Game on Girl: Identity and Representation in Digital RPGs
McMenomy, Elizabeth Regina
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This dissertation explores the connections between identity and gaming, essentially asking the question "What does it mean to be a gamer?" to a population not often associated with the stereotypical gamer. Although much industry research indicates that women are the fastest growing group of gamers, many people still associate gaming with masculine identities. This research challenges those stale stereotypes and demonstrates that gaming is often a place of agency and power for women, offering an equal playing field that patriarchal societies rarely afford to women. Each chapter looks at a different aspect of gaming culture that emerged from interviews conducted with 30 women gamers. Research participants were eager to share their experiences gaming, having already considered how many of the questions asked about how gender impacted game play and their own identities. Many ideas about how being a woman gamer impacts identity in both online and offline arenas are discussed, including the performance of gender in digital role playing games, and a new typology for online gamers is created.This project's observations are not limited to the ideas brought forth by the participants. The closing chapter calls into question gaming culture in its broader considerations, declaring gaming is no longer part of a subculture but rather is moving forward into mainstream culture. That women gamers are such a large and growing population in gaming brings this idea to the forefront and challenges the stereotypes often associated with gamers. Ultimately, this study shows that digital role playing games and the women who play them have an important place in American culture.