Girls and Games

By Pauline van Mourik Broekman, 16 October 2008

GRIDS, GUYS AND GALS: Are you oppressed by the Cartesian co-ordinate system? Towards the end of the week's proceedings at Siggraph 95, a group of , 'guys and gals' gathered to discuss some perennial questions; does the Cartesian co-ordinate system, and the scientific method in general, determine a specific gender base for computer interfaces and the programming models that lie at their base? Is the way the body is included or excluded in these interfaces anything to do with the paradigm within which they were developed?

Brenda Laurel, who has no time to spare for "any of this post-modern shit" which we should "cut out", called for artistic interventions at the level of popular culture and a stop to the ravages of deconstruction. Laurel defended science. Science is not static, and it is from within science that we will learn about the neurological differences between women and men, their ways of mapping and enquiring into their environment.

Games, she said, their scrolling landscapes and vertically organised spaces, are typical of the paradigms visualised through computer interfaces. Straight up, framed off, gridded, they are fundamentally un-aligned with a, in her view "feminine", navigation, where space is explored in a more circular and body-centric way.

"Girls and Games" is a try-out. Are game players changing? It is clear that games manufacturers are missing out on a crucial segment of their potential audience and that no amount of projections, clever concept-sales etc. are going to crack the nut of the successful girls' game. But do these attempts obscure an existing group, are they hiding a myth that girls don't like the games that are out there at the moment?