Jill Denner
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Jill Denner is a Senior Research Associate at Education, Training, Research Associates, a non-profit agency in California . She currently has NSF funding to develop, implement, and study an after school and summer program that puts middle school girls in the role of game designers and programmers. Her initial publications from that project will appear in the Encyclopedia of Gender and IT and the journal Frontiers. She has been invited to present her work at national conferences and workshops on education and positive youth development, with a focus on gender. She is also editing a book of research on the positive development of Latina girls in the US to be published by NYU Press in 2006.


Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Games and Girls

On May 8, 2006, 25 researchers and industry professionals from around the world who have been studying gender and games will come together for a workshop titled “Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Games, Gender and Computing”. The theme of our workshop alludes to the seminal and widely popular book “From Barbie to Mortal Kombat” edited by Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins in 1998, which followed a conference organized in 1996 at MIT. Until that time, both industry and research endorsed myths about females and gaming. On the one hand, software companies did not believe that there was a commercial market for girls. On the other hand, researchers did not fully recognize the study of game design and play as a resource for understanding how learners, and women in particular, engage in technology.  The book challenged the myth that research on games is not useful, as the chapters provided insight into learning, technology, design, and gender studies.

The last decade has brought more computers into homes, more internet access, new game genres, new game features, new platforms, and new generations of players. Gender-related topics have been a frequent focus of academic research on games. The May 2006 workshop will mark a decade after the first conference and a critical time to revisit and review the field to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. This workshop is structured to continue the conversation, integrate new findings, and outline a new research agenda for the field in the following three focal areas:

The New Girls’ Games (Yasmin B. Kafai)
The success of Barbie’s Fashion Designer has left many looking for a follow-up. The prominence and increased participation of women in of MMORPGs at least suggest that some aspects of these environments appeal to players of both gender. We will review what research has identified to be of interest to different players in online role-playing games. Currently, there is a tendency to pitch women’s interests as diametrically opposed to those of men. We hope to break open these stereotypes and examine where there are overlaps and where men and women do not follow assumed preferences.

Girls as Game Creators (Jill Denner)
To promote a change in women’s participation in IT and games, many have argued that we need to involve women and children in order to develop alternative types of games that offer a range of game playing styles. We also need different approaches to teaching computer science that involve collaboration and game design and production. We will summarize research projects that use these approaches, including examples from academia and industry, and discuss the implications of the findings for transforming the game industry.

Girls and Casual Games (Carrie Heeter)
Serious games, mobile games, casual games, and games for learning extend the discussion beyond entertainment and commercial concerns. More women than men play online casual games. Several studies found that older girls were more likely to prefer learning games.  Gender differences in play patterns are an emerging area of study, including the relationship between gender, play patterns, and learning. We will summarize and discuss the implications of research on play and new technologies.


Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (1998) (Eds.). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and computer games. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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