Latest Issue of the American Journal of Play Explores Video Game History
January 9, 2018
For Immediate Release
Historians Must Better Document Women’s Influence
on Video Games According to Special Themed Issue
of the American Journal of Play
ROCHESTER, NY—History is rife with examples of women being pushed aside, ignored, or forgotten for their roles in creating social change and shaping daily life. According to the latest issue of The Strong’s American Journal of Play, historians studying video game history have an opportunity to avoid these mistakes of their scholarly predecessors and to capture the full scope of women’s influence on the industry. The special themed issue, guest edited by Jon-Paul C. Dyson, director of The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games in Rochester, New York, includes interviews and articles that challenge previous and current approaches to documenting video game history.
In the article “Ronnie, Millie, Lila—Women’s History for Games,” Carly Kocurek, associate professor of digital humanities and media studies at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois, argues that video game history should not be reduced to a highlights reel of a few key players. She writes, “In researching and writing the history of video games, we have an opportunity to produce a comprehensive history—one that looks at all actors as meaningful rather than documenting merely the most obvious key players.”
Kocurek explores the lives and careers of three often-overlooked women—game regulation activist Ronnie Lamm, coin-op business owner Amelia “Millie” McCarthy, and Exidy executive Lila Zinter. She argues that these women have not been widely studied because they were not game creators, and yet each helped shape contemporary gaming and public discourse about games. Kocurek posits that historians must look beyond just game designers and studio founders (many of whom were men) to capture the depth and diversity of video games and game culture.
To tell a more complete picture, she challenges her peers to dig deeper into archives, pursue oral histories, and think more broadly about the impact of their work. Kocurek argues, “A proper history of video games cannot be a history constructed entirely of the most readily available record of the most visible historical actors.”
“In the emerging field of video game studies, we have opportunities to set a precedent for what this particular history will look like,” Kocurek writes. “We must work toward practices that… (do) not obscure the work of key players. We must do this because to do otherwise, and to call ourselves historians, would be a professional failing of the highest order.”
Additional articles in Vol. 10, No. 1 of the American Journal of Play include:
“Let’s Begin Again: Sierra On-Line and the ‘Origins’ of the Graphic Adventure Game,” by Laine Nooney, assistant professor at New York University. The author explores the origin story of game company Sierra On-Line and argues that it’s too simplistic to paint early computer game history as a competition between the graphic adventures of Sierra On-Line and the text-based games of companies like Infocom. She argues for a more nuanced approach to studying early video game companies.
“Teaching Us to Fear: The Violent Video Game Moral Panic and the Politics of Game Research,” by Patrick M. Markey, professor at Villanova University, and Christopher J. Ferguson, associate professor at Stetson University. The authors defend video games against the myth that playing games can lead to real-world violence and put these fears in context of other “moral panics” (or widespread public fears in response to a perceived societal threat) throughout history—such as those caused by novels and movies. Markey and Ferguson provide guidelines for identifying and understanding this historical phenomenon.
“New…Now? Or Why a Design History of Coin-Op Video Game Machines,” by Raiford Guins, professor at Indiana University. Guins examines design history and what it can offer to the study of video games, particularly Atari’s coin-op machines. He argues that design history’s intellectual trajectory opens scholars to new ways of thinking historically about video games.
The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at www.journalofplay.org. Printed editions are also available for subscription and single copy purchase.
About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.