A very real challenge of the 21st century is the enduring inequity between men and women, particularly pronounced in relation to the design, uptake and use of digital technologies, including games. Researching the persistent under-participation of women in technological fields is of demonstrable social and cultural interest, to be sure, but importantly, economic as well. Canadian companies with more women in positions of power (corporate officers and/or boards of directors) financially outperform those with few to none. This project aims not just to study and document the paucity of women in the games industry and culture, but also to positively intervene by supporting women to develop games, and to develop and disseminate research on how best to support their productive engagement in the industry.
It is through researching and supporting a critical mass of women, allies and partners that we can most meaningfully work to change what has become the status quo in game development and play: women are harassed both in public and behind the scenes, and are subjected to a range of threats, significantly including rape and death. This project is urgent culturally and ethically as it is not in the service of the 'public good' that extensive and considerable financial investments are being made by provincial governments in a cultural industry that so radically and so effectively excludes women at every level. Yet there is currently no research or project of this scale that takes up the challenge to redress and reconfigure the hostile environments and persistently adverse conditions impeding women's creative and productive involvement with digital games.
The overall goal of this unique and timely project is to build on our highly successful partnership development project Feminists in Games, to both consolidate and extend the breadth, depth and impact of collaborative research-based initiatives that effectively increase women's participation in digital games, as both players and producers, while researching the policies, practices, contexts and conditions that support women's involvement in games industries and cultures. In collaboration with our partners, we will design, research and document ways to effectively interrupt and reconfigure these longstanding patterns of female inequality and under-representation in the games industry.
To that end, we propose four specific research objectives:
- Generating methodologies and tools that study and document the ways in which gender-based inequalities define and inflect gamer culture and games;
- Developing and supporting empirically driven research projects that will be conducted across its extensive partnership that focus on studying the experiences and roles of women in the games industry;
- Studying and documenting informal educational opportunities for participation in digital game design and development;
- Locating, examining and reporting on formal game development policies and programs that are successfully building and sustaining more equal participation by men and women.
By working across these four research areas in collaboration with partners who bring together local, national and international partnerships and networks, we will mobilize gender-sensitive research methodologies to inform innovative policies and practices promoting women's access to and involvement in the technologically, economically and culturally pre-eminent field of digital gaming that has for too long been a gender-exclusive boy's club.