WU student shares her research on sexism in the video game industry

by University Communications,

Jen Allaway ’15 is sharing the results of an extensive academic study on sexism within the video game industry during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 20.

The conference attracts more than 23,000 attendees and is the primary forum where programmers, producers, game designers and others gather to exchange ideas and explore ways to shape the development of interactive games.

“I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be in a position where I’ll be able to share my research at such a prestigious event,” says Allaway, a sociology major. “The fact that I was accepted to present my research — despite my undergraduate status — just tells me how important this subject is to the game industry.”

Allaway’s research began as part of Willamette University’s Carson Undergraduate Research Program. Through the program, select sophomores and juniors receive grants up to $3,000 to undertake scholarly, creative or professional summer research projects.

Allaway’s presentation, “Sexism and the Game Industry: An Empirical Study,” is based on 34 interviews and a survey, which accrued 344 respondents. She is co-presenting with Necrosoft Games Director Brandon Sheffield, whose article, “Video Games and Male Gaze: Are We Men or Boys?” inspired Allaway’s research project.

The intent of her study is to highlight common gender problems and to reveal people’s specific experiences with gender discrimination and harassment, Allaway says. The anecdotal accounts are backed up with statistics.

“I’m laying out the stepping stones to an achievable starting career in the video game industry,” Allaway says, adding that she hopes to transition to game design one day. “I realize how rare and special this opportunity is for someone at my age, who hasn't graduated yet, and it only made me work harder to present something that would be considered professional quality research."