Joysticks & Killing Joy

A Game Scholar’s Take on Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life

living a feminist life

Content Notification: gendered violence, sexism, racism

I imagine an academy filled with feminist killjoys, showing off our scars and canes and mohawks and afros and ponytails, wearing dresses and t-shirts and crop tops and bowties and hijabs. We may or may not have vaginas— that doesn’t matter— and we identify as queer, bi, lesbian, straight, two-spirited, genderqueer, butch, femme, non-binary. We have depression, anxiety, PTSD, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), and chronic pain. We play Candy Crush, Resident Evil, Mario Kart, Settlers of Catan, solitaire, and LARP. We keep talking and playing and writing and we can’t be shut up or shut out. We are here. Continue Reading

Interview with Brianna Wu

Software Engineer, Game Developer, Feminist Warrior

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On November 1st and 2nd Brianna Wu visited University of Waterloo as part of the HeforShe campaign to talk with students and professors about women in tech initiatives, Gamergate and feminism in the games industry. I was able to steal her away from her busy itinerary to discuss the role of academic institutions and publishing in the tech world, as well as some of her missions while she is here in Waterloo. Continue Reading

Can Computers Be Feminists?

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When building systems that share or even entirely adopt the role of a designer for a game, however, the capability to reason about cultural context is entirely lost. At best, it sits implicitly in the code and the data; at worst, it goes entirely ignored and communicates an idea at odds with the maker’s intent. Though the human designer may have their own intent for the kinds of content or games their system should generate, it is challenging to fully express the constraints, rules, and context needed for generating content that is sufficiently varied for the overall game, valid such that it is even playable, and also consistent with the messaging desired by its creator. Designing generative systems can require human designers to deeply confront their own implicit biases and understand how to formally express, in code, the full generative space of acceptable content that the system should create. For example, consider a character generator with names generated from a gender-partitioned list of constituent name parts. This simple act–born from the common method in PCG of specifying the valid subcomponents of what should be built, partitioning them such that their recombination will always be valid, and then randomly piecing those parts together at runtime—communicates the implicit biases of the maker (including a declaration of the gender binary, a statement that names should conform to those genders) and is then cashed out in every character that is generated by the system. Continue Reading

Intimate Publics

Towards Creating Supportive Spaces for Women in Games

Commentary - Feminism and Games

You may have caught a piece we ran last week that discussed GamerGate broadly as a movement. This commentary is Part 2 of that piece and examines the divisions between people who play games from a more personal perspective. In this part, I illustrate my experiences as a member of the Games Institutes Janes (GI Janes) here at Uwaterloo as fodder. Furthermore, this piece also discusses the new direction we are taking the Commentaries here at FPS. Continue Reading