Podcast: Sarah Zaidan, “Celebrating the Female Superhero Through Digital Gaming”

The importance of female superheroes in Western culture cannot be ignored. From Wonder Woman in the 1940s to Captain Marvel in the 2010s, the inspiration and cultural impact these representations of heroism provide fans regardless of gender are undeniable. While there is a wealth of research examining the representation of the female superhero and how this speaks to perceptions of femininity across the past eighty years, its focus is often the prevalence of stereotypical over authentic depictions, and the harmful effects of this on society.

Sarah Zaidan‘s research combines the platforms of video games with the artistic styles and narrative themes of comics and historical fact, culminating in an original game that celebrates the power of the female superhero, and her cultural importance. The game tells the story of Ms. Meta, a contemporary superhero created by the player. As she journeys through time to stop her nemesis’ plans, she will encounter characters drawn from the stories of women and fans from each era, opportunities to challenge preconceived notions of female superheroes, and the ability to change the course of history. The gameplay will be grounded in problem-solving and collaboration, and will incorporate player choices to create ownership and personal relevance.

Dr. Sarah Zaidan is a game designer, artist and researcher whose work explores how video games and comic books can engage in a dialogue with identity, gender and civic awareness. She is Kingston University London’s first recipient of a Ph.D. by practice in superhero art and history with research findings presented in the form of an award winning video game, The Adventures of MetaMan: The Male Superhero as a Representation of Modern Western Masculinity (1940-2010). She is one of the creators and illustrators of the feminist superhero comic series My So-Called Secret Identity, in collaboration with Batman scholar Dr. Will Brooker and animation artist Susan Shore. Dr. Zaidan teaches video game design at Emerson College and is a research fellow with the Engagement Lab. Her work is characterized by rapid prototyping, iterative design processes and by discovering game systems in everyday life.