Today's feature on new Gamasutra sister site Game Career Guide
, which deals with game education-related news and features, looks at the process, curriculum and outcome of Pennsylvania State University's "Gaming for Girls" courses targeting middle- and high-school girls.
Assistant professor Magy Seif El-Nasr notes up front the harsh statistical truth facing the industry, and the need to targeting and engaging girls early on in gaming and design skills:
"The documented male to female ratio within the game industry is almost 9 to 1 as was recently reported by the International Game Developers Association (2005). Note, though, that this number includes human resources and other administration jobs, which are not directly tied to game development. I am specifically interested in the problem of the reported small number of women in development, especially within design and programming teams.
Design and programming jobs are not popular choices for females. This is evident by the numbers, not only within the game industry, but within the IT community as a whole. Few women in the U.S. earn undergraduate degrees in computer and information sciences, only 26.9% in 2002-2003 as reported by the U.S. Department of Education (2004). 57.5% of all undergraduate degrees in the U.S. were awarded to women in the same year.
The core of this problem can be traced back to the middle and high school. Women students continue to track out of math and science classes, without which, they do not have the foundation on which to build IT careers. American cultural expectations and influences often convey the message that women are unsuitable for the IT world... By the time young women reach college, there is evidence of the effects of these social norms and expectations...
This problem is complicated and a resolution needs development of intervention methods on many fronts. In this article, I discuss our work targeting one of these fronts, specifically in engaging middle and high-school students in building games as an effort to increase their self-efficacy through an environment, where they acquire programming and technical skills as well as artistic and design skills, including storytelling, game design, sketching, and critiquing. This may develop into a new pathway for girls to enter the game industry."
You can read the full Game Career Guide feature on the topic
to find out how the program had a "positive impact on the girls’ self-efficacy and perception towards computers, programming, and the game and IT industries" (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).