Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Blog is Moving to a New Location

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to report that this blog, run by the Computer & Video Game Archive at The University of Michigan, will now be posted through a more official university channel. All future blog posts for Eaten By a Grue may be found here:

We will also have a different RSS feed, which can be found here:

Thanks for reading!

CVGA staff

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Top Games Played in the CVGA During the Month of August

Welcome back, students! Here is our list of most popular games from last month. Quite a few newer games as well as a few fan favorites.

1. NBA 2K13 (Xbox 360)
2. FIFA 14 (Xbox 360)
3. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
4. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
5. Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube)
6. League of Legends (PC)
7. (tie) Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
7. (tie) Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360)
7. (tie) Titanfall (Xbox One)
7. (tie) Infamous: Second Sons (PS4)

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Rise of Mobile Games: Factors Contributing to their Success

Today we have a post from our guest author, Amanda Cote. Since we recently added mobile gaming to our collections, it has been a topic of much discussion among us.

The past few years have seen the video game industry facing some major changes in terms of products, prices and income.  Specifically, the late 2000s and early 2010s have been characterized by the rise of the mobile game. While early mobile games were simplistic and difficult to access, modern games take full advantage of portable technologies like smart phones and tablets. They have improved dramatically in terms of graphics and mechanics, span many genres, and target very broad audiences. As Polygon’s video game staff reported in their State of the Industry series, “Just about anyone with a phone, be it Android, iOS or BlackBerry, has played a game at one time or another. Mobile gaming is undoubtedly on an upswing with every year bringing new trends and changes to the marketplace”.

Mobile gaming has gone from a practically non-existent market to a $17.5 billion dollar industry as of 2013, and revenue is expected to double again by 2017. So what factors have contributed to this dramatic rise?  Although changes in technology have partially motivated mobile’s growth, these games have also been affected by a variety of factors within the broader video game industry, including redefined markets, changing costs and funding sources, and stagnation among large developers.

Early Mobility

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry’s governing body, cites the popular calculator game Snake as the first mobile game. Introduced in the early 1990s, Snake only existed on Texas Instruments graphing calculators.  Players used the arrow keys to steer a small snake around the screen and had to avoid obstacles, walls, and running back into the snake itself. The goal was to eat numbers that appeared randomly across the screen.  As they ate more, however, the snake grew longer, making it harder for the player to avoid their own tail. Although simplistic, Snake was very popular.  However, portable games were held back by technology; graphing calculators were very expensive. And while technology steadily improved, games mostly stayed limited to specific portable systems like the Nintendo Gameboy or the PlayStation Portable. It wasn’t until the 2000s that both technology and its entertainment potential could be leveraged for game development purposes.

Changing Technology

The 1990s saw massive improvements in cell phone technology, developing mobile devices that were actually capable of handling games.  However, the earliest models, such as Blackberries and PDAs, were originally marketed as business tools rather than toys, limiting their potential for game developers.  Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007, however, changed that perception.  Apple advertised its phone as an easy-to-use tool for everyone, highlighting its entertainment systems as well as its capability as a phone. This redefined the technology in broader terms, and the iPhone took off. Within a year, it sold over 6 million units despite being exclusive to the AT&T network.

With the changing perception of phones as a technology for everyone, the rapid spread of the iPhone, and of course the development of its competitors, a new possibility for game development emerged.  First, a whole new range of potential players were made available through smart phones, and they quickly outnumbered traditional gamers. US market statistics in 2013 showed over 200 million active iOS and Android devices, but only 70 million PS3s. Through this dispersion, mobile games have dramatically increased market size.  Rather than tying small groups of interested parties into a living room TV set, mobile games travel along on road trips or commutes, and fit into waiting rooms or the space between meetings. This high level of accessibility and portability has helped attract people who would not traditionally consider themselves to be gamers, broadening potential audiences.

Second, smart phones offered new distribution mechanisms that saved producers significant amounts of money.  Rather than packaging games on CDs for physical distribution, they could be downloaded easily via cellular or Wi-Fi networks. When the Apple App Store opened in 2008, developers quickly realized its potential. The ease of distribution led to an impressive surge in inexpensive, simple to play games.  Furthermore, mobile games are easier to self-publish, while physically distributed games cost money to copy and transport, and digitally-distributed console or PC games often face tough restrictions from established publishers. Therefore, distribution potential was a large draw for game developers; they could obtain wider audiences than ever before, and they did so at lower costs.

Costs and Funding

Production costs were also another reason for mobile game’s rapid success. Not only are mobile games easier to distribute than more traditional games, but they are also less expensive to develop overall. This is another reason for their rapid success. Because mobile games do not have the capacity for detailed cinematic graphics, they rely on other characteristics to draw in audiences.  Innovative mechanics or fun backstories are, for instance, commonly appealing traits. However, these traits are easier to code than detailed graphics are, and therefore can be developed by small teams. This means fewer people needed to run a company and lower overhead.  Mobile games also require less code overall, speeding up their production times.  They therefore represent an investment of only a few hundred thousand dollars, while traditional console games can top fifty million. This made entry into the mobile sphere far more attainable for small developers, allowing the market to grow rapidly.

Over the past few years, changing funding patterns have also contributed to the continued growth of the mobile industry.  Crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter, where interested parties can donate small amounts of money to projects they would like to support, have helped ensure that innovative ideas continue to develop in mobile gaming.  People who have a creative suggestion but little funding can turn to crowdsourcing for help.  Because mobile games are not extraordinarily expensive to produce, potential developers need obtain a relatively low level of excitement about their product in order to bring it to market. Therefore, although the market is flooded with titles, there are many opportunities through which parties can still enter into it and potentially obtain success.

Stagnation in Traditional Games

Low development costs and available funding have helped ensure that the mobile industry remains fluid, changing in line with the expectations of the audience. This has also proved to be an advantage as more traditional games display difficulty in adapting. The spread of the smartphone has coincided with the longest video game console lifecycle in the history of gaming; the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, launched around the same time as the App Store, are only starting to be replaced now. Therefore, mobile technology has been able to make competitive strides in terms of its offerings. Evaluating the state of the video game industry, TechCrunch writer Natasha Lomas stated, “Another problem console makers are facing is rival devices’ faster refresh cycles. Mobile devices typically get upgraded with shiny new hardware every year.” This means that their capabilities are constantly improving, leading to innovation and truly new products, while console designers face the challenge of making decades-old graphics and mechanics look cutting-edge.

Furthermore, the high cost of traditional games has resulted in an industry that limits risk-taking. Many large studios rely on a few popular blockbuster titles as their primary source of income. Of these, almost all are sequels or established franchises.  The Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed series, for instance, are consistent best-sellers.  And while this approach keeps their parent companies in business, it does mean that players looking for new experiences may have to turn their attention elsewhere, to independent or mobile games, where new innovations are still common.

Here to Stay

It is possible to argue mobile games’ artistic and entertainment merit, it seems safe to say that this form of gaming is here to stay.  It is accessible, low cost, and innovative, making it appealing to many potential gamers.  Furthermore, it is an impressive source of revenue for developers, who will continue to create mobile games as long as consumers demand them.  However, the rapid spread of the mobile game cannot be attributed to only one factor; rather, it was a combination of a variety of forces, occurring in a fortunate coincidence, that allows for such fast growth and which bodes well for future success.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Most Popular Games During the Month of July

Here is our list of games most played in the archive during the month of July. Both versions of FIFA 14 made the list, as well as a total of three copies of Smash.

1. FIFA 14 (Xbox 360)
2. Super Smash Bros. Brawl - 2 separate copies! (Wii)
3. Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube)
4. Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door (Gamecube)
5. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
6. NBA 2K13 (Xbox 360)
7. Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
8. FIFA 14 (Xbox One)
9. (tie) League of Legends (PC)
9. (tie) Grand Theft Auto V (PS3)

Be sure to get your practice in before we have to restrict the Smash series to Fridays again during the Fall and Winter terms.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mobile Gaming Comes to the CVGA

2048 on the iPad
The CVGA finally enters the world of mobile gaming this week with the addition of an iPad Air to our collection of gaming platforms. It's been loaded with a variety of games (see list below). You can use the iPad for gaming in the CVGA by asking for it at the service desk. All the usual rules for using handheld game systems in the CVGA apply to the iPad as well.

Games loaded in in initial batch are:

  • 2048
  • 2048 Snake
  • Angry Birds HD Free
  • Angry Birds Star Wars HD Free
  • Backgammon Free
  • Battleheart Legacy
  • Bejeweled Blitz
  • Breakout Hail in 8 Days: Hardest Breakout Ever 
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Candy Shoot HD
  • Checkers Free
  • Chess
  • Cut the Rope HD Free
  • Cut the Rope: Time Travel Free
  • Device 6
  • Don't Step on the White Tile
  • Don't Touch the Spikes
  • Dumb Ways to Die
  • Eufloria HD
  • Flight Control HD
  • Four in a Row: Pro
  • FreeCell
  • Geometry Dash Lite
  • Gin Rummy
  • Hangman
  • Incoboto
  • Jenga
  • Jumbline 2 Free for iPad
  • Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles
  • Letroca
  • Line, The
  • Mahjong Deluxe Free 
  • Mahjong!!
  • Mancala
  • Monument Valley
  • New Red Ball
  • Ninja UP!
  • No Brakes
  • No One Dies Today!
  • Offroad Legends Sahara
  • Orbitum
  • Phase 10 Free
  • Pool
  • Puerto Rico HD
  • Red Bouncing Ball Spikes Free
  • The Room
  • Shadow Blade
  • Skip-Bo 
  • Solitaire
  • Splice: Tree of Life
  • Star Mania 
  • Stick Murder
  • Stone Age: The Board Game
  • Sudoku
  • Tap Tap Ninja: The Hardest Bouncy Challenge 
  • Thomas Was Alone
  • Threes!
  • Tikal
  • Timberman
  • White Tiles 4
  • Word Jewels 2
  • Word Scramble
  • Word Search
  • World Craft HD
  • Zombie Commando
Please note that the CVGA iPad is for gaming only and cannot be used to check you email, work on a spreadsheet. etc. Also, in-app purchases have been disabled.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Combining Games and Libraries: Thoughts on the ALA Conference

Guest author Amanda Cote joins us again to share her thoughts on a popular topic at the recent ALA Conference: Video Games in Library Collections.

Combining Games and Libraries: Thoughts on the ALA Conference
At this year’s American Library Association (ALA) conference, which wrapped up yesterday, game designer Jane McGonigal presented the opening keynote. For many people who are unfamiliar with the tech-savvy libraries of today, this may seem like an odd choice. After all, libraries are often seen as losing out to the powers of digitization and the e-book.
This perspective, however, ignores the many ways in which libraries fit into the modern age of information. The Institute of Museum and Library Services reports that the number of public computers in libraries has more than doubled since 2003. This provides an essential service to individuals who lack home computing or Internet access, but who need computers to keep up with job or educational demands. The number of materials circulated by libraries per year in the US has also reached over 2.46 billion. Many of these materials are in digital forms such as e-books. Libraries and librarians are very on top of the digital world. With that in mind, games and libraries make sense as partners in a number of ways.
McGonigal’s keynote on games, for example, described a combined online/in-person game that helped young people collaborate on a book. Five hundred young adults attended an overnight event at the New York Public Library, where they followed virtual clues through the library stacks and collected information for personal essays on how to make history. Organizers combined the essays into a book, which is now part of the library’s collections. This localized game helped attendees explore the library’s offerings and learn significant historical information while also having fun. Over 10,000 people originally applied to be part of the experience, demonstrating its widespread appeal. Although very few libraries have the resources of the NYPL, this is only one example of how libraries can use video games to achieve educational, cultural, and even entertainment goals.
Educational Reasons
Perhaps the most obvious way in which games could be useful is from an education perspective, as providing informative learning opportunities is a major focus of libraries. But research into learning shows that people learn in different styles, and they can struggle extensively when forced to use a style that does not work naturally for them. Traditional book-learning may be effective for one student, but yield only frustration for another.
This is one area where the addition of games to libraries can have a major impact. Many games have specific educational goals, such as learning math or practicing typing. While it is useful for libraries to stock these games, the diverse resources of a library also allow games to be used in more subtle ways.
For instance, games and learning researchers James Paul Gee and Kurt Squire both write about semi-historical strategy games like Age of Mythology and the Civilization series. These games do not teach history itself, due to the players’ input and control. However, they can be used to motivate interest in a particular area; Gee writes eloquently about how seven-year-olds playing Age of Mythology in a field study then sought out books or webpages on mythology. Some even crafted their own myths, writing original stories based on mythical characters and creatures. The introduction of a fun game led to broader topical interests and creative efforts.
In other cases, games offer new takes on historical narratives; Squire, for example, describes how in history classes, students are generally taught about European colonization from a political perspective. Through playing Civilization, they can also explore the way in which geographical conditions, like easy access to resources, matter to a culture’s success. When this information is added to or compared with their class narrative, students can reach new levels of understanding.
Through careful programming, libraries offer a perfect place to take advantage of games’ educational potential. Featuring a new game or game series, such as Age of Mythology, alongside a display of related materials will help library patrons make connections between games and real world history. Talks by authors or editors of associated books, like a collection of Greek myths, could also draw interest and expand on in-game learning.
Another way to make educational use of patrons’ interest in games is to connect their playing to other relevant areas. Materials on computer programming or game design, for instance, may encourage interest in a technological career, demonstrating how gaming can connect to concrete jobs. Libraries with computer consultants can even offer software training classes to help jumpstart this process among interested patrons. Alternately, libraries that have fewer internal resources could partner with local community colleges or tech schools.
Libraries have the resources necessary to connect the fun aspect of games to their educational aspect. Doing so may require careful programming and collaboration with experts (teachers, game designers or topic specialists), but game-oriented programs can yield impressive results.
Cultural Reasons
Games and libraries are also a great match due to games’ cultural impacts. Not only have games become a major part of popular culture, referenced in film and television on a regular basis, but they have also achieved higher significance as well. Scenes from games have been put on display at museums as prestigious as the Smithsonian American Art Museum. And they’ve even been the heart of important political debates, such as whether video games can be related to aggressive behavior or whether they deserve free speech protections. Libraries that want to provide their patrons with significant cultural and historical information should not overlook the importance of video games.
Books and the Internet may be enough to acquaint patrons with the history of games and computing. However, an archive of classic and modern games can bring that history to life, helping people visualize how graphics, mechanics and computing power have changed over time. For instance, our own CVGA has hosted retro video game nights in the past. Showcasing systems like the Atari or a Commodore 64 can help players develop more concrete knowledge about early games; younger generations of gamers may be astounded both by the limited graphics and by how fun many early games actually were.
Libraries can also collect game-related materials, such as advertisements or magazines. These materials can be extremely fun to explore, but they have great educational potential as well. From an academic perspective, I have been able to use the CVGA archive of gaming magazines to analyze how game marketing has changed over time with regard to gender. Game-related archives do more than preserve the history of games; they also showcase unique and important aspects of the past, demonstrating how society has changed over time with regard to its media use.
Entertainment Reasons
Last but not least, games have important entertainment value that can help libraries achieve success. Across the country, many libraries are facing funding cuts. Research on how libraries can more effectively advocate for funding demonstrates that providing information is not enough; libraries need to position themselves as a significant force in the community, bringing people together in a way that other local offerings do not. A video game collection and related programming could be one potential strategy for community building. In fact, libraries that already offer in-house gaming or game checkouts have seen many benefits, including greater circulation of non-game materials.
In terms of socializing, a game library has benefits. Many popular games such as the Mario Kart, Just Dance and Smash Brothers series are meant to be multiplayer; competing against other players who are in the same room offers a fun communal activity that cannot be completely imitated through online play. Although tempers may run high, and the selection of games for competitive play should be carefully chosen, events organized around gaming can make for unique community-building efforts.
Even without specific programs planned, the entertainment value of games could even help draw in new visitors. Following the death of video stores like Blockbuster, many gamers have found themselves without access to rental games. For players who tend not to replay games or who don’t want to buy a game that they may not like, a library that allows patrons to checkout games would be a great resource (and 15% of libraries already have programs in place for this purpose).
Further Suggestions
The ways in which games could be used to achieve a library’s goals are endless, and the suggestions provided by McGonigal at the ALA conference and within this post are only a starting point for librarians seriously interested in using games effectively. Further resources can be found at the ALA site, or through consultation with one of the many libraries that currently have game offerings.
Developing a video game archive can be expensive; new games from major publishers average sixty dollars each, while console release prices have ranged from $250 (the Nintendo Wii) to $600 (the PlayStation3). However, libraries need not offer the newest, top-of-the-line equipment in order to program effectively, and many older games and systems can be bought cheaply. Interested librarians should also be careful to acquaint themselves with the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings for video game content, to ensure that purchased games are appropriate for the library’s audience.

Through careful game selection and well-developed programming, games and libraries can be a perfect match!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Games Played in the CVGA in June

Happy July, everyone. Here is our list of popular games played in the archive for the month of June. Soccer is unsurprisingly at the top, with our new Mario Kart 8 game quickly rising in the ranks. Two separate copies of Brawl made the list as well as a copy of Melee, so kudos to the Smash players out there. And Portal 2 was originally played for a class project, although now I think they're just continuing to play it for fun. It's always great when that happens.

1. FIFA 14 (Xbox 360)
2. Paper Mario (Gamecube)
3. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
4. (tie) Grand Theft Auto V (PlayStation 3)
4. (tie) NCAA Football 14 (Xbox 360)
6. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) - 2 copies
7. Super Smash Bros. Melee (Gamecube)
8. (tie) Portal 2 (PlayStation 3)
8. (tie) League of Legends (PC)
10. Halo 4 (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Leaving Out the Ladies: Why Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Decision Matters

Guest author Amanda Cote joins us from the UM Communication Studies department, and is a student working on her Ph.D. in the area of games studies. Feel free to leave comments for her here on the blog.

Leaving Out the Ladies: Why Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Decision Matters

During this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), popular game company Ubisoft announced that the newest release in their Assassin’s Creed series would not have a female option to use in multiplayer mode. Although many games lack playable female characters, this decision has frustrated gamers, as it seems to be step backwards both for Ubisoft and for gaming in general. Removing women from a series that has been diverse in the past contributes to a long-standing gender-based divide in gaming that has serious cultural implications.

The Assassin’s Creed Issue

Assassin’s Creed has included many strong women. In the very first game, secondary character Lucy Stillman saves Desmond Miles from being killed, while his ancestor Altair both fights and falls in love with Maria, a member of the Knights Templar. Assassin’s Creed II sees Lucy saving Desmond again. It also introduces tech genius Rebecca Crane, who created the Animus 2.0 that drives the main storyline. This trend of female assistance continues throughout the series, even drawing on real historical figures.  For instance, real-life pirate Anne Bonny mentors Edward, the main character in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. These characters are not controlled by the player, but they are all essential parts of the storyline and game development. 

Because so many of these characters cannot be played, it may not seem like Ubisoft’s Unity decision is a step back.  However, the series has always made clear that gender and race do not matter to the Assassin Order.  In every game where the player can recruit assistants, both male and female options are available.  Furthermore, every multiplayer version of the game, starting with Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood in 2010, has provided a female avatar. One installment of the series, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, even featured a black female assassin as the main character. Although it is not the most successful game in the series, Liberation sold well enough as an exclusive PS Vita release for Ubisoft to re-release it on PC, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network as a downloadable game.

Removing playable female characters from Unity has angered fans who have come to rely on Ubisoft for its diversity. But the decision also speaks to a problem games have been facing since the mid-2000s, when the Nintendo Wii and casual games started to reshape the market. The gaming industry now recognizes that diverse groups of people play games; unfortunately, they’re not sure how to deal with these changes, and have defaulted in many cases to marketing different types of games according to gender.

Core vs. Casual

Assassin’s Creed falls into the arena of “hardcore” games, or PC and console games that are time- and skill-intensive. Traditionally, these have been a male space-- created for and marketed toward men. Companies that want to attract women to core games have to fight to do so. Developer Naughty Dog, for example, struggled to get The Last of Us play-tested with women, as they were not expected to enjoy the survival horror genre. Naughty Dog also faced strong industry pressure to remove their female character, Ellie, from the game’s cover, due to concerns that gamers would avoid a game that appeared to have a female lead.

A lot of factors contribute to the continued marketing of core games to men, such as tradition, the fear of driving away a key market, and the high proportion of industry members who are male. On top of that, the existence of casual games, played on mobile devices or easy-to-use Nintendo systems, provides a convenient area that can be assigned to women. Because more women play casual games than core games, this seems like it makes sense. Gender-based advertising is an easy way to determine a market that likely has similar interests. However, deciding that one form of gaming (core) is “male” and another form (casual) is “female” has real consequences. The largest of these is the tendency, when making such a divide, to then consider one side more important than the other. Second, marketing based on gender indicates to the many women who do play core games (about 40% of players) that they are anomalies; core gaming is not meant for them even if they enjoy it.

The Impact of Gendering Media

As media scholar John Vanderhoef points out in his work on the association of casual games and women, “There has been a long history of linking mainstream or popular culture with the feminine for the purpose of denigrating both.”[i] This history spans many media forms. For instance, daytime television was created specifically for female viewers, but is generally considered less substantial, artistic and meaningful than more “masculine” shows airing at other times. Therefore, shows are often defined as high-quality specifically when they avoid feminine characteristics. To provide one example, this is why X-Files creator Chris Carter specifically tried to avoid having a romantic relationship between his characters Mulder and Scully for that reason; he and fans who declared themselves “NoRomos” wanted to avoid the feminized world of romance narratives in order to remain a more culturally legitimate series.

Following the strong rise in casual gaming, the video game industry has faced a similar struggle regarding legitimacy. Because of the ease of playing casual games and their widespread popularity, players can dismiss them as non-serious; in comparison, core games are then marked as more significant. However, the fact that casual games are marketed towards women means that dismissing them also dismisses the importance of women in gaming more generally. In fact, it can lead to an active avoidance of anything remotely feminine, in order to ensure that one’s game or gaming habits cannot be critiqued for “casualness.” Core gaming is reaffirming itself as a male pursuit.

This may not seem like a big problem, but it does allow gaming culture to cultivate sexist behaviors and treat these as acceptable.  For instance, multiplayer gaming is dominated by trash-talking, particularly if the game pits players against each other (although trash talking can also appear in cooperative teams, especially if a member is seen as not holding up their end). This trash talk is seen as a fun but ignorable aspect of competition; players are expected to respond in kind, and those who seem to be reacting poorly to trash talk are considered to be taking it too seriously. However, trash talk often takes on particular forms or themes, tending towards racism, sexism and homophobia[ii].

The forms of harassment directed at women differ from those targeted to other groups, often being more personal, virulent, and physically threatening due to the prominence of rape or assault-based threats[iii]. These threats are casually stated, such as the use of “you just got raped!” to stand in for “your character was just killed.” Even casually used, however, comments about rape can be upsetting, especially to people who have dealt with sexual assault in the real world or those who find physical assault to be a more prominent threat in their daily lives.

Furthermore, some evidence suggests that many people who go into broader technological fields, such as computer programming, are motivated to do so because of video games[iv]. A fun medium like a video game can help children become familiar with technology from an early age. This is particularly true of core games, which tend to require more specialized technology than their casual counterparts. Individuals who are familiar with technology and see it as a tool, rather than a challenge, are more likely to pursue tech-heavy careers.

A gender gap in gaming can affect future career opportunities for those who lack access to or interest in games at an early age. Specifically, telling female audiences that games are not for them is one way of removing interest in technology. This is especially true because children learn gender roles very early in life; some research shows that girls are already falling behind boys in technology, math and science as early as kindergarten. While some manage to overcome the barriers they face, removing those barriers will help many more girls and women enter technical careers.

Ubisoft’s decision to remove female characters may seem like a small set-back, justified by time concerns and their focus on presenting a detailed main character. However, it is just one of the many forces helping to mark core gaming as not-for-women. And in doing so, it indicates that technology more generally is a space for men. This worsens gender gaps that already exist in STEM fields and allows these areas to remain cultivators for sexism. Even if it is accidental, the cultural implications of dismissing female gamers are serious.

Game designers need to recognize that being inclusive will involve many changes, in marketing, characters and even storylines. But there is cause for hope; many women are already involved in core gaming despite the barriers they face. Furthermore, games such as The Last of Us, which have deliberately aimed for diversity, have been phenomenally successful. Gaming can be for everyone in all its facets, not just in the casual arena. Developers just need to recognize the impact of small decisions and stand their ground on choices that go against traditional industry logic. In doing so, they are likely to achieve both financial success and beneficial cultural change.

[i] Vanderhoef 2014
[ii] Nakamura 2012, Salter and Blodgett 2012
[iii] Nardi 2010, Salter and Blodgett 2012
[iv] Cassell and Jenkins 1998, Beavis and Charles 2007, Stabiner 2003, Williams et al. 2009, Johnson 2011