ARGs and Women: Moving Beyond The Hot Brunette

July 13, 2010

Over the past few months I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with Andrea Phillips, an independent game designer and interactive writer. She will be speaking this week at ARG Fest discussing the phenomenon of ‘hot brunettes who need your help’. The above video is an extended version of the talk she’ll be giving, which she presented at SXSWi 2010.

Alternate Reality Games, or ARG’s, are interactive narratives that often (though not always) use the internet (and multiple, fictional websites) as a central hub, yet use the real world as a platform. Players are invited into the game via a rabbit hole (a video, puzzle, website, etc) and their interaction with the game will affect the story – often happening in real time. (learn more here) As Andrea points out in her presentation, ARG’s have adopted a standard recipe: some fictional websites, some puzzles, and a hot brunette (who needs your help).

With a mix of humor, extensive research, and personal insight, Andrea presents a brilliant analysis of women in video games, online, and most importantly: in ARG’s. As both player and creator she is able to provide a  well rounded analysis of the role of women in all areas of gaming from development, to narrative, to play, efficiently deconstructing ill-conceived notions of women’s participation both online and in video games. While this sort of conversation traditionally takes place within the academic circle, Andrea effectively demonstrates the real, tangible dangers of pervasive sexism in video games without alienating her audience. Instead, she invites the gaming community (which she is sure to not demonize as inherently sexist or ‘bad’) to help guide ARG’s away from it’s current misogynistic principals and instead build a more inclusive and socially responsible gaming culture.

If you have an hour to spare, definitely check out this video.

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