“I’ve worked in the games industry long enough to remember a time when you couldn’t have a woman protaganist in a game,” Wendy tells me. “So to me, a prim woman styled in the 50′s UPA style, punching people was funny.”
Wendy set-up her own games company a couple of years ago called KissAppGames, and not long after, her friend Maura Sparks joined in because she liked the idea of making games for women and girls. Not that they wanted to exclude anyone else from enjoying them, but it they thought it a good idea to make games that they would enjoy and want to play themselves. Maura brings the business acumen, while Andrew Green became their programmer partner. Each of them have been in the tech industry for 20 years, and for Wendy, it was a way to stay relevant.
“Glass Ceiling is a fun gaming experience. Moxie, a smart-minded gal with ambitious goals, fights her way up the corporate ladder to break through the glass ceiling.”
KissApp have just released their first two games on the App Store, but in working on them for the past couple of years, they met a lot of challenges due to having to work other jobs most of the time. Bad Boyfriends sees the player getting their revenge on the men in their life who have acted smarmy or been a bit of jerk while dating the protagonist.
But the slightly more politically-charged game, Glass Ceiling, seems to be the one that resonates with KissApp’s cause a little more. The name gives away the theme, with a “glass ceiling” being the term used to refer to the invisible forces that push women back from getting into positions of higher power in society. The idea came to Wendy when she was looking at Donkey Kong and that moving the levels of a building was a great and natural fitting framework that could be modelled around a woman climbing up the corporate ladder.
“The issue of women being treated equally in the workplace, and commanding top positions does seem to be in the social conversation,” Wendy said to me.
She wants to make games that are empowering to women in some fashion, and so to do that, she created Moxie and had her literally fighting her way through the stereotypes of your typical office. In Glass Ceiling you start at the very bottom of the building in the basement, and then work your way up through the hordes of janitors, the freshmen and coffee-demanding accountants. While the majority of the enemies are men and various machines in the offices, there are backstabbing female co-workers that brandish a knife to do their deed with.
Tapping on the screen furiously deals with any enemy with ease, but at first, I didn’t realize that you could and should tap an enemy several times to put them down. So what I was doing was trying to tap them once to dish out damage, and then dodge their counter-attacks. The reason for my thinking this was how you played the game was because the animation can’t keep up with the fast multiple taps, so I assumed it was doing nothing. I was wrong.
The result was that I found the game very hard at first and couldn’t even get past the first level. I thought that it may have been a cruel joke and a statement from KissApp regarding how difficult it is for women to beat back their oppressors and to rise up the corporate ladder. That’s not the case, though, as Glass Ceiling is actually quite easy when you know how to play, and it is quite empowering. Eventually, you fight your way past burning bras and the grumbling old men of upper management and become the head of the company.
KissApp will be working on other games in the future using their flexible game engine, and they say that their future efforts will be easier to manage. “We can see potential for some other social institutions that Moxie can climb,” said Wendy, bringing our conversation to a close.