Nanjing Peace Forum

Designing for Peace | Swimming with Generation Z and seeing the possibilities of promoting gender equality in the digital world


On the past International Women's Day, the organizing committee of Design for Peace, together with Game for Good, an open and co-creative platform, and IN+ Peace Carnival, a comprehensive art exhibition project for women in the Greater Bay Area, held an online workshop with the theme of "Dialogue among Women Peace Makers + Game for Good Experience". The organizing committee of Design for Peace, in collaboration with Game for Good, an open and co-creative platform, and IN+ Peace Carnival, a comprehensive art exhibition project for women in the Greater Bay Area, held an online workshop for women of peace under the theme of "Dialogue between Female Peace Makers and Game for Good Experience". The workshop explored how gender issues from the perspective of peace and games for good can be combined. What is the connection between them? What do we often overlook when discussing them?

When did we start to focus on "gender"?


I started to pay attention to gender issues in 2014, and from then on I started to look at different things from a critical perspective. From that point on, I think the whole world has changed. I was studying in Sweden at the time, and after saving some money to study abroad, I bought a plane ticket to West Africa to participate in an internship in a rural tribe in Kumba, in the southern region of Cameroon in West Africa. What we did was to tell the locals, especially those involved in trials, what you need to do to not violate human rights.

It was a very reflective approach, but from that time on, I observed that some tribal trial committees, or village councils, did not have women on them. Even if there were some village councils with female representatives, I still found that during their meetings, women's speeches were frequently interrupted. Either that, or when they were speaking, a male chief would pick at and judge their speeches, saying that their speeches were wrong, and would give those women a lot of reasoning.

I was actually shocked to see that because I didn't seem to have had that kind of encounter in my own upbringing, and from that time on, I paid attention to the topic of gender, and became more self-conscious about the culture and society that I live in. After I returned to China, I have been involved in gender equality related work, so I slowly began to look at many issues from a gender perspective.



I have always grown up in an environment where I didn't quite realize that I was a girl. It was not until I entered the conservatory and began to receive professional music education that I began to hear and realize that I was socially designated as a woman in the words used by my teachers and people around me, including music critics. For example, they would say, "You're a girl, so your hands aren't big enough, your bones aren't big enough, your strength isn't big enough. You're not strong enough, so you don't have the ability to make a quality sound as easily as a boy, so you must go and figure out how to fix that".

So in that case, I was forced to realize that I was "female". After that, I began a belated process of questioning and thinking about my social attributes. Eventually, I began to study about it.


What we all go through as female gamers

"Them": under-active, marginal, one-dimensional


The substitution of gender perspective will actually help me see a lot of things, including the thing of playing games. Since I had a computer at home when I was very young, I played a game called Immortal Sword and Sorcery many times at that time.

The main character of this game was a boy from a small village called Li Yi Yi. The game was about his growing up process, including how he met his wife Zhao Ling'er, and then his confidante Lin Yue Ru, and some of the girls in the plot afterwards. In fact, when I was a kid playing Immortal Sword, I didn't find anything wrong with it, and I liked the character of Li Yi Yi . But now I see this game is actually a script of a "male-oriented article". I found the game strange, why these female characters appeared, seems to be to serve the male protagonist's growth?

I didn't feel the female protagonist's subjectivity in this game, even though there are some plot points that are driven by the female protagonist. But I think the whole structure, including the whole game experience, is still centered on the male perspective. I would also feel bad for the female characters in it, all the women exchanged their sacrifices for the male protagonist's growth. Because my mindset has changed, I don't want to play it now, even though it used to be really good memories of my childhood.



I grew up playing RPGs (note: role-playing games) from Japanese manufacturers a bit more. For example, I really like that IP called "Nu Dragon", its latest work is called "Judgement of the Dead", and I want to talk about its predecessor "Judgement of the Eye" today. There are two female protagonists in Eye of Judgment, one is the only female lawyer in a law firm and the other is the only female prosecutor in a court of law. But both of them are actually pretty inactive in most of the main storyline; the female lawyer is only in the most pre-scenes for plot reasons, requiring her to go undercover in a nightclub undercover in disguise. And then the other female prosecutor, who basically takes on the role of a vase who is constantly being protected by the male protagonist. But if the player has some understanding of how difficult it is for women to enter the legal profession in Japan, and knows how good a woman has to be and how much difficulty she has to go through to become a prosecutor, or a lawyer for that matter, then they will find this setup to be unreasonable.

Of course the game itself is excellent, and I'm not trying to say that a female character in this game has to be so independent that she becomes the kind of big heroine she is now in order to be a good game. On the contrary, I think it's important to be wary of catering to the creation of a female character that is a heroine purely for commercial reasons, as it will ultimately lead to a more and more one-dimensional and flat portrayal of the independent woman.

In my recent experience of playing games, I feel that on the one hand, literature is creating more and more diverse masculine characters, while on the other hand, the image of the independent woman is becoming more and more one-dimensional and flat, which completes the neo-liberal image of the independent woman. It is as if when we want to create an image of an independent woman, we are bound to place many non-independent women around her. Instead, we will fall into a neo-liberal vortex. I think this treatment of the image of women will actually lead us players to ignore the actual plight of some non-middle class women in their lives.


"They" need to be sexy and have beautiful makeup


I used to play a game called Angel Hunt. The setting of the heroine was that she was shirtless when she fought. Of course, because of the rating, she couldn't really be completely naked, so the setting had her clothes made out of her hair, which led to a lot of unnecessary perks for me when she was fighting.



It's true that nowadays we can see a lot of online games that are very detached from reality in terms of their portrayal of female characters, they're either going to have big boobs and all sorts of very fine makeup. It's really just too out of touch with reality, which leads me to think that there's no way to represent those characters at all.

We also experience degradation or harassment from male players


When I was reading the document that we created, I saw someone talking about how it's possible to play a game where your teammates keep calling you "sister" or something. I used to play "Chicken", the handheld game of Peaceful Elite. Then, I sometimes match with passers-by, and if the passers-by know that you are a girl, he will say, "Sister, I will take you to "eat chicken", and then you hide well, and then say what brother shooting skill is very good, and so on, and then I think in my heart, in fact, I am also quite good.

Then, I also watch the game competition. Generally speaking, the host of the game is either a male host who understands the game in the industry or a female host who understands the game and is very good-looking, and often the dress code may be a small skirt or something like that. The male host can sit in a very casual way, just relaxing with his legs free. Then, the female host is wearing a skirt, so her legs must be together, and then this time you look at the game room, the pop-up screen will often be floating in the comments, "suggested uniform sitting posture". I actually felt uncomfortable when I saw it. I think, girls play the game is actually very good, why must you protect to play well? Then why do people think it's okay to say something disrespectful?


We focus on women's self-growth


Probably the game that I think has done a better job in terms of gender is a game called Child of Light, and its protagonist is actually a little girl who has to go through a lot of different adventures to finally get to where she wants to go to get to, and meet that big boss at the end.At that time, when I was playing the game, I saw that a little girl she had to go through so much difficulty to defeat so many monsters, and finally I think this is what every girl wants to do. I think this is the growth experience of every girl, isn't it? The game didn't have a very gender-specific perspective, but it simply showed a little girl's journey, and that's enough to make me think it's a great game.



There's also a game called Queen of Flowers. It's about a woman who was raised as a prop to fulfill the tasks given to her by her identity, and I actually think that this can correspond to our real life women, such as some motherhood and so on, these identities that we need to be fixed to fulfill. But she doesn't have to give up her identity for the sake of this task, the whole story is about her journey to find herself. The male characters all just play a supporting role in helping the heroine find herself, and one of the interesting things about this game is that it doesn't necessarily end with the hero. They become closer to each other, but they don't necessarily fall in love. Ultimately it's about the heroine finding herself if she wants a GOOD ending, but not necessarily fulfilling the mission she was given.

By this point I feel like the author of the game is trying to convey something that reached me, so my experience playing it was actually pretty good.



I feel that games have more or less of an impact on people, and if they were played as a very young child, they may have an impact on one's life. It's just like the books you read and the events you experienced as a child.

Using myself as an example, I loved playing the American Girl DreamWorks series as a child. In this game we raise a girl and make her life lead to different endings. In my young eyes, a numerical bonus = a path to an ending. The best endings are the hardest endings, such as the one that comes with every generation: the 'Queen' ending. Reaching this ending requires the player to raise their daughter to the highest of all values.

Now I've been working on my own formation game, but I could never get around the numerical thing. In essence, I wanted to make a game that reflected on the idea of "nurturing games" and the idea of reopening one's life. As another guest speaker said, "You can give different endings and tell the player that high or low values won't affect the life of the daughter you raise too much."


We need more games that let people vicariously experience women's situations


I think this is an interesting subject. Although games are just a vehicle, we have to put a positive value in it, and that positive value might be some of the female perspectives. For example, games can promote this kind of identity swap between men and women, or allow men to experience some of the things that women would go through in that role, and then come to promote men to enter women's situation to think and reflect.


It just so happens that an Indian indie game called Missing is going to be featured here today. The developers of the game present the perspective of a trafficked girl, and the player has to fully immerse himself to avoid his fate of being trafficked. In the prequel to this game, you are a female who has already been trafficked and then you have to think about how to escape from this cage. This game was actually made a little too realistic, which led me to not finish it, and by the middle of the game I was already feeling too desperate to play it.


I think there was a later version of this game, in that version the player first experiences life as an ordinary girl, that is, you will cook at home, go to the market to buy food, you will talk to your family, live a very ordinary life, and then suddenly one day you are abducted. I think the horror factor actually goes up quite a bit.


That's actually how the game is supposed to be set up, is that while you're going through the pressures of life, you have to be careful about being abducted yourself. For example, you're going to cook today, or you're going to go out to collect firewood for the family today, and then you run into a stranger, and that stranger might strike up a conversation with you, and if you pay attention to him, maybe you'll be abducted, and if you pay no attention to him, you'll be able to stay in this village for a while longer. The player can feel the feeling that in daily life, while the girl is under pressure of life, there are such traps everywhere around her that may let her be abducted and sold at any time.

Why is it still so hard for games to reflect "her" perspective? 


I'm an intern at a big company, and I'm in charge of user research for games. I needed to collect data from users and do some quantitative and qualitative analysis for the company, and then the game project team would make a game that meets the users' needs based on the users' analysis.

When I was doing the qualitative and quantitative analysis, I saw a lot of feedback from male gamers who wanted the art style of the characters in the game being tested to make the female characters a little sexier, and their clothing a little more revealing, and then it became a vicious circle.

Now that the overall game design landscape is skewed in favor of men, I don't know why it's so rare for me to see a game in my line of work that's so neutral that it can actually be both male and female friendly at the same time.

Because the company I work for now is a big company, I feel that it has a very clear tendency to say "this game is not commercially viable, it has no value". This actually makes me very uncomfortable. I originally wanted to enter the game industry to contribute to the diversification of the industry. But because of this experience, I don't think there is such an environment in China, so I don't want to work for a game company in China.


Since I had a very short experience in game planning before, and that company happened to be doing female-oriented games, I would like to share my feelings at that time.

First of all, I personally think that they still tend to favor the male perspective, even though it's a female-oriented game. Their entire production philosophy also includes a lot of sexism and violence against women, for example, they believe that women don't naturally like complex gameplay mechanics, and they tend to design some simpler mini-games. Secondly, I encountered some sexism when I was recruiting, which was reflected in the fact that there were only two women in the planning team, so I think if we are going to design a female-oriented game and want to change the content of the game, we need more women to enter the game making process.


What can we do?

At the end of the workshop, "we need more female game designers and more games from female perspectives" became a common consensus. Some of them planned to conduct interviews with female game developers and other practitioners in the game industry after the workshop to understand their thoughts and pain points. There were also partners who, in their graduation design works, hoped to further improve the game settings so that the game could better serve the theme of reflecting on female parenting. The organizer also suggested that perhaps we could have a two-day Extreme Co-Creation where game developers, players and advocates of gender equality issues could form several groups to co-create some interesting games that are conducive to gender equality values.

We believe that in a digital world that is constantly being constructed and shaped by digital technology, it is the common vision of many peace advocates, women's rights advocates, society as a whole, and the world as a whole, to make the digital world a place for "her".

We also look forward to more young people of Generation Z who are concerned about peace issues taking action and joining us in designing for peace!

Focus on the "Design for Peace" Global Call for Peace Solutions Program

The "Design for Peace" Global Call for Peace Program is a joint initiative by UNESCO and the Nanjing Peace Forum Organizing Committee, involving governments, enterprises, research institutes, media and social organizations, to select solutions for peace operations.

It aims to arouse the attention of society as a whole to peace, to enhance the understanding of peace in different regions of the world, and to inspire individuals, groups and organizations of different geographies, ages, genders, races and abilities to submit creative solutions based on the concept of "designing for peace". The call is intended to be a call to action for all to confront and address global peace challenges in order to promote a more sustainable, just and harmonious world.

More information about the selection process will be released this month, so please stay tuned to the NPF public website. We welcome all Generation Z youth to join the Design for Peace community and "Design for Peace" with us!


Game for Good (G4G) is operated by Shanghai Institute of Positive Digital Technology (SIPDT) under Shanghai Association for Science and Technology (SAST), and is the first open and co-creative platform in China that explores the value of games for good. With the mission of "building the value of games together", G4G is committed to linking cross-border cooperation between enterprises/institutions and gamers, promoting the integration of "game+" industry-academia-research in domestic and foreign universities, and supporting young creators to empower the society through positive games.

IN+ Peace Carnival is a participatory platform that showcases contemporary women's universal challenges and unique solutions, with women's stories at its core. With the support of Standard Chartered Bank and EnPay, and in conjunction with UNESCO's "Design for Peace" call for entries, IN+ Peace Carnival continues to host cross-border art exhibitions in the highly globalized mega-city of Shenzhen, featuring installations, video, theatre, multi-media, performance, art and sustainable consumption bazaars.

2024-03-13 05:13:42

No. 41, Beijing East Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing

Nanjing China