Hello! As one of the newer members of the AIMS affiliate faculty, I would like to
begin by telling everyone how thrilled I am to be a part of this. I met
many of you while interviewing last spring, but let me give a brief run-down on
my research area for those who I have not met: I study gender and video games,
paying specific attention to games that are designed for and marketed to (adult)
women. Specifically, my dissertation examined the complicated relationship
between productivity and play in recent games that have been designed for women
But this blog entry is about something tangential to my dissertation research!
This past summer through a fellowship from the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the
Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media, I was able to take a step back
and frame it in a larger sense. My fellowship involved documenting the 3G (The
Future of Girls, Gaming, and Gender) Summit, a joint initiative between the Belic
Institute and the Interactive Arts and Media (IAM) department at Columbia College
The idea of the 3G Summit was to bring in 50 (it ended up being 39) high school
girls ranging in age (13-16), socio-economic background, and ethnicity with the
task of creating “gender-inclusive games of the future.” The girls were put into five teams, each team assigned an accomplished woman game designer (Tracy Fullerton, Mary Flanagan, Jennifer Jenson, Susana Ruiz, and Erin Robinson) to serve as the group mentor. The program also involved public forums to discuss ways to get girls into the game industry, group discussions with the girls and mentors, and other smaller projects (such as avatar creation).
As an observer, document-er, and ethnographer of this event, here is a little of what I learned:
It is tempting for us as games researchers and game designers to often make broad generalizations about ways to get girls more involved in the game industry (both as players and for careers). There is no question that the industry is dominated by masculinity, or what the Ludica Group has refered to as a “Hegemony of Play” (2007). Authors such as Sheri Graner Ray (2003) have offered what might amount to a check-off list of ways to make a game more “gender inclusive.” But what the 3G Summit reminded me (and should remind all of us seeking to make the game industry more inclusive) is that “gender inclusivity” can mean a range of things based on cultural background, age, sexual orientation, and unquantifiable personal tastes. Similarly, while it is easy to insist that girls/women like puzzle games, and narrative-heavy games, but don’t like violence or quickly moving targets is limiting (at best) and biologically determinist (at worst).
The games that the girls created at the 3G Summit ranged dramatically in game styles, mechanics, and what they considered “gender inclusive.” In thwarting many traditional values of gaming culture, the young game designers resisted many gendered stereotypes and came up with some truly creative characters and mechanics that reflected their own experiences, concerns, and interests. The games celebrated difference and diversity of girl gamers, often critiquing the game industry through their designs. At one poignant moment, during one of the public forums a girl stood up expressing her frustration and said that she “likes pink” and wants to be able to play games that express her femininity without feeling like she’s doing something wrong. After a few moments of thought, the mentors responded sadly, “Pink is complicated.” There is no easy answer or “magic bullet” to getting girls (or women) more interested in video games, we just need to keep pushing the industry, and finding ways to push our students to be creative, different, and think outside of the hegemony.
I look forward to meeting everyone and working with you throughout the year. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and introduce yourself (or re- introduce yourself) to me.