Grad repairs vintage arcade games, challenges stereotypes

7 months ago
Marisa Williams
Mercury Staff

An ATEC alumna, who is an arcade coordinator at the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, has influenced the growth of the museum from the perspective of a woman in a field that has yet to be equally composed of both men and women. 

After hearing about the National Videogame Museum’s vision to revive the world of arcades in the present day and reaching out to the founders, April Pruitt was welcomed aboard to refurbish arcade games.

Working with the museum isn’t an easy job, but Pruitt said it changed how she views herself and the work she does.

“It has increased my self-confidence and my personal strength, as well as my patience,” she said.

Alongside her husband, who does the woodwork on many of the games, Pruitt said she entered the gaming industry in March of 2015.

According to the BBC, the representation of women in video games has remained at a constant 15 percent since the 1990’s. Additionally, in those games, they are often hyper-sexualized. Pruitt remembers one experience in particular that made that fact incredibly apparent.

“We go to the Texas Pinball Festival every year,” she said. “One of the games that came out the year before last was ‘Woah Nelly, Big Melons.’ It was a woman holding two giant melons.”

Pruitt said the gaming industry primarily markets itself to male consumers, which is part of the reason women are under-represented.

“Women may stand up and have more of a voice, but the issue is the games that are put out these days aren’t designed with any kind of women’s desires in mind,” she said.

She also said the games women are usually interested in are quite different in comparison to a majority of the first-person shooter games that are the most popular products on the market.

“Most enjoy logical and side-scrolling and adventure, not necessarily hunting and killing,” she said.

Even in games where female characters are prominently featured, Pruitt said stereotypical gender roles are still portrayed.

“Peach’s adventures (in Mario Kart) are about her being on PMS. Her powers are to cry, to become angry,” she said. “We finally get a game and that’s what we get.”

Nonetheless, Pruitt doesn’t let that stop her.

“You have to be a little bit stronger and a little more persistent. Otherwise, that stuff would knock you out of the hobby pretty quick,” she said.

The under-representation of women appears in the setup of the National Videogame Museum, but Pruitt said she does see potential for the museum to become more progressive than it already is.

“They have a replication of a bedroom and living room (from) the 80’s,” she said. “It’s all the boy stuff. There’s no representation of girls at all.”

Pruitt said she plans to use her influence to change that.

“What is there now is the museum 1.0 version and they have plans for the 2.0 version,” she said. “I’m hoping what we will do in the 2.0 version is including a lot more woman stuff and I have already talked to them about maybe doing a rotating exhibit about women in the industry and they’re definitely up and open for that.”

The BBC also found that women are primarily represented as either the “damsel in distress” or the hyper-sexualized “ultimate warrior.” Pruitt said she doesn’t see such stereotypes as an obstacle, but rather as a brush on the path to a society with equality for men and women in occupations like hers.

Pruitt explained how her job has increased her patience with people and changed the way she sees sexist views.

“(Men) absolutely don’t do it on purpose,” she said. “They don’t even think about it. … It’s not that men are oppressing women in any way. (Women) need to have a louder voice.”

Several women who have succeeded in the gaming industry have inspired Pruitt. She got to meet some of them at the museum’s opening gala.

“There were a couple of women that used to work at Atari back when ‘Centipede’ was first born. … I asked them what it was like being a woman working in that field and they said, ‘We didn’t even think about it. We just got the job done,’” Pruitt said.

For any women who aspire to bring their passion and skills to the gaming industry, Pruitt said taking opportunities as they come and performing well is key.

“Be patient,” she said. “Don’t force it and just create good product … and make it fun and move forward.”