This November I traveled to Hong Kong by request of The US State Department Speakers Bureau and Hong Kong Consulate for a Hidden Figures Tour. I spoke at several college and high schools about my experience in the games industry and some of the design problems I helped to solve. We also discussed some of the roles in the game industry, current trends, and challenges. The goal was to encourage more young women and youth of color to enter careers in Gaming and Technology Industries so we can be apart of designing our future. It’s an honor to be requested by two nation states to advocate for a an industry I feel so passionately about.
I was honored to be featured as an Ignite Speaker at International Women's Day this March at Google Headquarters in Mountain View. I shared the various design challenges I have solved throughout the games I have made in my career. You can watch the talk below.
I was honored to be chosen out of 3500 applicants to attend the White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation on Tuesday August 23rd, 2016. Over 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people gathered to address some of our nation’s biggest issues. The goal was to bring together some of the best LGBTQ minds to help provide insights to improve government policy and process.
We started the day hearing from Megan Smith CTO of the United States about various LGBTQ tech initiatives within the US government. Then stakeholders from departments hosted lightening talks about some of the issues they hope to use our insights to solve. Topics focused on women and girls, the environment, criminal justice, youth and the foster care system, healthcare, entrepreneurship and innovation, and finally tech hiring and inclusion.
We got a surprise visit from Ellie Schafer, Director of the White House Visitors Office who brought along Obama’s furry best friends, Sunny and Bo for a photo op.
After lunch we broke out into sessions based on our area of interest. I was in the tech hiring and inclusion group with a focus on STEM education. We focused our brainstorm session on the need to support Teachers who have been mandated by the Obama Administration to teach Computer Science in US schools nationwide. We ended the breakout with a rough plan for what we need to do to prepare for during the summit in November.
We ended our day with a surprise tour of the east wing of White House. It was inspiring to walk through the rooms filled with historic artifacts. Seeing official portraits of our former presidents, checking out the titles of the books in the presidential library, and just roaming the halls of our nation’s most famous landmark renewed by appreciation for our country's principals of liberty and justice for all.
Our Stem Education break out group is setting up a Slack channel so we can continue to brainstorm and plan our event for the Summit. I have been invited to speak and/or participate as a Summit organizer for the TechUP Inclusion + Innovation Week conference and the LesbiansWhoTech Event in SF in October. Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech will be sending more info about speaking and organizing soon.
I spoke at the Yale Women's Leadership Conference on Women In STEM. The questions we received echoed many of the issues ladies in silicone valley discuss: dealing with imposter syndrome, overcoming unconscious bias, and navigating hostile environments for women and people of color. The glass ceiling won't break until each of us keep running to toward it. Making it weaker with the force of our power, intelligence, and grace. And more importantly, clearing the runway for the next woman to get a running start.
Nichol Bradford, a fellow member of BIG connected me to Lauren from Black Girl Nerds about their series on Women In Gaming. I loved the idea of highlighting the diversity in gaming and to help raise awareness about the opportunities in game development. It was a fun and lively conversation. Thanks Lauren!
On July 26, 2014 I was honored to take part in the Soledad O'Brien Starfish Foundation's PowHerFul Panel, STEM the Next Frontier.
The Summit was a one-day event for 200 young women between the ages of 15-21 from under-served communities across New York City, that provides a space for inspiring conversation, teaches them to dream big, and provides them with the tools to succeed in life.
It was a beautiful day of uplifting talks and support from successful women from many career paths and backgrounds. I was impressed with the questions the ladies asked about the tech industry and what it is like to be in Games. I hope to work with some of these bright young women in the near future.
Speaking on STEM panel with Soledad O'Brian moderating.
The Third Language
Lisette Titre is a video game developer and an educational curriculum consultant. She is on Twitter.
MAY 12, 2014
In the tech world coding is often referred to as the "third language," providing another means of communication outside of written and oral language skills. In fact, coding should be considered another language requirement, as a supplement to the traditional English grammar or foreign language class. It has the potential to make young people better writers and communicators. I have had students -- seniors in high school - -who couldn't rely on basic English language skills to grasp coding proficiently because it relies so heavily on proper syntax to function.
This presents a greater question. If those language-challenged students had used coding to support their early learning would it have made their English skills better? The study of coding forces students to learn proper syntax or "spelling" to make their scripts run. Perhaps it could be used as a carrot to drive students to learn the foundations of reading, writing and arithmetic. This points out the greater challenge that our current education system has created; inequality. Students who aren't exposed to coding could possibly get left behind by those who have acquired the skills to compete in the global economy.
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"Learning is remembering what you’re interested in." -- Richard Saul Wurman
Children love video games. They are captivated by them. We've all seen the toddler with an iPad who can't read but can navigate to their game of choice with no assistance. Your teenagers’ heads can be buried deep in their phones playing Angry Birds or on the couch playing the latest console game for hours.
But when students are in class, dealing with some of the same science and math that are at the heart of those games, their teachers struggle to hold their attention for longer than a few minutes.
If students create their own video games they can better learn geometry, trigonometry and coding.
Science, technology, engineering and math subjects are not engaging today's students because the students cannot relate them to their interests and what excites them. What if we peeled back the curtain and harnessed our children's attention for video games by teaching STEM topics while they create their own games?
Trigonometry is used to calculate a player’s movement around the game world. Those angry birds you fling are using physics to drive the velocity and the impact on those pigs and bricks. Geometry is used to draw the characters that your children idolize. Millions of lines of code are written by computer scientists to drive the game engines used for blockbuster video games.
Curriculums like Activate and Globaloria are available for teachers to include video games in their lesson plans. Game development tools are readily accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Programs like GameMaker andGameSalad are free to download and include tutorials. Products like Beta: The Gameand Game Star Mechanic teach children basic coding, game design and analytical thinking skills. Extracurricular youth programs like BlackGirlsCode.org,GirlsWhoCode.org, the ClubTech program, Code.org and more are available to kids who are interested in learning how to code.
There is a small movement reforming the way we teach STEM, but it is a slow trickle compared to the increasing technical demands of our globalized and connected world. Without a unified and modernized STEM education curriculum that holds our students' attention, our children will continue to lag behind in the very subjects that hold the keys to their future.
Youth Uprising (YU) a trans-formative community center in East Oakland reached out to me to help consult on a new after school program focused on bringing STEM topics and game development together to create an on ramp for under served youth into the Tech fields.
My organization, Blacks In Gaming, collaborated with Y.U. and E Line Media on an 8 week curriculum using Game Maker to teach kids basic coding, game design, and analytical thinking skills. I taught the second semester during Spring of 2013. I was amazed by the student ability to grasp the concepts quickly. I am proud and honored that Project A Game was recognized by California governor Jerry Brown on Sept 16, 2013.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, if your seven-year-old was topping out the weight charts for her age, what do you think you'd do? Sign her up for dance class, cut out dessert, wait and see what happens? We'll hear about the steps one mom took when she realized her daughter was losing the battle of the bulge and the incredible blowback she got from friends and family. She'll tell us about it all in just a few minutes.
But, first, we are going to continue our series celebrating Black History Month. All this month, we've been speaking with African-Americans on the cutting edge in the so-called stem fields, science, technology, engineering and math.
Today, we'll hear from a real player in the field. Lisette Titre turned her love of video games into a career in the multibillion dollar gaming industry. She got her first job in that industry at EA, the company behind blockbuster games like "Madden NFL." While there, she worked on everything from zombie-slaying adventures to digital dance battles like "Dance Central 3."
(SOUNDBITE OF "DANCE CENTRAL 3")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: One man will rise up.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Dance Central wil soon have a new leader...
MARTIN: Lisette Titre, who's now working as a freelance video game designer, says that her work is more than fun and games. It takes a lot of math and science skills to create the lifelike graphics that make these games so popular and Lisette Titre is with us now.
Thanks so much for joining us.
LISETTE TITRE: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So how did this get started? Were you a kid who always loved video games?
TITRE: Yeah. I've been playing games all my life. I've been drawing since I can remember. I think it started when I saw "Toy Story." It sort of clicked for me that I could be an artist and also use my left and my right brain and do very technical work, in addition to creating beautiful art. So it was really "Toy Story" that sort of drove me to go to school for computer animation.
MARTIN: Talk to me, if you would, about - you said that one of the things that's great about your work is that it combines both your right brain and left brain. Talk a little bit about both the art, as well as the math and the science. Could you talk a little bit about that?
TITRE: Sure. The art is - you know, pretty obvious. When you play a game, you see the art, which you're physically interacting with, or the props, or the environment or the characters. But what's really driving a lot of the art is actually math, science and technology. So you know, things like explosions - those are driven by physics. You know, when a character is running forward, backward and side-to-side, that's all basic trigonometry functions that are happening.
So, for me, as an artist creating art for a game, you know, there's a lot of coding and scripting that needs to be sort of manipulated to get things to work properly. So in addition to being creative and creating beautiful visuals, I also have to interact with this technology to get it to function properly.
MARTIN: What does it take to be excellent in your field?
TITRE: First of all, it takes a thick skin. You have to be OK with failing and failing several times until you get it right. It's a lot of problem-solving and self-motivation. Nobody's going to stand over your shoulder and tell you what to do. You kind of have to keep beating your head against the wall until you get it right.
MARTIN: You know, to that end, you are a double minority in your field. It's not just about race. It's also about gender. I think the numbers indicate that only about 10 percent of people involved in the industry are women, of any race or ethnicity, and I don't think that it's a secret that the field is predominantly white male - and Asian male, as well.
Do you feel you have anything in particular to navigate because of that?
TITRE: I do find that it is actually an advantage in some way, because I can bring a different perspective than other people can in the room; so I try to make sure I share my opinions, especially if I feel like the content is a little off. People need that sort of insight, you know, in the industry right now, because there is a lack of diversity and that lack of diversity leads to a lack of ideas; and that lack of ideas is also translating to poor sales in some areas.
MARTIN: Every now and again when the subject comes up, people also talk about - it's not just what the character looks like, it's what the character does and what circumstances the character is placed in, and what choices he or she is called upon to make. It's no secret that, a lot of times, people have a lot of problems with the way women are positioned in these games. And I just wonder, do you feel like you have a voice in that, in that aspect of the story?
TITRE: You know, if I feel something is a little risqué or in poor taste, I try to point it out and be like, this isn't cool. But I will...
MARTIN: Well, but to that point, though, can you do it if you're not in the room?
TITRE: ...enlighten it to them.
MARTIN: I mean, if you're not in the room - right - then you can't speak up...
MARTIN: ...if you're not there to speak up. Right?
TITRE: You have to be present. You know, I think there would be different decisions made if there were different people in the room.
MARTIN: What goes into developing characters? And do you have a favorite?
TITRE: Usually, it comes down to what the game designer decides the character's role is in the game, and then the artists take it from there. They, sort of, start doing concept sketches or just drawings of what the character looks like and then, you know, someone like me would come on and take that sketch and develop it into a full 3-D character.
As far as my favorite character, I would have to say Glitch from "Dance Central 3" was probably one of my favorite characters. He's just a quirky, innocent cool kid who loves to dance, and his positivity and innocence is very refreshing.
MARTIN: I love his hair.
TITRE: Yes. His hair is pretty cool.
MARTIN: Can you describe it for people who haven't seen it? Kind of a widow's peak kind of thing. I don't know. What would you...
TITRE: Yeah. There's a lot of product involved in his hair.
MARTIN: That's fierce.
TITRE: It's very sculpted and stylized with streaks of color. It's a lot of fun. He was lot of fun to work on.
MARTIN: And he has some good moves.
TITRE: Yes, he does.
MARTIN: You kind of can see him kind of busting loose in the supermarket, or something, just to make everybody happy. I don't know. He's what my little girl would call - he's a nice boy.
TITRE: He is a nice boy.
MARTIN: He's a nice boy.
MARTIN: I was going to ask you about Blacks In Gaming. Just to describe it for folks who haven't heard, but it's a nonprofit trying to create networking and collaboration opportunities and also - what - outreach and education so that more people think of the opportunity to work in gaming. But - I'm sorry. Lisette, I'm sorry. What you do is so cool. Do you ever stop to say that? Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror, like, in the ladies' room, and say, it's so cool, what I do?
TITRE: I definitely have moments. I think the most pleasure I get out of talking about what I do is the outreach that I do through Blacks In Gaming. You know, we have a speakers' group where we go out to elementary schools or middle schools and disadvantaged areas, and we talk to kids about tech and, you know, what it means to be in the game industry. I'm trying to change the way minorities think about technology and being proud of being intelligent, being proud of being a blerd(ph), you know.
MARTIN: Tell me, what's a blerd? What's a blerd? A blerd is a...
TITRE: A black nerd.
MARTIN: Did you come up with that?
TITRE: I think it's a cultural term, at this point, but it's something I identify with. I didn't have a hip word for it before, but I've always been a blerd.
MARTIN: Do you mind, though, if I ask, though, when you first started out and you walked into a room, were people surprised to see you there?
TITRE: Of course. They always are.
MARTIN: They still are?
TITRE: They still are. I've been around for a while and, you know, people know me wherever I go at this point. It's a very small industry, like, two degrees of separation. So you know, people who know me aren't surprised, but you know, you get the people who see my name and it's not exactly African-American by description. You know, Lisette's very French, so they expect a little French woman to walk in - and it's me.
But, you know, it doesn't take long for me to do. And I am who I am, and then they sort of understand that I know what I'm talking about.
MARTIN: And what does it mean when you walk into those schools and kids see you for the first time and realize that it's you who's designing some of these games who is a player in designing some of these games? What is that like?
TITRE: I think it means a lot. I don't think a lot of kids - they don't think about what it takes to make a game and they don't - may not even think about who is making the games, but when they see someone who looks like them in front of them, talking about something that they enjoy on a daily basis, explaining to them in, you know, basic technical terms what's happening on the screen, something clicks. You know, you see it click, especially with little black women who come in and see me speak, you know, their eyes light up and you can see a light going off, which is great.
MARTIN: Lisette Titre is a freelance video game artist and she joined us from member station KQED in San Francisco. Lisette Titre, thank you so much for joining us.
TITRE: Thank you for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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Julia Jackson from the environmental protection agency reached out to me to be the Keynote speaker for their Black History month celebration. The title was Leveling Up, Lessons Learned from a Career in Games. I covered lessons I learned from projects that I have completed over the years. Some highlights include:
Learn to wear many hats but don't be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Never let anyone steal your thunder
Learn from Others
Be Bold and Push Boundaries -
If the boss isn't happy. Your not happy.
Embrace Change or Else
You Can't Polish A Turd
Trust Your Gut
Speaking to Power - The art of saying “No” without saying “No”
“Be the Change you want to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi
I was invited to speak on career day at Meadow Livingstone School, a small elementary school that specializes in educating African-American children to reach their full academic, social, emotional and creative potential.
I was impressed with Mrs. Meadows grasp on her students attention. They were all so well behaved and excited I was there to share my work experience. I spent time explaining how i use STEM in my work. I emphasized that math and science maybe hard, but anything worth doing shouldn't be be easy. We had fun exchanging game ideas and looking at sketches drawn by the students who want to make their own games some day.
MeadowsLivingstone(MLS) is an elementary school in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Its director, Gail Meadows has been running the school for thirty four years. Over ninety percent of MLS graduates go on to college. This is the only Afro-Centric School in the city and children from all ethnicities are welcome.
Apparently word got out about my speech at NASA and I was soon asked to be the keynote speaker at Intel's Girls in Tech Day held on March 31st, 2012. She Will Be A Power for Change is a fabulous one day program for 120 7-14 year old girls filled with STEM focused critical thinking workshops lead by some of Intel's smartest minds.Terry R. Thomas and Trisha Garrett of Intel and 100 Black Women of Silicon Valley lead the program.
The girls were a shear joy to speak to and they had plenty of questions about video games and tech careers. Two notable girls from each workshop were chosen to based on leadership skills and teamwork. These 16 lucky young ladies got to join me on a tour of EA on June 15,2012. Julie Wynn, EA's Outreach & Corporate Giving Manager was more than gracious. The ladies got to tour the campus, listen in on a voice recording session for the SIMS, and buy some discounted games at the company store. There were more than a few Dads who showed up for this one!
I was invited to speak at N.A.S.A. about how Martin Luther King's work has affected my life. I was inspired by the theme "Dare to Dream. " Dr. Kings " I Have A Dream" speech changed the course of humanity and gave my parents and I the ability to dare to dream a better future for ourselves.
I spoke to the people of NASA about how a video game based curriculum is the key to driving more youth into the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
I was greeted at the gates with my name in lights. I have to say this was definitely a first and I'm glad that I can now cross this off my bucket list.
Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, contacted me to come out the Bayview and speak to her first class of 12 girls. I was impressed by inquisitiveness and their technical questions, like how long art assets took to create and how game mechanics worked. They also wanted to know if I had any cheat codes. Kimberly is teaching them well.
Black Girls Code is devoted to showing the world that black girls can code, and do so much more. By reaching out to the community through workshops and after school programs, Black Girls Code introduces computer coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails. Black Girls Code has set out to prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. By promoting classes and programs we hope to grow the number of women of color working in technology and give underprivileged girls a chance to become the masters of their technological worlds.
BGC has now reached over 2500 girls in 8 cities. I'm so proud of what she has been able to achieve in such a short time,
The Computer Animator
Senior Character & Special Effects Artist
EA (Electronic Arts)
ACG artist and computer animator Lisette Titre has contributed to some of EA’s highest profile games, including Tiger Woods Golf for Nintendo’s Wii, The Simpsons, and Dante’s Inferno.
As a character modeler, Titre takes data from scanned images of characters or real-life individuals and reworks the information to build a 3-D digital sculpture. After the character’s digital skeleton is built, she takes the skeletons and applies computer modeling controls so the fingers will curl, the legs will bend, and the character moves with fluidity.
Titre, who is often the only animator working in-house on her projects, also manages a team of outsourced artists in China, Australia, and Canada. Each team can consist of five to 20 people who work on game titles for as little as one year to as long as four years.
After graduating magna cum laude from Miami International University of Art and Design with a degree in computer animation, Titre finds herself virtually alone in her field—something she hopes to change as a member of Blacks in Gaming, a nonprofit dedicated to creating networking and collaboration opportunities for blacks in the gaming industry. “I’ve never worked with an African American woman in an artist’s capacity,” she says. “We need more diverse ideas. We keep seeing the same thing over and over again.” Blacks in Gaming is starting a mentoring program and plans to reach out to middle schools in Oakland, California, and other underserved areas.