Throughout the 1980s computer gaming gained currency through the arcades: large indoor spaces–often as part of bars–where people could pay to play different Coin-Op (coin operated) games such as Atari Pong or the famous Mrs Pac-Man.
We created gaming tokens by designing unique logos that showcase a distinct aspect of each of the women’s contribution. By referencing their experiences through gaming culture, we hoped to prompt reflection and recognition of their work. The tokens were created by laser cutting 1.5 inch portions of wood.
These gaming tokens are a tangible artifact, making it possible to give it to people, who then can keep it as a reminder for the AtariWomen contributions and appropriate it in different ways (E.g. as a key chain or an earring). Moving beyond a vision, the token speaks to the materialization of stories.
By basing our token on the arcade coin, we are reworking a dominant narrative around gaming, namely the celebration of the monetization. In several of our interviews it was clear that the gaming industry made it possible for very young, technical-minded game developers to buy houses and to live comfortably. But, at the same time, employees working in manufacturing jobs made much less money, and relied on welfare in their old age. In several of our interviews, the women told us about the non transparent processes of money distribution in connection with a contribution. We also learned about stories where women were cheated for their bonuses, or simply earned less than their men counterparts.
By placing the women’s stories on the coins, we intervene in the conceptualization of computer gaming tied to monetization, opening space for storytelling to take hold alongside it and against it. We also challenge the very notion of ‘use value’ in the capitalistic sense, and–instead of introducing a particular form of contribution as a process–emphasizing value as an effortful process that unfolds through engagement.
Our tokens were created as a double-sided coin. One side displays the AtariWomen logo, the other a unique icon that features a particular AtariWomen. We created these individual coins as collector items wherein participants might seek to “collect them all” – incentivizing a continued engagement, and referencing the gamer culture notion of popular culture, fan fiction, and fandom traditions of attaining “collectibles.”
Concept & Art: Pernille Bjørn, Daniela Rosner, Cara Pangelinan, Esther Lin
Design & manufacturing: Cara Pangelinan & Esther Lin