4. Shaw finds two problematic approaches to rectify the misrepresentation of women in games: The “add women and stir” approach (increasing the diversity of game-makers), and placing the burden of change on representatives from the marginalized group(s). Choose one of these two approaches to write about in your blog. What’s the approach and what are issues related to the approach? Then think beyond the problematic approaches: How can we “create critiques of representation that are politically engaged enough to resist market logics and nimble enough to encompass interactive, personalized, customized media texts?”
In her book Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture, Adrienne Shaw discusses the problems inherent in two common attempts to rectify the misrepresentation of women and other marginalized groups in video games. The first attempt, which "focus[es] exclusively on courting female players and designer via female-friendly game content" (Shaw 2), operates under the assumption that more people from marginalized groups working within the video game industry or playing games is all that is necessary to broaden representation game texts. This approach is problematic in that it "privileges marketable audiences in its demands for representation" (Shaw 2), meaning that it frames positive representation as something the industry must only concern itself with if positive representation will be profitable. In other words, this approach insinuates that the video game industry should only include positive representations of women as a method of profiting off of female gamers. This mindset is encapsulated within the mission statement of Gamers in Real Life, Sony Online Entertainment's scholarship for female game designers, which reads: "G.I.R.L helps raise awareness of the serious female gaming audience to the media in an effort to encourage the gaming industry to positively promote women throughout all facets of games, game production and into game management; which will hopefully impact the way females are depicted in video games and create and influence content to be appealing to women." This statement implies that a "serious female gaming audience" is what will result in the positive representation of women because of the potential profit in creating "content to be appealing to women." Clearly this is not the case, as video games still pander to male fantasies by representing women in cliché, stereotypical ways despite the fact that more women than teenage boys are gamers.
This "add women and stir" approach is also problematic in that it "assumes that there are no structural limitations within the industry that preclude this representation, that men in the industry are simply incapable of creating texts that are not representations of themselves or their fantasies, and that all women are feminists" (Bunch, qtd. in Shaw 2). Women simply existing within the industry is in no way a real method of deconstructing negative representations of women, especially when one considers the "structural limitations within the industry that preclude this representation," such as the glass ceiling or workplaces that may be hostile towards female employees. Zoë Quinn is a perfect example of the failure of the "add women and stir" method. Quinn, a female video game developer, was falsely accused of sleeping with a journalist in order to receive positive coverage of her game, an accusation that sparked the Gamergate controversy and resulted in Quinn and other women in the video game industry being harassed by doxxing, rape threats, and death threats. Women in the industry cannot single-handedly dismantle patriarchy and misogyny as they relate to video games, and suggesting otherwise is a very simplistic way of viewing the issue. In this way, Shaw's first approach and the second approach, placing the burden of change on representatives from marginalized groups, are essentially the same, as the implication of "add women and stir" is that the onus of change is on these "added women" as representatives of their marginalized group.
These problematic approaches to rectifying misrepresentation exist because we have yet to discover a foolproof way to “create critiques of representation that are politically engaged enough to resist market logics and nimble enough to encompass interactive, personalized, customized media texts" (Shaw 4). There is no clear path towards progressive change in video games, but the first step towards Shaw's ideal representation is to reject the notion that marginalized groups are responsible for change by diversifying representation for purposes of social justice rather than for profit, and by moving beyond the assumption that "men in the industry are simply incapable of creating texts that are not representations of themselves or their fantasies." Real change can only occur when we acknowledge that we all have a role to play in creating it.