FiG 2013

Well Folks, we did it! The 2nd Feminists in Games workshop was full of animated discussion, wonderful thinkers, and all around beautiful people. I am also honoured that so many attendees wrote up their experiences and the conference highlights. When I have a chance I will post the video that we took, but until then, I would suggest that everyone check out the following:

Samantha Allen’s write-up, on The Border House Blog.

Emily Yakashiro’s write-up, on the GenderFocus Blog.

Portman Doe’s write-up, on the Portman Doe Blog.

Anita Sarkeesian’s compilation of tweets about her talk.

Samantha Allen’s storify of her talk.

Cecily Carver’s storify of her talk. 

If I’m missing anything, please let me know!

 

FiG Folk Update

A few small updates for everyone regarding FiG Folk.

First, a shout out to Heidi McDonald who won the Women in Games “Rising Star Award” at GDC.

In more GDC news FiG made an appearance at GDC here!

Finally, Helen Kennedy recently completed a Game Jam and the videos are up here! Check them out!

Online Harassment of Women

Online harassment of women is not new. In fact, it is devastating that we are still fighting the same battle, still trying to convince the same people that this is a problem, and still calling for change. 2012 was a banner year for the harassment of women, especially online, and in the last few months the issue seems to be gaining some visibility.

Most recently, here in Canada, Diamond Isinger has begun to document the online harassment and hate speech hurled towards the six female premiers that currently hold office in Canada on the blog Madam Premier. The media has taken notice—the blog has been written up by The Globe and Mail, the Metro News, The Vancouver Sun, the CBC, and has been mentioned on CBC radio and TV as well as BC’s Global News Hour. Details and links to these stories are available on the blog. (Check out the Metro article for a quote from FiG’s own Prof. Jennifer Jenson:) ). Most notable in the Metro article is Isinger’s statement that most of the abuse is targeted at women’s sexuality and appearance. Author Simcoe gives the example of Maurie Sherman’s question to Kathleen Wynne about how she will win over the public with her fashion if she only wears pantsuits. Although there was a fair amount of backlash to the question, shockingly, The Metro reported that Kathleen Wynne’s spokesperson commented that reception for Kathleen Wynne has been “overwhelmingly positive.” After listening to countless hours of radio shows asking the question, ‘Is Ontario ready for a lesbian premier?’ and reading criticisms (and abuse) of Wynne that have nothing to do with her political record, I am appalled that Wynne’s office is more concerned with convincing the public that she is loved (no doubt their eyes are on the next election) than about dealing with misogyny and hate speech.

The Huffington Post’s Soraya Chemaly wrote a fabulous post on the topic of Online Harassment  bringing together a wealth of information that includes more writing about the issue including summaries of the twitter campaigns #MenCallMeThings and #silentnomore, and links to some activist resources. Chemaly went into some detail about her own experiences of harassment as well as some recent cases in the media such as the attack on Anita Sarkeesian, and more recently Mary Beard, who was attacked after an appearance on a BBC1 tv show. Unlike Sarkeesian, who’s campaign for money to fund a series of videos that will provide a feminist critique of female tropes in video games, Beard’s attack was not related to a feminist comment, but a comment about immigration in the UK. Both women have gone public, and while what they have been through is horrifying, they agree that it is important not to be silenced, as so many women have been. One of Anita’s most recent appearances was at TEDxWomen 2012 where she summed up some of what happened, and ended with the support that she has received and the importance of speaking out. Mary Beard has been interviewed by the BBC news since and posted about it on her blog A Don’s Life. Both The Guardian and The Observer included pieces about the incident at the end of last month. The abuse hurled at Beard included insults about her appearance (comments which The Guardian and Observer pieces deal with extensively) as well as offensive pictures and statements about Beards’s pubic hair, a picture of her face photoshopped onto a labia, statements about shoving penises in her mouth… This is all nothing new, but it is still completely unacceptable and just as shocking as when it happened to Jennifer Hepler and Anita Sarkeesian last year, and the countless others before them.

So what is our take-away here? We know there is a problem, but what do we do? We keep talking about it, keep refusing to live with it, and we make people change. Hepler, Sarkeesian and Beard have all taken a huge step by speaking out for all the women who are silenced or harassed by trolls and misogynists. There have also been initiatives to prevent online abuse, such as Take Back the Tech’s CyberStalking and How to Prevent it, and Ms. Magazine blog posts How Some Men Harass Women Online and What Other Men Can Do to Stop It and Students Speak Out: 5 Ways to Stop Online Harassment. As long more resources become available, and more women (and men) speak out against online harassment, we will share them. For now we must keep fighting, admitting that there IS a problem, and that it MUST be confronted.

FiG 2013 Abstract Deadline Extended!

We have extended the deadline for abstracts for the Feminists in Games Workshop to February 28, 2013. Please circulate widely to all of your networks.

Open Call:

We are inviting submissions for participation in the 2nd Annual “Feminists in Games” workshop to be held in at the Center for Digital Media in Vancouver, B.C. from May 31- June 2, 2013.

Participation and attendance at the conference is free. There is a limited amount of money allotted to assist presenters with their travel costs. If you wish to apply for this funding please include a short statement (no more than 100 words) with your abstract describing your financial need.

1) New Participants

We invite young and up-and-coming scholars and aspiring game designers as well as established practitioners in the field (including researchers, educators and industry professionals) to submit a presentation abstract of no more than 1000 words addressing the challenge of advancing gender equity in relation to the following areas:

– game design and development;

– game content;

– socio-cultural constructions of “gamers”;

– player communities and online play; and

– the games industry

– critiques of media treatment of girls/women/gamers

Proposals will be peer-reviewed, and applicants whose submissions are accepted will have the opportunity to bring their work into conversation with established feminist scholars and activists during a two-day invitational workshop.

2) Past Participants

We invite participants of FiG 2012 who received seed funding from FiG to present the findings/outcomes of their projects in a paper (maximum 3000 words) and/or multimedia presentation.

3) Observers

We invite members from the general public, the games industry and academia to attend keynotes and

workshop roundtable sessions, and to lend their voices, perspectives and experiences to conversations and

emerging initiatives that support feminist purposes and processes in games education, research, design and

development. Although not required to submit/present formal papers, each observer is requested to participate in a ‘lightening round’ observer panel and will have five minutes in which to describe their an interest/challenge/question/project/game, that specifically engages with FiG’s mandate, the advancement, through all possible means, of feminists in games.

4) Other/s

The conference will include an opportunity to participate in a roundtable session aimed at generating a collaborative research project between scholars and industry professionals.

Those interested in presenting may send abstracts of no more than 1000 words, outlining their research question(s), project/s and approach, to Rachel Muehrer (feministsingames@gmail.com) or Jennifer Jenson (jjjenson@gmail.com) by February 28, 2013. Those wishing to attend as ‘observers’ (this includes the industry round table) are invited to reply by March 31, 2013 with a description of your ‘lightning round’ submission short statement about how attending might be of benefit to you (250 words).

 

FiG Content

We always like to keep the public informed about the projects that are happening in the FiG network. Two attendees at last year’s workshop have shared this work with us and we would like you to check it out.

Rebecca Phoa recently completed a 3 part module built in NWN’s Aurora Toolset. For anyone interested, play it here. Feedback is welcome!

Heidi McDonald participated in the Global Game Jam where she and her team created this game called Ultrasounds.

Finally, Alison Harvey wrote a great piece for the IGDA newsletter titled, #1reasonwhy and #1reasonmentors: Alliance, Collaboration, and Action for Change.

FiG funded projects. Check them out!

About a month ago we had a get-together in Toronto and we received an update on the status of a few of the projects that we were able to fund. FiG folk have been working hard and have done some amazing things!

 

Dames Making Games:

Jennie Faber and Cecily Carver ran another successful incubator over the summer, Jeuxly. Their final report with all the details is available here.

AND you can play some of the games from the incubator on the DMG blog here.

 

Hannah Epstein:

Check out the links below to Hannah Epstein’s game-in-progress, PsXXYborg:

• YouTube
• Pinterest
Facebook
Blog
•Twitter: @HawnzEppy

 

Pixelles:

FiG is funding another game incubator, this time in Montreal. Pixelles, run by coordinators Rebecca Cohen Palacios and Tanya Short, began on January 14th. Embedded researcher Tamara Shepherd and long time FiG member Alison Harvey will keep us updated on the happenings. Check out what they have been up to here.

 

 

Call for Papers: Feminists in Games Workshop 2013!!

Open Call:

We are inviting submissions for participation in the 2nd Annual “Feminists in Games” workshop to be held in at the Center for Digital Media at Simon Fraser University from May 31- June 2, 2013.

Participation and attendance at the conference is free. There is a limited amount of money allotted to assist presenters with their travel costs. If you wish to apply for this funding please include a short statement (no more than 100 words) with your abstract describing your financial need.

1) New Participants

We invite young and up-and-coming scholars and aspiring game designers as well as established practitioners in the field (including researchers, educators and industry professionals) to submit a presentation abstract of no more than 1000 words addressing the challenge of advancing gender equity in relation to the following areas:

– game design and development;

– game content;

– socio-cultural constructions of “gamers”;

– player communities and online play; and

– the games industry

– critiques of media treatment of girls/women/gamers

Proposals will be peer-reviewed, and applicants whose submissions are accepted will have the opportunity to bring their work into conversation with established feminist scholars and activists during a two-day invitational workshop.

2) Past Participants

We invite participants of FiG 2012 who received seed funding from FiG to present the findings/outcomes of their projects in a paper (maximum 3000 words) and/or multimedia presentation.

3) Observers

We invite members from the general public, the games industry and academia to attend keynotes and

workshop roundtable sessions, and to lend their voices, perspectives and experiences to conversations and

emerging initiatives that support feminist purposes and processes in games education, research, design and

development. Although not required to submit/present formal papers, each observer is requested to participate in a ‘lightening round’ observer panel and will have five minutes in which to describe their an interest/challenge/question/project/game, that specifically engages with FiG’s mandate, the advancement, through all possible means, of feminists in games.

4) Other/s

The conference will include an opportunity to participate in a roundtable session aimed at generating a collaborative research project between scholars and industry professionals.

Those interested in presenting may send abstracts of no more than 1000 words, outlining their research question(s), project/s and approach, to Rachel Muehrer (feministsingames@gmail.com) or Jennifer Jenson (jjjenson@gmail.com) by February 1, 2013. Those wishing to attend as ‘observers’ (this includes the industry round table) are invited to reply by March 31, 2013 with a description of your ‘lightning round’ submission short statement about how attending might be of benefit to you (250 words).

FiG Toronto Mixer

We are pleased to announce a FiG Toronto Mixer that will take place on December 6th. The event will be held at OCADU in downtown Toronto. For more details please email Rachel at feministsingames@gmail.com.
We will be providing snacks and beverages, and we are also pleased to announce that Cecily Carver, Jennie Faber and Hannah Epstein will presenting some of their work that the FiG initiative has funded. Please stop by to hear about this great work and to chat with new and old members of FiG!

Halo 4 and The Permaban

Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, and Kiki Wolfkill, executive producer of Halo 4, recently announced that Xbox Live players who make sexist or discriminatory comments can be penalized with a lifetime ban from Halo 4. Read more about it here at GamesSpot. This decision has provoked a multitude of responses a few of which I have read quite enthusiastically. I would like to focus on a few here, because there have been quite a range of thoughtful (and some not so thoughtful) responses to this policy.

First, this Reddit post, written by lurker_lenore was written by a rather disgruntled gamer who argues with the necessity for a policy like this. The essay is unsubstantiated, or as the author wrote:

Disclaimer: I don’t have sources for a lot of this. It’s inference based on personal experience, so I welcome anyone who does have a source or correct information.

At least it’s honest, and the author did ask for evidence from readers to strengthen the argument. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that anyone was able to fulfill the request. lurker_lenore’s main argument was that sexual discrimination in the Xbox Live community is not an issue. In fact, the type of harassment in said community goes well beyond sexual discrimination and is an important part of the experience. By banning sexual harassment, the community is doing a disservice to women who need to develop a thicker skin. The author goes on to argue that sexual harassment in gaming was in fact fabricated by the group Fat, Ugly or Slutty, who fail to recognize that all Xbox Live members experience vile treatment, but women simply “handle it differently.”

In any social environment, individuals will attempt to gain social leverage with their peers, usually in the form of acceptance and approval. In general, women tend to gain this leverage against men by asserting their sexuality; while men gain it between one another via their accomplishments; finally, men seek it from women through emotional empathy.

lurker_lenore’s final arguments against this type of lifetime ban state that it will create a divisive community, including an atmosphere where it is far more acceptable to harass men, where women are marginalized by gamers for being women (because clearly they are not already) AND for thinking that they are better then men and deserve better treatment, and finally, where all the men-hating women will begin to hate Microsoft for:

implicitly stating that women are not as resilient as men, or capable of dealing with insults and trash-talk without kindergarten-esque rules of engagement.

Iron-clad. Surprisingly, not all the comments agree with the author; a few even invite him to play with or as a female avatar so that he might witness the reality of the situation first hand. However, the majority of the comments came from people who agreed. These posts argued that because it is okay to sling homophobic insults at men, sexualized comments directed toward women are fair game, or that the whole reason for the new policy is because the head of 343 is a Feminist, or that women are being infantilized by this policy, or, my personal favorite  that game companies should continue to appeal to their main demographic of white males so that they can sell games.

A few comments brought up questions of enforcing this ban, which is actually a good point. This problem was brought up in a few blogs as well, including one by Mary Sue contributer Becky Chambers. In her piece she applauds the policy, pointing out that Halo 4 and Microsoft are giants in their field, and this could set a precedent for harassment policies all over the industry. Chambers also questions the implementation of the policy, stating that players might benefit from warnings or reports so that they might learn which behavior is acceptable. This leads me to another blog post I found on Gamasutra by Jon W. who challenges the policy because, as he puts it, the game has trained boys to be sexist by supplying them with a game franchise full of “guns and titties.”

In light of these two posts, it will be interesting to see how this permaban will be enforced and whether there is a feedback system that re-educates players in a code of conduct. Finally, however, it should be restated (as it has by many bloggers and journalists including Chambers’ Mary Sue piece) that although Wolfkill and Ross chose to highlight harassment against women in their interview, the Halo 4 policy includes a ban for the myriad of discriminatory comments. It seems that because the two chose to discuss gender in their interview (possibly because they are women), all the male gamers (and I say this because I have not yet read a post by a person who identifies as a women and disagrees with the sentiment of the policy) claiming that women need to ‘ball up or get out’ should be gently reminded that this is a policy meant to make the gaming community a safer place for everyone.

 

FiG Funded Projects

Those who attended the FiG Workshop may know that we invited participants to submit proposals for projects that would receive incubator funding. After a few rounds of submissions and revisions, the FiG Folk have chosen 5 projects that will receive funding this year. Below is a description of these projects. We can’t wait to see how they progress!

DEAR ADA

By Mitu Khandaker and Emily Flynn-Jones

Dear Ada is a website making a space for feminine (though not necessarily female) voices to talk about & explore their thoughts, feelings and experiences with gender issues and the epistemic community of games. This site will give women from all areas of experience and all angles of expertise in games and feminist discourse the opportunity speak. We want to hear from players, hardcore fans, feminists with valuable perspectives for application to the culture of games, men with feminist messages, indie start-ups, industry professionals and all the in-betweens.  All these voices together can give a greater representation of the diversity of females and perspectives in games and gaming culture today. The diversity can hopefully reach a greater audience, make space for all kinds of perspectives and opinions so as not to alienate anyone who already feels marginalized and provide variety enough of content for individuals to relate. This space can also provide the anonymity for those who feel they need to speak out but might be compromise by doing so.  From the contributions to the site we also hope to be able to study the demographics of contributors (even those that are anonymously published) and track themes that might be useful in pushing forward feminist agendas in the games community and acting for equity.

 

DRAGONSPEECH

By Heidi McDonald

Dragonspeech is a game that was invented by a workshop group during the inaugural Feminists in Games workshop, in an effort to:

1) demonstrate the efficacy of the FiG organization;

2) address the important issue of harassment in the gaming community;

3) address harassment in society at large.

The game will raise awareness about the effects of all types of harassment in games (as a metaphor for harassment in real life), and will prescribe an effective remedy for harassment in both virtual and real spaces. Dragonspeech will call out game harassment and demonstrate its effects in a visual, tangible way. It also provides a practical solution for harassment in the form of coalition building and peer support. As a secondary agenda, the game will bring awareness to the Feminists in Games group and be a tangible example of the kinds of work done by us, at our conference.

 

EXPANDING AND STRENGTHENING THE DAMES MAKING GAMES NETWORK

By Cecily Carver, Jennie Faber, Alison Harvey & Helen Kennedy

Building on past success: The New Game Makers/DMG Incubator 2

The New Game Makers is a series jointly presented by Bento Miso and Dames Making Games. The series will bring women working in diverse roles within the games industry to Miso for a 1-hour lecture followed by a 2-3 hour hands-on workshop where participants will work on a small project with the assistance of the guest speaker and other participants. The series will run in conjunction with a six-week Dames Making Games (DMG) incubator based on the model of the Difference Engine Initiative (DEI) and the first DMG incubator, which will guide and support a small group of women through the process of creating a small, complete game.

DMG Toronto’s second incubator will run from July through mid-August (six weeks), in conjunction with a speaker series (The New Game Makers) featuring women game professionals. The guest speakers come from a wide range of roles, from producer and management positions to design, music, art, and development; and from organization sized from small indie companies to triple-A studios. Incubator participants will be selected from an application pool, with the goal of creating an enthusiastic and committed group with a diverse mix of skills and interests who might not otherwise have the opportunity to develop their interest in games in this way. While the incubator will be limited to six participants, the speaker series will accommodate a larger group (up to 30) for each presentation.

Extending the network: DMG Montreal & DMG Bristol

Working in collaboration with DMG, Alison and Helen will organize incubators in two novel contexts: Montreal, Quebec and Bristol, UK. Both of these settings feature growing independent game communities that would greatly benefit from context-specific feminist interventions aimed at encouraging more female-identified people to feel confident in the process of games design. Like DMG and DEI, the purposes of these context-aware interventions will be to facilitate community building, networking, skills development, mentoring, and personal growth among participants, as well as the creation of games by novice developers.

We will make interventions in our respective communities with the comprehensive documentation and feedback generated in DEI and the activities of DMG, by past facilitators, embedded academics, and current organizers. Using these best practices as guidelines, we will then consult with constituents in the local communities (via indie game collectives, local academics, developer hubs) about ideal locations, promotions venues, showcase locations, etc. Structurally, incubators will be run in the format of DEI, with six 3-4 hour sessions run over 6 weeks and capped off with a showcase to demonstrate the completed games.

 

 PsXXY¥borg (pronounced “cyborg”)

By Hannah Epstein

The purpose of this game is to emancipate a domestic game designer, so that she can create a game that is beautiful, immersive and transcendent of gender normative representation. Through using Unity and the Kinect, PsXXY¥borg will come to life as multi-player game, suited for public installation, as the more people playing, the more complex the game play will become, all in the name of redefining the social and political importance of games. The game, PsXXY¥borg, will be inspired directly by the writing of Donna Haraway and her proposed post-gender cyborg. It will be designed to contain these elements of theory, putting into practice and artistic expression the very ideal beliefs housed within the post-gender cyborg framework.

 

WOMEN IN THE GAME INDUSTRY – LESSONS TO LEARN

By Sonja Ganguin and Anna Hoblitz

Gender differences are typically discussed when it comes to the use of computer- and video games. However, today, the typical gamer is not male. In Germany, for example, 10.8 million women play regularly – these are 44 % of the gamers (BIU 2012). Yet this positive development cannot be seen in the videogame industry, which is still a male-dominated field. Why only few women work in this creative and challenging area is not quite obvious. At the same time there are successful women in the game industries as producers, developers, publishers, etc. However there is little known about their biographies, careers, points of views and attitudes. What was their specific way into the industry? How would they describe their own role in the business? Are they confronted with gender differences in their daily work and what are their strategies to deal with it? To answer these questions we plan to develop a basic study that focuses on the perspective of women working in the game industry by interviewing them as experts. With guided expert interviews, the women’s biographical status as well as key factors for success could be determined. The identification and analysis of success factors and strategies, for example in the arrays of education, social networking and projects, will indicate possible starting points for supporting female students getting started their career.

On the one hand, the aim of the study is to describe a status quo of the actual situation of women working in the game business. On the other hand, it is necessary to deduce recommendations for effective and appropriate promotional measures to strengthen women’s position and especially to reduce the barriers that prevent them from joining the game industry. This cooperation and the subsequent study intend to take concrete measures, for example a mentoring program for women could be developed which is based on the results of the survey. Female students could get into contact with a female mentor working in the games business and their communication could give some insights into the industry and facilitate young women’s entry into this profession.