Gender and Videogames
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Gender and Videogames Dr Ewan Kirkland BCUC - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Gender and Videogames Dr Ewan Kirkland BCUC. Videogames are an extremely masculine medium. sexualised representation of female characters. male heroes rescuing helpless females. overwhelming masculinity of the implied game player. Soul Calibre. Dead or Alive. Catwoman.

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Gender and Videogames Dr Ewan Kirkland BCUC

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Gender and Videogames

Dr Ewan Kirkland


Videogames are an extremely masculine medium

sexualised representation of female characters

male heroes rescuing helpless females

overwhelming masculinity of the implied game player

Soul Calibre

Dead or Alive


Tomb Raider heroine Lara Croft

Donkey Kong

Shadow of Colossus

Vewtiful Joe

Cold Fear





Grand Theft Auto

Canis Canem Edit


Beating the prostitute, as with other aspects of the game, ties into dominant notions of masculinity and its representation, an aspect of the game that cant be denied- even if it is contextualised in terms of a supposedly bygone retro-masculinity. The 70s drug culture/gangster underworld context operates to sanction the player (of whatever gender) into doing what would be, in reality, for most, unconscionable.

In what ways does GTA, CEE, or any other videogame presume the player is a heterosexual male?

How does this potentially impact of female gamers, and the female gaming experience?

Can you think of any game titles which presume a female or more feminine gamer?

Active-male-rescue-helpless-female structure


What are the limitations of focusing only on the visual and narrative aspects of gaming?

What aspects of the gaming experience are not considered in concentrating on such aspects?

How relevant are issues such as narrative or visual design when you play a videogame?

Gender Representation

Gender Construction



Justine Cassell & Henry Jenkins (eds) (1999) From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: The MIT Press

Barry Atkins (2003) More than a game: The computer game as fictional form Manchester & NY: Manchester UP

Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Pat Harrigan (eds) (2004) First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game Cambridge, Massachusetts, London: The MIT Press

Diane Carr, David Buckingham, Andrew Burn & Gareth Schott (2006) Computer Games: Text, Narrative, Play Cambridge & Malden (USA): Polity Press

Geoff King & Tanya Krzywinska (2006) Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders: Videogame Forms & Contexts London, New York: IB Tauris

media analysts

social scientists

game designers

Narratology / Ludology


narrative or storytelling aspects

media texts

traditional forms of audiovisual and narrative media

Geoff King & Tania Krywinska (eds) (2002) Screenplay: cinema/videogames/interfaces London & New York: Wallflower Press


games: chess, tag, hide and seek

rules, structure, formalism

criticising the assumptions, arguments and methods of narratologists

Ludologists v Narratologists:

Narratologists dont understand games

Narratologists want to reduce games to films

Narratologist, in emphasising videogames similarity to film, television, literature, ignore what makes games games




Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)



  • personality

  • history

  • gender, class, ethnicity

  • photo-realistic

Does Lara Croft provide voyeuristic pleasure for heterosexual males

Does Lara Croft provide voyeuristic pleasure for heterosexual males

Or does the male videogame player playing Lara Croft become feminised through playing as a female character?

Does Lara Croft provide voyeuristic pleasure for heterosexual males?

Or does the male videogame player playing Lara Croft become feminised through playing as a female character?

Is Lara Croft something to be looked at, or is she someone to become?

Andrew Darley (2000) Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres London & New York: Routledge

James Newman (2004) Videogames London & New York: Routledge

Henry Jenkins: The character is little more than a cursor which mediates the players relationship to the story world

Helen Kennedy (2002) Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo? On the Limits of Textual Analysis in GameStudies Vol 2, Issue 2, December

Espen Aarseth (2004)the dimensions of Lara Crofts body, already analyzed to death by film theorists, are irrelevant to me as a player, because a different-looking body would not make me play differently When I play I dont even see her body, but see through it and past it.






remediation, convergence, intertextuality

social, cultural, historical meanings of play

audiovisual media texts

rule-based systems

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