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Iamagamer organizer Kimberly Voll rallies support for strong female leads in video games

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You are a teacher, someone who works in the industry and someone who games. Can you speak of some experiences about the educational system, the industry and gaming world of video games? 

I think a big contributor in all of those spheres is that they all point to women and girls as being the exception.  Many women I know (myself included) feel like an 'exception' and so many things in society right now seems to corroborate that.  

So instead of engendering a community of peers, you reinforce the stereotypes, sometimes completely unwittingly.  

And when you make assumptions about what women (or anyone want), you create a world that dictates what it is be a woman (or however you identify).  

There's nothing wrong with things that are considered traditionally 'girly', what's wrong is that they're labeled 'girly' to begin with in this society and we're told that we should like it and others are told that we do like it.  Why can't everyone be free to like whatever they want without worry of heavily loaded gender assumptions?

There is nothing intrinsically male about video games--making them or playing them.  In fact, our brains drive us to play and seek out play-like experiences -- what's weird is that more women don't play games, which suggests a problem somewhere.

Video games are still somewhat belittled in terms of being considered a legitimate art form. Why do you think game jams are important in the cultural landscape of video game production?

Game jams give us a voice -- a chance to come together as a community and spend a weekend creating something and expressing ourselves.  

They're an amazing environment that celebrates diversity, and exploration, and provide an opportunity for people to try new things in a safe and welcoming environment.  

I tend to look at video games less as an art form, and more as a beautifully engineered system of art comprised of many art forms within, from the the art of the visuals, the art of the music and audio, the art of the story, to the art of the code that weaves it all together.

What are your favorite current video game characters right now, female or male? How do these characters or games reach out to you?

I'm really enjoying playing through The Last of Us. I haven't finished it, but Ellie is proving to be an interesting character that situated within the story and gameplay is quite compelling overall.  It's always refreshing to see depth and not one-sided, unrealistic portrayals.  

I also really liked the way the character in Braid was presented with an existential bend on some really human feelings.  I guess in part I look for characters that inspire me, or that provide an example of inner growth that I can learn from.  

One-sided characters and parodies can certainly be fun, but living in a world where games of much more depth (not necessarily complexity) exist is awesome.  I hope we can contribute to that world this weekend.

Can you give us insight on what's on the horizon for iamagamer?

My hope is to use iamagamer to launch even more game jams for social change.

What we can always hope for with each jam is to at least sow even a few seeds of change, and to bring awareness to the not only an issue, but also to the voices of those who are already working to make the world a better place.  

So my plan is to keep running jams and addressing issues of under-representation not just in gender, but beyond.  I would love to do a jam that seems games loaded onto Ouyas and donated to under-privileged families, for example, or a jam for One Laptop Per Child, and to address other issues of under-representation and intolerance.

You can follow updates of the projects, the game jam itself via Kimberly on iamagamer and her Twitter.

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