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  • Writer's pictureBhuvanesh Tekavade

Women in Video Games

In this blog we will be touching on most important topic in the Gaming Industry, "WOMEN".

Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New perspectives on gender and gaming

(Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New perspectives on gender and gaming by Yasmin B Kafai, Carries Heeter, Jill Denner & Jennifer Y Sun, 2008)

Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming brings together a diverse range of perspectives on gender and gaming. The diversity of viewpoints contributes to and reflects the changes in gaming since the release of Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins' From Barbie to Mortal Kombat in 1998. This takes a close look at what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done in the gaming business in terms of gender equity.

Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat is organized into five sections: a historical review, girls and women as players, girls and women as game designers, the changing nature of girls and games, and industry voices.


Jenkins and Cassell, Brenda Laurel, and Cornelia Brunner present historical, practical, and intellectual context in Part I, "Reflections on a Decade of Gender and Gaming." Jenkins and Cassell's essay serves as a bridge between the two editions, presenting two hot topics: whether girls should, can, and do play computer games, and the worry that women are underrepresented in the field of digital design. Although contentious in some feminist academic circles, Laurel, a pioneer in the gaming industry, argues for and supports the significance of building games around females' interests and play patterns. She gives examples of how the success of the girl gaming movement depends on game developers appreciating, not just comprehending, variations in game play.

Part I concludes with Brunner divorcing gender from sex: the butch-femme continuum, which offers a novel viewpoint on the gaming movement through the lens of the LBGTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning) community. Brunner claims that feminine and masculine sensibility are more valuable in the study and production of games than the notion of male and female, and that because many institutions educate technology from a butch perspective, those students with more feminine sympathies are severely affected. The contributors in Part I present intellectual and practical perspectives on the gaming movement during the last ten years when taken together.


T. L. Taylor, Holin Lin, Nick Yee, Mizuko Ito, and Yasmin B. Kafai contribute essays to Part II, "Gaming Communities: Girls and Women as Players."

"Rather than relying on stereotyped or essentializing gender narrative, we may observe how being a player occurs through a web of networks, behaviors, options, and technologies" Taylor writes (62).

Gaming not only takes place in a variety of settings, but it also represents a variety of ideas depending on where it is played. Lin's research on Asian players, for example, identifies how environmental limitations affect girls' virtual game play. Yee and Ito go on to say that context and culture are becoming increasingly essential in determining why, where, and how girls participate in various gaming contexts. Meanwhile, Taylor's research emphasizes the need of offering entry points into the gaming community for female and female gamers.

"Gender Play in a Tween Gaming Club," a chapter by Kafai, analyses where players receive their insider information. The study provides important insights into how young people learn games and exchange gaming capital by analyzing gaming activities in Whyville, a tween and adolescent online virtual area similar to The Sims. The findings show that information is shared based on proximity and previous game performance rather than gender. While playing online, students who sat together were more inclined to ask questions of those who sat closest to them. There was no significant gender split in the participant questions and exchanges. The importance of the game's setting is highlighted in this study, which implies that gender variations in game performance are not always visible.

In conclusion, part II gives an overview of how various networks and surroundings around the world both honor and constrain women and girl gamers, and emphasizes the importance of female representation in gaming communities if we want and expect more women and girls to join. It also raises concerns about the most effective strategies for researching gender inequalities in gaming groups.


Four essays make up Part III, "Girls and Women as Game Designers." The first two, Jill Denner and Shannon Campe's "What Games Made by Girls Can Tell Us" and "Gaming in Context: How Young People Construct Their Gendered Identities in Playing and Making Games," describe findings from school-based investigations. They provide fascinating insights into the types of games that girls enjoy playing and the types of games that they create when given the chance. The problem is that both studies are conducted in a school setting. Wouldn't the educational atmosphere lend itself to the creation of specific types of games if context of game play and game creation are important? In other words, it appears that the background of the investigations influenced the game designers' decisions. The authors of both research do not address this shortcoming. The research do, however, provide insight into how young people build gender identities in a larger cultural framework, as well as how this influences game design and play decisions.

"Getting Girls Into the Game: Toward a Virtuous Cycle," by Tracy Fullerton, Janine Fron, Celia Pearce, and Jacki Morie, and Mia Consalvo's "Crunched by Passion: Women Game Developers and Workplace Challenges," both discuss challenges faced by women interested in working in the game industry. Fullerton, Fron, Pearce, and Morie make a compelling case for the role of university in paving the road for women who want to work as game designers professionally. Changes in course offerings, as well as the development of new majors, are critical steps toward increasing women's access to higher education.

Consalvo's chapter provides an eye-opening, if not shocking, look at the present cultural atmosphere in the gaming business. In essence, there are few opportunities for balance in the industry. Many women are hesitant to enter the sector because of quality-of-life concerns, and those who do find it difficult to stay. The chapter examines the prevailing ideologies at work in the gaming business, focusing on Stuart Hall's theory of media creation and reception. The nature of game development (regularly releasing new games) creates an environment where production cycle durations are shortened and personnel churn is common. As a result, while many people get into the gaming industry because they enjoy it, there are greater institutional challenges at play. Passion for game production isn't enough to keep women in the gaming industry, especially with work weeks exceeding 80 hours.


Part IV, "Changing Girls, Changing Games," offers a variety of research approaches for examining the play differences and preferences of middle-school students. The research in this section all have one thing in common: they want to know what inspires young women to play. The vast and comprehensive design techniques used in the investigations are what stands out the most. Caitlin Kelleher's use of narrative to encourage girls in learning programming, as well as Mary Flanagan and Helen Nissenbaum's values at play (VAP) methodology for building pleasant games that highlight social ideals, are of particular interest. The parameters defined by VAP differ depending on the project; the writers only supply a methodology, not the precise numbers to be investigated. The chapters could be considered mandatory reading for anyone interested in gender and gaming study design methodology.


Interviews with gamers, game designers, game developers, and industry executives make up Part V, "Industry Voices." It is fitting that the edition concludes with realistic gaming industry perspectives. While academic theory can help to influence and even alter the gaming business, the insider knowledge comes from people who work in it on a daily basis. Megan Gaiser, Morgan Romaine, Sheri Graner Ray, Nichol Bradford, and Brenda Brathwaite are among the women interviewed, all of whom share a passion for gaming. It is clear that each woman's journey is distinct. For example, we learn that Braithwaite, the creator of Playboy: The Mansion and now a professor, landed her first gaming job by chance, but Bradford's passion for technology and storytelling brought her to the industry. Gaiser's role as president and CEO of Her Interactive is helping to create a more family-friendly work environment in the gaming industry.


Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming encourages gamers and nongamers alike to think about how gender influences and limits our game choices. The edition's diversity of viewpoints elucidates, challenges, and invites both novices and specialists to think about what gaming will be like in the future.


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