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Not just a dollhouse: what The Sims2 can teach us about women's IT learning

Elisabeth R. Hayes (Professor, Mary Lou College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Elizabeth M. King (Research associate, University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 30 January 2009




The purpose of this paper is to describe how a popular computer game, The Sims2, engages players in computing practices that are foundational to information technology (IT) fluency, and to draw implications for engaging young people, particularly girls and women, in computer‐related learning.


The analysis is framed within a conceptual perspective on learning as a process of acquiring situated understandings through participation in meaningful activity. The paper draws on two years of work with girls developing IT fluency through playing and modding The Sims. It also draws on interviews with adult women who are highly engaged in creating Sims content.


The paper identifies a set of practices inherent in Sims game play that are foundational to IT fluency: managing complex systems; cheating and glitching; tinkering with tools; and making, manipulating, and reasoning with spatial representations.

Practical implications

The paper suggests how existing practices associated with games might be leveraged for the development of IT fluencies.


This study contributes to efforts aimed at rethinking how educators might conceptualize and support the development of IT fluencies. The paper offers new perspectives on the nature of IT fluency in the context of participatory culture and productive uses of new media.



Hayes, E.R. and King, E.M. (2009), "Not just a dollhouse: what The Sims2 can teach us about women's IT learning", On the Horizon, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 60-69.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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