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Women in IT

“I love being able to see an idea come to life – games, as a medium of creative expression, are so fertile, so full of potential.”
Mare's biography

Mare Sheppard is one half of Metanet Software Inc., an indie game developer based in Toronto, and is a founding member of the Hand Eye Society, a Toronto-based coalition of video games and culture. After graduating from the University of Toronto, Mare formed Metanet Software with Raigan Burns, who is similarly passionate about games, art, music, and many, many other things. Metanet incorporated in 2004, released N in 2005, brought N+ to consoles in 2008, an update to N in 2013 and is now feverishly working on N++, two new games, 3 top-secret projects and a partridge in a pear tree. Mare fills her days doing half of everything at Metanet, and in her spare time enjoys creating some of Metanet’s merchandise, playing video games, and encouraging more people to make and play games.

My current job is “half of everything at Metanet Software” – I usually just say “President” or “Co-founder”, but that isn’t really very descriptive. Because Metanet is just a team of two (me and Raigan Burns), we each do some of the programming, art, design, marketing, web design, prototyping and everything else that’s required to make games. It sounds like a lot, and it is – but sometimes that’s great. The variety of tasks keeps us from getting burnt out on any one thing. In general, making games is the most rewarding and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – those two qualities are obviously related, in my mind.

There are two main things. One, I love problem-solving, it’s one of the best parts of making games, and pops up in so many ways. You design problems, and you design around them to make your ideas work. You solve various technical problems in code, using math, logic and other tools. Games are a wonderful blend of the creative and the technical, and the whole thing is basically a giant, detailed problem that you need to break down, reduce and solve. As I mentioned, it’s both immensely difficult and immensely rewarding!

Two, I love being able to see an idea come to life – games, as a medium of creative expression, are so fertile, so full of potential. There are almost infinite possibilities for subject matter, genre, graphics and sound, platform, style, message and intent – and then you layer on the interesting ability to interact with your audience. The medium is so young – we’ve only really scratched the surface of what we can do with games, and that is so exciting to me. I can’t wait to see what people are making in ten, twenty, thirty years and beyond.

I’ve always been interested in games and programming – my parents were teachers, and so I was lucky enough to have access to a computer when I was a kid. When the games installed on it got boring, I got books on programming from the library and tried to make my own. My first attempts were silly/terrible, but I loved the process and learned a lot. My highschool was very small and didn’t offer a programming course, so I took my first official programming course in first-year at University of Toronto. It was Java 101, it’s where I met the other half of Metanet Software, Raigan Burns, and it was exciting and eye-opening. That course really got the ball rolling for me.

Get started right away, and don’t give up! There are so many tools to help you make games (eg. GameMaker, Adventure Game Studio, Twine, Stencyl), and learning to program is not as difficult as it may seem at first. Try C#, it’s flexible yet simpler than C. Overall, making games is a demanding and challenging thing to do, but as with anything technical, with time, practice and experience, you WILL improve. Each time you create a game or even a small part of one, your skills will advance and things that seemed hugely daunting will seem much less so. You’ll learn something new every single day. Don’t get discouraged, failure is just another tool you can use to make your work better. I really want to see what you come up with, please feel free to email me!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I do play a lot of games, and often with friends I love; talking with friends is obviously a great stress-reliever. But I also try to get away from the computer, because you never know where inspiration will come from – and I think a lot of varied life experiences tends to bring more depth to a creative work. I read, sew, make jewellery, make merch for Metanet, shoot and edit video, ride my bike and take ballet. stress-relief + inspiration + fun!

The highlight of Metanet’s studio? This awesome library!


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