In the Loop: Tamara Shepherd
Designing Community: Pixelles and the Women in Games Movement
Montreal is a city well known for its dynamic game design culture, with tax incentives that lured Ubisoft in the 1990s resulting in the growth of large, mid-sized, and indie game firms as well as a robust community of developers united by their passion for game development. This passion has also underpinned the industry’s notoriously precarious working conditions, where designers are forced to between their love of games and low wages, permanent “crunch time,” and high turnover rates, not to mention an exclusionary and often toxic degree of gender disparity in creative game labor. This talk describes how Pixelles – a women-in-games incubator and community group – sought to intervene in the local dynamics of the Montreal game design scene by particularly addressing gender-based exclusion. While the impetus for Pixelles was provoked by feminist researchers’ concern about the gender gap in game design culture, the limitations of academic support were evident in the way that the ongoing success of Pixelles has been a product of community-based rather than academic interventions. In addressing the tripartite dynamic of industry, community, and academia in the story of Pixelles, this talk reflects on precarious and emotional labor in both design work and community organizing, especially in relation to gendered divisions of labor.
Dr. Tamara Shepherd is an LSE Fellow in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She studies the feminist political economy of digital culture, looking at design labor, policy, and literacy in social media, mobile technologies, and digital games.