I’ve just attended the workshop on gender, place and space in computer games led by Helen Kennedy. Helen started out by framing her research interests within theories on play, computer games and gender. Considering the mix of backgrounds of people attending I think it was a good thing to get this kind of general introduction to this complex subject area. One of the issues which was raised during her presentation was how to find ways for female players to comfortably play games that aren’t typically considered female due to their violent characteristics (first-person shooter games, for instance), without having to be faced with the stereotypical images of women and the often stereotypical attitudes of other gamers. Based on the theoretical discussion we were given missions to solve in groups. The group in which I participated took on the task of designing a game which would “raise players’ awareness of issues such as gender exclusion, racial or sexual oppression”.
Game design is a completely new area to me, but luckily I had two game designers and a former play worker on my team, and we came up with a quite interesting online adaptation of the hot air balloon game in which you have to convince the other players that you should not be the person getting thrown overboard in order to prevent the balloon from sinking. Participants would play fictive characters partly designed by themselves with additional characteristics being assigned by the system, and would get to vote on who to throw out based on these characteristics only. The idea behind this would be to raise an awareness of the mechanisms of oppression, something which seems to be difficult to do without loosing the true interactive and pervasive qualities of the game. However, in this case I think it would be possible to introduce a moral and still keep the aspect of fun and playfulness.
Now I’m off for Jane’s event “Confessions of a Flash mob organizer”, which begins in seven minutes and will be accompanied by some snacks :-)