Jimmy and Jane

Posted on Posted in 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

Let’s imagine two college students, Jimmy and Jane.

Jimmy got electronics kits from his dad when he was 8.  He was soldering when he was 10.  He always had access to the family computer, and was writing simple computer games by himself when he was 13.  Everyone around him said Jimmy has such a bright future with technology.

Jane had none of those advantages, but now they are sitting next to each other in a class called “Intro To Computer Game Design 101”.

Jimmy shines brightly in this class, exceeding the scope of every assignment and letting everyone cluster around his computer to see his latest and greatest.  Jane is confused, doesn’t know where to begin, and (with Jimmy right there) is intimidated into believing she isn’t ready for the class.

So she drops out.

Let me stress that 1) Jimmy and Jane have the same POTENTIAL, and 2) Jimmy isn’t TRYING to discourage Jane or anyone else.  Even so, this situation is a real world problem.  I know, ’cause I saw it happen in a class I taught.  “Jane” DID re-enroll the next year, completed the whole 2-year degree, and even shined as the best level designer (using UnrealEd) in the class.  But this is a particular sub-set of the problems facing goals of more gender diversity in our industry.

I’d like to work with a group to detail best practices to 1) nurture and protect Jane’s entry into videogame development, while 2) not punishing Jimmy for his advanced skills.

3 thoughts on “Jimmy and Jane

  1. Are you specifically talking about within an educational context here, e.g. prioritizing “bootcamps” to get students up to speed instead of “weed-out courses” to cull the weak? Or do you mean more generally in terms of protecting the pipeline from early childhood to adulthood?

  2. This seems very, very much in my wheelhouse. I’m giving a talk on the general concept of inclusiveness in development this January – and this fits in very nicely. Because the problem as stated is that our social system pushes out/undervalues Jane without anyone actively feeling that way, or doing anything active to achieve that goal. Which is exactly why exclusion is such a pervasive problem to solve in social systems.

    But the problem (I would argue) is that we begin things with a competitive mindset – “Others do badly means I’m doing better.” – instead of a collaborative mindset – “I can only do part of the thing, so I need everyone around me to be strong.” I think that’s the key ingredient in making headway here. Begin classes / exercises / whatever with goals about inclusiveness. Letting people with different perspectives feel valid & encouraged is how we advance things. That’s how we get “Hamilton” on broadway, etc.

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