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From Barbie to Mortal Kombat : gender and computer games
Cassell J. (ed), Jenkins H. (ed)  MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998. Type: Divisible Book
Date Reviewed: May 1 1999

First of all, who cares whether girls play computer and video games with the same enthusiasm that many boys do? Wouldn’t they be better off doing something more educational or constructive? As a number of this book’s contributors point out, games may help boys to develop better computer skills and more familiarity with computers, thus helping to enhance their educational and career achievements. Identifying computers as “boys’ toys” may discourage young women from pursuing careers related to computers. So it could be important to understand why girls are less likely to play computer games and to find ways to encourage them to interact with computers in an enjoyable way.

This book presents the proceedings of an MIT symposium on gender and computer games. It is divided into three parts. The first discusses the girls’ games movement. The second presents interviews with people involved in the girl’s games movement. The third contains papers on rethinking the girls’ games movement.

The first part of the book looks at differences between boys and girls and what makes them interested in various types of games. One chapter looks at the different results when boys and girls were asked to design their own games. I found the interviews in Part 2 with people involved in developing games and the girls’ games movement to be the most interesting part of the book. Among those interviewed are the producers of several games for girls, and employees of Sega and Mattel. Finally, Part 3 looks at changes that could be made in the development of video games that will interest girls.

Overall, the book is well written and interesting, with only a few minor typographical and factual errors. A few of the illustrations do have noticeable jaggies. The book has an index, which is not very common in edited volumes. My only real criticism of the book is that much of the information presented is anecdotal or correlational. However, there is nothing wrong with that as a starting point. People who work with children might find some of the chapters of interest, as will people who are involved in producing computer games.

Reviewer:  Kent A. Campbell Review #: CR127263 (99050344)
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