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

The Malkavians’ World

Representations of Mental Health in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines

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Games, we know, do not have the best reputation in terms of representation. Through the decades, games have gained notoriety for excluding people who aren’t seen as their target audience: especially women, people of color, and people of different sexualities. On top of that, certain genres—particularly military shooters and horror games—have developed a reputation for stigmatizing people with mental illnesses. Too often these games equate people who have a mental illness with monsters and/or villains. For example, Silent Hill (Konami, 1999) … Continue Reading