Another response to #gamergate: these retro games are all about the girls
If there’s anything good that came out of #GamerGate, the awful online battle that amounted to a public harassment campaign of female video game developers, critics and players, it’s this: An increased awareness, outside the gaming community, of the gender imbalance and misogyny in video games, and a renewed focus on creating and promoting works that include women.
Take for example, the feminist video games of Theresa Duncan. Duncan, who committed suicide seven years ago at age 40, left a legacy of games that worked around the norms, using unprecedented storytelling that focused on female characters and their daily lives. The games, which were available on CD-ROM’s when they first came out, have been inaccessible to a new generation of gamers. Nonprofit company Rhizome is seeking to right that absence and is now running a Kickstarter campaign to make Duncan’s mid-90s games like Smarty, Zero Zero, and Chop Suey (which features voiceover work from David Sedaris) available online.
“Gamergate has led to a retelling of the history of women in video games,” Rhizome editor Michael Connor told Fast Company. “But Duncan’s work has been left out of many of the conversations, in part because her games just haven’t been accessible.”
Duncan’s games were worlds apart from the pink games designed “for girls” and instead, as the critic Jenn Frank said, they represented “the wild imagination of some girl aged 7 to 12.”
“Duncan’s games were not about celebrities or superheroes, but about the richness of a child’s imagination,” he said. “These games encouraged their users — particularly the young girls who would have identified with her protagonists — to be disruptive, adventurous, and smart.”
It’s about time that work like Duncan’s made it into the public sphere and the Kickstarter has 13 more days to meet their goal. Duncan’s legacy is a crucial one in the gaming space and a new generation of players should both know her story and play her games. Girls game too, and Duncan showed us exactly how creative and exciting those inclusive games can be.