(Photo by Tyler Woods)
Catt Small is a person to pay attention to in the Brooklyn tech scene. She’s the cofounder of the game studio Brooklyn Gamery and of the women’s video gaming association Code Liberation. She’s studying for a master’s degree in integrated digital media at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, and last month was awarded a Generation Google Scholarship.
We caught up with Small at Think Coffee by Union Square recently to find out what she’s working on and what she’s thinking about. It took several weeks of emailing to find a time to meet because, if the above litany of activities didn’t make it clear, Small is busy.
“I want to explore interactivity and find new ways to make interesting kinds of games,” she said. “How we can use games to convey experiences … like how it feels when someone’s dancing. So you’re actually making music with your hands and feet. I’m working on a couple other [games] that are about the human experience, race and gender, and microagressions. I do all kinds of fun stuff!”
Small is an African-American woman in gaming, and some of her work has been aimed opening that world up to be an inviting space. Though, as a tried-and-true nerd, she also very much fits into the existing gaming paradigm.
Small grew up in the Bronx and went to Laguardia High School. She studied graphic design at the School of Visual Arts. She currently lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant with her fiance, after having lived in Downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope.
“I think that being a woman in gaming now is really great,” she said:
There was a time period where I felt really terrified but I feel like I have the privilege of being a lifelong gamer and being able to drop niche games out of nowhere. Being a woman in gaming, I can also bring other women into gaming and bring them to game jams. I’ve started to see a lot of interesting games from different perspectives. Games about eating disorders, about yoga and exercise. The more diverse people we get into gaming the more interesting perspectives we’ll have.
Like many others who are active in building something in the world of technology, Small talks passionately. The current movement to defund Planned Parenthood has her upset, and the way that women are taught to think about sex is troubling to her as well. So for her thesis project at Tandon, she’s building a sort of Sex Ed game.
*whispers into the ether*
Women aren't a minority
— Catt Small (@cattsmall) October 7, 2015
“As I get older, I get more angry at things I see on TV or hear in the news about people rallying against abortion or human bodies related to sex. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Small said. “I want people to be able to make better decisions for themselves and other people.”
In the game she built, you are an RA at college and you text with your students to offer advice on the questions they have.
“I wanted to make a game where you learn and converse with other people and learn about sex in a more neutral hopefully friendly way that doesn’t encourage or discourage you to have sex but inform you to make informed choices as a fledgling adult,” Small explained.
So look out for the game when it comes out. It’ll be called SenseU. And look out for whatever the next thing Catt Small is working on. Or the next several things. She’s busy.