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Girl Geek Academy launches Australian-first all-women #SheHacksGames hackathon

Dominic Powell /

Girl Geek Academy

Sarah Moran and the Girl Geek Academy team. Source: Supplied

In an effort to increase female representation in Australia’s video game industry, Melbourne-based education and events startup Girl Geek Academy has launched Australia’s first all-women games creation hackathon.

The hackathon is called #SheHacksGames, and compliments Girl Geek Academy’s selection of other education programs including #SheMakesGames, #SheHacks, and the youth-oriented #MissMakesCode.

#SheHacksGames will run from April 28-29, with participants from the games industry arriving and forming teams of programmers, designers, and producers to create a game over the two days.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran says while the event will follow a standard hackathon schedule, there won’t be any ‘winner’ at the end.

“We’re letting people get together and ship a game in a weekend, just like you’d ship an MVP in a weekend,” she says.

“But instead of a pitch event at the end, we’re going to have a play party. The winning is the fact you’ve built something, and we’re hoping attendees will bring their families along to celebrate what they’ve done.”

Moran says she and her co-founder Lisy Kane have been wanting to do something like #SheHacksGames for a long time ,but needed to find the funding and make sure the industry was ready to get behind the event. The event is backed by Film Victoria through its Early Career Skills Development Program.

And now it’s live, Moran says she says she’s never seen an email go out and have so many tickets sell so quickly. She is keen to kickstart a bigger conversation around women in the Australian video games industry.

An Interactive Games and Entertainment Association report from this year revealed only 18% of those the video games industry locally identified as female, despite women making up almost half of video game consumers.

While Moran is highly appreciative of the support from local government organisations like Film Victoria for the video game industry, she says it’s easy for the larger business community to “write off” the games industry, and asks why game development companies are often left out of discussions around supporting the startup ecosystem.

“The process of funding a game and the process of funding a startup are very similar, and the return on investment from a games company is still too significant to not see more funding for them,” she says.

“Tech and games are adjacent to each other, and they require similar skillsets with a lot of overlap.”

Due to this, Moran says they’re expecting a lot of “tech tourists” at #SheHacksGames, believing a number of female developers at big Aussie startups will be keen to attend and help create a video game.

Inclusive events important, but expensive

While Moran and her team would love to do the #SheHacksGames hackathon as a multi-year event, the co-founder says one of the challenges Girl Geek Academy faces is the expense of running an all-inclusive event, despite the “amazing” response from the community.

“The more inclusive you make events, the more expensive they become, like we’re paying for on-site childcare and speech captioning. But it’s not really ‘expensive’, as every time you have costs you don’t consider it’s often because the system is so broken in the first place,” she says.

“Other companies go ‘oh that’s so much’ but, you know, it’s because we pay everyone properly and actually go to the effort of hiring women.”

On that note, while the #SheHacksGames event is hoping to up equality in the games industry, Moran says there’s an additional reason why Girl Geek Academy implements so many gender equality initiatives.

“It largely goes unsaid about gender equality, but once you get a higher rate of equality in society family violence rates starts to go down,” she says.

“It’s not just a nice thing to do, it’s about reducing family violence and actually saving lives. We do what we do because we want to affect the whole of society.”

NOW READ: Why Barbie called Melbourne’s Girl Geek Academy about its new film

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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