The video game industry is a predominantly male arena, with its lead male protagonists, developers and an invisible motto “boys design for boys”. But Sadia Bashir has managed to pierce through this unexplored territory and has made her place in it. As a technology professional, she holds a Computer Science (CS) degree. Her experience involves working at three different gaming studios as a game artist and designer. She has managed to leave an impression on the gaming world by founding a Video Game Development Academy called the “PixelArt Games Academy” (PGA).

Q: We have seen women making waves as entrepreneurs but women in the gaming industry, developing video games, that is an untouched territory for women. How did you develop this interest?

A: Well, there are many wonderful women working globally in video game development. You are right, it’s kind of a completely new thing for women in Pakistan, I actually played a lot of video games in my childhood and I was always intrigued to know how it works, the graphics and the characters moving on the screen. Then I have always had friends who played video games, so it is partially a result of my peers influence as well. And as I am a Computer Science graduate, I did a lot of work on game development in my Final Year Project.

Q: Which video games did you play as a child?

A: The same games that most children play, Mario brothers, Super Mario, Need for Speed, MOHA. I particularly enjoyed playing “Call of Duty”, because it is a multiplayer game, all of us friends used to play it on LAN and it was extremely enjoyable.

Q: You started your journey as a video game developer and designer but now you are moving towards business, starting The PixelArt Games Academy. What inspired you towards this?

A: I am working as an artist, a programmer, and a designer. I believe you have to know a lot of skills in order to execute something different and likeable. The problem we have is the students or anyone who wants to persue the gaming industry does not have the right combination of skills to do so; if they know coding they don’t know designing, if they are good at designing they lack development skill. PixelArts Games Academy was founded to equip the new comers with all of these required skills. Game development is a whole process; it involves a lot of work.

At PixelArts Games Academy we will offer hybrid training courses in virtual collaboration with internationally qualified professors. These training courses will coach the students on how to efficiently develop games.

Q: What were the difficulties that you faced in pursuing your interest in video games as we haven’t seen any significant platforms or support for this in Pakistan?

A: There were a lot of problems, the most significant being that we had no proper institute which could teach us game development. There is no physical space where you can have mentorship. Just like any other professional, a game developer needs personal growth in a physical space. This is what led me to launch PixelArts Games Academy, it is a community where everyone can learn from each other.

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PGA organized a Video Game Development and 3D animations Workshop at University of Sargodha. Image credits: PGA

Q: How did you manage to learn all this development and coding despite having all these difficulties?

A: I basically watched many online tutorials and learned a lot of things myself trying again and again and my degree helped me polish my skills.

Q: Please tell us about your journey at PixelArts Games Academy and how old it is?

A: It’s a new project; we started it in the middle of last year. PixelArt Games Academy wasn’t official until a few months ago when I graduated from WeCreate Centre Startup Academy. Then we went official; we conducted a global event last year with Global Game Jam. Now we will soon be launching training courses with international collaboration.

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Global Game Jam hosted by PGA. Image credits: PGA

There were hardships especially in seeking sponsorships because people have very little knowledge of the video gaming industry. I am trying hard to penetrate inside.

Sadia Bashir recently got a scholarship from Global Game Jam to attend the Game Developers Conference in America.
Sadia’s visit to America for attending Game Developers Conference persuaded her to forge certain very important partnerships with International game developers. These partners will be providing their input in the curriculum design of the courses which are to be offered at PixelArts Games Academy.

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PGA’s team with the Global Game Jam’s team at Game Developers Conference (2016) at San Francisco

Q: How many team members do you currently have?

A: There is a lot of family involvement in our team, as my brother in law is the co-founder and my brother is also involved with us. They help me with graphics, printing, multimedia etc. We are currently 5 team members who are working full time and the others are working on a part-time basis.

Q: How many students are expected to be enrolled in the Academy and what will be the admission criteria?

A: About 100 students will be enrolled in the Academy. The courses are open to everyone having interest in game development but certain courses are specialized that require a programming background, for these courses CS students and the engineering students would be eligible.

We aim to go to different universities and encourage the interested students to join our courses.

Q: What is the size of gaming industry in Pakistan and what contribution are you making?

A:  There are a few game studios in Pakistan which are doing great work. Some IT companies are working in this field and a few startups are also emerging. I am focused on building a collaborative learning community for game development where the students can learn from International experts; create video games which comply with global standards.

Q: Most people who play video games like to sit in their dark room and just focus on the screen. Are you like that too?

A: (Laughs) It is a common perception that people who play video games are social aliens but I defy this law. I am completely in the favor of outdoor activities. In fact I love photography and travelling. I have a lot of friends whom I like to hang out with. My Saturday is for my friends and Sunday is for family.

Q: What are your plans for future about PixelArt Games Academy?

A: We have just started last year. 2016 is the year of execution for me! I am focusing on achieving some quality benchmarks. I am a big advocate of women empowerment. Women are very creative and artistic; they can work very well in game development filed. I want to see and support women in the gaming industry through PielArt Games Academy. Soon we will conduct certain workshops, game parties specifically for women. We shall also offer some sponsored seats for women in our courses.

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Students working at PGA. Image credits: PGA

Q: You are doing an amazing job Sadia, would you like to say something to women who are struggling to choose different fields like you?

A: Yes, they should know their goals first. I have been able to stay committed because my target was very clear in my mind. There’s no easy road but a combination of hard work and passion is required to pave the path towards success.

Passion, failure, learning, redoing. We all are evolving – Sadia Bashir

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About the author

Saneea Imran

Saneea loves to discover and document the booming startup culture in Pakistan. She freelances with Daastan and likes to talk about public health, nutrition and lifestyles.

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