Defining the Female Gamer.

Author:Symonds, Shannon

When it comes to both designing and playing video and electronic games, women and girls have long suffered a dual disadvantage. In the first place, girls are often told from a young age that electronic games are simply not something in which they should be interested. The toy industry in general is still permeated with a large gender divide, with so-called pink and blue aisles a staple for many retailers, despite a recent push toward inclusivity Unless directly geared toward girls, as in the case of franchises like Cooking Mama and Animal Crossing, video games nearly always wind up on the blue side of the chasm, mainly due to intense marketing campaigns that specifically target boys and young men. This marketing is so pervasive that girls often feel challenged just for existing in a gaming space. The second disadvantage facing women comes in the acquisitions of the skills needed to break into the gaming industry, especially as designers and coders, which are gained with a STEM-related educational background that remains unwelcoming to female students. It comes as no surprise, then, that when a third barrier is added, that of motherhood, the difficulties of considering oneself a gamer--or as part of gaming culture as a whole--become even steeper.

These barriers to entering the gaming industry, both as players and designers, should not be so steep, especially since women have long played central roles in the development of both computer electronics and gaming. I have had the pleasure of heavily researching the history of women in technology for The Strong's Women in Games Initiative, which consists of collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting a comprehensive collection of artifacts and archival materials chronicling female contributions to the industry. One can look back as far as the 19th century, when Ada Lovelace became the first computer programmer through her work with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine. The 1950s saw Admiral Grace Hopper create the first computer language compiler, the A-0 system, and assist in the development of the early high-level programming language COBOL. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Katherine Johnson, known as the "Human Computer," played key roles in NASA's early installation of digital electronic computers, and her calculations were essential to the success of the first space flights, including those of John Glenn and the Apollo 11. On the gaming side, Carol Shaw's work at Atari and Activision in the 1970s...

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