UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Damsels and darlings : will we ever see playable, sexually empowered women in video games? Perry, Kelsea


Gender stereotypes are a known issue in video games, where female characters are often hyper-sexualized and relegated to disempowering roles. Numerous quantitative studies paint a grim picture of video game communities as hyper-masculine spaces complicit in reproducing harmful gender ideologies. Missing from the literature are qualitative inquiries of the meaning gamers assign to their engagement with a medium that is known for underrepresenting and objectifying women. This study uses qualitative textual content analysis of an influential, popular Internet video game forum—the largest of its kind— where gamers respond to questions posed by members about gender in video games. My findings show that gamers centralize the role of sexual agency and sexual empowerment to construct multiple, nuanced discourses for understanding gender stereotypes in games. These discourses mirror broader feminist debates about the achievability of sexual empowerment within hyper-sexualized cultural contexts. As video games grow in popularity, their ability to generate meaning among increasingly diverse audiences requires continued investigation. By engaging with gamers as they make sense of gender representation in games, researchers can glean insight into the many ways gamers envision change within the video game industry.

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