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 ( or Jennifer Jenson ( 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
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.