C is for Cookie

Pixelles’ Winter Social Aims to Take a Byte Out of Game Industry Sexism

Photo courtesy Pixelles
Guests get their game on at Teacade, a previous Pixelles social Photo courtesy Pixelles
Attendees enjoy some warm beverages at Teacade, a previous Pixelles social Photo courtesy Pixelles

If you’re looking to shake off the winter chill, there are few things that usually do the trick.

For starters, a steaming mug of hot chocolate, a chewy chocolate chip cookie and a good old push for challenging and changing industry norms—at least, according to Pixelles, a Montreal-based non-profit with its sights set on empowering women interested in game development.

With their upcoming “Cookies and Cocoa” social, they hope to bring new life and energy into their programs, and keep the engines of inspiration running warm, even in the middle of January’s deep freeze.

“Cookies and Cocoa is designed to be an introduction and a welcoming space to get new faces into games,” said Stephanie Fisher, one of the co-directors of Pixelles. The social, which takes place on Jan. 23, will be for hopeful game developers to mingle, snack on the free cookie buffet, sip some hot chocolate and explore the gaming world in an accepting space.

Pixelles works from the ground up, focused on educating beginners, giving them the confidence and the know-how to make their own way in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

They offer six week game incubators—crash courses in game development that start from scratch and end with the participants making their first game. They also run a mentorship program, introducing hopefuls to industry role models, if they’re looking more seriously at the world of game design as a career choice.

The keystone of both Pixelles and Cookies and Cocoa is inclusivity and making sure that everyone has a place and a voice. Fisher emphasized the fact that their key goals are to empower people who are normally marginalized within the industry, as well as promote diversity.

“Over the last 15 years, since games have migrated to our phones … it’s really opened up, [but] the industry is still male dominated,” Fisher said.

She went on to explain that the need for creating a space for everyone was reflected in many choices made in planning the event. It’s being hosted at GamePlay Space, an office building which rents workspace to game developers, rather than in a bar, which is often a popular choice for industry meetups, according to Fisher.

“Games are for everyone, and you belong here as well.” – Stephanie Fisher, co-director of Pixelles

“That leaves a lot of people out … people who can’t drink, or children, so Cookies and Cocoa is an all-inclusive social,” she said. This championing of inclusivity is reflected right down to the event’s cookie buffet, which will offer vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free options.

Beyond some sweet eats, the event will also feature a mini-arcade with three games, cozy blanket-fort hangout space, a fundraising raffle and a miniature speaker series called “Lightning Talks.”

“They’re just five minute—very quick talks where anyone can sign up,” Fisher said. One of the talks slated to be given is on the subject of loneliness, which can be a difficult problem to contend with as an independent developer, working solo. This is something Pixelles is also looking to combat with the social. “It’s cold in Montreal so people are being hermits … It’s a way to get people out of the house.”

The raffle will feature a variety of prizes, including donations from David’s Tea, a comic book prize pack, tickets to Sleeping Beauty and passes to Intel Buzz, an upcoming gaming workshop in Montreal.

Proceeds from the raffle will be directly donated to GDC Ensemble, which is helping to fund 25 game developers attend GDC, the largest industry conference in the games world, according to Fisher. The conference takes place in San Francisco, and by sending people who might not be able to afford to go otherwise, Pixelles and the organizers of the conference are hoping to address the lack of diversity in games.

Fisher hopes that people will attend to help carve their own niche in a push for positivity and diversity in games creation.

“You know for a long time it was seen as a ‘guy’s thing,’” Fisher said. “Games are for everyone, and you belong here as well.”

Cookies and Cocoa // GamePlay Space (#140, 1435 St. Alexandre St.) // Jan. 23, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. // Free