25 April 2009
Currently in its fifth year, Women in Games U.K. is an annual conference with the distinct aim of highlighting the most recent, groundbreaking work in computer game research and development to both academic and industrial worlds. WiG has consistently addressed the empowerment and professional development of women working in, and researching into, games and the games industry. In 2009 with the objective of widening the audience and reach of the initiative WiG is running a series of activities in parallel with key games events, both academic and industry, to deliver focused work to the wider community.
19 April 2009
Microsoft held its first ever Women in Gaming Awards Luncheon on Wednesday during GDC, an intimate event recognizing the accomplishments of all women in an industry currently dominated by men.
Winners in the four award categories were:
Executive producer, director of art, Microsoft Game Studios, working on the Halo franchise
Designer and producer at EA, working on MySims, Boom Blox!
Principal engine programmer, Halo Team Microsoft
Producer on LittleBigPlanet at Media Molecule
Attending the luncheon via video was Sims and Spore man Will Wright, who was unable to make it to the event in person. But in his message he said that in his experience in working with women, they aren’t necessarily any better than men at design, but they are able to see things differently, and bring new depth to game design. In all, he’d like to see more women in senior management positions in the games industry
Sande Chen contributed to this report.
18 April 2009
It's more critical than ever for women to get into games, whether it's as a player or as a developer.
That's according to a panel comprised primarily of women on the closing day of GDC. But women don't always recognize or even have confidence in their ability to be game designers.
“The game industry has created a box around itself that says 'get out,'" says Tracy Fullerton, associate professor of interactive media at University of Southern California. "If you’re not dedicated to hardcore games, you’re not a gamer," some believe. That leads some aspiring female designers to doubt themselves because they prefer so-called "casual" games, not Gears of War or Halo.
"I think the industry has to invite people to come in and play.” Nintendo, she notes, is a prime example of making gaming more inviting.
Attracting more females to actually work in the games industry is also tied to encouraging more women to play games. Men and women often play games in very different ways, and the best games encompass all play styles.
Fullerton talked about her experience in a Halo clan that was comprised of both men and women. “I realized we weren't playing the same game. The guys were playing ‘I beat that guy,’ whereas I was playing ‘I am hanging out with my friends,’ yet we were both having fun in that same game.’”
Noah Falstein, president of consulting firm The Inspiracy, was fascinated when he watched girl friends of his 10-year-old daughter play Diablo II. One of them wasn't interested in slaying monsters; she played it like a shopping game, buying different items.
“One of the effects of getting women into game design is that they are going to add play patterns," says Fullerton.
And with wider-appealing game design comes a wider audience, a good thing for the games industry as well as gamers.
Sande Chen contributed to this report.
15 April 2009
by Sande Chen
In this panel put together by the IGDA Women in Games SIG, academics and business leaders came together to discuss the importance of video game literacy for women in the upcoming years. In addition, the leadership skills involved in playing some video games can help women succeed in their jobs.
"Cyber-socialization is different from socialization," said Diane Pozefsky, a research professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With businesses increasingly using distributed teams of people who have never met face-to-face, women who want to succeed in business will need to understand the subtleties of communication between avatars versus body language.
Moreover, the skills involved in running a remote team are the same ones needed to run a successful guild. As Phaedra Boinodiris, Serious Games Product Manager for IBM Software Group, revealed, IBM has been studying MMORPGs to see how they can be used in leadership and teamwork training. The military has even used fantasy raids in video games in its training.
Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor of Interactive Media at the University of Southern California, agreed with this practice: "Games naturally help us to understand the forces that are at work in the leadership process. It allows us to rehearse bad and good strategies in leadership."
Online games can also teach women how to deal with environments dominated by males, something that may come in handy if they decide to work in game development.
But more and more, video game technology and video games are entering fields where women, rather than men, are the dominant population. These serious games, as they are called, will become part of the tools used in corporate culture, in the classroom, and in healthcare.
Noah Falstein, a serious games consultant, noted that at the most recent Games for Health conference, the audience there was much more balanced than at GDC. There was no gender or age bias since the teams and audiences for these games exhibit diversity.
That's an ideal the panelists hope can happen for regular game development, although they acknowledge that obstacles exist.
Fullerton observed that when young women come to her game design class, they often sit in the back and think that they don't belong. She has to convince them that they do in fact play games, even if the games they like are not Halo 3 but some Facebook app. These young women could not imagine themselves as game designers.
Falstein relayed a similar story: "I talked to a young woman on Monday and she said, 'I was a psychology major in college and I design games on my own, but I'm not sure if I would be a good game designer." The punchline was that the young woman was Erin Robinson, who two days later was one of the winners of the Game Design Challenge at GDC.
It's a familiar sentiment spoken by women, who have been beaten down by the prevailing judgment, that women aren't gamers and women shouldn't be in game design.
"The game industry has created a box around itself that says GET OUT," Fullerton said. "If you're not dedicated to hardcore games, then you're not a gamer." Instead, Fullerton felt that it was up to the industry to invite women into the fold. Research has shown that this could have a beneficial effect for games.
For instance, when boys and girls are asked to develop games, it's the girls' games that are enjoyed by everyone whereas only boys seemed to like the games they developed. Women developers tend to add more play patterns, enabling more people to enjoy the game.
Falstein remarked after telling the story of his daughter's playtime with Diablo 2: "Watching a bunch of 10-year-old girls play Diablo 2 was eye-opening. It was completely different from boys." The girls tended to play collaboratively whereas boys would compete for control of the avatar.
The panelists agreed that more mainstream games, such as Wii Sports, are a positive trend for the industry. If more women play games and more women develop games, then they can be part of this growing trend.
"Hopefully, we won't have stereotypical games that young male designers think little girls want, but about what people want," said Falstein.