Game History Annual Symposium: 2015 Edition
History of Gender in Games
Since the beginning of the 1990s, many scholars have shown concern for the plethora of gender stereotypes and sexist narratives in video games, as well as for the lower percentage of female players and of female game designers. Over time, the solutions advanced to avoid sexism and to bridge the gaps between men and women followed three different trends.
First Wave of Game Feminism
Considering the growing importance of technological literacy during the 1990s, many were promoting the creation of computer games specifically designed for girls. Even though these games risk naturalizing gender binaries, it seemed more realistic to transform the game industry one step at a time, by creating spaces where young girls feel comfortable to play. Simultaneously, groups like Quake Grrl proved that female players can enjoy beating boys at their own games.
Second Wave of Game Feminism
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of female players increased, but the rarity of women designers, the marginalization of professional female players, and the proliferation of stereotypical avatars persisted. While the conception of gender as socially constructed was spreading, more voices called for gender-neutral games. Some scholars also surfed on this “second wave” of game feminism by turning their attention to the contextual factors that explain gender disparity within gaming practices. Such discussions on gender in games, however, remained mostly centered around white heterosexual women.
Third Wave of Game Feminism
After two decades of game feminism, many scholars are now shifting their focus toward alternative representations of gender, LGBTQ themes, as well as self-reflexivity, diversity, sexuality, and masculinity in video games. Inspired by the most recent developements in gender and queer studies, more researchers adopt an intersectional approach to gender/race/class/age, or a postmodern approach to gender as something that we “do” and that is open to exploration on an individual basis, thus initiating a “third wave” of game feminism.
Presented in partnership with TAG (Technoculture, Arts and Games, Concordia University), CMS|W (Comparative Media Studies | Writing, MIT), Canada Research Chair In Game Studies & Design (Concordia University), LUDOV (Laboratory for the Documentation and Observation of Video Games, UdeM), Homo Ludens (UQAM), and BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec), this second edition of the Game History Annual Symposium will not only provide opportunities to review the history of gender in games, but also to document the emergence of a “third wave” of game feminism. Professionals and scholars from any and all disciplines are invited to submit a proposal in French or in English that would fit in one of these four tracks:
Track 1: Game Feminism
Invited speakers: Suzanne De Castell and Jennifer Jenson, co-founders of Feminists in Games (FIG)
How have studies of gender in games evolved in the past decades? Have scholars found ways to work on this topic without essentializing gender differences and homogenizing the category “woman?” How can we describe the third wave of game feminism in comparison with the first and the second ones? How can studies of gender in computer games benefit from studies of gender in “traditional games” (role-playing games, board games, dolls, etc.)?
Track 2: Game Representations
Invited speaker: Adrienne Shaw, author of Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2015)
How have gender representations in games changed? What similarities and differences can be observed between those found in computer games and those found in “traditional” games? Are stereotypical protagonists still pervasive, or there is more room for nuanced, androgynous, and queer avatars? Are there more serious games, indie games, or machinima that challenge stereotypes, educate players on gender issues or question heteronormativity?
Track 3: Game Design
Invited speaker: Brie Code, Lead programmer of Child of Light (Ubisoft, 2014)
How has the participation of women as players and developers transformed game design? Has the game industry created new genres that are more appealing to women? Has it incorporated, in traditional genres, new elements that attract female players? Does the evolution of game design reflect a change of values regarding gender equality or a better tolerance of diversity? Do computer games provide more freedom than “traditional” games in terms of gameplay?
Track 4: Game Culture
Invited speaker: Todd Harper, author of The Culture of Digital Fighting Games: Performance and Practice (Routledge, 2013)
How have gender dynamics evolved in game communities? Have those communities opened up to female players and gaymers? To what extend are sexism and sexual harassment still pervasive in geek culture? Are there new pockets of resistance? How and in what areas has the game industry changed its marketing to reach wider audiences than the core young male demographic?
Proposals of 800 words (plus bibliography) should be sent to GameHistoryMTL<mailto:GameHistoryMTL><mailto:GameHistoryMTL<mailto:GameHistoryMTL>> before January 11, 2015. The proposals should be anonymous, include a title, and provide a clear synopsis for a 20-minute presentation. In your email, please specify which track you want to be part of, provide your name, affiliation, and a short biography. Submissions will be reviewed by members of the scientific committee. A double-blind peer review publication project will be launched after the conference.
Conference chairs for the 2015 Edition
Mia Consalvo, Professor at Concordia University
Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin, Postdoctoral Researcher at MIT
• Screening of the movie Gaming in Color (2014)
• Exhibition “Gender in Games”
• Closing Reception
• Montreal International Jazz Festival