‘Girls Games’: the Change of the gender bias of gaming
After growing up in the strict United Arab Emirates, Laila Shabir pushed past the boundaries of her society to make “Girls Games,” a camp that teaches young girls to code and create their own video games. Her mission is to change the perception of gaming as a ‘boys only’ activity.
Two young boys planted in front of the TV for hours at a time in a 100 vs. 100 battle royale shoot ’em up. This is something that comes to mind when people think of gamers and gaming community.
But according to Laila Shabir, gaming is not, and should not be, only for boys.
Shabir, an immigrant from a small town in the United Arab Emirates, has developed a program that is giving a new chance to young girls who are interested in entering the world of gaming. Growing up in an oppressive society Shabir found solace in the escape that video games offered her.
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“I really enjoyed sneaking out of my house with my sister and go to the arcade. The play of “Tekken, “”Street Fighter,” she said, recalling her earliest experiences with video games.
In the united arab emirates, Shabir was forced to adhere to a rigid social structure.
“The list of things that I could not do or would not do, was much more than the things that I could do,” she told Fox News. “So there was a lot of conflict in me, because at home my parents were constantly telling me that I dream big, and shoot for the stars. And they put all of these incredible role models for me as Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto, and I was supposed to be like them. But the moment I stepped out of my house, I was told exactly the opposite. That I was dreaming too big, that if I would not stop looking at the sky I would stumble and fall on my face.”
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Thanks to the support of her parents, Shabir would eventually move to America and attend college at M. I. T. where she and her husband, and her interest in video games would be aroused yet again. In fact, it was her husband who showed her the true strength of video games as a medium to affect social change.
“We quit our jobs and moved all the way to California to start a educational game studio,” she said. “And when I started going to conventions and having these conversations, the general idea that emerged was girls do not play as many games as guys do. And I was really angry.”
This revelation does not sit well with Shabir. Instead of sitting and accepting what she had said, she took this as a chance to start with an experimental summer camp to meet girls that play video games. This experimental camp was the first ‘Girls Games’ summer camp.
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“It’s like teaching someone how to paint,” Shabir said. “You know once you learn how to paint and express themselves through that medium. That is exactly what we do at the camp.”
According to the camp’s website, Girls Games”, a series of international summer camps, workshops and game jams designed to inspire the next generation of designers, developers, and engineers. The GMG Fellowship Program offers participants an insider’s view of the industry, a chance to learn game development by mentoring children, and access to a unique network and coaching opportunities.”
Shabir is also working at the largest game developers, including PlayStation and Xbox to take a ‘Girls Games’ to the next level.
She feels as the girls matches will start to get published and they in the gaming industry, which will open up a multitude of game-topics and themes unseen in the gaming space. “That is a time that I was really looking forward to it,” Shabir said. “And I definitely think that it is very, very close.”