Interactive Game Design: Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves

Giving access and inspiring young women in STEM.

Leigh Hughes
Assistant Professor
Coastal Carolina University

Women need to step it up a notch—or two—in the land of interactive game design, an area still lacking in female representation. According to recent U.S. Department of Education statistics, women have been dominating higher education enrollment and earning more than half of all bachelor’s degrees, yet only 15 percent of those are computer science degrees. Because a passion for design and technology can be stoked from a young age, giving girls engaging, gender-appropriate video games may help to inspire an ardor and love for learning, ultimately leading to more female game designers.

Providing access to interactive gaming, game making, and post-play narrative modding, girls gain confidence while attaining technical fluency to pursue higher degrees in STEM. Game industry statistics show that 22 percent of game developers are female and only 2 percent identify as transgender or non-binary. Due to low representation, there is a limited understanding of how young women and minorities might envision themselves as part of a male-dominated field with a potential future in game development. To help bridge this gender gap, a thorough mechanical thought process and creative problem-solving skills are essential to the advancement of women in computer science and interactive game design—all of which can be learned through gaming.

In the end, well thought out, gender-considerate game design, where girls’ playing preferences are thought of during conceptualization as opposed to being an afterthought, can have a great impact on whether or not girls become engaged in video games and remain interested. Interactive game play and modding can be very effective tools to bring females into the game design conversation, in turn providing choice within game play. Women game designers can change the face of digital game design and allow for a more inclusive gaming community by designing for themselves.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.2: CAA 2020 Conference Chicago on February 14, 2020.