dr. hanna elina wirman
Visiting Assistant Professor
School of Design
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
hanna [dot] wirman [at] gmail [dot] com
Computer games, Game cultures, Women players, Gender, Identity, User-generated content, Participatory cultures, Fan cultures, Game artistry, Mobile games, Pervasive games, Non-human animal play
TOUCH Orangutan gameplay project
Ludus Animalis Blog
Playing The Sims 2: Constructing and negotiating woman computer game player identities through the practice of skinning
Despite some remarkable shifts in gender demographics of game players during the last decade, computer games remain male-gendered media. Engagement in such a culture, this work suggests, is characterised by confusion and incoherence for women players who are simultaneously taking part in male dominated leisure which marginalises them and a society which assumes gender equality as an acquired right. Small-scale ethnography tied together with an analysis of concurrent cultural discourses and the game system's characteristics allows a deep analysis of the construction of identities that conflict with the naturalised idea of a player.
The Sims 2 (2004) computer game sets out a unique case for a study of women's player identities because it is both exceptionally popular among women and individuated by a theme and a structure that are understood as `feminine'. Furthermore, a group of women players whose engagement with the game is characterised by creation and sharing of new and altered game content, the skinning of it, appears interesting since the women skinners resist traditional gender roles by taking active, productive positions towards the game.
This work's original contribution to knowledge is in offering a nuanced view of female game playing which resists easy assimilation to some of the dominant concepts recently in play within the field of study, such as political resistance in the form of game content appropriation and female empowerment through video game play. While skinners seem to have a possibility to change a game that results from a male-dominated game development culture, their skinning is fundamentally facilitated and invited by the game they play. Such practice therefore appears different from the `high' forms of subversive user-participation that are typically cherished in the studies of media use. Consecutively, the approach in this thesis questions the straightforwardly embracing undertone of the current Web 2.0 `buzz' that claims democratisation of media production. The Sims 2 skinning offers an example of a productive practice that does not go beyond what we understand as gameplay, but demands revisiting the very notion of gameplay itself.
Available online here
conference papers, publications and reports
WIRMAN, H. Forthcoming. "Princess Peach loves your enemies", In Jessica Enevold and Esther MacCallum-Stewart(eds): The Game Love Reader.
WIRMAN, H. 2012. Entries for "Co-creativity", "Game modifications" and "FarmVille", In Mark J.P. Wolf (ed.): The Encyclopedia of Video Games, ABC-CLIO.
WIRMAN, H. 2012. "Nonhuman animal players: Overcoming speciesism in cultural studies of digital game play". Crossroads in Cultural Studies 2012, Sorbonne Nouvelle University and UNESCO, 2-6 July 2012. Abstract available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2012. "A touch screen as encountered by an orangutan". Minding Animals Conference 2012, University of Utrecht, 4-6 July 2012. Abstract available online here.
WIRMAN, H., SMITS, W., YU, G. and YUEN, W. 2011. "Defeated by an orangutan? Approaching cross-species gameplay" DiGRA 2011 Conference, Utrecht School of the Arts. Abstract available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2011. "This bath whisk is a must": Illusions of the 'local' in Finnish The Sims 2 game modifications. 23 July 2011. Console-ing Passions 2011, University of South Australia.
WIRMAN, H. 2011. Review of Torill Mortensen: Perceiving Play. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. Norsk Medietidsskrift. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2010. Review of James Newman: Playing with Videogames. New York: Routledge, 2008. MedieKultur, Vol 48, 152-55. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2009. Sobre la productividad y los fans de los juegos. In Daniel Aranda and Jordi Sánchez-Navarro (eds.): Aprovecha el tiempo y juega: Algunas claves para entender los videojuegos, 145-184. Barcelona: Editorial UOC. Available for purchase here.
WIRMAN, H. 2009. On productivity and game fandom. Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol 3 (2009). Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2009. The Silent Work of The Sims 2 Bedroom(s). 2 September 2009. DiGRA 2009 Conference, Brunel University. Abstract available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2009. And then he said, gasping, "Good... Excellent". Paper presented at Bad Games colloquium. 18 July 2009. University of the West of England. Abstract available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2009. Culture-specific Game Modifications: Player-localization of The Sims 2. Paper presented at Roundtable Shoot-out: Contemporary Video Game Scholarship Seminar. 15 May 2009. University of Manchester.
WIRMAN, H. 2008. Skinning Women and Modding Men? Gendered Co-Creative Practices in Computer Game Cultures. Paper presented at Brunel Digital Games Postgraduate Conference 2008. 16 September 2008. Brunel University.
WIRMAN, H. 2008. Play in between: Women Player Identities and the Practice of Skin Making Proceedings of Women in Games Conference 2008. 9-11 September 2008. Warwick University. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2008. Virtual Threads of a Skin. Proceedings of the [player] Conference, 393-415. 26-29 August 2008. IT University of Copenhagen. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. and LEINO, O. 2008. For Interface, Against Regression! An exploratory surgery of an transhuman umbilical cord. Proceedings of ISEA 2008 conference. 25-30 July 2008. Singapore. Available online here.
LEINO O., WIRMAN, H. and FERNANDEZ, A. (eds) 2008. Extending Experiences. Structure, Analysis and Design of Computer Game Player Experience. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.
WIRMAN, H. 2007. "I am not a fan, I just play a lot" - If Power Gamers Aren't Fans, Who Are? Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Situated Play Conference, 377-385. 24-28 September 2007. The University of Tokyo. Available online here.
ISOMÄKI, H., LEINO, O., PAJUNEN, J. and WIRMAN, H. 2007. Working within the Varying Interests between Academic and Industrial ICTS Research: Ethical Dilemmas and Individual Researchers' Accountabilities. Paper presented by H. Isomäki at CMS5 Conference. 11-13 July 2007. University of Manchester. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2007. Games and (Textual) Productivity: Fan Texts for and beyond Play. Paper presented at Gamers in Society Seminar, University of Tampere. 17-18 April 2007.
NAKAMURA R. and WIRMAN, H. 2006. Mobiilipelit [Mobile Games]. In Seppo Kuivakari (ed.): Mobiilikulttuuri [Mobile Culture], 37-55. Rovaniemi, University of Lapland Press. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2006. Näkökulma naispelaajuuteen. Naiset osallistujina, faneina ja taiteilijoina [Perspectives on women players. Women as participants, fans and artists]. In Eija Timonen, Marjo Mäenpää, Sanna Karkulehto and Sam Inkinen (eds.): Minne matka, luova talous? [Quo Vadis, Creative Economy?] Jyväskylä, Rajalla. Available online here.
WIRMAN, H. 2006. Pelit: koulutus, tutkimus ja kehitys. Pohjoissuomalaiselle pelialalle olennaisia näkymiä pelikoulutukseen, -tutkimukseen ja -teollisuuteen [Games: education, research and development in Nordic Countries]. University of Lapland, Faculty of Art and Design, Mediapolis InnoMedia project.
NAKAMURA, R. and WIRMAN, H. 2005. Girlish Counter-Playing Tactics. Game Studies, 5(1). Available online here.
LEINO, O. and WIRMAN, H. 2005. Developing Pervasive TRIX Mobile Game on MUPE Platform. Non-published research report. University of Lapland, Faculty of Art and Design, Department of Media Studies.
NAKAMURA, R., WIRMAN, H. and ISOMÄKI, H. 2005. Feminine Playing Style: Limiting and Opening Up Opportunities in Computer Games. In Hannakaisa Isomäki and Anneli Pohjonen (eds.): Lost and Found in Virtual Reality: Women and Information Technology, 209-238. Rovaniemi: University of Lapland Press.
WIRMAN, H. 2005. Mobiili ja langaton teknologia terveydenhuollossa [Mobile and wireless technology in health care]. Non-published research report. University of Lapland, Department of Methodological Studies, Department of Information Technology.
NAKAMURA, R. and WIRMAN, H. 2004. Opportunities and Disadvantages of Feminine Strategies in Computer Games. Paper presented at Game Design Research Symposium and Workshop. 7-8 May 2004. IT University of Copenhagen.
NAKAMURA, R. and WIRMAN, H. 2004. Michel de Certeaun strategia ja taktiikka pelitutkimuksen välineenä [Michel de Certau's strategy and tactics as tools for computer game studies]. Lähikuva, 2-3, 60-70.
WIRMAN, H. 2003. ORB-ohjelmistot sovellusarkkitehtuurit-kurssilla: JacORB, MICO ja Java2 ORB [ORB software: JacORB, MICO ja Java2 ORB]. Non-published research report. University of Lapland, Department of Methodological Studies.
grants and prizes
2007-2010 Three-year Ph.D. Bursary at the University of West of England.
2007 Sasakawa Scandinavia-Japan Foundation Travel Fund.
2006 Rector's Award, University of Lapland.
2006 Master's Thesis awarded with the second prize in the national competition of the Youth Research Society in Finland.
teaching and lectures
Currently teaching Game Design and Game Development at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Design and Visual Research Methods at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Cultural & Religious Studies
Autumn 2009 Lecture: "Co-creative players" for the Advanced Computer Game Theory course at the IT university of Copenhagen and Play and Games module at the Bristol Institute of Technology, University of the West of England.
2006 and 2007 "Computer Game Research". University of Lapland, Open University and Mediapolis Innomedia project, Animation and Game Design Programme.
2006 "Researching Media Cultures". University of Lapland, Faculty of Art and Design, Media Studies Department.
2005 "Introduction to Animation and Game Design". University of Lapland, Open University and Mediapolis Innomedia project, Animation and Game Design Programme.
2005 "Programming with Python, II". University of Lapland, Department of Methodological Studies, Department of Information Technology.
2003-2004 "PC and Its Basic Applications" + "Creating Web Pages with HTML". University of Lapland, Department of Methodological Studies, Department of Information Technology.
2003 "Programming with Java". University of Lapland, Department of Methodological Studies, Department of Information Technology.
2003 "SOAP: Simple Object Access Protocol". University of Lapland, Department of Methodological Studies, Department of Information Technology.
book: extending experiences
LEINO O., WIRMAN, H. and FERNANDEZ, A. (eds) 2008. Extending Experiences. Structure, Analysis and Design of Computer Game Player Experience. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press. ISBN:978-952-484-197-9
A computer game's player is experiencing not only the game as a designer-made artefact, but also a multitude of social and cultural practices and contexts of both computer game play and everyday life. As a truly multidisciplinary anthology, Extending Experiences sheds new light on the mesh of possibilities and influences the player engages with. Part one, Experiential Structures of Play, considers some of the key concepts commonly used to address the experience of a computer game player. The second part, Bordering Play, discusses conceptual and practical overlaps of games and everyday life and the impacts of setting up, crossing and breaking the boundaries of game and non-game. Part three, Interfaces of Play, looks at games as technological and historical artefacts and commodities. The fourth part, Beyond Design, introduces new models for the practical and theoretical dimensions of game design.
The book is now available for purchase here.
School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Current affiliation)
Ludus Animalis Blog (My blog about non-human animal play and creativity)
M-Lab, School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Past affiliation)
University of the West of England, Faculty of Creative Arts, Humanities and Education (Ph.D.)
Play Research Group, UWE (Member of the Play Research Group)
Pervasive Media Studio (Academic Resident 2008-2009)
University of Lapland, Faculty of Art and Design (M.A.)
IT University of Copenhagen, Center for Computer Games Research (Visiting Ph.D. student 2006-2009)
Masaryk University Brno (Erasmus student exchange 2004)
Dr. Olli Leino (The significant other)
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