Empowering Girls to Code
By Alixandra Rutnik on Apr 25, 2023
Next Creative Leaders 2022 Winner Ruxandra Drilea talks about her female focused campaign Girls Who Code Girls
The Wii was all the rage in the early 2000s when I was growing up. I played a lot of Just Dance. There were the occasional GameCube games of Mario Kart with my younger brother where I ended up slipping on all the banana peels, and a short stint playing Cooking Mama and Nintendogs on a pink Nintendo DS. Then there were the computer games– Webkinz, Club Penguin, and The Sims– which my mother did not find appropriate for a ten year old. But looking back The Sims was definitely my favorite.
Ruxandra Drilea is a Next Creative Leaders 2022 winner, a top Twitch Sims streamer, a recent guest on Morning Buzz– The One Club for Creativity’s relatively new talk show hosted by our fabulous Membership Director Adam Izen– and a Senior Creative at Mojo Supermarket who is behind the baller campaign Girls Who Code Girls. We talked to Rux about her passions, playing The Sims, and the creative details that went into making Girls Who Code Girls.
And if you haven’t already tuned into Morning Buzz– your future 10 AM Thursday morning dose of creative inspiration– make sure you subscribe ASAP. Or if you feel pumped to participate in an upcoming session, please reach out to Adam.
As a Senior Creative and one of the top 10 Twitch streamers in Romania, how do both of these passions build off of each other?
Both are about catering to an audience, entertaining them, presenting ideas, and building a community. In advertising, it’s about the product. On Twitch, I am the product. I started streaming during the pandemic with The Sims 4. I was trying to build a community around The Sims in Romania because I didn’t see too many creators or influencers being as passionate and vocal about it on Twitch.
I’ve loved The Sims franchise ever since I first discovered that you can control Bella and Mortimer Goth and live off every possible scenario imaginable. The game has evolved a lot as modders and creators are making up anything you can think of in the game. It’s like every game into one - you like building things? You have that. Character arcs, storytelling, missions with specific goals, decorating, taking care of pets, life simulators, survival games? You have that.
The Twitch community that I’m part of is very kind, supportive, and passionate - and absolutely hilarious. They’re looking for gamers and influencers who align with their values - it’s never just about the games you stream, it’s also about the things you believe in and include in your gameplays - for example, I’m vocal about the LGBTQIA+ community and I include storylines in my games that reflect that.
"The Twitch community that I’m part of is very kind, supportive, and passionate - and absolutely hilarious."
What inspired you to move to NYC?
Ever since I saw photos of New York on Tumblr I made up my mind to move there. And I did. It’s not at all like Tumblr made it out to be and I’m seeking legal action. Just kidding. Besides advertising, I chose New York because I was very interested in the comedy and improv scene - something I couldn’t find in the other cities I lived in. How is New York treating me? I’m not a New York lover yet, but people have told me it takes two years to get used to it.
"Ever since I saw photos of New York on Tumblr I made up my mind to move there. And I did. It’s not at all like Tumblr made it out to be and I’m seeking legal action. Just kidding."
You’ve lived in three different places: Bucharest, Milan, and NYC. Describe each place in a word. Now describe each one in a sentence. Finally, describe each one in a love letter.
Bucharest is for the people. The best and funniest people I know live in Bucharest! Hiii! Milan is for the places. The most beautiful places in the world are just hours outside Milan and the most beautiful places to eat great food are inside Milan. And NYC is for the things. You can do anything in New York. There’s a community for any little thing and passion here. You can find your people to go to your places!
Love letters are going to be a bit more complicated as I’m not a romantic at heart. My love language is gift giving and I’m giving these cities my 20s and 30s!
During this time between home bases, how have your roles evolved from copywriter to senior creative?
My role as a copywriter in these cities has evolved gradually by getting more responsibilities, additional involvement outside the creative process, and increasingly vocal about the type of work we put out into the world.
Where did the idea spark for Girls Who Code Girls?
The idea sparked almost a year ago when my creative partner Connie Cwheh and I were ideating on Girls Who Code’s new strategy “Codify Life.” After the success of Doja Code, we were seeking other major areas of interest for girls to help make coding fun and exciting, and remove it from the current narrative that keeps women away from entire industries that rely on coding. Gaming was just an obvious choice as almost 50% of all players are women.
"After the success of Doja Code, we were seeking other major areas of interest for girls to help make coding fun and exciting, and remove it from the current narrative that keeps women away from entire industries that rely on coding."
Our idea had two missions. 1. Be a proper intro into coding - a lesson for a first timer to get a glimpse of what you can achieve with coding. We ended up teaching girls four coding languages in our experience, after discussing them with the coding teachers at Girls Who Code. 2. Call out the misogyny in the gaming industry.
Just like in the advertising industry, you commented on Morning Buzz that gaming has historically been and currently is dominated by men and as a result the women gaming characters are hypersexualized. How is Girls Who Code as an organization looking to even the playing field?
Because 70% of game developers are men, most of the female characters we see in games are running around in crop tops and often play ancillary roles. With GWCG we wanted to give girl gamers the opportunity to create licensable characters that actually look like them. With specific details including acne, eye bags, realistic body proportions, and cool outfits, girls are able to mod these characters to actually look like real women in games.
While girls and gamers customize their characters, they will learn basic coding languages, and see that a creative career in coding is possible. The resources provided by Girls Who Code can help them achieve this goal and close the glaring gender gap in gaming and tech.
Since Girls Who Code Girls launched in December 2022, how many female and nonbinary gaming characters have been made?
Many characters are still being coded and after the success of the experience at Code Fair - one of GWC’s biggest events - we had a heavy stream of new characters added to the already thousands coded since December.
With all the traits added into the experience, there are 624 billion possible combinations that can be made. We’re providing gaming companies not only with thousands of characters coded by girls and non-binary individuals, but also with characters that they can license into their games. We’re also giving companies a solution: all the data gathered from the experience of GWCG is turned into a comprehensive report and shipped to them on hard drives. It’s in these companies' hands that real change can be made. GWC is getting more girls into the gaming industry by teaching them that coding is for them too, and gaming companies can get more girls into gaming by putting realistic female characters into actual games.
This experience helped transform thousands of characters coded by men, to thousands of characters coded by women.
What has surprised you most about creating and launching Girls Who Code Girls?
The support and feedback, for sure. Even though we were targeting GenZ (1995-2010) and Gen Alpha (2010-2025), we were surprised to see parents getting involved, praising the campaign, posting about it - probably because their children are too young to have a social media presence. We even saw parents posting on LinkedIn. Someone printed out the character game card for their kid. It was so cute!
In what ways has your career excelled since winning Next Creative Leaders in 2022?
Definitely getting more DMs from recruiters. I’ve been in contact with some great women - past and present winners - and we’ve shared our experiences and goals - it’s great to be a part of such an inspiring community.
You also mentioned in Morning Buzz, you want to do future work for an LGBTQIA+ cause that you care about a lot. Do you have anything in mind, specifically?
Yes, I care a lot about the LGBTQIA+ community. Especially living in the states right now and in our industry, it’s been a major topic of discussion. Unfortunately, brands tend to just rainbow wash during Pride Month each year. I'm lucky that many of my colleagues at Mojo feel just as passionately about it, so I'm hoping we will do some work soon that is additive, helpful, and meaningful to the cause. Stay tuned.
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