A new book by Shira Chess challenges gamers and game developers to change their thinking about both women and games.
A new book by Shira Chess challenges gamers and game developers to change their thinking about both women and games.

Chess explores how video games are marketed to and portray women in new book

Note: Shira Chess will discuss her new book at Avid Bookshop on Prince Avenue, on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

While society focuses on men playing Call of Duty” and teens becoming anti-social playing hours of video games, there is a virtually ignored but growing market of women playing video games that provide great opportunity for marketers, according to Shira Chess.

Chess, an assistant professor of entertainment and media studies at Grady College, has studied video games and specifically their relationship to women, since writing her thesis on the subject ten years ago. She now has written a book on the subject, “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.”

“When we talk about video games and we resort to talking about video games and violence, or hard-core audiences, or even gamergate, we are only touching on a very small portion of a very large, emerging market that is going to be increasingly important as the century unfolds,” Chess said of her interest in the subject.

“Ready Player Two,” researches the way video games are marketed toward women, as well as the how what Chess refers to as “designed identity” defines women creating an idealized mode of how women are expected to play. The book also examines how gamers and game developers must change their thinking about both women and games to produce better games, better audiences and better industry practices.

“I started watching the organic growth of the industry wherein the games emerged as a market, but the players, themselves, were also a market,” Chess explained.

Chess’ book also explores how video games are designed differently for women than for men. For instance, many console games are made with an expectation of masculine players having large amounts of leisure time, as opposed to the design of mobile games, often for women with an expectation that they will be played in short snippets.  These design tactics reflect larger themes of gender and leisure within American culture.

Chess’ research focuses on mobile and computer games such as “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” “Candy Crush Saga,” “Mystery Case Files” and “Farmville.” These games, Chess argues, are primarily designed and marketed for an intended woman audience.

Additionally, this market, Chess argues, could be even further expanded. “I feel like a lot of video game companies are missing out on some opportunities right now because there are a lot of baby boomers with mobile devices, that with the right game, could get invested,” Chess asserts.

There is a distinct irony, however, to Chess’ research. While most people enjoy video games for play, Shira Chess plays video games for work. However, she does admit to getting lost in the “wonderful, terrible game” of “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” and says she has played “Hungry Babies Mania” for “years with zero shame.” More seriously, she feels like games like “Monument Valley” and “Broken Age” have the capacity to change the video game market in significant ways, moving away from past gendered expectations of play.

This is also a personal book for Chess since it explores her own tensions and relationships to playing video games. It is dedicated to her mom who she says has an expanded appetite for video games after being prodded for years by Chess about what would make her play more games.

Chess, who was profiled in the UGA Focus on the Faculty feature in September, teaches courses in media studies and media writing. She is also the co-author along with E. Newsom of “Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man: The Development of an Internet Mythology.”

Date: October 23, 2017
Author:  Sarah Freeman,  freemans@uga.edu
Contact:  Shira Chess,  schess@uga.edu