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Wednesday, December 19

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Interview Tue Aug 10 2010

Q&A with Mindy Faber of the 3G Summit: The Future of Girls, Gaming & Gender

If hearing the Super Mario theme still gives you goosebumps; if Sonic the Hedgehog was your truest best friend (and ok: if you care about serious gender issues and the future of technology), check out the 3G Summit at Columbia College this week. It's a four-day intensive conference that will bring together women in game design, scholars in the field and girls from the next generation of gamers.

Organizer Mindy Faber says the summit will act as laboratory, idea incubator, mentoring session and academic forum -- it includes a panel and expo open to the public, plus workshops where 50 girls chosen from around the city will develop and share their own new game ideas. Faber spoke to me about the importance of the summit and the future of girls, games and gender.

Why did Columbia College decide to host this summit?

When I came to this department, it was kind of shocking to learn that only one out of the 26 students was female. And the next year it was two out of 27.... I started asking, 'How can we get more women into this department?' ... There's a huge interest on the part of Columbia College to diversify the game industry and game field, but at the same time we saw that the problem was way beyond what we could do on the recruitment level. It was systemic and pervasive across all game design programs.

How will the 3G Summit contribute to change in the field of gaming?

We decided to think about it on multiple levels.. This conference is a way to catalyze a discussion and begin to change the discussion of what we think about games, girls and gender. I didn't want this to be a conference where we're not engaging the community, but I didn't want isolated workshops for girls, either.

We decided to set this up as a space where we can learn from the girls as adults, and show that we're willing to listen, and also allow them to engage with some mentors, that they could be completely empowered that they could meet some mentors in the field. We're hoping to do this each year with the same group of girls and track over time how the experience has changed them and impacted their career and college choices. So we're kind of staging a gender intervention, to see what impact that makes.

Why is it important to involve girls in gaming, starting at a young age?

Research is finding that when boys play games and become proficient, and become experts, it actually serves as a gateway drug towards more intense and higher levels of involvement in technology itself. They may start playing games and may end up deciding to become engineers, software programmers, computer scientists. Games do perform that function and yet girls don't tend to enter into that realm, that realm of expert game player has really become masculinized.

We're also picking up the newspaper and reading academic journals pointing out that games are becoming ubiquitous -- and not only as entertainment and consumption for the leisure market but as a platform for art, education; this is a vehicle that is delivering information and news to people. So what does it mean if only five percent of the programmers, of people influencing society in this way, are women?

Whether [girls] choose to step aside or they're pushed aside is open to debate.... we want to expose some of the things that are going on. For instance when girls go online and play in XBox Live situations, sometimes there's harassment; girls are singled out and harassed or they're not allowed to join in at all once their gender is discovered. And in educational contexts, in very small and unconscious ways, teachers and parents, send the message to girls that game play isn't as acceptable as it is for boys.

The summit is trying to bring some of these issues out and talk about how we envision our future -- let's put it on the table.

--
The 3G Summit takes place August 12-15 at Columbia College, starting with an open forum on Thursday the 12 (details in Slowdown). For more information on how to participate and attend, visit:
http://www.3gcolumbia.net
http://www.colum.edu/3gsummit

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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