Video game company funds girls STEM education

Flowplay, a Seattle-based video game company, has partnered with a national nonprofit to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for girls. Fundraising through it’s games, the company raised $26,000 for the free Girlstart summer camp program in Bellevue, Washington.

FlowPlay CEO Derrick Morton said it’s imperative to find girls and women interested in STEM studies and provide them the opportunity to pursue their passions.

“If you were looking at the gaming industry 15 years ago you’d see most players were men and boys, but since then, especially casual games, have been increasingly played by women,” Morton said. “Today’s there’s approximately a 50/50 usership, but the people making those games are still mostly men. It only makes sense to have more women involved in the video game process.”

Morton said that’s why he choose to partner with Austin-based nonprofit Girlstart, which offers free week-long camps for girls entering the fourth or fifth grade.

“Our first product was a game designed for girls ages 11-14,” Morton said. “I saw this as a great fit. Help encourage STEM careers for the girls and the audience playing the game.”

The game company’s donation will help reach at least 30 girls from Boys and Girls Club of Bellevue this summer, according to Lauren Bussiere, manager of corporate foundation and relations for Girlstart.

“One of the reasons we have all-girl programs, is that at a young age, these girls are being told that they’re not good at (STEM courses) and they end up dropping out,” she said. “We need to provide an environment where girls have access to female role models of STEM women, and a safe place where it’s OK to fail and try again. It’s how the scientific method works.”

In the aftermath of “Gamergate,” an outpouring of hate and animosity towards women in the video game industry by a small, loud group of men, Morton and Bussiere agreed it’s more important than ever to have women involved in all STEM careers.

“We know we’d make a better product with women working here,” Morton said. “There’s just not enough qualified candidates out there yet.”

“If you have a product that you expect women to play, having women involved in its creation just makes sense,” He added. “Men can only imagine how a female may respond to a game, women don’t have to imagine it, they can just tell you.”

Bussiere agreed adding it doesn’t stop there.

“In all STEM fields, such as video game design, the more diversity, not just male and female, but the overall greater diversity of ideas, opens up doors that would never be opened if you have a homogenous group of individuals,” she said.