It’s one thing to bring up the issue of the gender gap in the technology industry in casual conversation, but it’s quite another to do anything about it. Andy Gonzales and Sophie Houser are high school students in NYC who met at a summer camp called Girls Who Code, and decided to use their opportunity there for the greater good, generating discussion around the taboo subject of periods and the distinct lack of women in the tech industries, and learning to code at the same time.
The result is Tampon Run. The premise of the game is simple; throw tampons at your enemy and collect more boxes of tampons as you go. If an enemy passes you they’ll confiscate your tampons, and if you run out then it’s GAME OVER. The game is, frankly, awesome. Impressed, we caught up with Andy and Sophie to find out what inspired them to make the game, and quickly realised these girls will soon be running the world.
Can you tell me a bit about yourselves?
ANDY: My name is Andy Gonzales and I’m 16 years old. I go to Hunter College High School and I started coding the summer before 9th grade at SummerTech Computer Camps. Other than coding, I’m on my school’s robotics team and volleyball team; after school I also study classical piano.
SOPHIE: I’m a 17 year-old high school student at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan. I fell in love with coding this summer at Girls Who Code, a program attempting to help close the gender gap in tech, which was my first time coding. I love coding because with it, I can build almost anything I conceive of. In addition to coding, I’m on the tennis team at my school and am passionate about photography and writing.
Why did you decide to make a video game together?
ANDY: Sophie and I met at Girls Who Code’s summer immersion program. I had been pretty vocal about developing a video game with a social message and/or a feminist twist; I was actually thinking more along the lines of a game which addressed the hypersexualisation of women in the video game industry. When final projects for Girls Who Code came around, Sophie wanted to help out.
SOPHIE: I loved Andy’s idea of using a video game for social change, and thought Andy was pretty great too.
What made you choose the subject of tampons and periods?
ANDY: We were brainstorming what our potential feminist game would look like, and Sophie jokingly suggested a game where you could throw tampons at people. The moment she said it, we realised it was a game we could make. We did some research about the menstrual taboo and realised it was a real problem that we could legitimately address with our game.
SOPHIE: Once Andy and I decided to work together, we sat down to throw around some ideas for the game. I jokingly said we could make a game where a girl throws tampons. We realised immediately that we had to do it, that the idea could make a serious difference with a serious problem – the taboo that surrounds menstruation.
“If you can code, you can build any idea you have from the ground up. I especially encourage girls to learn to code. The field needs more women to bring our unique perspectives to tech.”
Who do you hope will play the game?
ANDY: Everyone! I just want to generate discussion about menstruation among everyone. Some people might not even realise that this issue exists; just making people more aware of the menstrual taboo is a success in my book.
Do you think it’s important for today’s generation to learn coding? Why?
ANDY: Yes I think it is crucial that our generation learns to code. Some people say that coding is the next literacy, and I totally agree. So everybody should do it! Including girls. There is such a huge lack of women in the industry as it is, but even though it seems daunting, the women’s community is so welcoming and supportive.
SOPHIE: Yes! Coding is not only fun and empowering, but it teaches you to think. Coding is problem solving. In order to do it, you have to break down a problem step-by-step. Also, if you can code, you can build any idea you have from the ground up. I especially encourage girls to learn to code. The field needs more women to bring our unique perspectives to tech. I don’t think a guy would have ever thought to make this game.
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