Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Girls Got Game

I'm a gamer.

Granted, the scope of my gaming is limited, but none the less, I am proud to embrace my inner-geek and tell all who ask about my love of World Of Warcraft.

In recent years the stereotype of the gamer as lonely, sweaty guy sitting in his mothers basement screaming at a computer screen has begun to dissipate. Slowly, people are realising that, in the gaming community, as in any community, there are a multitude of different personalities and sub-cultures that make up the whole.

Gone are the days when, if I mentioned that I was a girl while playing WoW, I would be bombarded with whispers from other players along the lines of “Pics or its not being a girl!”, “Send noods yeah?” and the ever sweet, but kind of creepy, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”.

Now, the player base there is a much broader mixture of men, women, boys and girls. It's not uncommon to hear someone say, “My mum just logged on” or “I'll get my big sister to help us. Her char is a Priest”. Most importantly, it's less likely now that a girl will be dismissed off hand because of the misconception that “Girls cant play video games”.

To me it has been a quite revolution. One that, while I was in fact a silent part, I had no concept of. But to others, the quest for the recognition of women, not only as gamers but in the gaming industry as a whole, has been an endeavour they have engaged in willingly and actively.

And so today, as a part of Ada Lovelace day, I'd like to honour those women who have helped to make my life (and the lives of millions of others of female gamers) a little more filled with fun, fantasy and acceptance.

I ask that we all raise our Moonberry Juices to these and many other fine gamer-chicks:

Ismini "Atari" Boinodiris Roby, Phaedra "Circe" Boinodiris and Doctor Kathryn Wright
Co-founders of womengamers.com

Womengamers.com is, for the average girl-gamer, a place where one can go to connect with like-minded others. The forum community there is alive and kicking with discussions on game news and reviews, what it's like to be a female gamer and the usual banter that arises from the companionship that forms between fellow board members on forums.

But, WG is a lot more than that. The site “serves as a platform or the dissemination of information about games from an informed, socially-conscious, female-centred perspective,” and gathers information from it's users to help further the role of women in the gaming industry and to broaden feminine concepts within games.

To me one of the most important aspects of the site is the “scholarships” section. The site has partnered up with education institutes around the US to offer women opportunities to pursue degrees in game design and development. A noble and fine pursuit, I think you'll agree.

Brenda Brathwaite
Game Designer and Consultant

Brenda Brathwaite is a contract game designer and professor of game design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has worked in the gaming industry for over 28 years and is an keen gamer. She has been an integral part in the release of 22 games including “Playboy: The Mansion “ (ARUSH Entertainment, Groove Games), “Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes” (Atari, Inc.) , The “Wizardry” Series (Sir-tech Software, Inc.), The “Jagged Alliance” series (Sir-tech Software, Inc.) and “Realms of Arkania” volumes 1 and 2 (Fantasy Productions Verlags).

In 2005 she founded the International Game Developers Sex Special Interest group and In 2008 Brenda was elected to the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association. Her book “Sex in Video Games” looks at the sexual revolution in games, from arcade games to the present, and she regularly gives talks at universities and conferences on sexuality in video games, amongst other subjects.

Denise Fulton
Studio Head, Midway Studios

Denise Fulton's father taught computer science so she grew up around computers. As a child, she never thought that a girl playing computer games was strange, or out of the ordinary, it was just something that she did. Neither did she think that video games would become a defining part of her life and future career.

Denise has worked for some of the big names in gaming: Microsoft, Dreamworks, EA and Ion Storm. She climbed the ladder over the years to become studio head at Midway Studios in Austin where she oversees a staff of 180 programmers, designers, writers, and artists . Along the way, she has helped to make life a little easier for other women working in the industry. From an interview by N. Evan Van Zelfden at Escapist Magazine:

Fulton tells one story of working at EA, and one of the women that worked for Fulton says "Hey, I'm pregnant. I'm not sure how to go about this. Do I take maternity leave?"

Fulton replies, "Gee, I don't know, I'll go find out." After checking with HR, Fulton discovers that EA didn't have a maternity program in place. "You can take that two ways," Fulton recalls.

The reason wasn't because EA didn't want it. It wasn't that they didn't think it was important. It was that it hadn't yet come up. It was that simple.

Fulton instituted a maternity program, and notes that many things are like that.

S. Christine Brownell
Design Director , P2 Entertainment/Perpetual Entertainment

What kind of World Of Warcraft fan would be if I didn't at least include one woman on this list that has been a part of making my favourite outlet of escapism? One of my favourite parts of WoW is questing. I love the variation and fun that the designers have incorporated into the game and I have S. Christine Brownell to thank for at least part of that.

In 2004/2005 she worked in Quest design and implementation for Blizzard's World of Warcraft. She helped to write character dialogue, to create some of the rich lore and history of the game, and placed NPCs throughout the virtual world of Azeroth. Since working at Blizzard, S. Christine has gone on to futher her career as a competent game designer with companies involved in the creation of games such as “Auto Assault” (NetDevil), and “Star Trek Online” (P2 Entertainment/Perpetual Entertainment).

It is the skill, imagination and passion of these women, like that of the many others working in the game design industry, that has helped to create rich worlds where the average person can be a hero, a warrior, a healer or a villain. Where we can be magical and fantastical, and embrace the sense of adventure that many others lost as their childhood years waned.

So I'd like to thank these women, and all of the women working in the gaming industry.

Thank you for the endless hours of fun, excitement and adventure you have given us, the gamers.

Thank you for the hard work you have done, and the passion you have shown in continuing to bring so much joy to the world.

And thank you for showing the boys that girls got game too.

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