Teaching

Sexism and videogame


Sexism is a widespread problem in the video game field, among developers and gamers alike. It has become a major subject of discussion in the industry, and even in mainstream media thanks to scholars such as Anita Sarkeesian or because of sordid affairs such as Gamergate.

As videogame students and professionals are still mostly heterosexual white males, they are ofter not aware of most discrimination problems, since they’re a lot subjected to those than other categories of population. This may lead them to reproduce oppressive behaviors and clichés: they obviously don’t do so voluntarily but unconsciously, because of a lack of awareness and self-questioning on these dynamics which are so omnipresent in our society that they seem normal and go unnoticed by most of us.

Videogame students are the creators of tomorrow. They will produce representations of the world and underlying messages that will be seen by millions of people. This gives them a strong responsibility. This course aims to raise awareness about discrimination problems, by focusing on the example of sexism but also showing that the same dynamics apply to other forms of oppression such as racism. By being more aware of fundamental society problems that have an impact on many levels of our lives, developers will be able to offer more intelligent and responsible content to players.

I used the two following lessons in the course of one trimester focused on this subject – more on this below if you want to have the details!
The first course focuses on sexism and discriminations in the world of video games, both in games themselves and in the industry and gamers community.
The second course leaves the videogame field and broadens the study of sexism by summarizing its main manifestations in our society at large.
Finally, since we asked them to delve deeper into one specific subject in this broad perspective and to create a presentation and a game on this subject, the last document, « Sujets d’exposés et de jeux », lists the subjects along with the references that were given to them in order to kickstart their research.

For each slide, the comments below explain more precisely what it is about. There are also references at the end of each chapter for anyone looking to investigate further.
Please do let me know if you have any criticisms or questions: I am eager to hear about whatever might help me improve this lesson!

Before finishing, I would like to address very special thanks to Marine Besmond-Blaise, who is an illustrator (check out her wonderful work!), a great friend of mine, and a co-teacher at the game design school where I gave this lecture for the first time. She was an invaluable help both for preparing the lecture and presenting it to the students. Kudos, Marine!

Jeu vidéo et discriminations Sexisme dans la société Sujets d’exposés et de jeux

 
And now for a more detailed explanation of how the course unfolded:

 
Organization

Subject overview: The subject was introduced through an overview (the « Jeu vidéo et sexisme » PDF) and several debates.

Subject selection and presentations: Each group of three students chose a specific aspect of the subject among a selection of twelve, researched it on their own, and gave a presentation to the class. That allowed them to deepen their knowledge on the subject, form a personal point of view, and transmit knowledge from students to students.

Game development: Each group then used the results of its research to design a game expressing its point of view.

Broadening of the perspective: After the presentation of the games, a last lesson explored sexism in society at large (the « Sexisme dans la société » PDF), to insist on the link between the students’ work and their society.

 
Reception

The students responded very positively to the experience! Even though there was a bit of suspicion at first, frequent and honest debates allowed us to create a dialogue, make them understand the importance of that subject and make them understand its fundamental dynamics.

 
A course for everyone to use

It would be wonderful if this experience could help others to raise awareness about this subject around them: do feel free to use it as a base to raise awareness around you!

 
Incoming improvements

The current course is not the final version. Following improvements are underway:
- Content improvement, aiming for clearer and more accessible explanations
- Typo and other minor mistake correction
- English translation… will take a while, but I’ll get to it as soon as possible!
- Upload of the games on the Games for Change website, to provide visibility and allow everyone to play them!
- Building of a whole site solely dedicated to this initiative, with final version of the PPT available and links to the students’ games on the Games for Change website.