Posts Tagged ‘WIG2009’

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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