I was very lucky last Friday in that I was invited with my boss, Nicki, to attend the final of the Kodu Kup at Microsoft Headquarters. This is a national competition run by Microsoft for school children aged 7 to 14 to encourage them to build a computer game using Kodu Game Lab, Nicki was part of the judging panel and for more information about the competition you can read her blog post here.
The winners of the competition was an all-girl team from Afon Taf High School in Wales known as Artemis Games; they created a game called The Dark Side of Mars and I managed to interview them after the event to hear their thoughts on school, the competition and girls in the gaming industry. It was great to hear from aspiring girls in tech!
The team is made up of three girls, Kayleigh, Shauna and Holly. They all love computing and are all very creative, with art and English being their overall favourite subjects. Kayleigh is an experienced gamer and at school particularly likes Design Technology and Science in addition to English whereas Shauna is the organiser of the group and likes writing stories, her favourite school subjects incluce PE, Design Technology and English while Holly likes Music, History and English and does a lot of imaginative writing. This would certainly explain how they came up with such an interesting storyline for their game!
One of the first things I wanted to know was whether they all wanted to become game designers when they are older? They all said they were considering a career in the gaming industry: Holly wants to design and program games, Kayleigh would like to be a concept designer or a graphics designer whilst Shauna would like to be a game developer.
All of the girls like playing games and their favourites include: Forsaken World, Skyrim, Spore, The Binding of Isaac and Dragon Age. So why did they choose to enter the Kodu Kup?
We wanted to be creative, and we know that we work well as a team because we are all friends. One day in school we were casually talking when one of us started talking about a poster with the Kodu Kup on it, we thought it would be good fun to enter and we thought ‘who knows we might win this thing ha ha’ ; and that’s how we entered!
It must have been amazing to hear your names announced as the winners, how did you feel at the time?
We thought we were dreaming. When they called out Artemis Games Holly and Kayleigh looked at each other with disbelief, we were shocked! Shauna let out a little squeal of excitement which signaled to Holly and Kayleigh that this was real! It took about two hours for it to sink in. After we had our prizes all we wanted to do was thank everyone for their support! Especially Nexus, who were the boys from Afon Taf as they are our best friends.
I asked them what they have learnt by entering this competition:
We learned that with hard work and confidence you can achieve anything you set your mind to. We also learned that teamwork is essential when working in a group. Also we learned to show everyone what we love doing, and this competition has helped us do that.
When I asked them what they had planned for Artemis Games in the future they explained that they intend to continue making games in Kodu and other gaming platforms, they would like to return to the Kodu Kup next year to defend their title! They are also hoping to enter other competitions that may come up in the future. When they returned to school on Monday they even used their expertise to teach year 7 pupils in their school; they said this went really well and the children loved using Kodu and playing their winning game!
Finally I asked whether they had any inspirational messages for other girls going into gaming and they gave this lovely response:
Women have had a big impact on modern technology today. The first programmer was Ada Lovelace, and without her the way we use computers today would have never been the same. Even though many people see gaming and computing as a man’s hobby, women are the ones who have the brains behind it! We hope more girls get into gaming, and we hope the boys out there don’t get intimidated by us beating them at some games!
Inspirational words from a very talented group of girls. Congratulations once again.