September Party – Gender and Sports Videogames

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This month’s party features the talk, “Gender and Sports Videogames”, presented by Abe Stein!

Sports videogames, that is to say those that represent and simulate the game and culture of popular sport leagues like the NBA or NHL, largely lack female representation. Only a very few instances of sports videogames afford players the opportunity to play the game as a woman.

Given the cultural association of the games to a male dominated sports culture, the concept of gender in sports videgames demands interrogation. Is it simply enough to allow players to mark a character as gendered according to a traditional, and largely outdated male/female binary without any meaningful operational or procedural change to the game? How would one go about designing a meaningfully gendered mechanic in a sports videogame? Could a sports videogame be designed to invite players to perform gender within the constraints of sports and sports culture?

Abe Stein will look at examples of gender across the brief history of sports videogames including, Baseball Stars, NHL11, Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf, and Top Spin. By way of these examples, he will make an argument for why a superficial, largely representational inclusion of female athletes, while desperately needed in the design of sports videogames, is not nearly adequate enough. He will argue that in order for there to be a more equitable representation of gender in sports videogames, designers should create games that simulate not only women in sports, but more importantly womens’ sports and womens’ sports culture.

 

Abe Stein is a research associate at the MIT Game Lab and a graduate student in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. His work focuses on sports fandom and sports media. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book Sports Videogames (Routledge, 2013), and his articles and chapters have appeared in Eludamos, Well Played, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Loading… and James Bond in World and Popular Culture. His current research looks at many aspects of sports videogame culture, ranging from competitive e-sports, to the televisual aesthetics of mainstream sports simulations and independent sports games.

He writes a monthly column for Kill Screen magazine called Boomshakalaka!, exploring topics such as the divide between so-called “geek” and “jock” culture, the surreal aesthetics of classic basketball games, independent sports games, and the problems with mimetic interfaces.

Abe has also worked as a sound designer for television, film and games, and served as audio director for the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. He continues to do freelance sound design and composition, and his work can be heard in Slam Bolt Scrappers, Quandary, A Slower Speed of Light, Assy McGee, This is Nollywood, and World of Zoo.

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