Sunday, August 22, 2010

America's Army and gender bias in game design

Coming out of the #ifest Twitter stream, I once again heard how America's Army was a shining example of how games had been used to improve recruitment efforts. I posed the question...has it improved recruitment of women at the same rate it has improved the recruitment of men? So far, all I've heard back is *crickets*.

For two weeks, I have been looking for data or research on America's Army that mentions gender as a research parameter, but so far, I've found nothing. If you know of any research, I'd love to see it. My hypothesis? Recruitment of women was not as greatly improved after they played America's Army. If that's the case, what does that say about the relative value of recruiting women vs men into our military?

What makes a game successful? Is it ok for public institutions (government, schools, etc.) to measure the success of a serious game without looking at differences in outcomes along the most basic parameters (gender, class, race)? Is it ok to say a game is successful in achieving its goals if we don't consider those issues as part of the discussion?

I'm tired of hearing the marketing spin and the hype around how games can change the world if we're not even asking the most basic questions about WHO games are changing and HOW they are changing them. You won't find a bigger advocate of games for learning and as a vehicle to raise awareness and support behavior change. But not all games are created equal. We have to be vigilant and constantly questioning our design to ensure we're achieving the outcomes we seek. Ignoring questions of gender, class, and racial bias in serious game design makes me question the motives of the design itself and the motives of those promoting a game's "success."

As always, I welcome anyone's comments who can prove me wrong...

1 comment:

  1. Koreen, in reference to the Army. The channel of games to recruit women depends on their goals. Was their audience and women a part of their recruitment efforts or were they trying to reach a broader or different segment of men?

    In reference to games - how does games create opportunity to change behavior and how do you track the ROI on this investment? The gender and race issue again depends on who your audience is and what are their needs.

    Hope you r well.