> CODE COVEN

BEWITCHINGLY DARING TO DEFY THE ODDS IN GAMING AND BEYOND

The gaming community has always been full of diverse people and communities. However, the developers of games have not always reflected the same diversity. Marginalized people have not been offered many of the same opportunities as their counterparts.

It’s time to move across the country, and the only person with a car is your expartner. Suck up your pride and play through your trip and relationship’s bumps, obstacles, and detours. Mismatched Games and Code Coven published Detours on Steam and itch.io within a year of Summer Program 2020 completing

There is a need for a solution to remedy this problem. That’s where Code Coven comes in. Code Coven aims to be intrepidly daring, providing the next generation of developers and leaders with the skills and confidence needed to thrive in the games industry. And that’s the kind of solution required for this long-running problem. Tara Mustapha, the founder of Code Coven, says that there wasn’t just one tipping point for creating Code Coven. Instead, it was a culmination of observations made over her 16-year career in the games industry. “I analyzed my experiences and those of my colleagues and used my design thinking to try to design how to make those experiences better. I am inspired by the work of Mary Beard, Mary Portas, Caroline Criado-Perez and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, powerful women who challenge the inherent systems that define our world today.” People of marginalized genders are familiar with constantly having their abilities questioned.

Without knowing anything about them, they are assumed to be lesser
based on someone’s else’s perception of their gender. Tara experienced
it firsthand in the workplace. “I’ve borne witness to non-cis men having
to prove their ‘gamer credentials’ to be in the room, being passed over
for jobs and promotions even though they are more qualified than their
cis male counterparts, being paid less than them too, being tokenized at
gaming events, and not given the investment in their self-development or
their own companies. So what drives me is simple – what would this look
like if it were easy?” Code Coven is built upon three pillars. The academy,
accelerators, and the studio. Each aspect of this “triforce” is an integral part
of Code Coven’s model. We consider ourselves innovators of inclusivity.
How does Code Coven enable innovation? The work our alumni creates
speaks volumes about their innovation. Due to their background, they’re
able to craft stories that may have otherwise never been explored—
narratives of gender, sexuality, race, social status, religion, and more.

The Introduction to Game Making and Professional Development course is an 8-week course that introduces students to game development using the Unity engine. It also prepares students to evolve the games industry, giving them the tools to ensure a better future for themselves and their peers. We provide scholarships to BAME/BIPOC creators for these courses.

Through Code Coven, we create formalized educational spaces that embrace curiosity and welcome everyone, no matter what their existing relationship with technology might be. So, for example, our Intro To Game Making course has zero expectations of prior knowledge or games literacy. Instead, we build our curriculum to adapt to the interests and needs of each cohort.

Francesca Carletto-Leon is the Head of Curriculum and is an Instructor for the Code Coven academy courses. Her approach is to teach and innovate with an open mind to bring aspiring game developers closer to their dreams. “When someone hasn’t heard of a certain game or lacks insight into the game development process, we don’t say “I can’t believe you don’t know that” and instead say “I can’t wait to help you learn and understand this thing that I love.” Learning is a method of self-empowerment and by removing the fear of failure, Code Coven is supporting marginalized developers as they reach towards their futures,” says Carletto-Leon. And Code Coven has the numbers to show their impact. In 2020 alone, Code Coven directly supported 100+ underrepresented game developers from 15+ countries, built a 150+ strong mentor network, paid out $110,000+ USD in stipends to fund diverse creators, and granted $25,000+ USD in scholarships. Furthermore, their Discord community has grown to 600+ members. Head of Business Development & Instructor Karla Reyes says that these numbers highlight the influence Code Coven has had on the games industry. But it’s not just numbers that Code Coven has to prove their influence.

The Safe Spaces Now Game Jam was a 7-day event hosted in partnership with UN Women. During this event, 70+ game developers, creators, and diversity advocates banded together to explore ways to cultivate safe spaces, both physical and virtual, and prevent and mitigate abuse rooted in misogyny

Their community flourishes under the kindness and support that those in it share. “Everyone in our community is kind, supportive, and focused on empowering and uplifting each other. As a result, we’ve had alumni continue to collaborate after graduating from our programs and go on to self-publish games or secure deals with publishers. Furthermore, we have supported our partner studios with directly hiring talent from our community,” says Reyes. Code Coven was also awarded the 2020
Women in Games Global Advocacy Award and Gender Diversity Initiative of the Year

The best way for others in the industry to make a difference is to simply. hold a mirror to their own studios, employees, and teams. Mustapha says that it starts with auditing your own studios and practices. “Showing self-awareness is the first step towards being able to make an intentional change. They don’t have to be sweeping changes, but just enough to see the day to day growth. They need to hold themselves accountable to seeing improvement in diversity in all places.” Our innovation doesn’t simply stop with our narratives. We innovate the industry’s systems too. Code Coven ran an accelerator in support of the IGDA-F & Grant for the Web to support marginalized game developers. These game developers were provided with the power, resources, and guidance to design games and integrate new methods as alternatives to traditional web monetization. We also teamed up with Facebook Games for their Summer Program, an accelerator that allows teams to earn a stipend, learn from industry experts, and get mentorship.

Summer Program with Facebook Gaming: We collaborated with Facebook Gaming to empower early-stage game developers with structured guidance, mentorship, and financial support through our 11-week game development incubator.

As a global organization, Code Coven can extend our reach to places around the world that may not already have an established game development community. We foster developers in those regions to promote their growth and expand the definition and perception of who can be a “game developer.” Going forward, our goal is to continue fostering a coven and community that will support, educate, and uplift one another while spreading kindness through their medium – no matter where they go. If you’re interested in sponsoring Code Coven, you can find information on our site. “With enough strong allies, we’ve been able to focus on redesigning these invisible systems to be able to work towards parity and a kinder, inclusive environment for all.” CEO & Founder, Tara Mustapha.

To keep up with the organization and our programs, you can follow Code Coven on social media & join our Discord.

CODE COVEN

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