Professor Emma Westecott Published in "Feminism In Play"

Friday, October 12, 2018 - 1:00pm

Associate Professor Emma Westecott has written a chapter entitled “Feminism and Gameplay Performance" which has been published in the edited collection Feminism In Play by Palgrave Games in Context.

About the Book:

"Feminism in Play focuses on women as they are depicted in video games, as participants in games culture, and as contributors to the games industry. This volume showcases women’s resistance to the norms of games culture, as well as women’s play and creative practices both in and around the games industry. Contributors analyze the interconnections between games and the broader societal and structural issues impeding the successful inclusion of women in games and games culture. In offering this framework, this volume provides a platform to the silenced and marginalized, offering counter-narratives to the post-racial and post-gendered fantasies that so often obscure the violent context of production and consumption of games culture."

Retrieved from:

Westecott, Emma. "Feminism and Gameplay Performance." Feminism in Play. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018. 251-266.

Level Up 2018: Digital Futures student Ryan Mason wins Best Artistic Achievement!

bearded young man, Ryan Mason, holding a trophy
Friday, April 13, 2018

On Wednesday April 4th 2018, the 8th annual Level Up Showcase took place at the Design Exchange in Toronto. More than 75 games from over 14 schools were showcased to the public for free! This popular annual event brings together the best games made by post-secondary students each yea,r to be judged by top industry experts from AMD, Ubisoft, Uken Games, Unity, ID@Xbox and Zynga.

This year’s winners are:

Best Technical Innovation

  • 1st Place - Prime Ops from UOIT
  • 2nd Place - That Night from OCADU
  • 3rd Place - M.E.C.C. from Humber

Best Artistic Achievement

  • 1st Place - That Night from OCADU
  • 2nd Place - Zephyr from OCADU/UofT
  • 3rd Place - Super Random Heroes from Sheridan

People’s Choice

  • 1st Place - Stop Running from Brock
  • 2nd Place - Zephyr from OCADU/UofT
  • 3rd Place - Super Random Heroes from Sheridan

Best Overall Game

  • 1st Place - Super Random Heroes from Sheridan
  • 2nd Place - Radio Violence from George Brown
  • 3rd Place - Zephyr from OCADU/UofT

Digital Futures faculty are thrilled that our very own fourth-year undergrad stuent Ryan Mason won best Artistic Achievement for his game “That Night”. Ryan’s thesis game is a narrative-driven puzzle adventure set in a forgotten home on the outskirts of a small, unremarkable town. Enter into a place left untouched for over thirty five years, whose story has been left untold and secrets remain to be discovered. Play as Evelyn Young, a high school sophomore who just moved to yet another painfully mundane town in middle America. At least... that’s what she thought.

We are very proud of our ongoing collaboration with Computer Science at the University of Toronto that brings our students together to make 12 games, including the multi-nominated student game Zephyr this term.

From Fall 2018 OCAD University will be offering a Games and Play Minor offered across all faculties for students interested in game design and development, email for more information.

Watch a video of they event by Andrew McAllister an see more photos on instagram at DFundergrad.



people gathered around a game controller
Group photo of about 25 people
a man and a woman playing a video game

Come play at the 8th annual Level Up Showcase!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 5:00pm to 10:00pm

The 8th annual free public event puts the spotlight on Ontario’s most talented post-secondary students in game development who use the latest technology and platforms to make video games - including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), motion sensing, and more. Participants include more than 15  post-secondary institutions across Ontario that teach interactive media development. With over 75 games, it is the biggest not-for-profit event for players, developers, and recruiters, to get the inside scoop on the future leaders of the game industry.

The Level Up Showcase is the main event for industry, institutions, and students to network, recruit, and learn about new techniques and technologies. Canada boasts the third largest game industry in the world, with Ontario having the second highest number of game companies in the country. The Level Up Showcase is the top destination for emerging talent in this growing industry.

The Level Up Showcase 2018 is co-hosted and organized by Algonquin College, Brock University, the University of Toronto and the Digital Futures Program at OCAD University in partnership with AMD and Ubisoft Toronto.

Level Up Showcase would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors who provide their expertise, support and equipment to help our students succeed. Thank you! This year, ID@Xbox joins and will host an exclusive workshop with over 50 students interested in developing independent games for the Xbox platform. Level Up Showcase also welcomes Zynga who have recently expanded their downtown Toronto studio and are rapidly growing! Visit their booth to find out more. This year’s event is made possible with generous corporate sponsorship from: AMD, Ubisoft Toronto, Uken Games, Unity, Xbox Canada and Zynga with catering provided by Nando’s. Featured schools include: Algonquin College, Brock University, Centennial College, Fanshawe College, George Brown College, Humber College, McMaster University, Niagara College, OCAD University, Ryerson University, Sheridan College, St. Lawrence College, UOIT, University of Toronto and York University.

Venue & Address: 
Design Exchange 234 Bay St, Toronto
Level Up poster with game characters

Fem-LED Digital Enterprise


OCAD University’s DMRII is committed to inspiring and championing women to be equipped, consider and embrace leadership in digital media enterprises in order to fully participate in the growing opportunities of the sector. To realize this future, we are focused in applied research that will catalyze change, create new programs to support and expand cultural media enterprises, contribute to the growth of new employment opportunities and support innovation by fostering new models of digital media.

The main Goals of the Fem-LED research project are as follows:

  1. Bringing together researchers and digital practitioners across a range of different disciplinary boundaries to share expertise and to work towards the development of new knowledge, new understanding of the gender divide in ICT to form a coherent plan of action to make change possible.
  2. Building a network of academics and industry that develops outputs that can be disseminated to those in a position to implement the changes needed.
  3. Exploring new forms of participatory workshop research to focus on barriers to engage in enterprise and leadership.


The Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada has released its Quarterly Monitor of Canada’s Digital Economy, spring 2014 edition of Strengthening Canada’s Digital Advantage (SCDA), explores broad economic trends with respect to the digital economy labour market, technology developments and adoption. The report states that the ICT employment in 2014 by indicates a huge difference between the genders (this is a trend for a number of years). In Ontario 299,000 men to 88,000 women or 23% are employed in the sector.

Moreover as part of the overall Digital Economy, there is an increased concern worldwide over the lack of diversity in the digital games sector. Recent statistics reveal that although up to half of game players are women that, according to the Skillset 2009 U.K. census, women represent 4% of the games workforce, this consists of a 8% drop since the previous census in 2006.

The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe, 2020 Initiative, indicates that only 30% of the ICT global workforce is women and they are underrepresented at all levels of the ICT sector, especially in decision-making positions. The Commission estimates that by 2020 there will be a lack of 900,000 skilled ICT workers and is alarmed that only 4% of all female graduates are enrolled in ICT–related degrees. Commencing in March 2014, the European Commission initiated a campaign to find and celebrate digital role models and plans to expand the program to include women network programming.

In Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada Report on Women ENTREPRENEURS outlines that women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian economy and represent a growing economic force, between 1991 and 2001, women's self-employment expanded by 43%. It is evident from the latest Census that women are driving the growth of self-employment sector. However there is a gap of accurate data and understanding what percentage of women entrepreneurs are in decision-making roles within the gaming and user-built digital environments sector. The understanding of the gap is significant in light of the necessity of understanding why gender matters in entrepreneurship, in specifically in digital media enterprises. 


Come participate in our project: “Focus On Fem-Led” led by OCAD University!

This research explores the enablers and barriers for female leadership in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), this includes: Game Design, Systems Integration, Platform development, etc.

We are looking for participation from female entrepreneurs, intra-preneurs (change makers inside organizations), researchers, practitioners, and key community group leaders to participate in our research.

There are three ways to get involved:

  1. Be a part of our questionnaire on enablers and barriers for women in ICTs (click here)
  2. Get on our mail list to receive reports and be alerted to Fem-led talks and future activities
  3. Come for a Body Storm - August 21, 2015 in Central Toronto (click here)

We look forward to your participation!



Please take our Questionnaire conducted on behalf of the Fem-led research group at OCAD University. This questionnaire is for women working in Interactive and Digital Media or the broader ICT industry:

Link to Questionnaire:].

Consent Information below.


You are invited to participate in a study that involves research with human participants. The purpose of this study is to understand potential enablers and barriers to female leadership in Information Communication Technology sectors, and Interactive and Digital Media in Particular. It has been funded by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) and is being conducted by Researchers at OCAD University.

As a participant, you are being asked to participate in an online questionnaire about your experiences and opinions on the issues relating to women, leadership and technology.

Possible benefits of participation include deepening an understanding on the status of women in digital media and other technologies, and a contribution to findings and proposals for change. Personally, you may benefit from this exercise of reflection on your journey and achievements.

Possible risks for the participants of this study include potential psychological and social risks that may be greater than those encountered in everyday life. The nature of the research is to explore your opinions and to learn about your experiences in your professional life. You may find this psychologically uncomfortable or fear that you may reveal something that could impact on your career negatively if it becomes communicated broadly. To mitigate risk, this questionnaire is confidential. You may also decline to answer any questions or to withdraw from the questionnaire completely.

The information participants provide will be kept confidential, i.e. participant names or other identifiers will not appear in any report resulting from this study.

Data collected for this questionnaire is anonymous and during this study will be collected online and then stored on a secure, pass-word protected hard drive and locked in cabinet. Data will be kept for up to one year after the completion of this study: January 16, 2017, after which time your data will be destroyed. Access to this data will be restricted to principal investigator and researchers named above.

Participation in this study is voluntary. If you wish, you may decline to answer any questions or participate in any component of the study.  As the questionnaire is anonymous, we cannot extract your data at a future date once you have submitted the questionnaire.

Results of this study will be presented in a report to the OMDC, it will also be published online, in presentations to conferences and colloquia. In any publication, questionnaire data will be presented in aggregate forms and with confidentiality.

If you have any questions about this study or require further information, please contact the Principal Investigator Prof. Suzanne Stein ( This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the Research Ethics Board at OCAD University [100347]. If you have any comments or concerns, please contact the Research Ethics Office through

Date: May 3, 2015    
Project Title: Focus on Fem-Led

Principal Investigator:
Professor Suzanne Stein
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences
OCAD University
(416) 315-1896

Collaborating Faculty:
Professors Emma Westecott, Paula Gardner and Lynne Heller.
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences
OCAD University
(416) 977-6000
Collaborating Researchers: Jill Sharrock , Prateeksha Singh and Mithula Naik.

Thank you for your assistance in this project.  

Bodystorm Workshop

On August 21st 2015, The Mission Business Inc. (TMB) - a Toronto-based foresight, design, and innovation consultancy - delivered a workshop intended to surface, circulate, and capture stories from female tech, internet, and digital media entrepreneurs in Ontario. This was one phase of a project, called fem-LED, run by the Super Ordinary Lab inside the Ontario College of Art and Design, and was enabled by support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Purpose of the workshop was to:

  1. Explore the causes of low female participation in information communications technology (ICT) and interactive and digital media (I&DM) leadership with a community of female entrepreneurs and leaders.
  2. Diffusing and contextualizing research from other phases of the Fem-LED project.
  3. Exploring new iterations of The Mission Business (TMB) professional services that deliver value to organizations focused on innovation in the realm of human resources (HR), rather than product development and thought leadership marketing.

At a high level, the purpose of the workshop shared by TMB and OCAD-U researchers was to create a sense of community within a network of female entrepreneurs working in the ICT / I&DM industries in Ontario, and to explore with that group the causes of women dropping out of leadership positions in Ontario companies.

The group of participants who attended the workshop were brought together in the context of a speculative narrative designed by TMB, in order to give all of the women in attendance permission to share stories during the course of the workshop’s proceedings. This narrative introduction was delivered by Dorothy “Dot” Drummond, the CEO of a fictional company called 4Corp created by TMB for workshops and online education programs. 4Corp’s products and services set the company in a futuristic context, but it faces the same challenges that ICT / I&DM companies in Ontario have today, as highlighted in other phases of the Fem-LED research project.

Women and Games

Game studies is the relatively new and multi- and inter-disciplinary academic field of studying games, game design, game players and their role in society and culture more broadly.

To date the themes addressed by feminist game studies can be sketched as work on gendered activity in digital games and feminine preference in play style and game characteristics. Other key studies look to gender equity in game making and to the wider context of access to games. From Brenda Laurel's work in the early 90s (Yates & Littleton, 1999) onwards (long pre-dating any such thing as games studies); critics, commentators and the academy have offered theories and observations on the difference in play habits, styles and consumption of digital gaming exhibited by women and girls. Yet much of the work that has been carried out, seemingly in isolation in the U.K., U.S. and Europe, has cycled through repeating debates on representation, equity and access. For example, some research points to specific gender preference in play style whereas Jenson’s and de Castell’s (2008) work shows that these differences can be more about novice players than about gender. Jenson and de Castell (2008) urged researchers to "rethink the assumptions and presumptions of work on gender and gameplay.." in a call to acknowledge the always situated context of gameplay and game research in order to frame a solid foundation for future work, whether theoretical or practical.

Contact Us

Suzanne Stein
230 Richmond Street West, Room (8)310, Level 3  Toronto, ON M5V 2CS
Phone: 416.977.6000 Ext. 4584

Interact with us on Facebook
where we post relevant contemporary articles on related issues.

Follow our Blog

Our Partners & Collaborators

Mission Business
femTech Net
Institute on Research for Digital Learning

Funding for this project is provided by Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Body storm Workshop
Ontario Media Development Corporation Logo
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 6:45pm
Lab Member: 
Suzanne Stein
Lynne Heller
Paula Gardner
Mithula Naik

Emma Westecott publishes book chapter addressing Gender in Games

Cover of book.
Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 4:00am

Faculty Member Emma Westecott has published a chapter entitled "Playing with Gender: Promoting Representational Diversity with Dress-Up, Cross-Dressing and Drag in Games" in Etc Press's book "Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat: Intersectional Perspectives and Inclusive Designs in Gaming", edited by Yasmin B. Kafai, Gabriela T. Richard, Brendesha M. Tynes. 

You can find more information about the book, including an option for a free digital download in the link below.

Feminists in Games (FIG)

Feminists in Games (FiG) is a SSHRC-funded network development grant in partnership with Dr Jennifer Jenson at York University. The purpose of the project is to gather an international research association of digital media researchers to better understand the origins and consequences of the gendered digital divide and intervene in its reproduction.

OCAD University Graduate Researcher Madeline Ashby is funded to produce research for distribution by FiG. For Great Justice is a manual for feminist activism in the video game culture, community, and industry. It chronicles and examines successful strategies for activism, including examples from Occupy Wall Street, the Riot Grrls, Pussy Riot, and others. It models these movements and highlights the most effective traits of each. It then advises on strategies for activism and agency within online gaming communities and corporate video game development environments. With these strategies in place, individuals and communities can work more effectively for gender justice at work, at home, and at play.

FiG has funded 5 proposals for projects to receive incubator funding listed at and Emma Westecott from OCADU will mentor the PsXXY¥borg (pro­nounced “cyborg”) project with game artist Hannah Epstein.


Materials and publications reviewed and created over the course of this project will be collected in the library of a group on the academic social bookmarking service zotero.

Reflections on research will be gathered on Tumblr for easy access, populated with links of interest and lengthier reflections on the design of compelling information interfaces.

Project Deliverable Downloads:

In development.

Project blog:

Poster with blue bands for the event
Monday, September 10, 2012 - 7:15pm
Lab Member: 
Madeline Ashby


This SSHRC Partnership Development Grant examines novel forms of cross-disciplinary and cross-sector partnerships necessary for creating world class academic research on digital media. It also intends to provide novel insight for private industry and for commercialization, as well as new venues for the innovative work of artistic and cultural organizations. This research partnership develops a digital economy trading zone that connects the diverse interests, knowledge and values from a diverse set of partners. Its focus is on a developing aspect of digital media, namely, the increasing materialization of digital media and the related interweaving of physical and virtual modes of engagement. The project therefore brings together working groups in order to develop concrete projects that provide value to each of these groups. The three groups include members from academic institutions, cultural organizations, and private SMEs, and are organized around the following inter-related themes; Space, Play, and the Self.

The grant includes as co-applicants, Professor Sara Grimes from the Faculty of Information, Professor Megan Boler from OISE, and Professor Mary-Lou Lobsinger from the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, as well as Professors Kate Hartmanand Professor Emma Westecott from OCAD University, and Professor Jason Nolan from Ryerson University. The project runs for three years and primarily provides salaries and stipends for masters and PhD students.


IOT Theme # 2 - Play

In this working group, we will explore how digital games and other play technologies enable multi- modal practices that traverse and integrate the virtual and the material in a variety of ways. Examples of this include the production of tangible “ludic artifacts” (Tolino, 2009), the interplay of situated and digital practices within mobile gaming, the phenomenon of alternate reality games (ARG), and the incorporation of physical motion within kinetic game systems (such as Wii Sports). With the rise and spread of pervasive gaming and portable devices, digital play becomes resituated as a transitory, in- between and oftentimes liminal activity, as play is reintroduced into a broader range of the spaces and activities of everyday life. Our academic team includes Sara Grimes, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Information who has published extensively on the political economy of games and game play, Associate Professor Jason Nolan who runs the EDGE gaming lab at Ryerson University, and collaborator Emma Westcott, an assistant professor at OCAD. Game developers Play Dynamics Inc. and HugeMonster are our private partners.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 - 7:15pm

Faculty recognized for excellence in teaching

Friday, May 6, 2016 - 2:00pm

At the Faculty Appreciation Event on Thursday, April 28, six faculty members were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the student learning experience at OCAD University.

The Price Award, in memory of Mamie and J.H. Price, and the Non-Tenured Teaching Award for excellence in teaching. This year’s recipients are:

  • Emma Westecott, assistant professor and director of the game:play lab
  • Suzanne Stein, associate professor and director of the Super Ordinary Lab

Non-Tenured Award:

  • Sambhavi Chandrashekar, Inclusive Design

The Faculty and Curriculum Development Centre’s Inspired Teaching Awards were given to three faculty members:

  • Teaching Assistant: Tatjana Petkovic, Graphic Design
  • Excellence in Teaching First-Year Students: Mary Porter, Faculty of Art
  • Leadership to Advance Teaching: Colleen Reid, Associate Dean, Faculty of Design

The candidates were nominated by students, colleagues and supervisors on the strength of their dedication and passion for teaching and student learning.




Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Emma Westecott: Critical Game Making

Digital games are an increasingly significant contemporary critical form in which makers express models of gameplay that make meaning beyond the context of pure entertainment. Game culture is pervasive and amidst a wider technological context that invites all our active participation provides one setting for the rise in creative expression evident across digital existence.

Starting from a feminist perspective situated in an art and design university, this talk explores a set of lenses to approach critical making practices in games. The hope is that the approaches discussed may offer frameworks applicable across the digital diaspora.

Angelika Seeschaaf Veres + Greg Sims: 3D Design – Digital and Material Interplay

This research explores current and future implications of 3D digital technologies in design processes as it redefines our relation to objects, experiences and environments. Product Designer Angelika Seeschaaf Veres and Jewellery Designer Greg Sims bring their unique perspectives on this topic by elaborating on the potential within the liminal space of the digital and the material. The research discourse will map new cultural and social trajectories considering: Usercentred design & product customization, digital fluency and meaningful making.


Venue & Address: 
205 RICHMOND ST. W. | Room 701K | DF SALON
Research Rendezvous March 24th Poster