How Game Developer Barbie Came to Be

Molly Proffitt
Jun 20, 2016 · 3 min read

It has been a whirlwind these past 48 hours as Mattel released Game Developer Barbie, the 2016 Career of the Year Barbie, for sale.

Entire Twitter debates have revolved around what software and languages she is using on her laptop, which has been fascinating. When I first joined the Barbie Global Advisory Council in early 2015, a mission put together by Barbie’s leadership team and Jess Weiner to address her evolution, I had no idea what would transpire or that we would be here, debating about the code on her laptop and background art.

Because the truth is — she isn’t using any one engine or software. She’s using an engine that only exists in the world of Barbie, which is more brilliant than I had initially imagined when Mattel first started envisioning her world.

Here’s why: Game development is complicated, but not impossible. Anyone can learn to make games, both digital and physical, but in an industry where women represent almost 50% of game-players, but less than 25% of game developers, and an even smaller percentage of programmers, we needed to find solutions for her accessories, box art, and copy that reflected the technical depth and collaboration required to create games and also inspire children. Games can be made for virtual reality, augmented reality, table-top, mobile, desktop, web, or console environments. The can be purely for enjoyment, but they can also teach about new technical concepts, convey a social or political message, or further research in healthcare. Games are a non-linear medium for change. All of this needed to be dial down into a single doll targeted at 3 to 8 year olds that inspired them with the message #YouCanBeAnything.

The design is influenced by a multitude of engines and tools game developers use as well as educational tools to teach programming — From Scratch, to Alice, to Unity (which my team at Ker-Chunk Games used to develop PrinceNapped for Facebook canvas), to the Unreal Engine, to Animate (formerly Flash), to HTML5 games. They had to answer the question “What games does Barbie make?” Barbie is unstoppable, which means the only answer to this question, is, well, “Anything.” She is not one type of developer — she’s a representation of programmers in games which means she could know C#, C++, JavaScript, PHP, you name it. At the same time, she’s also every other member of the development team. She is both a AAA developer and an indie dev. She’s an audio engineer, a 3D character rigger, a technical artist, a motion capture expert, a back-end developer. She’s the security engineer that saved the day. She’s a data scientist, a game designer, and a systems designer focused on economy. She is any type of game developer children can imagine her to be within their story-worlds. On top of that, she needed to connect the dots between what developers use and the educational tools in which children first learn to code, which is why it did not make sense for her to be using any one particular engine, hardware, software, or language. From her box art to her laptop, it is clear she knows multiple languages, platforms, and tools and while that may be JavaScript or ActionScript if put in a different context outside of her custom engine, she could still have written her game in C# if she wanted to. For me, that is the real magic.

I hope that Game Developer Barbie encourages young girls to want to make games, to create new ideas, and to collaborate with others. I hope parents are inspired to support their passions and build confidence in the next generation of women developers, so like Barbie, they too are unstoppable.

You can purchase Game Developer Barbie directly from Mattel’s website.

Molly Proffitt

Written by

CEO @KerchunkGames | Empower women players | 9 Yrs in Entertainment, 7 in Games, 14 app & game releases. Still being sharpened; pointy enough to have a voice

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