Vancouver video game jam breaks gender stereotypes
Game jam seeks to challenge male-centric views in video games
A new group is seeking to challenge gender stereotypes in the gaming world, by bringing together developers, designers and artists to create a video game with a strong female protagonist.
The group, i am a gamer, is hosting a 48-hour event at Vancouver's Centre for Digital Media where 150 developers have been tasked with creating a new video game.
Satellite sites have also been created in San Francisco, Denver and Boston and gamers from around the world are participating remotely from as far away as the UK, Brazil, and Australia.
The marathon "game jam" began Friday at 6 p.m. PT and concludes at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The goal, said organizer Kimberly Voll, is to send a message that male-centric views in the gaming industry have a negative impact not only on gamers but on society as a whole.
Voll, who is a professor of software engineering and game design at the Centre for Digital Media, said popular video games often reinforce harmful stereotypes by portraying females as over-sexualized, one-dimensional characters.
She said this weekend's game jam aims to dispute the prevailing opinion that video games are for guys and that games with strong, female lead characters will not sell.
"We should celebrate all great games, regardless of the gender of the lead character. But what we have right now is a great imbalance," Voll said.
Voll said she was stunned when she read a recent article that quoted a creative director at a major gaming company that said games with strong female characters won't succeed.
"What defines the industry is the big, huge production games ... On one hand, I respect what they're doing," she said.
But "its unlikely the seeds of real change are going to be sown in there right now. So the folks we see here and beyond, the independent game developers, what they have is an agility that isn't present in big industry. They are the ones that can actually come forward and try crazy, new ideas."