Global Game Industry News Blog

Monday, March 06, 2006

What Women Gamers Can Learn from Women's Hockey...

I saw this little article on Wired this morning. It's good in that it draws some attention to tensions in the girl-gamers movement. I'm particularly interested in it because of the links between involvement in the game industry, and playing games. Those that play make. Boys and girls like playing in more than one way. Let me re-iterate on that point. Boys and girls both like playing in more than one way. The demand for a game to "appeal to all women," is simply ridiculous. There is no real need for it to be the case. The tension is not between violence/non-violence, hunting/gathering, or some other binary. What (dis/en)ables women playing is any sort of argument which dictates to women the kind of games they ought/not like.

So, what can the girl games movement learn from Women's Hockey?

Quoted from the USA Hockey Site:
"Since the 1992-93 season, when just over 10,000 girls or women registered with USA Hockey, the sport has enjoyed great growth spurts. As of May 28, 2003, the number of girls ranging from the 10-and-under division, through the many adult leagues, had grown in just over 15 years to 48,483 registered members. All ages saw steady increases, including the near doubling of adults between '97-98 and '03-04, but the most remarkable growth can be seen at the 10-and-under level, which has added nearly 3,000 players since '01-02."

No matter how problematic, pretend for a moment that hockey is a sport largely dominated by men. A Quake or FPS of the sports world, a game not 'intended' for female consumption. What is the biggest difference between men's and women's' hockey? The substitution of 'body contact' instead of 'body checking.' Some minor modifications in rules was enough to make the sport available to women. The primary difference concerns the motion of players, and the involvement of the puck in the play. For lack of a better source, here is what NBC's Olympic site lists as the IIHF's definition of 'body contact.' The point is, only minor modifications were necessary to open a sport to women. What is the difference which makes a difference? Mass. When it comes to mass, there is often a difference which makes a difference in being able to receive and deliver body checks. For reference, most non-checking recreational hockey uses similar rules.

The point is not how to design games which appeal innately to women, or how to design games which assume there are no differences between men and women. Women can play male games, but we ought not expect that this is their only option. This kind of opositional consciousness isn't something we can ask every woman to embody. We ought to be asking if games can games be designed in such a way that the differences result in better play? Or that the differences are made reasonable by the rules/play?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gamespot has an interesting flashback or retrospective on the NES which was posted about a week ago. I hadn't really realized that it's been 20 years since the introduction of the NES, despite it's rather pivotal place in the lives of so many people my age. It also got me to thinking about the role of the NES in my research, and how in many ways, the NES marks the beginning of my research.

I recently presented a talk at MIT for the STS Graduate student conference. My talk, oddly enough looked at the NES, and some of the technology in it. Here is the abstract of that talk:

The Nintendo Entertainment System and the 10NES Chip: Carving the Video Game Industry in Silicon

In 1986 the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in the United States. The NES differed only slightly from it's Japanese predecessor the Nintendo Famicom (Family Computer), however, one difference in particular is important to address, and this technological innovation marks "the beginning" of my dissertation's historical context.

The NES and all cartridges capable of being played on it contained a small semiconductor commonly referred to as the 10NES lockout chip. The 10NES chip represented a departure from the previous decade of console game development, a period in which anyone with the technical know-how and access to the requisite hardware tools could produce a video game.

All major console video game manufacturers since the introduction of the NES use methods similar to those implemented in 1986. Indeed, even those that differ in method of implementation and become patented reference the original NES patent (Nakagawa, 1985). Every single major game console released from this moment forward has been locked in a way that demands that those developing or distributing games collaborate with its creators. Even systems described as using a "general CD-ROM" format, like the Sony PlayStation (PSOne) actually make use of proprietary (indeed patented) mechanisms of locking those CD-ROMs (Nakajima, Kitada, & Ogawa, 1998). While the PSOne did support use of the CD-ROM format for music and photos, it is inaccurate to say that it would load games or run programs from those "general CD-ROM's".

Nakagawa, K. (1985). United States Patent No. 4799635. U. S. P. Office.
Nakajima, H., Kitada, T., & Ogawa, H. (1998). United States Patent No. 5832088. U. S. P. Office.