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RPG: Role-playing gender, and how the game industry has sustained and defied sexism

Compton, ReBecca Elizabeth 2019. RPG: Role-playing gender, and how the game industry has sustained and defied sexism. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Despite the wider cultural progress of gender equality, game content which perpetuates sexist beliefs about gender is uncomfortably common. Games have historically used narrative and programmed mechanics to advocate that women are valuable only when performing exaggerated femininity – they must look and behave biologically female, even when playing as non-human races. Game content suggests that women desire play such as fighting from a distance, healing, and otherwise supporting the masculine, combative role while being denied equal agency. From this viewpoint, women are at their most feminine – their ‘ideal’ state – when they are objectified, and as cultural artefacts games reveal society’s adherence of the same values: sexist content articulates the dichotomy of man=capable, woman=incapable that structures Western culture. Yet there are signs of change in both games and the industry, and the thesis explores the power of sexist representations and the progress toward inclusive game content. The industry is increasingly representing women and marginalised groups in ways which highlight intellectual solutions over the use of force, explore non-heterosexual sexuality, or feature cooperation that encourages relations of equality beyond gender boundaries, as well as empowered female characters whose stories overcome sexism, racism, and other forms of oppression. ‘RPG: Role-Playing Gender’ looks at games using a mixed-methodological approach which combines ‘close readings’ of games as texts alongside other popular culture and art forms, ethnographic surveys of game communities, and interviews with members of the gaming world. What do sexist representations communicate to players concerning female power and gender roles? What specific gender-based characteristics do players adopt for in-game gender performance? How do game communities facilitate player/player interaction, especially those based on assumptions about gender trends, in ways non-virtual spaces cannot? What stories and mechanics might games adopt to represent women and marginalised groups in ways which normalise and celebrate diversity?

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 July 2019
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2021 11:24

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