I’m reading three books concurrently. Ian Bogost’s “Persuasive Games”, which is admittedly getting on in years but should still have valid arguments. I have to admit that I find it very academic, so it’s part of my “kick my brain into gear” routine. I only read ten pages a day, or should I say, a minimum of ten pages a day.
The other two are “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Perez which is simply put horrifying, and “Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument: Beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist” by Barbara Tomlinson.
All three books are making me angry, but for different reasons. Ian Bogost’s book is infuriating me because it is doing all the things that “Invisible Women” is pointing to. Forgetting that white western cis-male is not the default. Most examples I’ve come across, most names, most everything – including the player – are males, men, he, him… There’s no room for anything else. I’m only on page 190, so I haven’t gotten that far, but Bogost used the Landlord’s Game as a reference, and despite naming almost all other references, the one positive1 reference created by a woman had no name next to it. Elizabeth Magie wasn’t mentioned.
After having read “Invisible Women” (halfway through, thank you no external prompting needed) I don’t think it’s intentional. It’s just the way the world works. Or rather the way the world is broken. Women don’t exist.
This is why I’m mentioning canon in the title. Games is a discipline young enough to change the way we consider it and the references we use to talk about, teach and analyze games. Thankfully there are women contributing to the reading material around games, and thankfully one of the most used texts “Rules of Play” has a woman co-author (Katie Salen, I am forever thankful). We have academics that influence the way we think about games as well, and although this is not a very varied or large bunch of people from a cultural perspective, they’re still there and there are women among them.
But. The game design schools in Sweden are tragically male dominated and what is taught is taught with the male “default” in mind.
That’s why I’m hoping that we, us game developers, could create a set of books and games that show a wider viewpoint. Everything from triple-A to Indie games and books to break the pattern. Something to teach students that isn’t based entirely on that male “default” we see pretty much everywhere.
We need an inclusive, diverse and equitable canon. Note that I’m not saying “alternative”. This should be it. The basis on which an aspiring game developer can stand. If white men want a canon, let that be the alternative.
In other words what I’m wishing for, what I want is to start building a set of resources that show the width of our entire population.
This is where Barbara Tomlinson’t book comes in. She’s making the argument that women making arguments and pleas like this are often dismissed, not by virtue of the argument, but by virtue of who is making it, and how it is said. In other words, I’m pretty sure that there are people out there feeling discomfort at the thought of what they thought was the default, account for less than half the population. Remember, we’re talking male, western, white perspective. That’s not the majority by any stretch.
I would love to learn about African game making, South American, Middle Eastern, Eastern European. I don’t even know what these game devs are going or what the gaming culture looks like – I know India loves cricket games, that’s about it.
We are so stale – correction – I am so stale in my thinking around games that I need to be better than I am. I need to find these things out. How else can I grow properly as a game developer?
This is why I’m writing this. I’m holding myself accountable to be better. To learn about more ways to create, view, analyze and play games.
The male Western default is not the default and it shouldn’t be.