The Games Institute acknowledges that we are living and working on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron (also known as Neutral), Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.
Dr. Cayley MacArthur (Stratford) delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Jeux & Accessibilité / Game Accessibility conference took place on August 17 – 18, 2023 in Montreal, Québec. Her address - “Can Making Games Inclusively Help to Make More Inclusive Games?” – responded to the conference themes of video game accessibility.MacArthur examined how bias is encoded in technologies from the moment they are designed and how these technologies cannot be used for equity because of that bias. Drawing from her experience running game jams during her graduate studies, MacArthur noticed how certain groups of people feel excluded from game jams—and statistically, 70% of women who were there on the first day would leave before the event concluded.
These results had MacArthur asking, “If we can’t retain people for a 48-hour jam, then how are we going to possibly retain them through an undergraduate degree, through a graduate degree into careers?”
To address these problems, MacArthur brought her research to the people. This way they could be a part of the research and design process to make games (and things like game jams) more accessible to those already being excluded. She reframed the conversation around game design and game development as neither an art nor a science but rather a craft. “What could painting teach us about hacking?” she asked, and this line of questioning brought her to look into crafting groups to understanding how they retrain membership and how that could be applied to game jams.
MacArthur sat with quilting groups, which are largely dominated by women, especially older women, and began identifying these groups as makerspaces—informal spaces that grant participants a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to other people. And when applying this framework to game jams, she found that people were so focused on competence that the other two factors were forgotten. This also impacted the community building aspect of game jams, where participants often felt their autonomy was jeopardized, as many felt they had to rely on others for guidance to make what they saw was a “good game”.
MacArthur ended the address by concluding that game jam participants should normalize an atmosphere to even ask a question. This could be done by demonstrating or encouraging the behaviour as a great way to get people involved and feel engaged. And as people continue to have positive experience in formal environments and makerspaces like game jams, they may consider sticking around in other ways for longer term engagements.
Stay up to date with MacArthur by following her on social media.