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Women make video games

(Photo courtesy of Yan Krukau from Pexels) “Women have always contributed to the development and creation and playing of video games.”

Steven O’Hara
Connector Editor

UMass Lowell kicks off Women’s History Month this March by hosting a slew of informational and interactive on-campus events. On Thursday, March 16th, one of these events took place at UCrossing, combining the playfulness of video games with the history of women contributors to the video game industry. Dr. Rebecca Richards, a UMass Lowell associate English professor and feminist game scholar, hosted this event and brought some of her own games for all attendees to enjoy and play together. 

Dr. Richards is also a published author with her first book, “Transnational Feminist Rhetorics and Gendered Leadership in Global Politics: From Daughters of Destiny to Iron Ladies.” She is currently working on a book-length manuscript titled “Not Playing Around: Feminist and Queer Rhetorics in Video Games,” which will be published in late 2023. Her teaching expertise includes rhetoric and composition, editing and publishing, gender and sexuality as well as digital rhetoric and video games. The last of which was very helpful in guiding the attendees of Thursday’s event. 

Multiple stations were opened at UCrossing’s Gaming Zone, found on the second floor of the building, ranging from console games to web-browser games. Food was also provided and enjoyed by the many students and faculty that attended. When asked what the main purpose of this event was, Dr. Richards said, “The idea is to highlight that women have always contributed to the development and creation and playing of video games, even though some narratives and dominant culture[s] like to obscure that reality. [I’m just] trying to bring people together to play games, find some joy and learn a bit about women in the video game industry.” 

“Portal,” one of the games brought for the event, was one of the night’s favorites as it allowed students to work together in a fun and interactive digital environment. Found next to the television used for the event was a flyer that introduced attendees to one of the many women who worked diligently to create the game; other flyers were posted next to each game in the event. When asked about the importance of these flyers and acknowledgments, Dr. Richards said, “We’re talking about people who conceptualized, created the technology behind, developed the actual narratives of games, did the coding of games—there are lots of ways to build a video game, and it’s rarely built by one person, but we’re looking at games where women have taken a predominant role, have taken a leadership role or a conceptualization role, and those names and faces might be a bit obscured for most contemporary video game players.” 

Along with the flyers, a handout was created to highlight more of the active women in the gaming industry, providing a list of developers to support, games to play and books to read. Gaming is an integral part of human entertainment, and knowing about those who have been left out of the industry but still worked hard to provide fun and entertaining games is important. As a final message in regards to the importance of supporting women in games, Dr. Richards says, “[P]eople who have been minoritized in the video game industry—thinking about people of color, people all over the globe, women, gender minorit[ies], sexual minorit[ies]—should just play more games and claim their play loudly and invite more people in to play with one another, especially in today’s era where we’re feeling isolated and disconnected playing with other people. Playing video games with other people is a way to build community and make life joyful.” 

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