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From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games [Paperback]

Justine Cassell , Henry Jenkins
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2000

Many parents worry about the influence of video games on their children's lives. The game console may help to prepare children for participation in the digital world, but at the same time it socializes boys into misogyny and excludes girls from all but the most objectified positions. The new "girls' games" movement has addressed these concerns. Although many people associate video games mainly with boys, the girls games' movement has emerged from an unusual alliance between feminist activists (who want to change the "gendering" of digital technology) and industry leaders (who want to create a girls' market for their games).

The contributors to From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat explore how assumptions about gender, games, and technology shape the design, development, and marketing of games as industry seeks to build the girl market. They describe and analyze the games currently on the market and propose tactical approaches for avoiding the stereotypes that dominate most toy store aisles. The lively mix of perspectives and voices includes those of media and technology scholars, educators, psychologists, developers of today's leading games, industry insiders, and girl gamers.

Contributors: Aurora, Dorothy Bennett, Stephanie Bergman, Cornelia Brunner, Mary Bryson, Lee McEnany Caraher, Justine Cassell, Suzanne de Castell, Nikki Douglas, Theresa Duncan, Monica Gesue, Michelle Goulet, Patricia Greenfield, Margaret Honey, Henry Jenkins, Cal Jones, Yasmin Kafai, Heather Kelley, Marsha Kinder, Brenda Laurel, Nancie Martin, Aliza Sherman, Kaveri Subrahmanyam.

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From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games + Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming
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Product Description

From Amazon

This book explores the complicated issue of gender in computer games­-particularly the development of video games for girls. One side is the concern that the average computer game, being attractive primarily to boys, furthers the technology access gap between the genders. Yet attempts to create computer games that girls want to play brings about another set of concerns: should games be gendered at all? And does having boys' games and girls' games merely reinforce the way gender differences are socialized in play?

Cassell and Jenkins have gathered the thoughts of several feminist and media scholars to explore the issues from multiple perspectives, but this is not a work confined to ivory-tower theorizing. Alongside the philosophical explorations are pragmatic investigations of the hard-nosed, real world of computer-game manufacture and sales. Particularly enlightening is a section featuring interviews with several leading creators of games for girls. And while all agree that it's good to be past the days when women in computer games were limited to scantily clad background figures or damsels in distress, the visions of an appropriate future are both diverse and well defended. There is no pretense here of easy answers, but there are many excellent questions. --Elizabeth Lewis --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In this intriguing anthology of essays, studies and interviews, voices from both academia and industry discuss what the experience of computer games is and should be for girls. While game creators have recently discovered the young female consumer, few of these authors are happy with the offerings, which tend to push domesticity and an obsession with looks. Almost all the contributors share some basic belief that the marketplace is dominated by games promoting bad values while shortchanging values identifiable as truly feminist. As Cassell points out, feminism in this context can mean values not pertaining exclusively to gender. The resulting proposals for video games are filled with such buzzwords as "subjective," "creativity," "community" and "collaboration" (all good) as opposed to "violent," "competitive" and "conquest" (all bad). It is always nice to see theorists come down from the clouds to enter into discussions of everyday-life subjects such as the ramifications of the Tomb Raider character Lara Croft's ample endowment. The best move of the editors is to conclude the volume with commentary by girl gamers, many of whom worry that the contributors' solutions will underequip girls for the ugly real world. Says one: "I don't want to be friends! I want to be King!"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
2.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Videogames views from the other half of the sky Jan. 30 2001
What a pretty fine job! I'm copiling my thesis at university about the topic of videogames. Well, if you are in the same conditions of mine do not miss this book. It is not only a good example of understandable writing but it focuses on important topics too many times left in a corner. Of course, everyone who would approach a study of videogames phenomenon should consider that since they see the light, videogames were full of masculine points of view (and the relative effects whose they carry with them). Despite some relatively non fundamental mistakes, I think that the book hit the bull's eye: attracting the reader inside a new perspective by which he/her can consider the whole subject. The result, in my personal opinion, was a more complete and clear idea about videogames world. After I've finished to read the last line my feeling was the awarness that I didn't miss any aspect of a topic (which still complex, from a social-cognitive point of view). [p.s.: I hope my English is enough understandable]
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5.0 out of 5 stars An important, excellent book Feb. 4 2000
I enjoyed this book very much, and am glad I own a copy. It addresses a fundamental problem in the computer industry: the fact that computer games are almost exclusively made by and geared towards men. The book addresses this question through a variety of articles and interviews. The best point of the book, I felt, was that it left you pondering a fundamental question: is the small gaming industry that caters to "Girl Games" a good one, even though it possibly reinforces gender stereotypes that can be detrimental? Or is it better for girls to play "male" games, and be forced to bear the homosexual tags that go along with it? The book strives to find a balance to this problem and makes the reader wonder what, indeed, that balance is. As an afterthought, the recent demise of Purple Moon, a company well documented in this book, question what the future for girls and computer games is. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has played a computer game -- it quite possible might make you see them in a different light.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inside view of computer games for girls. Jan. 29 1999
By A Customer
If you have only boys in your family or have never put down money for a computer game, you probably haven't kept up with the brouhaha that has been developing over computer games for girls that has appeared in the last four years.
The focus on computer games for girls became a issue when it was noticed that while boys liked playing computer games and were more comfortable with computers; girls stayed away from these games. The result - girls would be computer illiterate and be unable to compete in the technical job market.
The book is openly feminist, dealing with how girls and women are represented in computer games; bringing in academic research into gender play, and interviewing the women in the game companies who are designing and producing the games. The interviews with the women in the game industry offers outsiders the rare opportunity to hear the opinions of the designers and developers. Some explain how market research determines what they produce, others provide a more personal view of what moves them to design. The word "empowerment" appears repeatedly.
The editors conclude with ideas for game play that gives voice and play space to both girls and boys. The book's inclusive points of view ends with a talk back piece by Game Grrls - women who enjoy playing action games to compete and win - often over men. The book provides a scholarly treatise on girls, computers, and society. Each of the academic chapters are followed by extensive bibliographies. For whose who are interested in the subject it is extremely valuable to have everything in one place.
Genevieve Katz © 1999, Games4Girls
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1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't get past the first chapter ....... March 3 1999
By A Customer
What a great idea for a book. It seemed really well thought out. I'm reading chapter one, and enjoying it greatly when BAM it loses me. While talking about Mortal Kombat, the game in the title of the book, it claims the game has no female chracters. So much for doing research ...... Yes, Mortal Kombat has females, even as far back as the first game with Sonja Blade. In fact some narrow-minded people objected to her at the time as she could kill or be killed. Street Fighter II which started this whole genre of games had a female player character and almost every game after it has had one or more. Recently released "Dead or Alive" features three females on the cover -- just the girls, none of the guys. Next time, check the facts. Anyway, I didn't read any more, maybe that was the only mistake in the book, but I don't know. Too bad, it's really good idea for a book.
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