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Vancouver video game jam breaks gender stereotypes

07/13/2013 04:36 EDT | Updated 09/12/2013 05:12 EDT
A new group is seeking to challenge gender stereotypes in the gaming world, by bringing together developers, designers and artists to create a video game with a strong female protagonist.

The group, i am a gamer, is hosting a 48-hour event at Vancouver's Emily Carr's Centre for Digital Media where 150 developers have been tasked with creating a new video game.

Satellite sites have also been created in San Francisco, Denver and Boston and gamers from around the world are participating remotely from as far away as the UK, Brazil, and Australia.

The marathon "game jam" began last night at 6 p.m. PT and concludes at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The goal, said organizer Kimberly Voll, is to send a message that male-centric views in the gaming industry have a negative impact not only on gamers but on society as a whole.

Voll, who is a professor of software engineering and game design at the Centre for Digital Media, said popular video games often reinforce harmful stereotypes by portraying females as over-sexualized, one-dimensional characters.

She said this weekend's game jam aims to dispute the prevailing opinion that video games are for guys and that games with strong, female lead characters will not sell.

"We should celebrate all great games regardless of the gender of the lead character. But what we have right now is a great imbalance," Voll said.

"I challenge everyone to think about what is a strong character, regardless of gender. To me that's someone who steps up in the face of fear," she said.

"So creating characters we're happy to show our kids, that we're proud to have them try to emulate."

Voll said she was stunned when she read a recent article that quoted a creative director at a major gaming company that said games with strong female characters won't succeed.

"Independent game developers have the agility … to stand out and say 'that's not what we believe.'" she said.

"Here's a roomful of 150 people willing to spend their weekend creating games that say otherwise."

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