WGS Film Festival to bring awareness of women in gaming

Alexus Bomar

On March 12, the Women and Gender Studies (WGS) program invites faculty, students and community members to its 32nd annual Film Festival with this year’s event, called “Game Not Over: Gender and Digital Culture,” featuring a screening of “GTFO: A Documentary about Women in Gaming.”

Ami Harbin, assistant professor of philosophy and WGS and assistant director of WGS, is organizing the film festival this year.

“Directed by Shannon Sun-Higginson, the documentary ‘GTFO’ chronicles sexism in video games through interviews with video game developers, journalists and academics,” Harbin said.

According to Harbin, the film was nominated for Best Documentary at last year’s Stockholm Film Festival and focuses on the history and experiences of women in gaming and in the gaming industry. It also addresses the discouragement of young girls from participating in gaming, among other topics.

“I have been involved in the organizing committee for the past three WGS Film Festivals and was excited to continue to work with the festival this year,” Harbin said.

The other committee members include Erin Meyers, Courtney Brannon-Donoghue and Anja Wieden.

The committee is proud that there have been people organizing the festival for 32 years.

According to Harbin, the festival has screened films on a wide variety of topics over the years, including women and work, women and sports, and women at war. 

“This year, the issue of women and gaming has been receiving a lot of attention following GamerGater, a harassment campaign against women and other minorities in gaming culture over the last two years,” Harbin said.

According to Harbin, speakers with expertise on the topic of the film festival are invited.  After the screening, the discussion this year will focus on issues relating to women in gaming culture, industry and design.

“We have panelists from backgrounds in media studies, communication, psychology, philosophy, modern languages, as well as student group organizing, who will talk about what they see as major issues women face,” she said.

Two of the six panelists, Sam Srauy, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at OU, and Casey O’ Donnell, an associate professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University, study games and game culture.

According to Erin Meyers, assistant professor of communication, all of the panelists will talk briefly about their thoughts on the film, make connections between their experiences with gaming and the film, and the audience will have a chance to ask questions.  After the panel discussion, there will be games projected on the screen and there may be an opportunity to play a few.

“We hope that [the film festival and discussion] will open people’s eyes to an ongoing issue about sexism and harassment online, not just in gaming culture but beyond as well,” Meyers said.

The documentary contains some violent content and is suggested for mature audiences.

The festival will take place from noon to 4 p.m. in the Human Health Building, room 1050.

According to the program’s website, the field of Women and Gender Studies investigates the systems of gender, power and representation that shape the lives of both women and men through all stages of life.

The program offers a WGS major and minor, a new minor in LGBTQ studies and also offers courses relating to issues of gender and sexuality. Intro to WGS (WGS 200) counts as a general education requirement.

For more information about the Women and Gender Studies program and film festival, visit oakland.edu/wgs.

2016 Panelists:

  • Sam Srauy, assistant professor, Department of Communication and Journalism, Oakland University
  • Casey O’ Donnell, associate professor, Department of Media and Information, Michigan State University
  • Ashley Cox, graduate student in psychology and behavioral health
  • Sarah Babbie, president of the Oakland University Gaming Guild
  • Monica Ybarra, Oakland University Ethics Bowl member
  • Juliana Stewart, Oakland University alumna