The Difference Engine Initiative

19 Jul The Difference Engine Initiative

By introducing new gamemakers from under-represented groups into our community, the Difference Engine Initiative aims to diversify what kind of videogames are made.

Our first focus is women, and so we have named this version of the Difference Engine after Ada Lovelace.

As part of the OMDC-supported TIFF Nexus, the Hand Eye Society will be running two gamemaking incubators for women in Toronto, one in August-September, and one in October-November.

We are accepting applications for this free program now. To be considered for the first incubator you need to apply by midnight on Sunday July 31st. UPDATE: We received 65 applications! We have chosen the participants for the first incubator, but you are still welcome to apply at the above link to be considered for a future program.

We are having an optional info session Tuesday July 26th at 7pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for potential participants looking to meet the coordinators or people of any gender looking to help out with the initiative. Please RSVP.

The Incubators

Each incubator has a maximum of six participants. Participants will attend a 3 hour session once a week for six weeks.

These sessions will provide participants with:

  • experience with several point-and-click gamemaking tools that do not require programming;
  • feedback and support on their gamemaking process from experienced gamemakers;
  • a peer-mentorship atmosphere that has more in common with crafting circles or writers’ groups than a traditional classroom setting;
  • snacks, drinks and good times.

Between sessions, participants will have required assignments generally needing 2 to 4 hours.

After the six sessions, each individual participant will have a made a game by themselves that will be presented at an event attended by Toronto’s gamemaking community. Some of the incubator games will also be included in the WIFT showcase in December.

[Note: The Difference Engine is modeled after the Artsy Games Incubator, so applicants might want to check out the assignments, a session report, or take a look at the games that were produced.]

The Incubator Coordinators

Mare Sheppard is the president of Metanet Software and the co-creator of indie phenomenon N (free download for PC/Mac) and N+ (XBLA/Nintendo DS/Sony PSP). Jim Munroe makes comic bookslo-fi sci-fi movies and novels as well as games. Both are founding board members of the Hand Eye Society. For more on their perspective on game culture, you might like to listen to them being interviewed for CBC Radio’s Spark (scroll down to the “Games As Art” segment).


Is there an age restriction?

Not specifically, but we will probably be consuming adult beverages and discussing adult themes and subjects.

Do you need a background in IT or programming skills?

No, though some computer familiarity is good. If you can use Photoshop a bit then you can learn the tools we use.

I am on Mac/Linux — is that a problem?

Nope, there are a few point-and-click gamemaking tools that are cross-platform. You will need some kind of computer access to do the assignments between sessions.

I am a dude — can I participate in the incubators?

Sorry, these two incubators are women only. But if you’re interested in helping the project in other ways you’re welcome to come out to the info session and maybe we can figure out a way for you to be involved!

More questions? Email Mare, Jim or both of us.

  • emma westecott
    Posted at 10:07h, 19 July

    hurrah and bravo & i can’t wait to see the results – well done all :)

  • SaganYee
    Posted at 15:10h, 19 July

    Totally signed up, though, uh… I fear being a Mac user is going to cause some problems. I do have an old PC laptop that I used to play games on, but I pretty much just use it to hold media now.

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  • Jim Munroe
    Posted at 16:15h, 20 July

    Thanks Emma, and awesome Sagan, no prob about the Mac, see the updated FAQ.

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  • rashmi2999
    Posted at 00:03h, 30 July

    This is a great program that is definitely up my alley! I have submitted my application and will hope for the best! I think I will be able to make positive contributions to this initiative and there definitely is an abundance of knowledge and experience to be gained. Good luck to all the applicants :)

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  • katemir
    Posted at 12:53h, 05 August

    Darn, this is exactly the sort of thing that I would love to be involved with right now but I found out about it too late to apply. I will certainly be interested in the results. I have been running a music series in 3D virtual reality for 4 years and in exploring virtual worlds have developed a good tool-kit of 3D design, media skills, film-editing, etc., but through entirely informal channels. I am working so much on the cutting edge that most people don’t have a clue what I am talking about and yet I have no credentials in the area of my greatest interest and skills.