Female-Founded Gaming Company Created A Game To Dismantle Stereotypical Princess Culture

If we ever hope to truly see gender equality become a reality for future generations, we need to dismantle gender stereotypes in all areas of society. We especially need to make extinct the unrealistic fantasy perpetuated by the “princess culture”, most dominantly seen through a number of Disney movies (which are now thankfully starting to recognize the importance of showing female characters whose lives, success and happiness don’t depend on finding a heterosexual man).

A gaming company aiming to influence video game fans with messages that destroy the “damsel in distress” ideal is Ker-Chunk games, based out of Atlanta, whose first product called ‘PrinceNapped’ flips the script on a typical story arc where someone needs to be rescued.

The company was founded by Molly Proffitt who grew up in Nashville, and throughout her school, college and early career years found a number of roadblocks to women and girls in the video game industry. She told Refinery29’s Madeline Buxton how she was essentially told working in the STEM world was not for her.

“Coding classes weren’t really available for women, and there wasn’t a lot of messaging out there that was like ‘you can do that’,” she told the website.

As a result she taught herself how to build websites, studied film in college before changing to design, then realized she could combine both coding and and art by studying game design instead. When she graduated in 2012, the world of Facebook games was burgeoning and opening up a whole new market, as well as wider demographic.

The social media platform became responsible for seeing a huge uptick in the percentage of females playing games, and one study referenced by the Refinery29 article even stated that 60% of women reported playing mobile games, compared to 47% of men. The female demographic is clearly a large market that game companies would be ignorant not to take advantage of (especially if they like to make money).

Candy Crush, arguably one of the most popular mobile games in the world (hands up if you were addicted at one point!) has been downloaded over 2 billion times in a span of 5 years!

Molly assembled a team for her new company Ker-Chunk which she founded in 2013, and today it is 75% staffed by women, a rarity in the gaming industry. On their website, it states their three-pronged mission: to make great games, voice change through articles, and promote women in STEM.

Unsurprisingly, the Disney Princess model was the inspiration behind the first game ‘PrinceNapped’, and one movie in particular showed how changing stereotypical representations and story lines can be a powerful thing.

“We loved ‘Enchanted’ and we felt like the way they handled the prince in that movie was really smart and funny,” she said.

For ‘PrinceNapped’, Molly explains the hilarious research methods they employed to come up with the specs of Prince Edwin.

“We literally Googled the word ‘douchebag’ and started pulling pictures,” she said, referencing the way the Prince wears his crown backward and even sports a “prince” tattoo on his shoulder.

And of course, the hero of the story is the central female character Clara, whose traits are a mix of those from ‘The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, and Wonder Woman. With a goal to “empower women as players”, Ker-Chunk will be able to subconsciously show an albeit fictional world (but with real world attributes of heroism, strategy-developing, problem-solving, social communication) where women are not merely an afterthought of powerless.

In order to win in ‘PrinceNapped’, players must help free Prince Edwin by unblocking his path by using Clara’s powers. The game is still fairly new on the market, but Molly says their goal is much more than just make money.

“We want to continue tackling messages that reverse stereotypes and deal with confidence — we want the player to feel like they are in a position of power,” she said.

You can learn more about Ker-Chunk Games by going to their website, and you can also play ‘PrinceNapped’ on Facebook or download it on the App Store or Google Play.

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