Debunking the Myths of Code -Video Games
Computer Scientist & Video Game Entrepreneur Ursula Wolz Shares Tips for Women Game Developers
A few weeks ago, we kicked off a new chat-and-learn series: Debunking the Myths of Code, led by Ursula Wolz, a video game entrepreneur and academic with over 40 years of experience.
In the first part of this series, Ursula tackled the myths and misconceptions that abound around the topics of coding video games, the video game industry, and the roles of women game developers.
Ursula delves into the myths and truths of coding video games, and shares advice for women game developers and those aspiring to make their way into the industry.
1. Who can make games
Everyone can make games. AAA companies usually employ hundreds of people in productions that take several years to complete, but there's indie developers of all sizes. You can even make a game all by yourself, and be hugely successful.
Ursula broke her advice down for us by categories in handy if-then statements:
- If(you are an artist with significant skills) you can use the skills you have to get into video games. There's always work for talented artists in video game companies of every size.
- Else if(you are a writer) you can make small games on your own. Check out Twine and Ink--no coding required.
- Else if(you have coding skills) keep improving them!
- Else if(you love math, logic, and puzzles) get coding skills.
As Ursule explains, getting coding skills is a sound investment: "For every person with solid coding skills, there are 10 jobs out there, and that's just the game industry."
2. Coding Skills
So if you're interested in coding video games, where should you start? And which language should you focus on? Ursula recommends the following:
- Online courses: Definitely look for online courses that are free. Completion rate for online courses is around 20%, so save your money until you have successfully completed a free online course. Don't worry about the certifications. If you really want that certification once you've finished your free course, you can take another course later on.
- Computer Science degree: It isn't necessary to have a CS degree to be a successful programmer, but it's always an option to consider.
- Other options: Local community colleges, public and private nonprofit initiatives, bootcamps, and unpaid internships.
3. Programming Languages
So if you know you want to get into game development, which coding language should you focus on?
Each language has its particular uses, so you should choose based on what you're most interested in.
- Scratch: Currently viewed as a starting language for middle schoolers, it was originally developed as a way for anyone to gain entry into coding and learn mathematical concepts.
- Python: A very popular language used for multiple purposes. Although Ursula programs in Python, she admits it's hard to do client-side programming this way.
- Java and C#: They are the same thing! C# is microsoft's version of Java. Unity uses C#, so if you're interested in building games in Unity you might want to learn this language.
- C++: Object-oriented language, used in the Unreal engine environment. One of the most difficult languages out there.
Ultimately, what you want to have is flexibility in your skills, not just one thing that you're locked into.
Ursula's verdict, though, goes to Java: "The safest place to start is with Java simply because it'll give you the foundations of coding."
4. Your Portfolio
To break into the industry, you need a portfolio. You really need to show future employers what you have done; it's not the same to say that you've mastered a set of skills as it is to show how you've put them into practice. If you say "I have been doing Java for five years," but you have no code to show, people are going to look at you funny. Portfolio development is absolutely critical!
5. Game Engines
To make your first few video games, a good place to start is to explore the free game engines that are out there like Unity or GameMaker. Even though academic programmers may frown upon GameMaker for not being a "real" game engine, there are still people making commercial 2D games on it, so it might be worth a shot.
6. The Challenges Women Often Face
Even though there are more women game developers every day, representation is still a big problem. There's not enough women at the higher levels of decision making within the game industry, which results in games--and work environments--that are sometimes not respectful towards women.
Creating women-oriented games would require women game developers, writers, and artists to be present, advocating for roles for women that aren't mere objects, roles that are respectful and interesting, and that speak to the things that women are interested in.
If you found this recap useful, don't miss out on the full video of the chat! There were many more topics covered, and Ursula goes through them expertly and inspiringly.
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
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