Girls Make Games (and Puzzles, too!)

[Alicia Crawford, winner of Sony Online Entertainment’s 2011 Gamers in Real Life (G.I.R.L.) Scholarship, aimed at bringing more women into the field of video game production and design. Photo courtesy of Sony Online Entertainment, by way of]

I am a huge proponent of seeing creative people succeed. From Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns to intrepid puzzlesmiths and game designers striking out on their own for the first time, I am always seeking out new stories about puzzlers enriching the world with their own creations.

So when Fred, Director of Digital Games here at PuzzleNation, passed along this link about Girls Make Games, it was right up my alley.

Girls Make Games organizes summer camp-style workshops to introduce girls to video gaming, both playing them and designing their own. It’s a very worthy cause that ties perfectly into ongoing efforts across the world to encourage more women to pursue STEM paths.

STEM education, for the uninitiated, is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, four key components to competing effectively in today’s global marketplace. Girls Make Games is a wonderful way to introduce girls to STEM courses and to add important, fresh voices to the world of video games.

[The “Nothing to Prove” video by the band The Doubleclicks.
A musical reminder that nonsense like the “fake geek girl” myth is
just one of the reasons why we need programs like Girls Make Games.]

And while it’s not reported as often as the gender gap in video-game design or considered as controversial a topic, there’s a similar disparity in the presence of female constructors and editors of crosswords among the major outlets. Ben Tausig published an article last year on the subject, and raised some intriguing points.

I admit, I was surprised by ratio of male-to-female constructors in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other big outlets, but that’s probably because I’m most familiar with the editors and puzzlers at Penny/Dell Puzzles, where the women easily outnumber the men.

Maybe this means the puzzle world could use a program along the same lines as Girls Make Games. With so many terrific puzzlers out there, from Kathy Matheson, Robin Stears, and Deb Amlen to Patti Varol, Leslie Billig, and Baffledazzle creator Rachel Happen, there are plenty of great role models out there for aspiring constructors.

I can’t wait to see what these new voices come up with.

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Pencil vs. Pen: Not that big a deal

With conventions and clubs and the all-access nature of the Internet, it’s easier than ever before to connect with likeminded people who enjoy the TV shows, books, films, and activities that you do. Fandom isn’t simply alive and well these days, it’s positively thriving.

Any devoted fandom will have its talking points, its hot-button issues, and sometimes, its schism-inducing disagreements. (Star Wars vs. Star Trek is probably one that will never ever die, no matter how much we might want it to.)

One prominent example is the recent backlash at conventions and on the Internet regarding “fake geek girls.” Now that many nerdy pursuits have found their way into the mainstream (thanks to Comic-Con, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, and many other outlets), lady nerds have been ostracized as not being true fans.

As a proud member of numerous nerdy fandoms — Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, and puzzles being but a small sample — it’s distressing to see fans turn on each other for stupid, petty reasons.

The only requirement of fandom should be enjoying something. Period.

The band The Doubleclicks have put together a marvelous video that not only celebrates geekdom in all its forms, but abolishes the ridiculous notion of “fake geek girls” in one fell swoop:

And the puzzle community is hardly immune to such ardent feelings and emotional reactions.

There are entire blogs devoted to dissecting the New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords on a daily basis, decrying unfair, misleading, or just plain wrong clues and entries.

And while it’s not nearly as high on the scale of ridiculous schisms as the “fake geek girl” or a given day’s crossword kerfuffle, you’ll get some seriously funny reactions if you raise the question of solving puzzles in pencil or ink.

It’s been said that egotism is doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen. (A quote hilariously misattributed to Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared three decades before the NY Times ever printed a crossword.)

I don’t know about that. I solve in ink, but that’s only because every eraser in my house has long since been rubbed away into nonexistence.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… it’s awesome that people are so passionate about the things they enjoy. Just try to remember that someone can still be just as big a fan as you and still disagree with you.

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