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Graduate In Multimedia Technology and Design Wins Prestigious European Award

27 October 2004

Canterbury-based Liz Valentine, who recently graduated from the University of Kent with a first class honours degree in Multimedia Technology and Design, has just been announced as one of three winners in the Europrix Multimedia Top Talent Thesis Award 2004.

The Europrix Top Talent Award is now regarded as one of the most prestigious events for young and up-and-coming talent in the world of multimedia. The award was initiated by the Austrian presidency in 1998 and is supported by the European Commission DG Enterprise and Information Society, governments of other EU countries, and private industries such as Adobe Systems and Sony DACD. The Top Talent Thesis Award was introduced into this year's competition for the first time. It honours those with the best scientific ideas and extraordinary research, and applies to students from universities, colleges, multimedia or technical schools across Europe.

Liz Valentine's research dissertation and entry was titled Manhandling Joysticks & Pushing Buttons - Gender and Computer Games. Completed during her final year studies at the University of Kent, the dissertation explores gender involvement with, and gender representation in videogames, focusing on the primary question: Are girls put off or discouraged from video gaming by gender representations and expectations?

Commenting on her award Liz Valentine said, 'I am extremely pleased to have gained recognition for my work, in a subject which I hold close to heart. It has encouraged me to go out into the world to make my impression in the male-dominated arena of computers, programming and gaming, and to ultimately encourage more females that they can do the same too.'

Ania Bobrowicz, Lecturer in Multimedia Technology and Design at the University of Kent, said: 'We are delighted with Liz's achievement. This is a prestigious European Award which drew submissions from universities across Europe. Liz's dissertation reported the results of her final year project. Her success demonstrates the high calibre of students who are attracted to our very successful multimedia technology and design course.'

As an award winner Liz will receive a cash prize, extensive promotion throughout the European multimedia sector via the Europrix Top Talent Book of Innovation and DVD, and the right to use the name Top Talent Thesis Award Winner 2004. She will also be very much in the spotlight when she attends the Top Talent Festival 2004 in Vienna (19 - 21 November), where she will be presented with her award.

Liz Valentine is now working as a software engineer and developer for one of the leading independent network management solutions providers in the UK.


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Notes for the editor:

Selected findings from Manhandling Joysticks & Pushing Buttons - Gender and Computer Games by Liz Valentine

  • People interviewed felt that male games characters were heroic, butch, cool, sometimes intellectual, admirable, powerful, and sometimes funny. The female characters were considered to be the opposite of the male characters; sexy, cute, vulnerable, hyper-sexualised, victims, and conversely, also femme-fatales. The male gamers thought female characters were 'sexy' or 'cute', however, the female players did not think that male characters were especially 'sexy'. Female players stated that there was not enough variation in female characters, and that the female characters displayed less of the 'positive' attributes.
  • When playing online, females said that they experience far more derision for their gender than they do for skill. Basic sexual harassment directed at female players features a lot in game play. Male players, on the other hand, thought that insults passed over online games were due to 'idiots or kids stirring or generally trash talking'.
  • The greatest reason for females not playing was due to a lack of interest (almost 70%), followed by a lack of time and a lack of skill. The greatest reasons males gave for not playing were cost (almost 70%), and lack of time (just over 60%), although a lack of access also featured highly. One can infer from this that males are more likely to wish to play, and not due to constraints, whereas females are less likely to want to play.
  • Notably, only two of the women (5%) named shopping as something that they enjoyed, a pastime that is often used as the 'female alternatitve activity' to balance the male dominance of computer games.
  • Despite conducting her research on the internet, Liz Valentine discovered only half of the females actually owned a computer, whereas almost 100% of the men owned one. Males have a far greater history and affinity with games consoles and computers (owning more varied historical consoles), which women have not caught up on yet.
  • Males have a much wider taste in games, whereas the females prefer better-defined categories. Platformer games are female favourites; simpler-goaled games usually featuring a 'cartoon-cute' character.
  • Surprisingly, a greater percentage of females than males preferred crime-based action-adventure games. Some female players said that they enjoyed playing these as it allowed them to play physically and mentally stronger characters (nearly all such games have a male lead role).
  • Games advertising is mostly aimed at males between 11 and 25. There were far fewer people in all groups who thought games advertising was aimed a females, or older men (post 36). None of the females who don't play games felt that games advertising was aimed at any female over the age of 18, implying that they themselves do not feel at all enticed by it.
  • Females who don't play games were less impressed with the idea of female gamers than any other group. Most of the opposition towards female gamers comes from non-playing females. Male gamers, on the other hand seemed as if they liked the prospect of female gamers, or had no opinion.
  • Game players usually use male characters, but only because that was all that was available. The most obvious observation is that male players tend to choose male characters or aliases (perhaps for fear of homophobic insults), and most females tend to choose female characters (where they can). For both sexes, to play as their own sex is preferable.
  • In an entertainment store only 13 (23%) of people viewed in the game area were female, and of these 13, only 2 of them were ever in the games area without male company, and those two were together as a pair, so there were never any single females in this area. The number of single interested females and females without male company gives a big indicator as to whether or not females have a true interest in games, as opposed to being the partner of an interested male.
  • Much work must be done before more women view technology as an 'open area'. This is necessary, for males and females, in order for technology to be used effectively, for women to feel as if they belong in technological roles and to not avoid it as a foreign world, and so that the representations of women seen in games and game advertising are improved. With regards to financial reward, the bonuses of expanding games culturally, and opening games and computers up to women more are hugely rewarding, as are the social implications.

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