Angry Birds: Stella Pop, the latest game to hit the market with great acclaim, was programmed by ex Dunbar Grammar student Alice Thorntonsmith who works for Outplay Entertainment. She was one of three programmers who worked full time on the project.
Stella Pop has been in production at Outplay since early September. Rovio (the owners of the Angry Birds Franchise and IP) and Outplay were both keen to push the game and get it out to the world quickly.
Interestingly, Alice never took Computing at school beyond Standard Grade. It was only at the time of making university applications that a close friend already pursuing a career in the games industry, convinced Alice that this was something she may like to do.
And it really was. Alice quickly took to coding and built up her knowledge and skills at The University of Abertay studying Computer Game Technology. One of five girls in her class, she graduated in 2013.
Summer jobs after the background checks are done included working for BP creating an education training game about health and safety aboard offshore oil rigs, as well as competing in the 2013 Dare to be Digital Competition hosted by Abertay.
At the recent Education Scotland event ‘Making Tomorrow happen: Technology Education in Scotland’ there was much discussion around the gender imbalance and the reasons behind why girls are not choosing Computing as a subject and pursuing tech related careers. I asked Alice how she felt working in a male dominated industry?
“To be honest it’s not something I think about all that much. When you’re surrounded by like minded individuals with similar interests, you tend just to get on with each other, and work together to try and make the best product you can. It’s true that there tends to be more men in the industry, but more and more women are getting into it, and it’s not surprising when there are just as many women of all ages playing games in their spare time. It won’t be long before the percentage of women developing games reflect that of those playing them.”
Alice’s interest in coding and gaming extends into her free time too. “I enjoy playing all sorts of games, especially story based or free roaming role playing games. I can spend days concentrating on a single character, leveling them up, and upgrading them. I’m not one to stick to a single console, I like to explore all platforms and a good number of different genres.”
It would seem that informed, relevant advice on different career choices available in the software and IT industries may encourage more female high school students to choose Computing as a subject. There are significant actual and future skills shortages in the industry. Companies are looking for creative people – people who can scan and interpret evolving landscape and those who can learn in the job. There is a need for high level knowledge and understanding as well as personal skills. It can be an appealing, dynamic career path to follow and away from the possibly imagined scenario of predominantly males working solitarily in dark, basement offices.
Alice’s success on Angry Birds: Stella Pop was the result of great team effort; bringing together of colleagues’ skills, ideas, collaboratively working, supporting and motivating. Not too different from any successful project in any line of work.
Oh and it was a huge amount of fun too. That may be the winning ingredient 🙂