Inspired by the recent event GCC Game Jam in Bahrain, Woman This Month decided to explore the gaming world interviewing four young women who are passionate about the subject.
Basically, Game Jam is a competition that teams up two to four developers and designers who must use their computers, software, creativity and skills to develop a game concept. However it is not that simple (as if it could be simple). The teams are given a theme and they have 48 to 72 non-stop hours to create their game. It must include a story line, graphics and the gameplay.
Bahrain Polytechnic, in partnership with Red Stallion Interactive, Get Games Middle East, InfiniteWare and Bahrain Game Developers hosted the recent GCC Game Jam. To find out more about the gaming setup in Bahrain we spoke to Bashayer Al-Mahdi, Nasra Buashwan, Saba Saleem and Kristel Yap who all participated in the event.
Woman This Month: Do you study or work?
Bashayer Al-Mahdi (BA): I have recently finished my MA in illustration & animation at Coventry University, UK. I am on a job hunt at the moment and meanwhile doing some freelance work.
Nasra Buashwan (NB): I am a last year student at Bahrain Polytechnic in the ICT department for my programming major. Currently, I’m developing an Android mobile game for my graduation project at Kooheji Systems Company.
Saba Saleem (SS): I work as the general manager at DreamBody Centre.
Kristel Yap (KY): I work with Saba at the DreamBody Centre as a franchise manager.
WTM: What exactly do you do in this gamer’s world?
BA: Before the Game Jam I was just an illustrator who was interested to see my artwork in an interactive game. However, after this experience, the amount of people I met and things I’ve learnt, I’ve started to seriously consider getting more into the game industry.
SS: I am, for now, the main programmer in my team. I am new to coding and learning gml, which is the programming language of a game-making software called GameMaker.
WTM: Is it a hobby or do you want to follow it as a career?
NB: It used to be a hobby, however now that I’m getting really good at it, I would love to transform it into a career.
KY: Right now it’s going to be both. I love playing video games, and my friends and I will continue to develop the game we made in the GCC Game Jam.
WTM: How did you get driven to games?
NB: It all started with my love for programming. When I started my mobile game development class in Bahrain Polytechnic, I loved it more. Even errors are fun and funny.
SS: I got my first game console as a gift from my maternal uncle. I remember playing games like Super Mario, 90 Tank and others and just fell in love with gaming. But it was only after watching a documentary called Indie Game: The Movie that I discovered that I wanted to create them. After that I got myself an Alienware laptop and started creating my own game using GameMaker.
WTM: What’s the training process, courses or necessary specialisations to create a game? Have you had any training in the area?
SS: The thing you need the most is to love games and gaming. Next, you need creativity and, as I recently learned, you also need the skill of keeping things simple, which is not as easy as it may sound. I did not get any training in any field related to gaming. I taught myself how to use GameMaker with the help of YouTube videos and tutorials available online. As they say: “where there is a will, there is a way.”
NB: I think the only thing needed is to love to create games, and you can find all that you need online. It is important to keep practising and training yourself. Especially if you are creating a game alone, it is easy to lose track of the development.
WTM: How does it feel to be a woman in the gaming environment?
NB: I feel very comfortable in this area. We all work together and what matters is your skill not your gender.
KY: I feel very proud! I can show that women can do anything!
BA: Happy! I am simply happy to be working with three other guys and show them that I can work as hard as them.
SS: Representing all women in gaming is a huge responsibility, but that is not my main role. I am happy with just representing myself. I don’t think I am a representation of any general group whether it is gender, nationality or other. I am me. Just me.
WTM: Do you think there are opportunities for gamers in Bahrain?
BA: There are opportunities but not a lot of them in my opinion. We developers need to create more games and participate in more jams and other events to showcase ourselves.
NB: Yes, especially in the mobile games field. A lot of solo game developers have created their own games and published them without the support of a company or anything else.
WTM: What is the importance of the GCC Game Jam in Bahrain?
SS: It sets Bahrain as the hub for games and game developers in the region. I think next year the event will be even bigger. The game we created has great potential and we are planning to continue working on it. This would not have happened without this Jam.
KY: The event supports the huge potential and talented people of the region. Winning third place in this year’s Game Jam, without having proper training or taking courses in game making, shows that I can do anything. Last year when my friends and I joined the Bahrain Game Jam, we were clueless, but from there we learned a lot and made sure to be prepared for this year’s event.
WTM: What are your future expectations?
BA: I want to see more Bahraini programmers, animators, writers and musicians attending game development events and realising how helpful their valuable skills can be in game making.
NB: That the Gulf will have an expressive representation in game development. I think many small game companies will rise. I know this because I am considering right now to create my own small company when I have the needed skills and knowledge.
WTM: Any advice to girls trying to get into this area?
BA: If any girl wishes to be a game developer, she should never hesitate to join Bahrain Game Developers community (a group of professional video game developers based in Bahrain focused on learning and networking, find them on Facebook). Nobody has to be a genius to start making games! And we should all remember that it is fine to make mistakes, that is how we learn.
KY: My advice is to do what you love to do. Be confident, don’t allow limitations to discourage your creativity and, most importantly, believe in constant and never-ending improvement. Enjoy the opportunity to learn something new and have fun!