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Women In The Wordplace: Words Are Power

Word puzzles and world troubles

A thing that video games have proved mostly garbage at is approaching issues of gender - now when I say that you might think I'm merely talking about how women are portrayed, but pretty much any portrayal of gender gets a simplistic portrayal in games. A simple way to deconstruct gender issues might be to look at how powerful language is at changing attitudes, making people behave differently, or at how bullying as a kind of constructive dismissal decimates self esteem.

Now on Kickstarter, Words Are Power hopes to address this through narrative and through play by offering a stylish word game that centres around a woman journalist in 1940s Washington D.C.

Here are some attractive people talking about their word game:

The video might seem a little cute but as I read more about this Kickstarter the narrative scenarios discussed in the pitch seemed really pertinent to me personally. Take this for example:

"When you've just confirmed a senator's conflict of interest just in time for his re-election, you need the news to hit the front page. Unfortunately, the editor feels that your credibility is insufficient to publish such an accusation. He gives you the choice: publish the article under another (male) journalist's name, or keep the credit but potentially miss the opportunity to change the course of the election. Which would you pick?"

I've never had trouble writing to my byline, but the problem is sometimes I've had trouble thinking about whether keeping a female-sounding nickname online in a game or on IRC is really a good idea, when people make your life a great deal more difficult because of it. It's an interesting one, where your visibility and credibility in a professional situation like a writing for a newspaper can really matter. You want the kudos; is it worth risking everything to keep it?

What's also interesting to me about this Kickstarter game is that the bizarre sexism problems that still exist are often totally cryptic, in that you often don't notice that they have happened to you until after they have happened, or sometimes they happen to you in broad daylight but are completely invisible to the opposite sex. This cryptic nature of sexism seems to me prime territory for a puzzle game, and so I guess I'm surprised that more games haven't approached it.

You can take a look at Words Are Power here on Kickstarter.

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