[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 2 on -empyre: GAMES AND REPRESENTATION

Ana Valdés agora158 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 9 14:41:11 AEST 2015

Hi empyre and all guests and specially to Brenda Laurel! Maybe you don't
remember me, we met in Stockholm when the world was very young and the web
was still unexplored :) I read at that time your excellent book "Computers
as Theater" and I travelled later to Palo Alto to make an interview with
you. At that time you were working at Interval Research and you were
launching Purple Moon. I wrote at that time for Swedens largest newspaper,
Dagens Nyheter, and I made enthusiastical reviews about all the games you
launched. Games based on collaboration and networking, games without
violence, games aimed to develop leadership and comradeship.
I wrote a book called "Women at Internet" where my interview with you was
published. Sadly the book is only available in Swedish :(
Very nice to meet you again after all those years, you were a real pioneer
and I am glad your work has been recognized in it's just value.

On Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 6:41 PM, Brenda Laurel <blaurel at soe.ucsc.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I’ve been interested in gender issues in computer gaming for many years.
> In 1996, after 4 years of qualitative research with over 1000 girls and
> boys throughout the US, I co-founded Purple Moon, a company to create
> interactive media explicitly for 8-12-year-old girls. This was the “girl
> games” moment with many entries into the field from such companies as Her
> Interactive and Mattel with “Barbie Fashion Designer.” Purple Moon’s first
> mission was to learn as much as we could about how girls play and then to
> create interactive experiences that took advantage of these insights in
> order to encourage girls to put their hands on the machine. In this period,
> girls were extremely reluctant to play computer games and were generally
> both afraid of the technology and afflicted with the belief that using it
> would be gender-transgressive. As we did the interviews, however, another
> goal emerged that would overshadow the first. We saw the opportunity to
> meet girls where they were (including their social structures, dreams and
> fears). We strove to encourage through play a cultural intervention to
> counter the sort of female gender identity as promulgated by the enforcers
> of a consumerist, sexist status quo (exemplified by Mattel).
> We decided to make a cultural intervention in the definition of femininity
> itself, including stereotypes about beauty, proper behavior, intelligence,
> social interaction and self-esteem. Purple Moon lasted for about 3 years
> until its investors pulled their funding to move to web-based enterprises
> that promised greater valuations and profits. Just as we released our
> eighth game we were suddenly taken into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. We raided our
> real estate deposit to be sure that all 40+ employees went home with a
> paycheck that day. Later, we persuaded our investors to choose Chapter 11
> bankruptcy instead so that the company might be sold. Purple Moon was
> eventually acquired and killed by Mattel, as were most of the girl game
> properties of the time, and the party was over. However, I still get mail
> at least once a week from former Purple Moon players thanking me for our
> efforts and testifying to the positive differences the games made in their
> lives. Usually I send them a copy of my book Utopian Entrepreneur that
> talks about how the sausage was made.
> More recently, I have done design research with my students on such topics
> as the construction of masculinity in relation to media with 6-year-old
> boys. I have just finished another design research project with my UCSC
> game design students looking at ways to make interventions for kids with
> math anxiety. Over the last three years I have become more closely
> affiliated with feminists in games as well as with the queer games
> movement. I believe that games can serve to disrupt stereotypes – most
> importantly, the stereotypes that young people apply to themselves. I also
> believe that the current efflorescence in queer gaming reflects a desire to
> create social and personal spaces where one feels safe and happy in one’s
> own skin. I see games as a powerful force for cultural intervention in
> stereotypical identities and as places where one may investigate
> alternative versions of one’s own identity.
> On Apr 8, 2015, at 1:56 PM, Soraya Murray <semurray at ucsc.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Welcome to WEEK 2 of -empyre's April 2015 discussion dedicated to Digital
> Media and the Interstices of Identity.
> The WEEK 2 theme focuses on issues of GAMES AND REPRESENTATION. These
> matters have dramatically come to the fore in recent months, although in
> truth these challenges have faced the games industry and its visual
> cultural production since its inception. #GamerGate, which purports itself
> to be about ethics in games journalism, came in the form of misogynistic
> treatment and violent threats against outspoken women in games who were
> labeled "Social Justice Warriors" out to destroy games by demanding the
> industry adhere to so-called PC politics. Women have been threatened, like
> Anita Sarkeesian, who critiques games for their sexism, and Zoey Quinn, an
> alternative game designer publicly and falsely maligned by her ex on his
> blog, setting off a firestorm of debate about her, but also about the state
> of games criticism. Their private information has been hacked, circulated
> online with the entreatment that they should be harmed or even killed. In
> any event, recent games 'culture wars', notably (but not exclusively)
> #GamerGate, definitively confirmed that games traffic in the politics of
> representation, just as any other form of mass media. Among other things,
> the burgeoning indie and alternative games movement(s) happening strike a
> hopeful note that games and their representations can be more, and can be
> better than the dominant industry would offer. Also, the demographics of
> those who play have changed, making the term "gamer" (a label which is
> under its own duress) potentially more diverse than ever.
> I'm interested to hear from our many guests, some newer to games, some who
> have been in and around the industry for many years, about their sense of
> the terrain. As with last week's guests, I would like to begin by asking
> each of our discussants to talk a little bit about a recent project, and
> outline some of their intellectual investments, or individual "stake" in
> the week's topic.
> Shira Chess (US) / Brenda Laurel (US) / Jennifer Malkowski (US) / Stacey
> Mason (US) / TreaAndrea Russworm (US) / Sarah Schoemann (US) /
> Biographies:
> SHIRA CHESS is a critical/cultural theorist whose work interrogates
> several aspects of gaming and digital culture. Her primary research project
> considers ways which women gamers are marginalized: through industry
> conventions, textual constructs, and audience placements of the games
> deliberately designed for this audience. Recent published articles have
> examined the #GamerGate phenomenon, as well as several casual game designs,
> and the use of romance in video games. Additionally, her research also
> deals with broader aspects of digital culture and pervasive gaming, such as
> Ingress, Alternate Reality Gaming, and the Slender Man. Recently she
> co-authored Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man: The Development
> of an Internet Mythology (Palgrave, 2014). Her research on gaming and
> digital culture has been published in Critical Studies in Media
> Communication; The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media; Feminist
> Media Studies; New Media & Society; Games and Culture; and Information,
> Communication & Society as well as several essay collections. She is an
> Assistant Professor of Mass Media Arts at the Grady College of Journalism
> and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.  Information on her
> research can be found at http://www.shirachess.com.
> BRENDA LAUREL has worked in interactive media since 1976 as a designer,
> researcher, writer and teacher.  She worked in the computer game industry
> from Atari to Activision. She also worked in research labs at Atari,
> Interval Research, and Sun Labs where she was a Distinguished Engineer. She
> currently serves as an adjunct professor in Computational Media and
> research associate in the Digital Arts and New Media programs at U. C.
> Santa Cruz. Her current work focuses on design research and learning tools.
> She served as founding chair of the Graduate Program in Design at
> California College of Arts from 2006 to 2012. She designed and chaired the
> Graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena
> (2001-2006). Based on her research in gender and technology at Interval
> Research (1992-1996), she co-founded Purple Moon in 1996 to create
> interactive media for girls. In 1990 she co-founded Telepresence Research,
> focusing on virtual reality and remote presence. Her books include The Art
> of Human-Computer Interface Design (1990), Utopian Entrepreneur (2001), and
> Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (2004), and Computers as Theatre,
> Second Edition (2014).  She earned her BA (1972) from DePauw University and
> her MFA (1975) and PhD in Theatre (1986) from the Ohio State University.
> JENNIFER MALKOWSKI (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is Assistant
> Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Film Studies at Miami University
> of Ohio. Her book manuscript Dying in Full Detail: Mortality and Digital
> Documentary is under contract at Duke University Press, and her work has
> been published in Jump Cut, Film Quarterly, and the anthology Queers in
> American Popular Culture. She is also co-editing a collection, Identity
> Matters: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Game Studies.
> STACEY MASON is a writer, critic, and researcher of interactive
> narratives. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. in Computer Science
> with the Expressive Intelligence Studio at the University of California,
> Santa Cruz. Stacey formerly worked as an editor of interactive literature
> for Eastgate Systems, a renowned publisher of hypertext literature. She
> also writes about feminism and gaming culture, and advocates for women in
> gaming and tech industries.
> TREAANDREA M. RUSSWORM received her Ph.D. in English from The University
> of Chicago.  Currently an Assistant Professor of English at the University
> of Massachusetts, Amherst, her articles and book chapters have appeared in
> Teaching Media, Flow, and in the anthologies Watching While Black and Game
> On, Hollywood!  She is the co-editor of two edited collections, From Madea
> to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry, and Identity Matters: Race, Gender,
> and Sexuality in Video Game Studies.  Professor Russworm’s monograph,
> Blackness is Burning, is about race, popular culture, and the problem of
> recognition.
> SARAH SCHOEMANN is the founder of Different Games and a doctoral student
> in Digital Media at Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research on
> interactive tech and games investigates the implications of accessible
> media and tech as tools for personal expression and social critique within
> various communities of practice. She is interested in considering the ways
> the work of individual creators and communities can speak to broader issues
> of equity and social justice, both online and off. More information may be
> found at: www.sarahschoemann.com
> ___________________________
> Soraya Murray, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Film + Digital Media Department
> University of California, Santa Cruz
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