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Entertaining tweens : re/presenting "the teenage girl" in "girl video games" Brown, Casson Curling

Abstract

Research conducted during the 1990s revealed that video games increasingly represent the medium through which children are first exposed to technology, that early gaming can enhance future technological literacy, and that girls tend to play video games less frequently than boys. These findings preceded efforts by feminist entrepreneurs, followed by established video game producers, to develop ‘girl games.’ Such ‘girl-centred,’ ‘girl-friendly,’ and girl-targeted video games now represent a lucrative branch of the contemporary video game industry. In this project, I utilized a multi-method approach to explore how ‘the ideal teen girl’ is re/constructed in three tween-airned ‘girl games.’ My discourse analysis of the ‘dominant’ messages in the games includes an examination of various available feminine subject positions, and how ‘race,’ class, and (hetero)sexuality are implicated in these positions. My analysis of semi-structured interviews that I conducted with eight tween girls provides insight into their everyday readings of the ‘girl games.’ Unlike earlier research that framed girls as passive recipients of ‘damaging’ messages included in gendered texts, my findings suggest that the girls in my study engaged in active and diverse readings of the interactive texts. The multiple ways in which the girls recognized, identified with, resisted, and/or reworked elements of the feminine subject positions demonstrated their management of such contradictory images of ideal girlhood. According to my analysis, while several girls engaged in sceptical readings, none of the girls ultimately rejected the video game messages, or linked them to the wider social order in which they are produced, and which they work to re/produce. My research also revealed that the girls’ identification of and with the subject positions was shaped and augmented by knowledge they had gained from previous exposure to associated transmediated representations (television, movies, music, and fashion products). My research suggests that while ‘the ideal teen girl’ re/constructed for tween garners reflects contemporary notions of girlhood, as she is active and capable, she reaffirms Western standards of hegemonic femininity. The rules of play, beauty ideals, behaviours, and priorities of consumption included in the games work to re/construct White, middle class, heterogendered ‘teen femininity’ as normal and ideal.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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