Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DiGRA board 2014 and gender scholarship

One of the popular claims by people wearing the GamerGate tag is that the DiGRA board is currently rife with feminists. Compared to the negative tone used by the #GamerGate stream when speaking about women, most places outside of the inner circle of discussion sites where #GamerGate started are feminist. So in that sense yes, the claim is correct. However, this is not a useful distinction, so let us put this differently: is the DiGRA board now taken over by gender scholars?

Today the question of gender is commonly discussed in academia. Most scholars will at some point address it, just like they will address class or race. This means that to understand if a scholar is a gender scholar with a feminist background, we have to look at their work, not just one publication, but a list of work.

Mia Consalvo, the president, lists 147 publications on her CV, which she mailed after she noticed I had used the page for this count. Out of these, 35 are somewhat gender related. I have reduced this to "somewhat" from "clearly" because when I looked closer, several of the articles mentioned are about gender related topics, such as domestic violence, but not automatically about gender theory - it depends on the discussion. This means that quantitatively, Consalvo is clearly one of the more active when it comes to talking about gender in games. We can still not call her a gender scholar, for that her main focus would have to be gender, and it is currently close to a quarter of her work. It is also unfair to call her a scholar who is only interested in the representation of women, as that means to ignore such articles as "The monster next door", which strongly criticises the way men and boys are represented as violent monsters in the media, focusing on the example of the perpetrators of the Columbine shootings; or "Looking for gender; gender roles and behaviors among online gamers", which is a study of whether the activities of male and female WoW players can be explained through traditional gender roles.

Jose Zagal is the vice president, which means he has considerable influence at the board. He has been a long-term member of DiGRA, and active in different capacities within the organisation. Let us look at his publications list.  He also has 33 articles on his list, out of which none are gender related.

Ashley Brown is the secretary. Her publications list contains 7 articles, out of which one indicates a main gender focus. Brown is however a special case here, as her focus so far in her career is eroticism in games. This means that she has to engage with issues concerning sexuality, which again means it would be a flaw if her work was not informed by gender studies. A closer reading of her articles will show that she systematically discusses gender definitions, gender roles and gendered expressions, as part of her studies of sexuality and eroticism.

Jussi Holopainen is the treasurer. His publications list is not as rich as it could be, so I will use his google scholar list. This list is not entirely to be trusted, as it lists others with the same name, and it has some patents which I am not certain are connected to Holopainen or not. Still, out of the more than 40 works which he clearly has authored or co-authored, none are on gender-related topics.

Annika Waern is the media liason, which is a function rather than a position. She has mainly coordinated with the media over press-releases and ads for a conference. Let us still look at her publications. Note that these are only her game-related work, she is a mature scholar with several accomplishments. Out of her list of 40 publications, one is clearly gender related. The one article on gender is on gendered game design, and discusses what is known as "pink games", games specifically designed for women.

Rachel Kowert's publication list holds 10 articles, out of which one is on gender gamer stereotypes (forgive the error, which came from reading with a bias for gender). It has not yet been published, but from the title: "Unpopular, Overweight, and Socially Inept: Reconsidering the Stereotype of Online Gamers", we have reason to believe that it is a criticism of the general idea that online gamers are unpopular, overweight and socially inept - as a matter of fact it is likely to contain proof that the prevalent stereotypes painting gamers in a negative light are wrong.

Hanna Wirman's publication list contains 40 publications. Of these seven are gender related. One is her Ph D: "Hanna's PhD research focused on women players and their co-creative participation in the design of The Sims 2 through game modification." Wirman's publication list shows a typical academic development from one topic over to a related one, in this case from female Sims players to the study of animal play. This exemplifies how she is mainly a game scholar rather than a gender scholar, as her focus is firmly on the play aspect of game studies.

Lindsay Grace has a publication list with 51 articles, out of which one is gender related.

Chris Paul has 66 publications on his list (download the PDF with his CV to see the list), out of which three or four are gender related. When I don't give an absolute number, it's because it is a bit unclear how to count papers that develop into articles. This is despite the fact that one of Paul's stated research interests is gender in games, but as we can see it plays a minor part in a scholarship that is mainly focused on play and rhetoric.

Consalvo is still the scholar with the most gender-related articles, and considering that she is the president, this may make it appear at a casual glance as if gender is suddenly the focus of DiGRA. Before insisting on this, please consider what DiGRA's main function is. The main event at DiGRA is the annual conference. The topic of the conference is set by the program chair. The program chairs of DiGRA 2015 are Staffan Björk, who is clearly not a gender scholar, and Jonas Linderoth, who has one gender-related article out of the 12 most recent he lists on his page (Updated to include Linderoth). On the other hand, choosing these two for program chairs is an expression of a direction which has been considered controversial within DiGRA - the move from a clear focus on digital games to a wider focus on games in general.  If there is a current change in the direction of the association, it is in this more clearly stated inclusion of LARP and table top gaming in the relevant scholarship.

There is also no evidence that there is a trend of increased study of gender in the different DiGRA conferences. There may be leaps in certain conferences, due to the call topic or current events. It is for instance quite likely that #GamerGate itself will trigger several gender-focused papers for the next conference, as the movement has brought into sharp focus the necessity to understand the anti-feminist minority in gamer culture. Up until 2013 there was no rising gender-trend in the papers accepted to the conference.

(Note: I expect that as the scholars I discuss here take note of this page, I will receive corrections. We are academics. We do like to make sure information is correct.)

1 comment:

A said...

In addition to clarifying what these scholars work on, I think if we're discussing who tends to get elected to leadership positions in academic professional organizations we need to acknowledge that women often disproportionately serve in these roles. As unpaid positions that only count towards "service" in the research/teaching/service tripartite of our industry, many people have commented on how striking it is that women academics spend more time on this tasks at least past on some studies ( and