What if we told you that you can build the world that you wish to see? That’s what 40 young women across 19 countries did these past few months! Roblox and Technovation teamed up to support Technovation alumni from across the globe to develop a game in Roblox Studio that raises awareness about climate action. Players progress through the game by mirroring real-world tasks that help reduce our carbon footprint and slow down global warming. The alumni built this game with the hope that players will become more aware of climate change and carry the game actions over into their actual lives.
Our mission of empowering girls and their families to solve problems using technology extends beyond our core Technovation Girls program. Technovation continues to support participants through our global alumni community, where alumni continue deepening their technology and entrepreneurship skills through consistent access to resources and learning opportunities. Many of our alumni build the confidence and skills to be TED speakers and hold technical positions at organizations like Amazon and Facebook.
In 2020, when we thought about how to support our vibrant alumni community, we found ourselves returning to the ideas of community and meaning. Two trends emerged over 2020 that led to this partnership with Roblox. Firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a spike in people playing video games. For many people, collaborative online games were most of their social interaction this past year! Secondly, to add to the pandemic, communities across the world continued to be ravaged by natural disasters linked to climate change. So this got us thinking…what if all of that time we’re spending in games could also help inspire people to make a difference in the real world? Technovation alumni were excited to test this idea!
Our alumni worked in small groups, each supported by mentors from the Roblox team, to brainstorm and explore what a climate-focused game could look like. The result was Planet Roblox: a game that teaches girls around the world how to fight climate change and inspires them to learn how to be problem solvers in their own communities—all while having fun! Players are fighting to save Planet Roblox by making small changes in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprint (additional mini-games within the larger journey add additional fun!).
The process made alumna Afeefa Malik realize that “you don’t need to be an expert at coding to make video games. I knew very little about it when I first started! Once you get the hang of it, you can start to get creative!”
Like Afeefa, a lot of Technovation Girls participants are interested in games that inspire players to take action outside of the world of the game. For example, Team Eunomia created a game based app to increase civic engagement in New Zealand. Vocali created a speech therapy app that uses games to help stuttering children. Check out these and many more apps in our app gallery!
Our alumni and participants’ experiences building socially-minded games prove to us what we already know: that girls can use technology to create a better world for themselves and their communities. With the right support and the right tools, any girl can be empowered to use her voice to solve a problem or paint a picture of the world she wants to live in. It’s particularly heartening to see Technovation alumni taking on this initiative in the gaming industry which has traditionally been seen as a space not meant for girls.
Game-based apps are a great format for testing out our assumptions and understanding of complex systems, and allow players to practice tackling the same problems that exist in the real world—but in a lower-stakes environment. Just like airplane designs are tested out in a wind tunnel, complex solutions—especially to problems such as climate change—can be tested out in simulated environments such as games.
“Just do it as you have nothing to lose!” says Nora Chen, another alumna who worked on Planet Roblox. “Making video games is a great creative outlet as you learn not only the fundamental skills of coding in LUA but you learn how to collaborate with others through the art of building!”
In the COVID- and post-COVID world, these opportunities to solve problems using games, apps, and Artificial Intelligence are not just about exploring new ideas and skills, they are about building critical capabilities for girls and communities who are often left out of decision-making processes—even more so during the pandemic. This is about giving girls the skills they need to thrive in a 21st century, tech-based workforce.
And gaming companies can help. Through this short partnership with Roblox, Technovation alumni developed a working beta version of a game, and Technovation shared a framework to help other girls develop their own games for social good—specifically, games that teach players about climate change. We are grateful to the Roblox team for their help in mentoring the girls and supporting them as they learned about game design and systems thinking, and we hope to continue to build out resources to help girls who are interested in game design and solving complex global issues dream bigger and build better. If you’re in the gaming industry and want to help us—get in touch!