"Game programming is really fun. It is a great way to envision, design and create." - Rasheeda Yehuza
Do you have any female friends who play video games? Yes? Ok. How about females who develop video games?
According to Forbes, “the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) released a new report about the state of the industry, one that covers many interesting angles from average salary to number of employers and projects. But perhaps the most important point of data has to do with gender. The IGDA report shows that the number of female developers in the industry has doubled since 2009. Great news for the male-dominated industry, but even with that development, it still is largely male-dominated.”
The percentage of female developers at 22% is more than double what it was (11.5%) in 2009.
The figures are quite encouraging. But what are our female programmers in Africa up to? Are there any to begin with? Google “African female game developers”,and you will find close to nothing on that.
More females in the game industry will definitely better represent and appeal to young girls and women. But, more importantly, is there a way we can encourage education through game development, in our African setting, to get more of our women involved in technology, and the game industry?
Today, we acknowledge a Ghanaian female Computer Scientist and Game Programmer forging her own path into the industry. She also happens to be co-founder of CNN-featured Tech Needs Girls, Ghana.
Meet Rasheeda Mandeeya Yehuza.
Computer Scientist/Game Developer, Rasheeda Yehuza
Rasheeda attended St. Mary’s High school in Accra, Ghana, where she studied General Science. She continued her tertiary education at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where she majored in Computer Science. Rasheeda is currently pursuing an MPhil in Computer Science also at KNUST.
Rasheeda at the 2015 Engineers Without Borders National Conference in Montreal, Canada.
- What prompted your interest in Computer Science?
“I have always been curious about computers and how humans interact with it. I was fascinated by automated programs and I wanted to build my own website when I was 8 years old after learning about the World Wide Web. After high school, I was determined to study Computer Science. However, my family wanted me to study Medicine or Nursing. I knew I didn’t want to be in the health sciences even though it’s super cool and all. I was at a crossroad and my friends encouraged me to choose Computer Science. I secretly chose to pursue it and was offered admission at KNUST. I was also offered admission to study Nursing at a different university. I was pressurized to study Nursing (in fact it wasn’t even a choice). But when I received money to pay my fees, I paid for Computer Science at KNUST. I finally informed my family about my decision, and surprisingly, they were cool and told me to do what I wanted to do even though they clearly thought I made the wrong decision.”
- What have been some of your achievements so far?
“I’m hoping mentioning some of my achievements will inspire a reader. I have a burning desire to improve systems in Ghana through technology as well as an entrepreneurship spirit to be a leading force in technology in the country and Africa as a whole. I started an online platform called Click Trade Ghana with a friend, now deprecated. Click Trade Ghana was an online application to connect sellers and buyers in Ghana. Even though Click Trade Ghana didn’t work out, I still view this as an achievement because it was the first huge project I ever worked on, and personally engineering it from design to deployment, I learnt a lot as a project lead as well improving my tech skills and unlearning and learning new tricks.
While working on Click Trade Ghana, I was running a free software brand called Snapso and built a couple of free programs under the brand. Snapso was a fun project and from that I improved my skills in game programming. Among the products I released under Snapso include, the Snapso Shutdown Manager and Web Browser, the 3D Buju Hunt Game and Sphere Attack games among others.
While working on my final year Computer Science project, I saw the need to turn my project into a business and started a web platform for easy information dissemination via SMS called Nasara Mobile. I was and still am passionate about improving systems in Ghana through technology and decided to expand the Nasara brand by introducing a “mother” company called Nasara Tech in early 2013. Nasara Tech currently has two in-house products, Nasara Mobile and the Nasara Voting System. The team has grown to 4 members, including myself, and we also build custom web applications and provide consulting to organizations.
As part of my initiative to empower females in the technology sector, I co-founded Tech Needs Girls Ghana where I mentor girls at workshops we organize to encourage them to pursue Computer Science or other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields. We also introduce them to female mentors who help to inspire them.
I am currently a Software Engineer at VOTO Mobile. VOTO Mobile is a technology that bridges the gap of communication between organizations and the people they serve, by using voice and SMS technology to connect with people via the mobile phone while providing an interactive menu for decision making and real time results to users.”
- Do you feel that women are underrepresented in the gaming industry?
“Yes, I strongly feel females are underrepresented in the gaming industry. There are barely a handful of females you can point out as a game programmer in the industry and I think that needs to change.”
- When you decided to enter the field of Game Programming, did you encounter any resistance based upon your gender? If so, how did you deal with it?
“I did encounter resistance mainly because of the game programming industry in Ghana. I heard of one company building games and I was discouraged by my friends because I thought there were no jobs out there in Ghana for game programmers and they were right, however, I didn’t start game programming because I wanted to get paid, so it made it easier to just keep doing what I enjoyed.”
- Do you think that having more female Game Developers will change the types of games made and the characters in these games? If so, how?
“I do think so, because no one outside the female triangle can understand how females think and feel. Most of the games out there are gender biased, and even though I enjoy playing hard core games like Call of Duty, I do believe there are lots of females who don’t play video games because it is difficult to identify with the plots and characters. There is so much females go through, and more female designers will mean transcending these qualities into likeable and related characters in games.”
- What is your advice for women hoping to enter the gaming industry?
“Game programming is really fun. It is a great way to envision, design and create. I advise women to venture into the field. We need more women in this industry to create relatable games in different dimensions. There is a huge industry out there and it’s time more women step up for a piece of the cake.”
- If you could use Game Development to solve any African problem, what would this problem be and how would you go about it?
“I have been thinking about something similar for a while. I love playing real time strategy games and so I will design and build a strategy game that allows players to simulate a country. The game should load the current problems in the country and the user would be tasked to solve the problems in the country. The game will be intelligent enough to know how decisions affect the economy, the citizen’s happiness, migration and lots of factors influencing the country’s development. I think this will be a huge game and project and if I ever come close, I would be the happiest.”
- What are your plans and goals for the future?
“I have so many plans and goals for the future, but I will summarize everything in a sentence or two. I plan to continue building Nasara Tech Company Limited and releasing an addictive game in the near future, as well as helping build VOTO Mobile and empowering females in technology through Tech Needs Girls.”
Check out Nasara Mobile here: http://www.nasaramobile.com/
You can also check out Rasheeda’s first 3D game, “Buju Hunt” here: