Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

When I began writing this book, I was a different person. This, unto itself, is not entirely unusual—like many of my colleagues have done with their own works, I began various versions of this project while writing my dissertation. Like this book, my dissertation was a study of the design and marketing of video games targeting women audiences. I completed my dissertation in 2009, following the height in popularity of the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS—a transformational moment for gendered gaming. Since that time, the video game industry has continued to change...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-30

In the late 1980s the video game industry, and console gaming in particular, was primarily caught up with their mainstay audience—young boys and men. While there were certainly girls and women who played video games at the time, this was not the primary target audience of the industry. The tacit assumption was that those who paid for and played console game systems were primarily male.

Yet, around this time, Nintendo came up with the design and marketing, and considered the release, of what they called the Nintendo Knitting...

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1. Playing with Identity

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pp. 31-58

Central to this book is an imaginary player. Let’s call her “Jennifer.” Jennifer is white, in her thirties, middle class, and lives in Wisconsin. She is a busy mother who doesn’t have a lot of time to play video games but likes to fill in extra gaps of time in her everyday life. She doesn’t want something too complicated, or violent, but she also doesn’t want something boring. Jennifer has complex tastes. While she is not real, I did not invent her. “Jennifer” is a player type referenced by Storm8 chief creative officer Tim LeTourneau as the targeted audience for the company’s popular...

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2. Playing with Time

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pp. 59-88

In 2006, the Nintendo DS Lite was released as a mobile gaming platform that specifically targeted women audiences. Along with this new product, a marketing campaign ran in several special interest magazines such as O: The Oprah Magazine, People, and Martha Stewart Living.1 The campaign used the slogan “Do Something with Your Nothing” and featured situations where people are often bored (such as doctor’s office waiting rooms and bus stops). Rhetorically, the advertisements suggested that video game play should be done not as an act of leisure for the sake of...

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3. Playing with Emotions

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pp. 89-120

In 2007, soon after the release of the Wii gaming system, Nintendo launched an advertising campaign called “My Wii Story.” Through the Nintendo website,1 people were invited to write in stories about the transformative powers of the Nintendo Wii and how it helped their lives and families. While both sexes wrote in to “My Wii Story,” the majority of the submissions came from women. Several stories were turned into magazine advertisements, often appearing in special interest magazines such as O: The Oprah Magazine and Martha Stewart Living, and all of...

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4. Playing with Consumption

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pp. 121-148

A 2013 commercial for the video game store GameStop features a mother as a household consumer of video games. In this ad, we see a middleaged white woman, in a beige sweater, wearing light makeup, with her hair pulled back, driving a white minivan. The mother character—we do not know for sure that she is a mother, but she appears to be embodying that role—has thumping bass music playing loudly, blasting out of her suburban vehicle. She owns the role, nodding lightly to the seemingly mismatched music. Along with the tunes, the minivan is trailing down...

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5. Playing with Bodies

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pp. 149-172

In the summer of 2014, a Kickstarter campaign was launched for a new kind of video game device. The Skea game controller promised to make Kegels fun for women. Kegels, which are exercises often recommended after giving birth in order to deal with issues of incontinence, are meant to strengthen a woman’s pelvic floor. Upon the announcement of the Skea campaign, many declared that it was “like Temple Run for the vagina” (referring to the popular endless running game).1 The campaign for the Skea was kicked off with a video featuring its inventor, a man named...

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Conclusion

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pp. 173-180

In the sublime mobile game Monument Valley, the player guides Princess Ida, a tiny, voiceless, faceless princess, through decaying monuments, solving a series of Escher-esque, mazelike puzzles. At the fourth level of the game she is stopped by a strange, patriarchal, ghostly figure who proclaims to Ida (and the player, in kind), “This was the valley of men. Now all that remains are our monuments, stripped of their glories. Thieving princess, why have you returned?” (Figure 27). The game, which won the Apple iPad Game of the Year for 2014, seems to be almost speaking...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 181-184

This book would not be possible were it not for the many wonderful people in my life, on both personal and professional levels.

Early ruminations of this book began as my dissertation, and I therefore I owe a great debt to my dissertation committee at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and, in particular, my dissertation chair, June Deery. Thanks to James P. Zappen, Nancy Campbell, Nathaniel Freier, and Katherine Isbister for all of their hard work and advice.

Jessica Maddox (née Hennenfent), my graduate assistant, was the first editor for most chapters of this book. She provided feedback on more...

Notes

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pp. 185-196

Bibliography

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pp. 197-208

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Gameography

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pp. 209-216

Many of the games listed in this gameography are older games in the “casual” category. Unfortunately, many of the developers and publishers involved in these games have since gone out of business, making it occasionally difficult to obtain precise information for all of the games. I have, however, gone to great lengths to make sure that the information below is as current and accurate as possible. The publication dates listed reflect the year a game first came to market, not any subsequent updates, eschewing different entries for future platforms. For example, Sally’s Salon...

Index

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pp. 217-223

About the Author

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p. 224