According to Jessica Hammer of Carnegie Mellon University, “96 percent of teen girls play games, and yet we have something like 10-12 percent women in the game industry overall.” The face of gaming is changing though, and in Canada, one group has answered the call to make gaming an inclusive space.
In the last few years, the gaming industry has shown an ugly side with pervasive misogyny taking place on all levels, specifically from those who create, market and play games. Women in gaming have dealt with bouts of discrimination, harassment and cyber terrorism while trying to take part, begin dialogue and shape the future of the new gaming world.
Frustrated with the way they were represented in gaming, a group of women got together and created Dames Making Games (DMG). Dames Making Games is Toronto’s only non-profit, woman-oriented game creation organization. Member run and member funded, DMG welcomes all women, non-binary, gender nonconforming, trans and queer folks who have an interest in making, playing or changing the gaming landscape.
The founders set out to create a safe community space with an emphasis on mentorship. Jennie Faber, one of the creators, says, “(Before I joined) I saw the spark of a very interesting, unique and warm community.” To date, DMG has run several different workshops, provides a monthly speaking series, social events and game jams for members to reflect on their work among peers involved in the industry in a commercial, artistic or hobbyist capacity.
Soha Kareem, co-director of Dames Making Games tells me, “Stepping away from capitalist-focused game-making and building a community based on accessible resources is an important way to make activist game development inclusive to various marginalized identities.”
Companies also need to shift the gender focus in a significant way. Soha explains, “So much of our work is contextualized with online harassment or movements like Gamer Gate, and what that does is frame women’s work within men’s, and that’s really disturbing to me. We deserve to have spaces that put our work and safety first rather than wait until we’ve been harassed in order to get traction in spaces.”
However, she then goes on to add, “I think gaming and tech spaces can benefit from anti-oppression workshops not just to be inclusive to women but to other minorities who have to struggle trying to get their voices and perspectives recognized.”