From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat

From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat

Gender and Computer Games

Edited by Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins

Girls and computer games—and the movement to overcome the stereotyping that dominates the toy aisles.





Girls and computer games—and the movement to overcome the stereotyping that dominates the toy aisles.

Many parents worry about the influence of video games on their children's lives. The game console may help to prepare children for participation in the digital world, but at the same time it socializes boys into misogyny and excludes girls from all but the most objectified positions. The new "girls' games" movement has addressed these concerns. Although many people associate video games mainly with boys, the girls games' movement has emerged from an unusual alliance between feminist activists (who want to change the "gendering" of digital technology) and industry leaders (who want to create a girls' market for their games).

The contributors to From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat explore how assumptions about gender, games, and technology shape the design, development, and marketing of games as industry seeks to build the girl market. They describe and analyze the games currently on the market and propose tactical approaches for avoiding the stereotypes that dominate most toy store aisles. The lively mix of perspectives and voices includes those of media and technology scholars, educators, psychologists, developers of today's leading games, industry insiders, and girl gamers.

ContributorsAurora, Dorothy Bennett, Stephanie Bergman, Cornelia Brunner, Mary Bryson, Lee McEnany Caraher, Justine Cassell, Suzanne de Castell, Nikki Douglas, Theresa Duncan, Monica Gesue, Michelle Goulet, Patricia Greenfield, Margaret Honey, Henry Jenkins, Cal Jones, Yasmin Kafai, Heather Kelley, Marsha Kinder, Brenda Laurel, Nancie Martin, Aliza Sherman, Kaveri Subrahmanyam


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262032582 380 pp. | 7.1 in x 8.9 in


$35.00 T ISBN: 9780262531689 380 pp. | 7.1 in x 8.9 in


Justine Cassell

Justine Cassell is Associate Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins is Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. He is the coeditor of From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (MIT Press, 1998).


  • [A]n imaginative, original, and complex volume that crystallizes feminist dilemmas regarding the origin and persistence of gender roles.... Ultimately this book—pluralistic, experiential, and collaborative—inspires us to search for games that give voice to participants' exploratory and even competitive desires while enabling them to build identities based on the emotional nuances of real life.

    Sandra Hackman

    Women's Review of Books

  • Children's games are important—perhaps more than we realize. The flexibility offered by the computer allows a serious investigation of what types of computer games girls are naturally drawn to. The implications for education are important. Unlocking the keys to the intellectual and knesthetic approaches favored by girls could have far-reaching implications. This book is a serious look at this important issue.

    Sheila Widnall


  • Cassell and Jenkins have produced a collection that takes us far beyond the simplistic treatment too often accorded the subject of 'computer games for girls.' A tour of any 'games' department makes it clear that girls are underserved and not particularly welcome. But, are games a tool for creating a girls' identities, a reaction to the way girls 'are,' a huge as yet unrealized market, or all of the above? A tour of this valuable collection of articles iluuminates the complexity of the relationship between girls and computer games from a vairety of personal, social, political and economic perspectives. It will open eyes and fill knowledge gaps for everyone from researchers to games makers to parents.

    Anita Borg

    President, Institute for Women and Technology, and Research Staff, Xerox Palo Aloto Research Center