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An in-depth examination of the issues of equality and discrimination in the tech industry.

Women are still a minority in the tech industry, especially in the games industry. Many women report prejudice, harassment or even discrimination in their jobs. Are women still discriminated in today's society? Are women and men inherently different? What are the reasons for the low proportion of women in the tech sector? As part of the project «AVA» Tabea explores how the issues of equality and discrimination can be discussed in a game - in a fruitful yet entertaining way. The final product is a collection of techniques that can be applied in future game productions. These tools should help to design and develop so-called «Meaningful Games».


Tabea Iseli’s M.A. thesis focuses on the themes of gender and technology. She familiarised herself with the academic study of feminism by attending lectures and seminars in Gender Studies at Zurich University and related her observations to the respective «developments» in the areas of technology and game design (stereotypes, gamergate, sexism, everyday experiences at work). To turn these insights into a tangible experience she developed the meaningful game AVA. In this interactive fairytale for tablets, a woman is born with a strange cursed shadow and experiences discrimination as a result. The player has to solve interactive picture puzzles to propel the story forward. This is always accompanied by the question of how to deal with the «curse». How exactly should she live with it? Should she try to block it out, work harder than others, be proud of it? And finally, there is the question: Is it actually a curse?

In her work Tabea Iseli takes her own distinctive path, both regarding the choice of narrative form (fairytale, meaningful game) and the design (reminiscent of tarot and church windows). Near-magical moments emerge from the interaction. The game leaves room for seeing the connections (the shadow as metaphor for being a woman or another type of discrimination) or for remaining on the surface of it all and simply solving the puzzles.


Gameplay Trailer AVA. © Tabea Iseli. ZHdK.