Keynote: Reversing the order of play

October 22, 2010

Yesterday Suzanne de Castell did her keynote “Reversing the order of play: gender and games research as educational in<ter>vention”. It was in many ways an interesting speech.

First of all she suggested that we must develop research  more generally with contexts other than the immediate in mind.

De Castell argued that in everyday life we (generally speaking) take gender for granted. Also, she claimed, there exist a particular story about the need to get more women engaged in games. There exist a lot of gender-gap stories. They come in what de Castell called “same character with many different hats”. Historically speaking, there seems to exist a familiar gender status that does not go away: “It just changes houses from time to time”.

I must admit that at this point in Suzanne’s speech (which I enjoyed), I was thinking that there has been done research that illustrates that gender-gaps are neither general matters nor necessarily that clear cut. E.g. Catrine Hasse from our university has done some interesting studies into the cultured context of science studies and among other with a focus on gendered engagements in different countries. And as it turns out, girls in some countries are much more interested in science studies than has up until recently been the case in for example Denmark. Furthermore, we know that the so-called gender-gap with relation to ICT use in Denmark (and other countries) has become almost invisible in many ways, but at the same time, there is an increasing acknowledgement of still engagements in ICTs are both personal and gendered matters.

However, de Castell raised the (to me) very interesting and general challenge, that ‘we’ as researchers must always include ourselves as being part of the problem. De Castell had found out that it was not allways enough to simply try to understand things. She felt that her research should also try to engage with new solutions. Much research on gender, she said, begins with revictimizations of e.g. girls. She stated that when researchers have studied girls and women they tend to confuse facts about gender with facts about novice play, because girls and women do not get access to participation and engagement. On the grounds of this observation de Castell has been involved in several projects that have actively tried to intervene and study interventions into girls’ and boys’ engagements with games. 

One of the conclusions presented by de Castell was that “play as observation preferences are a moving target. They change with context and skill level”. This led her to suggest that ‘we’ need to design time into our studies. I fully agree on this! Time is a central and often overlooked matter in game based learning research.

Furthermore, de Castell mentioned, that it is exactly this lack of focus on time, that keeps us from acknowledging that also technological competence is a developing matter. Of course discourses about digital natives and the tech-savvy  that still in many ways overfloats this research area entirely obscures this matter of time.

Another important matter mentioned by de Castell was that also researchers and their engagements in games matter. She referred to a research assistant in one of their projects who had taught the children completely different things, because of her own engagements in games.

Without much elaboration, de Castell mentioned that her work was ANT inspired. One of her examples of how gendered roles can change with the shifts in game hardware such as controllers was particularly illustrative. She claimed that hardware change in controllers in recent years had brought about changes and complete turn-around opportunities to study boys as novelists. It was an interesting and illustrative (when seeing the pictures) example, however, I think that this is more a matter of research becoming aware of this. Of course changes in hard- and software bring about multiple shifts in engagements for children, adolescents, adults, elder etc. 

De Castell’s advices for future research (what I picked up):

– look more into the in<ter>ventions of research

– better situated practices

– innovative methodologies

– avoid telling the same stories

– provide space for surprises

– look at the networks involved

– longitudinal studies

– innovative theory

Keep in mind: Girls are not born …. they often learn things reluctantly or out of force.

Further reading: “A micro-analysis of gendered play” to be (?) published in the Journal of Canadian Game Studies Association

The Canadian Game Studies Association


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