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Hello World! Introducing FEMICOM

Posted May 25, 2012 by Rachel Weil

Though the FEMICOM site itself is quite new—cue the advance apology for any broken links—the idea behind it has been dear to me for quite some time. As a child of the 1990s, much of my play time was spent with that generation of video games and computers, whether at the mall's arcade, in the school's computer lab with its neat array of Macintoshes, or at cousins' or friends' houses where we marveled at the amazing graphics of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and DOOM. And aside from my early obsession with baseball and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was also a girly-girl through and through, happy to play with Barbies and fairly insistent on wearing dresses at all times. As I grew older, I found that video game culture and girly culture rarely intersected. Yet, happily, there were places where the two worlds overlapped; these were my favorite play spaces in my teens and beyond.

Illustration of Barbie at the arcade by Grace Voong
Illustration by Grace Voong

FEMICOM is a portmanteau that combines the words feminine and computing. It is also a nod to the Japanese video game console called the Nintendo Famicom. FEMICOM is my attempt to document and preserve those special pockets of feminine tech, especially of the 20th century. Tamagotchis and Hello Kitty Game Boys are part of this space, as are web sozai, webrings, software skins, and electronic paper dolls, to name a few. By bringing these electronic artifacts together in a central archive, I hope to encourage comparisons among them and to ask and answer questions about stereotypical gender roles and how they have come to shape modern games and computing experiences. FEMICOM will catalog these items, which are often missing from other video game and software databases, so that they can be easily browsed or searched. Additionally, the site will feature game development resources, interviews, and other relevant content.

I hope that this site can encourage interest in new kinds of game, web, and software development. Hobbyist programmers often visit online forums, just as I did, to acquire the skills, tools, or inspiration they need to create a game or website. Yet some may hesitate, just as I did, in joining an online forum. So, all of the FEMICOM articles and resources about game development will be absolutely free to view or download without a login or forum participation. It's simple.

I hope to someday make a companion physical space for FEMICOM—perhaps a touring exhibit that can bring this collection before the eyes of others. That plan hasn't quite come together just yet, but I hope it will someday.

Gender stereotypes don't capture the amazing variety of people on this planet, thankfully. But I would also propose that thoughtfully analyzing, cataloging, and even celebrating feminine design elements or play mechanisms does not necessarily hinder gender progressiveness. I hope people of all backgrounds will enjoy visiting FEMICOM and begin conversations with friends about what they see here. If you have any memories you'd like to share with FEMICOM, please visit the Get involved page. Thanks, and happy browsing!

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