Two reasons for presenting today: Share really exciting work around girls and technology To get feedback to help me take this research to the next level
Technology integration in school and out of school One to one laptops
both girls (65%) and boys (88%) participating in the Digital Youth Network expressed interest in creating video games, yet female participation in the video game pod was low. Many girls avoided the video game pod because of its “assumed ‘boy’ culture (Pinkard, 2008). Pinkard (2008) attempted to increase girls’ level of participation in game design by creating an in-school video game course in 2007. All 6th graders were required to take the video game course for one quarter (9 weeks).
Video game classes/pods used Gamestar mechanic, stagecast, scratch, & Alice
In 2007, the video game course was co-taught with a female science teacher. The course combined design elements using Stagecast and science content. Students were required to create a game using Stagecast that reflected and demonstrated how global warming affects the environment. At the end of the term, a contest was held offering prizes for the best games created in the course. The top two designs were created by all-girl groups. Upon course completion, girls’ participation in the after school pod had also increased and the girls’ continued to use StageCast outside of the course (Pinkard, 2008). Females developing an interest in video games could be linked to the presence of a strong female role model (Pinkard, 2008), in the DYN community (“An educator’s guide to gender bias issues”, n.d.).
In a changing world, where much of daily life, especially for youth, revolves around computers, video games, and online worlds, video games should be increasingly recognized as a means of learning and not just as toys for entertainment purposes. Through video games, learners are able to participate in new virtual worlds that provide opportunities for situated understanding, along with the development of “social practices, powerful identities, shared values, and ways of thinking of important communities of practice” (Shaffer, et al., 2005: pp. 108). Designing games can develop an array of knowledge and skills, including, but not limited to, system-based thinking, problem solving skills, aesthetics, writing, storytelling, interactive design, game rules and logic, and programming skills (Salen, 2007). Game design is an effective learning tool, because along with knowledge and skill development, it involves active participation, reflection, collaboration, and continuous feedback (Giorgi & Myers, 2007).
Digital fluency consists of more than the ability to use computers and other technological tools, “but also knowing how to construct things of significance with those tools” (Resnick, 2002: pp. 33; Papert & Resnick, 1995).
“seen as one way to address the lack of women’s involvement with technology” (Kafai, 2008: pp. 1) ** THIS IS MY FOCUS…HOW DID THE VIDEO GAME PODS AND CLASSES GET GIRLS INVOLVED WITH TECHNOLOGY?
Skill levels DID NOT vary across genders
girls prefer working together to create or play games and do not like competition as much as boys do. Girls also prefer exploration and games that involve puzzles and problem solving rather than hand-eye skills. Girls care about relationships between game characters and emotions and often identify with game characters rather than action and weapons like boys (Gorriz & Medina, 2000; Jenkins in Downing, 1999). Girls like “transmedia” or objects that can transform or poses magical powers and depending on age, girls’ interests vary between education titles (older girls) and stories (younger girls) (Gorriz & Medina, 2000). In contrast with Salen’s (2007) results, Gorriz and Medina (2000) suggest that girls prefer to collaborate when playing or creating video games, rather than doing so individually. Group game creation may influence content, characters and game design. Peppler & Kafai (2007) and Peppler’s (2008) analyses of student game designs created at a computer clubhouse suggested that students working in groups (including mixed gender groups) created hybrid games and mixed genre games. Group game development is important because it reflects a more democratic learning environment style as it encourages students to take more active roles because they can incorporate their own ideas and learn from each other.
Mentors play an important role throughout the different stages of literacy development (Barron, 2006). As participants become more advanced with their digital literacy skills the role of mentors in informal settings becomes decreasingly important because students are able to acquire skills and knowledge through more formal resources (Barron, 2006; Pinkard, et al., 2008). However, mentors play a crucial role in engaging students with new media technologies during early stages of digital literacy development. More specifically, mentors play an important role in video game instruction by encouraging and instigating collaboration, reflection, and activities (Squire, 2003; Hawley, et al., 1997).
observed and documented the video game pod on a weekly to bi-weekly basis for three years. In-school video game classes were also observed in the spring of 2007 and 2008. The data included in this study does not include the pilot year (2005-2006). Between September 2006 and June 2008, 80 hours of observations took place in the video game pod and 13 hours of observations occurred in the in-school classes. We also conducted in-depth artifact-based interviews with 14 students asking them to share an artifact they had created and talk about the process of creating the artifact. In several instances students chose or were asked to talk about a video game or simulation they had created. Mentors leading the video game pod and video game classes were interviewed about their experiences working with game design students. Student created artifacts (completed and partially designed games) were collected by researchers and mentors and stored on a private network. Students and mentors posted additional student-created games on websites shared by students, mentors, and researchers (Zywica et al., in review).
All interviews and field notes from the video game pod and in-school game classes were coded according to emergent themes and identification of designed projects. We identified all instances of girls designing games, mentors working with girls to design games, and mentors providing instruction on how to design games. We aimed to understand DYN and mentors, in relation to the development of girls’ game design. Building on Kafai (1996), we coded games with respect to genre or theme and field notes, audio recordings and visual recordings from the video game pod and classes were analyzed to thematically examine the following: 1) types of video games designed by girls, 2) how DYN encourages and supports girls through the video game design process via discourse and instructional practices, 3) how interactions in the male dominant spaces have influenced girls’ video game designs, including how mentors encouraged and provided feedback to students to create specific types of games.
Many of the games analyzed in this research never moved past the conceptual level, but many others were partially designed or developed into finished products. Games that were mentioned in field notes, but did not include sufficient descriptions were omitted from the analysis.
\s Figure 1: Types of video games [excluding those from the in-school classes] designed by girls and boys between September 2006 and June 2008.
Most games created were adventure games (10) and animations (14).
Figure 2: Animation created by a female 6th grader in 2006-2007.
Girls’ games were primarily animations or adventure games and related to feminine content, such as jewels, beauty salons, cheerleaders, and relationships. One 6th grader expressed her interest in video games by saying “I love simulation. I love human games, you know, like you can move the people around and everything” (Personal interview with Maya, a 6th grade female, May 2007). This interest in “human games” coincides with previous research on gender and video games (Kafai, 1996; Kelleher, Pausch, & Kiesler, 2007).
Figure 3: “Dreadlock Samuri” fighter game created by a male 6th grader in 2008.
Boys primarily created animations (10) and adventure games (6), but more often their games involved male content and objects, like cars, sports, or Japanese animation characters. One male student describes his inspiration for creating a game called “Naruto’s Adventure”: “this project’s a very fun kid's game because it's [Naruto], which a lot of kids watch. Watch over--like, on Saturday. And I was just thinking about making my own game about this” (Personal interview with Colin, a male 6th grader, May 2007). No females created fighter games or sport related games, other than a collaboratively created football game. No boys created board games.
Figure 4 shows a breakdown of the types of video games created by students in the 2007 course. The video games fit a range of genres not distinguishable between gender. According to Peppler & Kafai (2007) and Peppler (2008) this may be due to the fact that students collaborated on the games and thus created hybrid games and mixed genre games. Unlike many of the games created in the pod, all games created in the video game course were created by groups of students and not individuals.
Mentors may have played an essential role in the number and types of games being created in the Digital Youth Network. Between September 2006 and June 2008, there were at least ten instances of mentors purposefully supporting or working with girls to create video games. The way in which mentors supported female students with their game designs and guided them through the design process varied across the two years of data collection. Changes in the structure of the video game pod may have resulted in some of these variances. Prior to April 2007 the video game pod was led by one male mentor and the pod was primarily focused on the technical aspects of game design, such as programming. During April of 2007 a second male mentor began assisting in the pod and a female mentor was present on several occasions. Beginning in September 2007 the female mentor taught the pod and course with assistance from a male mentor. At this time the structure of the pod shifted from being technically focused to being one more focused on the language and process of game design and understanding the different components of video games. It would be wrong to assume that the mentors were the only factor influencing students’ game designs and interest in becoming game designers. There were also many instances of mentors encouraging students to be game designers and on at least six occasions mentors praised or encouraged girls specifically to become game designers. Through analysis it became clear that most of these efforts to encourage females to become game designers occurred in the 2007-2008 year.
Most interactions between female students and mentors were based on the technical aspects of game design.
In contrast, the 2007-2008 female mentor and male co-mentor spent more time talking about personal interests and the language of being a game designer, and less time talking about programming or technical aspects of game design.
Not only are girls interested in creating games, but the literature and results from this study suggest that girls also exhibit different interests regarding game content (Kafai, 1996; 2008). Researchers interested in gaming and gender need to understand more about how programmatic design of digital arts programs, in general, and mentors in such program, more specifically may increase the interest of girls in computing and other IT careers. We need to know more about how in and out of school programs can influence the gender gap in computer use, through providing access to technology for girls and actively encouraging their interests in computer science. Finally, when incorporating technology and video games in schools, understanding the characteristics of games that will engage girls, as well as boys, will be necessary in the coming years. Cassell and Jenkins (Downing, 1999) believe that video games can give kids a “head start on computer literacy”, which suggests that curriculum design around video games is an essential part of the 21st century school. Increasing girls’ involvement in video game design may be one way to get girls more interested in technology in general (Kafai, 2008). It is also essential for the differences in girls’ and boys’ game designs to be kept in mind when incorporating technology and video games in schools. A tailored curriculum would focus on making connections between the curriculum and the learner’s interests and styles. The adoption of such curricula would allow learners and more importantly, girls, a free space to explore new technologies and develop production skills. With recent interest in merging video games in schools as part of a content curriculum (CITE) understanding the characteristics of games that will engage girls, as well as boys, will be necessary in the coming years.
GIRLS CAN BE VIDEO GAME
DESIGNERS TOO!: GENDER
DIFFERENCES IN GAME CREATION
AND ADULT INFLUENCE ON THE
University of Pittsburgh
Kim Gomez – University of Pittsburgh
Brigid Barron – Stanford
Nichole Pinkard – University of Chicago/
Paula Hooper – SF Exploratorium
Kim Richards – University of Illinois at Chicago
Kimberly Austin – University of Chicago
Caitlin Martin – Stanford
The Digital Youth Network
Video games & learning
Gender differences in game design
Importance of mentors
Results & Discussion
Q & A/ Feedback
The Digital Youth Network
6th-8th grade charter school
Pilot year + 3 years of data collection
Afterschool pods (video game design, radio,
digital queendom, digital music, robotics)
Media Arts classes (digital storytelling, iRemix,
video game design)
Video Games in DYN
Pod ~ 7 females, 20 males
Classes – video games & science
Storyboarding, sketching, designing
Programming, math, computational thinking
Meet and interview game designers
Video Games & Learning
Video games are “powerful tools for learning” and
a means to develop digital literacies (Squire,
2003: 6; Giorgi & Myers, 2007; Papert & Resnick,
1995; Salen, 2007)
Situated understanding, development of “social
practices, powerful identities, shared values, and
ways of thinking of important communities of
practice” (Shaffer, et al., 2005)
Participation, reflection, collaboration, and
continuous feedback (Giorgi & Myers, 2007)
“seen as one way to address the lack of women’s
involvement with technology” (Kafai, 2008: pp. 1)
Gender Differences in Design
Adventure hunts & exploration
Characters with fantasy names (Zork or Sparzi)
Actions and weapons
Adventure, skill, puzzles, problem solving, sport, teaching/education,
Fewer characters (1-2)
More personal characters (“you”)
Relationships and emotions
Kafai, 1996, 2008; Gorriz & Medina, 2000; Peppler & Kafai, 2007; Peppler,
Role of Mentors
“The lack of strong female role models is believed by
some experts to be yet another reason for the gender
gap in technology use between males and females.”
“the lack of female role models and female peers
willing to engage in technical courses dramatically
limits the number of girls willing to pursue activities
that require technological abilities” (Pinkard, et al.,
2008; pp. 3).
mentors play an important role in video game
instruction by encouraging and instigating
collaboration, reflection, and activities
Pinkard, et al, 2009; An Educator’s Guide to Gender
Bias Issues; Squire, 2003; Hawley et al., 1997
What types of video games do girls
How do video games designed by girls
differ from those designed by boys?
How does the DYN program support
and encourage girls to become game
3 years (~80 hours) in afterschool pod
Classes observed in the spring of 2007 and in
2008 (~13 hours)
Pilot year not included in this analysis
Artifact-based interviews (14)
Mentor interviews (~20)
Social network site archives
Coded games by genre
Coded observation data thematically:
types of video games designed by girls
how DYN encourages and supports girls
through the video game design process via
discourse and instructional practices
53 games created
40 afterschool or outside of school
13 in classes (2007)
Example 1 – 6th grade female
I love simulation. I love human games, you know, like you can
move the people around and everything”
Mentor Influences on Game
Supporting females in game design & creation
Developing interests and making connections
Encouraging girls to be game designers
Praising girls’ designs
Rachael is trying to have a car hit the woman. Sam tells
Rachael that the costume should change when the
car reaches a certain point. He says she could also
have it so when one sprite touches the other sprite the
costume changes. [He is referring to when the car
touches the woman the woman's other sprite should
appear. The woman goes from standing to a falling
Sam helps Rachael so the car is moving into the woman
character. He showed Rachael how to reset the car
to the beginning, so it starts in the same position each
time. He also shows her how it should change
costumes when the woman and car touch. John helps
Rachael. He says, "Set costume"... and "go to arrow".
(5/16/08 Video Game pod)
Developing interests & making
Megan: what’s fun to you?
Kelsey: doing hair
Megan …ms pacman at the beauty store.
Dan says that most games have a person, place or thing and a goal or
Dan: you’re the girl with the hair
Dan suggests having a really expensive brush or something similar and the
character has to collect gold brushes or mirrors.
Megan: you gotta get to the checkout.
Dan suggests having two characters. One with a fro and they have to get all
of the brushes.
Dan: when you win it changes characters [the hair goes from an afro to a
different hair do].
Kelsey mentions having the character lose their hair. Dan says to exaggerate
whatever she chooses.
When I arrive Megan is walking into the science room
with Amy and Jen. Megan stops and makes a
comment to the girls about how they need to
represent the girls and show the boys that girls can
make video games too. (9/20/07 Video Game pod).
Megan comments on how there are 3 girls and only
one boy [from 7th grade]. She says the games don't
have to be shooting and it can be something the
students like. (11/15/07 Video Game pod)
Megan: the only way you're going to get games that
girls want to play is what? A student says the need to
be created by girls./ Megan says if the games are
good enough they can sell them. (4/9/08 Video Game
Video games are becoming more recognized
and accepted as tools for learning and
Girls create video games that look different
than those of boys, but require equal levels of
How does the DYN program support and
encourage girls to become game designers?
Mentors play a role in getting girls interested in
Praise and encouragement without stereotyping
Next Steps& Further Research
What implications does this work have for
encouraging teachers and afterschool
instructors to use game design to teach
What literacies are students developing by
designing video games? What content
knowledge are they learning? How does an
instructor balance teaching content and digital