I’m really excited that this summer I get to teach Gender and Information Technology through the Critical Gender Studies program at UC San Diego. I’m especially excited because I had proposed to teach the course with a specific focus on the #GamerGate controversy. We’ll be exploring various aspects of gender and race in relation to video games and simulation technology.
I’m really looking forward to putting the readings together for this course and selecting games for my students to play. Though seems to be a sudden explosion in popular responses to issues of gender and gaming, feminist approaches to gaming didn’t start with #GamerGate: folks like Mary Flanagan, Celia Pearce, Justine Cassell, Jacki Morie, Tracy Fullerton, Mia Consalvo, Lisa Nakamura, Elizabeth Losh, and many others have been exploring these issues for many years. One great resource I recently came across is The New Inquiry’s Feminism and Gaming Syllabus. TNI’s syllabus draws on the work of both senior and up-and-coming feminist games studies scholars, game makers, and artists.
I actually found the syllabus via young artist Angela Washko’s insightful piece on her experience trying to create a place for open discussions about feminism and gender in online game spaces, The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft.
Let me know if you have any suggestions for particular games/games-related pieces that would be interesting to share with my students.
In the world of misogynist gamers, apparently the funnest thing in the whole world is to try to destroy the life of feminists in the gaming world. Recently, there were the death threats against Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian after she dared to post videos making very rigorous and grounded analysis of the content of video games. But it turns out for a year and half, independent game designer Zoe Quinn has been the the subject of an internet witch hunt of such scale and it was reported in The New Yorker. The story is that a jilted ex decided to write some revenge porn about her and posted it on every forum he could find. A bunch of morons bit the bait and ran with it, because to them, Quinn represented a jezebel who had apparently ruined the whole of gaming by slutting her way to getting attention for her games and amassing a HUGE WEALTH (ha!) for things like her free text-based game about depression (which is now going on my simulation course syllabus).
Here, Quinn tells Cracked about the lessons she learned from this experience, the saddest of which is how easily all this game happen to feminists who work in gaming. I love video games. There is nothing inherently masculine about interactive multimedia, and yet there is a strong, angry contingent of players who seem to want to treat it as if gaming was they own private boys only club house. I want to see more games, diverse games that explore the potential of the medium, that simulate modes of interaction other than shooting your friends (as feminist game developer Celia Pearce has described it) and I think diversity among developers is much needed. Consider it the feminist standpoint theory of game development. This was goal of Pearce, Jacki Morie, Tracy Fullerton and Janine Fron’s Ludica Collective. If we want to open up this field, we need not only to include more women and other underrepresented groups and encourage them to create brave work that speaks to their own experiences and sensibilities, we also need to support them in through this bullshit and make clear, as Quinn points out, that a small group of bullies can’t fool us.