Words Are Power Video Game Highlights Gender Issues in the Workplace

By: Christine Persaud

January 23, 2015

words are power game shot with lettersIt’s ironic that in the video gaming industry that’s rife with controversy surrounding female gamers, a video game has been developed to address issues relating to gender in the workplace.

About the Game

Called Words Are Power, the PC and mobile word game was developed by Montreal, QC-based Writer Emilie Villeneuve

Emilie Villeneuve

Emilie Villeneuve

and Designer Thiéry Adam under the label Studio T. Adam. It follows a female war correspondent and investigative reporter in 1946 who is trying to uncover secrets related to the military and government. As was characteristic of the time, the female character will be met with resistance not only from Washington, but from her own workplace. Most of the obstacles the lead character runs into, explains Villeneuve, have less to do with the actual case and more to do with the fact that she’s a woman.

The game is written like a TV show with various series and episodes within each series. But the way the story progresses, and how each season ends, depends on the decisions the player makes with the characters, similarly to those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. For example, in one instance, the reporter discovers a conflict of interest with a senator that is about to be re-elected and wants to run the story on the front page. But her editor feels her credibility would be questioned, so gives her the choice to words are power game shoteither publish the article under a male journalist’s name, or keep the credit with the understanding that it could make the story less impactful on the election. The word portion comes in when players see Scrabble-like boards where they have to find and create words relating to the story. In interrogation mode, for example, you reveal hidden secrets from an interview subject by creating words to dissipate the on screen “fog.”

There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but the options chosen can make players question their own values, perceptions, and treatment of women in the workplace, and help foster intelligent debates on the subject.

“Because the story takes place almost 70 years ago,” says Villeneuve, “we can highlight these gender issues without seeming exaggerated.” But, she points out, many of the issues explored in the game are still prevalent today.

Changing Perceptions

The hope is that the game will be a technologically-savvy and fun way to help bring awareness to the issues women face in the workplace, including male-dominated industries, like the technology space.

Being a simple word game makes it a highly accessible format for gamers (or traditionally non-gamers) of all ages, abilities, and types. “By wrapping this scenario around a familiar word game mechanic, it is accessible to everyone,” adds Adam. Adam has worked as lead designer and senior producer on a number of highly popular video games like Far Cry Instincts and Splinter Cell Conviction.

“It’s a game about women in the workplace fundamentally,” he continues. But the game is aimed at both sexes. “Prejudice limits our collective potential,” Adam notes. “By placing our players in emotionally engaging situations, we hope to prepare them for similar situations in real life,” encouraging more active choices versus passive reactions.

Influential Women on the Team

The game’s core plot and purpose comes from Villeneuve, a highly-educated woman who works as a freelance writer covering a diverse range of topics, from gastronomy, to culture, cinema & “real people” stories. She has also written several books, including “La fille invisible,” an award-winning graphic novel that follows the story of a girl living with anorexia. The book is based on extensive academic research on the disorder. The same goes for the game, for which Villeneuve researched to ensure historical accuracy and proper context.

Marie-Eve Monette is a Researcher for the game, as well as a PhD student in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at McGill University. She is actively involved in raising awareness for women’s issues throughout North America, and served as research consultant and presenter for the Women’s Leadership Conference held by Southern Oregon University.

The UI (User Interface) Artist for the game is Marjolaine Allie, who has worked with major developers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, and has also spent time working on Scrabble for mobile.

The team hopes to raise additional funds to help get the project off the ground, and add more episodes and storylines, through crowdfunding Website Kickstarter. At the time of this writing, the campaign had received over $5,000 toward its $40,000 goal, with 16 days to go in the campaign.

See a video introduction from Adam and Villeneuve to learn more about the purpose and plan behind the game.


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