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Rethink Game Design through Feminist Methodologies: a Case Study

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Abstract

In recent years an increasing awareness has been posed on the relationship between gender and game design. Starting from the question about “What a feminist perspective can bring to the design of video games?”, this paper describes a case study about the application of feminist methodologies into a game design workshop. Through the description of the methods used in the workshop, our research suggests how methodological contributions could represent a crucial element for critically reformulating game design and expanding the possible imaginaries and practices.
Rethink Game Design through Feminist
Methodologies: a Case Study
Manuela Acereda, Laura Malinverni
Abstract
In recent years an increasing awareness has been posed on the relationship between gender
and game design. Starting from the question about “What a feminist perspective can
bring to the design of video games?”, this paper describes a case study about the
application of feminist methodologies into a game design workshop. Through the description
of the methods used in the workshop, our research suggests how methodological
contributions could represent a crucial element for critically reformulating game design and
expanding the possible imaginaries and practices.
Summary
In recent years an increasing awareness has been posed on the relationship between
gender and game design. In this context is particularly important to focus on the need to
introduce a critical perspective , capable of questioning the strategies of representation
and the contexts of production and usage. This means introducing, into the world of
videogames, tools capable of expanding the possible imaginaries and thus encouraging a
greater participation of biowomen[1] both as users and as creators .
Starting from this need, our project focuses on exploring how the use of feminist
methodologies (Harding, 1989) in game design can be a crucial element to reformulate
practices and imaginaries. Our work is based on considering methodology as a
procedural and generative instrument. Unlike the creation of a finished product, the
implementation of new methodological models can be considered as a device capable of
providing tools for the production and generation of new imaginaries and ways of doing
things.
From these premises, our work is based on an action-research approach, oriented toward
using methods reappropriated from feminist practices within a game design workshop. Our
initial hypothesis was that the use of feminist tactics would facilitate the participants's
interest in game design , enabling the creation of new imageries and generating a sense of
competence and empowerment.
This research was carried out through the organization of a workshop in the seminar “Xoy1
Digital Industry and Gender". The workshop lasted 4 hours and involved a total of 13 women
and 4 men of different ages. Its objective was the collective creation of a series of prototypes
of mini-games capable of offering a critical perspective to the topics of subjectivity and
identity in the Internet . The workshop was based on the re- appropriation and remix of
feminist (Espínola, 2010) and theatrical methodologies (Boal, 2004) and was situated
from a post-feminist, ironic and parodic perspective (Butler, 1990; Haraway, 1995) .
[1] Term coined by Beatriz Preciado, she adds the suffix “bio” to distinguish the idea of
biological woman and concept of women and men as a social construction (Preciado, 2008).
Method
The methodologies used were based on three key concepts: embodied experience,
synesthetic thinking and intersubjectivity. These concepts have been treated from the
perspective of the mistake, the parody and the play. Embodied experience has been
addressed through the use of theatrical techniques oriented towards putting the body into
action, as a physical socio-semiotic instance to rethink and share common experiences.The
synesthetic thinking has been used to translate ideas proceeding from a logocentric field of
knowledge (cultural studies) to visual, theatrical and plastic languages, in order to explore
the semiotic values of the materials.To enact intersubjectivity we used the sharing of
subjective experiences as the starting point for ideating games. Participants were invited to
share their personal experiences related to “subjetivity /identity and internet” and to use
their reciprocal narrations as raw materials for game design. This method allowed us to use
the subjectivity as the ground of conflict and political action and the intersubjectivity as other
mirrors where to look and to be looked.
Expected Outcomes
At the end of the workshop many participants told us that now they feel that it was possible
and easy to start designing games. At the same time they prototyped different games
capable of implementing novel mechanics and proposing new imaginaries. The use of this
methodology allowed new subjectivities to be brought into game design and thus it opened
paths for generating new ways of designing games. This experience was situated in the
context of a meeting related to gender issues; in order to validate its effectiveness it will be
necessary to expand the research on the use of these methodologies in other contexts.
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