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Gaming at the Edge

Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture

Adrienne Shaw
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Gaming at the Edge
    Book Description:

    Video games have long been seen as the exclusive territory of young, heterosexual white males. In a media landscape dominated by such gamers, players who do not fit this mold, including women, people of color, and LGBT people, are often brutalized in forums and in public channels in online play. Discussion of representation of such groups in games has frequently been limited and cursory. In contrast,Gaming at the Edgebuilds on feminist, queer, and postcolonial theories of identity and draws on qualitative audience research methods to make sense of how representation comes to matter.

    InGaming at the Edge, Adrienne Shaw argues that video game players experience race, gender, and sexuality concurrently. She asks: How do players identify with characters? How do they separate identification and interactivity? What is the role of fantasy in representation? What is the importance of understanding market logic? In addressing these questions Shaw reveals how representation comes to matter to participants and offers a perceptive consideration of the high stakes in politics of representation debates.

    Putting forth a framework for talking about representation, difference, and diversity in an era in which user-generated content, individualized media consumption, and the blurring of producer/consumer roles has lessened the utility of traditional models of media representation analysis, Shaw finds new insight on the edge of media consumption with the invisible, marginalized gamers who are surprising in both their numbers and their influence in mainstream gamer culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4345-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction. Clichés versus Women: Moving beyond Sexy Sidekicks and Damsels in Distress
    (pp. 1-12)

    In May 2012 Anita Sarkeesian took advantage of the increasingly popular Kickstarter crowd-funding site to solicit donations for a series of five videos on female representation in digital games. Her project, titledTropes vs. Women in Video Games, meant to “explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereo types of female characters in games.”¹ Her goal as a gamer and a feminist media critic was to identify the limited roles of women in digital games, including them being featured as “damsels in distress,” “sexy sidekicks,” and “rewards.”² Given that feminist critiques of media are not new...

  5. 1 From Custer’s Revenge and Mario to Fable and Fallout: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Digital Games
    (pp. 13-54)

    It was World AIDS Day 2009, and thanks to a reminder from a friend’s Facebook update, I had worn my red argyle sweater vest over a button-down shirt to commemorate the day. As it had become finally chilly after an extended, mild fall, I donned my leather jacket and took the trolley into West Philadelphia. This was my second interview with Pouncy, rescheduled twice due to illness and other commitments.¹ I walked up the steps to the house they shared with eleven other people and several cats and knocked on the door.² As I entered, I said my hellos to...

  6. 2 Does Anyone Really Identify with Lara Croft? Unpacking Identification in Video Games
    (pp. 55-96)

    In the 1980s Clair Huxtable ofThe Cosby Showwas my mother’s TV-mom idol.¹ She was exactly the type of mother that my mother wanted to be: strong and independent yet caring and always there for her family. If I were to analyze this as a researcher investigating identification and representation, there would be many ways in which I might approach this viewer/character relationship. I might signal it as an instance of surprising cross-racial identification (my mother was white, and Clair was African American) or, conversely, an expected same-gender identification (both my mother and Clair were women). I might claim...

  7. 3 He Could Be a Bunny Rabbit for All I Care! How We Connect with Characters and Avatars
    (pp. 97-146)

    Like game researchers, game designers speak at length about the importance of identification in player character/avatar relationships, but without clear definitions of the term. InFundamentals of Game Design, a widely referenced textbook for game designers, Ernest Adams states that the goal of character design “is to create characters that peoplefind appealing. . . that people canbelieve in, and that the player canidentify with(particularly in the case of avatar characters).”¹ He goes on to say that men do not identify with their avatars as much as women do, though no supporting research is cited in...

  8. 4 When and Why Representation Matters to Players: Realism versus Escapism
    (pp. 147-200)

    I began this book with the assertion that researchers must take a step back and interrogate whether and how representation is important. As discussed in chapter 1, the media representation of particular identities has often been addressed as either “good” or “bad” or as nonexistent. Researchers and theorists usually describe it as unquestionably important and argue that positive representation can lead to social benefits. We can think of representation as recognition in the sociopolitical sense, as does Charles Taylor.¹ He states that the politics of recognition rests on the following thesis:

    Our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its...

  9. Conclusion: A Future Free of Dickwolves
    (pp. 201-232)

    The danger in writing a book about contemporary media and emerging media forms, in particular, is that they change so rapidly. New controversies over representation of marginalized groups enter my various newsfeeds daily. In the time since I conducted the interviews for this project, increased academic and popular attention has turned toward the questions of diversity in game texts, audiences, and industries. Indeed, as the chapter epigraph from game developer Adam Saltsman indicates, we seem to be situated in a cultural moment in which how digital games are thought of and spoken about is constantly changing. In the following few...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 233-236)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 237-264)
  12. Gameography
    (pp. 265-268)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-296)
  14. Index
    (pp. 297-317)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 318-318)