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Women and Video Games
    by Laurie Taylor

This month Austin, Texas, hosted the First National Women's Game Conference. The conference, which ran September 9th-10th concurrently with the Austin Game Convention, will bring together game designers, artists, academics, and other video game specialists to explore ways of developing better games for girls and women.

This conference is important for both video game players and for young aspiring game designers because, despite the fact that video games are a booming industry, they have not yet been able to attract large numbers of girl players. Involving girls in video games is important because it helps them to learn about technology, and thus familiarizes them with it, which is essential for the growing tech nological requirements that girls will increasingly face in schools, and throughout their lives.

In fact, one of the keynote speakers for the Women's Game Conference is Sheri Graner Ray the author of Gender Inclusive Game Design, a book about the problems of designing video games for girls. Along with providing a history of women in video games, Ray's book serves as an important industry resource for game players and future game designers, as well as for parents and others who are curious to learn more about this rising medium.

Sheri Graner Ray and others like her also serve as role models for girls aspiring to work in this dynamic, creative industry. Video games are just the newest entry into the world of children's media - following books, films, and comics. The narratives of video games can also provide vitally important role models and super heroes for children. Currently, most video game heroes - for boys or girls - win their battles by fighting. However, Sheri Graner Ray and the other game designers at the Women's Game Conference are exploring other possibilities in creating video games for both girls and boys through innovative game design that would include collaborative instead of competitive games as well as those that focus on character and story. With their work, we can expect to see more girl heroes in video games, and more boy and girl heroes who use their intelligence, depth of strength of character, and compassion to meet the challenges set before them.

While awaiting the new games in which the ideas of this important conference are implemented. I recommend that you try some old favorites like "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" In this game, super-sleuths use their brains and deductive skills to track the elusive super-criminal Carmen Sandiego. In newer games like "ICO," where you are asked to step into the role of a young boy who must work alongside a girl to open locked doors while navigating a complex labyrinth in order to escape from an island filled with shadow-monsters. Or, you could always try my current favorite, "Syberia II", where you play as the character Kate Walker who is on an epic journey to Syberia's magical landscape.

Link to the conference webpage:

Copyright 2004 Laurie Taylor

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