Over the past week, the Women’s Studies Research Center in the Epstein Building held an exhibition called “Dames Making Games: Leaps and Maneuvers,” a gallery that was installed to promote and encourage women to play and critique video games. Inside the building was an open space with small blurbs explaining the purpose of DMG (“Dames Making Games”), a non-profit feminist organization dedicated to empowering women to create and play video games.
According to Susan Metrican, curator of DMG, it is a form of expression that “gives a voice to people who weren’t heard before.” The committee is also a very diverse group of people dedicated to including everyone regardless of gender, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, culture and religion.
The exhibition included two computers displayed on top of pedestals, projecting images of the different games that were available for viewers to play. The different games included “Techno Tarot,” “Medication Meditation,” “LongTimeComing,” “Oh My Dog” and “Brother Nature” on one of the computers. The other screen contained games like “The Getaway,” “Hibki’s DokiDoki Room Coming Day,” “Feeding the Ducks,” “Cyborg Goddess,” “Phone Home” and “Even Cowgirls Bleed.”
Each of the games contains important messages throughout. Even “Techno Tarot” and “Oh My Dog,” which seem like simple classic games, are included as comments on the fact that women are also present in the world of action/adventure computer games, which involve getting shot, losing lives and killing the villains.
“Medication Meditation,” “Long Time Coming” and “Phone Home” are games that contain more complexity in that they are interactive games, where the player has to choose between different options in trying to figure out how to best respond to situations.
“Brokenflox,” for example, contains four characters who are faced with complicated situations concerning their gender identity. The character that you are playing is responsible for helping the other people in the game to become more comfortable with themselves and for the player to learn more about issues concerning gender identity.
“Medication Meditation,” developed by artist Kara Stone, is another game concerning comfort and self-care. The game involves the player going to therapy sessions, and other activities like daily deep breathing exercises and other games that open up the players’ mind to answering their own questions, looking inside themselves and questioning more about the societal implications involved within in each of the games displayed in the gallery.
“Medication Meditation” makes people think about the societal stigma attached to therapy and how by playing this game, people get a more accurate glimpse of therapy as a more relaxing, helpful tool rather than an unpleasant place where mentally ill people are “locked up.”
The other games place emphasis on empowering women and people of marginalized gender identities, as well. The game “Even Cowgirls Bleed” is an especially feminism-inclined computer game that demonstrates that not all women have to be into dresses stereotypically female hobbies. The games starts off with an introductory blurb: “It’s a usual story. You’re a big-city girl with a closet full of fancy dresses, but not a whole lot of sense, and lately all you’ve wanted to do is trade in your lonely winters for some real adventure. So really, you did the only sensible thing a girl can do: You picked up your petticoats, you got yourself a gun and headed out west to San Francisco.”
The pixelated adventure consists of a girl who goes out and shoots the bad guys, an inspiring story, considering the fact that almost all video games with guns and violence contain men as the protagonists holding the gun and shooting; the hero is typically an image of the “masculine ideal.”
The only problem with the games displayed in the gallery was the fact that the games sometimes did not work and contained a couple of glitches. While players were in the middle of the game, sometimes the scene would freeze and they would have to start the game all over again from the beginning. Because the games are indie and relatively recently-made, the videos still need to fixed, but are headed in the right direction so far.