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

Stacey Mason stcmason at ucsc.edu
Tue Apr 14 17:59:22 AEST 2015


Brenda raises several important questions which all point to the ambiguity of the problem of “women in games,” while Shira rightly asks which problem we’re talking about. The hostile environments around women in the industry from both the inside and the outside have been topics hotly debated. This year’s #1ReasontoBe Panel at GDC saw divided sentiments around how we should even talk about such problems, with industry veteran Amy Hennig suggesting that we’re scaring young women off through well-intended efforts to warn them, alongside a talk given by the empty chair in the room: a powerful segment in which the crowd fell silent while a series of anonymous quotes from women too afraid to speak flashed on screen.  The industry seems to agree that these are the problems of toxic masculinity run amok, but seems to think it’s too complicated to parse and things never go much further.

As for the representation within the games themselves, we’re seeing positive change there. Videogames are more interesting and varied with more people able to make them than ever before. We’re seeing more and more games that use systems and novel forms of representation to creatively convey personal experiences. The community around altgames and platforms like itch.io are especially promising.

One problem that I note throughout our enumeration of other issues is the question of legitimacy: formalist approaches being more legitimate within the academy; male developers being more legitimate within the industry; AAA games (generally more masculine-coded) being more legitimate as games; the cultural attack on women who are seen to be less legitimate as gamers; and though we haven’t mentioned it, I would add the issue of distribution and monetization platforms like itch.io and Patreon being seen as less legitimate than established avenues.

These may indeed be separate problems, and it’s difficult to whether a lack of legitimacy is a cause or effect (probably both). However, being able to point to the arbitrariness of some of these power differences is a start. 


Stacey Mason <http://staceymason.net/>
Eugene Cota-Robles Fellow, Computer Science
Expressive Intelligence Studio
Center for Games and Playable Media
University of California, Santa Cruz

Twitter <http://twitter.com/stcymsn>  |  LinkedIn <http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stacey-mason/17/b85/844/>
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