Abstract Details

Re-Staging Design: Queering Informal Game Making Education

Previous research on gamejams have presented them as a useful informal learning space for creativity, innovation and inclusion (Ryan et al. 2015; Kultima, A. 2015). Others have argued that all-female gamejams and incubators are effective interventions for improving diversity in the games industry and games culture (Kennedy, H. 2018; Harvey and Fischer, 2015). However, while these gamejams are often ostensibly open to all, the actual possibilities for participations are often dictated by the dynamics and affordances of the spaces in which gamejams take place. What forms of diversity are encouraged by these gamejams, and what are not? How can these events be leveraged to challenge the dominant global industry ‘pipeline’ and ‘skills’ discourses and encourage more diverse participation? This paper seeks to address these questions by presenting the findings of a three-year research project involving mixed-gender informal game making events, exploring the possibilities of refiguring gamejams as sites of queer expression and resistance in the broader sense advocated by Ruberg and Phillips (2018).

This project firstly surveyed and observed three gamejams in three different cities in Ireland, which were ‘open to everyone’. We found that these events predominantly attracted young male programmers and identified several implicit and explicit barriers to participation. The project then organised six ‘beginner friendly and female friendly’ game development workshops in two different locations in Ireland, designed to address some of the barriers we had identified. These events were observed by researchers, and both entry and exit surveys were conducted.

While our workshops were largely successful in attracting a diverse range of participants, the pre-scripted codes of our locations and tools presented a range of unanticipated challenges. As the attendees diversified, we identified a number of virtual and physical barriers that were influencing our attempts to create an inclusive pedagogy and alternative forms of knowledge. In this paper we explore how what Kitchin and Dodge (2011) define as coded spaces and code/spaces influence creativity, pedagogy, and inclusion, leveraging the specific lens applied by Cockayne and Richardson (2017) in examining code/spaces from the perspective of queer theory. Additionally, we explore the inter-relationship between physical spaces and software, and the influence of pre-scripted social and cultural codes on gendered behaviour and collaboration, particularly their interaction with the cultural tendency to encourage men to master computing technologies while steering women away from them (Wajcman 2004). Further, we reflect on the influence of the pedagogical approach adopted on the educational outcomes (Pelletier and Johnstone, 2018), and how they complicated the ‘beginner friendly and female friendly’ ethos of the workshops. Many diversity events focus on attracting a diverse or targeted group of people, but our findings would suggest that inclusive educational events need to attend to a highly contextual range of spatial, technical and social factors to be successful. Our findings have implications for both formal and informal educational uses of gamejams, as well as wider forms of public engagement in science and technology which often rely on volunteer tutors and organisers as well as both coded and code/spaces.


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