Video game culture exists within the dust cloud of GamerGate. For the last three years, it has dominated how many of us have talked about video games and video game culture. The conversations – academic and otherwise – circle around the games that defined this debate. Hardcore games, console games, even many indie games are considered seriously with an eye towards size; the games in question are often large in narrative, scope, and (with the exception of indie games) dollars. Just as the toxicity of GamerGate got to define a core of game culture, the games central to its narrative have defined which games get to be considered important.
My book, Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity is about the importance of smaller games. Many of these games have been overlooked and dismissed, but they can tell us a different story about players, identity, culture, and industry. My publisher, The University of Minnesota Press, has graciously allowed me to share an excerpt from my first chapter.
The games in RP2 are certainly small. Games like Hungry Babies Mania, Diner Dash, Delicious Emily, or Kim Kardashian: Hollywood may not appear to be a significant part of what we typically consider “gamer culture.” But these games, typically designed for an intended feminine audience can teach us a lot about the way women’s leisure is constructed. This leisure, I argue, plays with time, emotions, consumption, and bodies, transforming the identity of the player into what I refer to as a “designed identity.” At the same time, the designed identity that I demonstrate throughout the book is also white, middle class, heterosexual, cis-gendered, and ablest.
In order to move beyond GamerGate’s dust cloud, we need to be thinking about different games, and thinking about games differently. The book offers one possible way to do this: by understanding video games intended for women we can begin to push the larger cultural conversation away from toxicity.
Excerpt from the Introduction to Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity by Shira Chess (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)
Copyright 2017 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.