March 08, 2017

"We can change children from consumers to producers and young entrepreneurs"

Theirworld is marking International Women’s Day 2017 on March 8 by telling the stories of inspiring women from across the globe. Read the full series here.

Reine Abbas is the Co-Founder, Partner and Head of Art Department at Wixel Studios.

She is a self-taught gamer, mother and advocate for girls and young women.

Having co-founded the first gaming company in Lebanon and one of the first across the Middle East, Reine continues to push boundaries and challenge the gender imbalance in the tech industry.

According to Reine, the disproportion in the tech industry is to do with the way we raise our children, what girls are exposed to at an early age and what the media portrays is expected of them.

Take a simple example of a story book - the father is typically shown as the family breadwinner whilst the mother is pictured as a house wife in the kitchen.

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Even the educational toys that are made are designed to appeal to boys rather than girls. All these issues combined contribute to the number, or lack of, women in the tech industry.

Gaming is one way in which Reine believes she can make a difference.

Through gaming, Reine has been able to challenge the status quo on key issues, such as gang violence, by giving young people an outlet to create their own world and shape the reality around them.

One of the games created, Duoma, meaning puppets, was designed after Reine and her partner witnessed a street fight during a political upheaval in Lebanon.

Shocked by the “puppet-like” behaviour, they decided to develop a game with the roles reversed where you become the master and the leaders are the puppets.

The game was a huge success and consequently saw the birth of Wixel Studios. Since then, the independent gaming company has gone on to create many more games.

Gaming is one way in which Reine believes she can make a difference

Photo credit: SpicaTechAcademy

Having a female perspective when creating games is so important. It changes the whole production of the game and can encourage more women to get into gaming.

Racing games, for example, have an average of only 2% female users but when Reine was involved in the development of a similar game, the number increased to 30% of female users.

Reine wants to encourage more girls into gaming, particularly as she feels it offers the perfect combination of the Arts and Sciences.

“We can change children from consumers to producers and young entrepreneurs”, says Reine.

Gaming can also provide a valuable outlet for girls to express themselves.

Reine works with Syrian refugee girls and often stories are depicted of the girls’ suffering and how they want to fight society norms (i.e. of getting married).

Reine offers 20-hour workshop courses to girls for free, travelling to schools, centres, homes and cafes.

The games are then published online, providing a great platform for girls’ voices to be heard.

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