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 attend NATPE 2018

Entertainment and Media Studies faculty Shira Chess and Taylor Cole Miller attended the annual National Association of Television Program Executives Miami Marketplace and Conference.

Attending the conference is more than 5,000 media executives and 1,100 content buyers. This year’s event took place Jan. 16-18.

Pictured with Chess and Miller is Lew Klein, described as a legend of the television industry. Klein is currently on the NATPE executive committee and is president of the NATPE Educational Foundation.

Chess and Miller attended as part of the NATPE Faculty Fellowship Program. It provides selected college and university media faculty with complete access to the sessions and activities of the annual NATPE Miami Marketplace & Conference, with the goals of exposing educators to current television issues and practices, and fostering improved communication and cooperation between educators and the industry.

Lew Klein is the former president of Gateway Communications, former executive producer of pioneering dance show American Bandstand, and one of the founders of NATPE more than 50 years ago. He also oversaw programming for The Triangle Group and was a director of Dick Clark Productions.

The industry veteran also has an active academic career, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and also the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

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.