Shira Chess authors “Play Like A Feminist” to spotlight more voices in video game community

Shira Chess, associate professor of entertainment and media studies, has studied video games for two decades and has observed many changes in the gaming industry. She knows how powerful the medium is and where it can grow to better serve society. In her new book, “Play Like A Feminist,” Chess encourages an expansive conversation about video games that includes new people and fresh perspective.

“I want to see more people engaged in the video game industry because the more voices we get, the better this medium will continue to develop,” Chess said.

While surveys and questioning methods can vary, Chess says about half of video game consumers identify as female. She says feminism and video games need each other because human equality must include leisure among its weighty societal issues.

“It is time for a feminism that embraces play, “Chess said. “Video games have so much potential to rewrite leisure practices for those who don’t get enough playtime and to explore issues like agency and identity.”

Learn more about “Play Like A Feminist” at playlikeafeminist.com

Chess says more voices in the video game industry only helps the development of game quality because new viewpoints can be expressed.

“Video games are still emerging as a popular culture medium,” Chess said. “The more people that play, the less video games get stuck in the same patterns and ruts.”

The origins of “Play Like A Feminist” were rooted in conversations Chess had following the publishing of her 2017 book: “Ready Player Two: Gamers and Designed Identity.” Readers played games recommended in that book and reported back with pleasant surprise that video games could be works of art and literary experiences.

Chess realized that the discussions in academic circles surrounding video games were not reaching a wider public. She has found community through video games and knows the benefit of that shared experience, especially in a year where many shared experiences have been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chess’ book specifically proposes the idea of “gaming circles” – small groups of game players that can meet up regularly, like a book club. She argues that these communities are a way to foster novice gamers with recommendations, feedback and banter on communal experiences.

“Adding more play and games into our lives – even when it’s difficult to do with the difficulties of 2020 and beyond – can help us all think differently and see the world in new ways.”

To learn more about the book, see a list of Chess’ recommended games and more tips on building community through video games, visit her website at: www.playlikeafeminist.com

EMST faculty give recommendations for shows, movies, games

Grady College encourages all students, faculty and staff to remain informed with the University of Georgia’s information and resources regarding coronavirus at: uga.edu/coronavirus.

In following the advice of national health officials to stay home, many people are searching for movies, shows and games to consume. Grady College asked entertainment and media studies professors which content they recommend others see. Here are their recommendations.

APPS:  

 

Taylor Miller

The Peabody Awards iOS app
“It curates a list of the previous four years of winners, citations by jurors for why they won and links to where they can be watched.”

JustWatch
“It is a search tool into which you can type a show and season and see which all streaming services carry it/or where it can be purchased.”

 

TELEVISION SHOWS:

 

Matthew Evans

“Seinfeld”
Streaming platform: Hulu
“Normally, I’d wax poetic on classic movies. But given today’s headlines, I recommend “Seinfeld.” Although there are “Best Of” lists available, you can pretty much pick up anywhere. They’re all hilarious, and at 22-minutes a pop, it’s a nice break without making a huge commitment. Sure, it feels like “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-lite, but that’s okay: we all know that Larry David was the real genius behind NBC’s hit. It’s the best way to distract yourself from living in a real-world version of “Contagion,” which I’d also recommend, by the way.”

Jay Hamilton

“Better Call Saul”
“New season of the best character study on TV since Mad Men. No need to watch its related show “Breaking Bad” to be immediately immersed and marvel at the writing and acting. Start with Season 1 if needed.”

Garland McLaurin

“Mad Men”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“It’s a good series that follows interesting characters over a period of time.”

“Pose”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“A great show that follows the 80’s ballroom culture.”

“Who Killed Malcolm X
Streaming platform: Netflix
“Great doc series about the facts surrounding the murder of Malcolm X”

Taylor Miller

“Chernobyl”
Streaming platform: HBO
“This Mini-Series asks a simple question: what is the cost of lies? With its incredible storytelling, an event from history is scripted into a powerful parable that could not be more prescient for this moment. I simply don’t know of a better mini-series. Make sure to listen to the accompanying podcast after each episode to learn why certain production choices were made, hosted by “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” host Peter Sagal.”

“Schitts Creek”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“While the first two seasons may seem a little slow, they set the important groundwork for a very funny show with way more heart than you’d imagine. If laughter through tears is your favorite emotion, you’ll love a refreshing swim up Schitts Creek.”

“The Golden Girls”
Streaming platform: Hulu
“With 180 episodes, there’s enough charm, humor, and good ol’-fashioned nostalgia to last you quite awhile! And the studio audience laughter will make you feel less alone.”

 

MOVIES:

 

Kate Fortmueller

Anyone who wants to watch great movies should at the very least sign up for the 14-day free trial for The Criterion Channel. This month they have a series called “Film Plays Itself,” which has movies like “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Player,” and “The Bad and the Beautiful.”

“The Player”
Streaming platform: Criterion Channel
“Satire of Hollywood filmmaking staring Tim Robbins. As with all Robert Altman films it has a stellar ensemble cast, overlapping dialogue, and a mix of genres (in this case black comedy/film noir). I like this film’s biting critique of Hollywood filmmaking and culture.”

“$”
Streaming platform: Criterion Channel
“Bank heist set in Germany starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn with a score by Quincy Jones. This is a stylish movie that combines Goldie Hawn’s quirky style of humor with a genuinely suspenseful bank heist.”

Jay Hamilton

“Lady Bird”
“Greta Gerwig’s breakout feature is infinitely better than “Little Women.” Lead Saoirse Ronan and the script captures the sassy turmoil between a single mom and her on-the-cusp young adult daughter. A paean to following your own path to find yourself.”

“I, Daniel Blake”
“Palme d’Or winner at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival by long-time gritty realist Ken Loach. The northern English accent may be tricky for American ears, but turn in the subtitles if you need to. A heartfelt, unyielding portrayal of the precarious times in which we live, plus the need for a deep human response to confront it.”

Garland McLaurin

“Purple Rain”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“You can’t go wrong with Prince.”

“Sorry to Bother You
Streaming platform: Hulu
“A great film from Boots Riley”

VIDEO GAMES:

 

Shira Chess

FREE MOBILE GAMES
“Dash Adventures”: “For those who have not previously played a game in the Dash franchise, you are in for a fast-paced treat. In “Dash Adventures,” you work through zany adventures as a waitress and entrepreneur, saving a town from a variety of disasters. Kicking in a little bit of money from time to time gives you more abilities to complete levels and areas. The level styles are varied and the challenges are fun and just a bit weird.”
“Hungry Babies Mania”
“Polar Pop Mania”

INEXPENSIVE MOBILE GAMES (under $5)
“Donut County”: “You play as a hole in the ground. Seriously. An army of racoon bros are destroying an area oddly similar to Los Angeles and the player guides a hole in the ground as it sucks up items, becoming larger with the more things that fall into it. In our chaotic times, there is something oddly cathartic about swallowing up everyone and everything into a hole in the ground.”
“Monument Valley (1 & 2)”
“Gorogoa”

MID-PRICE MOBILE GAMES ($5-$15)
“Stardew Valley” “For more involving play I cannot possibly recommend a game more than Stardew Valley. Stardew is what is referred to as “slow gaming” – you are farming, mining, fishing, and performing other tasks that seem relatively normal, on the surface. But the game is infused with some odd moments of magical realism (it’s like FarmVille but really weird). Also, you can have involved relationships with non-player characters. If you are looking for an absorbing experience to take you out of your doldrums or anxiety, I can’t recommend a better experience than Stardew Valley.”
“Ticket to Ride”
“Oxenfree”
“Broken Age”

“For those with iOS, getting a one month subscription to Apple Arcade gives free play for a long list of games that are included. Ticket to Ride (mentioned above) is a great asynchronous board game with a digital version. You can play with up to 4 friends over the course of hours/day/weeks.”

 

From the Peabody Awards:

 

Documentaries

“Independent Lens: Dolores”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: PBS
“Peter Bratt’s exhilarating portrait of activist and community organizer Dolores Huerta serves as a timely reminder of the power of collective action in service of social justice.”

“Blue Planet II”   [Peabody Nominee] Network/Platform: BBC AMERICA
“A view of our oceans using the latest diving and submarine technologies reveals we have more in common with, and are more connected than we ever imagined, to our deeply threatened seascapes.”

“The Jazz Ambassadors”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: PBS
“A story about the people, especially African Americans, who created jazz and the pivotal role their contributions played in cold-war diplomacy, American race relations, emerging black identities, and newly independent third world nations around the world.”

Entertainment

“The Americans”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: FX Networks, Hulu
“A rare show that has won two Peabody Awards, including one last year for its final season.  It tells the complex story of two Soviet spies deeply undercover as middle-class American parents dealing with patriotism, family, relationships, and duty.”

“Hannah Gadsby: Nanette”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: Netflix
“A blistering treatise that finds the tragedy in comedy, in which Hannah Gadsby commands, breaks apart, and reconstructs the standup comedy special format all while delivering a powerful message.”

“My Brilliant Friend”   [Peabody Nominee] Network/Platform: HBO
“The adaptation of the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet novels follows two girls and their personal triumphs and tragedies against a setting that swirls with political, social, and cultural strife in post-war Naples, Italy.”

 

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.”

Shira Chess: Focus on Faculty

Shira Chess, assistant professor of entertainment and media studies, focuses her research on what a lot of people enjoy in their spare time: video games and digital culture. In her Focus on Faculty interview, Chess talks about her research, teaching and her new book on the subject called “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.”

“I love to teach courses that mix theory and practice, particularly when those practices are creative,” Chess said in her profile. “For example, one of my favorite classes is “The Elements of Narrative,” where students learn narrative theory, but then get to play by constructing what I like to think of as storytelling experiments during class.”

Her course work with Turner Entertainment Networks is one of the highlights of her teaching at Grady College. “I have collaborated with Turner Entertainment Networks to create an annual class where students get to pitch projects and concepts to the TV network based on emerging innovations. It is so satisfying seeing students work on a single project over the course of the semester, and then get to show it off to TV executives.”

Tapping into student creativity is the main objective for Chess. “My goal for them is that they will learn to brainstorm and prototype ideas rapidly, and push the edges of their own creative abilities. I want them to go out into the world with the ability to tell amazing stories in complicated ways.”

To read the entire Focus on the Faculty profile about Shira Chess, please visit the University of Georgia website.

Growing demand leads Grady College to offer additional online courses for summer semester

Grady College will offer 11 online courses for the 2017 summer semester to keep up with the continued demand from students for such classes.

“Again this year, we increased the number of online course offerings,” said Alison Alexander, senior associate dean for academic affairs for Grady College. “Students can find college-wide and major-specific courses to take during the summer term when they are off campus.”

Many of the courses offered are in high demand during the spring and fall semesters. Online summer courses give students the opportunity to take classes that normally fill up quickly.

Most of the courses will comprise very brief video or slide presentations presenting an introduction to the lesson, then will guide students through readings, web-based tutorials and projects to perform and evaluate on student’s own time.

Projects are the highlight of many of the offerings and the online medium provides a good way to share projects and encourage feedback among students. It is also a better medium for sharing long-form media like television shows in the case of the media and television study classes.

Sabrena Deal, a graphics lecturer who taught the course online last summer, will be leading the online graphics course again this year.

“The ADPR 3520E course will give students the opportunity to earn certifications in the most recent versions of the Adobe Creative Software through the Lynda.com platform,” said Deal. “These certifications translate directly to resumes, portfolios and LinkedIn.”

“We know that the industry is looking for students with these skills and are glad to offer the course to more students through the online offering,” Deal continued.

The courses that will be offered include:

Brand Communication Marketing (ADPR 5990E) —taught by Mark McMullen, this seminar is designed to synthesize and integrate many of the theoretical and practical approaches to the study and application of advertising, public relations, and related communication fields. Emphasis is on critical thinking, analytical processes and acquisition of specialized knowledge pertaining to the seminar topic.

Data Gathering and Visualization (JOUR 5380E) — taught by Bartosz Wojdynski, this course will familiarize students with the conceptual, procedural and technical aspects of telling newsworthy stories through visual depictions of information. Students will practice gathering and processing data, executing basic statistical procedures and creating original explanatory and informational graphics for news.

International Mass Communication (JRLC 5080E) — taught by Andy Kavoori, this course will focus on the mass media of the world — what they are like, how they operate and what impact they have. Philosophies of different systems will be compared, as well as efforts at development or regulation of these systems. Attention will be given to print and electronic media and to international news agencies.

Introduction to New Media (NMIX 2020E) — taught by John Weatherford, this course will explore the economic, technical, social and cultural aspects of media technologies. The course will take a historical perspective, covering three sections: Old New Media, Now New Media and Next New Media. Students will develop a solid working knowledge of the field and know where and how to further their own knowledge outside of the classroom.

Graphic Communications* (ADPR 3520E, this class is currently full) — taught by Sabrena Deal, this course will teach students the skills to design messages for particular audiences and to prepare designs correctly for print, digital and social environments. Students learn to analyze and to use the principles of design, typography, layout, color theory, art and illustration, and copyright law. Adobe Creative software is used to produce a variety of projects for student portfolios.

Multiplatform Story Production (JOUR 4090E) — taught by Ivanka Pjesivac, students enrolled in this course will develop enterprise news stories across platforms. Each student will produce a long-form web story with links and references, a video story (television news package), a photo essay, a radio story, a “back story” (explaining issues with the reporting) and a webcast explaining some aspect of the story in depth.

New Media Productions (NMIX 4110E) — taught by Chris Gerlach, this course will provide a solid foundation of technical skills that students can build upon for the rest of their careers. Students learn how to design and develop web products that function effectively with multiple platforms (desktop computers, cellphones, tablets, etc.) and are introduced to coding with PHP, MYSQL and Jquery.

Public Relations Research (ADPR 3510E) — taught by Michael Cacciatore, this course focuses on design, strategy and implementation of public relations research techniques. Study of research theory, methods and practices within the context of public relations case studies and client work.

Race, Gender, and the Media (JRLC 5400E) — taught by Maria Len-Ríos, this course teaches students about the relationship between men, women, and racial and ethnic minorities in the United States and the media. Course work includes discussions of representations in mass media (television, print media, advertising and film); impact of representations on audiences; inequities in media professions and institutions; and alternative, feminist and minority media.

The Peabody Archive: TV History and Genre (EMST 5990E) — taught by Shira Chess, this seminar is designed to synthesize and integrate many of the theoretical and practical approaches of the study of mass communication, giving opportunity through a variable topics seminar to analyze processes and effects of mass communication and to acquire specialized knowledge of specific mass media modes of presentation and production.

Topics in Sports Media (JRLC 5880E) — taught by Vicki Michaelis, this course will focus on an issue or trend that has become a social concern or transformational force in sports and sports media. Current examples include college sports realignment and related broadcast rights agreements, social media, the impact of sports concussions and sports analytics.

More information about UGA’s online courses can be found on the UGA Summer School website. Registration for summer 2017 is currently open.