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[Interview] How to Earn Your Kids' Respect: Beat Them at Mortal Kombat.

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Aina Braxton is the Program Coordinator of University of Washington Bothell’s Digital Future Lab, and she is a real-life superhero.

We first met when she began working for the DFL in 2013—now the place would be unrecognizable without her. She helps coordinate students producing multiple digital media projects, all while producing her own projects. The first of these is a collaboration with the University Beyond Bars. Braxton and a student editor curate works of writing from inmates at Monroe State Prison and create digital experiences to display the work.

Issues of technology access are very important to her. On top of all this work, Aina is also an incredible mom who plays video games with her 10-year-old son, Kekoa. I sat down with her to catch up and talk about how she purposefully began playing games to bond with her son—and I learned a lot about her personal history of gaming and how she made M-rated games a family activity.

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Interview: This Is the Message Black Teenagers Are Getting From Video Games

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aina braxton ecccAt Emerald City Comicon, Aina Braxton cosplayed her own personal superhero—Inferna Bird of Paradise. She wore sparkly face makeup and a bright red costume, complete with a cape and knee-high boots. She looked awesome. She explained how she’s been developing the costume—and the Inferna’s backstory—for years.  (Her background as a performance artist might have helped with that.) One motivation for her to create her own superhero was frustration with the fact that there aren’t a lot of superhero characters who are like her.

In fact, people of color, women, and anyone who doesn’t fit the cultural norms often feel left out when it comes to representation in the media. Braxton believes media representation matters. All kinds of kids should be able to see themselves represented in media.

As part of her work around this issue at UW Bothell’s Digital Future Lab, Braxton examined some of the Black characters in video games—and what those characters mean to Black students. Recently she did a workshop on the topic with high school students from the Seattle area. We asked her to go into a little more detail on the workshop for Black Opportunity and Leadership Day and what she found out. Read More

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Why You Shouldn't Blame Video Games for Violence

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Exciting recent studies have shown that video games improve elderly brain functionaid teens struggling with depression, and increase mobility in physical therapy patients. Games could be considered a relatively untapped resource—they haven’t achieved the level of respect that films and literature have, but their potential to help people could be greater than both.

The reputation of video games, however, has been marred by conservative critique and media hysteria. Read More

Why the Problem With Shooters Isn't Shooting

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Shooters are fun, engaging players in a loop of adrenaline-fueled gameplay that occupies them for hours. Take a trip to GameStop and you’ll notice that everyone has figured that out—most games for teens and adults have guns and shooting in common. The big franchises sell millions of copies to players of all ages. Shooters are also likely to be blamed for real-life violence, even though there’s no proof that video games cause violence. Read More