Level Up! A Feminist Gaming Initiative, invites students of all backgrounds to come together on Tuesday nights to discuss popular issues in gaming culture and play games that illustrate the initiative’s positive message.
Past topics have included sex in video games, how mental illness is portrayed, female and minority players and stereotype threats.
The night started with discussion about the topic in relation to video games and learning what certain terms mean. After, a video game related to the topic is played as a group.
Level Up! is a safe zone for students to discuss personal topics, with one of the mottos being “What is said here stays here, what is learned here leaves here.”
Eliza Farrow, program assistant for the Women’s Center, started the Level Up! initiative a year ago with the goal of hosting a feminist gaming club that is fun and educational.
“One of the goals is to create a safe and welcoming space and a community for everybody who likes to play games,” Farrow said. “The second goal is really to educate; each week there is a new topic.”
Farrow said they learn how to analyze the games they play, along with other media that students consume on a daily basis.
According to Farrow, a popular topic among students has been how mental health is represented in video games and is touched on every semester. However, there has been a broad range of topics since the club started.
“We’ve done physical disability in games, and also we looked at gamers with physical disabilities,” Farrow said. “We’ve talked about gender representation, body diversity, the list goes on.”
Farrow said she thinks more people should come because of the safe environment to discuss and enjoy video games with fellow gamers.
“Everybody is welcome,” Farrow said. “In the gaming community, there can be a lot of toxicity online and against minority gamers of all kinds. This is a space where everybody is safe and welcome.”
Farrow also said she thinks it’s great to attend so students can learn how to analyze the media that they enjoy rather than just consuming it.
“It’s always good to learn how to analyze the media we consume,” Farrow said. “If we don’t ,then we’re just going to intake exactly what we’re given and not actually break it down and say, ‘Well, this can be particularly harmful’ or, ‘This is really good.’”
Senior Elena Lerwick said she attends Level Up! because she can learn about video games while meeting people at the same time.
“Initially I came because I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about video games and these people seem to know things,’” Lerwick said. “I stayed because there’s cool people and I like it here.”
Lerwick said she likes that the group tends to be small but encourages more people to come so they can learn about many different topics.
“I do really like the intimacy of it because, you know, it’s a small group, but it’d be cool if more people came just to learn things about it,” Lerwick said. “I did really like the mental illness topic because I’m a psychology major.”
Lerwick said she thinks this club is important because stereotypes in video games need to be discussed and need to be brought to people’s attention.
“There’s many more stereotypes and misrepresentations than I was aware of and that matters a lot more to people than I thought,” Lerwick said. “So if we could fix that, that would be great.”
Senior Devin Matznick said ze enjoys Level Up! because it is welcoming and inclusive to all backgrounds of people.
“I like how inclusive it is as well as how open and accepting it is,” Matznick said. “You could not even like games but we come and discuss them and talk about what we learn.”
Matznick has been attending since the club began and said ze joined because of zir love of games, feminism and equality.
Matznick said ze thinks more people should come to Level Up! since the more people there are, the better the discussions will become with the group.
“I do think more people should come because I think this is a great place for people to get together and share ideas and discuss,” Matznick said. “The more people, the better discussions you have.”
Matznick said ze thinks the club is important because it educates people through discussion.
“It encourages discussion and it encourages education,” Matznick said. “Both two things I think are very important to society in general.”
Junior Kylee Brabant said she joined the club because she liked the idea of talking about topics that aren’t discussed a lot in society.
“Level Up! talks a lot about a lot of different concepts that don’t get brought up a lot in games, the community and just overall in general,” Brabant said.
Brabant said her favorite part is being able to meet new people and discuss things that need to be brought to society’s attention.
“There’s a lot of great people here to get to know and it’s great to find people who share your similar interests,” Brabant said. “You never know if you’re going to find somebody that you can play games with later.”
Brabant said she thinks this club is important because the gaming community can be toxic and bringing issues up can help bring new insights.
“We talk about a lot of concepts that don’t get brought up as much as they should,” Brabant said. “Gaming can be a really toxic community, and it’s good to bring these issues to light and discuss them and bring new opinions to the table.”
Level Up! meets every Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Women’s Center.