Annotated Bibliography—#gamergate, sexism, gaming literacies

By: Seth Graves

The following annotated bibliography represents my research to-date on gender performance and discrimination in video games and online spaces. I am working on a paper that discuss the teaching of “#gamergate” in the composition classroom.

Alexander, Jonathan. “Gaming, Student Literacies, and the Composition Classroom: Some Possibilities for Transformation.” College Composition and Communication 61.1 (2009): 35–63. Print.

Alexander provides case study interviews with two students to discuss how gaming can result in the development of “high level literacy skills,” including “literacy reflectivity, trans-literacy connections, collaborative writing, multicultural literacy awareness, and critical literacy development” (37). He extends the work by authors on gaming literacy, such as the influential James Paul Gee, as well as compositionist scholars on the role of gaming in education, to discuss the role of the student in their own perceptions of the value of gaming and development. Students in the interviews discuss the textual and intertextual interactions of their gaming habits. Alexander suggests compositionists “should seriously consider using complex computer games as primary ‘texts’ in composition courses as a way to engage with students a more provocative and productive examination of contemporary literacy practices” (37). This text directly speaks to my goals to view important roles of game studies in the composition classroom.

Bogost, Ian. “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” In The Ecology of Games: Connecting Yough, Games and Learning, ed. Katie Salen, 117–140. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.

Here Bogost, a heavily cited scholar on video games and gaming literacies, discuss the rhetorical power of games and their ability to “make claims about the world.” When games do make rhetorical arguments about the world, society, or other strata, they do so “not with oral speech, nor in writing, nor even with images. Rather…with processes” (125). Therein, video games present a potentially powerful, procedural rhetoric that allows players to now only use the powers of imagination and fantasy, but also to consider real-world conflicts and the commentaries that ludic video game realities can make on these conflicts. This, like some other works in my bibliography here, speaks to the rhetorical power of video game and justifies their investigation in academic scholarship.

En, Boka, Michael En, and David Griffiths. “Gay Stuff and Guy Stuff: The Construction of Sexual Identities in Sidebars on Reddit.” Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network 6.1 (2013): n. pag. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

En, En, and Griffiths discuss here how sexual identities are constructed, “seen—and thereby made” on the online community reddit. The article discusses normative and non-normative behaviors represented in the reddit sidebar. Ultimately, the authors suggest that though the sidebar creates an open, normative-busting space, the space is then re-normativized by the social pressures of reddit users, whose isolating behaviors exercise pressured power over “redditors.” This article speaks directly to #gamergate issues and gender constructions, and constitutes one of the closest pieces of scholarship to direct discussion of #gamergate available in academic publication (I have yet to find an peer-reviewed piece on #gamergate).

Gee, James Paul. “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” Comput. Entertain. 1.1 (2003): 20–20. ACM Digital Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Gee argues that “good games” promote strong learning principles, a claim supported by laboratory science. Thinking about games invites making active connections to other “games, media, text, and the world” (1). Good games present worlds in which players seek, reason with, and apply information. Whereas the education system often operates “at the lowest common denominator,” video games can present opportunities to work out of the preexisting competencies of the player. Games can also provide tiered motivation to perpetuate the learning process. Gee highlights the distinct educational role of gaming.

Greenfield, Patricia Marks. El Niño y los medios de comunicación: Los efectos de la televisión, video-juegos y ordenadores. Ediciones Morata (1985).

This book exists as part of a mid-80s “Bruner Series.” Here Greenfield argues for constructive uses of new media in the classroom and home settings. The text is particularly critical of those who overly warn against new media instead of seeing value in the integration of visual and digital technology in educational development and cultural literacy.

Kirkland, Ewan. “Masculinity in Video Games: The Gendered Gameplay of Silent Hill.” Camera Obscura 24.2 71 (2009): 161–183. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Kirkland discusses the 2001 video game Silent Hill 2, developed by Konami, to discuss gender representations in the “survival horror” video game genre. Kirkland argues that the game presents particularly “complex questions concerning player agency, the structuring of gameplay, and the gendering of the role that video-game players are invited to perform,” including a seminal moment of the game where the playable protagonist/avatar, James, must kill his wife without player or protagonist choice (162). Kirkland writes, “attentive players will have come increasingly to suspect that the protagonist, who appears so devoted to his dead wife, constitutes the video-game equivalent of an unreliable narrator” (162). The player can choose between turning the game off, and making meaningless the many hours played to reach the end, or executing the game’s intended finality. Kirkland suggests that gamer perception contributes to whether this violence is seen as a nihilistic, self-conscious commentary or as a more objectifying, misogynist final act. Ultimately the game is representative of the complex questions of how gender is performed in video game genres.

Leonard, David J. “Not a Hater, Just Keepin’ It Real The Importance of Race- and Gender-Based Game Studies.” Games and Culture 1.1 (2006): 83–88. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Leonard discusses race and gender erasure in video games and video game studies, and the values of discussing race and gender tropes in video games (and limited presentations of race and gender) in scholarship and in the classroom. He suggests that oversimplified notions of the roles of videogames can leave individuals to write off analysis of underlying tropes or “serious inquiry into their racial [and gender-based] content and context” (84). As of the time of publication of this article, 2005, according to the work of Children Now, only 17% of player-controlled video game characters are female, even less than the number of nonhuman playable characters (19%). Games, he argues, can reinforce White male privilege and fantasy through play.

Sanford, Kathy, and Leanna Madill. “Resistance through Video Game Play: It’s a Boy Thing.” Canadian Journal of Education / Revue canadienne de l’éducation 29.1 (2006): 287–306. JSTOR. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Sanford and Madill discuss how video games present a space where boys can perform sexism without parental or institutional oversight. Left unchecked, this can lead male gamers to see other forms of literacy, such as understanding of the importance or role of literature, as overly feminine; video games can therein validate sexist masculinities and performances of resistance and silence opportunities for thoughtful “worldview” critique.

Schleiner, Anne-Marie. “Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender and Gender-Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games.” Leonardo 34.3 (2001): 221–226. MIT Press Journals. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Schleiner comments on the role of videogame culture among youth in “reorganizing their worldviews” (221). She discusses the absence of videogame discussion in scholarship through the mid-1990s, as scholars either wrote off the meda form, the pedagogical use of it, or the value of it in society and academic scholarship in particular. Schleiner briefly outlines “Before Tomb Raider” as a period, before she then enters into discussion of the popular video game series Tomb Raider and its protagonist, Lara Croft, whom the author refers to as a “female frankenstein” that presents a mechanized, objectified, unrealistic female body. Tomb Raider becomes a game “where boys and men are permitted to develop unrealistic ideals of female body type, or to dispense with relating to human women whatsoever, replacing them with easily controlled virtual female bots” (223). However, alternatively, male players also “perform” the avatar role of Croft, constructing her multiplicitously as (in addition to objectified female) drag queen, femme fatale, role model, and “vehicle for the queer female gaze” in her inhabitants of the “monstrous” (Here she cites individual works by Butler and Halberstam on “the dangerous woman” and binary-busting “monster-genders”.).

Taylor, T. L. “Multiple Pleasures Women and Online Gaming.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 9.1 (2003): 21–46. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Using a combination of data, Taylor assesses motives for female participation in online gaming spaces, particularly massively multiplayer online role-playing environments (or MMPORGs); research cited in the article suggests that women now make up about 50% of the online gamer community.  Taylor believes demographic statistics helps to denote why women have gravitated toward this type of gaming (Here she makes her goals distinct from scholarship like Schleiner’s on Lara Croft, which she mentions by name.). MMPORGs serve as spaces that, more so than other video game genres, rely on community development, participation in community discourse, dialogue and interpersonal interaction as means to success, and avatar development as a means of performing individuality. Taylor presents games that take on “gender-neutral design goals,” such as Everquest, as well as games that do present misogynies that women are inclined to play as a way to participate “despite the game” (40).

Zafra, Remedios. “Las mujeres en Internet ¿immigrantes, exiliadas, turistas…?” ¿Todas Las Mujeres Podemos Género, Desarrollo, y Multiculturalidad. Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume (2007): 48–60. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

In this conference paper republished in book chapter form, Remedios Zafra, of the University of Seville, discusses the cyberfeminist movement, women working on the fridge worlds of the internet, the internet as a queer and enabling space to battle sexism—yet the outsider or “entering tourist” role of the woman in the space. The “utopia” view of the internet proved to be a myth as the space asserted itself as a place dominated, read, and written by men.