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

shira chess shira.chess at gmail.com
Wed Apr 15 21:41:55 AEST 2015

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Murat, in my opinion it is some combination of those two thing:
capitalism and sexism. The economic system guiding video games is as
such that in the 80s there was a splintering of console systems,
developing into a unique system where now every time a major game
comes out, the industry needs to produce several different full
versions of the same product. Mobile and casual games do not need this
kind of budget and so they become quickly dismissed on the market as
real games.

So, then, while over 50 percent of video game players are women those
games are not treated of the same value (very similar to the romance
novel or other forms of popular women's media as you implied). There
are several genres that fall into this category: social network games
(such as Farmville), time management games (such as Diner Dash), and
Hidden Object Games (such as the Ravenhearst series) all are
constructed with the presumption of a woman audience. These games
often are made to appeal to women, but also essentialize expectations
of femininity into their design, often conflating work and play in
troubling ways. (I would go into a deeper description of these games
but I feel like that would create an overwhelming number of
paragraphs. But I'm happy to refer you to things or email off-list so
as not to inundate everyone else.)

That said, as Aubrey wisely noted, part of the problem is, indeed, the
computer science one. Games programs are still finding their home, and
often get housed in computer science departments. But this is a
complex problem and there are other things at play here: notably
"quality of life" issues in the video game industry that are often
more of a problem for women than for young men. Industry crunches
(particularly for AAA games) often require many hours of work close to
deadlines that become difficult for women (and men) trying to start


On Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 12:21 AM, Murat Nemet-Nejat <muratnn at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Shira, thank you for your clear and succinct response. The way you describe it, the tension between big markets (AAA games) and more specialized ones is not much different from the one between big budget (Hollywood, etc.) and indie films or popular writing (novels, etc.) and poetry, etc. Seen from that angle,it seems to me the tension is inherent to capitalism where the profit motive (selling to the largest market possible) is paramount, rather than gender prejudice (unless practiced unconsciously against economic self-interest) or any other kind of prejudice.
> Or is it gender prejudice in the work place where certain jobs are not available to women or to gays, etc.? In relation to this, Audrey made a very interesting point: the split between humanities and computer sciences, there being fewer women in computer sciences. Does anyone remember Larry Sumner's comment that women are not good in sciences. There, prejudices definitely exist. It seems gender imbalance is endemic in Silicon Valley. Is it particularly, even more so in the field of digital games?
> Shira did you say more women play digital games than men? If so, I would have expected more games geared to "female sensibilities"  (as there are "women's novels," etc.). Are there such games? Is there such a digital genre? The issue of content seems to be very important in the discussions here, but I am not clear in what way?
> (Personally, I am not a personal devotee of games, digital or otherwise. I prefer involved crossword puzzles. My experience of them, in the nature of the clues they give, is that they are refreshingly androgynous.)
> Ciao,
> Murat
> On Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 6:51 PM, Aubrey Anable <aubrey.anable at utoronto.ca> wrote:
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>> Shira—Thank you for putting some necessary pressure on the discourse of being maligned. I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement to the many good points made by Jen and Brenda.
>> I do think it’s important to celebrate the more diverse gaming landscape that has developed over the past few years--in terms of whose playing and whose designing games. My comments here have mostly been about my frustrations with some blind spots in academic approaches to analyzing and understanding games. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I would like to suggest that the problems we have all been identifying--in the industry, the culture, and in scholarly approaches--are connected.
>> For example, I think it is a problem that most game design programs in North American universities are closely affiliated with Computer Science. Computer Science departments have a big gender problem in terms of being unable—for complex reasons—to attract and retain women in the field. If these are the programs that feed into the gaming industry, we are still a long way off from increasing the numbers of women in programming jobs. At the same time, courses in “game studies” from a humanities or a social scientific approach are taught elsewhere on campus, often with little or no direct connection with what’s going on over in Computer Science. This is a problem that affects who goes to work in the industry, what kind of work they do in the industry, and deepens the divide between ways of knowing and understanding video games in the broader culture.
>> And by the way, Brenda, I would love to hear your thoughts on the deeper reasons behind GamerGate, as I’m sure others would.
>> Aubrey Anable
>> Cinema Studies Institute
>> University of Toronto
>> 2 Sussex Ave.
>> Toronto, ON
>> M5S 1J5
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>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
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