Women in Game Studies: Challenges and Experiences

The Triple Conference will hold an informal roundtable where experienced and junior scholars share experiences and issues of being female researchers studying games. Five to eight scholars will briefly present their own personal stories of horror and successes to open the discussion for everyone to share their own story. The aim of the roundtable is to create a safe space where we can share strategies about matters such as being in a marginal field, dealing with university politics, harassment, abuse of power, expectations, or anything else of relevance.

This session is open to anyone with an interest in these stories. Stories of female researchers are not only of importance to female scholars; they are relevant to any kind of researcher walking in the field of games. Male researchers who are curious about their role in these challenges and issues are as warmly invited as female researchers to listen and participate in the discussion.


Sandra Danilovic

Digital Humanist and Game Design Scholar, PhD from University of Toronto

I discuss my experiences as an artist-researcher studying and creating game art in Toronto, Canada. I start by situating my doctoral project on game autopathographers — game developers authoring games based on their first-person experiences with mental illness, emotional trauma, and disability, which was inspired by my previous semi-autobiographical machinima practice, and my involvement with the pioneering Toronto feminist game development collective, Dames Making Games (www.dmg.to). I modelled the Autopathographical Game Jam—the case study that I designed for my doctoral research project, and which I address in my scheduled paper presentation— after DMG’s mission and ethos. DMG makes space for marginalized game developers to create expressive and experimental games that challenge mainstream and formulaic game design vocabularies.

Joyce Goggin

Associate professor, University of Amsterdam

In my contribution I want to focus attention away from obvious issues in the broader gaming community such as the Gamergate controversy, in order to refocus our attention on what games and gamers can do to improve gender relations. While Gamergate is, of course, distressing and significant, I will draw on my own personal experience as a woman who has spent most of her professional career at least partially in game studies. I want to consider the [academic] gaming and game studies communities as possible testing grounds if not role models for how gender relations can work. In doing so, I will focus on the positive lessons that I believe we can learn from these communities in our present moment of complexity, wherein troubled gender relations span the spectrum from a genitalia grabbing president in the USA and his aides, who are compared the world over to characters from Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, to #metoo, pussyhats and the global women’s movement.

Torill Elvira Mortensen

Associate professor, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

To be a woman scholar in Scandinavia means having security, rights, and protections, both due to politics of equality in the work place, and a tradition of independence for women. But there are subtle differences between the genders that live in language, expectations and social connections. For this panel I want to talk about these differences, series of gendered micro-interactions, and how they make it easy to be a good girl, but hard to be a professional, successful woman.This is based on 28 years of experience with Norwegian and Danish higher education, and with international publishing and community of research.

Emma Reay

PhD student, the University of Cambridge

I will going to talk about interdisciplinarity as a form of intersectionality, and make the case that solidarity between marginalised academic fields might be the key to creating an open, intellectual space that is truly inclusive, progressive, plural, and diverse. I want to argue that comparatively ‘young’ disciplines, like games studies and children’s literature studies, which do not have the heft of tradition behind them are uniquely positioned to experiment with new models and value systems that move beyond the entrenched sexism / racism / classism / ableism / heteronormativity that conventional, established humanities scholarship just can’t seem to shake.

Anne Mette Thorhauge

Associate professor, University of Copenhagen

In a recent mixed-method study about young Danes’ gameplay patterns gender differences turned out to be quite distinctive. While gameplay represented a mainstream activity of girls as well as boys, survey data and follow-up interviews indicated that games served different purposes in their everyday lives. Girls seemed to use games for individual leisure while boys used them for focused interaction with peers and this was often explained with reference to the notion of competition: Girls don’t like to compete. This question was further explored with two focus-group interviews which yielded a somewhat more nuanced picture: Girls to compete but they have different strategies when it comes to avoiding that negative emotions related to competition brings social relationships at stake.