Earlier this year Cailleah Scott-Grimes, a freelance videographer and graduate of Toronto’s Visual Studies and East Asian Studies program, launched a Kickstarter campaign for her documentary project She Got Game, which seeks to reveal many of the misconceptions and expose challenges for women in gaming. After being successfully funded, Grimes began setting up interviews and meetings to document the experiences of women who make, play, or love video games.
Development of the film is underway and Grimes maintains a blog that catalogues the progression of her project. As the conversation regarding women and the video game industry continues to gain momentum in the media we asked Grimes to explain more about her film, the things she has learned on her journey, and what she hopes others will take away from her documentary.
Jesse Tannous: Since your successful Kickstarter how has the development of the documentary been going?
Cailleah Scott-Grimes: The momentum of She Got Game has really picked up, and I'm very excited about the direction we're going in. Every time I turn around I'm introduced to another amazing woman who I want to bring on board. Since the Kickstarter, I've been refining the narrative of the documentary while expanding the project as a whole.
In terms of interviews, my latest destination was Montreal. I just got back from meeting with machinima and gaming artist Skawennati Fragnito, and I also filmed a game-making workshop hosted by the Pixelles. I'm headed back there in the fall to do interviews at the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) research center and to talk with some fantastic women developers at Ubisoft! I was going to keep this delicious secret, but why hold back? I used to live in Japan, so I'm actually going back to Tokyo this summer to film for the project. I couldn't be more excited since Japan is the motherland of gaming and it's very close to my heart.
JT: If you can, give us a taste of some of the biggest misconceptions about women and video games that you hope to undo in your film.
CG: Obviously one of the biggest misconceptions is the idea that girls aren't as into gaming as guys—that they don't know as much about it, aren't as skilled and just do it for attention. This couldn't be less true. A lot of recent articles have pointed out that 45% of gamers are women. What interests me more than these stats is the fact that women are taking their love of gaming to a whole new level. They're blogging, vlogging, reviewing, discussing, critiquing, cosplaying, and founding gaming meet-ups and businesses. Groups like Dames Making Games and Ladies Learning Code are also defying the misconception that women aren't interested in the tech side of game development. It's amazing to think that there's a collective of indie devs offering free workshops in my backyard, so to speak.
I also want to dig deeper and find out how we can get more women into gaming. A lot of developers recognize the demand for characters and themes that interest women, but sometimes I feel like we're stuck in a time warp. We still have middle-aged men designing makeup and fashion games for 12-year-old girls. We still have female characters who can kick ass but who are otherwise totally static and unrealistic. I'd like to take a closer look at what women really want to see in the future of gaming.
JT: What prompted you to start this project? This topic and discussion has been around for a while so what in particular made you want to dedicate so much time and effort to this project now?
CG: As you said, a lot of hard work has been done to challenge the harassment of women and the representation of them in video games. But my inspiration for this project came from a slightly different place. For me, the core of every artistic project focuses on how we express our identities and relationships to society. I'm interested in the way women are innovating from the norm to redefine the content, format and social application of games. I also want to look at how the “gamer” or “geek” identity is actually empowering women and inspiring them to build a new kind of community. I think lots of people will find this topic interesting, even if they're not into gaming.
JT: What do video games mean to you personally?
CG: I started off playing computer games at a really young age. I'm a very curious, stubborn person so there was something that fascinated me about the challenges and power dynamics within gaming. When I moved on to console gaming, I was completely captivated. Ocarina of Time was pretty the best thing that ever happened when I was 12 (and it never gets old!) What was lacking for me was any kind of community to share this with. None of my friends were talking about video games, so it remained something personal that I didn't integrate as part of my “identity.” That's too bad, because I think you gain a lot of personal confidence and make amazing connections with people by sharing your fantasies and imagination.
At this stage, I'm actually getting super stoked about the idea of creating my own game. As an artist, I've been looking for a long time for the right medium to recreate the dream worlds in my head. Technology has always crept into my life somehow or another, so maybe now is the time to get my hands dirty and learn the tools of the trade. These days those resources are out there for all of us.
JT: Who are some of the people within the video game industry you'd most want to interview and tell us something you might ask them?
CG: Good question! There are so many women out there working on cool projects, it's hard to choose. Right now I'm most fascinated by the risk-takers—the women whose innovative work is re-defining the way we think about games and gamers. Jane McGonigal is probably at the top of my list. After all, her goal is to create games like Superbetter that will not only change the world but also “increase your life by 7.5 minutes!” I'd like to ask her about how we might teach younger generations of girls that gaming can be a medium to build self-confidence and social connections.
I'd also like to talk to women like Ellen Page who has said that her experience working on Beyond Two Souls totally changed the way she thought about video games. In other interviews, she mentions that she didn't identify as a gamer, but she was inspired by the complexity and integrity of the story. I'd like to hear about her experience working in the industry as an outsider or “noob” and about how new kinds of narratives and identities might inspire more women to get into gaming.
Grimes is clearly dedicated to presenting the female perspective from the very women pioneers who are actively creating and expanding the female role in video games.