The very wonderful Alice Taylor responds to the lack of female representation in the recent “The Game Developer 50” from Gamasutra.


Go Alice!

Women in Games sits happily between the academy and the industry. Both worlds come together in our network to address the challenges at hand in addressing the gender gap in our beloved games culture.

Earlier this year I was invited to edit a special edition of Routledge’s Digital Creativity Journal for Women in Games. The journal is now online at


An academically-accredited peer-reviewed journal publication is important for the network as by gaining this type of public recognition it becomes easier to access research funds for ongoing activities.

The WiG steering committee is a volunteer group that works with and beyond the WiG events to provide an ongoing resource for all those interested and engaged with this work.

I’d particularly like to thank all the contributors to the journal for their tireless work in creating this Special Edition over the summer and also all those we couldn’t fit in. Well done everybody!

Alison’s talk involved women’s access to gaming and the implications of this. She asked us to think about how games are situated gender-wise and the focus on masculinity in games. She stated that it was a very heteronormative and hypermasculine practice, and that females were trespassers on the ground of the male player.

An “historical construction of maleness” is central to video games, Alison stated. Women in this situation are considered unlikely to be audiences and are therefore marginalised. There is, Alison said, a tendency to make anything in gaming that does not follow hetereonormative convention inferior, and that action and adventure should be left to the male audience.

Alison argued that games are played based on access to them and that girls might not specifically choose to play games because they simply were not offered the choice to do so. Because of the perceived increase in access, men claim expertise over games, Alison stated, which undermines the female connection to them. She considered that girls who did not have access to games might think that they were for boys and therefore not play them. This affects future perceptions of such matters.

After speaking about the Wii and its lack of an ideal market, Alison also addressed the divide between the hardcore and casual gamers and stated that although many people do both, there is a perceived gender divide in place. Female play in this way is scorned. Games which are quick to pick up and play are ideal for people in a situation where they might not be able to spend time on working towards mastery or finding a save point.

Alison pointed out that there is a shrinking gap between male and female players, but female players are nonetheless framed as sexualised, in part due to structures embedded within the games themselves.

Alison stated that a possible future research direction might be to look at trends in handheld devices and the access and practices associated with such play.

Questions included those regarding the hierarchies in place, the discourse of the industry, types of masculinities and femininities that come into play,the manipulation of the female player (the PC as masculine and consoles as feminine, for example) and therefore the language of games/marginalisation.

The goals of this presentation were to consider the young female voice through an ethnographic perspective. The long-term implication of this was stated to be to create a fuller image of what is going on, and to consider girls’ gameplay and preferences as contrasted with those of boys. Pink games were initially referenced, and questions were considered about who these games are actually aimed at and who in the industry makes these kinds of decision. Based on conversations with individuals with the industry, Kelly and Shanly became interested in these questions. Female gamers, they stated, increased by five percent between 2008 and 2009, but the way things were perceived in the industry was often very different to literature on the subject.

Kelly and Shanly spoke about what they had done so far. They followed three groups of girls aged between twelve and sixteen. These girls already played games and had access to them. The aim of this aspect of the research was to see the differences in play between individual and social play. The second phase of this research would be to see how these preferences evolved, and the third was to establish long-term patterns in their gameplay. These groups were chosen based on pre-existing social groups and centred around Guitar Hero.

Kelly and Shanly reported four core findings from this observation.

1. Collective play. Girls played differently to the previous research that had been conducted on boys. Girls tended towards play styles that involved everyone, even when the games were not designed to be played in that way. Sometimes, the girls would make and follow their own rules in these games.

2. Playing outside the limits of the game. This involved mimicry of avatars, dressing up, taking photos, and adding their own moves.

3. “Context shapes play”. Based upon Diane Carr’s work. This was stated to be more complex than they had realised. Girls were described as being in their own (everyday) spaces, and switching over between different games and preferences occurred extremely quickly. Sometimes they would also play games with boys, for example, but this would be a phase.

4. “The Grey Zone”. These are gender-inclusive titles. Kelly and Shanly described that it seemed that girls would make this type of game out of a game, even if said game did not allow for this.

One final point of note was that Kelly and Shanly considered that moving games further into this ‘grey’ area could be beneficial, and that they were not specifically looking at games for girls but to actively find out what it is that girls like about games.

Personally, I was quite interested in how their presence affected the performative aspects of the girls. Questions included the danger of generalising on such matters, neutrality of games testing, the idea of games being specifically marketed towards the male audience, and play contexts.

Nicholas’ talk involved us looking at men and women in professional play and how they structured themselves on the occasions when they were present, with particular reference to a team of players of Halo 3 in North America who called themselves ‘NerdCorps’. Nicholas described their successes at attending various gaming tournaments across the world, including the World Cyber Games in Germany, which involved more than eight hundred players from various countries, involving fourteen games. This, Nicholas described, was a feeling of ‘making it big’, and a realisation of the sheer globalisation of Halo 3 games. The dreams of professional gaming opportunities, it seems, are rather closer than we might think, to the point that Nicholas described how professional gamer Tom ‘T-Squared’ Taylor has been featured on bottles of Dr. Pepper. It is not just Halo that these major tournaments exist for, either, for Nicholas described a Guitar Hero tournament also being in existence. Gaming, it seems, might be big business.

Whilst Nicholas stated that he was not initially looking at the opportunities for women in the scene, it was noted how limited these opportunities were when he was involved in attending these global tournaments. Furthermore, women who attended such events were often sexualised, branded as ‘Halo hoes’, who would ‘pick up’ men at events. Similarly, ‘Booth Babes’ and such like are there to interact with the players and push the product they are advertising. Nicholas questioned why these women were at such events and put it down to them assuring the safety of a homosocial, heteronormative space in modelling a stereotypically masculine product. Nicholas described how the majority of women who were present at these events were involved in the service industry, not in participating in the events, thus providing a monopoly over the prizes by men. Nicholas also described how only four or five mothers were usually seen at these events, even those involving younger players.

There was, however, one female player that Nicholas saw regularly: a player who called herself Fatal Fantasy. She was described as the only female regular NerdCorps member, and one who was highly involved and skilled, particularly with ‘strategy calling’. Nicholas said she “Represented herself as both a desirable & unattainable heterosexual female, and as a highly-competent player” [taken from slide]. Fatal Fantasy was described as having a good grasp of the codified language required to succeed in playing the game, and also over ‘trash talking’ both her own and opponents’ teams. She was also very vocal about training the team she was on if they made an error.

Nicholas described Fatal Fantasy’s attitude towards her gaming as different from the male gamers. For example, she mentioned to him that she was allowed to play if she got good grades at school: something that none of the male players had ever told him with regards to their own limitations of play. Furthermore, Nicholas noted that Fatal Fantasy dressed in specific ways, informed him that she was there simply to game, and set herself as different from other girls who attended events, specifying that she was not gay or there to ‘pick up’ men.

Nicholas specified that he was describing what was occurring albeit on a far smaller scale, that the eSports industry is very male dominated and that women are marginalised at these events.

Nicholas was asked questions regarding how the players reacted to his presence as cameraman, the difficulty of understanding what is occurring on the screen when at an event unless one already has a good knowledge of the game, and the performative aspect female players must adhere to.

Ben’s talk was explained as looking at the representations of LGBT within the gaming world. His intention was to look at the theory and raise some of the issues of this representation.

Ben had been studying a site known as Gaydar, a large dating site designed to assist men in finding other men, which he described as making money from gay men a niche market. In this, he described, there are certain tensions in classification and representation. At this point we were shown a chart of how many gay men used hair straighteners in comparison to the number of straight men who did the same. This kind of study is designed to reinforce stereotypes and representations of people.

Ben moved on to how LGBT individuals are represented in games. http://www.GayGamer.net has a list titled ‘Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters’. This interested Ben because it showed how people connected with games beyond the intention of the designer and also beyond play. He referenced Jenson and de Castell (2008) and the requirement for a rethink of gender assumptions with relation to games. He then moved on to list some of the games and characters that LGBT people identify with and some games that have included LGBT content.

SingStar Anthems was labelled ‘queer edition’ due to the perceived identification of the LGBT community with certain tracks. Ben also described the box art, whereby it seems that one of the men is looking at the other, and the same with the women. Ben stated his surprise when he realised just how much LGBT content there was to find. This included a playable ‘camp’ character by the name of Ash from Streets of Rage 3 who was removed from play in the US version of the game, and the developing relationship between two female characters in Fear Effect 2 which was later said to be revealed to be included for teenage boys who wanted to see such things. Ben questioned why such content would be included in games and answered himself with a statement about “commodification of difference”. Further examples cited included Bully: Scholarship Edition, in which one can kiss girls and boys and even gain points for homosexual encounters. The Temple of Elemental Evil, Fable, and Fallout included the serious possibility of gay marriage. Ben stated that developers claim to aim for a more rounded experience in games with such content.

Cho Aniki is a game involving a sexual relationship between two men. Ben described said title as being filled with hypermasculinity and highly sexualised content (such as using sperm as a weapon). He also stated that some individuals considered the characters of Dance Summit 2001 as drag queens, which brought him to what I considered as perhaps his most central point of the talk. Ben pointed out that it doesn’t actually matter with these characters whether they are LGBT or not, it’s the case that if someone has thought that way about them then it is important. This brought with it further examples, including the infamous Tingle character from the Zelda series (incidentally, this character made #1 on the GayGamer.net aforementioned top twenty). This character is important, states Ben, because of the on- and offline commentary regarding the character and how that interacts with itself. These are, Ben says, contested characters.

As a final two examples of content in games, Ben cited games in which one must run away from gay characters or, more alarmingly, kill them. The final example mentioned was what is apparently considered to be a bug, in which one could partner and even have children with someone of the same sex.

To conclude, Ben stated that there is much content in games intended to make humourous statements, or to be homophobic and hetero-normative. However, there is also an inter-textual element in which characters are hidden, and the idea of guessing on contested subjects. Ben will be working ethnographically in future with the game SingStar and the LGBT networks forming within that community. He wanted to observe the ‘gaymers’ versus ‘gamers’ divide and the idea that individuals play games because they want to play them, not simply because they are LGBT. Finally, Ben urged us to look at pre-determinism and stated that perhaps women only play certain games because that is what they are comfortable doing, and not because of their sex.

Ben received a number of questions and spoke about the situation of inclusion of content and whether it can become more political, the interest (or lack thereof) of content being directed towards LGBT gamers, and the discourse of men playing the SingStar games.

Tanya began her talk by emphasising the notions of the popular press with regards to the threat of games and the ill-effects these are perceived as having. She expressed this as a concern, whereby human sexuality is essentially reduced when it’s actually extremely complex. The questions Tanya asked us throughout the talk regarded exactly how to define sex and its appearance in games, and indeed what is really happening in the games we play. She drew attention to Floyd and Braithwaite’s statement that there is, in fact, actually very little sex within games if we look at games historically. However, Tanya engaged us with the idea that perhaps our notions of what pertains to be sex or sexuality in games should be more flexible. She stated that there is little explicit sex in titles perhaps because of the production costs relating to this, the limited input of games devices for producing this, regulatory bodies, and the already-abundant cyber sex opportunities. She also stated that, although there has been little sex in games, the places where it has been used should be examined.

From here, Tanya’s talk was split into three sections: representations, sex as a game mechanic, and libidinal economies in games. The latter of these received less attention due to time constraints. In the ‘representations’ section, Tanya showed us two clips in which, she explained, one could clearly see the cinematic conventions of representing nudity that had clearly been borrowed by the games industry. The first clip was from Beowulf, in which smoke and cleverly angled shots hide the genitalia during a fight sequence. Something that struck me about this scene was that the warped body this man was fighting was not given any of the same allowances. Indeed, said body received maximum exposure, in stark contrast with the fighter. Tanya described the hiding of the genitalia as ironic and related it back to Lacan and the hiding of the phallus.

The second clip was from The Simpsons and showed Bart nude, riding his skateboard. This scene follows the same cinematic conventions in which rear shots and everyday objects are lifted to the correct level in order to hide the genitalia. It subverts this convention in the middle, however, when Bart rides on the other side of the hedge which happens to have a gap at the right level, thus exposing the genitalia for a moment before the conventions return. Tanya discussed that many of these cinematic conventions are utilised by games, especially in cutscenes where they can draw upon the cinematics in order to render sexuality. An example of this would be Mass Effect whereby the scenario of the sex act depends upon which characters one chooses to interact with throughout the game. In Viva Pinata, a more family-oriented title, the creatures were shown to dance around, followed by a baby arriving.

Tanya went on to describe sex in terms of a game mechanic, in which she also drew reference upon games in which the sex is built into the game itself: Seven Sins and Playboy: the Mansion. Sex in these games is noted as a means to an end. Japanese ‘ero’ or dating games will reward the player with a sex scene at the end providing specific criteria are met. Yet, there are also games which hide the sex: Warcraft was stated as an example where, in creating a building the units appear, albeit with no suggestion of the sexual act. Tanya stated that perhaps the reason why games with cyber sex content are not particularly popular is perhaps because of internet chatrooms and Massively Multiplayer titles, where players already have room to express these desires.

Finally, Tanya pointed out that perhaps we are looking for sex in games in the wrong places. She showed us a clip from Assassin’s Creed where the main character was stated to have erotic charge in the way he moved and dispatched of enemies.  The game The Path (http://thepath-game.com/) was also referenced with relation to this. Tanya’s final point was perhaps the most pertinent: where should we be looking for sex in games?

In questions, Tanya made reference to the notions of sex and sensuality, libidinal desire, Deleuzian thinking on desire as being read in what you do, and crossovers between real life and the game world in multi- and single-player titles. With reference to the Assassin’s Creed clip, one final point was made: whose position of desire is it spoken from?

WIG @DiGRA 2009 Keynote

By popular demand, here is a PDF version of the keynote PowerPoint presentation from the WIG strand of DiGRA 2009.

Gamesification Panel

Out of the last talks of the Thursday I was really tied with what to go to, in the end I went with Gamesification panel, which ended up being made up of Maurice Suckling – The Mustard Company, Charles Cecil – Revolution Software, Antonia Saraiva – , Jorg Tittel –  The main emphasis of the panel was ‘product, people, platform, process – making a good game’

It was interesting hearing their problems they’ve had while in development of games Jorg had worked on Minority Report, and his team hadn’t seen the film, and didn’t until a month before the game’s release, which is why the game was a bit of a failure he feels. If they had researched into the film, and found relevant experiences that the film had to offer, which could have made Minority Report very similar to Mirror’s Edge perhaps.

Charles faced many problems when consulting on the Da Vinci Code game, firstly from being told by the producers and directors of the film that they did not want a game. After giving his ideas on it they came to a compromise, but when working with The Collective on it, they apparently only wanted to make a fighting game, which is pretty much what they did.

A point that Charles brought up on game to film adaptations was that people don’t understand the process that is required when taking a game and turning it into a film. As he feels most directors rush things, and don’t realise that they’re taking a character who usually is controlled by a player, from taking this character and placing them in a film it doesn’t create the correct atmosphere, and doesn’t usually become addressed.

The best way to make a film into a game is by looking over the film and finding relevant experiences that will make an interesting game

I was so happy for Matsuura-san to come to Develop, coming all the way from Japan it was an honour to have him attend, especially the year that I happened to be attending Develop. His talk had an introduction for while people were entering the room, which was a video of himself playing some music.

Masaya Matsuura

One of the first points brought up is that he feels it’s his personal mission to keep making games for the music genre. He feels that games should use music as a way of conveying information just like films do.

The music needs to be integrated into the gameplay, a game that does this well is Mario, with the speed up of music when the time is running low, mixed with the diegetic feel the music has when playing the game.

His main goal lies within implementing rhythm into the games he creates, I can say I honestly can see where he is going as his games such as Mojib Ribbon and Rhyme Rider Kerorican show this use of rhythm amazingly.

One thing he wanted to integrate into his games as well is the feeling of call and response, so that during play the player would get some feedback from the game while inputting. So for example the music would change depending on good or bad circumstances.
He has always enjoyed creating games that can generate game data from music and lyrics, this was of course addressed in Vib Ribbon.
While then also informing us of what he’d love to see in some new music games being:

  • A game where you can perform with actual musicians
  • A game that gives the player an opportunity to play as a musician in the London Symphony Orchestra
  • A game that uses anything and everything as a musical instrument, so everything you pick up or touch creates a musical sound


Matsuura’s talk was very entertaining as he showed us 3 videos during his talk, all being very cute and entertaining, one including a talking Vibri.

Dennis Dyack

I was very interested in going to Dennis Dyack’s talk on games as the eight art, it seemed like a bit of a silly talk in some respects, he was explaining how he feels the telling of stories is going to become much more noticeably dominant than gameplay, which myself and I’m sure a large portion of the audience didn’t really agree with. There were a large amount of questions raised on his opinions at the end of the talk.

Going back on Jenova Chen’s talk and his “visual bucket” way of creating a good game through creating an even flow between each element is where I would agree. Dyack’s example was of Myst being one of his favourite games, which of course being a point and click/interactive narrative/graphic adventure or what you may wish to define it as, although being a well laid out story, just like every other point and click, it doesn’t captivate all players and then targets a niche market in terms of consumers.

Dyack feels that every single game has a narrative, which doesn’t essentially mean the story of it, so for example his idea of the narrative of an RTS game is defined by telling your friends about what happened in the game when you played it, then creating your own unique story.

One subject he touched which I don’t essentially agree with is Dyack feels that games can only really be compared alongside film once there is one console for all games, as he felt with three main consoles out they aren’t broadly accepted by all. The reason he claims this will make games become more accepted is as he feels there is only one way for film to get across to the general population, which isn’t necessarily true.

Although it did seem that the only reason he felt games needed to become recognised as an art form, is so that they would be taken seriously, which I don’t think is hugely essential, as people’s views are constantly changing on games as time passes by.

Overall it was a fairly interesting view into his view on games, the questions at the end were a little negative towards him though.

Jenova Chen

The first scheduled event of Thursday morning that I decided to go see was the Designer mash up with Jenova Chen and Masaya Matsuura. It started off with Masaya playing Flower, where he explained to us how he doesn’t play a huge amount of games because he doesn’t enjoy shooting and killing people. So instead of playing a large majority of games that were released he spent a large amount of his time thinking up new game possibilities. So when he played Flower for the first time he fell in love with it, as it brought up a whole host of memories from his past that touched him. He told Jenova how he was so pleased to be able to meet him, and was very surprised at how young he was, for making such an emotionally complex game.

Just like Flower, Parappa the Rapper took around two years to develop, and was created by about six people. On release they received large amounts of positive feedback, and weirdly lots of feedback saying how couples had gotten together because of his game.

Masaya Matsuura

An odd topic that was brought up is that Matsuura-san believes there should be a Michael Jackson of games, as there is currently not one in existence, and he feels this will bring a wider appreciation to games.
Whenever Jenova needed inspiration he would always look to Hayao Miyazaki’s films, he explained that the reason he did this was because in order to understand a culture that he was not a part of, he finds the messages he needs to understand a large segment of Miyazaki’s films.

It was really interesting sitting in on the designer mash-up only if it was to see a long standing person from the games industry talking with such a recent addition to games. But even though there is a significant gap in industry knowledge they’re ideas are both at such interesting levels.

Mark and Kareem

The Art keynote of the conference was one given by Mark Healey and Kareem Ettouney of Media Molecule, focusing mainly on what decisions were made when creating Little Big Planet. If anything the main focus of the presentation was showing us the process they went through when choosing the direction they wished the art to go in.

It started off with the idea of wanting to create a tool with a visual style that compliments it, from this they started looking into visual cultures of different countries, going over how they could integrate this into their game.

There was a lot mentioned on their early stages of development, firstly with reference to Yellowhead which was their 2D physics demo originally created to show the idea of what they wanted in Little Big Planet.

We were also shown a quick little animation that Mark had made showing what they were aiming to do in 3D. With the core gameplay then being nailed down they then went back into the art, attempting to create a virtual craft box inside of the game.

Viktor and Rory

The third talk of the day that I attended was a panel on games as architecture, which was extremely interesting mainly just from hearing Viktor Antonov’s explanations of what input he had on Half-Life 2.

Viktor Antonov had always been attracted to epic scale buildings, and similar iconic architecture as found in film, and he started off working in industrial design, but decided to go into video games.

Some key points that should be known pieces of information when looking over architecture found in games, and that I agree with are:

  • Everything in games are establishing shots – shots that will set up the scene that the player is about to experience.
  • The main tools tools available to direct a level to the player are by using architecture and light, these will aid in telling a story while getting the player to go along the correct path.
  • In order to create monumental buildings and views you must create a contrast by creating many smaller items and buildings, this helps to create the illusion of a larger presence.

Another means to lead the player is by creating strong perspectives and focal points, this then tricks the player into going the correct way through the level.
There are not enough surreal and subjective architectural experiences in games.

What was interesting was that Viktor did a talk on Futurism at an architecture school, and it then became apparent that all the students played games for a means of looking into architecture, especially Half Life 2. Which I find very intriguing as one of the questions raised at the panel was what can architecture learn from video games.

Paul Barnett

The second talk of the day that I had a chance to witness was Paul Barnett’s talk on his time as a creative director for EA, entitled ‘When a Creative Director Attacks! or What I Learned this Year with EA!’. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the talk, it was hugely enjoyable and anyone I spoke to about it agreed as well. It was a little confusing at times being a very fast paced speech, going off on tangents and finishing some explanations minutes after first mentioning them, but it still flowed evenly.

The useful pieces that I plucked from his talk however were that, ideas can still be exciting even if they’re mundane tasks, this can be from carrying it out for the first time and being exhilarated from the fact of performing the task, or renewing a forgotten pleasure. It’s how creative directors must think, as once a task has been carried out, once it’s repeated it won’t have the same impact upon a person. An example given of this is when you have someone see an iPhone for the first time and they become fascinated by scrolling back and forth on the menu, where as someone who has owned one for a while would find it idiotic to be so entranced by this. A creative director must make sure to stray away from this at all times, otherwise they will never be able to envision fresh ideas.

A large proportion of the talk was on how you’re defined by your culture, I could relate to Paul as I seemed to have the same childhood as he did (just of course more recent than his), being raised with games. He was referring to it as our ‘Golden Age’; some may have theirs at other times with greater influence from other forms of media. After talking about how much these “Golden Ages” mean to us, we were then told to completely ignore them. As being a creative director that allows their history to get in the way will not work well with other employees. It stops workflows, everyone has a different history and will not understand everything that you may talk about. This can then cause arguments and will not help the development of games. His blunt way of putting it was that nobody cares about your history, so don’t bring it into your work.

Paul Barnett

We were then told that every manager/director is either going to be a Captain Kirk, or a Captain Picard when it comes to working. Which is a little of a weird way to put it, but I felt that people may have the chance to be both at times, depending on the decisions being made.

The talk went onto what he feels is disrupting games at the moment, those things being the Nintendo Wii; allowing anyone to get into playing games, which then changes demographics. The market is currently disruptive, by now having free to play games, and the use of micro transactions, there now no longer being just simple buying when it comes to purchasing or playing games. Then of course the internet doesn’t help things, from the elements of a disruptive market coming into play along with the use of torrenting.

Even though it was one of the less informative in a way it had to have been my favourite talk from the conference, just from the amount of energy and enthusiasm Paul expressed.

Jenova Chen

Jenova Chen co-founder of thatgamecompany, best known for Flow and Flower attended Develop and had one of the first talks of the Wednesday. I did actually miss the first five or so minutes of his talk, but from what I walked in on I was entranced straight away. When people discuss entertainment and our opinions we use feelings to express our thoughts. In order to consider games as a form of entertainment people must talk about them in the same way as film. Although when receiving this feedback on a video game it is usually based on technical aspects of the game, feelings don’t even usually come into the equation.

Most people will usually think something such as combining genres to make hybrids will make a game innovative, make them stand out above the rest, where as this is not usually the case. Jenova hopes in the future to see a much wider mix of feelings integrated into games, as these types of feelings and emotions haven’t really been addressed as much as they could have. It’s hard to find a game that will encourage the player to become emotionally attached to the characters, story or game while having a suitable gameplay experience.

Jenova recommended reading The Visual Story written by Bruce Block, from reading his work he then applied it to games by creating a visual bucket that combines graphics, story, sound and gameplay. Jenova feels in order to have an overall satisfying experience from a game, the levels in the bucket need to be fairly even, and not be missing out too much on some of the factors. As most games will usually focus on one key element such as graphics or gameplay, which will then make a game less attractive.

For example Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Shadow of the Colossus and Bioshock are games that Jenova feels portray a certain quality of life, as many games do not and just exist for a play experience. He does also recommend however playing Passage by Jason Rohrer, which attempts to portray certain feelings.

A lot of what he spoke of in relation to creating Flower can be downloaded off the Playstation Network in the form of a development diary, but there were a few points that I had not heard before, for example before Flower was designed Jenova wished to create a game based around nature, in order to do this he wanted to know what the most popular thoughts were when talking on nature. Through searching on flickr for nature and flowers were the third highest tag at the time, leading him to choose them.

With Flower he wished to create a peaceful harmony inside the game, this is why he had decided against enemies or a chance of death. He feels that NiGHTS was close to creating this experience, but wasn’t quite there. With the flying element it accomplishes this feeling, but from having a small limit on time and enemies that attack you, it destroys this harmony which you gain from flying around. Flower went through many different iterations when deciding on the gameplay, from playing as the Sun and making flowers grow, to throwing seeds in the ground and making them grow up from the soil. There were a lot of silly versions of Flower which they had considered, and I must say I’m very happy they kept with the core concept that Flower can now be seen with.

Currently working on an unannounced title he commented on the fact that, from creating games that work with feelings it means that the game is all about the experience. In order to create the exact experience required, the technology needed will have to be as new as possible as creating feelings for a player is not an easy task, which can then of course make it harder when developing the game using new tools all the time.

I would firstly like to say a huge thank you to WiG for making all this happen.

My first entry is just going to be a brief introductory post so everyone can know a little about me and how I was introduced to WiG.

My name is Catherine Woolley, I went to the University of Wales, Newportand received a 1st class honours in Computer Games Design, as Emma has previously mentioned.

I was a volunteer at WiG 2007when it was conveniently hosted at Newport, which is where I became acquainted with Emma.

For those that attended you may remember these:

gingerbread cookies

I made them with my twin sister Charlotte Woolley every night before the conference, which was heaps of fun, and a real challenge at the same time.

I am currently applying for jobs in the games industry, but while I’m not doing that I’m working on an Unreal Tournament III mod called Void and a small Game Maker game called Lash La Rue on Holiday featuring Juan the duck which is a product of myself, my sister and her boyfriend. It was our entry for the Global Game Jam back in January.

Other than all that I have a huge passion for games, and hope to one day have more input on the development of them.

There should also be a WiG networking session happening at Develop, so keep your eyes peeled for more details!

Women in Games blogger winner

Women in Games are thrilled to welcome Catherine Woolley as this year’s guest blogger for our involvement with this year’s Develop in July and DiGRA in September. In return for free passes to the events she will be representing the WiG network and live blogging both events for this site.

Catherine has just graduated from The University of Wales, Newport with a 1st Class Honours degree in Computer Games Design.

WiG Student Blogger

*** NEWS FLASH ***

Women in Games are in need of a UK-based student blogger to cover this year’s events at both Develop 2009 in Brighton in July and DiGRA 2009 at Brunel in September. In return for live blogging, photographing and general networking at both these events, the WiG steering committee are able to offer free student passes to both events. In order to apply for this unique opportunity please email enquiries@womeningames.com asap (i.e. before June 28th) with a 250-word reason why we should choose you.

Women in Games 2009 @ DIGRA 2009

Please forward to interested colleagues and related networks..

In partnership with DIGRA 2009, Women in Games are honoured to issue a
general call for papers to be presented at this year’s DIGRA event at
Brunel. All information about submission available at

Women in Games 2009 @ DIGRA 2009
Call for Abstracts
Submission deadline: Friday April 3rd 2009

Currently in its fifth year, Women in Games (http://www.womeningames.com) is
an annual conference with the distinct aim of highlighting the most recent,
groundbreaking work in computer game research and development to both
academic and industrial worlds. WiG has consistently addressed the
empowerment and professional development of women working in, and
researching into, games and the games industry. In 2009 with the objective
of widening the audience and reach of the initiative WiG is running a series
of activities in parallel with key games events, both academic and industry,
to deliver focussed work to the wider community.

To date the themes addressed by feminist game studies can be broadly themed
in work on gendered activity in digital games and feminine preference in
play style and game characteristics. Other key studies look to gender equity
in game making and to the wider context of access to games. From Brenda
Laurel’s work in the early 90s onwards (long pre-dating any such thing as
games studies); critics, commentators and the academy have offered theories
and observations on the difference in play habits, styles and consumption of
digital gaming exhibited by women and girls. Yet well into our second decade
of work in this area what can we say we have learnt?

We believe that the time is ripe to return to core values in discussions
around histories, difference and generation in game space.

For more information please contact enquiries@womeningames.com.

WiG2008 workshop leader Fiona French recently reminded me about the forthcoming Global Game Jam event to be held simultaneously around the world at the end of this month. The intention of this excellent  IGDA Education SIG initiative is to bring people together to make games over a weekend. We encourage anyone interested in games development to contact your local event and sign up. UK-based events are due to take place in Glasgow, London and at my own institution in Newport, Wales.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the weekend’s work, good luck everyone.

Ada Lovelace Day 2009

The wonderful Celia Pearce forwarded me an invitation to a facebook group setup for this initiative, it looks really interesting and I’d urge you all to get involved.


Happy New Year to everyone.

All my best xx ems

I recently came across some photos from the Women in Games Panel Discussion at 2008’s Birds Eye View Festival. I thought it would be useful to post the link for posterity.

The annual Women in Games event provides unique access to some of the best game developers in the country. WiG is one of the few UK-based events to provide such an opportunity for students interested in working in games. I recently caught up with a University of Wales, Newport graduate to see how the event had helped him.

“I attended the Women in Games conference in 2007, and the organizers were kind enough to give me a slot to demonstrate my student project ‘Reunion’. I also did some one on one demoing on the show floor. The experience helped me get word out about my game, and build a number of industry and academic contacts that were a great help in job hunting. I also received a lot of very useful advice from attendees, which in turn made the game better and increased my confidence. Women in Games covers a wide range of industry and academic led topics, which were incredibly useful to an aspiring game developer. There was also a fresh take on gender issues in videogames, which I now apply to my professional work. I now work at Blitz Games Studios, a company who have not only been very supportive of the conference, but actively work to encourage more women to work in game development. I feel that Women in Game’s support of my student game, and the confidence boost I received from taking part directly contributed to getting a great job at a fantastic company.”

Mike Bithell, Junior Designer, Blitz Games Studios

I was thrilled to see Karen’s presentation on Scratch, I first heard of this innovative toolset for teaching programming some years ago and was curious to see how the project had developed. Originally conceived by Mitchel Resnick LEGO Professor at the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab (what a job title!), Scratch was designed to help young people develop modern learning skills. A freely downloadable environment (published under GPL), Scratch has benefited substantially from Web 2.0 community tools and consists of a thriving development community using the tools in a variety of contexts and application. Karen gave a fascinating presentation on a unique toolset that should be more widely used in an educative context.

Paulina shared her experience of developing Singstar over the past 4 years. In discussing the evolution of the product she emphasised the need for inclusion of the target market in the design process. Initially Singstar started as a narrative-based game in which the player sang to bring the world to life, it soon became apart that singing was seen as compelling enough in itself to not need this framing. Singstar is a social, competitive and authentic (i.e. real music) product influenced by media and pop culture. The initial market was imagined as female, but the product appeal was widely seen to be much broader. Music is universal. The development team used music as a way of segmenting target audiences, i.e. through music genres. The key lessons Paulina has drawn from Singstar is that it is all about the user and their experience and that it is central to innovative game design to prioritise what brings most value to the experience.

Paulina then moved to the second section of her keynote and talked to the future of gaming, user generated content (UGC). After name-checking Clay Shirky’s book “Here comes everybody” to lead into her emphasis on social networking potential to allow users to coordinate themselves. Old notions of amateur and professional are changing and access to re-creative tools for distribution is significant. The games industry is rapidly reorienting itself to include the player in the gaming experience.

In her opening keynote on Wednesday 10th, Sara presented her work running Coventry’s Serious Games Institute. SGi is building a stable of games, projects and companies that evolve the field of serious games within the UK, taking a world-class position in the sector. Serious games stands for the emergent field of using games as a mechanism to drive non-entertainment sectors, as a starting point do look to the Wikipedia entry. Although initially framed as a research, innovation and business activity, the field of serious games offers a lot of potential to games companies and universities alike to diversify the reach and impact of game form to new application.

I am sat in Karen Clark’s final keynote listening to her advice on working in the games industry. Karen is Project Manager at BioWare and is currently working on Dragon Age. She has talked to the common myths about the games industry and reminds us of the importance of IGDA membership for those interested in supporting the evolution of the games industry. Karen is active in the Women in Games International initiative and is passionate about developing the forthcoming Mentor Program. Karen is looking to improve the working life in the games industry, whether it be increasing diversity, evolving process or creating a good work environment.

She points to sites like Glassdoor.com as a way of ranking employers that could be useful in our industry to get a sense of who the best companies are.

WIG2010 now open for online bookings

The online booking system for the WIG2010 conference is now open at http://www.womeningames.com

You can pay by credit or debit card, or download and print our offline booking form for cheque payments.

Full conference passes are £200 (or £125 NUS/unwaged), or £125 for a single day pass. The conference dinner is an optional extra at £35 (venue TBA).

Hope to see you there!

The University of Bradford in collaboration with Bradford College are hosting Women In Games 2010 on March 25th and 26th. Women In Games is in its 7th year and Bradford brings a strong technological and cultural background to this internationally recognised event, designed to highlight and discuss the issues of women working in game development, women as subjects of games, and women gamers.

The conference is a meeting of the academy and the industry and this year will focus on the theme of Diversity; diversity in markets, in demographics, in development methodologies and platforms, as well as cultural and ethnical diversity surrounding games. This year we are proud to announce keynote speakers Lorna Evans from TIGA and Professor Valerie Walkerdine, author of ‘Children, Gender, Video Games’.

WIG2010 has extended the deadline for calls for papers to February 12th, and is looking for speakers and sponsorship partners. If interested please check out http://www.womeningames.com or contact the conference chairs at enquiries@womeningames.com for more information.

The University of Bradford in collaboration with Bradford College are hosting Women In Games 2010 on March 25th and 26th. Women In Games is in its 7th year and Bradford brings a strong technological and cultural background to this internationally recognised event, designed to highlight and discuss the issues of women working in game development, women as subjects of games, and women gamers.

The conference is a meeting of the academy and the industry and this year will focus on the theme of Diversity; diversity in markets, in demographics, in development methodologies and platforms, as well as cultural and ethnical diversity surrounding games. This year we are proud to announce keynote speakers Lorna Evans from TIGA and Professor Valerie Walkerdine, author of ‘Children, Gender, Video Games’.

WIG2010 has extended the deadline for calls for papers to February 12th, and is looking for speakers and sponsorship partners. If interested please check out http://www.womeningames.com or contact the conference chairs at enquiries@womeiningames.com for more information.

This reading of ‘Diner Dash’ involved it being understood as a ‘mother’ of the genre of time-management games, a genre of which many games are stereotypically associated with women. The game was described as repetitive. Braxton stated that narrative/visual elements are often ignored in studies in favour of rule-based and ethnographic studies, and argued that ‘Diner Dash’ is based upon these narrative/visual elements, which situate it.

The difference between hardcore and casual games, we were told, was based on the learning curve, the level of abstraction, and complexity of the interface.  This brought Braxton to the idea of the threat of feminisation, whereby based on masculine anxiety it being contained at a visual level meant a divide between masculine high culture and low culture, between active and passive.  Braxton saw this as a re-emergence of a gendered divide between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, making it almost kitsch. Thus, the objective of this talk was to show the complexity in ‘Diner Dash’ so that previous methodology might be applied.

Braxton began by stating that the gameplay experience of this game was very similar to women’s experience temporally. This was based on an assumption that women and men are afforded the same quantity of leisure time, but women’s is more fragmented. Therefore, playing ‘Diner Dash’ fits in well with this. Also Flo’s initial experience of attempting to flee the ‘masculine’ world of suits, in which she is both empowered (starting her own business) and regressive (return to a stereotypically feminine space: being a waitress). Braxton also stated that the gameplay remains about taking orders, which hardly differs from the job she left. However, it was stated that this is a displacement of difference in favour of reinscribing familiarity.

Braxton brought up the fact that Flo is yawning when she is not doing anything, which might be connected with indifference or overwork equally. This is taken further when she is transformed into a goddess with four arms towards the end of the game: her eyes being closed are representative of her being able to do this job in that state. Yet, the idea of her having four arms means that more work can be extracted. Braxton asked us to think about whether these final ten levels were a dream sequence or not, for Flo has her eyes closed as though sleeping, and regular items are transformed into fantastical ones (chairs as hands, for example).

Finally, the ending was stated to reflect the external world of the player. The goddess must get back to her own restaurant is considered almost a wake-up call for the casual player to return to reality. Braxton said that is was tempting to read the entire sequence as a repetition-compulsion, or as a wish for more (uninterrupted) time. Time itself becomes interrupted when even the word ‘destiny’ can not be stated without being cut off.

Braxton’s final point was the idea of Flo’s character as being in a dream-within-a-dream scenario, whereby one is dreaming the real.

Questions asked regarded change of experience within the game and narrative expectations.

Hanna’s talk was on women constructing identities. She stated that her work here was based on McRobbie and Garber (1976) and was an approach to the skinning community in The Sims particularly with reference to bedroom culture. She stated that this approach was because of the gendered space of the bedroom, and its alignment as a safe and appropriate space.

Hanna conducted interviews with various individuals involved in this scene of modification. She stated that they wanted to mention that they did not play for long periods of time and that play made them feel guilty because they did not feel like they had done anything (she referenced later the idea of women not feeling as though they have the right to leisure time). One individual, we were informed, stated that it was bad enough to be a geek, let alone a female one. Creativity in this scenario, Hanna stated, was a form of resistance.

This resistance here is considered active. Hanna said that these players are resisting by being female players, by beingThe Sims players (which they considered different from other types of game), and by being atypical players (by building and emphasising content). Making skins, therefore, is also a resistance.

Making skins was stated to be because people do not necessarily like the original skins. EA’s perceived understanding of this allows players to create new skins. Skins here, Hanna stated, are a desire to improve play and to help others. This moves us from resistance.

The anonymity is important, too. Hanna pointed out that because it is so anonymous individuals do not enjoy any form of identity boost from the process. Therefore the resistance becomes guilty and silent. Hanna stated that these skinners do not necessarily talk about such things with their friends, only with other skinners. These achievements, however, can be separated from default achievements in games, although these individuals were stated to not necessarily be bothered to do such things if the tools were not available in the first place.

Finally, Hanna pointed out that the virtually male-exclusive The Sims skinning is isolated from other modding groups, and that there is no communication between the two. Hanna suggested that this is partially due to insecurities in their own experience, and therefore an inability to share this with anyone outside of that community.

Questions included whether or not Hanna had shared this analysis with respondents yet, if there is visible resistance required with regards to subcultures, and the lack of awareness amongst these communities of other modders or places to put their mods.

Jessica’s talk was on gaming mothers, a three-year project on how they juggle time, play and family. The research is based on an awareness that there is currently no other research on gaming mothers. There is, however, Jessica stated, some research on older gamers.

The research itself is based upon what people do in everyday life (and the outcomes of this) and how new communication patterns may be formed through the combination of play and everyday life. The research involves discourse analysis, participant observation, emails, interviews, qualitative face-to-face, and game lab setups. Something that they found from this was that gaming life was very much considered to be interconnected with everyday life.

Jessica showed us a Mountain Dew commercial in which two women are at a supermarket, notice that each is buying the opposing coloured Mountain Dew and break out into World of Warcraft characters. This was shown as an example of play mixing in with/becoming part of the everyday.

The idea of the mother, Jessica explained, was a fixed role. The mother was expected to be policing or supportive, and certainly outside of gaming discourse. Jessica stated that she found that gaming mothers mostly played alone, to have time to themselves, even when playing online games such as WoW. Jessica asked what productivity meant with relation to gaming mothers and suggested that productivity lies away from established norms.

Gaming mothers tended to give sensible reasons for playing when asked, such as to relax or to spend time with the children. Also worth a mention here is the weightloss club “Wii Mommies” in which the Wii Fit system was used to lose weight, with consistent reports of weight loss.

The way gaming mothers talk about play, Jessica stated, is interesting because it’s as though they make excuses for play. An Example cited included it not being fair on others if they stop playing. Jessica said that excuses are made for playing in the first place and also for continuing play. She also asked why it is that they speak this way, and why it is hard to accept or admit that they actually like playing rather than playing games to be good for them or for pragmatic purposes.

Questions included how many of these mothers brought the consoles into the household, how this play affected the family, why you would choose to play alone, and the decrease of play with age.

Anne-Mette’s work  was on how identity was constructed, with particular reference to Turkle’s self-representation through the text, Taylor’s “duality of presence”, Gee’s “projective identity”, and the idea of cyborg identities. Anne-Mette was particularly interested in gender identities in virtual communities, whereby a male could play a female but also have a different presence in an online forum, and so forth. She described her approach as literary/ludic with postmodernism.

In this particular forum, the only place accessible to non-members of the guild is the recruitment page. Beyond this page, players are able to make texts about themselves and their characters, and these texts encompass self-description at many levels. Here, Anne-Mette showed us one player’s descriptions by way of an example. This, she said, showed a typical example of the player’s coherency and ability to shift between texts.

We looked at said individual’s application to join the guild, whereby he stated himself as male and his profession, at which point the text was changed (he stated that he had Worg pups rather than children, a reference to the game). He then switched directly into the game as he spoke around the character of his female dwarf and congratulated himself for choosing her rather than a Night Elf. Anne-Mette questioned here whether this was because he related to the characteristics of the Dwarf better. Finally, he stated that he could be online for two afternoons per week.

Later, after being accepted into the guild, this individual posted about joining in the action, the later about what had happened. Later still, he posted a YouTube clip of something outside of the game. He also on occasion invited other guild members to stay at his.

Anne-Mette discussed the matter of the description of the main character being in the third person and how this might complicate matters and how players are shifting between positions and identities without issue. Finally, she brought up the idea of the cyborg: these self-stories might be reminiscent of the cyborg being assembled and disassembled. Furthermore, the cyborg as a symbolic figure of the breakdown of dualities was an interesting element. I would be interested to see what conclusions Anne-Mette draws from looking at other player/characters.

Questions were regarding Anne-Mette’s position in the guild, how she was accepted as a researcher in the guild, how the other guild members react to this, and Anne-Mette’s desire to be accepted both as a player and as a researcher.

Before I begin my write-up of this talk, I would just like to state that the sound quality on the video made it rather difficult to follow at times. I hope I got the main points, though! Because Shira was not available to answer questions, but she can be contacted through her website, http://www.shirachess.com.

Shira’s talk involved the entitlement of women to leisure time, how this is achieved, and how the structure of certain games might be seen to reflect this structure. Shira spoke about how women manage their time, Simulated Productive Play, and the idea of simulation and the spectator as housing a duplicated identity which might be achieved through both physical and representational spaces.

Developer Big Fish Games had the following to say of their franchise: “Manage time, customers, and money in games for the serious goal-setter.” Shira pointed out here that this hardly sounds like a game at all. She moved on to speak more on the Diner Dash series, whose audience is apparently 95% female of average age 35, with 60 million downloads in the franchise, giving it quite an expansive network. Shira explained that the reason these titles were so popular with women was because it represented the household, the stereotypical domain of the woman. The labour, she stated, is emotional, and this household structure is replicated through the game. It is productive: the structure involves waiting on tables, seating customers, cleaning messes, and so forth. This is work in a game.

Shira mentioned the third Diner Dash game, where the main character is on vacation and is roped into assisting on a cruise ship after an incident in which the crew quits. Shira stated this as the main character using her traits as a powerful woman to case for others.

Finally, Shira asked about Simulated Productive Play and whether or not that was a third shift for many women.

If you want to know more about Shira’s work, please do contact her with questions at the aforementioned site.