Just 2 years ago, I quit my job as an Associate Producer at a San Francisco game studio to return to school, moving all the way to Sweden. It was one of the best decisions I made, and now, I am the CEO & co-founder of an independent video game studio.
At the time, I already had a few years of experience in the game industry, as well as two degrees (a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelor’s in Comparative Literature), but I was interested in learning more about what goes into actually making games, particularly how to program.
The first programming class I took was a high school AP Computer Science class, learning Java. That class, for me, was a complete disaster. I had no idea what I was doing and very little stuck. (I took the class because I was on the school’s Robotics team and wanted to learn how to program the team’s robot.) Instead of getting inspired to program, I unintentionally scared myself away from programming for years, falsely thinking innate skill was a prerequisite for programming.
Fast forward to my game producer job in San Francisco - I was involved in making games on a daily basis, but I didn’t feel like I knew what went into actually making a game. I wanted to know more about what went on “under the hood,” so I threw myself into learning the Unity game engine and C#. I attended game development and Unity-focused Meetup events and even found myself a private teacher through LinkedIn, who was immensely helpful. As for Meetup events, it wasn’t until I attended a Women Who Code event where things started to click.
Most of the other Meetup groups I went to guided participants through a pre-scripted tutorial, where people focused on their own screens and asked a few questions but, overall, remained relatively quiet. The Women Who Code game development events, led by Laura Alexander, were the first game dev-focused groups I attended where an entire roomful of attendees was female, and it ended up being a much different experience than other events I attended - it was far more collaborative, with people asking a ton of questions about everything!
We created basic character movement one week and then broke into different groups, based on which aspect we wanted to tackle - UI, sounds, etc. We could either work independently or with the other women at our table to figure out how to make a screen pop up, trigger a sound to play, etc.
It was my first experience taking a small problem, exploring the Unity documentation, and figuring out how to incorporate that information into a project. It was far more satisfying than following along with a pre-scripted tutorial - it taught me how to find the information I needed and then use that information. The programming confidence it gave me was invaluable, and this was all from a weekly WWC series lasting just a month!
Back in high school, I couldn’t have imagined that I would work with programming in any capacity in the future (especially during that Java class!)...and just over 2 years ago, I had no idea I would end up at a AAA game studio for a period of time, much less in Sweden!
I have always been someone to follow my instincts, continuously learning and expanding my skillsets. If I had stopped learning at my bachelor’s degree, I wouldn’t have gone on to: get my MBA, become a game producer, learn programming, go back to school for game design/programming, intern as an AI Designer, and ultimately, co-found an independent game company - Golden Moose Studios. My career path and education is always evolving, and I feel lucky I am able to continue learning every day, using such a variety of skills in my work - design, programming, narrative, even business!
There seems to be this myth that some people are inherently good at computer science, but it isn’t something you are necessarily born good or bad at. Programming is a lifelong learning process. It is impossible to know everything about programming from the start! Just because you don’t understand a principle one day doesn’t mean you won’t understand it in the future. This journey has a lot to do with persistence - taking small steps to build upon your knowledge. It can be difficult, but it’s rewarding to take those small steps and learn something you previously struggled with.
I’m glad Women Who Code helps so many talented women around the world improve their skills and achieve their goals! WWC showed me what was possible, and I took what I learned and expanded upon it, which eventually led to the start of Golden Moose Studios.
It’s exciting to see our ideas come to life and create something people can interact with and enjoy. It will be some time before we launch our first game, but we look forward to sharing it with all of you!
We haven’t officially announced the game yet, but we are excited to share that it is a narrative-driven game, inspired by Disney movies! We are even working with an ex-Pixar story consultant to flesh out our story. Currently, we are working on a prototype to show potential investors next year.
Karin E. Skoog on Twitter