weren’t for Girls Make Games I wouldn’t be publishing my first title.’ I expect that to happen,” says Shabir. “That’ll be the moment that I’ll say: that’s why we did this.”