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

shira chess shira.chess at gmail.com
Wed Apr 15 05:45:15 AEST 2015

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Thank you for your comments, Murat. You raise some valid concerns
about the nature of this discussion.

I apologize for using the term "AAA Games" without defining what I
meant. The term is an industry one used to describe large-budget
games, usually (but not always) for console systems such as the
Playstation, Xbox, etc. The idea is that these games often acquire
large budgets - often higher than films - and therefore get the most
attention. (For example, you hear a lot about Grand Theft Auto games
or Halo, but less so about smaller budget games).

This paradigm is starting to shift within the video game industry, in
part because smaller budget games (Angry Birds might be a good
example) are getting more attention and are making money. At the same
time, a lot of indie made games (the game Gone Home is a good example
of this) have created new openings for different kinds of players. In
short, what has happened is that the larger budget games matter less
than they used to and, in turn, the people who play those games (those
who are often referred to as "hardcore gamers" though this is a very
flawed term) have, themselves, felt maligned. (A problematic conceit,
I would argue, but that appears to be how they feel.) This anger
resulted in GamerGate, which has brought a lot of long term issues to
the surface.

In terms of statistics, most of the recent surveys say that somewhere
around half of all gamers are women (the numbers vary but it's usually
just above 50%). Bear in mind, though, that many GamerGate folks deny
this statistic, saying that it is flawed for a variety of reasons
(largely, that they don't count many of the games or modes of play
that many women are drawn to).

The number of women in the industry is (at recent count) about 22%.
This is a flawed number, though, because (as Brenda pointed out) it
includes anyone working in the video game industry, including
positions like HR.

I hope this helps to clarify some things!

On Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 3:00 PM, Murat Nemet-Nejat <muratnn at gmail.com> wrote:
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> This question may be primitive, but let me ask it anyway: what is "AAA games"? To me, this month's discussion has an inbred quality (I don't know whether this is the right word for it) that earlier ones did not even when the area  discussed was outside my immediate field of expertise. I could follow the structural framework of the argument and its clarifying relevance for other fields. All I understand in this discussion is that a community of producers or consumers (artists, scholars, etc.) of digital games, mostly women, are unhappy because there are obstacles to their creations or the available games do not represent women fully or are actively hostile to them. I don't see any examples of how this occurs-- I may be missing them-- except for references by name or title to works none of which is specifically discussed.
> I have a second question that may open up the perimeters of this discussion: are there statistics showing the breakdown by gender (and also by age) of people who play digital games?
> Ciao,
> Murat
> On Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 3:59 AM, Stacey Mason <stcmason at ucsc.edu> wrote:
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>> 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
>> Eugene Cota-Robles Fellow, Computer Science
>> Expressive Intelligence Studio
>> Center for Games and Playable Media
>> University of California, Santa Cruz
>> Twitter  |  LinkedIn
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