The "Toppled Pink Castles" level in Continue?9876543210
The "Toppled Pink Castles" level in Continue?9876543210

What is a feminist game, anyway?

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4 Responses

  1. Sam Fuller says:

    I’d call a “feminist game” any one that supports the philosophical goals of feminism, which as you noted depends on who you ask, but I think we can reasonably agree that one which addresses/establishes/defends social, civil, political, & economic rights of women could qualify.

    Any game, or part of a game, can be subjected to a feminist “reading” (playing), but I suppose the important distinction here is between “author” and “audience”; an author can design a game that is rhetorically feminist, the audience interprets it how they will.

    The “games for girls” you mentioned probably aren’t feminist games; if I had to name a feminist game now, I’d go with Dreamfall- The Longest Journey, for its strong female characters who subvert harmful stereotypes; or Long Live the Queen, for something more contemporary that contains an overall feminist message.

    I agree about the industry (authors) needing to be more feminist; they simply don’t publish too many mainstream “feminist games”, although over time as the medium evolves I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw sections for “Feminist” and “Marxist” and other philosophical categories, just as libraries have them, and I don’t think that’s really such a bad thing.

  2. dr. b. says:

    The Longest Journey games are some of my favorites. I am anxious for the upcoming installment and couldn’t throw money at that Kickstarter fast enough :-) I just hope that in the future that we get more female protagonists that are designed as women from the ground up and not just re-skinned male characters, like FemShep. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mass Effect and I loved playing my FemShep, but that was more because of what I had made her both through game play and the Renegade/Paragon choices and what I read into her story over the course of 3 full games and 100s of hours.

    I do wonder and worry about whether having games categorized philosophically would aid in the ghettoization of “Feminist”, “Marxist”, and other types of political games.

  3. Wendi Sierra says:

    Thanks for your comment Sam! I actually hadn’t heard of either of those, so I’ll check them out! Your comment sparked a really interesting conversation in my house about genres and themes. I think it’d be great to have an informal list of games that had feminist themes, which I think is what you’re suggesting with the philosophical categories, but I (similar to Dr.B) I think having a feminist genre for games could be problematic.

    I brought up “games for girls” not because I think they’re feminist at all, but because they’re a good example of how problematic genre classifications can determine audience above and beyond other important characteristics. The genre “Christian games” is another example of the same issue, I think. Hearing that a game is Christian doesn’t tell me anything about the game play, the mechanics, the narrative, or really anything substantive, other than the game will have a Christian theme. As a passable atheist, I’d almost certainly immediately ignore any game I saw with a Christian designation, despite the fact that there could well be something in there worth playing. There could even be themes I agree with- compassion, for example.

    I think the most useful genre categories tell us a lot about game play mechanics (Puzzle-Platformer, Loot Shooter) and sometimes bit about setting/narrative (Fantasy RPG, Survival Horror). Other tags and themes can be useful (Retro Graphics, Female-Protaganist), my preference would be to keep those separate from genre.

  4. Sam Fuller says:

    Games are probably best organized according to mechanics from a consumer’s perspective– still, I often compare games to literature for conceptual purposes with my students (they’re “electrature”), and as my university library is just getting some video games on its shelves, the question of how the games will be treated alongside more “serious” media is on my mind. Do we need a Dewey Decimal system just for games? For certain games, I wonder if they even need to be separated from books– especially the games that go around calling themselves “visual novels” and “virtual short stories.”

    I imagine that, in the future, almost all games will be digital anyway, and searching for something to play won’t be too unlike exploring a library database using keywords; so there won’t be categories so much as “tags” which users can upvote (Steam does this), so how a game is categorized will probably be determined through a sort of digital democracy.