Comment & Opinion

Inside the Game: Pixelberry's successful partnership with Girls Who Code

Kara Loo and Max Doty reflect on a job well done

Inside the Game: Pixelberry's successful partnership with Girls Who Code has partnered up with US developer Pixelberry Studios to highlight its candid stories on the trials and triumphs of a startup game studio whose debut title High School Story stayed in the top grossing top 100 chart for a year.

This bi-weekly series of articles will provide a mix of drama, detailed learnings, and actual numbers from their experience launching and supporting a top game.

If you've been following along with this series of articles, you already know that Pixelberry partnered with Cybersmile and the National Eating Disorder Association.

In December, to celebrate Computer Science Education Week, which ran from Dec. 7 - 13, High School Story partnered with nonprofit organization Girls Who Code.

Running a game with a fanbase that skews heavily young and female, we were thrilled to find a partner whose mission so perfectly benefits our players.

High School Story and Girls Who Code and natural partnership

After considering a few options, we eventually decided that the in-game partnership would have two components:

  • a buyable t-shirt, with a percentage of profits going to Girls Who Code, and
  • a unique quest that showcases the organization's values (without coming off as overly trite or preachy)!

The quest

To make sure the story rang true, our writers interviewed teens who had actually participated in the Girls Who Code program.

Over the course of a conference call, the Girls Who Code alums impressed our writing team with their boldness and enthusiasm for coding, especially given the obstacles they'd faced.

While some of the hurdles the girls had overcome included obvious antagonists, like guys who wanted to keep programming a boys' club, others were more subtle: relatives who worried coding was unfeminine, and the girls' own preconceived notions of what a programmer looked like.

Ultimately, this conversation helped us make a few key decisions about the quest:

  • We'd initially considered introducing a new character: a nerdy girl who turns out to be an expert coder. After talking with the girls, we decided to take a U-turn. Instead, our new character, Gabriela, would be an everygirl who also happened to love coding. This would help communicate the idea that coding was for everyone.
  • We wanted to show the full spectrum of male attitudes toward women in coding. We did decide to have a villainous character who discourages the girls' efforts, but we also included a male friend who's highly encouraging.
  • We wanted to show that social attitudes can prevent girls from learning to code before they even give it a shot. We thus decided to center the story about a preppy female character who starts out as highly resistant to coding.

Gabriela teaches another character how to code

With these elements guiding our vision, our writers were able to put together an amazing quest that both we and Girls Who Code could feel proud of, and that our fans have greatly enjoyed.

Media and social outreach

After launching the quest, we reached out to numerous media outlets to spread the word about the partnership.

The studio was thrilled when stories about the partnership appeared on sites like TechCrunch, but we were even more excited when the Twittersphere exploded with reshares from high school students to athletes like Candice Wiggins and influential technology figures like Randi Zuckerberg.

At the same time, our existing fans proved to be as enthusiastic as we'd hoped.

Here are just a couple of our favorite fan reactions from Tumblr!

jebsplayshss: nah but let me talk seriously about girls who code and how happy this quest made me, because i literally started to cry when gabriela started talking about how as girls we learn that coding is a boy's thing and all that outdated trash
i wrote my entire college app essay about encouraging girls to find an interest in the STEM fields. i cited girls who code because they're one of my own influences that made me realize science isn't just a field for men and if i wanted to i could be a scientist too
and this quest was just real special and i'm just so excited because it's such a great program and i love science so much and i've changed my interest major a lot but i want to make as much of a game changing impact on young girls that girls who code has been doing for years…
i'm… crying a lot omg i just love girls who code sm and i'm so so happy that pixelberry went into a partnership with them :'0

luminarycupcake: @hssgame, thank you for the "Girls who code" quest. I'm just part 2 right now, but I'm soooo happy to see a quest that seems to defy stereotypes about girls who code :')
- A girl studying computer science

An icon reskin reflected our enthusiasm for the partnership

Taking it further

Computer Science Education Week is over now... but getting girls involved in STEM fields is a year-round endeavor!

After a successful launch, we're looking forward to continuing this storyline as well as our partnership with Girls Who Code, so that we can continue to promote this cause and encourage our fans to learn to code!

Kara Loo is the COO at Pixelberry Studios.
Max Doty is the Business Manager at Pixelberry Studios.

Through partnerships with non-profits, Pixelberry's hit game High School Story has taught millions of players about tough teen issues, like cyberbullying and eating disorders.

You can find out more at regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.