June 17, 2005

women, games

by Mary Flanagan · , 3:13 pm

Where is the hard data about women in the games industry? In a 2004 New York Times article, the approximate number of women in the US games industry is estimated to be 10%. But where is the hard data? Send on if anyone has it. Also, while I’m sure everyone heard of Lowenstein’s call for new kinds of games at E3, I wish to repost it as a reminder that the issue of gender and gaming runs deep and is multifaceted: a more
complex issue than simply the lack of women making games, or the representation of women in games, or how many women purchase games. In addition to these issues, more thinking needs to focus on the gender issues present in the construction of game architectures and game goals, and how games occupy our cultural imaginary.
Here are some papers on these issues:
New Design Methods for Activist Gaming
and
Troubling ‘Games for Girls': Notes from the Edge of Game Design

16 Responses to “women, games”


  1. Edwin Says:

    I’ve taught about 500 kids ages 12-17 a course in game making. We use Dr. Mark Overmar’s Game Maker 6.0 I get less than 10% interest from girls. Although, I’m almost certain that if the tools to make Fascade were integrated into one program with a drag and drop interface, (much like Game Maker 6.0) I might be able to get more girls into the Game Making industry.

  2. mary Says:

    interesting! lets talk to michael m about it.

  3. michael Says:

    Andrew and I would love to see more people making interactive drama. The current Facade authoring environment
    consists of 6 different programming languages (three custom languages we wrote our own compilers for: ABL (the autonomous character language), BDL (the dramatic beat description language), and the NLU template language (for writing robust parsing rules for natural language);
    three existing languages: C++, Java and Jess (a java implementation of the CLIPS forward chaining rule language)). Experienced game
    programmers could pick this up relatively quickly (particularly if they build on top of the many ABL utility behaviors we’ve already written
    for locomotion, emotion maintenaince and expression, body resource management, etc.), but it would definitely be extremely hard going for
    people new to programming. We’re very interested in adding higher abstraction layers on top of this framework…

  4. andrew Says:

    Design Synthesis offers a lengthy comment on this.

  5. hanna Says:

    I attended a talk and panel discussion about women in the games industry last month at Cambridge University. Turns out there’s quite a bit of research out there. A good starting point is Aleks Krotoski’s ELSPA white paper “Chicks and Joysticks.” Aleks says that the percentage of women working in the UK games industry is 16%. (She doesn’t give the corresponding figure for the US, however.) She also includes a breakdown by job role for both men and women; unsurprisingly, 26% of women in the gaming industry are involved in sales/marketing/PR, while only 2% are programmers.

    Other places to look for more information on women in gaming include the IGDA’s Women in Game Development site and the UK Women in Games conference website.

  6. andrew Says:

    Here’s a Guardian editorial today on women in game development, which links to several of the things Hanna just mentioned.

  7. mary Says:

    yes there is a great deal of existing research but no US data on the number of women involved specifically in the game industry. Had a long talk with the IDSA/ESA folks about this. So this is specifically what I’m looking for. I agree krotowski’s work is excellent!

  8. Jesse Says:

    Hope you don’t mind an comment from the unwashed…but I think about this topic a lot. It’s like a little research project that I get to constantly work on at my own house. My wife digs a lot of the things most gaming-type guys dig. She’s cool like that.

    But, try to tell her that there’s real fiction in a game, and she scoffs. Games are nothing more than space invaders to her. Final Fantasy, for example, is just a really gussed-up and long version of space invaders. Frankly, I can’t bridge the gap here because I can’t see it. Is this common? Wouldn’t this be a key thing to try to fix?

    (to be frank, I find most game fiction to be crap so she’s not *that* off)

    Jesse

  9. nick Says:

    Oh no! It’s not a gender issue … as it turns out, your wife is a ludologist!

  10. I Paterson Says:

    Book now for Women in Games 2005!

    The Women in Games 2005 Conference will highlight the most recent, groundbreaking work in this field of computer game research and development to both academic and industrial worlds.

    Attended by the giants of the games industry, and giving an insight into a vast emerging market, this is event that you cannot afford to miss!

    The Conference will take place on 8th, 9th and 10th August 2005, at the University of Abertay, Dundee. A full pass, including lunch each day and the Conference dinner, costs just £150. Students and the unwaged may apply for a one-day pass for Wednesday 10 August, at a special price of just £40.

    Book now on http://www.womeningames.com to secure your place!

    Key speakers confirmed

    Some of the most respected names in the industry will take centre stage at the conference. Keynote speakers include Ernest Adams (UK), an independent games designer, teacher, founder of IGDA, and author; Melissa Federoff (US), a Microsoft Games Usability Engineer; Constance A. Steinkuehler (US), a MMORPG researcher and game columnist; and Aphra Kerr (Northern Ireland), a game researcher at the Centre for Media Research, University of Ulster.

    Programmed for success

    The three days of the conference will include papers on a wide range of issues related to women in games, as well as question and panel sessions, networking opportunities, and presentations from some of the up-and-coming student stars of the future. A conference dinner will be held on Tuesday 9 August 2005.

    Highlights of the programme include:

    Marketing games to a broader audience, a panel chaired by Aleks Krotoski, which will invite discussion on using fresh marketing approaches to encourage female consumers to engage with interactive entertainment, and how the positions of games marketing will change in the future.

    Computer games, play, and the politics of difference, a paper by Professor James Woudhuysen, which will review the naturalistic and consumerist approaches that now dominate commentaries on women and computer games, and propose an alternative outlook.

    Thinking past Pink: Critical considerations of women and gaming, a panel chaired by Tina Taylor of the IT University of Copenhagen. The panel will provide several rich micro-accounts about women who do play, and discuss how we might better understand the intersection of gender and computer games through their stories.

    For full programme details, visit the website: http://www.womeningames.com

    Student Forum

    Registration for the student forum includes entry to the conference prize draw to win an iPod Shuffle.

    As part of the conference, student delegates will have unprecedented access to a panel of industry veterans, who will discuss CVs, interview tips, presenting a demo, and hot games hiring topics. Those attending will also have the opportunity to put their CV forward for discussion and comment from the panel.

    The Student Forum will also give the inside track on Dare to be Digital, a unique international student games competition based at the University of Abertay Dundee. Project Manager Jackie McKenzie will give an overview of the past five years of DARE, including a profile of some of the prototypes created.

    About Women in Games 2005

    Women in Games expands opportunities and seeks professional development for women working in and researching into games and the games industry.

    The aims of the organisation are to:

    Analyse the role of women in the videogame industry,
    Discuss the future of games that appeal to female gamers,
    Provide an opportunity for women in the videogame industry to network,
    Provide an opportunity to present and discuss the latest videogame research.
    The conference, now in its second year, is a unique opportunity for delegates to explore this growing market, and hear new research into ways of getting women into games – as both developers and players.

    Contact Women in Games 2005 by email at enquiries@womeningames.com

  11. andrew Says:

    Here’s a new AP story in the NYTimes, “Programmers: Video Games Need Female Touch“.

  12. andrew Says:

    …and one of the women interviewed for the article, who felt her quotes were misrepresented.

  13. mark Says:

    Thanks for the link to that blog post, andrew. It seems to reinforce the general suspicions of the media on matters like these: They have an angle they want to play up, and seek out interviews selectively to confirm that angle, rather than really seeking to report anything. Usually they’re more careful and seek out people who actually agree with them, but occasionally if such people can’t be found, they can be invented…

  14. andrew Says:

    Yup. I’m skeptical of most press articles in general, particularly opinion-style pieces, for those reasons. Especially the ones that hype up “the future of videogames” and such. ;-)

  15. Grand Text Auto » Newsweek Int’l on the Future of Entertainment Says:

    [...] ek Int’l on the Future of Entertainment
    by andrew @ 4:21 pm

    Speaking of women and games — we can’t get a hold of it here in the US, but [...]

  16. andrew Says:

    Here’s a summary of the recent Women in Games international symposium, sponsored by and held at Microsoft a week or two ago.

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