No bad memories : a feminist, critical design approach to video game histories
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Certain unique sights and sounds of video games from the 1980s and 1990s have been codified as a retro game style, celebrated by collectors, historians, and game developers alike. In this report, I argue that this nostalgic celebration has escaped critical scrutiny and in particular omits the diverse experiences of girls and women who may have been alienated by the tough, intimidating nature of a twentieth-century video-game culture that was primarily created by and for boys. Indeed, attempts to attract girls to gaming, such as the 1990s girls' game movement, are usually criticized in or absent from mainstream video-game histories, and girly video games are rarely viewed with the same nostalgic fondness as games like Super Mario Bros. This condition points to a larger cultural practice of trivializing media for girls and, by extension, girlhood and girls themselves. My critical design response to this condition has been twofold. First, I have recuperated and resituated twentieth-century girly games as collectible, valuable, and nostalgic, thereby subverting conventional historical narratives and suggesting that these games have inherent cultural value. Second, I have created new works that reimagine 8-bit style as an expression of nostalgia for twentieth-century girlhood rather than for twentieth-century boyhood. This report contains documentation of some relevant projects I have undertaken, such as the creation of a video-game museum and an 8-bit video game called Electronic Sweet-N Fun Fortune Teller. In these projects and in future works, I hope to disrupt dominant narratives about video game history and nostalgia that continue to marginalize and trivialize girls' and women's experiences and participation in contemporary game cultures.