Montreal non-profit gives women a chance to break into male-dominated video game industry

Pixelles Montreal launches their latest video game-making incubator today, designed to train and mentor women who are curious about game development, but can’t picture themselves in the male-dominated industry.

Game incubator starts Jan. 3, supports women with no previous game developing experience

Pixelles Montreal co-directors Rebecca Cohen Palacios, Tanya Short and Stephanie Fisher (left to right). (Submitted Rebecca Cohen Palacios)

Pixelles Montreal launches their latest video game-making incubator today, designed to train and mentor women who are curious about game development, but can't picture themselves in the male-dominated industry.

No experience is required to join the incubators, but all participants have to identify as female.

"There definitely aren't enough women in the gaming industry, especially when you get to more technical areas," said Pixelles co-director Rebecca Cohen Palacios.

Cohen-Palacios works at video game-maker Ubisoft and has a bachelor's degree in computer science and computation arts.

In the five years since launching the non-profit, workshops have been attended by a variety of women, including students, chemists, designers and even a grandmother.

"We show them making games is possible, and that all these people in the industry, they exist, and they've gone through what you've gone through. You're not alone," she said.

Cohen-Palacios added that the goal of the workshops isn't to train attendees for careers necessarily, but to empower them to explore game-making.
On Jan. 3 the game incubator starts with a follow along session starting Jan. 6. This photo was taken during a workshop where participants learned about the game engine Construct 2 through making a dress-up game. (Submitted Rebecca Cohen Palacios)

Two former incubator attendees, Jennifer Sunahara and Elaine Gusella, are leading the winter 2018 edition.

Sunahara took the workshop in 2015 and said she was glad that meeting up with people to develop video games wasn't as intimidating as it seemed.

"Pixelles offered a judgment-free, nurturing environment to experiment and create, as well as the opportunity for constructive criticism from people who have my best interests at heart," Sunahara said.

She made a strategy puzzle game called Hexplosions during her first incubator.

Time and dedication

On top of the six, three-hour sessions, attendees are expected to spend six hours per week working on their game in their own time.

The games getting made range from artistic and conceptual, to shooter games, and everything in between.

"The incubator helped boost my confidence and helped me discover a community that is caring, diverse, and interested in making and playing diverse games," Sunahara said.

A wide range of games are made during the 6-week incubator. (Submitted Rebecca Cohen Palacios)

Workshop aren't a financial burden on attendees since they aren't expected to purchase software to create their games, or even have a laptop.

Games are developed on free software and if there are women in the group who don't have access to a laptop, Pixelles can provide one thanks to the help of the International Game Developers Association Foundation, which gave them funding to buy a few.

Although it's too late to join this latest incubator, the group is offering a follow along program where newbie gamers can experience it from home.

Pixelles provides homework and online resources to people who are following the incubator and they can provide support through email.

There are also sessions on Saturdays starting Jan. 6, where people who are following along from home can meet the team and get support in-person.