A group of Montreal women are working to fight what they call a culture of sexism within the video game industry.

Game developer Tanya ‘X’ Short is the co-founder of Pixelles, a non-profit dedicated to “empowering more women to make and change games” according to its website.

To that end, they offer workshops and a mentorship program to help aspiring game-makers get their starts.

“Unfortunately, video games has had difficulty retaining women and also recruiting them in the first place,” said Short.

On Wednesday Pixelles hosted a mentoring event modelled on speed dating, helping women make the kinds of connections Short said have been difficult to forge in the past due to the industry being historically male-dominated.

“Pixelles started out recruiting women and helping them make their first games because they weren’t coming into the industry at a fast enough rate,” she said. “Now, we’re spending more and more of our time and energy and resources keeping them in video games, even though it can be difficult for them.”

Engineer Christine Truong was among the attendees at the event. She said she’s wanted to enter the business for a long time but didn’t know how.

“It’s a great opportunity for women to get introduced to the community,” she said. “It’s so hard for anybody with zero experience to get their foot in the door.”

Stephanie Volpi, who works for industry giant Electronic Arts, has taken on a role as a mentor at Pixelles. She said it’s a chance to give back and clear an easier path for those who are following in her footsteps.

“They have a really hard fight ahead of them in order to do what they need to do in order to get more diversity and inclusion in the industry,” she said. “I’m really fortunate. EA does have a policy of diversity and inclusion and wanting ot help women grow in their role. That’s obviously not the norm.”

This week, several female game developers took to social media to detail their experiences with sexual harassment and assault while working in the field. Short said countering the attitudes that made that misbehaviour possible is a difficult task, and one that makes groups like Pixelles all the more important.

“It’s just a very difficult problem because it is a problem of culture,” she said. “You have an existing population that you want to work with and you want to help them better support change in the future.”